Since the quarantine started, it’s been “easier” to identify things that I actually needed, and to realize and be thankful for the fact that although there are a lot of things that aren’t accessible to me and my family right now, we do have everything we need on the regular.

I most certainly don’t need strawberries to live, but to make myself feel better, I got a big bunch of them last week from Sadiwa. They help Benguet farmers sell their produce in Manila, which is great because buying local is so important right now. I’ve been holding back for a while now because it’s not an essential purchase. Anyway, my point is getting strawberries feels like such a big luxury right now.

And so it goes, the long weekend of strawberries. Hulled, halved, with whipped cream, or my latest favorite: peach iced tea + Tock Soda + crushed strawberries + ice = summer in a glass.

One of my biggest accomplishments this year, or maybe ever: making a pie from scratch. I’m proud to share that it tasted as good as it looked. I used BA’s Strawberry Lemon Lattice Pie. It was a tiny bit too sweet, just like all the dessert recipes from BA that I’ve tried, but it was G O O D. Good enough to cancel out all the Chloe Ting workouts I’ve done the past week. I even made whipped cream (also from scratch, yes ma’am) to pair the pie with, but overbeat it so it turned into sweet butter instead. Who cares? Nobody.

Everything is gone now, the strawberries, the pie, the butter. A weekend well-spent in the kitchen.

I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen than drawing. I haven’t really been in the mood to draw or paint outside of work since all this started, and I don’t want to force it. Just some sketches and small drawings here and there, done leisurely, slowly, most of them unposted online. It feels mildly liberating.

I know making art and all sorts of creative on-the-sides have been keeping a lot of people afloat during These Unprecedented Times™, but for me it kind of feels trivial, at least for now. I guess it makes me feel more useful and secure to spend hours making food that can instantly and surely provide nourishment for myself and others rather than paint all day and…then what?

Last year at BLTX, the Death card appeared first at a tarot reading, but the reader said it’s not literal, it means transformation, that my perspective about life and the things around me will change in the coming year. Maybe this is it.

It’s been months. Every BREAKING NEWS makes me age faster. Companies making PPEs fashionable, gimmicky call-to-arms making the internet feel like an echo chamber. Everything feels like band-aids. Maybe it’s just me (I hope it’s just me). It sounds jaded but I write this mostly out of assessment and sadness.

Another week goes by. The only sure thing in my world right now is our new puppy’s love for me, and mine for him.

Summer ’20

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I signed up for this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair 24H Marathon portfolio reviews, which was held last week. I chose Itabashi Art Museum curator Kiyoko Matsuoka as my reviewer. She’s been in the industry since 1986, and has curated exhibits featuring Tomi Ungerer, Dick Bruna, and Leo Lionni to name a few, along with organizing the annual BCBF touring exhibits.

The sessions were 6 mins max, so I tried to think of good questions to ask the night before so I can maximize my time. I was 4th in line for the review sessions, and I logged on early so I got the chance to listen to the first three portfolio reviews as well.

It’s hard to pick just one nice question to flesh out. In the end, after a short intro, I talked about how I liked to work with different mediums and take on projects in different fields, from commercial work like editorials and picture books, to more personal projects like gallery shows and zine experiments.

Since I know Kiyoko has been working with so many kinds of art and artists thru the years, I asked her what she thought about my current folio containing all these different pieces I’ve been working on. I explained that sometimes I worry about being direction-less and spreading myself too thin, but also that I really like making a variety of things.

Kiyoko said that a lot of artists worry about the same thing, and her advice was to just keep going and working on things that I feel compelled to do, because why not? She cited Leo Lionni, who had been a painted, architect, ad man, art director, photographer, sculptor, professor, and as I know him, a children’s book writer and illustrator.

She also pointed out some pieces from my portfolio that she liked, like my recent Uniqlo shirt gig, Sayaw ng mga Kamay, and my paintings from High Tide. To my delight (and relief) she told me that they still feel like they’re made by one person.

I’m also happy that she picked my more recent work. It feels validating! I’ve shifted gears with my materials and how I work, from clean and calculated watercolors to a much more rough and loose direction closer to when I still drew with ink before I learned how to paint. Still, for a long time, my folio was mostly watercolors, and although I’m happy with my past work, I do want to get hired to do something closer to my current process.

In conclusion, my takeaways from my short but sweet folio review session are:

a) Keep on working on what I like to do.
b) Continue improving technique. She mentioned this specifically for my acrylic paintings.
c) Write my own stories. I’ve been trying! It’s difficult haha, but I try.

