Slavery Is Alive And Well

January 24, 2010

Slavery Is Alive And Well
by Maria Concepcion Panlilio
In Asia, slavery saunters towards the prospective
victims in a most seductive and alluring form:
promises of good jobs, fortune and the opportunity
to render financial help to the family.

Is slavery dead? As shocking as this might sound, the answer is unequivocally: No.

Most people believe that slavery is dead; that it exists only on the brittle pages of history books and in the minds of the victims and their descendants. That the cancer has been eliminated with the emancipation of the slaves in most of the enslaving European nations, the new republics of South America, and of course, the United States, in the mid to late 1800′s.

While it is true that in many former slave-owning countries like the United States, only a vestige of chattel slavery lingers as a pestering social and political condition, somewhere in the world, the system of slavery–this most diabolical of all commerce–remains an incurable cancer that eats away at the heart like acid.

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, forced slavery–however you want to call it–is still slavery. In the 21st Century, it is very much alive and flourishing around the globe. A person can still be possessed by another for life; can be sold, purchased, resold, traded, inherited, tortured, raped, branded, bred and sometimes murdered.

The Anti-Slavery International reports that there are at least 27 million people in bondage, which means that there could be more people enslaved today than ever before. Most of them are in Africa and Asia than any other continent.

Slavery assumes different faces, personalities and forms, like forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution. In Asia, slavery saunters towards the prospective victims in a most seductive and alluring form: promises of good jobs, fortune and the opportunity to render financial help to the family. The job recruiters are part of an underground international syndicate of sex traffickers, and the unsuspecting victims, young, naive and disease-free, suddenly find themselves in foreign countries, sold to Asian bordellos and Middle East potentates, entrapped in debt bondage and forced servitude as domestic or sex slaves.

In some African countries, slavery shows up with all the trimmings of chattel slavery to which we have come to recognize it–the familiar images of shackles, whips, and slave markets. Most victims are not traded at public auctions, nevertheless, they suffer the same physical, emotional and mental torture to which their more familiar predecessors had experienced.

Escaped slaves speak out. At age seven, a Sudanese boy named Bok witnessed adults and children in his village brutalized and killed by the militia. Strapped to a donkey, he was taken away from his family and sold as a slave. He was forced to sleep with cattle, subjected to daily beatings, and ate terrible food. He escaped several times, only to be recaptured and resold to slavery. Finally, he escaped to Cairo and ultimately resettled in the US in 1999. He is now an activist for the American Anti-Slavery Group, and became the first escaped slave to testify before the Senate about chattel slavery in his native land of Sudan.

Born into slavery in Mauritania, Moctar Teyeb escaped to freedom, taught himself to read and write and is now the holder of several degrees, including electrical engineering and law. Today he is the American Coordinator for an underground Mauritanian abolitionist group run by former slaves. He is the recipient of countless humanitarian awards, delivering keynote addresses to various symposiums on freedom. He lectures to various universities, including Yale and Boston University.

And so, with slavery still hanging around, so does a movement to abolish it. Bok and Teyeb are but two of the many contemporary enemies of slavery who are part of an organized anti-slavery movement.

During the period of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, John Brown, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, William Stills, Harriet Tubman, Rev. John Rankin, thousands of die-hard underground abolitionists helped thousands of slaves ride the imaginary train to liberty through a complex freedom network known as the Underground Railroad Movement.

In the 21st Century, most modern-day abolitionists do not conduct their activities through an underground network. These human rights activists ride the cyberspace–disseminating information through the electronic superhighway. They use their computers and powerful voices in fighting for liberty, harboring fugitive slaves and smuggling them to freedom. When I go back home to visit, I attend religious services in a church that is located in the middle of the Red Light District (the priest is a friend). Except for a few young women strolling the streets in their 5-inch heels and micro-mini skirts, the area looks dead or lethargic at daylight. But like vampires, middle-aged Australian men sent there for “good time” as a bonus from their employers, come out at night to prey on the willing and unwilling victims.

Everyday, thousands of Asia’s children are taken from their families and sold to sex traffickers, fueling an international sex industry. Like other Asian countries, the Philippines has become a center of sex tourism and focus of organized pedophile rings. One day, a friend introduced me to a distraught woman who wanted my help to find her 18-year old daughter. The woman had lost her husband two years back, leaving a wife and six children. Desperate to feed her children, she took her oldest child, Rosario, to a job placement agency. She was 16 at the time. The recruiter promised to get the young girl a good job as a domestic worker in the Middle East and took all the family’s life savings and borrowed money for a fee. Three months later, Rosario left the Philippines. Her mother and siblings looked forward to a monthly check from her. Little did they suspect that they would never see Rosario again.

END

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

The Cancer Of Slavery

January 24, 2010
The Cancer Of Slavery
In The Souls Of Human Civilizations
(An analysis of history)

Did Lapu-Lapu prevent slavery in the Philippines
when he defeated and killed Magellan?

Imagine the Philippines shackled in the most evil of commerce: Slavery. Yes, this vile, involuntary form of human servitude—the virus spread by the Spaniards and Portuguese through global slave trades that began in the 15th century. The United States caught this infectious disease that killed many of its people in a Civil War that divided the country between North and South—brothers fought brothers and friends fought friends. Today, the cancer of slavery is gone, but its deep scar remains in the heart and soul of a country to remind us of that bitter period in U.S. history hoping that it would never re-manifest itself.

We’ve been treated with a smorgasbord of history lessons on slavery from books and films such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone With The Wind, Roots, Amistad and Glory. Still, how much have we learned about the root of slavery and its possible repercussions into the fate of the Filipino people?

Slavery did not start with the Black African slave trade in 1411; the Africans had long practiced it before Portugal and Spain propagated it to the rest of the world through slave trades. Yes, Spain—the same country that subjected the Philippines to 350 years of sovereignty and aggression—the same country that executed one of the greatest men that ever lived. We can only imagine how great the Philippines would have been had Dr. Jose Rizal lived. The Spaniards made sure that possibility remained a dream.

Slavery is one of the oldest social institutions that date back to prehistoric times. Many civilizations accepted this as an essential feature to the economy and social system. In the Middle Ages, the Prophet Muhammad advocated the practice of slavery to his followers. The exploration of Africa that began in the 15th century and the subsequent European colonization of America provided the momentum for the modern slave trade. North African traders abducted and shipped African people to markets in countries like Arabia, Iran, India, Cuba, Brazil, the Carribeans, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, the United States and South America. The cruelty of slavery and the exposure to European diseases nearly exterminated the indigenous people in Latin America, forcing the Spanish colonists to import African slaves.

Artist drawings of enslaved Africans packed like sardines on European vessels en route to the New World illustrate how European slave traders forcibly and brutally captured them from their homeland and transported across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold in auction blocks as slaves. They were bundled together with ropes and sashes, desperate, humiliated, beaten and hungry, Images from sepia-toned photographs echo the sufferings of these slaves, as they were forced to excruciating labor, their penetrating gazes revealing the terror of their fate.

Wherever the Spaniards and the Portuguese went, slavery was instituted, poisoning the hearts of many cultures. But how did the Philippines acquire immunity from this disease under the Spaniards that controlled the country for almost 400 years? This is not to undermine the atrocities that the Filipino people had suffered from the Spaniards, but it is conceivable that it could have been a lot worse. The Philippines could have been a slave colony of Spain like Mexico, Brazil and Cuba, to name a few.

The notion of slavery in the Philippines under the Spaniards might not be as farfetched as it sounds. The country’s linkage to slavery is closer than we think. Let’s flashback to 1521 – the year when Magellan, a Portuguese-born Spanish navigator and explorer, crossed a vast ocean he named “Pacific Ocean” because of its calmness.

In search of the Spice Islands, Magellan accidentally discovered a group of islands (that Spain would name in 1542 as the “Philippines” in honor of Prince Philip II who would be King). Magellan sailed to the islands of Mindanao and Cebu, where he was welcomed with open arms. Here he began converting natives and their rulers to Christianity, as well as imposing Spanish sovereignty over the islands, with the King of Spain as their lord and ruler. Things were going well for the Spanish explorer and his crew, but this would not last for very long. In the Island of Mactan, Chief Lapu-Lapu and his people refused to be proselytized and pay tribute to the King of Spain as their lord and ruler. Magellan warned Lapu-Lapu that if the natives did not obey, then they would find out how the Europeans’ steel swords could pierce their flesh.

