Tag: journal art

A Party and a Departure

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Yesterday was the Christmas party for our bible study at Las Pinas City Jail. It was an incredible feeling, to walk into the corridor and stand in the middle of it, realizing how much we’ve grown from about 12 members to 60. We can’t fit into the corridor anymore so many of them set up chairs inside their cells instead. We couldn’t really play our usual Christmas games anymore because there’s a lot of them and I didn’t want to cause any undue commotion that will put them in trouble with the new warden (a very nice and gracious young lady). They requested if they can group themselves into 6 and make their own Christmas presentations.

I was so touched by the preparations they’ve made for us. From the hand-calligraphed sign on the whiteboard to preparing the sound system and all of their group presentations. The effort they’ve made is precious to us.

All the song and dance numbers were great! I especially loved that song one of the groups sang, Ako’y Binago Niya. The song was about repentance and hope, and how God can really change people. Everybody sang it, like an anthem, and it was such a profound experience for me to observe them singing together and with many of them crying quietly because they’ve made the song their own.

We distributed the prizes and our little tokens to them, and as usual I separated some items for a sick inmate. She had been sick since the first day that I joined the ministry, and some of the other inmates always made it a point to tell me if she needed anything. I couldn’t visit her inside her cell and she was too sick to visit us, but we always sent our love and made sure she heard about Jesus too. Last Monday, as I was handing the gifts that I had packed specially for her, the inmates quietly told me that she had died. Her colon cancer had taken its toll and she was taken away.

I just stood there for a moment, feeling like I could not catch my breath. It was astonishing, how my heart ached so much for her. One would think that she had died alone in jail, but though her family had all but forgotten her, she was surrounded with friends who ministered to her needs until the very end.

These moments with inmates, I treasure them in my heart. They’re golden. With the death of one of the inmates, I think God gave me a very real glimpse of His love and how very precious every single soul is to Him. I grieve for my lost sister in Christ, but I understand how it’s the end of a long and painful journey for her. Now she’s truly free.

The Old Is Gone, The New Has Come

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These days, the pervading attitude towards inmates and even those who struggle with drug addiction is more uncharitable than I ever remember in my life. It’s like all those people are lumped into one huge pile of subhuman specie. If you have a family member who is struggling with addiction secretly, this uncharitable attitude would probably make them think twice before coming to you for help. Especially since a lot of them die anyway, as collateral damage in a drug war that’s becoming increasingly violent. Admitting your addiction may even put your life at risk.

I was in the middle of a hiatus from the prison ministry when this drug war commenced. I was overwhelmed with work and could not fulfill my duties in the ministry properly. But day by day I see people talking about addicts and offenders as if they have forfeited their right to live. All this made me remember my sisters in Las Pinas City Jail so I broke my hiatus (even though there was no change in my workload) because I could not stop thinking about them. These days we have to hold our bible study at the main corridor of the female dorm because we don’t fit into the visiting area anymore. I welcome this problem though. It’s a happy kind of problem. Everybody is welcome.

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I realize how impossible it is to change the minds of people who are riding the wave of hate and violence. I cannot change the flow of the tide. I can only do my best to work with the inmates together with other people who are in the ministry with me, help them focus on the Word and remind them of how God sees them, instead of how the world sees them.

A lot of people say that nobody in jail will ever admit that they’re guilty, but that’s not true. A lot of people in my bible study group have owned up to their guilt, are quietly serving their prison sentences, and dealing with the regret of wasting so many years of their lives, aside from the years of incarceration that stretches ahead of them. Many of the inmates we work with are there because of drug-related charges. A lot have been there for years while still waiting for their first court appearance. While many may have been drug addicts, as you can see by the way years of drug use have ravaged their appearance, a lot are already in the process of waking up from the stupor. They’re realizing how they’ve damaged their lives, how they’ve hurt and alienated their family who now refuse to visit them. It’s like they’re waking up after a rampage and are only beginning to comprehend what they have done. Many have not seen their families for years and have endured…are continuing to endure incredible loneliness as part of their punishment. Prison is a dark place where people are soon forgotten.

