the whisper they call inspiration

I want my art to show the world that we are loved;

that though this world is fleeting, doomed to fail on its crowns, there is light that whispers through us.

 

to show you are loved

This whisper does not run out of breath. It is always speaking. (We don’t always listen.) It has a melody. It can flow clearly or indistinct – like a humble breeze, wordless. Gently, sometimes forcefully too, the whisper propels us forward.

Nobody else hears the whisper you hear. We’re not meant to. We can’t.

The whisper calls us by name, every time. We don’t notice because we think the whisper comes from our center, from the honest part that just can’t lie. But the whisper is not of us, not made from us. If it were, it would be made of filth.

It is a voice we know. Or think we know. Or think is ours.

It is not.

But it is a stirring from so deep within us, no two people can experience it in the same way. It is at times a jolting feeling. Not the kind that makes you jump in fright, but the sensation of faint electricity somewhere in the anatomy that biology can’t describe. The specific feel and touch of the whisper is different for each person- a tingling, a straining at the jaw, a tickle in your side, a half crescent of a smile, a coolness on your lower back, or valleys forming between your brows.

That moment that you will look back on as that flame of inspiration, that pivotal moment, that nanosecond of magic; that is the moment when our soul truly hears the whisper. We don’t know it as it occurs, though we might feel the clues. We understand only when the moment has passed,  when we have taken a step back to look at what has been formed, created, grown through us. It is also then that we doubt and simultaneously shrink back in awe. We feel alive in the most vulnerable, fiery, stumbling kind of way; because we allowed the whisper to speak not only to us, but through us and out into the world.

We can only afford to hear a whisper, because if we could hear the full voice in all its power and beauty, we would simply explode. There is no room in our human flesh to hold anything remotely as magnificent or significant.

I want my art to show the world that we are loved. Even if the art might speak of darkness. Even if the art might make you feel emotions you’d rather not feel. Especially when the art lifts you up. Even more if the art challenges who you are.

I want my art to make you understand that you are loved;

that though this world is fleeting, doomed to fail on its crowns, there is light that whispers through us. When we do what we love and when we love, we hear the whisper.

When we let the whisper speak through us, like a prism, we are given the opportunity to disperse light into the world.

 

A note on this piece: Yesterday afternoon, I launched my work, what wakes you, an art installation of paintings and poetry inspired by a stunning sunrise. At the close of the exhausting but beautiful day I was overcome with gratitude to God. I couldn’t do much else as I sat in awe, considering how He would allow us selfish little humans to experience art, creativity and inspiration — and  to walk as witness to His exquisite creation that we continuously choose to destruct. What a Creator! As I began to process it all, and the journey of bringing my art into public space, I began to write the words that turned into this piece. (See more updates on my art here or here.)

february artist happenings: postcards, workshops and an installation

This month I get to share my art.

This is exciting and terrifying, in the best and happiest sense. If you are around Manila, I hope you will consider checking out of a few of the things I am up to this month:

You, in Particular

On Sundays of February, a limited run of new artist postcards will be released at Local Edition, a coffee shop on Perea Street, Makati. My work, You, in Particular, is part of their 3//8 Print Series, featuring three local artists. Each artist uses a series of 8 postcards to create a larger work of art. Mine is a mix of drawing and poetry. We launched the series last week, and here’s a peak at my first two pieces. Postcards are on sale while they last, for P160 each.

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what wakes you

The main project I’m currently working on is an art installation that opens on February 20th! The work is called what wakes you, and is made up of poetry and paintings. I begin installing the work tomorrow, and will slowly develop the work from day to day, until it’s final launch on the following Saturday at 4pm. This will also be at Local Edition.

Drop by while it’s in progress or at the opening reception! And if you miss the opening, the work will be up through March 2016.

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workshops

This month also marks the beginning of my journey teaching art and writing.

charcoalDRAWING: If you’re interested in visual art, I’m teaching a drawing workshop that doesn’t require any drawing experience! It’ll be both dynamic and therapeutic as we play with charcoal and pastels. Email prismgalleryph@gmail.com to sign up! Fee is P1,800 including materials and snacks.
February 17, Wednesday, 6-9pm.
at Prism Gallery, Island Tower, Salcedo Street, Makati.

 

 

WRITING: If you’re interested in writing, I’mplaying with words.jpg teaching a creative writing workshop for writers and non-writers who are feeling a little stuck. We’ll play with rhythm and repetition in your writing. Using the pattern of poetic forms like the villanelle and the pantoum as building blocks, we’ll discover new ways to keep writing fun and fresh. No writing experience necessary! Workshop fee: P850 with materials and a free regular drink of your choice at the cafe.

February 20, Saturday, 10am-12nn. at Local Edition Coffee & Tea on Perea Street. 

 

Here are some links if you’d like to keep up with my artist adventures:

website // facebook page // instagram feed

Parallel Reality

Haven’t all the breaking hearts at one point considered the existence of a parallel universe where things go right? We find consolation in the thought that somewhere else a grief-stricken chapter of our lives ends in rejoicing. There is balance, peace restored by our alter egos, all of whom are conveniently better versions of our selves. Wealthier, better looking, content, unbreakable. 

We seldom admit it in so few words, but we hate to be on the side of reality that loses. Perhaps it is a soothing balm for the sorrowful to imagine some other world where it all breaks even.

We hope, even in the most trivial moments of anguish: it will all break even. 

I pause in that thought, remember what we often try to forget, that our honest world is profoundly broken. And isn’t that more important than a reality that exists only in hypothesis?

We dare to dream of a place where our poor hearts are ever-mended, but today my heart is fixated on a different parallel reality, more real than any science fiction multiverse. In the world there are alternate versions of us that live a life of less.

