Ramami!


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Last night my husband and I hung out and had dinner with a couple of good friends. There’s a spate of budget ramen carts and stalls all over the south and one of them happened to pop up beside our favorite shawarma place. It was okay, though a bit confusing to the tastebuds because it’s like a cross between a Japanese ramen and Chinese noodle soup. Haha. The shawarma was on point, though. We had dessert and coffee at home. After a long week, it’s a relief to hang out with friends who are low-key and can enjoy simple pleasures.

On a side note, I used my new cat’s tongue brush for this painting. It’s so much fun to use! I thought I’d only use it for botanical paintings but it’s a very versatile brush. I was able to drop by ArtNebulaPh at BF Homes yesterday and after playing with a whole lotta brushes, decided on a Raphael cat’s tongue (#6) and an Isabey blue squirrel round mop (3/0). Really great brushes, these two. They can hold a point very well. I also got a few Sennelier halfpans to complete my travel palette.

Overall, a fun day! ^_^

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‘Shrooms


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I was sick with cough and colds last week, so I wasn’t really able to sit up too long and paint anything. I’m feeling much better today, though. I thought I’d have a little fun. I had the idea while having dinner with my husband and a friend last Sunday. We had some awesome mushroom chicharon (deep fried mushrooms that taste like pork cracklings)  for appetizers and oh mah goodness. Those things are delicious! If I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have guessed those were oyster mushrooms. I thought the little folds and textures were interesting.

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On this page, I drew/painted oyster mushrooms (yum), morel and chanterelle mushrooms.

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On this page, shiitake, enoki and porcini. It was lots of fun! I had a great time exploring different kinds of browns, yellows, and reds.

Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

Family Dinner


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A few days ago my husband and I joined his side of the family for dinner. We had family from the US on vacation, and it was a dinner to celebrate birthdays and the despedida. Traffic going to Megamall was abysmal. I haven’t been to that part of Manila in a while, so I was completely floored to see how EDSA was just a carpet of red tail lights slowly inching forward. It was horrible, and I was so relieved we got to Megamall around 7:45 PM. Dad’s was full, which was a little surprising given it’s a Tuesday night. It wasn’t so bad, though, the food was good and the service was polite and punctual. Dinner with family was also good, it’s nice to see the cousins complete and just enjoying each other’s company.

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We stayed until closing time, and it was pretty sad to see the cousins lingering around each other because goodbyes suck. 😦 Despedidas are bittersweet that way. Eating soothes the difficulty of parting, sending family members off with best wishes and happy memories.

Here’s looking forward to the next family gatherings.

Year 5


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Last month was my mom’s 5th death anniversary. I still think of her all the time. She’s a remarkable woman, and many times I ask myself if I am living in a way that she would want me to live. She’s like a compass that always points me to my true north. This is a great loss that still aches so much whenever I think about her.

My mom had a rough childhood. Actually, “rough” would be an understatement. But her childhood was like a refining fire that made her better, not worse. She and papa were determined to be good, God-fearing parents. I take after part of my mom’s temperament. I was melancholic, always kept to myself, and had trouble making friends because I was painfully shy and was perfectly happy by myself. She made an effort to make good friends, though. I remember when I was young, she made it a point to ask me how I was doing at school and if I made any friends. She told me that being an only child, we didn’t have aunts and uncles from her side of the family. She asked God to give her good friends who will also love her children. Good relationships are from Him too, she said.

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She and papa started out with very little. This was the house where we grew up. It’s a cluster of old homes in E. Pascua St., a jumble of old, patched up wood and rusty roofing materials. We were poor, but my parents did gave their best effort for us. We would eventually move out of this neighborhood to a better one, but I would always carry in my heart our humble beginnings and how my parents taught us to live with integrity and a healthy sense of self-worth.

My mother also showed me by example that women can be strong and successful. During my teenage years, I remember her telling me that if I decide to get married, I should choose a man who isn’t intellectually insecure. I always kept that in mind. I saw how my father was always so supportive of her and gentle in his ways, and I married a man who is the same towards me. 🙂

I also saw how my mother treated everybody the same. She treated their office janitor with the same dignity that she gave the company CEO. Ayaw ni mama sa matapobre.

She was a voracious reader, and she encouraged this habit in us too. She’s the original Serial Doodler. 🙂 She was always writing, writing, writing. When she passed away, I gathered all of her journals and kept them in a drawer so I can read them later and hear her voice again inside my mind. I am thankful that she kept journals because her thoughts are precious to me.

It’s the fifth year without her. Though the grief has faded into a dull throb, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get to that point when it won’t hurt anymore. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

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

Food for the Soul


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These past few days have been a flurry of food painting in my journal. Not because all I do is eat, haha, but because I’m fascinated with the colors, textures, and the suggestion of taste of food illustrations. There’s a lot of color and details involved, which means there’s a lot of layering needed. It’s not easy on Tomoe River paper because it’s so smooth. It’s much easier on Khadi paper because of all that interesting texture.

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It’s been an adventure for me so far. Food illustrations have always been out of my comfort zone, but I guess the more you try it, the closer it inches towards that zone. I think that it’s important to accept your mistakes as part of the process too, to grow and learn what looks good to you at the same time to constantly educate your eyes. I guess it’s important that we be forgiving of our pace, because we all start somewhere.

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It’s so interesting to discover how to denote proportions and even how to show viscosity. It’s really been quite a fun journey so far. 🙂 I must say that these Escoda Reserva brushes are so wonderful. They hold lots of water, is easy to control even in really small paintings like this one below. It’s a bit hard to illustrate texture and small details in a constrained space, but it’s a lot more fun if you have brushes that hold water and can also hold a point for painting the details. That’s really a lot of fun to do.

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Also, that’s a homage to the three cheese grilled cheese sandwich at L’usine. The grilled cheese sandwich equivalent of a soulmate. 🙂 Yum. Hope y’all have a good week! I’m off to a good start. 🙂