Monday, June 13, 2011

The Art of Paper Cut – Or, Transforming That Plain Piece of Paper

Prior to attending paper cut artist Sinag de Leon’s workshop, the only thing I knew about paper cut was the wound, and the song with its title. And so, when Sinag invited me to join her June 6 workshop, I agreed, curious about this art form with an unusual name. Also, my exposure to paper art was limited to simple projects in my grade school art classes.

Paper cutting, I found out during the workshop, was a deceptively simple yet complex art. It is this simple – you fold a piece of paper once or several times, you cut patterns into it, you open it, and viola! – instant art!

But it was more than that. If I cut just a tiny circle in the corner, the effect will be multiplied when I unfold the paper. Or, before cutting, if I fold the paper just one more time, or if I fold it another way, the result will be very different. And, with the different ways of folding Sinag taught us workshop participants before we cut the paper, I was able to see the difference. Also, with the use of papers with different colors, I saw how color and contrast can give a paper cut a different character.

I also appreciated Philippine art more when Sinag walked us through a short history of Philippine art and paper art, and later, let us make pastillas wrappers, a dying art form in the country. And through the workshop, I was also able to learn how paper cut art can be ingeniously used for gift and novelty items. The possibilities were endless.

From my different pieces of colored paper came surprisingly beautiful patterns and some disappointments. Sinag emphasized, though, that there are no mistakes. Indeed, there was an element of play and spontaneity in our paper cut activities. While Sinag gave us general instructions, she did not give us a form to follow in our paper cutting. We were free to explore, experiment, and yes, to unleash our inner artist.

This must have been the same kind of spontaneous play Sinag applied when she started doing paper cuts at seven years old and which she now continues, more than twenty years later. As her process in creating art is intuitive, her artworks are all unique and one of a kind. Indeed, just like no two snowflakes are the same, no two of Sinag’s artworks are the same. (And yes, we did snowflakes in the workshop, too! ^_^)

Sinag’s artworks, with breathtakingly beautiful and intricate patterns, some like complex mandalas, showed me the possibilities for paper cut art. And through the workshop and her artworks, I found a new understanding what an artist or anyone with a desire can create. What I can create.

Out of a seemingly plain piece of paper can come a great surprise – maybe even a masterpiece.

For schedules of paper cut artist Sinag de Leon’s workshops and exhibits, check out her Facebook page.

Some of the paper cut workshop participants' works

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine sweets perfect for any sweet tooth

I've always been a sucker for sweets, and when I had the privilege of tasting PhoebeCakes' Valentine line, I was just delighted!

And yes, the name PhoebeCakes was inspired by Phoebe Cates, the Hollywood actress, to anyone who remembers. The baker, Phoebe Estrevillo, had a passion for baking since high school and successfully sold her pastries at that age. Now a full-fledged pastry chef, she launched PhoebeCakes last November. And just this week she launched her Valentine line.

My favorite, which wins hands-down, is the XOXO brownies. Just the right softness, gooiness, flakiness and most importantly - chocolatey-ness! Quite addicting, in my opinion - and my family seemed to agree, as they devoured everything almost immediately. Not surprisingly, these brownies are one of Phoebe's all-time bestsellers which she decorated for this Valentine's.

My second favorite is the Honey O'Mine cupcakes.Kind of reminds me of Sonja's Cupcakes for their yumminess, though Honey O'Mine has a distinct sweetness and flavor all its own. I personally prefer the red velvet cupcakes as they are richer in chocolate though less sweet than the pink velvet one made of white chocolate.

I also love Cupid and Sweet Tooth. Cupid's candy filling blends so well with its subtly sweet cookie. And Sweet Tooth is aptly called Sweet Tooth - these are the classic yummy sugar cookies. The child in me was happy to eat both an X and O. =)

The rest of the Valentine pastries, My Happy Valentine and the stuffed Red Velvet cookies are also awesome, though those I mentioned above are my favorite.

