Monday, April 29, 2013

EWWS' Foods + Panty Monsters' third anniversary

It's strange to imagine that Ryan Vergara and Garovs Garovillo, the brains behind the powerhouse that is Everywhere We Shoot (EWWS), have never had a solo exhibit. Strange, considering they are everywhere. The power couple is at every art event I go to. Their work is Everywhere, from the billboards they shoot, the pictures they post online, and the art they produce. We have also witnessed their historic wedding, videos of which spread online like wildfire. Yes, it is safe to say that EWWS has reached cult status.

So now, at the height of their careers (and marital bliss), the two have mounted their first solo exhibit at Pablo Fort. Entitled Foods, it is a tongue-in-cheek take on food. They are literally photos of food, and there is a touch of Warhol in it. The pieces are a celebration of everything that is mass produced. The photos themselves are gorgeously taken. The shots are simple yet crisp, with backgrounds that pop, adding depth to an otherwise everyday subject.

If you follow either (or both) of them on Instagram, you'd know that Vergara and Garovillo are addicted to grocery shopping. This love is the idea behind Foods, which explores the glorification of food items that we take for granted. Here, we get the chance to observe and see them with fresh eyes. I'm not sure if I'm just seeing their beauty for the first time, or EWWS just takes excellent photos. The most amusing part is how they are unlabeled, yet you know what the food are. There is Chickenjoy, McDonald's fries, Nissin cup noodles, Andok's chicken, and Cheetos. My favorite is the sandwich.

Joan Bitagcol, Gelo Arucan, Paulo Castro, Jujiin Samonte, Melvin Mojica, Joey Samson, and Ivarluski Aseron 

Garova Garovillo aka Mrs. Vergara 

"Fashion staple and creative genius" Melvin Mojica 

The supporters

Foods was a lot of fun because it seemed like a large intimate gathering. Everyone seemed to know each other. I had the pleasure of being acquainted with Jujiin Samonte, Paulo Castro, and the rest of the Panty Monsters, because I wrote about their third anniversary party in Today x Future that night. I want to write more about it, but there are no words to explain the fun I had. The amazing music and the balmy Cubao night was an intoxicating combination that made me lose control on the floor. Seriously, no DJ has ever made me dance like the Panty Monsters did.

I also got to meet Romeo Lee, one of the local artists I admire. I have a notebook from Delirium with his work on the cover, and I giddily showed it to him. He offered to sign it for me. He mentioned that he doesn't have a copy and though I want to give him mine, I wrote some personal stuff that I didn't want him to read. Oh, to be a teenager-at-heart with so many feelings!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Today in bullets

  • Woke up feeling so lazy to go to work because I had a meeting last night that stretched until 10PM, and then I had to research on topics for this week's Supreme.
  • Had a luxurious bath using the French lavender soap from Lotus Bloom. It is locally made.
  • My perfume for the day is Davidoff's Cool Water.
  • Went to work.
  • Edited the program of an expo our client is having.
  • Had a brief meeting with the editorial director to discuss my progress. So far, so good.
  • Had a mango blended yogurt drink from Fruitas, which somehow calmed me down.
  • Around afternoon, my mind went blank because I haven't gotten any rest.
  • Attempted to write a press release for an event next week.
  • Realized that you should never buy perfume when you're in a terrible mood. The power of smell is really powerful, and you tend to remember the things that happened when you smell a scent for the first time.
  • Rubbed some of Aromateria's Sherlock solid perfume on my pulse points. Lifted my spirits because I bought it right after watching Sa Wakas and meeting Fred Lo.
  • Sherlock contains the essence of bergamot, patchouli, oakmoss, basil, and cedarwood. It's a masculine and woody fragrance.
  • Waited for nothing.
  • Went home.
  • Read bits of Twisted 7 by Jessica Zafra.
  • Realized that I haven't seen any movie for the past week.
  • Attempted to write my column.
  • My lotion for tonight is Bath & Body Works' Twilight Woods.
  • Had a glass of wine.
  • Watched bits of Madonna's Celebration: The Video Collection.
  • Still attempting to write my column.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leeroy New's Monstrosities

Provocateur Leeroy New recently had his solo exhibit Monstrosities at Galleria Duemila. I've been meaning to go at an earlier time, but my weekends have been so busy that I kept putting it off. It was only until I realized that it was the last weekend for the exhibit that I forced my ass off the bed and visit.

It's a shame if you didn't catch Monstrosities, because it offers a fresh take on Leeroy's art. We usually see his alien pieces - those vibrant pods made of conduit tubes and cable ties. While they were entertaining (I first saw them in Psychopomp's Reef, his outdoor exhibit for BGC), I wanted to see something more from the artist. I knew there was something more twisted than his organic microbe-looking installations, and I saw them in Monstrosities.


