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Manuel Rodriguez: From the Pages of a Printmaker’s Mind

It is very difficult to put 99 years on paper. For one, you don’t get to meet a 99-year-old man everyday. Also, not every 99-year old you meet happens to be an artist.

It is very difficult to put 99 years on paper. For one, you don’t get to meet a 99-year-old man everyday. Also, not every 99-year old you meet happens to be an artist.

The 99-year-old man I met at 856 G Gallery last March happened to be an artist, and not just any artist—he is the Father of Philippine Printmaking, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. Along with my students who came with me then, I knew, therefore, that the opportunity of being with him and learning from him might not present itself again. Encountering a person who is almost a century old is very humbling. It is like opening the book of his personal experience; going through the pages, you grow all the wiser.

Manuel Rodriguez had first discovered his talent in the arts one particular afternoon in his childhood in Cebu. Playing in a churchyard, he picked up a piece of limestone and began to draw on the church wall. He drew a face that seemed to return a smile at him. Thinking that it was a simple gift of chance, he drew another face, and then another… and the rest was etched in history.

In September of 1935, in a move that many had told him to be a jump into uncertainty, Rodriguez left Cebu on a steamboat for Manila. On his meager savings, he was able to enroll himself at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Fine Arts.

College life was tough, he recalled, but his heart was just as tough—enough to withstand the difficulties that came his way. From where he stayed, he often walked to the campus. He would skip lunch so he could buy art materials. Maintaining a scholarship, he got excellent grades and, in 1939, graduated at the top of his class. He was one of the 15 (out of their original batch of 50) who graduated that year.

The year 1939 also saw Rodriguez’s introduction to the world of printmaking, when Hans Adolf Heimann invited him to his serigraphy class in UP. Initially a painter, Rodriguez continually experimented with materials and processes since then and, in the 1950s, finally focused on printmaking.

For a time, Rodriguez was criticized for persisting in an art form that was already considered “dead” by others. But especially after learning more from a scholarship on printmaking in New York in the 1960s, he shared what he knew with younger artists back in the Philippines (particularly at the Phil. Women’s University and the Contemporary Arts Gallery in Manila), conducting workshops among them, improvising machines, and developing techniques, thus reviving the interest in and pioneering the phenomenal growth of printmaking in the country. In 1968, he founded the Philippine Association of Printmakers. His prints were the first ones done by a Filipino to be part of international biennial exhibitions abroad. He eventually received numerous accolades for his contributions to the field and to the national consciousness, and became recognized as the “Father of Philippine Printmaking.”

Indeed, keeping an art form alive is not just a matter of opening art galleries and filling them with patrons. In my stint as an art instructor, I have realized that it also means grabbing hold of the generations to come, keeping them involved and in full interaction with the—excuse me for the words but please consider it a privilege to be labeled as such—older and more experienced generation. For as much as it seems straitlaced to do just that, not to do so would already be bordering moronic.

That evening of March 1, Rodriguez talked to my students with such passion for the future, he sounded like one who was planning to live forever. One challenge that he gave their generation was this: “You’re building on 99 years of history. When you’re at this age, you cannot satisfy yourself with what is not doubly great.”

It is a challenge that goes beyond the constant improvement of one’s talents, which should actually come as a sort of default setting for an artist. Unfortunately, many of the current generation of artists and students lack both mental and physical toughness. Compounding that further, we seem today to be a people living without any sense of urgency.

Students, for instance, have absented themselves from my classes by reason of a few inches of floodwater in their way. They could probably not imagine doing what Manuel Rodriguez had done in his college days: walking in waist-deep floodwater just so he could get to school.

Moreover, the technology we have in our hands provides us with a multitude of conveniences that may not be actually working for us. I’ve read my share of student “essays” copied straight from Wikipedia, for example. I’ve had my share of talented students who relied too much on their perceived personal capabilities; they showed up only on the first and last days of their classes with me. At such a young age, many have chosen to rest on their accomplishments and so are putting little effort in improving themselves, much less in looking forward.

But Manuel Rodriguez is one man who does not rest on his laurels. Even at 99, he sounds like he is expecting to accomplish so much more with his art and with his life. In that hour-and-a-half interview at the gallery, he said, “How would one explore the unexplored colors of the universe? More difficult would be capturing them all and presenting them again on canvas.” How I wish I could pry into his inner world and figure that out, too.

