Sunday, May 17, 2015

bidibidi's la huerta

bidibidi's la huerta
business mirror, life/lifestyle section
12 may 2015
bidibidi's "fragility has its own intensity"
bidibidi's "leafless, listless"
in photo: bidibidi's fragility has its own intesity and her forests, 
which are arresting in their solace and shadow.

bidibidi has a garden, which she calls La Huerta.  bidibidi has paintings and they are all about the blooms and colors in her garden.

La Huerta, the spanish term for "vegetable garden," is more than that.  it is a pocket forest along the highway going to a place called Baao in Camarines Sur, Bicol.  the place is an artist's haven, a refuge if you want to dramatize how artists - visual artists in particular - in this country do not have a room or a studio of their own.

every now and then, bidibidi would hold intimate parties to welcome guests from nearby cities or towns.  sometimes, i get this sense that the celebration is for no reason at all. the celebration is the reason for the celebration.  in these gatherings, blooms are on the tables.  it is not rare that the lowly quotidian fruit, the macopa, is presented. the sense of color then becomes remarkable as the guests appraise the tenderest of pastel on the skin of the fruit.
bidibidi's "the forest is a woman"
bidibidi's " paths cross"
that tenderness, such fragility, the ephemera of leaves and flowers are in this collection of paintings of bidibidi.

one such work bears the title "fragility has its own intensity."  in her garden, flowers are of consequence; they are not the helpless decor that we think always of them to be. even as the artist shades the lilac and the ochre and the red, the petals are stubborn shapes suffusing the frame.  behind them is a backdrop of faint yellow and light green, but they do not matter for the flowers have conquered the space.

in "dawn awaits." we encounter the profusion of blooms again, but they seem to give way to a brightening of the horizon.  still strong, the flowers stand to the side.
bidibidi's "dawan awaits"
a piece called "too much one, too much each other," bidibidi manipulates the practice of a diptych without resorting to two panels.  a yellow green backdrop on the left, one notices, is slightly narrower than the blue backdrop on the right.  the flowers are separated also with six forming a bouquet on the blue side and two on the left.  the humor is not lost on the tradition of giving flowers, where less is more but where more is really also more given a different occasion.
bidibidi's " too much one, too much each other"
however, i particularly covet the trees of the artist.  where bidibidi's flowers are strong and vitally organic in shapes, her trees are arresting in their solace and shadow. textured and zoetic even without the foliage, the trees of bidibidi are the full narrative of our ecology.

in bidibidi's woodland, the trees form a cluster of a small forest but each trunk stands singular because of their form and their color.  in a grouping of mauve trees surrounded by blue and dark green trunks and twigs, a yellow gnarled trunk twists and rises from the ground that carries the same pale yellow color.  then you realize:  it is the sun filtering and singling out a tree.

in another pairing of trees, six stumps - the middle gloomy red and deep green, the leftmost growth in pallid eggyoke and the rightmost towering in near black shade - are seen amid a cloud of what looks like foliage or a mass of soil.  the impact of the arrangement is one of caution and concern. but the artist is not saying anything;  she is making us feel something in the forest.

in another forest, bidibidi's images for us thin trees.  are they dying or growing?  a blue backdrop is the only heavenly item within this frame where growth and decay seemingly form two sides in the life-coin.
bidibidi's "when the river runs dry"
the works of bidibidi, without diminishing her own authenticity, reminds me of another bicolana artist, the Italy-based Lina Llaguno-Ciani.  where Ciani's works are marked by distinct minimalism (her works have been described as "surrealism without angst"), bidibidi's trees and flowers subjugate a palette of colors.  bidibidi is a neo-Fauvist, in love with all kinds of colors and shades.

i have always wanted to write about this artist mainly because i admire her concern for new artists.  i have seen her La Huerta, the empirical garden in her farm.