Study on Monstrosity

The exhibit was like a breath of fresh air because of its departure from his alien pods, but it had enough references to stay true to New's vision. There was Gatekeeper, done in similar fashion to Gaga's dress in the Marry The Night video, white blobs which I suspect were from Sputnik, the comic book store in Cubao X (which he designed), and the familiarly unfamiliar creatures in the Leeroy New mythology.

Guardians: Imagined Cosmologies

His most interesting creatures in Monstrosities are the Guardians, five bony fish-like (or is it bird-like?) hybrids that look like they are about to attack. They are both colorful and grotesque, and you want to pull away, but fascination is drawing you in. Stalagmite-like legs creep from its base, a gorgeous mosaic of pop colors. Closer inspection will reveal that it is made of plastic, and you have to admire New for his innovative use of everyday objects, such as toys.


There is the Rorschach series, a group of six trophy heads that are equally frightening. They are twin heads of varying creatures, all unrecognizable, with their fangs bared. Their eyes (which I suspect are store-bought) are creepy, and seem to follow you everywhere. Again, you applaud New for his use of common objects, this time of the plastic rope used to tie boxes and make "grass skirts" for grade school hula performances.


His portraits were just as fascinating, three large masks of varying details, each expressing a unique face. One is happy, one is sad, and the most disturbing is hungry, with tongues trying to escape its wide mouth. They are colorful, festive, but the emotion that wells up inside is fear. This is not something I would put above my bed.


Surprisingly, New had three sketches, called Landscape. I think they were the weakest bunch, but all three were sold (separately or together?). They look like pink smoke but a close up would show something sexual, with a hint of a labia and a nipple. It's distinctly New, but I feel he excels more in sculpture and installation art.

Monstrosities sent me reeling. I'm not really quite sure what to make of it. The execution was interesting, the premise, promising. But I wasn't really sure what New was trying to say with the exhibit, or if he was trying to say anything at all. Perhaps my mind is just too limited to process or keep up with him? I don't know, but I have always thought his production is topnotch.

The Leeroy New mythology is growing over the years - from his microbes to his muscle dress to the controversies he has been part of in the past. Maybe New is ahead of his time. Maybe there will come a time when we will all finally understand what he is trying to say. By that time, mythology will be religion and these creatures - these monstrosities - have become real. That is a world I'm excited to see.

Monday, April 15, 2013

10A Alabama Handmade Arts & Crafts Fair

Last Saturday, after watching Sa Wakas at the PETA Theater, Nikko and I decided to drop by 10A Alabama's Handmade Arts and Crafts Fair. As I am a sucker for arts and crafts, I wanted to go and see if I could pick up something.

The place was crafts heaven. There were people selling lovely accessories (one even made them from yarn), tote bags, paper wallets, and Adventure Time dolls. We came when it was about to close so I was flitting from one booth to another, quickly skimming the items to make sure I covered everything. It was a shame, really, because I saw a lot of great stuff worth checking out - like this one that had gorgeous notebooks and another that sold them in sets and had architecture on its covers.

One of the booths that caught my attention was Aromerateria. They sell these fragrant solid perfumes that come in tubes the size of lip balm. It's like Lush's solid perfumes, but these are locally-made. It is also alcohol-free, pthalate-free, paraben-free, and are 70% organic. Aside from the really delicious scents - which come in unique combinations like sea spray and sugar and patchouli and pepper and vetiver - they have fascinating names with literary references. There's Austen, Veruca Salt, Hermione, Trese, Rudyard, and Sherlock. I got to chat with owner Shari Tan, and I feel like she could be my best friend. We're both into books, soaps, and fragrances.

She says she gets her inspiration when she wonders what literary characters would smell like in real life. And she makes them herself!

I ended up getting Sherlock, a masculine scent that contains notes of bergamot, patchouli, oakmoss, basil, and sugarwood. It's a scent I imagine the Sherlock Holmes of olden days to smell like. It smells of danger and mystery.

I always believe that it is important to buy scents in a good mood. The sense of smell is very powerful and if you buy perfume in a bad mood, you tend to remember the memories every time you spray it. Fortunately, I was still on a high from watching Sa Wakas and chatting with Fredison Lo, so it gives me positive energy whenever I rub it on my pulse points.

You can buy Aromateria from Firma and AC+632, but it's a joy to meet Shari in bazaars. She's such a character.