Our bible lessons are always hopeful, helping them deal with the reality of their present as well as the possibilities of their future. As deep and dark as the pit may be, the light of Jesus still shines. And though the vast majority will treat them like vermin fit for extermination, we try to remind them of a simple truth:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Lusine

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Last week, my friends, my husband and I tried this new cafe in BF Homes, L’uisine. It’s along Elizalde St., just a few meters away from Concha Cruz. It wasn’t completely open yet, much of the place was still being fixed up. But there’s a part out front that was already set up to receive a few customers.

We really enjoyed everything that we ordered (I couldn’t fit in my cup of latte in my journal, though). This is what I really like about smaller cafes. The owner really knows her coffee, it seems, and they take great pride in every step of the process from sourcing the beans to pulling the shots, to thinking of great food to pair their coffee with. Everything’s done with great love, not lost in the impersonal approach of many commercialized coffee places. We’ll return to Lusine soon and I’ll remember to bring my camera this time, so I can take proper photos.

Manila Chinatown Pages

I was thinking of what to do for my birthday week and I decided to do something my husband and I haven’t done before. Before we moved to the south, we loved going to Chinatown on photowalks. What we didn’t really explore too much was the local food scene. So as part of my birthday celebration, we checked in to a hotel and spent the weekend just walking around Chinatown, tasting different things from different stalls and restaurants. It was quite fun, actually. I remember back in college, the first time we ever went to Chinatown, we really just wanted to find somewhere we can eat a proper serving of siomai and a good bowl of mami. So we went there with the intention to get lost in unfamiliar streets and hopefully be home before dark. Both of us loved humble, simple food, especially street food. When we got older, and especially when we moved to the south, we just kind of lost touch with our street food-eating ways.

Here are a few pages from my journal about the weekend.

Chinatown Journal Entries

Chinatown Journal Entries

Chinatown Journal Entries

Chinatown Journal Entries

Chinatown Journal Entries

Manila Chinatown’s food scene is quite fascinating. I think I’ve never tasted siomai and dumplings as good as the ones I ate here. There’s always a flurry of people everywhere, and restaurants are always busy. The flow of people in food establishments is quite hectic. You don’t go there for the ambiance, but really for the quality of food. It’s no-frills, humble, simple, Chinese food. It’s a place where noodles are hand-pulled and made fresh daily. Dumpling wrappers are handmade, too. I took some photos which I’ll upload in GastroPop soon, maybe when I get back home next week. The vibe of Chinatown is like the polar opposite of the south, where things are quite slow and laid back, and malls make spaces for people to stay and sit for a while. In Chinatown, not many people stay and linger to read or write even in cafes. There’s always a flurry of movement. Tables are vacated as soon as you finish eating to accommodate other diners.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend. Lots of memories were relived, and many new ones were made. Looking forward to this coming week, as we close my birthday month. ^_^

Why Calligraphy?

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I joined a group of calligraphy enthusiasts on FB, Calligraphy Spot. It’s a fun group. Everybody’s nice and accommodating, you learn a lot from the other members, and there are weekly calligraphy themes. This week’s theme is “Why Calligraphy?”, which made me wonder at my fascination with it, even if I have a love-hate relationship with it. My answer was because I love words. I like how stringing letters together make words, and stringing words together make up phrases and sentences that mean something. A physical manifestation of something as abstract as thoughts.

I really want to learn copperplate or Spencerian calligraphy, but I’m afraid that I’ve stopped and started this several times because I feel like it goes against my natural hand. I am more at ease with uncial calligraphy, block lettering, and the only kind of dikit-dikit calligraphy that I can manage through brush pens. In any case, I enjoy my attempts at calligraphy and I enjoy looking at other people’s works. I appreciate how people can make words aesthetically pleasing in many different ways using different tools.

