Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An Emerging Art District, Cubao Expo & My Breathing Space

Published in Manila Bulletin

“After hard work, the biggest determinant is being in the right place at the right time.”
– Michael Bloomberg

What if there’s a place, peaceful and quiet; a place where harried souls can find tranquility with aesthetic ambiance, exquisite cuisine, art, indie films, music, stylish apparel, and collectible items.

What if there’s such a laid-back place amid the hustle-and-bustle of the metropolis, where one can bring a friend, sip a cup of tea or coffee, browse inspirational books, buy rare items, talk to strangers, or simply unwind from household chores and office works.

Somewhere, at the heart of Cubao in Quezon City, there’s a quaint place, an emerging art district, flanked by modern buildings and shopping malls of Araneta Center called “Cubao Expo”. The place retains its 1970s look with two-storey building divided by a “U” shaped street like an open arms, welcoming its visitors and shoppers with placid embrace.

‘Cubao Expo’ as an emerging Art District

Well-known among the literati, painters, photographers, collectors, showbiz people, and indie musicians and filmmakers, the “Cubao Expo”, formerly known as “Marikina Expo” along Gen. Romulo St. in Cubao, Quezon City, was built and developed in 1972 by Mercado Realty during the martial law era, housing the finest Marikina shoes in the country.

However, more than two decades later, the 250 shoe manufacturers in Marikina slowly walked on a descending tramp, until the “Marikina Expo” closed down in 1997 at the height of Asian crisis.

Then came the year 2000, with its new administrator and manager Mr. Bujim Aquino, it opens its door again, but this time to visionary entrepreneurs whose merchandise trudges on rare and uniquely designed products. Soon, art galleries, restaurants, indie film mini-theatre, and resto bar, to name a few, flourish on either side of the street.

And Cubao Expo, as it has been known today, walks again with renewed joie de vivre sans the shoes, nay, still with a handful of Marikina shoes, averring their presence on some glass windows.

As an emerging art district, it is an alternative place not only for people in the art world, but also for shoppers, collectors, tourists, hipsters, and art enthusiasts, who want to experience the bohemian character of its environment.

The Cubao Expo is also an alternative meeting place for corporate executives, lovers, and politicians with its exquisite cuisine and idyllic atmosphere. Among those restaurants and resto bars with cheaper food, wine, coffee and beverages are Alan’s Grill, Bellini’s, Mogwai, and I Love You Store. Genre Bar, an alternative place for indie musicians and music lovers, can be found at the second floor of Alan’s Grill.

Art galleries like White Box, Heritage, Black Soup and Pablo are holding regular exhibit on paintings, drawings and photography from established and emerging artists. Mogwai Cinematheque, on the other hand, with its café and restaurant has a mini-theatre in the second floor, showing short and full-length films from Filipino indie filmmakers.

Chic and distinctive apparel, bags, jewelries and accessories are pullulating at the glass windows of Reading Room, I Love You Store, and Oohwables. For those who are looking for rare design and antique furniture, vintage books, vinyl records, and other collectible items, they can find them at Heritage, Old’s Cool, Karma and Vintage Pop.

And those who are collecting anime items like posters, CD or DVD movies, toys, comics, and other anime collectibles, the Shinsen Anime is a place for kids, teenagers and young adults. While at Kolektib, one can visit actor and comedian Gabe Mercado holding regular workshop and acting classes in his sanctuary.

Cubao Expo is not just the convergence of creative and visionary entrepreneurs. It is a homey and convivial place, creating a subculture among store owners, reviving the vanishing Filipino culture and values of “bayanihan” and “pakikisama”.

Books of Life by Gener Valerio

In the same place at Cubao Expo, there emerges a unique store called “My Breathing Space”, named after the title of a non-fiction book by author and entrepreneur Gener Valerio. The place houses unique decorative and functional items, inspirational books, artworks, and fresh flowers. It also serves coffee and tea to the customers.

The store owner, Gener Valerio, quipped that the place is simply his “breathing space”, where he can invite his friends, sell his merchandise, and offer his inspirational books “My Breathing Space” and “KuroKuroko”, which he called ‘books of life’.

The two books are compendium of personal stories and essays, almost Chekhovian in style except that they are vignettes of memoirs. Confessional, as they may seem yet, the books are about the lessons learned from life, with vivid and poignant recollection of experiences, people, and places – trudging on the existential pendulum between bitterness and acceptance, pains and joys, indifference and compassion, defeats and victories, and so forth.

