The Epiphany Quartet for the Lady and the Princesses

 [image from The Story of the Other Wise Man from Project Gutenberg]

The Story of the Other Wise Man was part of my usual holiday reading in my younger years.  Along with The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, they imparted lessons of what pure love is.  That the noblest of intentions shine even though the best of efforts fall short.

As I review the past year of lost things and found treasures, I remember my real treasures.

The Lady

My mother whose light always shone bright in the wee hours of the morning. Her day starts before ours have begun.  I remember her fondly with the aroma of her kitchen cooking, whether it be fried daing, fried chicken, or the best bulalo nobody could ever duplicate.

The 3 Princesses

My eldest sister Estrellita, our little star. I remember fondly always bringing home a pasalubong of cooked dishes or dessert she picked up along the way or received as a present from a colleague, to supplement whatever dinner Nanay had prepared.

My second sister Beatriz.  Incidentally, her name means “voyager”. She voyaged beyond her comfort zone, far from home and made a home for herself in a far land.  Yet, no matter how far away she is, we know her heart is never far from ours.

My youngest sister Julie. Our moments of mirth are many. And we have created so many new words because of so many shared experiences. She had sacrificed much, caring for The Lady and the First Princess during the last years of their lives.

On the feast day of the Epiphany, or the Three Kings, I remember my Four Ladies, each with a gift for me, my life and my soul.

And I love them forever.

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On spotting talent

Back in 1991 when I was among the panel that chose the new scholars for Philippine High School for the Arts, I was tasked to put together a Talent Determination Test to screen the new Visual Arts scholars.  With my Psychology background and being an artist myself, I put together a battery of tests based on the Torrance Creativity Test, an on-the-spot drawing test, and a task to draw something imaginary. 

I wasn’t just looking for kids who could draw well. The tests I put together looked for Originality, Prolificacy, and Technique.  Technique, though, can be taught. 

Yet, we do know that for an artist’s works to be relevant and have cultural value, his body of work must have Depth and Vision.  To be able to see what is needed around you and how you can respond to that using what is inside you.

How can you tell if an eleven year old, whose only exposure to art heretofore was Disney, Anime, and Looney Tunes, would have Depth and Vision?  No 3-hour test could see that.  But I could measure Originaltiy.  I could measure Prolificacy.  I could see if one’s eye-hand coordination can be disciplined enough to learn Technique.

Depth and Vision comes out when Adversity puts forth challenges.  And that was what the mythical mountain of Makiling brought to its young wards.

From the batch I had chosen came Kawayan de Guia, Don Salubayba, Riel Hilario, to name a few.

The mountain and Philippine High School for the Arts became more legendary because of them.

Revisiting my travels of 2002: Hydra, Greece 2002

Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 05:20:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jose Badelles
Subject: Day One in Europe

Arrived at the island of Hydra yesterday via hydrofoil from Piraeus Port in Athens, Greece.

The conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—Greek Region will begin tonight with a Greek dinner. I’m a day early, enjoying the new smells, sights, and sounds—my first ever of Europe.

Hydra/Yddra is beautiful! Though having a barren hilly topography, the harbortown holds a “tragic” beauty; tragic because no crops grow but beautiful because the people (who made their wealth through shipping and navigation) were still able to make a home for themselves (importing teak and using the stones from the hills for their habitats).

The Greeks appear as physical hybrids of the Aryan race (German) and the Arabs (though they are also still Aryan in origin). The young lady who holds the reception desk at the Hotel Ippokampos where I stay is a natural blonde but with dark mulatto skin, slightly doe-eyed with a tinge of blue, and with an elfin nose.

The men have a “compact” physique, not overly tall. The tallest Greek I’ve seen so far is about 5’10. Most of them are tanned because of the Mediterranean sun. This morning from the terrace at the hotel, I saw an elderly gentleman astride a donkey. Behind him was his 20s son also astride a donkey. Both were going up the hill engaged in a conversation which, judging from their tones, seemed like a fatherly tongue-lashing toward his son. Or maybe he is just saying, “that is not how you talk to your Mother!”

The Greek language has a similar intonation to Italian, with the way they speak English and their own native tongue. I’m learning the basic greetings, affirmations, and negations. I notice, though that the pronouns in their sentences are “invisible”, but are conjugated with the verbs. Much like the Spanish “te amo” instead of “yo te amo”.

My first Greek words are of the survival set:

efcharistok = thank you
yasas = hello / goodbye
kalimera = good morning

I must remember: Dhen katalaveno (I don’t understand)
Milate anglika? (Do you speak English?)

