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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

ruminate and envisage

as i mull over and ruminate on the year that just recently zoomed past, and envisage and visualize the year that has just come, i have these pleas and entreaties:
may i walk willingly into the great mystery that is the force.
may i learn to accept that there is not always a why, a how or a lesson. but that there is always you.
and there is always love!
life is good!  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ordinarily extraordinary

am an ordinary person,
so i am not a politician, i am not running for an office or married to a mayor.  i am an artist, a farmer, a teacher and a dreamer.  i have insecurities, dirty grout and a stinky adorable dog.  and i am changing the world!

but i think differently
maybe i have to be crazy.  how else can one stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?  or sit in silence and hear a song that has never been written?  while some see me as crazy, i see me as genius!  bwahahaha!  and the one who is crazy enough to think she can change the world, is the one who does!

in a small town, in a big world!
i am not fool enough to think that what i do in my small town will matter to everyone.  it will not matter to most.  it will not make sense to others.  it might even be dumb, ordinary, or flat to a few.  
but for some? for some it will change the world.  those are the some i am looking for. those are the some i want to look in the eye and say, "you, too? oh, good!  let us do this together."
and life is good!


Monday, December 22, 2014

when the pain becomes an ache

somehow, there is this trust that i have in the truth that everything happens not by chance but by design.
the people in my life, those in the past and in the present, hhhmmm, maybe even the ones i will meet in the morrow;
the places i have been to, where i am now planted, maybe even a place i would consider living in, in the later years of my life;
the events and circumstances.
all these i believe are part of a grand design for this life i live, albeit my belief that i also have free will, too. bwahahaha!
however, lately, in the midst of all that has been going on, i catch a glimpse of myself drowning and lost. and the pain becomes an ache. . .
so for the coming days that are but gifts, may i remember to breathe!
may i be patient as i consider the colourful mess of joy and grief.
may i have the understanding that my soul may need a little space to sit quietly in the shadows, before she can be ready to embrace the light.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

when grey and blue are mornings

it is such a cold and grey sunday, makes me dip deep.  when i do, somehow, i feel blue.
sometimes, i feel like all my glasses tend to be half-empty, i.e., when i tend to be more eeyore than pooh.
sometimes, i tend to be the last to spot the silver lining, when the clouds descend upon me, and not of my own choosing.
sometimes, i just seem unable to escape, however hard i try to reframe.
maybe, it comes from running a little too hard for a little too long.  or from small discouragements that add up to one big gloom.
and on a morning like this, i wake up and grope and hope for the usual hopefulness that dances around me, but just isn't there this morn.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

new eyes, new love

it was a tumultuous weekend, when i say that, i mean not only the howling winds blowing off the leaves from my trees, nor just the torrents that seemed so incessant.  
it was a tumultuous weekend, when i say that, i also mean the emotional roller coaster ride of my story, my life.
i never liked the roller coaster, in fact, i never had a ride in one. well, sometimes, i get the feel of the real thing when people and emotions are jolted and shaken.  that feeling of slowly rising up above the clouds and then suddenly dealing with a downward spiral.
for that which transpired last weekend, i took time off and communed and confessed and came out of it, hopefully whole. maybe some cracks here and there, some brokenness. but these cracks, they just let out the light from within.
for the next days coming, may i find ways to say old truths, 
new eyes to see old loves
and new courage to release what i no longer need.
may my soul learn peace in the midst of chaos,
gladness when i feel small and quiet in the presence of what once was love.
may i know new love soon, as soon as the next sun rises.  
bwahahaha!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

soul space

after the july typhoon, i closed the farm to mean that i will not be entertaining guests unless and until my farm has fully recovered and is fully repaired, as according to my definition of the two words:  recover and repair.
but i had this challenge to break my word or not, when i got a call from mylene of dti when she told me a group of businessmen and agency representatives from tarlac are coming to visit my farm and my enterprise.  to delay giving an answer, i told mylene i will have to check my calendar and see if i am free on the set date, 10 october.  i knew that date to be just a day or two from a national trade fair i would be joining, so i was thinking, i may not have the energy to be the gracious host that i am (bwahahaha!), giving me a perfect excuse to reject.  but i did not.  i had this urging thought that i might as well brave it and show what the typhoon has done to my farm and what this spirit has done with the aftermath. bwahahaha!  so i said yes!



it was a great experience, both for me and my guests (my guests said so!  bwahahaha!)  after the farm tour, we went to my gallery, Cafe des Artes and my artisanal shop, The F.A.R.M. Shoppe.

for this weekend, i know these for sure:  all my questions, my insecurities, my doubts and my disabilities are all hidden in your love.  i dread not the small beginnings, the little impacts the slow results.  rather, i stretch myself out into the fullest shape of myself, your image.  
life is good!  and i am grateful everyday!  

Monday, August 4, 2014

languid and lethargic

it was a languid, rather lethargic weekend as i wanted it to be, brings to mind this thought:  i can make things happen, if i want it hard enough. bwahahaha!
for the weekend that just passed, i wanted some time to think things over, things and people in my life, and guess what, i did just that, amidst the silk squares that got wet during the recent typhoon, and now am ironing for a lovely project in mind, and in between my weekend conversation with my nephew kim who just celebrated his 20th, and came to thank me for my simple gift for him and neil, 19.  it was, indeed, a lazy weekend, just what i had in mind to begin with, but definitely one that made me come out of it more whole and more resolved in some things and some persons.
and these i know for sure:

old truths find ways to be discovered, to be known.  and we had time to talk about it, kim and i. we talked about mama a  lot, maybe it was because the recent devastation brought to mind how i would just be carefree, even during a typhoon, when mama was still with us.  i could not care less about repairs and replacements. now, i guess, is my turn and i realize now more than ever, how difficult it must have been for her.
i have new eyes to see old loves. sometimes, i fall prey to the lure of newbies.  a lot of us do.  but this weekend, i know my old loves are here to stay for the long haul, and it is such a relief!  bwahahaha!
and my soul, aaaahhh, my soul, it grasped and recognized some peace amidst the chaos, gladness and delight when i feel small (figurative. bwahahaha!) and quiet and calm in the presence of my loves.

thank you!