At the end of each informal or less structured essay, one of the salient characteristics of memoirs, the author always seeks to reconcile and proposes sublime lessons that he learned from life, similar to the formulaic “endings” of fairytale stories albeit, taken from personal, real-life stories.

Gener Valerio’s books are simply amazing to read, provocative, down to earth, witty, and humorous.

Likewise, his haven, “My Breathing Space” at Cubao Expo, is a transcendent place to unwind and unravel from a hectic life with its vibrant interior, photographs, and artworks on the walls.

© Danny Castillones Sillada

Above Photo: "Sidewalk of Cubao Expo" by Gener Valerio

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Are Poets For in a Post Po-Mo Society?

Published in Manila Bulletin

"Lumapos kaw. Ya tapos. Di kaw mauno."
(You will succeed. You will finish. Nothing bad will happen to you.)
– Mandaya Panawagtawag Ritual

In a far-flung village of Davao Oriental in a remote town called Cateel, there used to live a native guardian of “mangmang” (bamboo instrument). He was called the “Bamboo Beater”, whose task, in his entire life, was to wake up the villagers before sunrise by beating the bamboo instrument.

At exactly 4 o’clock in the morning, he would thump the “mangmang’ in a harsh manner and then, the sound would slowly ebb away with melodic beats. The rhythmic vanishing sound would serve as a reminder to the villagers that their endeavors should be fruitful and meaningful at the end of the day.


Poets today are like Bamboo Beaters, they rouse people’s consciousness from indifference and complacency. Most often, poets create a discordant sound reflective of social reality and stir up the society’s conscience toward commitment and responsibility.

Poets are preordained to speak up the “Truth” and the “Summum Bonum” (highest good). When poets create, they reveal something that is not yet revealed before, but has already been happening within the lives of people in a particular society. This revelatory process is the disclosure or unveiling of “Truth” because poetry, like philosophy, is the embodiment of metaphysical realities, which are the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful.

No poetry is created outside its own reality because it is an anathema to its ontological meaning as the precursor of “Truth”. In like manner, Poets as the guardians of “Truth”, have a moral responsibility to bring the ideals of “Truth” to be pondered upon by the members of society.

As thinkers and guardians of “Truth”, poets should make poetry accessible to the people as the primary recipient of their musings. They should not alienate their readers with lofty linguistic expressions, or confuse them with otherworldly imageries and symbols, because poetry, as a product of creative freedom, is neither self-conscious nor rigidly conventional. As the highest form of language, poetry is supposed to reach out and touch the human lives with dignity and meaning.

For instance, the poetry of an Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore or the Japanese poet Akiko Yosano spoke the language and sentiments of its people based on their social realities, beliefs, and culture. Tagore and Yosano had woven their sensuous experience of language by speaking from their own native tongue, in such a way that the people in their respective milieus could identify as though the written or spoken verses were their own.

Conversely, in a ‘post po-mo society’ (Post Post-Modern Society), it is not the conventional form or structure of poetry that is consequential, but how accessible it is to the people, how it addresses their concrete realities with urgency, and how it represents their “voice” within the particular conditions of their society.

In the same manner, as the revelation of truth, poetry seeks to establish a dialogue with people; it converses in their intimate moments with gentleness and compassion, rousing their souls to experience the transcendent amid their convoluted world, so to say.

As a dialogic encounter, poetry reveals realities that matter to the people’s lives rather than that of the poets. Even if poets were to write in a confessional or autobiographical manner, they can still address or respond to the people’s reality, as an eloquent representation of the latter’s “voice” or sentiment.

In the end, poetry is not about poets who write about poems, but it is about people living within a historical society. Poets dissect society and its historicity as the terminus aquo and terminus ad quem in their linguistic discourses about the “Truth.”

Poetry, therefore, can only be meaningful if it is conceived based on the concrete realities of a historical society, nurtured by the richness of its own language, and delivered with poignancy to be experienced and reflected upon by the members of the same society.


The recently launched “Crowns and Oranges: Works by Young Philippine Poets”, edited by Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista and Ken Ishikawa, is a compilation of carefully, if not arbitrarily, selected poems by young Filipino poets. Some of them are recipients of Palanca Awards and other award-giving bodies – both local and abroad.

Noticeable in the entire collection is the “binary perception” in the psyche of the young poets, mimicking the Western dichotomy of the world (e.g. individual vs. society, black vs. white, literal vs. figurative). The “I” or the poetic voice is generally distant, similar to the protagonist of Albert Camus’s novel “L'Étranger”; other elements apart from the “I” are mere subsidiaries within the content of the poem.

