I keep coming back to boxes.
In 2005, my friends and I made a short film for our Electronic Media class about a boy and a box that took him to different places. The short stars Joel Torre (On the Job) and Elijah Castillo (Pisay).
There’s a scene (SPOILERS) wherein the boy finds his box mangled and discarded in a trash can. I took that scene directly from my own childhood, wherein a box that I had played with and imagined as a submarine was mangled and discarded when I got back from school. A few years later, I revisited the idea of magical traveling box for a little comic strip I did for an Ang INK Catalog.
Now, I’ve made a painting featuring another box.
My father worked in Saudi Arabia in the late 70s and early 80s back when they still called them OCWs (Overseas Contract Worker). Many of my friends also have parents or relatives that have worked and continue to work abroad. The idea of having at least one OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in the family is a common Filipino experience. The promise of a better life by working abroad is a well-worn cliché, but it nonetheless continues to pull families apart.
Part of the experience of having a relative abroad is receiving a balikbayan box – a package of gifts and goodies ranging from chocolates to gadgets. Sadly, in the same way that gifts arrive in boxes, sometimes loved ones arrive home in the same way – a body in a box, a victim of violence and tragedy.
Ideas Arrive at Odd Places
The image of body parts stuffed in a balikbayan box struck me while I was driving along EDSA. As grisly as it sounds, gore wasn’t what was on my mind. I held the image in my head until I got a chance to draw it.
But when I got around to putting it to paper, the image I drew didn’t live up to what was in my head. So I left it unfinished.
Revisiting Old Boxes
When it was time to make paintings for my exhibit with Sergio Bumatay, I revisited the balikbayan box sketch and made some adjustments to the composition. I ended up with this:
When I was satisfied with the sketch, I transferred the drawing onto canvas.
Then the painting began. I decided to go a bit monochromatic with the painting, using more desaturated colors and dull hues.
I started with the figures, although in hindsight maybe I should have done the background first. I honestly don’t know.
And here’s the finished piece.