A bloody battle ensued. The Spaniards’ lances and large pieces of artillery were no match to the natives’ stones, poisoned arrows, lances of bamboo tipped with iron, and pointed stakes hardened in the fire.

Ferdinand Magellan died in the hands of Lapu-Lapu at age 41.

* * *


Magellan shares billing with a man named Enrique as the world’s first circumnavigators. Enrique was Magellan’s slave whom he had acquired in the East Indies. Magellan had seen years of military service there for Portugal. Together Magellan and Enrique sailed between countries and oceans. Once in the Philippines, the master was pleased to learn that his slave spoke the tongue of the natives. (Italian diarist Antonio Pigafetta’s journal of Magellan’s voyage to the Pacific) Could it be that Enrique came from the same country where the early inhabitants of the Philippines had come from?)

* * *


What would have happened if Magellan had survived the battle of Mactan and defeated Lapu-Lapu instead? Magellan would have surpassed Christopher Columbus and other great explorers in the annals of world discovery in appreciation and recognition. Instead of one small ship from his fleet returning to Spain to complete the mission, Magellan would have claimed the fame and fortune he richly deserved. Instead, he received very little accolade, and his heirs received no reward from Spain upon his death.

Considering how unproblematic it was for Magellan to convert the Philippine natives to Christianity and made them recognize and honor a strange European king as their ruler, the rest of the islands would have been easy conquests for Spain. And the Philippines might not be the country, as we know it today. Slavery did not come packaged with the arrival of Magellan to the Philippines as he searched for spices; that would have happened naturally as it did in every other country that Spain had colonized. Had Magellan survived, he would have been the Philippines’ greater counterpart of the conquistador Cortez who vanquished Mexico for Spain.

But even after Magellan’s murder, Spain perhaps saw that the Filipinos could be held in bondage without instituting forced slavery in the Philippines. Slavery, after all, comes in different forms. Forty years after Magellan’s death, the Spaniards returned to the Philippines through an expedition from Mexico led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who advanced the power of Spain over the Filipinos. Hence, the beginning of Spanish colonization that would last for almost an eternity. Manila became a valuable port for Spain for its international trade—not of slaves, but of precious commodities that included silver, gold, spices, silks and porcelain.
During the Spanish regime, most of the Filipinos were subjected to a different kind of non-free slavery or serfdom, peonage and other forms of servitude. Worst, most of the Spanish Friars used the veil of Christianity for their ruthless and repressive treatment of the Filipinos.

Today, vestiges of Spanish oppression still lingers in the mind, heart and soul of the Filipino people. It has been many generations ago since our forefathers had given our homeland the joy of liberty from the hands of the Spaniards. When we reflect on the bitter memories of this part of the Philippine history, perhaps we can console ourselves into thinking that . . . it could have been a lot worse.

END

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
In The Souls Of Human Civilizations
(An analysis of history)

Did Lapu-Lapu prevent slavery in the Philippines
when he defeated and killed Magellan?

Imagine the Philippines shackled in the most evil of commerce: Slavery. Yes, this vile, involuntary form of human servitude—the virus spread by the Spaniards and Portuguese through global slave trades that began in the 15th century. The United States caught this infectious disease that killed many of its people in a Civil War that divided the country between North and South—brothers fought brothers and friends fought friends. Today, the cancer of slavery is gone, but its deep scar remains in the heart and soul of a country to remind us of that bitter period in U.S. history hoping that it would never re-manifest itself.

We’ve been treated with a smorgasbord of history lessons on slavery from books and films such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Gone With The Wind, Roots, Amistad and Glory. Still, how much have we learned about the root of slavery and its possible repercussions into the fate of the Filipino people?

Slavery did not start with the Black African slave trade in 1411; the Africans had long practiced it before Portugal and Spain propagated it to the rest of the world through slave trades. Yes, Spain—the same country that subjected the Philippines to 350 years of sovereignty and aggression—the same country that executed one of the greatest men that ever lived. We can only imagine how great the Philippines would have been had Dr. Jose Rizal lived. The Spaniards made sure that possibility remained a dream.

Slavery is one of the oldest social institutions that date back to prehistoric times. Many civilizations accepted this as an essential feature to the economy and social system. In the Middle Ages, the Prophet Muhammad advocated the practice of slavery to his followers. The exploration of Africa that began in the 15th century and the subsequent European colonization of America provided the momentum for the modern slave trade. North African traders abducted and shipped African people to markets in countries like Arabia, Iran, India, Cuba, Brazil, the Carribeans, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, the United States and South America. The cruelty of slavery and the exposure to European diseases nearly exterminated the indigenous people in Latin America, forcing the Spanish colonists to import African slaves.

Artist drawings of enslaved Africans packed like sardines on European vessels en route to the New World illustrate how European slave traders forcibly and brutally captured them from their homeland and transported across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold in auction blocks as slaves. They were bundled together with ropes and sashes, desperate, humiliated, beaten and hungry, Images from sepia-toned photographs echo the sufferings of these slaves, as they were forced to excruciating labor, their penetrating gazes revealing the terror of their fate.

Wherever the Spaniards and the Portuguese went, slavery was instituted, poisoning the hearts of many cultures. But how did the Philippines acquire immunity from this disease under the Spaniards that controlled the country for almost 400 years? This is not to undermine the atrocities that the Filipino people had suffered from the Spaniards, but it is conceivable that it could have been a lot worse. The Philippines could have been a slave colony of Spain like Mexico, Brazil and Cuba, to name a few.

The notion of slavery in the Philippines under the Spaniards might not be as farfetched as it sounds. The country’s linkage to slavery is closer than we think. Let’s flashback to 1521 – the year when Magellan, a Portuguese-born Spanish navigator and explorer, crossed a vast ocean he named “Pacific Ocean” because of its calmness.

In search of the Spice Islands, Magellan accidentally discovered a group of islands (that Spain would name in 1542 as the “Philippines” in honor of Prince Philip II who would be King). Magellan sailed to the islands of Mindanao and Cebu, where he was welcomed with open arms. Here he began converting natives and their rulers to Christianity, as well as imposing Spanish sovereignty over the islands, with the King of Spain as their lord and ruler. Things were going well for the Spanish explorer and his crew, but this would not last for very long. In the Island of Mactan, Chief Lapu-Lapu and his people refused to be proselytized and pay tribute to the King of Spain as their lord and ruler. Magellan warned Lapu-Lapu that if the natives did not obey, then they would find out how the Europeans’ steel swords could pierce their flesh.

A bloody battle ensued. The Spaniards’ lances and large pieces of artillery were no match to the natives’ stones, poisoned arrows, lances of bamboo tipped with iron, and pointed stakes hardened in the fire.

Ferdinand Magellan died in the hands of Lapu-Lapu at age 41.

* * *


Magellan shares billing with a man named Enrique as the world’s first circumnavigators. Enrique was Magellan’s slave whom he had acquired in the East Indies. Magellan had seen years of military service there for Portugal. Together Magellan and Enrique sailed between countries and oceans. Once in the Philippines, the master was pleased to learn that his slave spoke the tongue of the natives. (Italian diarist Antonio Pigafetta’s journal of Magellan’s voyage to the Pacific) Could it be that Enrique came from the same country where the early inhabitants of the Philippines had come from?)

* * *


What would have happened if Magellan had survived the battle of Mactan and defeated Lapu-Lapu instead? Magellan would have surpassed Christopher Columbus and other great explorers in the annals of world discovery in appreciation and recognition. Instead of one small ship from his fleet returning to Spain to complete the mission, Magellan would have claimed the fame and fortune he richly deserved. Instead, he received very little accolade, and his heirs received no reward from Spain upon his death.

Considering how unproblematic it was for Magellan to convert the Philippine natives to Christianity and made them recognize and honor a strange European king as their ruler, the rest of the islands would have been easy conquests for Spain. And the Philippines might not be the country, as we know it today. Slavery did not come packaged with the arrival of Magellan to the Philippines as he searched for spices; that would have happened naturally as it did in every other country that Spain had colonized. Had Magellan survived, he would have been the Philippines’ greater counterpart of the conquistador Cortez who vanquished Mexico for Spain.

But even after Magellan’s murder, Spain perhaps saw that the Filipinos could be held in bondage without instituting forced slavery in the Philippines. Slavery, after all, comes in different forms. Forty years after Magellan’s death, the Spaniards returned to the Philippines through an expedition from Mexico led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who advanced the power of Spain over the Filipinos. Hence, the beginning of Spanish colonization that would last for almost an eternity. Manila became a valuable port for Spain for its international trade—not of slaves, but of precious commodities that included silver, gold, spices, silks and porcelain.
During the Spanish regime, most of the Filipinos were subjected to a different kind of non-free slavery or serfdom, peonage and other forms of servitude. Worst, most of the Spanish Friars used the veil of Christianity for their ruthless and repressive treatment of the Filipinos.