Apparently, the shifting of reality among the young generation of Filipino poets is imminent and the gap from the older generation, like Gémino Abad, Virgilio Almario, Cirilo Bautista, Marjorie Evasco, Edith Tiempo, Emmanuel Torres, and Alfred Yuson, among others, is cavernous.

As a point of comparison, the poetry of the older generation possesses rhythm, logical flow of thoughts, and didactic resolutions at the end of poetic narrative. Their perception of the world echoes the “I and Thou” phenomenology of a Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, which is identifying the world as another “I”, not a thing or “I and It”. The young poets, on the other hand, trudge on existential angst where the “I” is the center and the world is a drab picture to be conquered and understood in relation to the “I”.

At times, their voices can be sardonic, bold, or harsh yet, they offer no resolution at the end of their creative outputs, but an open-ended statement to be deciphered by the readers. They have demonstrated an exceptional skill, though, in creating an element of unpredictability in their respective poetic narratives. Perhaps, this is where creative freedom works best, the ability of these young poets to create texture and tension based on their own perception of reality.

In “Persona”, for example, Joel Toledo poignantly confesses at the end of his poem, “Allow me to introduce you to my other selves.” The line is tinged with cynicism and self-indulgence. Arkaye Kierulf delivers a strong ironic statement in his poem about pain and death, “For example: A Flower / is the most beautiful lie.”

Ramil Digal Gulle caught the attention of his reader in “Brassier Speak.” Call it dark humor; his introductory line lures the reader to read further, “The very first bra in China arrived in 1920.” And it moves on and on entertaining the reader with the poet’s tête-à-tête. Another element of unpredictability in the poem is the “quotability” of lines. Angelo Suarez writes a lingering phrase in his poem “At the Train Station,” which says, “Something in the mouth, like language, / breaks beneath the weight of a flower.”

Generally, the poetry in “Crowns and Oranges” is poignantly bleak, cynical, and melancholic – devoid of quixotic perception of the world – but effacingly grounded on the poets respective realities. It is awe-inspiring, though, how these brilliant young poets mastered the creative techniques and nuances of English language. However, it is also lamentable how little did these poets write in their own respective regional languages.

Famous poets who wrote in their own native tongues, like Tagore, Neruda, and Yosano, conquer the English-speaking world by asserting their own language. In our local literary scene, however, with the exception of a handful, like Virgilio Almario, Vim Nadera, and Sonny Villafania, to name a few, Filipino poets assert their own world by conquering the English language.

To sum, editing an anthology of poems from young generation of poets is parallel to the gathering of fruits in the orchard. The choice is not whether the fruits are good or bad, but the choice has to be made based on the degree of ripeness. Are the fruits ripe enough to be eaten or will they need more time until they are ready to be picked up or harvested? One has to make a critical choice and decide which poem or poet is worthy of inclusion and which one is not.

In like manner, the editor(s) is compelled to follow a paradigmatic pattern, not only to consider the poet’s achievements and body of works, but also to dissect the relevance of literary output in relation to the theme and structure of the book.

Dr. Cirilo F. Bautista and Ken Ishikawa have done an exemplary job in “Crowns and Oranges” which, in itself, is a work of art. It may not be a comprehensive anthology of the entire generation of young Filipino poets. Even so, its ambitious attempt to represent the “voice” of the post po-mo poets in Philippine literature is a long stride worthy of adulation.
© Danny Castillones Sillada

Sillada, Danny Castillones. “What Are Poets For in a Post Po-Mo Society?” Manila Bulletin 7 September 2009: E 1-3. Print.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Abueva and the New Sisa Murals at the National Center for Mental Health

Napoleon Abueva, National Artist for Sculpture

Published in Manila Bulletin

“We want a few mad people now. See where the sane ones have landed us!”
~ George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

Even at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City, art has found its place not only to uplift the souls of the mentally challenged patients, but also to signify as a historical symbol of those who served and those being served by the institution for almost a century now, or eighty years of its existence to be exact.

In this vein, two murals were recently re-dedicated and unveiled respectively known as the Abueva Mural, a 35-year old mural done by the National Artist Napoleon Abueva, and “The New Sisa Mural”, recently created by three Filipino artists known as the PST Muralists.

The re-dedication of Abueva Mural and the unveiling of a new one highlight the 80th year anniversary of National Center for Mental Health, one of the leading mental institutions in the country.

Condescendingly standing at the right side entrance of National Center for Mental Health compound is a 35-year old mural by National Artist Napoleon Abueva. Carved on marbles and embedded on the concrete, the mural is composed of geometric mass of blocks, engraved figures and portraits of NCMH founders.