A side story on writing my own stories. I’ve sent out emails after the #DVArt event on Twitter, introducing myself and my work to some agents and publishers who expressed interest. Most of the them replied expressing interest in my work but also asking if I’m keen on writing my own books, or if I had exisiting book projects I want to pitch. It feels like overall, agents are more inclined to rep artists who also write.


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In other life news.

1. Started watching Prison Playbook. There are barely female characters, but it’s still a funny show.

2. The past weeks have not been friendly to my kitchen skills. Overbaked a cake, over-buttered the icing, made red bean bao using a savory bao’s dough recipe (turned out ok though), and this morning, undercooked pancakes. As in the pre-mixed kind. What’s happening.

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3. I want to ride my bike, but do I really want to do that in this summer heat? No.

4. STRESS DREAMS. The other night I dreamt I went to Baguio but left my luggage in the cab. I had to go back to the bus station, check their CCTVs to see which cab I took, called the cab company to track down the driver, all to no avail. Also a few weeks ago, I dreamt me and my friends went to London but I didn’t book a hotel in advance. All of them had a place to stay except for me, and I could find a vacancy, and it was getting dark and rainy.

5. Mindfulness drawing with Kuya Robert Alejandro during today’s INK meeting!

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We drew five-peso coins.

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Kuya Robert also told us stories about his backpacking sketches and leaf collages, which were later made into books!

Kuya Robert’s backpack sketches on brown paper were some of my biggest inspirations when I was starting to draw more after college. Here are some of my drawings (also on brown paper!) from 2011, which I included in my Ang INK application because I didn’t have a lot of “finished” drawings yet back then haha.

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5. I made a separate folio for my graphs, if you want to take a look:

Everyday I’m thankful none of the seniors in our family is sick, most of all my parents who are abroad living by themselves. No new cases in our city for a couple of weeks now, too! A small relief because every bit of news that comes out these days is “BREAKING”.

Aaand another week goes by.

eyes on the road ahead

Some bike notes.

1. Thanks to everyone selling almost anything and everything online these days, I got a pretty nice bike for the quarantine season. While looking at second hand bikes online, Jake pointed out which ones were better than others, which ones were easier to ride, etc so I kind of know more a lot about bikes now than I did a few weeks ago.

I got a mini velo, a second hand Louis Garneau MV1 in pretty good condition from a Japan surplus shop online. Coincidentally, and to my delight, it’s hot pink.

From some Googling, I learned that mini velos are full sized bikes on small wheels like that of a folding bike. They’re popular with city bikers who live in small spaces because they’re relatively easier to keep and maintain. Which also means! It’s a full sized bike for a not-so-tall person like me. It doesn’t look mini at all when I’m on it.

2. The last bike I owned before this was a BMX knockoff I got for my birthday in 5th grade, which I only used to ride to the Playstation rental place near my house.

3. On Sunday, I went out to buy some supplies. I headed out before noon and it was cloudy, but halfway to the grocery the sun came out and I…died inside. I was still getting used to shifting gears and I think I was using the wrong speed the first few minutes of the ride so it was extra tiring. I had to pull over and rest for a bit a couple of times. Because it’s still quarantine season, no one was around to witness my sweaty struggle to catch my breath by the side of the road lol.

4. Some things I want for the next rides are a speedometer and a side mirror because it’s so stressful to change lanes in a bike lane-less city. I have found that it’s easier to deal with cars on the road because they’re more likely to slow down for you VS jerks on motorcycles who only use their horn when they’re already speeding beside you. I need a rear rack or basket, too, so I can carry more stuff.

5. The bell that came with my bike is loud but sounds so cute and polite.

6. I learned something about patience and focus that day. A) It took me a while to get used to moving at such a slow pace even though I was pedalling nonstop. B) There’s no room to go on autopilot or even think about other things if you don’t want to crash.

7. At the checkpoint, they made me go through the gate that sprayed vehicles with disinfectant…

8. Wear light clothing. Don’t bike right after eating. Bring LOTS OF WATER.

9. I rode a total of 11 km, not bad coming from, well, nothing. As with everything I do, I wish I had been more prepared. I was so tired when I got home, but also felt accomplished in any case.

Last night I dreamt I was in Cubao waiting to have dinner with friends, when slowly a flood crept in and didn’t stop rising. I had to go look for a restaurant with a second floor. On the second floor was this guy, a writer, who threw me a wrench so I can break the window in case the flood got higher. The water rose up to our necks.

Cut to a lunch scene where everyone was seated around a long table, talking about The Flood. I was seated beside one of my highschool classmates, telling her about how I wish I didn’t bring my new bike that day because the flood took it away.