Lawasia / Art to heal
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2019 - 12:00am

A most interesting conference is being held at the University of the Philippines Bonifacio Global City beginning today up to the 17th.  Eminent lawyers from the Asia-Pacific region will be discussing a range of topics comprising cross border investments, collaborative investment structures, cryptocurrencies, anti-trusts and competition law, data protection, climate change impact, and the human rights response of business.

The conference is sponsored by Lawasia, Lawasia Philippines Inc., and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. 

Lawasia is an international organization of lawyers, judges, justices, law professors, law societies and bar associations. It was formed on Aug. 10, 1966 by lawyers representing 18 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE). 

Lawasia Philippines was organized in 1996 to promote more cohesive participation in local and regional law activities. It has sponsored several conferences, which discussed such topics as money laundering, enforcement of intellectual property rights, and most interesting to lay persons, posthumous sperm donations. A subsequent column could dwell on the last topic.

In his message to the current conference participants, Christopher Leong, president of Lawasia, expresses appreciation for the choice of Manila as venue, reflecting, as it does, “the rapid and expansive economic social and technological growth and development in Asia,” and the timeliness of the conference theme, “Abreast with Asian Business Law Developments.”

Ed Tarriela, president of Lawasia Philippines, says the introduction of new technologies has transformed a lot of business practices. 

The new mode of doing business called “The Internet of Doing Things,” a practice widely practiced by lawyer groups like Ninetech, Block Chain and others, have revolutionized and changed many business practices. “Some businesses and industries have already introduced  paperless transaction, robotic driven cars and several others. While these new trends have been a boon to some,  particularly for more efficient and speedy business transactions, they have also caused some disruptions to others, endangering privacy and data breaches which have affected both private and public dealings.”

The conference speakers, composed of legal luminaries and the best legal minds  will discuss these problems and introduce positive solutions. 

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It’s been a long multi-colored journey for Sony Robles-Florendo – from graduating with a nutrition-dietetic degree from the University of the Philippines in the 50s, to becoming a painter in Baltimore, Maryland today with a mission – to share with others her belief in painting as an art for healing.

Five years ago Sony, then 77, took the paint brush for the very first time as a diversion. She was recuperating from several ailments and was bored from doing nothing. One day Josie Lim Cruz, a former classmate at the UP who had shifted to the fine arts and painting in Baltimore, told her she had the makings of a painter. Sony was incredulous; she loved to look at paintings, not make them. “Don’t be afraid,” Josie told her. “Art is perfect, you can’t do wrong.” A little hesitant, Sony took up the challenge, and in a few hours produced a painting  that thrilled her mentor – and herself. 

That first try gave birth to more works. Sony discovered she loved to paint, that painting made her happy beyond her expectation. In five years, she painted 300 pieces – except for her first tries, which were representationals like the gate of the Robles house in Monte de Piedad, Cubao, and some Philippine rural landscapes, all she does now are abstracts  in vibrant colors that take one’s breath away. She recalls that Josie did not teach her techniques and matching of colors; she let Sony do what she wanted to do. Sony says what Josie taught her was inspiration. “She inspired me to paint and love doing it.”

And painting made her anxieties disappear; painting healed her. She now wants to inspire others to paint and brush their problems away.

Twenty-three of her paintings are on exhibit starting March 16 until April 16 at the Kulay Diwa, a selective art gallery in Sucat, Paranaque. The solo exhibit is her first in the country. She had previously been part of painting shows abroad, like the Groundstroke on White Canvas featuring works of Filipino artists living in Washington, DC and Maryland organized by Julian Oteyza; the National Arts Program, Asian Art Center at Towson University, and the Women’s Heritage Center in Baltimore, where Sony spoke on “The Art of Healing.“

Three years ago she was one of two featured artists at the Philippine embassy in Washington, DC during the celebration of “Healing and the Arts in the Philippines and Abroad.” Sony was the storyteller about the power of art and healing for Story Corp, which records and documents stories and experiences of people. The collection is archived in the US Library of Congress.  

The art gallery owner, Robert San Agustin Nolasco, said to be a very selective, creme de la crème of art collectors, tells why he chose to exhibit Sony Robles-Florendo’s artworks.

Choosing it, he says, was “not really a very difficult process. Kulay Diwa has always promoted works of new and up-coming artists who have never exhibited before. Though Sony has exhibited her work many times in Washington, DC and Maryland, USA, her exhibit at Kulay Diwa is her first in the Philippines.

“ From 1987 to the present, this has been one of the thrusts of the gallery. I saw in Sony the raw talent of a budding artist that I have been looking for all these years. Her brush strokes and style are very naif but you can discern immediately the message that she would like to convey to her audience. Looking at her paintings you can see the common everyday life scenes depicted in vibrant colors. It makes you wonder that Sony looks at the world in a different light. One will set aside the humdrum inequities of see it in a more positive light.

“Having started her career as a painter late in life, Sony, now 82 years old, may be called the ‘Grandma Moses’ of the Philippines and I am proud to be the one to do her first exhibit in the Philippines.”

One can feel  happiness  in Sony’s work. Viewers are attracted to the vibrant colors that seemingly glow, that inspire,  even at eventide. And  Sony confirms  that painting makes her happy. “I sing, my heart sings when I paint. It’s my new life, this finding happiness, and finding it as art for healing.’’

She speaks about this art to  children and adults, in schools, hospitals. Occasionally, people come to her to be inspired  to paint, thus taking  their minds off problems. At intimate parties, she brings an empty canvas and brushes and acrylic paint and guests dab in and splash a myriad of colors on the canvas, and everyone is happy. And more so Sony, the healer through her arts. 

Indeed what is happening may be called the apex to Sony’s journey to fulfilment. She has worn many  hats – as restaurateur owning and running the first  Filipino-American  restaurant  in  Baltimore,  a  pioneer  in  institutionalizing  Filipino  food,  author  of  the  book  “Signature  Dishes  of  the  Philippines,”  and  a  public  health  nutritionist  in  Baltimore.

Art  as  healer.  This  is  Sony’s  song.

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