her service to art, however, is in her ability to color the growth in forests that are either vanishing or becoming, and to pay tribute to the vain and valiant flora in her mind.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

the flowers in my forest

i spent the entire month of april in the dirt, when i say that, i do not mean literally.  i mean, i was along the flower beds and the garden in my forest.  i was working on the series i wanted to include in the solo exhibit scheduled to open on my birthday: "living in colour".
every after my dips and splashes with the brush, i doubt i have ever washed my hands more, and the tiny cracks in my fingers seem permanently darkened, or at least for a day or two, until i start with the next canvass and the stain on my skin gets another hue.  i cannot wash it all away, and i do not want to. these stains remind me of who i am.

the gloaming twilight of life
i am a farmer, and an artist.  not necessarily in that order.  i am married to this land. and with vows one take to the altar, too: for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to eternity and beyond. . .ooops! bwahahaha!
and this commitment with the land i am in, every seed or root is in a give-and-take relationship with me. i plant and water and feed good compost, and the plant grows and gives me fruit or something beautiful to lay my eyes on.  
the soft seduction of lost hopes

this kind of life feels like the original intention for my life.  i was made for this! this is part of the poem the force must have written about me, and now it is coming to pass:  i was always to be a flower lady and a woman with dirt in her skin.  literally and figuratively. bwahahaha!
my truth of being in the tropics has nothing to do with what or how i grow my flowers. i bask in the freedom of my imagination!  afterall, there is no way to control one's mind and heart, is there?  bwahahaha!
such valiant wit

so i grow my poppies to take colours that fill my desires.  i can make them blush to the hottest pink or the deepest red when i want to, or bend and sway them to impossibility.  i can grow them with my trees, where there is not a ray of sun among them, or maybe let them climb with vines to heights no one has ever reached!  i can form tight buds waiting in suspense to unveil.  not once did i doubt that they will bloom into myriad of colours, shapes and sizes. they take form in however i want them to be.  what a sight!  the edges of the fiercest yellow widened until fists of petals opened like offerings for the taking.  take me!  i hear myself saying that out loud.
nothing makes my life more beautiful than it already is.  who else can will a room to overflow with blooms? these flowers in my forest, i can smell their mysterious scents when i wake up and they lead me right where they are planted.  from my studio, i can smell their invigorating scents, fresh, welcoming, inviting, tempting. take me!
the heroic jig

looking at them lined up on the walls of my gallery, i find myself thinking:  these flowers, their beauty is beyond what is real. i hold one against the light, i realize defiantly, they will not wilt, never. they look so right with the trees in my forest, oblivious of storms brewing up somewhere.
i walk back through the gaps between my trees, look for my real flowers and the thought takes my breath away: the blooms come from abiding, from letting the root do what it does.
i love this life that gasps at the frangipanis by the paths beside my forest and the marigolds and cosmos popping their heads out of greens of lined herbs and spices.  let it be that i see beauty in my own life like this. it is mine, but it does not belong to me.  the flowers fade, but the blooms in my heart's forest - these are the things that last forever.
the flowers in my forest 4/n
and life is good!

Monday, March 16, 2015

the wisdom of staying silent

been holding up too long. been keeping tight-lipped about how i feel.  even when i feel like bursting.  i have been telling myself too long, it is not worth it, to be shedding these tears.

and there are moments that i would believe all the pain is just part of it. well, if love is so wonderful, why does it give so much pain?
for the past weekend, i begged for courage, that i may embrace truth and speak up, hold firm and move forward without forsaking the wisdom of staying silent, letting go and walking away.
i walk away.

Monday, February 9, 2015

the empress of cool

the empress of cool
agora magazine "saud issue"
vol. 1, issue 2, january 2015
words: jay salvosa
art direction: paolo sumayao
photography: santy calalay
hair & make-up: marck pabilona
Briefly go through her body of works, her big feats of little wonders and call her Bidibidi (a play on her name's initials) and for once forget she was once a Bernadette.  As a child, her fingers found mutual affinity with the paintbrush and sewing materials - her idea of beauty in the realms of cotton and canvas is one truth she held on to.  Art contests after art contests her recognition came.  She was on the road t fame.
And so it seemed.
Her passion, however, was put on a momentary halt right after high school.  Though it felt right that she take up fine arts in college, her mother - who settled that art does not put food on the table - made the young, carefree, albeit heartbroken artist to enroll in a course distant from her interests.  She went to take up Business Management at the Ateneo de Manila University, and earned her degree in 1984.

