Thursday, November 30, 2006

Public transportation

I have no car here in Roxas City, my new (old) home. I have to depend on relatives to take me around the first week I was here. But this gets old so I am learning to take public transportation.

There are two choices: a tricycle which is a Nazi type vehicle with motorcycle and side cab and there is the minicab.

I am not tall but here in the island, I tower over people's heads. When I get inside the minicab, I must bend very low so I do't hit the roof. This small cab fits about 12 tiny local residents. One day I was pushed all the way inside the cab. I couldn't see my stop because the windows were below my eye level. When I saw the blur of my cousin's blue house next door, I realized I was way past my stop. Imagine getting out of this cab! When I asked the driver to stop, it was all too sudden, the people around me were taken by surprise with the unexpectef stop and my loud voice asking the driver to "Para" (stop). Then as I tried to get out of this cramped, modified jeepney, I kept saying, "excuse me", "excuse me" until I could push past all the legs on the very narrow aisle while keeping my head bent to keep from hitting the roof. It is the most awkward position.

I think the tricycle is a better deal. If I pay three times the regular price, I can ride with my assistant and we could have the tricycle to ourselves. If not, I could be riding with 8 people, two of us inside the cab, 2 behind the driver, one sitting on the right wheel, and two or three standing in the back. It all sounds impossible but I happened to be riding with 8 or more people because my assistant taught we could save a lot of money. And I appreciated her concern but for 50 cents, we can travel comfortably. But not that comfortably. Because the tricycle almost hugs the ground, you feel every bump. And this means you hit your head against the thin, metal roof every time there is a dip in the road. Getting out of the tricycle is a feat because it is so low that I have to bend down, let my legs touch the ground, pull myself up by clutching the sides of the cab, then stretch out. It is always a relief to stand up again.
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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pioneers in Philippine Art

By Rosario Charie Albar

When I first heard about this exhibition, I was disappointed to learn that the works of Carlos “Botong” Francisco would not be part of the show. That said, the 38 paintings and sketches by Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo and Fernando Zobel, now on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, is an impressive collection spanning 100 years of Philippine Art.

Each of these three artists studied and honed their craft in Europe or the United States. As such, their works reflect Western art trends of their respective periods. Juan Luna lived both in Madrid and Paris. His Woman with Shawl (1880-1890) and Lady at the Racetrack (1880-1890) show influences of the Impressionist style of painting. Impressionism had burst into the art scene in France in 1884, precisely the time Luna won the First Gold Medal for his painting, Spoliarium, at the Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid. Luna’s later sketches of Ragamuffin and Study for People and Kings show his foray into the social realism genre, nearly a century ahead of the social realist movement in the Philippine art scene.

Fernando Amorsolo is perhaps the best known of the three due in part to the calendars which featured his paintings and which were widely distributed in the Philippines. Amorsolo portrayed his ideal Filipina woman in Palay Maiden and Balintawak Maiden with Banga (1926) with these qualities: “My conception of the ideal Filipina woman is one with a rounded face, not of the oval type. The eyes should be exceptionally lively. The nose should be of the blunt form and strongly marked. The Filipina beauty should have a sensuous mouth...not…white complexioned nor of the dark brown color…but of the clear skin…which we often witness when we meet a blushing girl.”

While studying in Europe, Amorsolo admired the works of Joaquin Sorolla who is known as the “painter of sunlight”. Amorsolo infused his idyllic landscapes with the bright light of the tropics.

Not all of Amorsolo’s paintings are happy and beautiful. From his window at his home on Azcarrraga Street, he sketched what he saw first hand of Japanese occupied Manila. The burning of the ship, Intendencia and the destruction of Rizal Avenue are immortalized in the Bombing of the Intendencia (1942) and Rizal Avenue in Ruins (1945).
Through his works, Amorsolo gave a newly independent nation (1946) and its people a sense of identity after many years of colonization, first by the Spaniards, followed by the Americans.

Fernando Zobel brings Philippine Art to the modern period. His early works like Bridge over Charles River IV (1949) is a study in abstract art. Self Portrait on the Wall (1954) and Oriental Carpet with Paul Haldeman (1955) is in the style of post-Impressionist painter, Henri Matisse and German Expressionist, Beckmann. In White Syringe Piece. Zobel uses a hypodermic syringe to trace lines that hint of movement and emotion.

Zobel’s artistry triumphs in the Icaro, (1962). Monumental wings tell the story of a bird plummeting to his death. Zobel’s Icaro soars.

Pioneers in Philippine Art reveals, not surprisingly, that Philippine art as represented by the works of Luna, Amorsolo and Zobel could hold its own when hung next to a Manet or a Sorolla or a Pollock.

The exhibition will be on view till January 7, 2007 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. For more information visit

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For more information on the works of these artists check out these websites:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Back Where I Started

On my first day in Roxas City, my cousin took me to the appliance center where I bought a bed, an airconditioner, a fridge, a TV set, an electric fan and a stove. I had been traveling for 24 hours and wanted so badly to get some sleep. I asked the store owner to please deliver the bed to my apartment by noon so I could get some sleep. The delivery truck arrived as we had arranged. Rain was pouring heavily as the workers unpacked the crates of new appliances and installed the airconditioning unit and connect the stove to the gas line. By 3:30 p.m. they were done. I took a warm shower using the new pink, plastic pail I had just bought. My "butler" made some hot water and mixed it with the water in the pail. That was my warm shower. Shortly after I fell asleep in my air cooled room and woke up momentarily because my cousin came by to make sure all was well. The sound of the sea roaring as it lashed against the breakwater in the backyard woke me in the early morning hours. I thought what a good thing I had decided to build a small cottage across the beach and not on the beach.