The Start of My Art Journal Journey

I’ve always loved writing journals. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always preferred to pouring out my thoughts on paper rather than speaking. Integrating art in my journal entry is something I’ve only recently discovered, though. I liked sketching when I was younger, but it’s an interest that I did not nurture. It was only when I joined Fountain Pen Network Philippines and became social media friends with many talented artists that my love for drawing resurfaced. Of course, you lose what you don’t use, so it feels like I’m starting from nothing again. That’s alright. 🙂 I don’t mind it.

A lot of people I know are so intimidated by the talent of great artists that they don’t even act on the desire of starting an art journal. I personally believe in not resenting your own progress, no matter how slow it is. With the overabundance of ugliness in the world (especially on the internet), contributing your voice in the form of art and other hobbies is not a bad thing.

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I learned that I like to combine words and pictures. The photo above is a rough sketch about the great protest march at Selma. I wrote my thoughts down about the movie after we watched it. It takes longer to finish a journal entry, but it’s so worth it afterwards.

Calligraphy is also something that I just recently discovered. Integrating calligraphy with art is so much fun. My journal is a hodge podge of pure text, text and drawings, alibata brushwork, drawings and calligraphy, photos, clippings, etcetera etcetera. It’s not a neat catalog of watercolor paintings or pen and ink sketches. It’s imperfect and ink-stained, crumpled and cramped, and it brings me so much happiness.

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After all, isn’t that the whole point? Each day in our life is different, anyway. I’d like my art journals to reflect that. Each day is a new adventure, a blank page waiting to be filled.

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If you’re thinking about starting your own art journal, I hope this nudges you to the right direction. 🙂 Do it. Do it today, with whatever art supplies you have and make your pages even more vibrant and meaningful to you than they already are. Art is <3

Same old show.

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I really thought that all the hate and poo-slinging will slow down and grind to a halt after the elections. I was wrong. It looks like it will be noisy for a while. Actually, I’m coming to terms with the possibility that this is  the new normal. To care about the sanctity of human life, to care about due process and how the loss of it is a reckless way to go about a “crusade” that has good intentions, to have a balanced view instead of an idol-worshiping attitude for the new president… all that has become very unpopular. All of a sudden, we’re surrounded with people who “want change” and are less bothered by loss of human lives. Like sharks driven crazy by the smell of blood. All of a sudden we’re surrounded  by family and friends who feel strongly about rallying around the ideal. I sometimes wonder if these people shout louder and are more offensive and boisterous about their newfound “cause” because deep in their bones they know something’s wrong about all this.

I’m not one for debates, and I think it’s foolish and self-destructive to alienate my family and friends for the sake of pushing your brand of politics (of all things) in such an aggressive and offensive way. I’ve resorted to not looking through my Facebook feed (which, with my decidedly introverted personality, was once a favorite way of keeping tabs on family and friends) because of all the ugliness in it. It’s not just the news that is ugly, it’s the attitude of people. Somehow, things have grown much worse. Filipinos have become even more divided. Many of us have lost our civility and it’s like we don’t know how to balance our views and emotions anymore. There’s a reason the terms “Dutertard” and “Yellowtard” and all the other -tards were coined (makes me cringe to even read it now), and the evidence for that is all over social media.

In the narrow-mindedness that is prevailing these days, there’s no room for reason. If addicts and pushers are brutally killed, then they got justice. If one is given due process, it means justice was not done. If you’re anti-Marcos, then you’re automatically pro-LP. If you’re not red, you’re yellow. If you’re critical of Duterte, then you’re anti-Duterte and you and your family need to die violent, inhuman deaths. If you’re against the all-out-war on drugs, then you’re in cahoots with these druggies. If you clamor for due process for these druggies, then you’re condoning the violence they have done or will do in the future. If you want some checks and balances to be placed to keep the government from exploiting their power, then you’re against the drug war. If this…then that. The one with the loudest mouth, the one who can scoop up the biggest mound of shit and sling it around without care or second thought is the winner. Winner of what, exactly? No one knows.