Today, vestiges of Spanish oppression still lingers in the mind, heart and soul of the Filipino people. It has been many generations ago since our forefathers had given our homeland the joy of liberty from the hands of the Spaniards. When we reflect on the bitter memories of this part of the Philippine history, perhaps we can console ourselves into thinking that . . . it could have been a lot worse.

END

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

he Filipinos’ Struggle For Independence

January 24, 2010
Problems viewing the images? Please click on this link:
THE FILIPINOS’ STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
(A Historical Perspective)

Behind a bugler and a drummer, a condemned man arrived at the scene where a great crowd awaited his execution. He resembled not the portrait of a traitor and criminal, but of a man of courage and greatness. He was Dr. Jose P. Rizal—35, a poet, doctor, linguist, and patriot, whose writings had inspired the Filipino revolt against the Spaniards. He was slim, dignified, poised and impeccably dressed in his black European suit.

Dr. Rizal refused to kneel. nor to be blindfolded. The commander of the eight-man firing squad gave his order to fire. “Consummatum Est,” were the last words of the man who would be a National Hero. The Filipino mercenaries fired their Remingtons. He had requested to be shot in the front, which had been denied, but in the end, with one last convulsive effort, Rizal twisted and turned his body to face his executioners as he fell to his death.

Thoughts of freedom from foreign sovereignty conjure up images of Dr. Rizal’s execution and martyrdom. Once described by a Spanish philosopher as the “Tagalog Christ,” Rizal was the Spaniards’ most feared man, but his death would only mark the beginning of an end to four centuries of Spanish rule in the country.

Entered the Americans. Their mission was to retaliate against the destruction of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana harbor and destroy the entire Spanish fleet in Cuba and in the Philippines. With promises of independence for the Filipinos, Aguinaldo partnered with the Americans against the Spaniards. Historians chronicle a hidden agenda on the part of the Americans, which had nothing to do with the independence of the Filipino people.

On June 12, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo stood in the balcony of his house in Kawit, Cavite, proudly waving the Philippine flag and declaring the independence of the Philippines from foreign rule. A thunderous applause and shouts of Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! erupted from the crowd, many of them barefoot soldiers donned with straw hats and sharp bolos hanging from their waist.

The band played Marcha Filipina—an unrecognized tune that would become the Philippine National Anthem. Aguinaldo and his officers stood in attention and saluted the flag; the crowd spontaneously followed. Aguinaldo became the President of the First Philippine Republic.

Freedom was at hand. And so it seemed. Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20 million as per the Treaty of Paris. A year later, hostilities erupted between the Filipinos and the Americans. Ironically, it would be Aguinaldo who led the war for the Philippines. Due to conflicts in leadership between Gen. Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio (The founder of the Katipunan), Aguinaldo ordered his men to catch and kill Bonifacio. Another great man was executed and died for the love of his country and the principle of freedom for his countrymen.

The war lasted for two years, claiming thousands of Filipino lives. Another Filipino revolt failed.

On July 4, 1901, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the end of the Philippine-American war. In the next 50 years (interrupted by three years of Japanese occupation marked with barbaric atrocities that had stirred international outrage) the Philippines would be under the colonial rule of the United States. Finally, on July 4, 1946, US President Harry Truman announced that the Americans recognized the independence of the Filipino people.

Were the Filipinos free at last?
For 16 years, the Philippine Independence Day was celebrated on July 4th, coinciding with the American Declaration of Independence from England in 1776. In 1962, then incumbent President Macapagal pronounced June 12th to be the original and official Independence Day of the Philippines.

But the continued American presence in the Philippines convinced many die-hard nationalists that the country had never truly gained her independence from Uncle Sam. These anti-Americans scorned and denounced Filipinos friendly to the Imperialist Americans of neo-colonial mentality. Subversive groups proliferated, demanding the closure of all U.S. Military installations in the country.

Ironically, on June 15, 1991, after having celebrated the country’s 93rd year of independence, Mount Pinatubo erupted—a massive explosion that would prove to be the worst in almost a hundred years. Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base were damaged beyond repair. This settled the escalating conflict between the Philippines and the United States over the renewal of US base leases in the Philippines. The Americans evacuated the land, never to return. Pinatubo accomplished in a few minutes what the die-hard Filipino nationalists had unsuccessfully tried to do for nearly a century.

Has the Philippines finally attained her true independence?
Filipinos have cleaned up the areas damaged by Mount Pinatubo as they have learned to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives without the Americans. The former U.S. Clark Air Force Base has been converted into a Special Economic Zone and aviation complex. Subic Naval Base, now called Subic Bay Freeport, has become a rest and recreation center for the rich in Asia with its own international airport. The Philippines hopes that someday it will become a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, financial and investment center.

I grew up in Angeles City. In all my life here, it was normal to see the GI Joe’s everywhere I went. They were friendly, jolly and loved to have a good time. Personally, I had a lot of American friends and always had fun with them. I could not imagine Angeles City without the Americans, but it happened. There is not now a single white man around in khaki uniform. Once in a while I see some worn-out looking Caucasians at the public market, or walking the streets with a young Filipina. They’re of retirement age and they come out mostly at night when the red light district wakes up. I hear that they’re from England and Australia who enjoy the easy life here, not to mention the businesswomen.

Clark is a curious place. At first glance, it looks like a Philippine military base, with guards in military uniform at every gate checking people and cars that enter. Then you drive around and you will be amazed at the two-world class resort hotels (Mimosa Resort and Golf Club, and Fontana Resort and Casino), a few factories, and countless duty free stores-a potpourri of U.S. mall type establishments and 99 cent stores. This is a place where people can buy imported goods from the U.S. and other countries.

Foreigners predominantly own the aforementioned businesses at Clark and Subic; i.e.: the Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese. This is true in many cities in the Philippines, as well. For instance, I was in Laoag, Ilocos Norte a few days ago and stayed at the La Ilocandia Resort Hotel-a beautiful 5-star hotel that is very native Filipino in every way, but very foreign-owned, primarily by our Asian neighbors. Assessing the new Clark and Subic, it seems that many of the resident Filipinos who once depended on the Americans for good income security are again experiencing an economic revival.

Unanimously, those that I have spoken to said that what they make now as Clark employees could never match what they were receiving from the Americans. A few of the security guards from two different agencies at Clark complained that they have not been paid for more than a month; there was a rumor of engineers’ mass walkout, and several resort employees complained at the humiliating way they are treated by their employers. After the interview, one of them resigned the following day.

All in all, Angeles City is a hustle bustle community. At first glance, it is a thriving area notwithstanding the devastation caused by Mount Pinatubo’s eruptions and the closure of its biggest employer, the US Clark Air Force Base. The Filipinos here are definitely on their own.

On June 12th, dignitaries, Filipino soldiers and spectators gathered at the front gate of Clark to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence. With their right hands pressed at their chest, they watched the Philippine flag hoisted as the band played, and the crowd sang: “Bayang magiliw, perlas nang silanganan.”

END

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Dani D’Umuk Aguila

January 24, 2010

Dani D’Umuk Aguila
The Little Giant With The Pen
by Maria Concepcion Panlilio
Q: What does ace cartoonist-editor Dani D’Umuk Aguila have in common with Loida Nicolas Lewis, head of a multi-billion dollar business empire, Ben Cayetano, first Filipino U.S. governor, Pacita Abad, New York world-class artist, and Lea Salonga, international stage performer-singer?

A: They are all featured extensively in the “Filipino Achievers in the USA and Canada: Profiles in Excellence” by Isabelo T. Crisostomo (Bookhaus, Hardcover | 1996 | 384 pages). This book is the “Hall of Fame” for more than 100 of the best and the brightest among Filipinos, Filipino/Americans and Filipino/Canadians. These Filipinos have overcome the hindrances of their cultural backgrounds into a new world and not only triumph beyond all odds, but also excel resplendently in their respective professions.