The net cafe where I’m at is by an alley paved with stones cemented together. The place reminds me of the village in the film “Chocolat”. The houses are mostly wood and stone. Hydra is essentially a craft place where they sell mostly jewelry. The American couple I had breakfast with (since they are also staying at Ippokampos) had been here before. They gave me a brief rundown of the history. Hydra’s main business, as the gentleman said, was “making money” through imports.

The sun set last night at 8:00 though remnants of Helios’s last rays were still evident, casting a dark indigo on the water reflecting the deep blue of the sky. The harbor, like most of the town I’ve seen is paved with smoothened stone in irregular shapes. Shops sell marionettes, jewelry, and sea sponges which are very popular. The harbor is also home to sea-side restaurants and cafes with tables and chairs placed outside protected by rope-awnings, giving an al fresco option to dining with the aroma of grilled fish and other seafood.

What gives the impression that this place is for the moneyed are the rows of yachts mooning the harbor.

The weather is clear at a balmy 33C, and the nights are cooler at 27C.

Yasas.

J.

Mis-Alignments

Without going into the minutiae of the RH-bill, the statement of ProRH Ateneo professors and the CBCP response to investigate the professors for heresy, termination and excommunication, allow me to respond as an alumnus and here-this-term-but-not-in-the-next faculty member trained by Ateneo in the fields of psychology and art.

One of the concepts I studied as a psychology major both as an undergrad and later on in graduate school was Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, an adaptation of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s theory.

Where are my textbooks when I need them? But wait, there is Google and Wikipedia! So let me go the way of least resistance and shamelessly plagiarize as I review Kohlberg.

Kohlberg holds that moral reasoning has six identifiable stages, each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than its predecessor. In brief and a propos to the current discussion, the stages are as follows:

I. PRE-CONVENTIONAL. These first two stages are common among children, although adults can also exhibit this mode of reasoning.

Stage One: OBEDIENCE AND PUNISHMENT DRIVEN

The individual’s choices are made in OBEDIENCE and ORIENTED TO AVOID PUNISHMENT. The morality of an action is judged by its direct consequences to the child. He will obey to avoid punishment.

Obviously, CBCP thinks that the Ateneo professors are still in this level.

Stage Two: SELF-INTEREST DRIVEN.

The individual decides whatever is in the individual’s best interest. Helping, contributing, or acting only if it benefits him in return.

II. CONVENTIONAL Typical of adolescents and adults. The morality of actions is judged by comparing them to society’s views and expectations. An individual obeys rules and follows norms even when there are no consequences for obedience or disobedience. However, a rule’s appropriateness or fairness is seldom questioned.

Stage Three: INTERPERSONAL ACCORD AND CONFORMITY DRIVEN

The individual fulfills social roles while being receptive to approval or disapproval from others. They try to be a “good boy”or “good girl” to fulfill expectations.

Stage Four: AUTHORITY AND SOCIAL ORDER OBEDIENCE DRIVEN

A Law and Order morality. It is important to obey laws and social conventions because of their importance in maintaining a functioning society. Moral reasoning here goes beyond the need for individual approval in the previous stage.

III. POST CONVENTIONAL Also known as the Principled level, is marked by a realization that the individuals are separate entities from society, and that the individual’s own perspective may take precedence over society’s view; individuals may disobey rules inconsistent with their own principles.

People in the post conventional level view rules as useful but changeable mechanisms. Rules are not absolute dictates that must be obeyed without question. Because post-conventional individuals elevate their own moral evaluation of a situation over social conventions, their behavior, especially at stage 6, can be confused with that of those at the pre-conventinal level.

Stage FIVE: SOCIAL CONTRACT DRIVEN

The world is viewed as holding different opinions, rights and values. Such values should be mutually respected as unique to each person or community. Laws are regarded as social contracts rather than rigid edicts. Those that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Decisions are reach through majority decision, and inevitable compromise. A democratic society is based on stage five reasoning.

In my perfect universe, this should be the level of moral reasoning in the current discussion regarding the RH bill. This was where the Ateneo professors were coming from.

Stage SIX: UNIVERSAL ETHICAL PRINCIPLES DRIVEN

Moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.

The individual acts because it is right, and not because it is instrumental, expected, legal, or previously agreed upon. The individual has a principled conscience. Interestingly, Kohlberg found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operate at this level, though he insists that this level of moral reasoning exists.

