Posted by: nastypen | October 19, 2007

“Your Greatest Creation is The Life You Lead”

The semester is officially over.I have checked the students’ papers (at least five pages by 130 students, ergo AT LEAST 650 pages read.) I already have grades to be submitted. So, what was the first semester as a University Instructor like? Let me tell you that I have not had this feeling before. On my first job, it is elation that I got a job and one that I like at that. The second is with much expectation. This? Well, I have had more smiles than frowns.

A professor in UP Diliman once joked to me that teaching in a UP system is charity considering its pittance salary. Oh yes, this is the lowest salary I have ever received…..correction….YET to receive. But it finally feels great to say “It’s not about the money.” It isn’t.

Although it would be helpful if they increased salary but I guess that will be done just in time for the next centennial…hahaha. I hear disturbing stories of UP professors with PhD’s selling insurance plans or getting part time work at call centers to augment their income. Some brilliant professors even leave for greener pastures private Universities offer. I got some quizzical looks from family members who question the wisdom of choice when I have been offered lucrative jobs abroad and that I could have gone to the country’s biggest advertising agencies as well. Thank goodness for the rackets that sustain me though. But I have yet to meet a professor in UP who detests his/her job at the University.

I WANTED this job. This is my little way of giving back to three institutions that I TRULY love: my country, my alma mater, and art. I am so lucky to be able to do this. The challenges and satisfaction far outweigh the salary. I know. I know. I sound so irritatingly chirpy brimming with naive hope. Truth be told, I am quite exhausted but I am ready for my next round.

And that is so good to know.

Recently, there was a forum on independent filmmaking at University of the Philippines Manila. Imahe+Nasyon (Image Nation, Imagination) consisted of 20 filmmakers that were given a budget of twenty thousand pesos to shoot a series of short films on what they thought about EDSA ’86.

I like what one of the speakers there said about art. He said that “Art is not something to be fought, but something to be shared.” It hit home because I have seen so many battles fought amongst artists: high vs. low art, mainstream vs. indie, classical vs. modern, modern vs. postmodern and all that jazz. I always think that art here in the Philippines is generally seen as something ornate ergo disposable. Art here has already few supporters and yet there are still fights and squabbles.

Recently, I had a disturbing experience. As I checked the mountain range of papers, I was stopped dead on my tracks by one student’s thoughts on art.

In my midterm exam for Humanities II, I asked my students: What is the intention of the artist of the painting below? What is her subject matter? What do you see in this painting? How do you find this painting? Is this relevant to you? Why is this considered a work of art? Discuss the role of the artist and art in society via the painting below.

Social Realism at its best.....

Itak sa Puso ni Mang Juan (Knife to Juan’s Heart) by Antipas Delotavo

I chose this painting specifically because I admire the context of Social Realism in the Visual Arts. I appreciate a work of art even more if the painting has a sociopolitical significance. I wanted my students to instill in their minds that art is vastly more important than things being hung on walls.

I don’t normally discuss my work at depth here, nor do I mention students in this blog. However, one answer was just a slap across the face to myself as well as to the entire collective revolving in Philippine Art. One of my students wrote in her/his exam paper this disturbing entry:

The painting is actually simple and lame. I don’t know if it has lots of meaning or if it wants to say something relevant or deep. Art in our society is different compared from the art made by the famous international artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. Here, anyone can make art of his own in the way he wants it. The art doesn’t make much sense or meaning and is shallow. Artists here is [sic] not really recognized or known, they aren’t given much importance in our society.

Oh Lord. Does this mean I failed as a teacher? Or worse, we Filipinos generally hate ourselves that we need outside recognition to feel pride? Shall we feel proud that a Pinoy is working as an accessory editor for Oprah’s magazine? Shall we wax homeric that our singers are recognized to be the great imitators? Shall we feel all giddy because Lea Salonga et al. won recognition portraying Vietnamese sex workers or cartoon characters? Shall we wait for Steven Spielberg‘s pat on our backs before we appreciate Filipino filmmaking? Shall we wait for foreigners to tell us that we are talented?

One semester will not really win in this battle for national self-worth. I wanted to show to my students that art is more than the yearning for recognition from foreigners. That it is more than a nice reproduction poster hanging on our bedroom wall. Art is more than just an appeasing of the senses. Art is more than a quest for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Art is more than that.

Art is ammunition.

I still have faith in art. What I like about the contemporary times is that the mystified persona of an artist is really nothing but romanticized shit. Everyone can be an artist. Everyone has something to say. And that is the beauty of art. Let us destroy that ivory tower of prescribed snobbery.

If you are wondering about the title of this blog, it’s from the trailer of a great film…that took 20 years to “shoot.” It’s a documentary of a son about his mother who has schizophrenia. The son collected photographs and old family videos and with just iMovie (a Mac software that can be the perfect introduction to film editing. It’s quite simple.) he came up with Tarnation. Here’s the trailer:

With works like these, is there any wonder why i have utmost faith in art in its meditative qualities and its quest for self-discovery?

I’ll see you next semester, who knows, I might show Tarnation to my students? I’ll think about that lter…for now, vacation mode is on.

….and…can’t stop the flood, bitches.



  1. Hi sir c”,) remember me? hehe…. sir, you may have “failed” that student (or he may not be listening to class discussions), but I feel that MOST of us, hmmm maybe at least I, have been “touched” by your intentions to change how we view “art”. Ang lakas ng impact ng mga class discussions natin sa kinalakihan kong perception sa art (refer to my final paper) Naks ang drama, pero sir sa totoo lang your subject made me feel, heinaku I can’t describe it, pero it has been my escape from my bloody world of thesis chorva. It has been my “magnet” to reality amidst all the bloody paperworks, idealism and chorva… And for that I thank you c”,) naks iiyak na si sir hehe c”,)

  2. hello,
    passing by on your blog (thru Eypooh’s link)
    …ohmy nashock ako dun sa reply ng schudent…i guess kulang pa sila sa exposure …funny lang kami naman nasa ibang bansa, proud na proud kami pag may nakikita kaming mga made by noypis here 🙂

    onga pla, baka pede ako magsit-in sa class mo hihihih….sa CAS diba?

  3. Maita: Hello…of course I remember you! salamat sa kind words…tulo luha ko from my left eye tuloy ahahahha and good luck sa thesis!

    Aoi: hehehehe……sit in? well……kailangan tanungin ko muna talent manager ko….charing!

  4. o sige magpapa-appointment ako sa talent manager mo. hihihihi

    I enjoyed my HUM1 and HUM2, kahit na sa iba eh sobrang balewala dahil GE lang daw. The passion of my professor were also intense, kaya talaga namang na-appreciate namin yung subjects and we have high regards on those professors. Kinakareer namin ang hum1 and hum2 sa reports and presentation, kebs na yang math17 noh! well, based from reading your blog, i think you are also that kind of teacher. 🙂 so pede na sit-in?

  5. Jose, as I’ve mentioned before… may mga shallow people lang talaga. Shallow na di natin alam kung sadyang big-T lang ba or since it doesn’t affect how s/he looks kebs ba? I know you are damn proud of where you are now despite the ailments minsan… yun yung di maintindihan ng mga peyrents natin…

    Oh well, I hope it won’t change lalo na ngayon, Erap’s been pardoned.

    Shall we migrate na? Kidding :p

    Relax? K?

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