Dani D’umuk Aguila (aka “El Dani) is the creative force behind the cartoons in all of the Asian Pacific American Time’s ten years of existence. But if you think that’s all he does, please stay tooned. And in case you did not know, aguila literally means “eagle.”. How appropriate. Aguila’s wit is as sharp as an eagle’s beak

The Eagle has landed on my page
Editorial caricatures can be extremely powerful and are vital in our society as well as deserving of our sincere consideration and genuine scrutiny. Any newspaper without any editorial cartoons seems to be incomplete and lacking that unique ingredient that many look for immediately as they turn the pages.

With the cartoonists’ razor-sharp wit and incisive humor, their small boxes of images and abbreviated phrases can illustrate a million words of wisdom and opinion that can affect the way we think. It does not matter that the ‘toons’ reflect the artists’ often cynical and sardonic view of the world, politics, religion and social issues, which may differ from those of their readers’. What’s important is that they are thought provoking and most-often put a smile to our faces as we read and reflect on them.

Yes, the power of the editorial cartoons cannot be underestimated. They can break or make a person, place or thing; worse, they can spark fury and violent protests throughout the world. A recent mordant cartoon in a Danish newspaper about the Prophet Muhammad triggered not only worldwide Muslim demonstrations, but also slayings in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Aguila’s caricatures have not sparked any such rioting, but a cartoon he had penned entitled “Watergate” had caused such uproar at the Parthenon Hall in Nashville. The museum is famous for its full-scale reproduction of the Greek temple, and “Atheno Parthenos”–the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world at 42′. Though Aguila’s Watergate won a Gold Medal during the show (the Annual Awards Exhibit of the Art Directors Club of Nashville) it was taken down by the Museum Director, claiming that it was political and anti-Nixon. “The morning daily The Tennessean defended my First Amendment Right,” says Aguila. “It ran two editorials, and a 9-part series that featured not just my Watergate winner, but other winning entries.” Watergate was later included in the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year 1975 edition. “The book,” says Aguila, “along with over 50 other American Books were sent to the Kremlin for a US-USSR Cultural Exchange that summer. And unwittingly, “BECY’75″ was one of over three dozens yanked out of the show. Thus, Watergate had the dubious distinction of being banned in both Superpowers during the Cold War!”

The Eagle’s Nest
Aguila was born on September 24, 1928, to the late Governor Doroteo Aguila of La Union and his midwife-registered, nurse-deaconess mother, Donata D’umuk. “Dumuk is my late mother’s maiden name,” explains Aguilar. “By adding an apostrophe after D, the rest of the word Umuk means “nest” in Ilocano. So literally, my abode is officially known as “Eagle’s Nest,” or Umuk ti Agila, in Ilocano.”

Aguila and his wife, the former Norma B. Alampay (“Normahal” as he endearingly refer to her), migrated to the US in late 1967. They immediately settled in Nashville, Tennessee and fell in love with the city right away. If he had his way, he said he would rename the city “Niceville.” Known as the “Country Music Capital of the World,” and home to the “Grand Ole Opry,” where dreams have come true for the superstars in country and western music; Nashville is also known to many as a religious, educational and publishing center. This latter reputation proved itself to Aguilar for he excelled on all counts in Niceville. He was Art Consultant for Upper Room — the world’s largest daily devotional guide in 60 countries. “Later, he was appointed Art Director of the R.G. Field’s Advertising Company, winning the first Diamond Award in TV commercials. In 1972, he became the Art director of WDCN-TV/Channel 8 public television; scripted and produced prizewinning TV ads. And in 1975, he was elected the first ethnic non-American president of the Art Directors Club of Nashville, consistently winning major prizes in illustration and editorial cartoons. The Eagle’s Nest is still thriving after almost 40 years. The Aguilas have three children (Normalinda, Daniel Bliss and Dina), and two grandchildren (Kathy and Andrew).

An alumnus of the University of the Philippines, Aguila has been an editorial cartoonist, illustrator, journalist and design artist, cartoonist and editor for almost all his life. It all began at age 5, when his father, then a traveling salesman, took him to see a live baby elephant. So impressed with the animal that boy Aguila started drawing the baby elephant on the gravel with a stick. His father saw his son’s great potential as an artist and he immediately bought him a paint box set. And the rest, as they say, is history. His works have appeared in numerous major publications in the Philippines and in the United States. He has also been the recipient of countless journalism awards, citations, fellowships and grants–too numerous to mention in this article.

To name a few of Aguila’s achievements, he holds the honor of being the first non-white member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) to receive the coveted “Ink Bottle Pin Award in June 1992. In summer of 1963, he was one of five who received the “Outstanding Son of Bauang (La Union) Award,” presented by Mayor Delfin Florendo during his hometown’s Centennial. The other awardees included “RP Banana King Antonio Florendo,” and National Press Club President Liberato Marinas. In August 1976, during the Siliman University’s Diamond Jubilee and Founders Day in Dumaguete City, he was presented with the “Outstanding Silliman University Alumnus in Communications Arts Award” by then University President Quentin ‘King” Doroma. In January 2001, he was one of two inductees to the “UMAC Hall of Fame, Class 2000″ during the annual convention of United Methodists Association of Communicators. In April 2005, he received Doctor of Humanities (honoris causa), from the Philippine Christian University. “My homily response,” he says, “included my definition of PILIPINO, as a dual word meaning, “PILI ” meaning “choice”, and “PINO”, meaning “fine” ergo, The (F)ilipino People are both a “Chosen” and “Fine” People.

The legend of “El Dani”
In 1953, at the lst International World’s Fair in Manila, Aguila met Xavier Cugat, the Hollywood cartoonist-turned Latino band leader. Along with his classmates in the UP School of Fine Arts he brought his cartoon impressions of Cugat. In receiving his “cartoonitials” (using the subject’s initials as a basis for his cartoon), Cugat’s gimlet eyes grew more narrow as he remarked, “Senor Aguila, I love this cartoon very mootch, except for one thing; why did you sign Danny instead of Dani, which I trust comes from your given name Daniel, right?” Before Aguila could reply, Cugat continued, “You should retain your real name Daniel, and use Dani for a nickname. That way, someday, when you decide you’ve become famous or infamous” you can return the suffix “el” and make it a prefix, hence, “el Dani.”

It had to take three censorships of Aguila’s controversial cartoons before he could affix “el Dani.” These are: (1) His “Watergate” expurgation as related above; (2) When the Philippine Consulate in Canada invited Aguila to showcase a retrospective exhibit of his work at the Toronto Public Library, the Consul General himself, without consulting him, took down a row of six cartoons featuring Israel. “I kept my peace,” Aguila explains, “since I was his guest, but when I returned to Nashville, I wrote a pictorial center spread on my censored show, and the Consular General took no time to throw all the names in the books, calling me an “ingrate,” etc. His umbrage went on for the next few minutes. And when I thought he was finished, I gingerly asked: “Is that all?” He resumed his tirade.” (3) A fourth cartoon featuring possibly the first to feature a condom was not allowed in Aguila’s one-man show at Watkins School of Art in Nashville where he taught Cartooning l0l; but it was included in the “Annual International Humour Anthology” in Montreal. It was entered but taken down from the Cartoon Biennial in Brazil, later that year.

Thereafter, Aguila started signing his cartoons “el Dani.”

And that, my friends, is the legend of “El Dani.”

END

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Maria Panlilio — “Art In My Heart”

January 24, 2010

If you have a problem seeing the images, please click on the following link:

http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1347174-Maria-Panlilio—-Art-In-My-Heart

(You may also cut and paste it onto your url window)

Maria Panlilio — “Art In My Heart”


One of my most cherished moments when I visit my native land–the Philippines, is the pleasure of exploring various fine art museums, and visually feasting through treasures of the best artworks created by the Masters of Philippine art. Just to name a few, Fernando and Pablo from the Amorsolo family, Marcelo del Pilar, Felix Hidalgo, Victor Edades, Juan Luna, and, most notably, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Amorsolo, the “Father Of Philippine Art,” was the first Filipino painter to be awarded the “National Artist” distinction posthumously in 1973. This painting (left) exhibits Amorsolo’s virtuosity with the paintbrush. Today, his ubiquitous influence among his contemporaries is evident in their works, as they seem to imitate Amorsolo’s impressionistic style.

Just as pleasurable in a different stroke is to be treated to impressive paintings by unheralded Filipino artists. Their works might not be gracing the walls of the Philippine Cultural Center, art museums or art galleries, but they are worthy of recognition and adulation as well. With the state of Filipino art being virtually non-existent in the United States, except in some Filipino homes, greater exposure is needed to increase the scant attention our kababayan artists need.