Intriguingly, at the extreme right of the mural, are three womblike shapes and inside in each section is a figure of awkward body posture; a naked boy holding onto a metal bar, a man crossing his arms above his head, and a naked figure in a fetal position. Another arresting element is the pictorial narrative of two mentally challenged patients; two hospital’s male aides are holding a madman while the other, a woman, is sitting in a classic position of a “mentally ill” patient.

After cleaning and restoring to its former grandeur, which was initiated by one of the staff of NCMH and an artist himself Jonathan “Jonski” Olarte, the mural was re-dedicated with the presence of its creator, National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

Sitting on a wheelchair with his ever-loving wife, the former director of NCMH, Mr. Abueva could only quip and smile over his earlier opus, which seemed to be swallowing up his presence. The mural was created in 1974 at the height of the artist’s career as a sculptor.

Present at the event were Bernardino A Vicente, MD, MHA, CESO IV, Medical Canter Chief II, who gave an inspirational message and a welcome address by Dr. Venus Serra-Arain, MD, FPPA, MHA, Chief, Medical & Professional Staff Community Service and Chair of NCMH 80th Anniversary Souvenir Program Committee.

At the lobby of NCMH administration building is the “New Sisa Mural” with Sisa at the center, donning a sanely wide smile flanked by two children. (Sisa is one of Jose Rizal’s notable characters in his novel “Noli Me Tangere”.) The mural depicts the 80 years of NCMH service of treating and maintaining the mental health of Filipinos in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

The mural is a collaborative endeavor of three artists Bing Siochi, Ernie Patricio, and Harry Torres, the PST Muralists; they are all members of Las Piñas Tuesday Group. Jonathan Olarte, member of NCMH 80th Anniversary Souvenir Program Committee, proudly presented the mural and its creators during the unveiling headed by Dr. Bernardino A Vicente, Medical Canter Chief II, and Dr. Venus Serra-Arain, Chief, Medical & Professional Staff Community Service.

The mural is made possible by the effort of Dr. Venus Serra-Arain and Jonathan Olarte, who conceived and raised the fund for the project. “The New Sisa Mural” is envisioned toward a sound mind and mentally healthy Filipinos, in honor of the 80th anniversary of NCMH.

The blessing and unveiling of two murals, the Pavilion 2, and the NCMH Museum & Souvenir Shop were done by Fr. Apolinario Matilos, NCMH chaplain last May 13, 2009.

© Danny Castillones Sillada

*Above artwophotos: (1) National Artist Napoleon Abueva, (2) 35-year old NCMH Mural by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, (3) Re-dedication of Abueva Mural at NCMH, (4) The New Sisa Mural at the National Center for Mental Health, (5) The new mural with NCMH officers and staff

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Something about Sarah & Her Art

Published in Manila Bulletin

“Because we are also what we have lost.”
– From the movie “Amores Perros”

“IF THERE'S ANYTHING bleaker and darker in this world,” says Sarah in the caption of her pen and ink drawing of a girl with a mask, “nothing can compare to a girl’s pain of being left orphaned by the deaths of her parents almost simultaneously.”

Perchance, tragedy happens for a reason; sometimes, it has no apparent reason, and whatever its reason, intrinsic or fortuitous, tragedy, as an inevitable reality in human existence, will either make a person’s life stronger or intolerable to live.


Some time ago, I met Sarah Demetria Gaugler at Cesare Syjuco’s art exhibit at F*ART (Fashion & Art) in Quezon City, which I attended as one of the performance artists. Sarah’s hair was purple, her eyes round, her smile mesmeric, and her face angelic. She was, then, a typical Fine Arts student of UST and a typical girl next door, whose bashful smile is incongruent to her hip personality.

She was there to interview me about my drawings on paper, as part of her college thesis. Her questions were scarce, reluctant and reserved. I spoke self-effacingly about the techniques and nuances of my works. I also mentioned some Filipino artists that I admired with their draftsmanship on paper, like Raul Lebajo, Amor Lamarroza, and Caloy Gabuco, to name a few.

As our conversation progressed, I noticed something about Sarah; it was something poignant that lurked in the depths of her eyes. As if those velvety, round eyes were inviting me to swim into a world laden with throbbing memories until, unknowingly, we had already barged in into each other’s private world.

I could not remember how she opened up the bleak pages of her life or how she spoke, in a reluctant manner, the anguish of her soul; all I remember was the sublime encounter between two people. It was not a romantic encounter, though; neither did it lead to something sensual or physical but, as the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber says, it was an “I & Thou” encounter in grace and compassion.