As a printmaker, an artist creates an image that is then transferred onto paper. In what may seem like a cross between traditional art and modern-day mass production, the printmaker may limit the number of copies he produces of each masterpiece and thereby further its value. Rodriguez’s exhibit at the 856 G Gallery on A.S. Fortuna starting last February was a feast for the eyes: a collection of his prints and paintings, the price tags for which could only leave me jolted in silence.

Nonetheless, my own eyes were drawn to the horses in his prints—how gracefully their lines came together, creating dynamic yet calming movements. They were in black and white, the gradations filling the spaces between the two values. The series, entitled “Polo,” was created in 1978 in New York. As in all his other works in the gallery, Rodriguez has shown his lifelong romance with texture, in the same way that other artists might pursue lines, shapes, and colors instead. For him, however, it is texture that has “the feel of life.”

A person can stand before the prints and, with the luxury of time, separate one line from another, mulling over the process of its creation, considering how the minuscule variations in line thickness and form can present themselves in a plethora of possibilities. There is, after all, in us, an innate and almost primeval need to stand before a thing of beauty and dissect its reason for being. Going through the works of art in this exhibit, however, my mind could not help but drift back to the one who had made them with such mastery and whom they, in their varied ways, reflect.

An African proverb goes like this: “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” And that is why stories from the wizened elderly are always interesting. But while some 80-year-olds start to write the end of their books, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. at 99 is still eyeing chapters that are yet to come.

With his kind of thinking, it is no wonder that the man remains in full jurisdiction of his inner world, his works of art, and his life as a whole. Mind you, he was fully capable of scaling a mean set of stairs when we met. Certainly, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. is one library whose books I would never wish to put down.

  • The paintings and prints of Manuel Rodriguez, Sr. are with 856 G Gallery in Business Walls, A.S. Fortuna St., Banilad, Mandaue City, until the month of July 2011. For further inquiries, call 344.3039 or email info@856ggallery.com.
  • by Patricia Kyle Mendoza

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People

EXCLUSIVE: Never Been Released Behind-the-Scenes photos of Zee Lifestyle’s Emerald Issue Cover Shoot

Photographer Jan Gonzales, Margie Lhuillier, June Alegrado, Kryz Uy, Mia Arcenas, Amparito Lhuillier and Alice Woolbright

We celebrate the strength and resilience of womanhood in this year’s Mother’s Day by looking back at these never been seen before behind-the-scenes shots of  Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s Emerald (20th Anniversary) Issue cover shoot featuring the “Leading Women” of Cebu.

***

LEADING WOMEN

To celebrate the 20 beautiful years of Zee Lifestyle as the ultimate source of lifestyle news in Cebu, we handpicked 12 strong and stylish women of Cebu from every age group. These women show us that independently building one’s strength of character and living one’s passion knows no age. From the beginning, Zee has always been empowering women, providing the Cebuanas a platform to express their beauty and confidence, share their passions, engage in economic and political participation which yields to viewing women with equality and respect that we deserve.

photography Jan Gonzales
creative director Melo Esguerra
art director Doro Barandino
sittings editor Shari Quimbo
beauty director Romero Vergara
makeup Arnauld, Janice Barillo and Nicko dela Peña
hair Jessie Egos and Jake Arias
fashion styling Clint Potestas
production assistants Patty Taboada and Katrina Labra
locale Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Cebu

Twelve women, two sets and one afternoon. That is how the Zee Lifestyle team decided to celebrate the title’s 20th anniversary issue—with a challenge that, in some ways, is one of our biggest productions yet.

The idea came along when publisher Eva Gullas and editor-at-large Melo Esguerra were discussing a cover story that would best represent the magazine’s history. From commissioning artistic depictions on Cebu to playing with the anniversary’s emerald theme, no idea had stuck until Melo suggested putting a series of women who had already been on the cover of Zee, again on the cover all together.

Oj Hofer and Margot Osmeña

Kryz Uy

Coming up with the list of names, of course, was no small feat. Our covers from the last 20 years have included several strong personalities—from philanthropists and politicians, to actors, and names to soon watch out for, our pages have seen them all. The challenge, then, was to come up with a list of women who had been driving forces in their respective fields when they had first appeared on the cover, and remain as powerful players even today.