She then joined prestigious organizations such as Pfizer, Zuellig and PAGCOR, providing her the opportunity to travel and see the world.  One might assume that at this point there is just no way she would ever go back to her one true love - it has paid for a lifestyle she was very happy about.  The universe, however, has its way of putting people back into the arms of their first loves.
In the late nineties, she decided to take up Elementary Education as a second course.  One summer afternoon, in an art class, she found herself reunited once again with the paintbrush, which somehow reigniting her primordial skills and interests, her rigor and passion towards the Arts.
Her big break happened across trans-pacific seas in 2002, when she viewed an exhibit in Monterey. Perhaps it was due to her deep fascination, or her immaculate style sensibilities or an aura of childlike curiosity which exuded, that made the Seaside City Mayor take note of her while she was examining the paintings.  It was a fateful tete-a-tete - he asked her if she's open to the idea of mounting her first exhibit.  After exchanging interesting points, the conversation led to her meeting with the commissioner, she was able to set an appointment with a panel and underwent an interview that would make all other panel interviews a simple conversation over tea. The rest, as they say it, is history.  In 2003, she showcased her watercolour paintings and for the first time in many years and in a country foreign to her, she held up herself as an artist.  She sold pieces after the exhibit and went home a changed person.
Picking-up the Pieces: La Huerta de Rosario

What steered bidibidi further to her calling, however, came in the form of a sad passing - her mother passed away in 2004.  Armed with nothing but a certain business acumen, paint-stained brushes and a few canvases, she inherited the responsibility of taking over their immense land.  Why, she could have hired tenants to take care of the land, but bidibidi took a different, more challenging path.  With her inner creative gears turning, she saw the farm as a canvas, as a medium, her definitive ouevre, hectares of land with great potential.  She had an epiphany one morning and it was as if angels announced it in hymns;  she is to become an artisan.
Aside from having affinity with art, Bidibidi also had a latent green thumb (perhaps something which she had inherited from her late father who was a coconut farmer), that she planted the first trees herself at the farm.  She began from scratch and backed her actions with research, perhaps free seminars through the Department of Agriculture.  Her resources being limited at that time, the free seminars opened her eyes to the proper, more environment-friendly processes of cultivating the land.  She was on the road to build an agricultural empire where business worked for nature's bounty (and not the other way around) but she went further: there's just so much to share to her community and hence the farm became an open enterprise of sorts.  La Huerta de Rosario (Spanish for Rosario's Garden) was born out of this need.  La Huerta goes beyond one's usual farming experience.  The four-hectare lot also serves as a creative space, a conduit of untapped possibilities.  People go to La Huerta not just to learn the right ways of planting crops, but also to share their passion and expertise on several fields via seminars and workshops.  Visitors can also order food using ingredients fresh out of the farm.
Managing the farm is never easy though, especially when it sits on a region frequented by typhoons.  In 2006, La Huerta de Rosario experienced its first massive damage due to typhoon, and they were only able to fully recover a year later.  Recently in 2014, it took another hit from typhoon glenda, but due to previous experience, they were ready and recovered quickly.

Farm & F.A.R.M.