Sorry to disappoint, I write not on love or heartbreak, but on the daunting divide between rich and poor, wealthy and wanting, luxury and scarcity. This is the parallel reality. IMG_6093

Recently I had the moving experience of walking through one of Manila’s poorest neighborhoods, the community world-famous for the tons of trash that created it, Smokey Mountain. The place is dense with people and activity. Under our feet the ground has been levelled to allow for housing to be built, but you don’t have too look far to see the still mountainous remnants of the significant waste, accumulated over decades. They form the facade that welcomes the locals to their homes.

Every few streets or so sit fresh mounds of garbage waiting to be sorted, moved or stolen. Families sift and pore over the trash as I might nonchalantly sift and pore over a pile of my clothes ready for the wash.

Later, back at my apartment I tie up my supposed biodegradable garbage bag and painfully wonder whose hands will tear this bag open some days later, looking for something good to eat, sell or save. Out of my discarded mess, a family may build a moment of living.

This is not news. It’s the way it’s been, the way it is. And yet today, I criticize it with fresh eyes and my heart breaks continuously for this reality that coexists with mine.

We are not shocked it exists. We are shocked when it is front of us, when none of our comforts can conveniently tuck it away.

Consider that parallel reality.

The Trees We Lost to Glenda

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A crazy storm hit the Philippines last Wednesday morning. Unlike recent storms, rain was not the leading lady, and flooding not the looming horror. In its place, the strong winds that took the title role, shaking fear into the metro.

Everyone in Metro Manila felt the storm, some more than others. It woke most of us from our sleep with whistling and howling. The power was out. Everything swayed and shook in the wind. From the window, I watched our trees in our yard dance and swing, still graceful in the violence of the wind.

It seems everyone has lost a tree they know, or part of one at least. Either a tree in their front yard, one they know in their neighborhood, one on their path to work, or one from the house they grew up in. Some trees lost branches, or suffered irreparable fractures and splits at their trunk, or experienced complete uprooting from the ground. In addition to the lost trees – people have lost their roofs, ceilings, walls, windows, paint, gates, and fences. The busy cities also felt the disruption of black outs – for days straight, or in rotating breaks as managed by the local power provider. There are areas where power has not yet been restored.

Still, this storm had winds only half as strong as the super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda experienced by the Visayan regions in November last year.

Over the past months, I’ve spent much time reflecting of falling and fallen trees. I remember riding around the different Yolanda-affected Visayan regions of Cebu, Roxas and Leyte; surveying the change in the lanscape, peppered with fallen trees. There is sadness and wonder.

Now, my own surroundings in the city and home have altered. Everything storm-blown as well.

 

Speak soon,

T

 

The photo above is a fallen tree at the center of a town in Laguna. Below is three-quarters of the beloved mango tree in our front yard. 

 

tree glenda

 

 

In every card, a story of hope: The Paper Project Inc.

We run a social business called The Paper Project Inc

We employ women survivors of abuse, victims of oppression or women escaping flesh trades like prostitution or trafficking. These women are our precious card makers. We make handmade greeting cards.

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Our cards have more soul and story than that musical e-card you sent out for the holidays. They are likely more special than the last card you saw your neighborhood bookstore. Our cards make it to thousands of stores across the United States through our partners at Good Paper. Recently our work has also made it to Australia and Germany too. But that isn’t the special part.

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People have often commented that my job must be sad or depressing – because of the history of abuse or oppression in my worker’s lives. If you think my job is gloomy too, you are focusing on the wrong side of the story. In fact, my job is the exact opposite of sad and depressing. 

At The Paper Project Inc., we focus on the hope of a life renewed. And we start with a simple craft. This craft provides a stable livelihood and a community in which to grow. 

A full life can still be led by those who have been broken.

I love to share the story of our card maker Esther*:

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Esther used to wander the streets of Metro Manila. She had been abused in the past, had no contact with her parents, and for a long time didn’t even have a copy of her birth certificate. With scarce opportunities for livelihood, having barely started high school, Esther now turned to vices for survival. One of our partner organizations referred Esther to us after seeing her waste her days away, hanging out at street known for gamblers, pick-pockets, pimps and prostitute pick-ups.

We welcomed Esther into our workshop where she learned how to cut and assemble cards out of handmade abaca paper. The training process is actually not as easy as it sounds. The individual parts of the card design can be very small or intricate. A card maker must learn the precise art of cutting all sorts of shapes that were sometimes easily the size of your tiniest toenail. Edges have to be smooth. Assembly has to be accurate. We pride ourselves in high quality craftsmanship. You’ll see it across all the products we create.

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You never know how each new trainee will take to the work. Not long after her start with us, Esther was overheard on the street by her social worker, speaking confidently and excitedly about her new job. She boasted to friends, but in the most earnest way possible, about her work in a nearby city’s business district. She was hopeful and full of excitement.

She was talking to her friends on the same street where other women continue to trade their bodies for their next meal.

In her new community at The Paper Project, Esther bloomed. In less than eight weeks, she was given the privilege to train other women in cardmaking. She was even earned the responsibility to manage the quality control of our completed cards. Today she continues to thrive in our card making workshop.

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Just having a basic uniform transformed the way Esther carried herself. Having a place she needed to be at, where attendance was taken and where she had assignments to complete – this transformed her sense of daily purpose. A pay check at the end of two weeks and women to fellowship with – these transformed her lifestyle and self-worth.

In every card, a story of hope. And hope grows.

Maybe one day you will also hold in your hand a card lovingly made by one of our beautiful women. 

Like The Paper Project on Facebook or follow us on Instagram

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*Pseudonym.