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Sunday Lifestyle

Don't forget the good news

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores -

People write negative things, ‘cause they feel that’s what sells. Good news, to them, doesn’t sell.    — Michael Jackson

The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news... and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.  — Peter McWilliams

Politics and showbiz scandals of our politicos and celebrities should not be the only news dominating our headlines and the social media. Let us not forget to also celebrate the various good news brought to us by ordinary people with extraordinary feats, such as international awards by a young painter and a poet-midwife which brought great honor to the Philippines.

Thanks to ABS-CBN 2 newscaster Julius Babao for inviting this writer to a recent unforgettable intimate dinner with 31-year-old topnotch painter Rodel Tapaya, his wife (and also a painter) Marina Cruz and some of their friends at Romulo Café in Quezon City to celebrate his winning the grand prize in the triennial Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation’s Signature Art Prize, possibly ASEAN’s biggest art prize. A co-organizer of this art prize is the Singapore Art Museum.

Tapaya’s victory over 130 top artists from 24 countries of the Asia Pacific region is one good story that benefits the international reputation of the Philippines. This win has not been highlighted by our local media, drowned out by the high drama of political conflicts.

When I expressed this observation that good news — like his art prize and even the CNN Hero of the Year award of Philippine-born midwife Robin Lim — gets overwhelmed by negative but compelling stories about politics, Tapaya agreed. He said the day Singapore newspapers reported his victory, right next to it was the big international news of ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s controversial failed attempt to fly to Singapore. 

If presidents like Noynoy Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have taken the time to personally congratulate winning boxers and beauty queens, I suggest that they also honor and highlight the international victory by talented painter Rodel Tapaya, which is also a victory for the Philippines.

The judges who chose Rodel Tapaya’s massive 3x6-meter acrylic canvas painting titled “Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang” (“Cane of Kabunian, Numbered But Cannot Be Counted”) as the grand prize were Singapore Art Museum director Tan Boon Hui; Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum director Fumio Nanjo; London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts executive director Gregor Muir; Southeast Asian writer-curator Hendro Wijanto; and curator of the India Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale Ranjit Hoskote. The winner of the online voting for People’s Choice Award went to Michael Lee of Singapore for his work “Second Hand City.”

Rodel Tapaya: He used to buy old newspapers for wrapping smoked fish that his parents sold. “But I’d first read the arts section.”

The huge, colorful and multi-layered painting of Tapaya uses Filipino folklore images of the Ifugao and Bontoc tribes to highlight the modern world’s problems like irresponsible logging, greed and environmental degradation. The dog in the middle is inspired by a Southern Kalinga folk tale of a giant dog that saves people from a deluge. The jury called the painting “a compelling and monumental-scale work” and said it has “far-reaching universal relevance.”

Hard Work, Humble Beginnings, Nonstop Learning

 Tapaya told me that conceptualizing the piece took one year and the actual painting process took three months of nonstop work. Last year, the painting was exhibited at the UP Vargas Museum, then sold to two Israeli collectors where it was eventually nominated for this international competition by Ateneo Art Gallery curator Ramon “Richie” Lerma. 

During dinner, I asked him about his family background and how he first became exposed to art which led him to eventually enroll at the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts. He has an inspiring personal story.

Tapaya said he comes from a humble family in Montalban, Rizal where his parents made and sold tinapa or smoked fish. When he was nine years old in grade school, he was assigned to help by riding the bike to buy old newspapers needed to wrap the smoked fish.

Tapaya recounted: “Whenever I bought old newspapers, before giving them to my mother, I’d first read the arts section and cut out the articles because I love art but we had no art books. That’s where I first saw the works of Anita Magsaysay-Ho and other artists. I cut out the art articles and also the comic strips of the old newspapers, and I kept these clippings.”

His success secrets? Tapaya replied: “Keep on learning and aspire to be always better. I remember what my UP professor Robert Feleo once told me: What you know and all that you have learned, they are all nothing compared to what you shall still discover and learn in the future.”

Asean’s Florence Nightingale To Poor Mothers & Babies

Almost at the same time the impeachment complaint was signed by 188 congressmen against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, halfway around the globe a Philippine-born midwife, poet, author, educator and 54-year-old grandmother named Robin Lim was creating good news by winning the CNN Hero of the Year award.

With celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Kid Rock perfoming music numbers, the star-studded ceremony was held at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. She accepted her award from the host CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

The saga of this idealistic woman reminds me of the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale who helped war victims. Robin Lim and her husband sold their house in Hawaii so she could start Yayasan Ibu Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) Birth Center in Bali, Indonesia. Her foundation’s health clinics has given free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid to thousands of poor Indonesian women. She also promotes traditional healing.

Robin’s idol is her midwife maternal grandmother Vicenta Lim, who served in Baguio City during World War II. Her win might help her realize her dream to open a health clinic for poor women in Baguio.

During her acceptance speech where she advocated “safe and loving birth,” Lim said: “Today, on our earth, 981 mothers in the prime of their life will die… I’m asking you to help change that. Every baby’s first breath could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving, but our world is not there yet.”

Robin Lim told CNN: “No one gets rich being a midwife. The riches that you experience are the deeper values.”

* * *

Thanks for all your letters! E-mail [email protected] or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Twitter.com, also Facebook.

ART

HERO OF THE YEAR

NEWS

ROBIN LIM

RODEL TAPAYA

SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM

TAPAYA

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