At a corner in the lobby of a resort hotel in the City of Angeles, Pampanga, I watch Fernando Guerrero (54) of Bulacan, execute a quick pastel portrait of a little girl. In fifteen minutes, the artwork is finished. The mother of the girl is very pleased and pays the artist one hundred pesos ($2.00), one half of which will go to the hotel for the space fee. “It’s not too bad,” says Guerrero. “When it’s busy here, I can make as much as one thousand pesos in one weekend.”

In a two-bedroom house shared by a family of five and his wife’s parents, Guerrero reserves a window corner in the living room to paint. Stacked up against the wall is a collection of finished oil paintings – about six mural size impressionistic paintings. Perhaps, one thousand pesos in one weekend is not a bad earning for a struggling artist, or for any Filipino in general, but for an artist of Guerrero’s caliber, his works are worthy of gallery price and attention.

“I’ve had a one man show in a gallery before,” he laments. “But nobody bought even one painting. My wife is very understanding and supportive of my work. She helps out financially by selling bibinka (Philippine style pancake with shredded fresh coconut on top) outside the house and that helps send my three girls to college.” His eyes sparkle when he speaks of his children. “I’m so proud of them,” he says, suddenly misty-eyed. “My oldest is graduating next year from Far Eastern University. She’s going to be a nurse.”

There are those who struggle as artists and there are those who are successful but still are struggling to be recognized in the competitive art industry. They exhibit the right qualities that could propel them to center stage in the art world, but most likely would never happen. Art is a luxury that most people, especially the Filipinos, cannot afford. And in a country where fine art purchasing is an extravagance reserved for the rich, most of these artists would have to be satisfied with any compensation for their work.

The art of Joey Hernandez of Mabalacat, Pampanga, has fascinated critics and earned favorable attention as far as the United States. His FIESTA, a narrative painting depicting Filipinos in their folksy attitudes, hangs prominently at the home office of Abbott Laboratories.

In Fiesta, as in his other narrative works, Hernandez portrays the simplicity of everyday life in the Philippines, reminiscent of Amorsolo’s lyrical and romantic works. His painting style sometimes varies, but in general, it bridges the distance between illustration and fine art. Some would argue, however, whether or not these terms are not interchangeable.

FIESTA by Joey Hernandez, is a literal representation of the Filipinos’ preparation for their favorite annual festivity. It is a testament to the artist’s painstaking eye for details as he paints the unspoiled native scene with great imagination and forthright realism.

To Hernandez, there is a sense of responsibility in creating realistic scenes to be sure that what he portrays in his narrative paintings is authentic. He does this by researching the places, people, clothing and architecture. He visits actual places, taking still pictures and recording his observations on paper by making preliminary sketches. After carefully planning his artwork for weeks, Guerrero begins to execute his ideas, romantic imagination and insight on canvas.

Hernandez (47) (Boy to his family and friends) is one of the few commercially successful artists in the Philippines, although you would not know it by looking at him, perhaps a quintessence of a true artist. He is down to earth, talks with humility about his art, and financially generous to a fault; often unreliable with money management. He finds many days strapped for cash, but when he does, one of his many faithful friends, like my brother, can always provide the support by buying one of his paintings for a portion of its worth.

The sheer pleasure of viewing great artworks lifts the quality of my mood and state of mind. Inevitably, I find myself encompassed by a desire to pick up my paintbrush and create a painting into which I can pour my heart and soul. This painting of Taft Museum is a result of that emotion. I do not, and never have, considered my name uttered in the same breath as the aforementioned artists, but I have been very fortunate in that most of my works have been commissioned, and I never had to peddle my paintings. Although some of my paintings have been exhibited in art galleries, I have yet to see any of my paintings hanging on museum walls.

Though none of my paintings is exhibited in any museum, I have been commissioned to paint the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Music Hal, and the Taft Museum. My favorite is a 42×46 watercolor painting of the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, which houses some of the best art collections in the world. President Howard Taft once resided in this home. I worked in Cincinnati for years and the art museum is only a walking distance from my office. Not shown in the photo is the splendid garden that explodes with vibrant colors and fragrance from the spring blossoms.

This painting, City of Refuge, was hanging in my office in Cincinnati for years. I’ve spent many tranquil moments in the City of Refuge in Hawaii, reading, writing or painting. This is one of my favorite large-size works (36×40), which I painted in 1989. When I left the company, a colleague, Arthur Greenwell, offered to buy it, which I hesitantly accepted.

I want to conclude this art exhibit by sharing with you a painting of my mother’s portrait Feliciana, which I painted in mixed media (watercolor, acrylic and colored pencils). This was her wedding picture, which I copied from a torn, warped and fire-damaged photograph. It was the only photograph from her younger days that survived the fire that consumed our neighborhood a long time ago.

Because I was born with artistic abilities and never took any art lesson in my life, I often take my artistic talent for granted. When I create a personal painting like this, I feel an immense gratitude and pleasure for the God-given ability to immortalize a special moment in the life of an incredible person, like my mother.

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

CARMELITO SANTOS — Artist/Poet

January 24, 2010
CARMELITO SANTOS
Artist/Poet
A Biographical Sketch

Carmelito Santos  [#1414556] The artist/poet in front of his latest painting

There is a point in an artist’s life when he feels stifled, experiencing a certain dulling of the imagination, and he feels the need to reshape the intrinsic creative vision that once filled his life with excitement. For so long he has been a craftsman who worked with technical precision, with emphasis on form, conveying his fidelity to realism as inspired by the masters, catering to the delicate taste of the general masses.

Suddenly he is tired of producing pastiche works and longs for a sense of independence, to create freer compositions with a startling robust style – intense and evoking, shattering of form and balance that dissolves his objects into abstract forms.

Carmelito (“Lito”) Santos was not an exception to this inner conflict and he sought to restructure his creative vision. He has triumphantly reinvented himself as an artist, and he feels a sense of freedom and joyous release. Today, he paints with a new style of self-expression that is distinctively his own. Once again, he feels his spiritual energy flowing into an emotional expression of life as he creates works that are radical, reckless, and in his words, “schizophrenic.”

Painted in unrestrained bold strokes and vibrant tones, Santos’ canvases explode with stunning luminosity, vibrant tones and shades that project his immense vitality and freedom of artistic expression. Some people may find his style too harsh and not in harmony with his gentle personality, but such is the risk he recognized in his creative transformation.

Lito Santos’s latest works of art feed his homesickness for the Motherland, his longing for the past. “They are a depiction of my remembrances,” he laments, “my solace, a big part of my life emotionally.” Christmas heightens a certain loneliness in him, which he reveals in the following soulful poems he penned.

Christmas Carols Make Me Cry

they hurt away from a tropical
golden harvest scent,
away from a permeating odor
of burnt sheets of banana leaves
(lining earthen bake wares),
of shredded coconut
and soaking powdered rice,
of charcoal embers
and coconut husk and betel nut
chewing ancient women, stall owners.
(they crowd the church’s apron
with gas lamps and candles and electric bulbs,
and smoke and stench of
acrid smell and sweet dispositions.)

they hurt. yes, christmas carols hurt
away from hearts longed for and missed.
too, they hurt away from tolling bells at deep
dawn, away from some sleepy
crowd of loved and familiar faces
at an after midnight mass.

they hurt to subdued tears and muffled sighs
and choking breathless cries.
yes, christmas carols hurt away from true loves
now in nostalgia,
i hear the clatter of feet on asphalt,
homeward by lantern glow and star light,
after the bells ring the termination
of a day’s sacred calling.

yes, now I see lanterns on windows
lighting the way back.
yet now, away from their glare and brilliance,
they burn my eyes wet. they hurt.

christmas carols make me cry.

Christmas Memories Through Lanterns
And Clotheslines

Clothes and tapestries
on clotheslines,
but colors
on that one december
rain on lanterns
lit, .i remember
the odious
muelle on that one day
forever.

old christmas
reflects
on my tears now, now in years
and replace.

memories
are there
to reach for,
to hold on to, to cry for.

i’m older now.
thoughts
fleet in turns
to erode river bank
and the adobe shoring
at each bend.

feelings
are frail.
they break
so easily
to show,
to flow
awkwardly
into tears.

Santos has exhibited and sold his artworks in some of the prestigious Cherry Creek galleries in Denver and in various other art galleries in Colorado. He has had several one-man shows at The Gallery in the City of Aurora’s main library, and the Fox Theatre. He was also the featured artist of the Asian Film Festival, which was co-sponsored by the Aurora Asian Pacific Community Partnership. Through the years he has actively represented the Philippines, albeit unofficially, through his art and poetry, his dances and songs at several cultural and artistic activities, which include the Asian Pacific Festivals and the Martin Marietta Pacific Islander celebrations. In May of this year, he was the only Filipino artist to participate in the “ARTIST ASIA” – an annual art show sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank in downtown, Denver.

