Gaby M. Tantuico
Chocnut, Zesto & a tipaklong in NY art show
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2019 - 12:00am

A Filipino “comes home” by clinching a spot at a prestigious art show in New York City this February with her illustrations of Chocnut, Zesto, a tipaklong, among others.

Gaby M. Tantuico will be one of 40 select artists exhibiting in a Conception Arts show on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the M1-5 Lounge in New York City.

For this exhibit, Tantuico, 24, will include excerpts from her first solo show titled A Brief History of Home, which features ink and watercolor illustrations of her memories growing up in the Philippines, as well as new pieces.

Gaby calls her exhibit “a collection of memories, parts of my identity…all of which keep me grounded, and influence my decision-making. What started as an attempt to recreate specific childhood scenes turned into an exercise in gratitude and a trip down memory lane.”

Her work will explore the realities of growing up in the Philippines juxtaposed with her experiences living and working in New York.

Gaby bested hundreds of applicants as she underwent a rigorous screening process before being included in the list of Top 40 featured artists. Conception Arts boasts an innovative style of curation, providing platforms for emerging artists across the US and Europe. Some notable exhibiting artists include photographer Ysabel Cacho and pointillism expert Lisa Fabregas. Other notable artists who have previously been featured include painter Christine Yielding, sculptor Eric Beascochea and video editor DaJuan Bryson.

Born and raised in Manila, and having grown up in various places in Samar and Leyte, Tantuico moved to New York City in 2015 to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) where she graduated cum laude in 2018.

“For some, there is a notion that you leave home because you’ve given up on it; I’ve found the opposite to be true. The longer I’m away, the more I fixate on my abstracted idea of home, and my own definition takes form.”

She currently works as a communication designer at Yeh IDeology, an award-winning talent strategies firm.


Tantuico’s illustration of a tipaklong (grasshopper).

Gaby’s illustrations include some of the bugs and pests — yes! — of her growing up years.

“My heartbeat quickened as I remembered the panic that comes forth from a flying ipis (cockroach) and how my cousins and I would frantically escape from those that turned up in our grandparents’ bedroom,” she describes her illustrations of the bugs.

“Chuckles bubbled up as I looked back on the wide-eyed reverence my second-grade-self had for that classmate who caught the huge tipaklong in the softball field at recess,” is how she describes the grasshopper.

While putting the final touches on the dark curled forms of the alupihan (centipede), Gaby said she wrinkled her nose “as I imagined the distinct crunch and the resulting sharp scent that followed when accidentally stepping on one of the many that lined the streets during tag-ulan (rainy season).”

Tastes of home


Her other illustrations include her rendition of the snacks and drinks that bring a pang of nostalgia to any overseas Pinoy: Chocnut, Zesto, Tanduay Ice, Zagu, barquillos.

“Taking ‘inventory’ of the rainbow of snacks and drinks with which I grew up sparkled rushes of nostalgia,” she recalls. “I thought back to Sunday lunches and remembered how sticky my hands would get from repeatedly stabbing the impossibly tiny straw openings of Zesto tetra packs. I grinned reminiscing on the classic post-exam Zagu bribes my sister and I so looked forward to on those long, stressful weeks in February — and surprised myself upon realizing that I still memorize her order! Large ube with extra pearls — hello, sugar rush!”

Gaby “felt  a wave of secondhand embarrassment upon digging up the hilarious, cringe-worthy high school memories of drinking frozen Tanduay Ice with my barkada at the only shady restaurant that didn’t bother carding us!”

Where the heart is

Alabang (2018), ink and watercolor, 10.5” x 16.3”.

Delving deeper into the recesses of her memories of home, she created collage-like portraits of her loved ones in the setting she associates them with: Alabang, Samar and Leyte and Greenhills.

Instead of focusing on likeness, she tried to capture the familiar patterns in her relatives’ behavior and “memorize the predictable mannerisms, expressions and knee-jerk reactions that so endear them to me.”

“It’s simultaneously amusing and comforting to me how predictable many of these reactions have become, and how I almost always know what to expect from each of them despite the passing of time and change in context — but perhaps this too will change eventually?”

She has an illustration titled Alabang, where she grew up, and the focal point of the drawing is the parish church. Electric posts on the roads leading to the church resemble crucifixes — so you see in a way how her childhood was heavily influenced by her Catholic upbringing.

Greenhills she has always associated with her paternal family because, “We spent most our time up north (of Metro Manila) visiting my Tantuico grandparents,  titos and titas and cousins.”

“Many of my summers growing up were spent taking cross-country road trips in the family van from Manila to Samar and Leyte, particularly Tacloban and Anahawan, to visit the family farms,” she points out. Hence, one illustration is titled, Samar at Leyte (Samar and Leyte).

*  *  *

She calls her body of work “a collection of memories…”

With her illustrations, Gaby is never really far from home, hundreds of miles away she may be.

(For more information, e-mail

(You may e-mail me at me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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