Bidibidi's seemingly endless energy is not only spent on La Huerta's logistic requirements though.  During her free time, she gives attention to her other love - fashion - specifically on earthy, kitschy accessories.  Ever wondered how it began?  She has initially honed her craft in patchwork - a centuries-old sewing technique where one sews together different types and prints of fabrics to create a tapestry with vivid patterns.  She collects fabrics from old clothes (usually from various sources such as the ukay-ukay).  Whenever she deconstructs them she would keep the buttons, zippers, etc.  Her little collection of buttons grew.  When she showed her collection to a visiting friend from Canada, and with the same level of fascination for crafts she had, her friend taught Bidibidi how to make accessories out of these buttons.
This nifty new skill sparked an enterprise. With a market ready for eco-friendly pieces, Bidibidi found herself selling her bracelets made of buttons, and through social media (yes, even word-of-mouth), sales have been consistently solid.  Her business venture has progressed into F.A.R.M. (Fabulously & Absolutely Rural-Made) enterprise, tapping both social and environmental sensibilities.  from patchworks and buttons, her products have expanded to bags, rings, ornaments, sandals, and even apparel.  Recently, she had the idea of incorporating hand-woven fabrics from Buhi into her works and even showcased her pieces in a fashion show last year.
Through this creative endeavour, she is able to weave new purpose from old fabrics, deconstructing forgotten beauty and reconstructing them into new opuses.  Her beliefs on life and nature are well reflected on the intense vibrancy of her products.  When one visits The F.A.R.M. Shoppe in her home, or at other various local and regional trade fairs, one can sense that immense vibrancy manifested by the strong colours of her trinkets and shop design.  Her media mileage goes from social media, a blog she keeps religiously, and television features thus building a solid following, with the figures growing by the minute.
Cafe des Artes.  Art as Giving Back

Putting both her passion and vocation in full circle is her return to the canvass.  A few years ago, aside from La Huerta, Bidibidi has also provided another creative space:  Cafe des Artes.
On a number of instances one would find Bidibidi silently working on a canvas in her spare time.  On other instances, one would be in awe of her well-curated collection of works gained from her travels.  Initially she envisioned her home as a space to put up her works, a personal gallery of sorts.  In 2010, she commissioned five local artists to design her wood posts.  The five artists arrived in the same level of awe as a fan in front of a bencab piece, even an amorsolo.  It was a moment that someone raised the subject of the art space, or the lack thereof.  It was the perfect proposition - she invited the artists to collect and catalog their best works for an exhibit at Bidibidi's home.  In august of the same year, Cafe des Artes had its first exhibit.
The exhibit was successful and its news was about to go downtown and into the busy streets of Baao.  Other artists tried to reach her, requesting a reprise, to have their works showcased.  The request was granted and their exhibit was opened in December of the same year.  This has also become a contributing factor to the birth of a local group, the Burikbutikan, which Bidibidi is also a member.
A few kilometers from La Huerta, the gallery's structure provides this charming vibe of wood and stone, an old house of memories embracing both old and new.  A door in the Cafe also leads to a colourful space containing F.A.R.M. products for sale and other paintings which are not included in the exhibit.  Until now, the rotation of showcased artworks at the Cafe des Artes has been constant and consistent, and more artists have benefitted much thanks to the gallery.
The key to Bidibidi's unrivaled success is her unwavering energy empowered by her passion for the Arts - something people her age can definitely learn from her.  Her hands-on approach to the business, however, is the champion of organizational leaders and it seems that her supreme stint at business school proved her mother right this whole time.  Whenever she is on her hometown, she is always at the farm, meticulously surveying the property and carefully nurturing the plants.  For her, presence is very important, as she herself would be there to personally welcome the guests and share the stories about the farm and her art.  Bidibidi serves as the life core, the ambassadress, the connoiseur, the ringleader, the nurturer - the mother who takes care of her children, her creations.
What makes Bidibidi's ventures so valuable is that it involves everything she is passionate about:  art, spirituality and respect to the environment, and the love of her hometown Baao.  She likes to get people involved, to participate in her art and advocacy.  Her F.A.R.M. has already helped several people, providing livelihood and scholarship to the many men and women in Baao, showing them how valuable they are in life's grand design.  She is the one and only Grandmother Willow - the barks on her will remind you of her as a tree that never stopped growing.