This versatile artist has not limited his creative prowess to painting landscapes and portraits in all mediums. He is also a sculptor, creating figures from wood, clay and plaster. In one collaborative effort, he has designed the stained glass window backing the statue of Our Lady of Antipolo at the Queen of Peace Church. Blessed with the gift of the words, Santos also writes poetry.

In the words of one fan: “I can see, I can taste, I can smell the things and places that you are talking about.” For most of his later paintings, Santos has written a corresponding poem to go with each work. “Poetry expresses my own personal emotions,” he says, “and my passion for my subject matter. I believe that each one of my paintings illicit a different set of emotions from my viewers. My poetry personalizes it for me. In my paintings, my style is reckless in many ways, a style I enjoy very much. It provides me with the freedom and abandon that I need. It sustains my rebellious soul. In my art and in my heart, fences are non-existent. My heart is my only master. I answer to no one. In spite of the potential harm to the commercial value of my paintings, I can’t prostitute myself to the dictates of forces other than my heart. I am of the belief that art should not be “technicalized”. Engineers, architects and scientist are technicians. I am an emotionalist.”

Born in Bacolor, Pampanga, Philippines, Santos lives in Aurora with his wife, the former Andrea Navarro of Biliran Island, Leyte, whom he affectionately refers to as his “first and only love.” They have five children ranging in age from 22 to 39 – all accomplished professionals in their respective fields. Emilio, the eldest, is a math teacher who was named Colorado Coach of the Year three years ago when his girls’ volleyball team took the State Championship. “They are my masterpieces,” he says, “collectively entitled, “E-A-R-T-H” taken from the first letter of each first name: Emilio, Ann, Roche, Theresa and Hallel. “When Andrea and I got married, we planned on spelling out “Earth angels” with eleven kids. The move to America rendered that plan impractical.”

Last year, he established his own company called EARTH CA after his children’s names. He intends to sell his art and inspirational greeting cards. The cards are based on his paintings, writings and photography. He dreams of eventually publishing a book of his paintings and writings.

Santos has been active in the community since moving to Colorado in 1975. With his wife, he has taught, performed, choreographed and produced cultural shows to meet the community needs of Aurora and other communities. Currently, he is the president of The Bayanihan Society of Queen of Peace, a prayer group predicated on the Filipino spirit of caring and sharing. “I believe in giving back to my community,” he says, “for I am very thankful to my God and my two countries.”

© Copyright 2008 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Oh, Dear Writer Me

January 24, 2010

Oh, Dear Writer Me
(Talking to myself)
How my Ex-Men get in the way of my novel-writing aspirations

Maria Concepcion Panlilio

Dear Writer Me,

Remember how years ago, I thought how wonderful life would be if I had ample time to write without the encumbrances of a corporate career? What made writing even more difficult to accomplish was a marriage to Ross–a loving but jealous and possessive husband who was demanding of my time. It broke my heart, and I cried for days when I divorced him.

I had an unfinished novel waiting to be resurrected from being buried alive; instead, I started a new novel about Ross and me – a love story that did not end with living happily ever after.

I immersed myself in the story, translating the raw emotions of a heartbreaking divorce into the novel.

Life was good. Till one day, I realized that the divorce might have been a subliminal direction for freedom to write. I was consumed by guilt and could no longer write. Ross was not a horrible man. His jealousies and possessiveness were annoying, but he never yelled at me, nor physically hurt me. The proverbial warning, Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it, kept reverberating in my head.

So there I was . . . with the luxury of time to write, and I did everything but write.

Being single and independent again to go out and party with my friends presented an avenue for meeting single men. It didn’t take long for Neal to enter my life romantically and provide further distraction to my literary aspirations. He was tall and slim, with a boyish face, blue eyes, abundant black hair, and scientific intelligence. Neal was an athlete who pushed himself to the extremes–a successful medical entrepreneur by day, and a daredevil at night and weekends. He introduced me to hunting, parasailing, skydiving and bungee jumping–sports that I never thought I would ever experience. Ross was everything Neal wasn’t; I felt alive and fearless. After three months he proposed, and without hesitation, I said, “Yes!”

But there was no wedding. Neal failed to disclose significant information about his personal life. He was having an affair with his office manager, who was also his friend’s wife, and a mother of four. His denial sounded convincing, but the woman was far more believable. Compromising pictures she had secretly taken from their many secret trysts together were more than enough for me. As Neal watched in horror, I dropped the engagement ring into the garbage disposal and flipped the switch on.

Another man, another love, another heartbreak; another love story that missed the “happily-ever-after” ending.

“Please, God, no more men!” I prayed. “No more distractions! I shall write, write and write till the next Great American Novel is completed.”

Several chapters were written in inspired tears and heavy heart. I poured all the love, the passion, the betrayal, the anger, into every paragraph. “This is good,” I praised myself. “This should sell.” A few more chapters and the novel should be done. I was ecstatic. I was obsessed.

* * *

Across the thoroughfare of my heart, I painted in big letters: Road Closed. But distraction knocked the sign down and forced its entry. Jonathan swept me off my feet with his rugged looks, expressive green eyes, and muscular physique. His musical virtuosity with the guitar accompanied his crooning as he serenaded me with plaintive love songs. We were so madly in love with each other that we couldn’t stay apart even for an hour. So we both quit the enviable corporate jobs we’d held for many years and moved out of town. I rented out my house and I joined Jonathan in Seattle—where it rained constantly. Oblivious of the suicide weather as they called it, we sang and danced in the rain and snow as we climbed mountains. Every moment was bliss. We were in paradise — just the two of us. Nothing could keep me away from him — not even my dream of finishing my novels.

Then reality struck, and to my dismay the fairy tale ended with the appearance of Jonathan’s teenage son. I had not envisioned the possibility of his kid leaving his remarried mom and moving in with us. A son between Jonathan and me? Wow, that wasn’t the lifestyle I desired in my thirties. Suddenly, Mr. Romance was transformed to Mr. Dad – an ordinary man in my eyes — stripped off his princely stature. I could have lived with that, till the son stole the diamond and emerald ring Jonathan gave me for my birthday. I packed my bags. Jonathan begged me to stay, insinuating that if I truly loved him, I would accept the baggage that came with the package. Maybe he was right. Maybe I was selfish, but my crystal ball showed many years of troubled times with the kid. My tears merged with Jonathan’s as we kissed each other for the last time.

Another man, another love, another achy breaky heart; a fairy tale without the “happily-ever-after” ride in the sunset.

* * *

Oh, dear me . . . Indeed, I once had a thriving career and a husband; still I wanted more. I chased the literary rainbow in my limited spare time. I thought the job and the marriage were interfering with the realization of the dream, so I gave them up. I found plenty of precious time to finish my first novel, only to discover my susceptibility and weakness to romantic disruptions. Three new men, three breakups, three new novels, and now there were four unfinished novels . . . and no man in my life. My karma?

Disappointed and frustrated, I packed my bags to fulfill a much more attainable dream: France, Italy, England, Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and wherever my funds could take me. I rented a small villa in beautiful Sorrento, a small Italian city that overlooked the bay of Naples. The road to the cottage threaded around the high cliffs above the Mediterranean. It was a fully-furnished Italian abode, with a spacious bedroom and glass patio doors leading to a portico that provided a fabulous view of Mt. Vesuvius and the island of Capri. The large living room was tastefully furnished and decorated, with HDTV and WiFi. And this one was extra: a gourmet kitchen with a refrigerator filled with a variety of Swiss cheeses, Italian sausages and pastrami, as well as French wines, and other delectable offerings for my consumption. It was home away from home. What a great deal for one thousand Euros a month. According to the realtor management, the owner was primarily looking for a responsible individual who would take care of the house as though it was her own.

Ah, yes. There was nothing better in winter to warm the body and soul than being wrapped in thick blankets on the deck, sipping the popular limoncello, a local potent drink made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. It was heaven. I contracted it for two months, but I had a feeling that I would be extending the lease to two or more months.

