Tuesday, March 11, 2014

30th






 











Thank you for all the love! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Art is in the air at UPLB - Part II

Read Part I here.

I. It's Sketch Time!

The sun was high up, and it was becoming hotter as noon neared.

Erick and I introduced ourselves to the students who joined us and I shared a bit about who the Urban Sketchers are and what we do, aside from the obvious. Since it was too hot to sketch outside, I proposed to sketch in the lobby first, where the quirky, amusing, and statement-laden takas were. We then had lunch, and then the students took us to our accommodations to get some rest before resuming our sketch session in the afternoon.

At around 3PM and feeling quite refreshed, I headed out of my room to meet Erick at the lobby. It was still hot, and we decided to try out the nearby in-campus cafe. Iced coffee was definitely in order. Back at Umali Hall, we had snacks with the students, and set out to sketch. We headed to the area where the Torii and Thai pavilion were, looked for spots and people to sketch, and set about to putting pens, pencils, and brushes to paper.

Thai pavilion


Some of the students had to leave early because they were also setting up their exhibit, which was set to open the following day.

The Torii is a new fixture in the campus, having been inaugurated only in September last year. It is the centerpiece of the Nihon Koen, or the Japanese Garden. The garden symbolizes the friendship between Philippines and Japan, and the friendship and cooperation of the two nations in scholarly work.


II. A Long Walk

The sun was slowly setting behind the mountains, and we wanted to walk around a bit more, so we packed up, walked up the stairs past the Torii, and made our way to the College of Forestry. Sadly it was too far and it was getting late, so we decided to come back another time. We had been saying that a lot since we arrived. We took another road that led us through some of the faculty residences. They were beautiful, surrounded by gardens and trees, and oh how I would love to experience living in one.

More walking, this time to where their version of the Oblation was, and to the main gate, where we sat and talked about our plans for the next day. The students had a meeting and prep work for their exhibit, so at that point we said goodbye and see you tomorrow, and Erick and I took off on our own to sample student meals. We entered a little street and came upon a house-turned-eatery that, as we learned later, had just opened. Sorry, no alcohol, but the owner said they were planning to have serve some in the future. Probably another reason to come back, haha.

After dinner, we had brewed coffee, this time in a restaurant+cafe inside the campus. We were entertained by this cat.

She was actually very sweet.

After coffee was bedtime, because we resolved to wake up early the next morning and catch the sunrise. Erick found out he would be bunking in with artist Leeroy New and his assistants, who were going to set up an installation piece at Umali Hall.

by the Fertility Tree--no, nothing happened.


III. Coffee and Rice and Coffee Again

At 6AM the following day, we tried to keep the chills off as we looked eastward in anticipation. There was a bit of disappointment a few moments later--sure, we expected a mountain, but not the overcast sky that shielded the bright rays of the sun. We still had fun walking along the dewy field of Freedom Park, gingerly avoiding holes (there was only one, and it had a warning block of cement beside it). We compared the park to UP Diliman's Sunken Garden, where you could be running one moment and tripping into a hole the next. We sauntered by Baker Hall and hailed a jeepney that would take us out of the campus. We had breakfast at a nearby restaurant that opens at 7.

sketching as an excuse to have iced coffee.

Back in campus, Erick wanted to sketch the Torii, as he sketched the Thai pavilion the day before. And though I absolutely have no patience for details, I challenged myself to sketch the pavilion. It was a nice day and the sun had begun to peek out from behind the clouds, giving the surroundings a warm glow. The early morning sun felt nice too.




We also sketched Umali Hall, had iced coffee (again), and made our plans for the afternoon. We decided to go back to the hostel, pack our things, check out, move our bags to the OICA office, have lunch, and make our way to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which everyone suggested we visit. And so we did.

Some people are on a no-rice diet, but I think I would probably be miserable and die of sadness if I do that.

And I'm glad we did, even if we only got to stay for a short while. We took a peek inside the cafeteria, where a mural of Vicente Manansala is displayed. Next we went to the souvenir shop, where I swore to buy a shirt the next time we're there (by then, this was probably reason # 43712 of why we should go back). The lady at the counter pointed us to the adjoining cafe. We decided to come back later. The Riceworld Museum beckoned, and that was where we found...


...the basket where I'm going to put my books if ever I decide to stay on a desert island. The Riceworld Museum is another place I would love to visit again, but hopefully next time there won't be any rambunctious high school students on a field trip, who like to make fun of the displays and giggle at every display in the "Birds of the Philippines" exhibit. Pfft, kids. 

We had around 30 minutes left before we had to go back to the campus for the exhibit opening, so we sat down and made rough sketches of the view of the rice fields.

our sketching view.


Our sketches. I think I did a pretty good job on those mountains, don't you think?
Of course, we couldn't leave without having a taste of their coffee--only P10 a cup! We also got a cheesecake, which we happily snacked on while quickly applying color to our sketches. A few guests of the institute approached us for a quick chat. They seldom see people sketching, and at IRRI at that. Late afternoon was fast approaching, and so Erick and I struggled to finish and get in the bus that would take us back into the campus. If it didn't come, we could wait for a jeepney, which came by every thirty minutes...or so. The universe must have been on our side, because it sent us a jeepney service that was fortunately passing by the campus. Hurrah!


