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singing off-key


A few months ago I gave a short, cozy workshop on children’s book illustration at our Peek-A-Book show at the CCP. I am always, always terrified of public speaking, but of course I also didn’t want to turn down this rare opportunity to give this workshop, so yes.

A few days ago in the office, we were talking about local publishers when Liza told me about someone sharing photos from the aforementioned workshop + something unexpectedly warm and fuzzy.


To be honest, I don’t have any memory of that moment. It wasn’t really a hectic workshop but I guess I was preoccupied at the time, and didn’t really remember everything I said to everyone. I muuust admit, I am moved by how such a small statement I maybe made in passing makes for such a nice little memory for this mother and her daughter. I am very happy that out of all my ramblings and corny jokes that day, there’s something that stood out for them, that they deemed memorable and important enough to share to others.

In the middle of busy events like exhibit openings, it’s hard to gauge the success of quiet workshops like this because everyone’s thinking of something else, even me. And so it’s really heartwarming to learn that the workshop actually worked, the measure of success being encouragement, and not actually in the form shiny full-rendered picture book draft, which is what most people expect to get out of these workshops.

Surprise for us all! It is true what the proverbial They say: you never really know.

I hope other people see it and claim that reminder for themselves. We’re not making goddamn contemporary art worthy of the Guggenheim everyday. Actually if you are, congratulations. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying hard to be good/better/best at the things we want or need to do. This may sound greeting card-y but it stands true: start where you are with what you have, and whatever comes out of that effort, that is what it is. Drawings, music, food, a small business, an effort to make your neighborhood better, keeping yourself sane as a young parent, keeping your anxieties at bay, trying to date at the age of 30+, etc. Compare yourself not to everyone else on the internet, but to yourself: the version of yourself a day or week or a year ago, who had previously Made Nothing and who now has Made Something, Finally.

I am leaving this here for those who feel they need this reminder. I need this reminder. I need to hear this from myself often.

Also, I am leaving this here because I am tired of knee-jerk asshole-y things people say on social media as if A)everyone else’s efforts are their business and B)as if life isn’t hard enough on everyone. I get that everyone has some moral obligation to try and up the standards of whatever industry they’re in, but being a bully in the process? Meh. Trying to be edgy and hip by being a jerk who gives zero constructive feedback helps no one. I hope this personality trend in art/illus/design/everywhere else dies down, like right now.

If you have been an innocent victim at some point of this kind of intimidation, first of all, I’m sorry it happened to you, I really am. It sucks. I have no super comforting words to say; I’m pretty tired of it myself. What I do when I catch myself in this rut is that I pick the meat off and leave the bones.  Let’s start over, or soldier on, whatever is applicable.


on my birthday three years ago, catching Kurt Vonnegut’s drawing exhibit called “So It Goes” at the Herbert Johnson museum in Ithaca.

Kindness has been branded as this wimpy, corny, and weak thing to be, but do you know how hard it is, how much effort it takes to act kind in this current day and age? Where people can be such savage monsters online and offline? Is it easy to encourage people who make “ugly” things in such a way that they’ll actually see what needs to be improved? AND then still feel good enough about themselves afterwards that they’ll try again tomorrow and the day after? It is very difficult. And that is why acting in kindness takes more effort to practice and see the effects on others, and then on us.

We have all been there on square one, and as much as the nastier parts of growth have attributed to the progress we’ve made, there is no beating the well-mannered, friendly help we’ve received along the way. So. Why are we still often giving advice that come in the form of kicks in the teeth to people who create “unsatisfactory work” without malice? If there are more effective ways of educating that actually don’t scar people for life, why do we resort to doing the opposite?

Kindness, being nice and polite and a pleasant member of society, is severely underrated. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: before we try to be good at any occupation in this world, maybe we could try being a good member of society first. If anything– and to be blunt– it’s a much more urgent issue to address than a lot of our little woes. For concrete human proof: Eleanor Davis, bad-ass illustrator and writer, superb citizen, community hero.


In other news:

1. I am currently listening to the audiobook called Lost Connections by Johann Hari. It’s about anti-depressants and how they don’t work the way we think they do, pharmaceutical scams, other scientific explorations and experiments on studying depression and anxiety, and a lot of other explanations. It’s making me feel both dreadful and encouraged at the same time, if that makes any sense, haha. Super helpful read for anyone wanting to know more about medication for mental illnesses.

2. On the side of everything I need to do, I’m preparing my portfolio for submission to foreign illustration agencies. I’ve been looking online for a while now and figured it’d be a nice next step to try to get into one. Wish me luck! Also, if you have any agent recommendations, let me know~

3. One more week to catch our group show Shelved Wishes at Prism Gallery in Makati!

4. Dear Universe by Pierra Calasanz-Labrador is officially launched and out everywhere. We signed a bunch of copies available at Powerbooks in The Podium, hooray. An audiobook version narrated by the very delightful person that is Joyce Pring is also out on Audible. The illustrations are by yours truly, and I really had fun making them. Dear universe, I want more poetry-related illustration projects… I would love to make something by Benilda Santos! I would figuratively die and rise again.

5. I am currently working on a picture book that features Maguindanaon culture, and I don’t know where to look for info! If you have any leads on where I can get research done or if there are any books or websites or people I can get in touch with, please let me know!  I have a Contact form now, hehe.

6. Yes, a contact form. For questions about anything like art materials, children’s book illustration, and non-work stuff like making Filipino-style sopas (80% Tender Juicy Hotdog slices) and books that I really like (Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez).

But also because my last post about my experience with depression and anxiety seemed to have resonated with a lot of people, both friends and strangers, and they’ve reached out to me on social media to talk. This is surprising to me! I’m no medical expert or anything, but if it would help you get through even just the next 15 mins by talking it out with stranger, just type it all out here.

That is all. I am currently nursing a flu and everything feels heavy, so goodbye now.


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