Two Women Artists:
Strong Filipino Women (5)
Philippines (A study of the country and its
people through the eyes of a non-Filipino)
“Inday was a happening, a formidable woman.” This is how I introduced Filipina
artist Inday Cadapan in last month’s (March) column. Since I talked quite a bit
already about Inday then, I am going to return to her just briefly. Today the
main focus is on another Filipina artist, Brenda Fajardo.
“You really made a big mistake when you didn’t invest in Inday’s paintings,”
said Greg, a long-time friend. By pure coincidence he had just read Chapter
Ten, “A Lively Art Scene,” in my book Sundays in Manila. Inday had caught his
attention, so he googled her: Inday artist Filipina.
Bingo! While Inday died a couple of years ago, she lives on in her
paintings, including 46 of them that can be viewed on line. And purchased. One
of my favorites is the Picasso-esque painting entitled “Two Women.”
I am twice grateful to Greg. He showed me the way with Inday’s art work. I
did the same for Brenda Fajardo. Bingo again! Readers will find good sites on
line. I will, however, say a word about one of them called <flickr> from
yahoo. It features a wonderful photo of Brenda, and next to the photo are
highlights about Brenda: “Philippines/ Brenda Fajardo/ WOMAN AS (MYTHICAL) Hero
Project Manager/ Painter, sculptor, educator, cultural artivist.” Photo and
highlights are classic Brenda.
When I first met her in 1998, Brenda was a member of the art faculty of the
University of the Philippines Diliman in Manila and curator of the Vargas Museum
of Art on the UP campus. I was teaching in the English and Comparative
Literature Department for a semester. Cora Villareal, my department chair, knew
that I was gathering material for a book that included an emphasis on the Strong
Filipino Woman. Cora was surprised to discover that half way through my
semester at UP I still had not been to the Vargas or met Brenda. Being a Strong
Filipina herself, Cora immediately called Brenda and made an appointment for us
Brenda was at first quite reserved, but it wasn’t long before her lively
sense of humor asserted itself. She laughed about herself, about her paintings,
and at me when I told her how I had experienced sticker shock when inquiring
about her paintings at the Hiraya Gallery. That’s an up-scale art gallery in
downtown Manila. Laughter by the way is not far beneath the surface of even the
most serious of Strong Filipinas.
During the course of an hour and a half, Brenda shared with me, among other
gems, two recent projects. One portfolio illustrated graphically the abuse too
often experienced by female Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Young women are
recruited, most often by promoters from Japan, but other countries as well, as
entertainers. Unfortunately when they arrive in the foreign setting, these
women frequently discover that ‘entertainers’ is a euphemism for ‘stripper’ or
‘prostitute’ or both. Brenda noted that she had recently sold a series of
paintings exposing this problem to a gallery in Japan.
Brenda’s second project, still in its early stages back in 1998, was to
illustrate the Philippine Epics, stories that fill several thick volumes. She
showed me a picture of a painting of a Goddess chiding her Hero Son for coveting
another’s wife. He already had two of his own, but since he derived his powers
from his wives, he wanted another one. He didn’t get one. Or the added
powers. He accepted his mother’s warning.
Brenda’s two projects illustrate one of the contradictory issues related to
Strong Filipino Women. On the one hand some women become used as
‘entertainers.’ On the other, and more laudable, hand they are respected and
admired, as deities in mythology or presidents in politics. Fortunately Brenda
and other artists, women and men, keep the OFW and other social issues before
the public and prod the national conscience.
St. Norbert College was most fortunate to have Brenda Fajardo as a Visiting
Professor several years back. Brenda gifted me with a small painting. It shows
two Filipino street children (another of Brenda’s causes) with the Philippine
flag as backdrop.
Bob Boyer enjoys your comments at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.