I also stayed at Lotus Bloom's booth inside. I met Joanne Quintana, who makes these luxurious soap with the most amazing scents. It was quite overwhelming to select one because of the choices, but I zeroed in on the lavender-infused soaps. Lately, I've developed an obsession with the scent so I was glad that Lotus Bloom carried three with lavender. I bought Sulis, or French Lavender, which was mixed with crushed lavender blossoms and a blend of essential oils of lavender and peppermint. It was really fragrant, and showers became affairs to look forward to. Unlike the last soaps I used - ylang-ylang and mangosteen bars from Bangkok - the scent of lavender really stuck to my skin and made me smell like an earth mother. The best thing was, Lotus Bloom soaps are handmade and made with natural ingredients.

The other variants are just as tempting to buy. Some of the ones that piqued my curiosity were a combination of jasmine, ylang-ylang, and saffron, a combination of sampaguita and moringa, a combination of mandarin, patchouli, and sea kelp, a combination of rosemary and mint, a combination of basil and thyme, a combination of coffee, cocoa, and mint, and a combination of chocolate and mint.

Sulis was a great soap and I loved it, but my issue was that it melted so easily. It was generously-sized when I purchased it, but after five days, the size was 1/8 of when I bought it, and by the time a week passed, it was so thin that it broke apart. After another day, it was already unusable. I blame the summer heat, but I've never had this issue with any of the soaps that I used. My friend Melvin said it was because there were no preservatives and while I'm glad that Lotus Bloom is really organic, I don't think I'm willing to shell out P150 for a bar of soap that will only last for 8 days.

I did see some lavender-scented from Healthy Options so I might pick a bar up as soon as I get the chance.

Sa Wakas

Last Saturday, Nikko and I went to PETA Theater to watch the first show of Sa Wakas. I was invited to the press preview, but I had work and the press preview didn't have the lead I wanted to watch. Call me shallow, but I wanted to see the production with Fredison Lo so I patiently waited for the Saturday run.

Sa Wakas is a Filipino rock musical featuring Sugarfree's songs and is about three people caught in the tangle of a disintegrating relationship. It touches on the sensitive topic of cheating, but I liked how tasteful the play tackled it. It had none of the tired cliches those mistress movies of late seemed to bank on.

The play revolves around Lexi and Topper, who are engaged. Lexi is a doctor while Topper is an aspiring photographer, and while they may look happy, their relationship is falling apart. Lexi's busy schedule has made her unavailable, leaving Topper to have an affair with Gabbi, a magazine editor. Sa Wakas is a heartbreaking story of love lost and love found.

The musical hit me in a way that no film or play did. I haven't had a boyfriend in three years so I kind of forgot the feelings one has in a relationship: the joy of finding love, the anger of discovering your partner having an affair, and the pain of being the "third party." To be honest, I've been put in similar situations so I knew what all the characters felt.

I enjoyed the play. The acting was sincere, the vocals were strong, and the songs from Sugarfree really hit the spot. But what I liked the most about Sa Wakas was how it humanized the characters. There was a time when we had those mistress movies and TV shows, but they all lacked heart and focused on the controversial casting and campy one-liners. Sa Wakas pushes past these and focused on the meat of the issue: the emotions of everyone involved.

When you look at a premise of a kabit story, you wonder: who is at fault? Is it Lexi, whose busy career as a doctor and high ambitions led her to not have time for Topper? Is it Topper, whose needy tendencies and spoiled temperament led him to find an outlet? Or is it Gabbi whose charm and availability (and legs) trapped her and put her in a dead end?

The beauty of Sa Wakas is that there is no villain. You can't pin everything on Gabbi. Let's face it, kabits are seen as loose women with terrible attitudes. In reality, not all kabits are bad people. Many of them are also victims, quietly hurting while they see their paramours going steady with their 'legal' partners.

Topper may be at fault. His uncertainty of whether to stay with Lexi or dump her and be with Gabbi has hurt both girls. But the truth is, it's not his fault. According to one line from the play, "being in between and not having to choose makes perfect sense." It's part fear, but mostly confusion. What would you do when you're in a long-term but disintegrating relationship, then you meet this girl you connect with on a deeper level, who's supportive of your art and understands you, and who made you realize that your relationship with your girlfriend is not growing anymore?

The play can be painful to watch, because all three are hurting. Lexi is hoping for everything to be okay, Topper is stuck and confused, and Gabbi is wondering if she should stay or go.

Sa Wakas follows a nonlinear narrative, like (500) Days of Summer. But unlike (500) Days, Sa Wakas has a more bittersweet approach, and the last scene was just perfect. Putting the scene where Topper proposed to Lexi at the happiest point of their relationship as the closing is just heartbreaking, and I was on the verge of tears.

Having an affair is a complicated thing. It's not as simple as people claim to be. You don't just stop loving your partner even if you have a kabit. You still love that person, but not the same way. It's not with the same intensity, the same passion. And if you try your best to resuscitate it and nothing happens, it's okay.