Amparito Lhuillier, Kryz Uy, Alice Woolbright, Margot Osmeña and June Alegrado all wearing MIRANDA KONSTANTINIDOU

Photographer Jan Gonzales and creative director Melo Esguerra

With input from editors, both past and present, we rounded up 12 women from different age groups, fields and industries, who are all strong and passionate at whatever it is they do—Amparito Lhuillier, who remains the doyenne of Cebu society as a picture of elegance and class with her continuing efforts in business and social causes; the always-stylish Marguerite Lhuillier, herself an example of sophistication in all her efforts, whether business or otherwise; Margot Osmeña, who as a Cebu City Councilor has spearheaded many urban projects directed for the betterment of living in the city; hospitality mavens June Alegrado and Alice Woolbright, who are deeply involved in the rise of their brands, Bluewater properties and Beverly Hotel, respectively; Christina Garcia Frasco, the current Lilo-an Mayor advocating impressively progressive efforts in the area; former model Fiona King, now a major player in homegrown real estate with projects like Bloq Residences; the fitness enthusiast Danessa Onglatco who has espoused wellness with the opening of Yogahub; restaurateur Carla Yeung-McKowen who is behind the city’s hottest dining outlet, The Pig & Palm; designer Mia Arcenas, whose signature resort wear and accessories are representative of Cebu’s laid back lifestyle; Kym Maitland-Smith, who juggles efforts in swimsuit design through SOLTI Activewear and is building awareness for the vegan lifestyle; and Kryz Uy, whose online presence was a strong one even before fashion blogs were on anyone’s radar.

Kymberly Maitland-Smith

Makeup Artist Romero Vergara, June Alegrado and Hair Stylist Jessie Egos

An impressive bunch, for sure. These women properly embody the characteristics that Zee Lifestyle looks for in one who makes the cover—beauty, yes, but also elegance coupled with individuality, and always a strong drive to succeed in whatever efforts they are directed.

This, it turns out, was the fitting tribute to the years Zee has been Cebu’s premier lifestyle bible, as well as a sign of the things forthcoming. Our 12 cover stars may have been on our pages before, but if their current efforts are any indication, our pages will continue to see more of them in the future. And as continuing purveyors of what Cebu has to offer, Zee Lifestyle will happily be seeing them in the years to come.

FROM LEFT Marguerite wears CARY SANTIAGO; June wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Mia wears MIA ARCENAS; Kryz wears ELIZABETH HALLIE; Amparito wears MONIQUE LHUILLIER; Alice wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Fiona wears VANIA ROMOFF; Margot wears PHILIP RODRIGUEZ; Danessa wears OJ HOFER; Carla wears ALICE+OLIVIA; Christina wears DINO LLOREN

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s December 2016 Emerald Issue, “Leading Women” on pages 140-155.)

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Culture

La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu

La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.

Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.

There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.

La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.

The Founder

Combining passion and education. Louis Villaflor re-enacts his way patriotism through his periodical costumes and expresses his love for Cebu and Philippines as a culture-centric country.

Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.

Behind the Garments

With the its senior expertise of fashion design and a teacher of the field, his passion also of history caters also in his designs as he pushes through sustainable fashion and historical awareness combined.

Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives  in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.

 Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.

Historical Awareness in Cebu

The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.

 

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Culture

After the Razzmatazz and Razzle-dazzle: Post-Sinulog Thoughts

by Chrissy Grey Resaba

Buntings of red and yellow were removed from post to post. Streets were cleared and cleaned. Fireworks displays were faded in the sky. Beats of #prititit and tunes of tourism-booster Cebu tracks were being put to archive once again.

Contingents from different parts of Cebu and Central Visayas had gone back home. Party people had gone sober while some are still recovering. Traffic has gone back to normal. Businesses, as well, has gone back to normal.

However, all the fun and loud chants, smooth grooves, and frenzied choreographies are still replaying from the memory banks of the people who celebrated Sinulog 2020. The queen of all festivals in the Philippines has left again another mark of cultural and festive nostalgia to the people from all parts of the world and Cebuanos alike.

After all the razzmatazz and razzle-dazzle, let’s get to know what are these IG and FB personalities’ #PostSinulogThoughts about celebrating the newly-culminated Sinulog 2020 and how did they differentiate it to last year’s.

 

Eva Patalinjug

Eva Psychee Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2018 @evapatalinjug

I celebrated my Sinulog with my boyfriend and some of my close friends, we decided to choose a place where it’s not very crowded where we can see the whole Cebu, talk, and chill the night away. We went to Verified Lounge – Cebu’s newest premier sky lounge – located at the rooftop of the Avenir Building. It was something new for me as the night was calm as I was away from the busy streets of Cebu. It’s definitely one way of enjoying such festivities.