Like Sarah, I have had my own share of pains and tragedies in life; I lost almost all the people that I dearly loved and cherished. Consequently, as we laid our souls naked to each other, it was easier to open up because they were already broken. And that same human “brokenness” had become a transcendent encounter to acknowledge and embrace our respective wounds.


A few months after her father’s death, Sarah’s mother, a Filipino-American nurse, followed, leaving her and her younger brother orphaned in the heart of New Jersey, USA. The year was September 22, 1997; she was 10 years old and her younger brother was barely 5 - both are born to American and Filipino parents.

“I went across the street to my house, to my room, to where my lifeless mommy was…” she writes on her blog journal dated August 3, 2007. “My heart stopped… I didn’t know how to contain myself... I didn’t know anything else, but the horrible pain in my chest… We’re now alone and my fears have come… I didn’t know what would become of me... And I cried and I cried...”

Two days later, Sarah left the US with her younger brother bound for her mother’s homeland. “I was on a plane for the Philippines,” she says in the same journal, “leaving everything and everyone that I ever knew and loved behind.”

Since then, Sarah’s world took a 180-degree detour on a different path that would mark the beginning of her relentless struggle as a young girl and later, as a young woman. She would also later pour out all her pains and anguish in her blog on the internet in the form of journals, drawings, poems, and photography.

In the Philippines, Sarah and her brother stayed with their aunt. However, wanting to live on her own, Sarah would rent a place and continue her studies at UST. But during those times, she underwent a terrible crisis in her life. In one of her journals, she wrote, “I've got all these shitty problems right now… I don’t want to go back to the self-destructive person that I was…”

However, Sarah was also quick to regain the balance of her spiritual self and it showed how determined she was to overcome her torments when she wrote words that revealed her aplomb, “Everything is going to be all right! Cheer up! Pray! Work! Have faith in God! Everyone has his or her own problems to deal with! You’re not alone! Many people love you! Draw! Paint!

Don’t worry about it! Smile! Breathe! Count your blessings!”

Perhaps, no one would suspect that behind Sarah’s beguiling beauty, talent and brilliance, lay something gloomy inside her delicate world. As reflected on her drawings of lone and masked girls, Sarah dons an archetypal persona to hide the looming shadows of her soul. In fact, I attributed one of my paintings to her, which I titled “Behind the Mask of Sarah.”

In the painting, I portrayed a huge mask at the center of the canvas with vibrant color, echoing one of Sarah’s journals: “Most of the time I’m sad, but you’ll only see me smile and you’ll only see me laugh. And even though I get tired, you'll never know my pain and you’ll never understand, as long as I keep you at a certain distance.”You’re not alone! Many people love you! Draw! Paint! Don’t worry about it! Smile! Breathe! Count your blessings!”

It’s been a long while since I last saw Sarah. I heard that she already finished her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at UST, participated at group shows, won an NU Rock Awards as “best album packaging” for Orange and Lemons’ Moonlane Gardens, and worked as illustrator, graphic designer and part-time tattoo artist, aside from an occasional modeling stint for signature clothing.

Most recently, she has been performing as a vocalist of Turbo Goth band with Paofario. She is also “guesting” at some radio FM stations, either playing with her band or promoting her gigs at some music venues in Metro Manila.

I just can’t imagine how a young orphaned soul can rise amid the bleak conditions of her fragile world, transforming herself from a delicate, broken girl, into a very talented, strong and independent woman. But Sarah could not have been “there” had she given up her life too early or had she remained wallowing from the tragedies that beset in the early stages of her existence.

At the end of the day – after witnessing her joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and defeats – I can say that Sarah is my kind of heroine in real-life, who doesn’t give up hope in life. She uses her adversity, instead, as a vehicle to achieve her dreams.

Her self-respect and dignity as a woman remain integral, as she continues to embrace and live a decent life amid the temporal trappings of an indecent world.

*Above artworks by Sarah D. Gaugler

© Danny Castillones Sillada

Saturday, May 09, 2009

WILLIAM YU and His Art of Divine Worship

Published in Manila Bulletin

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
- Michelangelo (1475-1564) 

His baritone voice progressively rises amid the placid stirring of his guitar, ascending steadily with the spiritual lyrics of his song composition. Then, slowly, the melodic sound ebbs away in a laid-back tone, as he tranquilly mumbles his prayer before an empty canvas.