The thing is, sometimes things just don't work out the way we want it to. Sometimes we find happiness in unlikely places. And no matter how much we fight for something we have, sometimes it's better to cut our losses, accept that things will never be the same, deal with the pain, and move on with our lives.

In the end, there is always a new beginning. There are many meanings to sa wakas. Of course, it is the title of Sugarfree's first album. But if you translate it to English, it would either mean 'finally' or 'the end,' depending if you're Lexi or Gabbi.

I was fortunate enough to have talked to the main cast after the show. The show's producer, Charissa Pammit, agreed to let us talk to them for a short interview. Frankly, I was more excited to talk to Fred, but Justine Pena (Gabbi) was quite the character. She had a smile that radiated and a maturity that I admired, especially at her age. Laura Cabochan (Lexi), was more reserved, but she was welcoming. And as for Fred, oh my. He was charming, funny, and talkative. We talked about the Marvel universe for a while when he complimented my Hulk shirt from Uniqlo. I was so enamored that during goodbye, I almost crashed into an easel.

I'd like to blame my camera's quality for making me look shitty, but when you stand next to Fred, I don't think anyone can look halfway human.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tokwa Penaflorida's Hypnagogia

Tokwa Penaflorida recently opened his first-ever solo exihibt Hypnagogia at Vinyl on Vinyl, The Collective. Tokwa, whose distinctive art nouveau portraits are making waves in pop culture, is one of the new artists to watch out for. His characters and pastel colors are a nice break from some of the aggressive art I've been seeing lately.

Hypnagogia is a collection of 15 portraits and features the same girls Tokwa is known for. They are the sad, forlorn, and melancholic folks, with a touch of ephemera that reverberates through the canvas. It is a contrast to the sweet candy colors Tokwa's works are bathed in. But this time, the cast is in a state of dreaming - that point at the brink of sleep - where we're not quite sure if what we're seeing is real. After all, that is what hypnagogia means.

Intimate Strangers 18x24 in mixed media

His portraits usually capture a certain dreaminess so it's expected that he would use sleep as a reference for his first solo exhibit. I got to chat with him between his autograph-signings and he says that he picked hypnagogia because he suffers from insomnia. I used to be an insomniac, too, and I often found myself thinking of the strangest things in the silence of the night as I forced myself to sleep. Perhaps that is why his girls have a touch of eeriness to them?

Dreamcatcher 38x45 in mixed media

Counting Down to Praemorditium 18x24in mixed media

His largest portrait is Dreamcatcher and just beyond the girl is a faint shadow of the Native American charm. This subtle reference to the universal symbol of sleep sets the tone for the scenes and characters in Hypnagogia. There is the out-of-body experience in Astral Projection, the dream of us falling in space in Sudden Drop (Falling back), and the habit of counting sheep in Counting Down to PraedormitiumPraedormitium was one of my favorites - the pink sheep that surround the girl look like brains. It's an interesting context, whether to be attracted to the fluffy mammals or repelled by the brains.

Succubus 36 and Incubus 16 18x12 in mixed media

 Batibat(s) 22x30 in mixed media

There are also the monsters in the sleep mythology - an incubus, a succubus, and batibats or bangungot (vengeful demons that take on the form of an old fat woman that suffocates human by sitting on their chest - nightmare in Western folklore). Again, there is the interesting contrast in Batibat(s). The black blobs are surrounded by flowers and they have purples eyes and lips.

Recurrence 18x24 in mixed media

Perhaps the most personal work for Tokwa is Recurrence. The canvas almost lacks color, save for a faint splash of pink, yellow, and blue, and it seems to be a foreboding of things to come. Tokwa has dreamt of this girl since he was a kid, and he could never explain who she was or why she's holding a needle. According to him, he has never seen her before.

His washed out-backgrounds mixed with the glazed expression his girls have brings to mind an intense languor that makes you stop in your tracks and slow down. His sinewy lines go on forever. In Tokwa's world, nothing goes by too fast. His languor is infectious and chills you down. It brings to mind slow nights, and that probably explains the pile of pillows strategically placed along the wall of the exhibition. Although this could just be Tokwa being clever - after all, he did serve tokwa (tofu) on opening night.

The beauty with Tokwa Penaflorida's art is that it is still at its infancy. He has been around, painting the walls of the new Heima in Brixton, having group exhibits with Soleil Ignacio, and gracing the pages of Garage, but he is still entering mainstream consciousness. It's great to be a part of an artist's progress and watch his art grow. I once told him, I'd buy his works as soon as I get rich. As of now, I can only support him as a friend and writer. But I am excited for his growth and the kind of works he'll present by the time I can afford to clean out his studio.
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