 

Kim Covert

Kim Covert @kimcovert

The Sinulog celebration this year has been one of the most memorable events in my life. Not only was I invited to perform a few of my own songs during the weekend’s festivities but I also turned over my Binibining Cebu Tourism crown to my successor. Last year, I was busy with work and was not able to completely grasp the events. This year’s festival was more organized which is a great success for Cebu. Many have flown in and had spent time with their families in the “Pit Senyor” spirit, others have enjoyed spending time off with friends and colleagues. It was a great way for me to start my New Year and close my Cebu chapter before I leave to the US in a week.

 

Alem Garcia

Alem Garcia @thealemgarcia

Well pretty much, I was still busy doing shows and events for Sinulog. But what made it different this year was the religious celebration made me believe even more that Sto. Niño is indeed miraculous and that He is meant to be celebrated. Even though you are successful in your chosen field, furthermore, everything will be meaningless if you do not have the faith.

Philip Pingoy

 

Philip Pingoy @almostablogger

We all have a Sinulog story to tell. It may be a story of losing faith and finding hope. But what is important is our devotion to the Holy Child Jesus (Señor. Sto. Niño). This year, my Sinulog experience was very different since I am already based in the United Kingdom. Thanks to the internet I was still able to watch the mass and all the festivities in Cebu. I am in UK because I prayed to Sto. Niño. So, let us not forget the reason we celebrate Sinulog and let us continue to share to the rest of the world why Sinulog is the grandest festival in the Philippines. Pit Senyor everyone! I hope you had a good one!

 

Lyssa Amor

Lyssa Amor @lyssaamor

Sinulog celebrates Filipinos’ acceptance of Christianity. This year, I celebrated Sinulog by hearing the word of God. I went to church which I do every Sinulog but the difference now is that I am not in Cebu. It’s my first time to celebrate Sinulog away from home because I’m currently in Japan. Although I didn’t dance the traditional Sinulog dance this year, I wasn’t able to watch the fireworks in Ayala, and didn’t spend time with my friends in Mango and IT Park. Snr. Sto. Niño will always be in my heart and I am forever grateful that our ancestors accepted Christianity and we continue to embrace it up until today.

 

Kevin Geniston @kgeniston

Sinulog will always be a highlight for me as a Cebuano. This year has been fulfilling as I was able to brave the crowd in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu three times to attend the novena mass which had also become like bonding time with my family, daughter, friends and loved ones. I ended the celebration of the Sinulog festivities with a bit of the usual partying and/or clubbing.

Carlo Olano

Carlo Andrew Olano @kalamicebu

My Sinulog this year was a great mix of religious and secular activities. I was able to go to the church and somehow witnessed the Traslacion and the fluvial procession. I also went to many side events like parties, mall events, and fireworks exhibitions. Sinulog 2020 had a fantastic balance of fun, faith, and festivities.

 

Danna Bacolod

Danna Bacolod @dannabacolod

This is the second time I spent Sinulog with Cebu Pacific. We had series of events prepared during its entire week and participated the grand parade by having a float last Sunday. I always feel excited to join Sinulog Grand Parade and see a lot of people celebrating their own way of Sinulog along the streets of Cebu. Guess it’s safe to say that I had so much fun. Even if this was work-related, I didn’t feel like I’m actually working as it was always joyful doing events like these.

 

Nimo Scheming

Nimo Hideki @nimo_scheming

You prolly knew this already but, Sinulog 2020 was by far the most phenomenal Sinulog experience: more laidback than the previous years’. The music in every corner of the streets were still there to help you let loose and enjoy the experience. The surge of people had tested you both mentally and physically. But it was an experience you cannot miss like mingling with people from different walks of life and shouting out “Pit Senyor” to everyone. Summing up my Sinulog experience, I was able to get crazy and enjoy all aspects of the fest.

 

Michael Rey

Michael Rey @michaelsomewhere

I had the most relaxed Sinulog experience this year. I did not party and preferred to witness the grand parade instead. I do think that this year’s celebration was more colorful and much safer as establishments strictly abided the rules imposed by the Cebu City Government. I was also amazed at how the festival of fashion here in Cebu has evolved throughout the years.

Now, how about you? What are your #PostSinulogThoughts this Prititit 2020? Viva Pit Senyor!

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