An authentic medieval style Thanksgiving Day dinner in a castle on the Rhine River; a seven-day Christmas in Rome and Vatican with the Pope, a four-day New Year’s celebration in Paris, a few days here and there all over Europe, and next thing I knew, two months had passed. I was in Munich, at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, engrossed at the appalling sight of the two huge ovens at the crematorium when I realized I had not notified the realtor of my desire to extend the lease. I tried to call the realtor but could not get a hold of him. I was not worried; after all, there had not been any notification that the house would be occupied by another renter after the end of my lease. Positive that they would be pleasantly surprised when I returned with the news, I didn’t bother to call again, especially since my cellular had lost all power.

Oh, dear me . . . I was the one who was surprised when I found the note from the realtor informing me that I should have vacated the villa two days before. I was devastated, and castigated myself for my procrastination. I would never be able to find such a perfect place for me. Well, might as well. I’d been spending so much money as if the world was ending early, I should be going back to the States. There was enough material for me to write plenty of travel articles for publication – enough to save for my next trip to Europe, maybe even Egypt and Israel. I should also focus on finishing at least one of the novels.

Feeling the resurgence of inspiration to write again, I began to pack my bags, hoping the owner would be generous enough not to charge me for the extra two days in his house. I plugged my cell and dialed the realtor, but before he could answer, there was a knock on the door. Pretty sure it was the realtor. I was hoping I could make a quick getaway before he showed up; well, too late.

It wasn’t the realtor. A bigger-than-life persona of Michaelangelo’s David loomed before me as I opened the door. Well, he just seemed that way at first glance with the sun behind him. He was actually a six-foot-five German in his forties, with thinning pony-tailed blondish hair, handsome face, nice body, and a mesmerizing accent—a blend of German, Italian, French and English, which he spoke fluently.

“Hello,” he greeted with a huge smile. “You don’t have to leave,” he added, as soon as he noticed the suitcases at my feet.

Hello Novel number five! I sang internally, feeling the familiar blat of heat from the old furnace. And when he shook my hand, a sudden electric tingle ran down my spine.

Oh, dear me.

© Copyright 2009 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

The Chronicle Of Esteban Lumanlan

January 24, 2010
(To view the images, please cut and paste this to your url window:
The Chronicle Of Esteban
Portrait Of A Nationalistic Artist

By Maria Concepcion Panlilio

Magsasampaguita  [#1407708] A painting of a Filipina stringing sampaguita flowers into a necklace
Magsasampaguita
An oil painting of a Filipina wearing a traditional attire stringing sampaguita flowers into a necklace.

Esteban has painted many portraits of prominent people in the Philippines throughout his illustrious art career spanning over forty prolific years. But since he immigrated to America, this nationalistic artist, whose heart remains devoted to his native land, has lost his inspiration to paint.

Pabayan  [#1407745] A typical Philippine rural scene
Pabayan
A typical rural scene in the Philippines

The man who once executed in oils thirty huge commissioned portrait paintings of Philippine Bishops in less than three months, now struggles to paint. His heart is no longer in his art, for twelve thousand miles from his birthplace, he does not see nor hear the sights and sounds that he loves about the Philippines–the very things that put the art in his heart.

Esteban, the Artist  [#1407711] Esteban in his studio in Aurora, Colorado
Esteban, the Artist, in his Studio
(Photo by Maria Concepcion Panlilio)

Esteban longs to embrace the spectacular vision of Mount Arayat looming over his hometown Angeles City–the way he used to do while he painted under the canopy of a protective tree. He misses waking up to the sound of the crowing cocks at the break of dawn–the alarm clock of Filipino farmers planting or harvesting rice from sunup to dusk. On the canvas of his imagination he watches ordinary country folks doing their simple chores: women bartering at the public market, men on carabao backs; the silhouetted backdrop of fishermen against a bleeding sunset; and children playing sipa on the street. Ahh . . . just the simple things that can heal the aching heart.

Pinakbit  [#1407720] A Philippine dish that blends several bitter and sweet tropical vegetables.
Pinakbit
A favorite traditional Philippine dish — a blend of several bitter and sweet vegetables

.

“I sat for a long time expecting Msgr. Pedro P. Santos to speak from the painting,” so begins a 1961 letter from Rev. Robert A. Rice, S.J. Ateneo de Naga, Naga City, to Esteban. “It is such a living creation,” he continues. “When Msgr. Santos unveiled the painting, the expression on his face is one that I wish could be recorded for you. I can assure you that it brought to His Excellency great joy and happiness.”

The Archbishop of Caceres was so impressed with the stunning life-like character of his canvas cloth version that he immediately commissioned Esteban to paint the portraits of the past thirty Bishops of Naga. The young painter was greatly challenged, not by the magnanimity of the commission, but by the extremely poor quality of the photographic source of the first Bishops to guide him in executing the paintings. “They were faded and very obscure,” Esteban remembers. “Imagine, these are men who lived during the Spanish times–as early as the late 1500′s.” But Esteban’s incredible optical perception and sheer genius and confidence in rendering true-to-life facsimile of his subjects in oils prevailed. In an unbelievable fashion, he delivered to Msgr. Santos the impressive portrait paintings of the thirty bishops in just a little over two months. The paintings now hang on the walls of the Archbishop’s palace.

Inevitably, his reputation as a great portrait artist spread like wild fire in the art community. What followed was a succession of art commissions for prominent figures of families throughout the country, which included: Maj. Gen. Thomas Moorman of the U.S. Thirteenth Air Force, Congresswoman Juanita L. Nepomuceno, and the portrait of Pope John XXIII, which was hand-carried by Bishop Emilio Chinese to the Vatican and presented to the Pope.

Another gift in 1961, an oil painting of President John F. Kennedy, was sent to Washington. In a letter to Esteban, Evelyn Lincoln, personal secretary to President John F. Kennedy, states in part: “The very fine portrait that you did of the President has been received and he asked me to send you this note of thanks.”

In 1963, the JAYCEES of Angeles City nominated Esteban for the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines for his contributions in the field of Art.

Esteban’s early successes in the Philippines include the ownership of an art gallery in Balibago for ten years before winning a bid to establish an art gallery inside the U.S. Clark Air Force Base (the largest U.S. Air Force Base in Asia destroyed by Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 that led to its permanent closure) For fifteen years, he maintained a monopoly of the highly successful gallery at Clark. Thereafter, he started a trucking business with a misguided thought that it would allow him to paint more. Subsequently, he and his wife, Millet, moved to the United States in 1995. Sadly, leaving the Philippines was like leaving his muse behind, and his art began to suffer.

Harvest  [#1407736] Harvest in the Philippines -- an oil painting by Esteban
Harvest

.

Esteban was born on September 11, 1939, in San Fernando, Pampanga, but lived most of his life in Angeles City. Born with the gift of the creative imagination and talent, his first brush with the artistic fame began when high school students at the Holy Angel Academy (now Holy Angel University) commissioned him for a portrait painting of the private school’s founder, owner and president, Don Juan Nepomuceno (the first of Esteban’s several paintings of the Nepomuceno family). The late Don Juan Nepomuceno–a name that is synonymous to philanthropy, politics, religion, power and influence, was stunned by the breathing quality of Esteban’s portrait painting of him that he took the young genius under his wings.

Don and Dona Nepomuceno  [#1407791] Esteban in front of an oil painting of Don and Dona Nepomuceno of the Philippines.
Don and Dona Nepomuceno
Esteban poses in front of his oil painting of the famous Filipino couple

“He came to visit me at home almost everyday for two to three years,” Esteban said. “Most of the time, we just talked–not necessarily about art. For some reason, he felt comfortable talking to me. Imagine the spectacle whenever my neighbors saw Don Juan’s limo parked outside our modest house. He also frequently invited me to his social gatherings and introduced me to his family and friends.”

We all know that an artist’s genius with the brush is not enough to achieve success in the art world. The Philippines is endowed with many gifted artists whose works can rival those of the masters’, but they can only dream of acquiring such a famed benefactor to provide the needed exposure. If it had not been for the Ayala family in the Philippines, where would the late Fernando Amorsolo’s (Philippines’ National Artist) place in the art world be? Perhaps in the same well-deserved and rightful spot, or perhaps not. But one thing’s sure: having a benefactor is a gift (just like the God-given talent) of which every artist can only fantasize.

After graduating from High School in 1958, Esteban considered taking Architecture or Fine Arts, but changed his mind. Instead, he invested in oil paints and brushes and started painting professionally. Another rich philanthropist offered to send Esteban abroad on a scholarship, which he declined because of his ailing mother, and the discouragement from Don Nepomuceno. “He told me that my talent was a gift from God and if I tried to learn and be influenced by other artists’ methods, I might lose my own unique style.”

