Marina Cruz • Art & Soul

Kristel Dacumos-Lagorza - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - For award-winning visual artist and child adoption advocate Marina Cruz, the unearthing of her mother’s baptismal dress made her reflect on the meaning of having a family. Her reflections gave birth to her own deeply personal art.

It all started in 2001 while Marina, then a second year college student, was rummaging through her mother’s belongings and chanced upon her mother’s baptismal dress. “Imagining my mother as a child seemed so surreal. The dress made me ‘experience’ the childhood she once had. It gave me goose bumps,” shares the cum laude graduate from the University of the Philippines-College of Fine Arts.

It was a poignant moment for her because at the time of the discovery, her mother, Elisa, a primary public school teacher in Bulacan, was often sick. “The tattered dress simulated also my mother’s aging. I felt that I needed to preserve that memory. I realized the value of time, the value of life. You really have to savor every moment with your loved ones because you can never go back.” Since 2001, her art — from the embroidered mementos and mixed-media paintings to her famous “fossilized” baby doll dresses — has followed that same thread of nostalgia and appreciation for family.

In the past decade, Marina has held 14 solo exhibitions in the Philippines, Taiwan, China, Australia and Singapore and has garnered praise from prestigious art groups including the Philippine Art Awards where she won grand prize in 2007. She’s also the recipient of the Ateneo Art Award in 2008, which included a fellowship at La Trobe University’s Visual Art Center, Australia. Later that year, she was awarded with the Freeman Fellowship at Vermont Studio Center, Vermont.

Over time, and through much reflection, the concept and definition of family grew to be an essential part of Marina’s art. As a happily married woman, she hoped that she and her husband, fellow artist Rodel Tapaya, would be able to start their own brood soon. But unfortunately, the couple had difficulty conceiving due to Marina’s polycystic ovary syndrome.

“As artists, our creativity comes natural to us. But when it came to procreation, creating a child, starting a family, it wasn’t as easy,” Marina shares during her TEDx talk at her alma mater, University of the Philippines-Diliman. But like a true artist, she was open to God’s inspiration and creativity.

With her husband’s urging, they decided to adopt. And two months after submitting their requirements to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the couple was matched with an 11-month-old baby boy, whom they named Yohan, meaning “Gift of God.”

With a precocious toddler now in their life, their world was turned upside down, so much so that Marina did not notice that she was pregnant a month later with Keon.

“People expected me to have twins; my mother had a twin. They were right,” she chuckles. “Just not biological.” Today, as an advocate of domestic adoption, Marina travels the country sharing her own story, and her art helps in spreading her message. “This is very fulfilling for me, to be able to share my art and advocacy, because I was able to discover a new, beautiful way to form families. Family is not defined by biology alone, but love.”


Photography by RITA MARIE ABIOG • Creative direction by LUIS ESPIRITU JR. • Styling by DIANE LASAM • Makeup by SARI CAMPOS • Hairstyling by RHOY CERVANTES • Jewelry by MILADAY JEWELS • Shot on location at  SOLAIRE RESORT & CASINO’s YAKUMI










  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with