From South Cotabato to Isulan in Sikwati and Black Ink

I was at the BalikBukid (Back to the Farm) Cafe in Davao City when I imagined my friend, Babelyn, whom I met some 6 years ago, during the first time I went to the province of Ambalgan in South Cotabato. She was my first Muslim friend, and was very much like a younger sister to me. I fondly called her ‘anak’ (my child) because she reminded me so much of younger self– quiet and often shy, but always smiling and ready to learn. What’s so special about her is that, even though she her left eye is blind, she could clearly communicate her feelings just by looking at her vibrant face. I hope I could see her again. Maybe, I can go back to Ambalgan one of these days. This sketch was made with sikwati (cocoa chocolate) and black ink. I am beginning to like pouring delicious stuff on my journal.
I wrote in Tagalog: “Mula sa South Cotabato hanggang sa Isulan, alaala kita kapatid ko. Sana ay mabuti ang iyong kalagayan.” (From South Cotabato to Isual, you are in my thoughts my sister. I hope that you are well) 


I find it a bit silly to post this whilst sandwiched between tonnes of deadlines, but, I just need to share this not so important thing I discovered last night. I have been on earth for nearly 28 years and never thought I have been pronouncing my name wrong. Imagine. When I was young I was often asked how I got my name, why it sounds different, and how come I spell it with a G. On my side of the planet, the alphabet does not even include the sound “v” which I have, twice: Genevi(e)ve.

“You just call me ‘jhenna-viv’,” that’s how I introduce my self, to which many of my classmates would reply, “Ah, ‘dhye-ne-bib’. Such a Filipino way to say it. Hard ‘Dhye’  and hard ‘bib‘. And then, followed by another question: “Where did you get your name?” Mother said, she got it from a dictionary. “Kinuha ko yung dictionary may pangalan ng mga bata sa likuran, tapos, tinuro ko yung pangalan, nagustuhan ko”. (I took a dictionary which had a list of baby names at the back, and pointed to one and I liked it.):  Genevi(e)ve.

I am not so sure if you feel the same way, but I get goosebumps every time a stranger calls me by my whole name. It’s so personal, so piercing and I feel like this stranger can see me to the bones. That was the reason I changed the way I introduce myself when I entered college: “Just call me Gen”, and so they did. But I never liked ‘Jen’ (oops sorry), that’s not me. And so I changed again to Bibs, now that’s a very simple, forgettable name. And it’s quite Filipino, so that’ll do.

But in my work, people often remember you by your email address, and so everyone calls me Genevi(e)ve. Around three weeks ago, I had another person asking me “Is that a common name in your country?”, to which I replied “No.” And he said, “You are lucky.” (Well apparently, his name is ahhhm, just-one-syllable-you-are-everyone, Ahmm).

But it was only last night I paid close attention to my name. And then, barely a month before I turn 28, I found out, I’ve been calling myself wrong all along: It’s “Jhan-v-yev

Amuyao’s Kanyao (Prayer)

I’ve been trying to weave her story but I can’t seem to find the right words to start the tale. Originally, I wanted to draw the goddess Amuyao, daughter of the great Cordilleran creator-god Kabunyian. (Mount) Amuyao is quite famous among mountaineers in my country, as it is the second highest peak in the island of Luzon. But, there’s a very beautiful tale behind the name.

The first time I went to Batad Rice Terrace in Banaue, Ifugao, an elder from the community told me a story about her, which is quite different from the other story I saw online. I cannot remember the whole tale, but I tried to make a different version. Writing this for my own memory (sorry).

Once, there was a great el nino (drought) in the valleys of the Cordillera. It was January, the beginning of the planting season. The rice terraces, once filled with flowing water has become parched, and the earth white, cracked… (middle of the story still under construction, haha)… but the farmers, out of desperation went to Amuyao, the goddess. Amuyao climbed up the hill, stood still and lifted her hands towards the sky. She looked up and sang a kanyao:

Kabunyian, you have been good to us

Let my song reach the soles of your feet
And touch the garments of your robes
Whisper to the rain, 
and to the northern wind, “Be still”
Fill our parched land, like milk flowing
And bring us life, 
Remember the promise of our navels

(Photo: Amuyao calling out to the winds, making a kanyao or prayer-chants to come and bring the rain. In faith, she wore a Kalinga raincoat made of dried leaves/grass. She wears a tapis– woven garment of the olden times in red-white-black colors.)