At the end of the day, people have pulled so violently on the already tense connections that we have with each other, and boy, it’s exhausting. Humanity is exhausting. I’m all peopled-out, honestly.

Over the Misty Mountains Cold

Over the Misty Mountains Cold

Here’s a page of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Over the Misty Mountains Cold which I did in uncial calligraphy. The pen is Bexley Corona (in Blueberry Cream) and the ink is Diamine Bilberry. It was a lot of fun to write because it’s very long, and the style fits right into the theme of the song.

As much as I really, really want to learn other kinds of scripts, this is really a more natural fit to my regular hand.

A Silent Outrage

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It’s been sickening to read or watch the local news recently. There are so many news of extrajudicial killings, and that’s always been concerning to me. Every time I see somebody killed execution style with a placard labeled “Huwag tularan, Rapist/Adik/Pusher/Snatcher”, I always ask myself “Says who?” Who gets to decide who has forfeited their right to live? Who deserves to be killed in such a violent way? Now I see this kind of death every day. Fat chance that these cases will be investigated (I’m still waiting for that kind of change). I understand the outrage of people about druggies and criminals, but killing them off without due process is a dangerous shortcut to take. The collateral damage in this kind of war will mostly be the voiceless people who live below the poverty line. They aren’t pests that need to be exterminated because they offend your middle class sensibilities. These are people who have the same rights as everybody else does.

Reading comments in social media about this topic is equally nauseating. It looks like many people are in a blood frenzy, they have forgotten to act like civilized human beings. It’s heartbreaking for me to see friends and family members participate in such discussions like they’re just talking about killing rats. Anybody who disagrees with anything about this all-out war is a sentimentalist, anti-Duterte (and therefore pro-LP or pro-Aquino, which is a false dichotomy), tanga, bobo, mangmang and deserves all kinds of insults. There is no talking with most people nowadays.

There’s no real welfare system to help the street children survive instead of buying rugby to stave off the hunger. No real juvenile justice system to keep young offenders out of trouble. The pervading system in the country is decidedly anti-poor.

I am not blaming the President for all of these extrajudicial killings, and I laud him for the many things that he has achieved on the first 15 days of his presidency (one can appreciate the good and be critical of the not-so-good-yet, it’s not impossible to do that). However, the government should act like the government and uphold the rule of law. All shootings that happen where policemen are involved (agaw-baril, shootouts, etc) should be investigated properly, regardless of who we perceive the victims to be. You know, like any democratic society where rule of law prevails. Policemen who are involved in legit police operations against drugs should be mindful of collateral damage and accountable for them no matter where the encounter happens.

There’s no doubt that this war on drugs will be long and bloody. That doesn’t mean I have to be okay with it. Times like this, it’s okay to not be okay.

More Like Riding a Bike

After a few days of writing words, then phrases, then paragraphs, and whole passages, I’m beginning to remember what I forgot.

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Turns out it’s a lot like riding a bike. It’s still a slow process, but like a young child just learning to read, I am able to recognize the letters and words again. I can write the letters on my own now, without consulting my guide. It’s slow but it’s fascinating how the letters and words are slowly becoming less and less alien and more and more… mine. The photo above is of a Filipino folk song, Bayan Ko. There’s nothing quite like writing it in Baybayin. The message of the song fits so well.

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The photo above is of Psalm 8 (Awit 8), one of my favorite Psalms. Translated to Filipino and then written in Baybayin. Exquisite. Filipino is still my emotional language, after all. 🙂

(Side note: It’s just wonderful to use these stub nibs for Baybayin. The line variation lends more drama to the strokes, though also making it nearly impossible to write small.)