Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Art in the Philippines

Five days into the New Year already and I'm immersed in Philippine art and music every day. There's no avoiding it here. On the outside, the urban areas look like a post-apocalyptic crumbling heat-blasted war zone but mixed in throughout is a fierce national pride and mastery of the things that make life bearable here - art and music.

Antonette and I declared the first day of the New Year a international day of rest as we happily did absolutely nothing. I fell asleep at 4:30 p.m. and didn't wake up until late the next morning. As a nice surprise, I awoke to learn that we had been invited by our friend Jofre to come for lunch followed by a visit to the Pinto Art Museum - a privately owned estate filled with endless buildings and rooms of art in the municipality of Antipolo, north east of Manila. The art was an amazing collection of bold statements of the state of the country, its politics and culture. Anyone who wants to learn about what the Philippine people are really made of needs to get immersed in their art.




January 3rd was a full-day marathon in Nolit Abanilla's Indie Pinoy recording studio with my friend and fellow song-writer, Joan Bonito and her band, Komik's Tale. We had one day to lay down all the tracks (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, harmonies AND violin) for five songs for an EP Joan wanted to produce. An ambitious project, but I'm pleased to report we did it - from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. An important part of the experience was spending time working with Nolit, visiting with his lovely wife Angela (a DJ in her own musical life), Komik's Tale drummer Zandro Sotto, a highly talented photographer, and meeting the hilarious Alan - the one-take-wonder of a bass player, and the solid and stoic Steven, new guitarist for the band, who worked miracles to make my violin track mesh with the rest of the band's rocking sound.

The day ended with a surprise coffee and chocolate visit with Antonette, the Nachors, and a musician friend with whom I had worked in Winnipeg in November when she toured through. Another happy, unplanned meeting!

Our attempt to rest on Monday, Jan. 4th was foiled when impromptu plans to meet and spend some quality time with our friend Robert came up - so I dragged him along to dinner with friends in Pasay City - the family I stayed with on my first visit to the Philippines in January, 2012. It was like coming home as we took the MRT to Libertad Station and wended our way to Facundo Street in the heart of this notorious, bustling neighbourhood. It turned out to be a great opportunity for Robert to enjoy some down time listening to tunes with Alfie while I caught up with Alf's sister, Lovelle. The evening ended with a brief visit to see a blues jam at Back to the 90's - a live music Venue in Cubao that - as luck would have it, I will be performing at next week with Luna, a U2 cover band founded by Nolit (although he has since passed it on to other excellent musicians.

January 5th was a day devoted to Art in Angono, the City devoted entirely to Art, thanks to the influence of Philippine national artist, Carlos 'Botong' Francisco. I was amazed and honoured to meet his grandson, also named Carlos and also an artist. He let me play a violin he had turned into art for a commissioned work. Our friend Rembrandt Vocalan (so named because his father is a renowned artist as well) invited us to his family restaurant/art gallery and showed us around to the Francisco gallery and then the gallery/private home of Jose Blanco where we saw the works of the master and his seven children. A long and amazing art-filled day.

And now in contrast, we will experience pop art: off to the television studios to sit in the audience of popular noon hour variety show, Eat Bulaga! We'll see how this goes...

Photos to come. Gotta run!

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