Didi Chinky

The spicy scent of curry and fennel wafted towards me as I climbed up to the fifth floor. Every lunch time, all staff gather at the pantry, where I find her, busily serving each one with her usual recipe– dahl bhat (lentils-rice), and chutney. I never got to ask her name (or maybe I had), but all I remember is that in my mind I call her didi chinky (older sister chinky), for her eyes were so tiny especially when she smiles. But there was a time when her smile faded, and her chinky eyes disappeared in tears. 
It was 12th of May, just a little over two weeks since the great earthquake shook the central and western parts of Nepal. Many people were struck dead, and brick houses turned into piles of rubble leaving thousands homeless, including didi. At around 11:30 in the morning, the earthquake alarm rang violently, everyone rushing to go out from the building. As I walked out from the main door, I saw crows fleeing to the south, also making loud noise. Everyone was outside, quiet, looking at the buildings around us, observing the tanks from the rooftops sway. We were definitely afraid. The shaking stopped after some 30 seconds. When it did, most of the Nepali staff, including didi tried to contact their family. I asked her if she was able to call them, but she just frowned. Her hands were shaking as she grabbed on to another co-worker and started crying.
“That was strong. It was very close to the first one. Maybe that is around 7-magnitude.” 
“They say it is a different earthquake.”
“Maybe, the epicenter is up north, because the crows were fleeing to the south.”
“It was very very close to the first one. And it was long.”
After some time, we learned that indeed it was a different earthquake, and the epicenter was located somewhere between Kathmandu Valley and Mt.Everest. People feared that many buildings damaged by the first one, were completely thrown down by this second huge tremor. I wish I could tell you more about what happened around (and inside me) that day, but I just can’t put them into words. But, ever since that happened, I could not erase didi’s crying face on my mind. I tried to draw it, so I could just forget a portion of the memory, and in this way, share her story too. Didi, and many other people are still in desperate condition now. Even though their tears have dried, sadness lingers in every corner of Nepal.

SiningKalye + MusiKalsada

What do you think of when you hear the name ‘Tondo’? Cramped. Dirty. Many people. Trash. Noisy. Just like what the movies say. But what they never said is that it is filled with so many (young + young at heart) creative people, full of potentials!  Even though I grew up here in Manila, I never really had the chance to come visit Tondo. Until yesterday! I was privileged to be a child(!) again with the many children of Tondo at the SiningKalye, MusiKalsada (rought trans: Street Art + Road Music) with some artists and friends from the Peace Church. The event was filled with visual art, storytelling, dance, singing, magic and lots of music! It was a celebration of art, childhood, life, community, and the love of the Master Artist, Jesus Christ. Sharing with you some scenes and stories:

“Ate, piktyuran mo ako, tatayo ako sa stage (Ate please take a photo of me, I will stand on the stage)”. I was wondering why she wanted a photo so badly. It was fifth photo on my camera, and I wanted to save some space for others. “Ay beh, malapit na maubos yung battery, tsaka madilim.”, to which she replied, “Ate, di ba may flash yan?” Aha, never lie with Tondo kids, they just perfectly know how to insist. And is she not cute? Maybe she wants to be a model? I hope she does when she grows up. May all her dreams come true.
I have this habit of zoning out when so many things are happening around me, and I try to focus on one thing, or person. And so I saw this kid with a tattoo. I used to wear those when I was young, though, that time, I wanted to impress the child, pretend that I was really amazed and interested why a tiger on the face. “Wow! Ang ganda naman ng tattoo mo sa mukha, sino gumawa niyan?” That was me trying to make a conversation. He looked at me in the eye, as though, he was not willing to say any information. He was not talking, that awkward five seconds, when suddenly he opened his mouth and said: “Meron pa kong isa dito naman sa balikat” and pulled his shirt up. 
I ended up amazed myself. Wow. Just wow. Nice dragon tattoo man. Good choice.

Then, I noticed there was this huddle on one side of the stage, and it turned out, some boys were very serious on making this small kulintang work. Each one telling another how to strike the pieces, to make a beat. But there was this one boy who really took pains to rehearse with the instrument, as though, he were to perform on the evening music fest:

And of course, we need a close up shot for the playbill of the kulintang maestro’s concert tonight. :)

Ooops, someone’s running late, and he needs to join all the fun! Hahabol pa! :)

Shirt printing using silkscreen was a blockbuster.
And the amazing woman artist who danced to the rhythm of the drums, and the fire! 

Many more photos here:
All photo taken by Bibs | Canon EOS 60d EF-S 18-135mm IS