“…To me there is no truth in the phrase ‘starving artist’ unless you want to be one.”
His most memorable project to date is a 10ft x 8ft mosaic mural which was commissioned by his alma mater University of St. La Salle in Bacolod. The piece is titled “Dulungan Kita sa Pagbangon” (“Together We Rise”). “My inspiration for this is the ‘Negros Five’ or the five critically endangered species of Negros Island: the Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon, the Visayan Warty Pig, the Visayan Spotted Deer, the Visayan Tarictic Hornbill and the Walden’s Hornbill, locally called ‘Dulungan’. The most important element of the mosaic is the hornbill, which in Hiligaynon also translates to ‘together, at the same time, or simultaneously,'” she explains.
Surprisingly, Tey wasn’t an art major in school. She first took up biology in college, then moved into mass communications, which helped her land a job as a marketing communications manager at real estate giant Megaworld in Manila.
“I wanted to be a marine biologist because of my love for the environment. I wanted to study that at Silliman University in Dumaguete where I spent summers with my cousins, but I was not allowed to stray from home. me,” she recalls. “I decided I wanted to be a doctor instead and took biology as my pre-med course,” she says. Realizing her heart wasn’t in it, she gave up.
“Then I realized that I loved writing, acting, graphic design, producing and above all – speaking. When I had the chance to go back to school, I knew that mass communication was the right path for me.” She was already building a career in her province, with stints in regional ABS-CBN network productions, local creative company Bonfire Productions, and as head of marketing, public relations and communications for the Negros Museum when a heartbreak caused her to drop everything and leave for Manila.
“Everything seemed dark and gloomy in Bacolod and I wanted to be somewhere else. However, when I arrived in town, I was eternally homesick.” During the first year of working in Manila, I found myself sneaked a weekend back to Bacolod once in a while because I just missed hugging my Mamang (mother) or laughing with my best friends. Fortunately, I had friends from Bacolod [in Manila] who I could converse with in our dialect and cook and eat Ilonggo food.”
After four years, she decided to return home. “I felt like I was constantly craving Negros and Bacolod. Like a sugar ant, you can’t really take me away from my Sugarlandia. I literally started crying when our plane landed at the airport in Silay: I didn’t know that I would cry seeing Mount Kanlaon and the sugar cane fields.
Tey in front of the special 10-by-8-foot “Together We Rise” mural mosaic, commissioned by La Salle University in Bacolod, of five critically endangered species such as the hornbill and the Visayan warty pig. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
But I did. I knew I was home and I will never live anywhere else. – Eda’s eight children, her stay-at-home mom, she sang and danced in front of the TV so they could all watch her play. Her mother provided her with drawing and coloring materials to keep her busy, and at school she drew her notes, making a visual representation of the lessons.
“All my textbooks had hand-drawn stories on the sides of the pages because I just wanted something to do while I listened to the teacher. So far I’ve been bored and sleepy when
I’m just doing one thing. I’m a voracious reader and would also draw the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys because I felt like I was part of their adventures.”
She didn’t think of her own talents, until a trip to Bangkok, Thailand in September 2015 to explore its temples and ruins. “In Ayutthaya, I saw this lady perched on a large rock, totally absorbed in her painting.
“Though the mind, the eye, the hand were all in a surge of energy, she painted with pure happiness on her face. Then it hit me: I envied her calm. I promised myself that ‘when I get back to Manila, I’ll be shopping for art supplies.’
She painted and displayed her first monochrome watercolor a few months later, and the self-taught artist received encouraging feedback from family and friends. “I read every book and watched every video I could find.
“I painted like a maniac from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. before leaving for work. My mission was to learn and create my own art.
Tey (second from left, above) with other Bacolodnon artists, mosaic scene from her idyllic childhood and the art center she works for (below) CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
“Five months into painting, I quit my corporate job and never looked back.” In May 2019, she joined a three-day mosaic course with Gigi Campos and was hooked. “I was amazed at the possibilities of turning broken parts into beautiful works of art.”
Inspiring others, her own experience as an artist and communicator helps her in her role at Artfull Art Gallery + Café, which she describes as an artists’ collective and initiative. “I started by getting myself known and marketing my art to galleries. I felt that an artist-run gallery is more understanding and generous to other artists.
“We know the needs and desires of an artist’s heart, so we know how to help them exhibit their art to different audiences.” She also offers tips for artists on how to handle the business side of things. “If you’re an artist and you think you can’t handle the selling side, go find someone or a gallery to help you sell your work. Social media is now a tool for us artists, so n feel free to learn how to do it or have someone do it for you.
“We have to go with the times because to me there is no truth in the phrase ‘starving artist’ unless you decide to be one.” To deepen her advocacy for art, she even launched an “art pantry” at the height of the Covid-19 blockages in the heart of the City of Smiles.
Here, in addition to distributing food to those whose livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, she and her fellow artists distributed children’s books and art materials to students and other artists, who could not afford it. to buy theirs.
Their community pantry held outside their gallery on Lacson Street, exuded a distinct Bacolodnon flair, with a Masskara-style fashion show held to the festive beat of the drummers.
“We did all of this because we believe that art is food for the soul,” she says. She is part of the close community of performing artists, dancers, designers and musicians of Negros who cross paths and collaborate for different projects and events.
“It has something to do with our environment and who we are as people. We have an incredible landscape and the people around us sprinkle it with stories of love and passion. here have one of the most sophisticated tastes in the Philippines for centuries to look at and admire the works of art in different forms.” Tey says creating art is fulfilling because it makes you whole.
“It makes you realize what your life is about. In my own journey where I started my art career later in life, I would say it’s never too late to start your art. You have your own time and you can make your own timeline.”
My role model is the late Tatay Bonnie. His work ethic and humility make me proud of him, and I want to emulate him. It grounded me, when I felt lost or felt triumph. You must have an anchor, and Tatay is always my anchor.
Live by the beach, create art, write and cook for others.
First paid job
I remember being paid to do a graphic layout for a brand of pasalubong (souvenir) in Bacolod. It was something I loved doing, and I was so happy to get paid for it and saw my designs used in the packaging.
I’m not a morning person, but I try to wake up as early as possible. I listen to upbeat music, check my messages and emails, and add things to my to-do list.
I think I have people and skills to speak. I’m known for convincing artists to take up painting again, and I’ve helped some of my artist friends get their first solo shows.
Time spent on social networks
I’m a social media manager, so I spend an average of about 10 hours a day. But I also take breaks so as not to exhaust myself.