Is it possible to carve from a hard piece of wood, a bird—complete with its beak, claws, eyes and feathers that are as soft and light as the real one?
Is it possible to immortalize family values and traditions through framed pieces of artwork?
Is it possible to—amidst a fully-booked calendar of work and things to accomplish—have some time to know more of your colleagues and together appreciate arts and discover thought-provoking historical facts such as “the Philippines indeed owns Sabah and Panatag Shoal?”
Okay, it may not be too thought-provoking a fact at all, but how about buying a bonsai plant—usually priced in the city at thousands—for only P100? Is that possible? If you’re one of the 20 Career Executive Service Officers who joined the CES Club last July 23, 2013, you’ll definitely say, yes, these are all possible.
Themed “Philippine Art: Folk and Fine,” the 3rd conduct of the CES Club brought the CESOs, many of whom came from the Luzon and Mindanao regions, to the place where the finest art works and artist were born—the provinces of Rizal and Laguna.
The trip, according to Career Executive Service Board Executive Director Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, aimed to not only develop a deeper appreciation of the Philippine culture and arts, but to also provide time for the CESOs from different agencies to get acquainted with each other and strengthen their camaraderie.
Getting acquainted with each other of course begins with a simple conversation. And the learned commentary from the service bus’ on board resource person, University of the Philippines History Professor Arnold Esguerra, proved one engaging way to start a meaningful talk with ease and fun.
The trip going to Rizal was brightened up with bits of “Did-you-know-that?" to keep the participants wide awake and enthusiastic in sharing with the professor and their fellow public leaders, their insights on Philippine culture and arts.
The family that paints together, stays together. This saying holds true for the trip’s first stop—the town of Angono, where the group visited the art museums of two of the most renowned family of artists in the region, the Miranda and Blanco families.
A feast for the eyes (as well as one’s sense of pride and nationalism), the museums house a wide array of art masterpieces—paintings, wood carvings and papier mache that depict still life, history, nature, religion and abstract thinking—that are locally admired and internationally recognized for their impeccable blend of colors, media and meaning.
Next stop was Tanay, where the participants had the chance to visit the town’s historical church, and meet up with a group of its local artists. The members of the group, which according to the tour facilitator are not graduates of Fine Arts—but without a doubt are maestros of arts themselves—are ordinary town folks—tricycle drivers, vendors, farmers, former teachers, and former OFWs, struggling to develop and promote their works of art.
Unlike the artwork of the Nemiranda and Blanco families, which were displayed and preserved inside a well-maintained museum, the paintings of the local artists of Tanay took shelter in one of the rooms of an old building standing next to the church.
They were nevertheless equally astounding—images of people and nature, abstract and still life, painted on canvasses and illustration boards using watercolor, pen and ink, the masterpieces of the local artists of Tanay certainly drew the attention of the visiting career executive service officers.
“This (experience) is really worth it. We’re able to appreciate arts as well as the people behind these great works of art,” remarked Vilma Gorospe from the Department of Budget and Management as she showed a painting she bought from one of the local artists, her simple way of showing her admiration and support to the maestros of Tanay, Rizal.
Treated and sated by a heavy lunch from Rizal, the group took a scenic drive around Laguna de Bay to reach their next destination, the province of Laguna. The trip was long and cold—made even colder by the drizzle outside.
Fortunately, the group had a quick stop at a bamboo farm, where participants got themselves warm through cups of hot tea teeming with pandan, guava, and of course, bamboo flavors.
First stop in Laguna was in the town of Pakil, where the career executives witnessed the unique art of whittling. Using a small and hard branch of Cayatana tree, a craftswoman showed how she neatly yet creatively carved and shaved the wood, and in just a matter of minutes, came up with a butterfly, a bird, and a hair ornament (payneta).
Everyone’s in awe, especially when they learned that this form of art has already gained admiration both form local and foreign crafts enthusiasts. It was also noteworthy that the art of whittling has helped create a sustainable livelihood for the town folks.
However, locals aired that while whittling has opened the doors to expand the carving industry in this part of Laguna, they shared that they are now having difficulty passing and preserving the skills needed in this craft. “The youth of today have different interests,” one of the craftsmen said.
The visiting CESOs hoped for the best in this town of skillful and artistic hands. In support of their livelihood, the participants didn’t waste time to purchase different hand-carved wood products—small fan, eagle, butterfly, dove and peacock—as souvenirs of Pakil’s unique and amazing whittling industry.
From Pakil, the group drove to Paete, visited its ancient church and said a prayer of hope and peace for their family, and of course for the government and the country. They also didn’t miss the chance to shop for great bargains, such as the P15/kilo santol and rambutan and the P100-bonsai plant.
The sky was getting dark but the participants were still in high spirits as they hit the road and visited Lumban, a place where artworks are not only admirable but are also wearable. Also known as the Embroidery Capital of the Philippines, Lumban boasts of fine Jusi and Piña cloth with intricate designs that are embroidered by hand and are sewn either as Barong Tagalog or Baro’t Saya.
Definitely, the government officials, who are at times required to be in Filipiniana attire, grabbed the chance to get the best embroidered art pieces of Lumban.
The last stop was at a Spanish-era house where the group had a late merienda of native delicacies, such as suman, espasol, bibingka and kesong puti.
The trip going back to the CESB office in Quezon City was sure long and rainy. It was chilly, yes, but for the men and women of CES who joined the trip, the magnificent art works of Rizal and Laguna, which are reflections of their people’s ingenuity and craftsmanship, kept their appreciation of arts as significant part of Filipino culture alive and burning.
Prof. Esguerra’s Did you know that?
• Laguna is the Spanish term for lake, and so for some language geeks, Laguna Lake is superfluous?
• There are several ways of wearing a sarong, and during the ancient times, tying it around one’s shoulder—which allows the corresponding hand freedom to move and work—depicts that the wearer is an uripon or a slave?
• Mt. Makiling is not named after the enchantress Maria Makiling, but after the mountain’s own unique feature—uneven or leaning, the Tagalog term of which is kiling?
• Long before the Spanish arrived, Filipinos already have a writing system known as Baybayin, which is now often mistaken as Alibata?