* * *

Forever nostalgic for his homeland, Esteban constantly dreams of his muse. Like a siren luring him to return, Filipinas whispers to him in his conscious and subconscious mind. Spellbound, Esteban heeds to the call and he stays with her many months at a time. When he is there and in the company of his fellow artists, inspiration swells within him and he paints feverishly, but not quite finishing them, leaving a body of work in Angeles City. Inspiration dies down once he is back in the States. His wife is agonizingly aware of her husband’s state of mind and how he struggles to overcome his misery. “Imagine,” Millet laments, “after having just returned a few months ago from the Philippines, he has already scheduled a trip back this month.”

“I know what you need,” a friend advised the struggling artist. “You need to get involved in the Filipino community. There are several wonderful organizations in the area that can provide the inspiration you need.” Esteban is also an incredible singer who once competed in the Student Canteen in the Philippines. “You can join my church choir,” Lito Santos interjected. Santos is a celebrated artist in Aurora and former President of the Bayanihan of the Queen of Peace.

Perhaps it was just the encouragement Esteban needed to lift his spirits–meeting and getting together with fellow artists and talking shop. When he goes back to the Philippines in a few days, he vows to complete at least thirty paintings and have a one man show in Makati, where prominent Filipino artists exhibit their works. And anything he does not sell there he will bring back to Colorado to show. This makes his wife very happy.

Esteban, Maria and Lito  [#1407689] Three Philippine expatriates united in the States through their love of art.
Esteban, Maria and Lito
Three Philippine expatriates united in the States through their love of art.
(Photo taken during an art show featuring Esteban Lumanlan, Maria Concepcion Panlilio, Angelito Santos and Nelfa Querubin Tompkins (not in photo), sponsored by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

(To be continued)

Author’s note: Since publication of this story in various multi-cultural periodicals, Esteban has been back and executed many paintings. In addition, he had a building constructed in the Philippines with various rooms for use by local artisans. He has been deeply inspired by all the encouraging comments about his paintings, and he is forever grateful to his fans and patrons who bought every painting he has exhibited recently. He is now painting for his own collection . . .art masterpieces that in my opinion will definitely immortalize this gifted artist.

One final note: Esteban loves the United States, but the art in his heart belongs to his native country–the Philippines. Today, he spends half his time in the US where his wife and children and grandchildren live; and in the Philippines, where his artistic muse resides.

Thank you.

Maria Panlilio

© Copyright 2007 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

FREEDOM IN THE EYES OF AN ABORIGINE GIRL

January 24, 2010
FREEDOM IN THE EYES OF AN ABORIGINE GIRL

(Her ancient culture in danger of extinction, an Aeta child
in the Philippines wishes for the survival of her race and the
return of her people to Mount Pinatubo)

June 6, 1996.
My sentimental journey back to Mount Pinatubo after a long absence from the Philippines, was a more difficult trek than I had imagined. The once verdant forest that I remembered in my youth had been transformed to a lunar landscape with peaks of frozen lahar, and razor-edged cliffs rising vertically at a hundred feet.

Cradled in the bosom of Mount Pinatubo, Tita and I relaxed against a decapitated tree near a hot spring. Despite the lingering picture of devastation, the sulfuric smell from steam vents, and my aching body, it felt great to set foot on the mountain again. Tita grew up on this mountain, but there was no visible sign of her village. It was submerged in volcanic ash and mud.

I met her while she peddled the streets of Angeles City. Her eyes, shy and probing, were big and round beneath the bushy eyebrows. She had kinky black hair, wide, depressed nose, and dark, thick lips. She stood a little over four feet–the average size for the Aeta, also called the Negrito (small black people).

Tita and I felt an immediate connection and rapport with each other. And it had nothing to do with my gifts that included the Reebok shoes she wore. There was a strange sense of familiarity that created a special bond of friendship between us. Perhaps Tita saw in my eyes the genuine compassion I had for her people. She had not been born when I was privileged to spend a lot of time in her village as a young girl growing up in the Philippines. I was about her age then, around eleven, and the adventurous daughter of a businessman and friend of the shy and elusive Aeta. Or, perhaps, it was because both our fathers died tragically. Her father perished during the volcano eruption. My father was abducted and murdered.

Tita pointed to a butterfly on a huge pumice rock surrounded by a patch of dainty purple flowers. Its seemingly changing colors and transparency shimmered in the sunlight as it fluttered its wings in a slow motion.

Stealthily, Tita tiptoed behind the butterfly. Before I could stop her, she had captured the exquisite creature by its wings. She beamed as she offered her captive to me. I disguised my horror with a smile and congratulated her. “Be careful,” I pleaded. She surrendered the butterfly to me, which I enclosed in my hands like a rare black pearl in a shell.

How could I explain to a young mind the principles of freedom, and that, in essence, Tita was like the butterfly held against its will. The Aeta were exiled from their mountain–the only home they had known. With no adequate programs to help and relocate them, the Government scattered them in three provinces. Angeles became the tribes’ City of Refuge; mostly the streets. These people who lived off the land autonomously, without Government support or provisions had suddenly found themselves relying on handouts from a strange civilization they had managed to elude for centuries.

The Aeta were hunter-gatherers. Disarmed of their bows and arrows, they were lost and helpless in the fiercest jungle of all: modern civilization. They cowered and hid as though they were now the hunted instead of the hunters. Many returned to Pinatubo, but their mountain was not ready for them. Deprived of nourishment for their belly and their soul, the death toll continued to rise long after the volcano’s eruption.

I underestimated Tita’s sensitivity to something as philosophical as the spirit of freedom and survival. She listened intently. When I finished explaining my analogy and why no one had the right to unjustly hold any creature in captivity, a tear in her eye glistened against the chocolate skin.

Slowly, I opened my hands to set the butterfly free. We watched a perfect pair of delicate wings spread and flutter and the butterfly began to fly and soar upward, floating on air, basking in the light and sunshine all around it. I saw the sparkles of light in Tita’s eyes . . .shining jewels that could illuminate an evening sky like stars.

My tribal friend and I shared many things, including dreams. Hers were subtler and culture specific, but just as rich, graphic and detailed in imagery as mine. She asked why people dreamed and what they were. I was unsure how to explain dreams to her. All I could say was that they were the manifestation of our thoughts and wishes.

I was curious what a young Aborigine girl like Tita dreamed about. I held her hand and looked directly into her eyes. “Dreams are wonderful. They make us close our eyes and smile and imagine getting something we want so bad. What do you dream about, Tita? What do you wish for in life?”

She gave me a perplexed look. I smiled and teased her. “That cute boy who’s always flirting with you . . . you like him a lot, don’t you?” She shrugged her shoulders and smiled shyly. “Do you think about marrying him someday?” I asked.

She burst into a giggle. She squirmed, looked at me under her long lashes and nodded.

“You see, that is a wish–a dream. And sometimes, dreams do come true. Now, tell me, Tita. If you can have just one wish, what would it be?”

She thought for a long time. When she spoke, her voice was low, her expression melancholy. She took a deep breath. “I wish that someday all my people will come back here on the mountain and we all live together again like we used to.”

My chest swelled with emotion. I grabbed her and hugged her.

“Me, too.” I said.

That night, I took Tita “home”–to a shack in town. The following day, she would roam the streets again to beg for money or food to help her family survive. One day at a time.

~ ~* * *~ ~

It is a sobering thought that this culture’s extermination continues to accelerate. Unless something is done to prevent this imminent extinction, someday, someone like me can only long to experience such a friendship as that which I was fortunate to share with Tita. There will be no written history from an illiterate race. Future generations that will visit Mount Pinatubo could only hope to feel the essence of the Aeta, and hear the voices of a lost race echoed in the streams, trees, rocks, and the wind.

Any questions? Please feel free to contact Maria Concepcion Panlilio.

© Copyright 2006 writeartista (UN: mariapanlilio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

A Valentine’s Day Survey

January 22, 2010
A survey for my next Valentine’s article:
(1) Have you ever fallen in love with someone you’ve never met in person? And what happened after you did meet?
(2) “The one who got away.” Have you ever lost a romantic love for any reason then reestablish connection with that person after many years? What happened thereafter?
(3) What do you think is more important during the first stage of dating or relationship? Compatibility or chemistry?
I appreciate your feedback.  Please send your input directly to my email address: maria_panlilio@yahoo.com
My article will be posted here on Valentine’s Day (or earlier)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.