In a nutshell, here is a group of people espousing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and they are threatened with an Inquisition-style investigation for heresy and an equally Inquisition-style punishment for excommunication.

Major mis-alignment.

Did I say I was trained in Art? And I was teaching it in Ateneo since 1990. Back then there was no Fine Arts program, just a fledgling Interdisciplinary Studies program that held basic drawing and painting classes for those who elect to have an easy A at the beginning but have moved on to serious careers in design and art, receiving the CCP’s 13 Artists Awards, some nominations to the Ateneo Art Awards. Those were my students. They make me proud. From the quagmire of philosophy orals, business plans, group theses and org fairs, they have decided to make art part of their daily life. But oops I digress, maybe my waxing sentimental of them should be in a different post.

To view this from an art teacher’s point of view would be to see it as an attempt at drawing or painting in dire need of interventions based on the principles of contrast, balance, emphasis, rhythm.

Contrast. Contrast in tone through black vs. white, with the interplay of grays and highlights we artists know as Chiaroscuro. Contrast in size through big vs. small, many vs. the individual, grouped vs. separate.

Balance. Equilibrium is more interesting if it is lopsided. When one load in the see-saw is about to tip over. But doesn’t. Because it found its balance.

Emphasis. What should be the focus here? Respect for the individual? Respect for life?

Rhythm. Repetition, Alternation, Progression, Regression.

Harmony. When everything works well together.

tsk. tsk. tsk. Asaaaa…

Okay, I think I will go back to my painting now. Bahala na kayo sa kalabuan niyo, CBCP. We are no longer children.

We have ONE BIG FIGHT ahead.

47 Orbits

Yesterday marked the day I completed my 47th orbit around the sun.

First orbit without my Nanay, who used to be the first person who would greet me even as early as April 1. She has earned her wings now. And I miss her.

Still, life without her is like being a kite without a tether, without a connection to the earth. And maybe I had been drifting ever since she’d been gone, catching any stray breeze or a gust of wind to slap me heavenwards or bring me to my next mission.

I was not brought up with the value of making plans. That was something I had to consciously learn. Being OC used to be a pleasurable compulsion because it decreased the likelihood of random extraneous variables and their effect on my objectives. Yet being OC stressed me out so I swung to the opposite extreme and decided to be more spontaneous and accommodating rather than assimilative.

I was happier being aimless. Yep, that’s my confession.

And my best sketches were made from seemingly tentative marks that took a walk and somehow found their way.

This orbit without my Nanay has led me to this very challenging and exciting job, led me to the gifted and dedicated people I work with every day, led me to discovering new things.

At 47, i can still stretch myself and envision in the horizon a version of myself far more formidable and capable than at present.

I hope what I see becomes real.

I hope, despite all that had transpired, I am still guided and led.

Yesterday was spent at work supervising a photoshoot. Not really my choice on how to spend my birthday but didn’t I say untethered kites catch whatever breeze slaps them upward?

Yesterday I received an overwhelming number of birthday greetings through social media, through text, and phone calls. Thank you all.

I hope to see you all soon and give each of you a hug. And I promise not to make waste of your warm wishes and good intentions.

I love you all.

And I am still in cloud nine that Greg Louganis, one of my life heroes, greeted me on my birthday. Namaste, Greg, and thank you.

I love you all.

47 is a prime number. Here is to my prime year.

Cheers!

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With Aldrin during the photoshoot. Sino kamukha niya?

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Interesting effect with the mirrored light fixture at Nostalg Ballroom.

Lost Dog Sign Gone

Even months before I transferred to this neighborhood this February, I had always noticed the sign outside the guardhouse. It was a tarpaulin printout of a gray shihtzu with a blue vest looking towards the side, its mouth open in a dogsmile with its ears pulled back.

That’s how dogs smile, you know. They look at you, open the jaws and pant, all the while pulling their ears back. It is not so much the open mouth that makes the smile but more the ears being pulled backwards.

That dog was smiling. And, according to the sign, he had been missing since September last year.

Each time I enter the gate and see the lost dog sign, I imagine the dog somewhere out there hungry if still alive. And as most purebreds like the shihtzu with special needs, had by now stopped receiving some medication or supplement that needs to be taken regularly.

So I worried for the dog everyday I drive by that gate to the neighborhood. And I worry for its human who must still have kept looking.

Until today.

The Lost Dog Sign has been removed.

They stopped looking.

Tomorrow, I will once again see the space where the sign used to hang.

And I will still think of the shihtzu, knowing that his humans have stopped looking for him.