Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Painting in the Philippines--er, not

I started my artistic journey in one of the most gorgeous islands in the Philippines--Boracay.
I brought all of my canvass and oil paint with me. In fact, it was so heavy that I had to pay over the weight limit on the domestic flight.
Boracay, I thought was the best place to start painting. It was so gorgeous.
I began looking for wood to set up into panels so I can start making painting surface. (There are no driftwood surface worth painting on unless I paint on a coconut shell and I certainly didn't want to take coconut shells home with me). The hardware store only sold huge lumber and panels for construction of a home and there isn't a Lowe's Hardware that would cut wood according to customer specification. Since there were so many activities to choose from, including 13 kiteboarding schools, diving, sailing, I lost my desire to pursue cutting wood for the purpose of painting.
However, I kept a lookout for other painters and galleries.
For an island so rich in natural resources, so full of life and activities, I only met a few painters and no galleries. These local painters were very talented, making hand-painted T-shirts that said Boracay for next to nothing prices.
So, having only one week in Boracay and plenty of days in my grandmother's mangrove beach and house surrounded by rice farms, I decided to wait to paint when I get to Panay Island.

When I got to Panay, I was bombarded with thousands of mosquitos and heat and rain and heat and rain. So seeing that oil painting al fresco was out of the question, I explored the possibility of making a movie--a horror movie of all things. The stories of incanto, witches, aswang, shapeshifters, ghosts began. My cousins, all 30 of them were excited at the thought of being part of a movie. Everyone told me about their own personal experience with the supernatural. Being of a skeptical/scientific nature, I laughed the stories off.

We were excitedly talking about the horror movie, and I took a break from the discussion to get more anti-mosquito cream from my parents room. When I went into the room, I noticed my mom shivering. I was a little surprised, since we were in tropical heat. I covered her and immediately realized she was burning up with fever. Oh dear god, did the mosquitos ravaged my mother and brought her malaria and dengue? Or did the local ghosts come to exact a prize for our lack of respect to the stories of old.

I wasn't sure what happened, but my grandmother took the situation into her hands. She comes in the room takes one of my mother's dresses and took it to the local quack doctor.

They smoked her dress with garlic and ginger and chanted spells over fire. I didn't see the ritual, just the scent of herbs on the dress. Over the next few days, my mother was sickly and bedridden, and everyone whispered a haunting.

Despite her condition and somnolence, during her waking hours, she insisted on leaving Panay. I went with her to Manila where she slowly recovered and saw her off as she flew back to USA.

When I returned to Panay, there was no more talk of making a horror movie.

I settled myself to enjoying Christmas festivities and determined to paint when I return to America.

Currently a 5' x 3' foot canvass ready for painting is resting on the wall in front of me.