IV. Art, Love, and Goodbyes

We managed to be at the Umali Hall for the opening of the artsfest and exhibit. Our works didn't make it to the setup, but Irma said they would mount our sketchbooks and send these back at the end of the month. I told her not to bother since we were really planning on coming back, perhaps with our fellow sketchers and/or film photography-loving friends.

Next, we checked out the art exhibit of our new friends, the students who joined us in our sketching. They had a timely, love-themed show, and we congratulated them for their work. There's no Fine Arts degree in UPLB but the students are encouraged to explore the arts. It was fun to see their insights and interpretations on the L-word. :)

After we said our goodbyes (keep in touch, add us on Facebook) to the student painters, we got some ice cream and sat on the grass. Freedom Park was filling up with students who had come to watch the night's concert. During the intermission, we headed back to Umali Hall, had our dinner, and proceeded to say our goodbyes so we could catch the last bus going back to Manila. They wished us well, but before we left this photo had to be taken first:

Erick & I receiving the Certificate of Participation for the Urban Sketchers Philippines. Handing us the certificate is Irma Lacorte, who brought the Urban Sketchers to UPLB.


V. Homeward

We missed the last bus.

At 11PM and with no Manila-bound bus in sight, we decided to go to the next big town--Calamba--and get a bus from there.

We missed the last bus too.

Luckily for us, there was a van going to Alabang. It was one of those shuttle services that could accommodate up to 18 people. We were the first passengers.

"Oh, we're only waiting for just 10 passengers." Fine. In we went, and waited.

And waited.

Soon, a family went in, then a couple, then a few other passengers. Time to go!

When we got to Alabang, a bus was already there waiting for passengers. We got in, paid our fare, and went to sleep. It was around 2AM when I finally fell on my bed. It was a tiring two days, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.


VI. The Sketches, Of Course

Erick's






 Mine:













Special thanks to the following people for making our stay in UPLB possible:
Ms. Maria Teresa Arejola, OICA Director
Ms. Irma Lacorte, Sining Makiling Gallery Curator
UPLB Painters' Club: Marvin Oloris, Doel Mercado, Kim Ortines, Rona Franco, Beah Orlina, Ritche Rodulfo, and Pam Mendoza. You guys are the best.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Art is in the air at UPLB - Part I

Oh yes, February is the love month (I hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day yesterday), but for those who have a knack for seeing beauty (we all have different definitions for this, so whatever works) in everyday things, it's also the National Arts Month.

On the night of February 2, I started packing my sketching materials for a trip down south, to the campus of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños in Laguna. The Urban Sketchers were invited by the University's Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts (OICA) to sketch there as part of the 3rd Southern Tagalog Arts Festival.

How did that come about? Well, in July last year the Urban Sketchers participated in 98B's Saturday Market at Escolta, and this is where we were approached by Irma Lacorte, the Gallery Curator of the UPLB's Sining Makiling Gallery. She told us about the upcoming artsfest and asked if we would be interested to join by sketching on campus and mounting the sketches in an exhibit at the gallery.

our setup at 98B's Escolta Saturday Market last year

I thought it was an awesome idea. Sketching with students and sharing with them our love for sketching on location was an opportunity that shouldn't be missed, so we said yes.

Unfortunately, the activity was scheduled on Monday and Tuesday, and as most of the members are working professionals and students with classes, we were not able to commit in full force. The good news is, I was available, and so was Erick Cusi, one of my talented (ehem) photographer friends. I've seen Erick's sketches before when he went "Analogue for a Day," and so I asked him if he wanted to join the activity.

We were both excited because it would be our first time in UPLB. Good thing we were both troopers, having gone on photowalks and a trip to Batangas before, and we had no problems wandering around and possibly getting lost. Haha. We met up at Buendia on Monday morning, had a quick breakfast at Jollibee, and made our way to the Greenstar bus line that had trips going to Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

Jollibee trumps diet. every. time.

The bus trip (fare: 76 pesos!) took two hours to "College", and we rode a jeepney that would take us into the campus. "Take the 'Kanan' jeep," we were instructed. We asked the driver to drop us off at the D.L. Umali Hall, where we would be meeting Irma. We ogled at the campus and almost forgot to remind the driver we had no idea where we were going. Good thing he remembered, and pointed, "There's Umali Hall."

sketching in a moving bus is hard, okay.

We got off, and I saw Irma through the glass doors...which were closed. We went through the side entrance and went up to the lobby of the Sining Makining Gallery, where Irma was. It was a warm welcome among horses. Yes, horses--hundreds of decorated taka, the handiwork of students who had taken up the Humanities 2 class. They were awesome. I mean, just look at this:

Photo by Erick Cusi. He hasn't gotten around to uploading the others, haha.