Suddenly, in an almost daunting manner, he spreads his arms like a crane taking off from a marshland. His right hand, loaded with brush and paint, flaps across the windy air of his open studio, flailing and drifting in an élan but gentle manner.

Gestural and spontaneous brushstrokes, at the speed of 300 kilometers per hour, swiftly emerge on the surface of his canvas. Layer upon layer of loose forms and vivid colors begin to take shape. Then, in less than an hour or so, his divinely inspired enactment finally gives birth to an apotheosized creation.

The resultant processes of his composition sum up the momentary surge of passion – a spiritually inspired art making with a mesmerizing effect on the audience. The profound encounter with his creative feat characterizes the mystical amalgam of William Yu as a painter, “high priest” (exodus 35:30-32), and a performance artist.


William Yu’s artistic method called “Hallelism” has stirred controversy and raised eyebrows of some artists in the local art scene for infusing religious belief and ritual in the course of art making.

His ardent critics, on the other hand, labeled him as a charlatan born-again Christian for being outspoken of his faith in relation to his “hallelistic” art. However, to his friends and close associate of artists and those who witnessed his entrancing performance, he is like a Rabbi or a Bezalel (exodus 35:30-32) who conjures up the spirit to enlighten his act of worship to his Creator.

“Hallelism captures the heart of the viewers in an indescribable and riveting manner,” said Beverly Callaghan, a Canadian missionary who witnessed William Yu’s spiritual art performance. She described that William Yu, being the forerunner of new spiritual art movement, “embraces the process in the creative act of worship to the Creator of the Universe.”

“When I looked at William Yu’s paintings,” said a Chinese artist, Zhang Xun Lei, “the strokes and lines are so strong and free. He expresses his soul on his canvas that one could feel the presence of the spirit in his art.”

Hallelism, according to William Yu, is an act of creative worship to glorify God (Psalm 98:1-9) through painting. It is like any other charismatic or spiritual activities such as singing or dancing except that the artist uses art to praise and glorify God, the real Master of his creation. In the process of art making, William Yu sings and dances and, like a high priest, he summons the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to guide his hand in front of his canvas.

“Hallel”, as the etymology for Hallelism, is derived from the Hebrew word which means “to praise or worship God”. The artist coined the word “Hallelism” for his new concept of art that involves the worship of God through mind, body and soul (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Creating a work of art as an act of worship is the main concept of Hallelism. The ritualistic preparation before executing an artwork is vital to the whole process where the artist has to pray for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). The process in which the artist engages in his art is already an act of worship, and the result of that process (the artwork) is the product of divine inspiration.

The artwork in this context, however, is not the main objective of Hallelism but, indispensably, a part of the entire creative process of worship and adulation.

In similar manner, the creative process is not concerned with artistic style or technique for it is, according to William Yu, “an indefinite art with no definitive style and objective; it is constantly changing, and can only be deciphered through the infinite possibilities of coded symbols and meanings on the surface of the canvas.”


At the outset, William Yu, who hails from Baganga, Davao Oriental, is already known for his “picasoid” figures that, along with Filipino masters like Legaspi and Ang Kiukok, uses a palette knife, instead of paintbrush in rendering oil color on canvas.

His previous art characterizes an exaggerated geometric form of human figure with a seemingly twisted body posture. At times, it could be bleak or whimsical with feisty, brilliant colors. In this mode, the artist has captured the pathos and sensibilities reflective of Filipino values and culture.

His current oeuvre, on the other hand, is entirely different from his earlier works. The geometric shape of figures is dissolved deliberately into a rather loose and tangential juxtaposition of forms and colors. His composition is more contingent on the dynamic flow of brushworks in contrast to his earlier works with calculated use of palette knife on canvas.

In a more holistic approach, his act of painting is no longer confined to a one-dimensional activity, but as a performative process that involves the activity of body and soul, the “ora et labora” of art making.

Conversely, the form and substance of William Yu’s hallelistic art is not far from the abstruse and flattened surface of abstract expressionism. In executing his art, he employs the surrealist unconscious and random processes of art making by redefining its automatist technique albeit, done and inspired in the context of spiritual worship.

In this manner, he “desecularized” surrealism and abstract expressionism by invoking the guidance of the Holy Spirit during his creative enactment. By doing so, he redirects the creative energy from an ordinary experience into an extraordinary encounter with God, the artist’s Master Creator.

The dialectical development of his aesthetics, on the other hand, does not only focus on spiritual worship. William Yu, in his own right, acted not only as a painter, but also as a high priest who exorcizes the secular nature of art by infusing his religious faith and values, thus, bringing back the image of God in the midst of a secularized society.

