Ways of Seeing.

Photo by Bobby Mabanta

Photo by Bobby Mabanta.

A short drive out of town took us first to Crescent Moon Cafe to celebrate the birthday of potter and all-around-amazing Tita Lanelle Abueva. Every year she celebrates by gathering friends and family together on a Sunday serving only rice porridge with a choice of over 50+ condiments. This year, she shot way ahead of her age and served 65 (was it?) different toppings. No one is expected to try everything but as it is a delicious and worthwhile endeavor, I did make an attempt and I’m paying for it, feeling overfed and needing a hot cup of peppermint tea to calm my tummy.

At around three in the afternoon we headed out once more to take friends to see the Pinto Art Museum. Once upon a time, this space in Antipolo was just a house turned gallery run by art patron, Dr. Joven Cuanang. I’ve never really asked him why he does what he does but after all these years of being a “suki ng Pinto,” I’m guessing he’s this way because he understands the need of young artists to have the space to showcase their work. When no one buys striking works of art, he takes it upon himself (not begrudgingly, I should say) to add them to his collection. He’s in no way arbitrary about collecting though–something only evident when he himself is made to talk about what he’s amassed.

This afternoon, we were treated to a feast of the senses as Dr. Cuanang led us through the museum, stopping intermittently in front of several paintings to talk about the artists and what these works meant beyond the canvas.

Photo by Bobby Mabanta.

Photo by Bobby Mabanta.

We began our tour with the work of the talented group, Salingpusa, of which each individual member stands out as having a huge body of work representative of life in this country. Then we viewed many contemporary works by all sorts of Filipino artists who have been actively pursuing their own crazies. It’s difficult to argue a lack of culture in the country when there’s so much of it–and it’s all pretty familiar! This, of course, is something I had long since felt about Culture “capital C” even before being forced to read about it and subsequently reject it. Scenes of everyday life and, most of all, the distinctly Filipino humor, which is a mix of genuinely comedic, morose, tender and somewhat macabre, are depicted here. It makes sense to me, as it should–and art is more powerful than even I would like to admit. The ways in which these works mirror our hopes and aspirations as well as our current predispositions is incredible to say the least.

Details of Pam Yan Santos' Fragile living room. Photo by Bobby Mabanta.

Details of Pam Yan Santos’ Fragile living room. Photo by Bobby Mabanta.

Beyond having assembled a portrait of a nation, Pinto Museum also delves into the personal–perhaps to recognize that art too is human and not just useful for imagining identities. In it’s newest wing, guests are welcomed by Pam Yan Santos’ Fragile living room where everything has been covered in words. She has wrapped the entire sala and the inside of a China cabinet with each utterance made by her son who suffers from ADHD. There is a mother’s love but it too can be creatively explored and allowed to leap beyond the bounds of what we know it to be.

Today, like most other Sunday’s spent in Pinto, I’m reminded that ways of seeing vary not just according to each individual that views art but also according to the ways we grow with these works. Many of these paintings have been with me since high school and while my friends took to music and other pursuits to sort out their angst, I was drawn to these masterpieces and nurtured by them. Most of these were created without the need to pander to certain oft accepted tastes and their candor really moves me. Maybe this is also why I have a profound appreciation for what Dr. Cuanang does which in itself is already commendable. He collects art that we might look at ourselves and, more importantly, recognize ourselves when we do.

On a more personal front, he really reminds me to look deeply at art, appreciate it, and also enjoy it the way one would relish a delicious meal or a favorite tune–knowing full well that in this life all we really have is a way of seeing which when coupled with a deep and abiding faith in art, grants immeasurable meaning to our existence.

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