To read more about PhoebeCakes' Valentine line, go to ClickTheCity's article or to their Facebook page. To order, go to their website or contact Phoebe Estrevillo at 0922-8743424. The Valentine line is available February 12-21. TIP: Order three days ahead.

Photos by Carmina Beatrix Reyes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Rainbow, A Wake, and A Cat

The sky was gray most of the day today with sporadic rains. But happily, as the day approached nighttime, the sky cleared and made commuting easier for me. As I was walking on the footbridge in one of the busy streets of our city, though, I was struck by a vivid rainbow that appears to spring from a dark asphalt road that has only seen traffic and smoke for years. The rays of the setting sun bathed the facade of buildings in bright and vibrant yellow, almost making them glow.

Although I was in a hurry, I stopped, overpowered by awe and amazement. How nature can stage such a spectacular display in a city of glass and concrete is simply incredible.

Thankfully, I arrived just in time to meet my friends from the Inner Peace community to go to the wake of our friend Chris’ mom, who passed on so suddenly. I could feel the solemnity and grief in the wake, but the prayer-meditation conducted by Regina, the head of Inner Peace, helped shift the collective energy to relief and hope. I am again reminded that there really is no death, merely transition. There are things which cannot be destroyed. And, while the human body is already a masterpiece, the soul is infinitely more beautiful.

After leaving the wake, some of us hung out at a park in Makati and found ourselves in an animated discussion about teachings from spiritual teachers and our personal experiences. While we were talking, I noticed an orange cat – bigger than a kitten, but not quite a fully-grown cat – approaching us. He walked around a bit, sat less than a meter beside us, then much later curled up into a ball and fell asleep. The little furball looked just so peaceful, not to mention cute! I quipped to my companions that the cat must have been drawn to our positive energy – actually, I believe he was. =)

Today was definitely a “happening” day, though in a subtle way which I could have easily missed had I not paid attention. For the simple yet awesome and revealing moments today I am thankful.

The rainbow, though taken from my camera phone its appearance pales greatly in comparison to the real thing, which I felt I could almost touch

The cute cat which kept us company at the park

Monday, January 4, 2010

I’ve got a feeling…

Right before the New Year, I got this from my subscription of Notes from the Universe by author and speaker Mike Dooley.

I've got a feeling, Claire, that 2010 is going to be your kind of year. That you'll be happier than you've ever been, laughing harder, smiling wider, standing taller, walking lighter, dancing crazier, hugging longer, living grander, loving louder, and if you want, selling the pictures to a tabloid to raise money for your new charity.

Can you feel it, too?
The Universe

I feel it – yes, I feel that 2010 is going to be an extraordinary year, for me and for every one who chooses it to be.

Early in 2009 I declared it was going to be a breakthrough year for me – and it was, in many ways I did not even expect. 2009 was arguably the best year of my life so far. And I believe, 2010 will even be better.

I choose it to be better.

And my wish for every one is that this 2010 be the best year of their lives. And that each new year will always be better than the last. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

27 Things I Learned Before I Turned 27 Today

I was inspired to make my own list after I recently read the blog post of a friend about the 29 lessons he learned before his 29th birthday. This list is not only a review on the things I have learned – and still learning – but a reminder during the times I forget.

1) Life is beautiful if you allow it to be.

2) Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it certainly is one of the best.

3) Your mother was right when she said you have to sleep early and long to grow tall.

4) Family and friends are arguably the best gifts – and teachers (witting or unwitting) – the world can give you. =)

5) Vegetables are really good for you.

6) Chocolate can be good for a woman’s heart – especially if it’s dark chocolate. =)

7) Money is not the root of evil. The love of money – and the fear of losing or not having enough money – is.

8) Planning and preparing for the future is good, but don’t exchange the present moment for it.

9) Pleasure and excitement are not synonymous to joy. When choosing between what gives you pleasure and excitement and what gives you joy, choose the latter. Of course, having all would be nice. =)

10) Sometimes you have to choose between being right and being happy. The second choice is always more fun and easy on the mind. =)

11) In learning, give more importance to the principle over the method. Methods may change or become outdated, but principles are timeless.