In essence, his art transcends the conventional attitude of art making; it is a metaphysical and spiritual quest for the Divine Truth.


“Master Yu,” as he is fondly called among his Filipino and American friends and collectors in the US, is the artist’s artist, whose personality evokes humility, kindness and benevolence.

His generosity to his fellow artists is unconditional. He shares his artistic gift by helping those who are eager to learn how to paint; he welcomes them with open heart and gives them shelter until they are confident enough to stand on their own.

His childlike faith characterizes the “Beatitudes” that Christ teaches in “Sermon of the Mount” and, while living a very simple life with his family, he lives his faith in total surrender to God and allows God to shape his art in accordance to His will.

As a religious person, he believes that art can become an agent of change in our society so long as it is directed to God (John 15:5, Isaiah 41:13), as the source of inspiration for any artistic endeavor.

The significance of Faith in our time, according to William Yu, is an indispensable gift that liberates man from his uncertainties and sorrows; it gives him wisdom and direction in life amid the trappings of materialistic society.

To sum, unlike the canon of post po-mo art where the movement of spirit is horizontal, which is the portrayal of the banal, secular, and the absurd; William Yu, in his own way, is redirecting its course to its original direction – the vertical movement of the spirit between man and his Creator.

© Danny Castillones Sillada

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Pathological Migration of Truth in a Post Po-Mo Society (Culture & Philosophy)

Manila Bulletin, Lifestyle Section (Art & Culture), August 25, 2008, pp. F 1-2.

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things."
- Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method

In a convoluted world of mass media, spoken words, texts and visual images cascade like insalubrious waters from a huge repository of dense and elliptical concept of created realities. Subliminal images, casuistic answers to the problems that are not yet existent, textual and visual intimations are barraged, aggressively, in the human psyche as though they were the embodiment of Truth.

The illusive landscape of realities had never been before portrayed and magnified in such a persuasive manner that even those who speak about it convincingly believe that it existed. What is sensational before the very eyes of the consumers in a consumerist society is more real and tangible than the Truth itself, which can be bland and boring.

A showbiz personality, for instance, who has a steamy liaison, is more appealing and titillating to the human senses than the person who is doing a benevolent act to the society. The former is worth millions of audiences while the latter is worth only a handful and fifteen seconds of praise on the television.

And those who have the power and money to influence the mass media possess the power to distort and bend reality for their own advantage than those who have nothing but the Truth, which is also, ironically, tradable depending on the price being offered.

A multi-national corporation can pour millions of dollars on a questionable product via a mass media campaign by tailoring the “truth” for global market even if the “product” threatens the well-being of the society or the environment. Corrupt political leaders can invent or twist the Truth in their favor by hiring a high caliber PR company just to maintain their power and popularity before the eyes of their constituents.

Lamentably, the commoditization of “Truth” in our post po-mo (post-modern) society is so blatant that those who can afford millions of dollars worth of “truths” possess the power to influence, dictate to, and manipulate people and society.

Does Truth still matter or is it just subservient to the created world of mass media and popular culture?

Conformity of Freedom and Created Needs

Mass culture, as part of popular culture, produces mass production of goods and services to satisfy the needs of the consumers. Mass media presented these goods and services in a highly fashionable manner in such a way that the credulous consumers believe them as the real panacea of their needs.

The main target of mass culture is the exploitation of the insatiable human needs, creating and inventing realities to gratify the same needs and wants, which are obsessively ravenous and self-centered. The more consumer products pour in the market the higher the human desire to accumulate the “goods” in a frenzy manner.

The manic urge to accumulate seems irrational and endless, resulting in “decisional exhaustion” and “estrangement of needs” (when a man has already obtained what he wants but finds inappropriate or irrelevant on the “needs” that he just acquired). The symptom is subliminally pathological, submitting and surrendering oneself without question to the multifaceted array of commoditized products in the global market.

Who can resist, for instance, a new technological gadget that promises more features than the previously sold in the market? Who can resist a “wonder drug” that promises overnight beauty or slimming effect or instant relief from hopelessness and depression? Who can resist a sublime promise of various political, religious and rebel leaders for a harmonious and prosperous society?

No one! Because the human psyche of a thinking being in a post po-mo society is anxious, nay, gullible to believe on anything or anyone that can satisfy the absurd quest for sensational “truth”. Consequently, rational judgment has been diluted with an inordinate array of product-collocations and subliminal messages that are bombarded in the human consciousness.