We were earlier than expected (it was only 9am), and the students who would be joining us would be arriving by 10, so we walked around the Freedom Park for a bit...

Photo by Erick. I did have a camera with me, but I haven't gotten around to having the films developed. Lazy photographers!

soaked in the morning sun, watched students having a photoshoot (for a project, probably)...

...and saw the legendary Fertility Tree. It's on winter mode, so not much foliage.


Of course we had to take selfies with it.

When we got back, we were introduced to the students who would be joining us in our sketch session. They were all members of the Painters' Club! 

My mind went blank after that, I was so nervous.

Kidding. What happened next is chronicled in Part II, found here. :) 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The January Cold

I am currently breathing through my mouth, but every now and then one of my stuffy nostrils would take pity on me and clear up a little, enough for me to take a sniff of my Vicks VapoRub, or the Spa in a Bottle I bought some weeks ago from Echostore, a shop in Centris that sells organic stuff. The little bottle of oil works wonders: it has VCO, peppermint, musk, lavender, and orange. You spray a bit of oil into your palm, rub it with the other, then cap your hands to your nose. Take a deep breath and voilà, congestion, gone!

Funny, after buying the stuff my friends and I talked about headache and cold remedies. We were really getting old. Or perhaps, when we were young kids, any form of physical pain becomes a quick excuse not to do anything, but now we all had to make sure we get work done even when it feels like there's a jackhammer in our heads.

The polar vortex in the US may be affecting the climate in the rest of the world, I don't know, but January has always been a cold month here. Perhaps I got my cold from when I went out for that forensic photography lecture, perhaps I got it from my mom, who says she got the virus from one of our clingy cats, who always manages to sneeze on her at every opportunity. My mom very rarely gets sick (I'm thinking she has built up her resistance during all her years as a nurse), so when she does gets sick, it means the virus is a bit extraordinary.

Tito Marit, who's currently in Edmonton, Canada, says the temperature there is minus forty degrees. I like cold weather (I like jackets and having the opportunity to wear them), but I have yet to experience what "freezing" feels like. I always say that I have plenty of added insulation to keep me warm, anyway.

I don't like being sick (who does?), and I'm not one to wallow. This morning I watered my plants (my variegated oregano babies are getting more robust every day) and spent a few minutes in the sun while watching my cats frolic in the garden. Later I'll be going to a nephew's birthday party; after that I'm seeing friends for a jogging session in UP. Well I might not jog (that's pushing things too far), but I walk pretty fast anyway, so.

Okay, time for tea now.

Friday, January 10, 2014

photography and forensics

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to help a friend teach his forensics class about the basics of photography and how to take photos in a forensic/crime scene setting. The first part was easy; after all, I've been studying and dabbling in film photography for the past ten years. It was enough time for me to understand how it works and impart my knowledge to others. For the latter topic, I had to do some research and make use of the ol' coconut and common sense. During this process, I picked up some new things, of which I am thankful for. One really never ceases to learn.

The short lecture was held at the anthropology lab. The last time I was there, I was a student myself, taking that final exam on physical anthropology. I blogged about it here. There were only 15 students--a good number, actually--and a mishmash of cameras, from compact point-and-shooters to ones I can only dream of having. I came to the class armed with my trusty Canon AE-1 Program, the best camera in my arsenal to teach the basics of photography with. I also brought three different types of film to show to the kids who probably were too young to remember (they do remember, thankfully).

Before I began my lecture I gave a disclaimer: I shoot in film and I have no experience taking photos of crime scenes. I said the basic principles were the same, and technical photography is technical photography, so let's get started. I was only given 45 minutes, so I breezed through the basics part as slowly as I could (I hope that makes sense), while stopping every now and then for questions. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure, flash. The next part was trickier, because aside from my online research, the only other sources of information on forensic photography I have are crime series (I love Bones), so my friend supplements my info with his real-life crime scene experience. Overview shots, close-ups, fingerprints, impressions, lighting methods. It was fun.

After the lecture we planned to set up "evidence" to take photos of while the students were on 15-minute break. That was when I realized how many of them, those who borrowed their cameras, do not know how to use the cameras' manual settings and adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. They asked me how, but because I have no substantial experience handling digital SLRs (no two models were the same), I found myself in quite a predicament. It was in my lecture that photographers take the time to read the camera's user manual, but I guess the students got this tip a little too late. We had to make do with what we knew, and what we could.

From my research and common sense, crime scene photography is very technical. Sharp focus, no distortions, clear details. Different lenses are needed, and various lighting methods need to be used. How should you take a photo of a fingerprint on glass? How about a gun in a dark corner? A strand of hair on a white surface? Powder on a reflective floor? There are several items that are very difficult to photograph if you don't have the right gear. We were limited by what we had, so I took note of the limitations and difficulties we encountered. It was a great learning experience for me as well.

Sorry for the crappy tablet photos. :P


My friend will soon depart on a new forensic "mission" abroad. I'm wondering what will happen to the anthropology program with him gone, because as far as I know he is the only one teaching forensic methods. Oh well. I think that's another story for another person to tell.