Freedom is no longer defined as “free will” but a freedom to believe, accumulate or belong to anyone or anything that possesses the power to mimic, create or twist the “Truth”.

The Pathological Migration of Truth

The Truth is discernible because it is perceived by a thinking being based on the empirical and metaphysical realities of this world. What happens if a thinking being ceases to rationalize and perceive the Truth, can the Truth still exists or will it transform into a new facet of truth to fit within the irrational realities of a thinking being?

Intrinsically, the evolution of Truth from medieval to modern period follows a dialectic movement, a Hegelian principle on thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In popular culture, the Truth does not evolve in a dialectical mode; instead, it subverts and mimics the Truth to become the archetypal reality of a consumerist society.

The mass culture commoditized this “archetypal reality” by inventing and creating “human needs” in the form of consumer products. The advent of highly technologic “mass media devices” magnifies and heightens the commoditized human needs in varying moods and manners as though they were indispensable in the lives of the consumers.

The sensationalized “truth” that is presented by mass media is so illusively real and tangible that it transmogrifies itself into a new reality, creating an endemic effect on the credulous society. This transmogrification process is the pathological migration of truth from subliminal to a “commoditized truth”, which is subconsciously guzzled in the human consciousness by popular culture.

The “Pathological Migration of Truth”, as coined and defined by this writer, is the migration of subliminal truth in the human psyche with pathologic behavior to believe or acquire commoditized realities that provide instant or temporary relief in the human senses.

The migratory process is inevitably viral, dulling the human judgment amid the pandemic influx of product-collocations and subliminal mediums that are pounding the human mind on a daily basis. As such, the deviation of human behavior and perception of reality is inchoately encoded to believe on a “sensationalized reality”, which can be bought, sold, exchanged or traded in the global market.

The pathological migration of truth via commoditized product does not only alleviate the fleeting needs of the consumers, it also “viagrates” the frigidity of human soul by suppressing the previously unfulfilled needs with another “created needs” in a gradational manner.

Hence, what has been imbibed in the human psyche during the pathological migration becomes a “contiguous reality”, so that when a stimulus of commoditized needs is presented before the consumers, it immediately seeks instant response from the human senses. And the response is always programmed to acquire those “created needs”; otherwise, the unfulfilled “needs” will create existential void in one’s soul.

The Defragmentation of Convoluted Truths

Can we defragment the cluttered “truths”, as purported by popular culture, in the same way as we defragment the cluttered files in our computer system?

The truth is – the cluttered “truths” that we believe or acquire from the dictate of popular culture is nothing but the substitutions of our own uncertainty of realities. We believe in these “truths” because they respond to the urgency of our “sensual needs”. They instantly satisfy the insatiable desire of a pleasure-seeking “self”, which is egotistical by nature.

It is easier to believe, for instance, on a “magical pill” that promises an overnight slimming effect than believing on diet and exercise that will take several months for a 300-pounder to reduce. It is easier to believe on beauty product that is being endorsed by a celebrity figure with flawless skin even if, by birth, our own skin is craggy and irreparable, because we illusively want to identify ourselves with the endorser.

Conversely, to defragment the created “truths” is to redefine our hierarchy of needs based on our actual reality, and not the reality that is being haggled on us by mass media and mass culture. After redefining our hierarchy of needs, we have to validate whether these created “truths” are relevant or irrelevant in our pursuit for happiness and the common good of the society.

An individual can only be free if the mind is void of any preconceived notion of “truths”, because the very source of freedom to believe comes from the soul of a rational being, which seeks an Ideal Truth that resides in the human soul. This “ideal truth” is preordained to the Summum Bonum or “highest good” based on faith, hope and love of humanity.

The Summum Bonum does not seek gratification on material things but on the transcendent realities of Love, Beauty and Justice. These metaphysical realities provide lasting effect in the human soul rather than the fleeting effect of “created truths” in the human senses.

To sum, no one can destroy a man who is not programmed to believe on any created “truths” because he is his own reason of Truth and the Truth is the reason why he is.

© Danny Castillones Sillada


Above Artworks:(1) The Pathological Migration of Truth in Aesthetics, works on paper by Danny C. Sillada, (2) The Truth Behind the Mask (oil on canvas by Danny Sillada), (3) Truth Without Reason, pen & ink by Danny Sillada, (4) Created Truths in Art (works on canvas by Danny Sillada).

How to cite this essay:

Sillada, Danny Castillones. “The Pathological Migration of Truth in a Post Po-Mo Society”. Manila Bulletin (Arts and Culture) 25 August 2008; F 1-2. Print.