12) The most dangerous obstacles to your dreams are not other people or circumstances but your own excuses or stories you believe as absolute truth.

13) Sometimes who you are is more important than what you do. Your very presence can touch people more than your actions.

14) Clarity equals power. The clearer you are, the more powerful your words and actions.

15) You can never change another person, well-meaning you may be. You can try anything from the sweetest suggestion to emotional blackmail or outright threat, all to no avail. The best you can do is show the possibilities to that person and then give him/her space and support. Trust in that person’s process.

16) The only person you can really save is yourself. But it’s funny and amazing that when you do, some people realize that they can save themselves too. (I still need to remind myself about this whenever my Messianic complex kicks in ^_^).

17) Suffering is an option. So is happiness.

18) Nothing or no one can truly hurt you unless you allow it. (A lesson I’m still having difficulty with many times).

19) When you stop worrying and controlling and just trust and let go, amazing things happen.

20) The line between opposites can be paper-thin. Be mindful whether you are loving or manipulating, being trusting or ignorant, acting from intuition or delusion.

21) Don’t be so hard on yourself when you find yourself backsliding on something you decided to change. Just keep trying. Sometimes it is more difficult to un-learn than to learn.

22) Actually, sometimes the lessons you need to learn – or un-learn – are a bit “advanced” for your present state of mind that it’s natural you don’t get them immediately. If you’re frustrated, you are like an elementary student frustrated he/she is not in college yet. ^_^ (Something I need to remind myself over and over again. Hehehe.)

23) All paths eventually lead to God / enlightenment / the divine / whatever you feel like calling it. Some paths may take longer, some may appear to lead to “destruction” at first, but they all lead to one destination.

24) Corollary to the above, to insist that your path is the only right or valid path can actually harm your own journey.

25) There can be many voices trying to tell you what to do and messages that look equally true. To know the truth, go into that deep, quiet part of you and listen.

26) Related to the above – ALL principles and wisdom are actually true, even when some appear to be conflicting. The trick is to know which wisdom to apply in a particular situation.

27) You are always being guided by a higher power. Always.

To the people and situations who taught me these sometimes painful and difficult lessons, I am forever grateful. =)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Magic Moment

I was restless. I was on my way to the weekly gathering of my spiritual community but my mind was already on the things I needed to do after and the deadline I needed to meet. Even walking for the past 10 minutes or so did not ease my worry.

The cold and grey afternoon did not help lift my mood. It had been raining throughout the day, though thankfully it had now stopped. I passed by Greenbelt Park as I walked, and the park, normally bustling with activity, looked desolate. No people passed by the bridge over the pond. The white ducks, which are normally a delight to watch in, were absent.

I saw no one except for a man, perhaps in his fifties or sixties, leaning on the bridge's railing and feeding birds. I stopped walking and looked at him for a moment. He was earnestly throwing food at the birds and looked perfectly happy and content amid the dreary afternoon.

I walked to the bridge and leaned beside him on the railing. I really felt no urge to talk – I just asked him what he was feeding the mayas. He gestured to the rice grains on his palm. I looked at the tiny brown birds eagerly pecking at the rice grains and drinking from the pools of rainwater on the rock crevices. A sudden wave of peace and assurance washed over me. At that very moment I felt – yes, I did not look – the man leave. I continued looking at the birds.

After a few minutes, I looked around me, and the park was suddenly alive with activity. People were walking around. I could hear laughter and lively conversation. A few feet away, two smiling women were posing for a photo. A few people joined me to look at the birds. One eager little girl kept pointing at the birds and saying, “Look, o, birds!” She later had her photo taken with them.

I basked in the scenery and energy, marveling at the perfection of it all. At the back of my mind, though, I knew that the moment would be more complete if there were ducks. Whenever I pass by this park, I never tire of staring at the ducks, usually swimming around without a care in the world. Because of the day’s heavy rains I did not really expect to see them, though.

Amazingly, the moment I thought this, I saw two white ducks walking on the path near the bridge. I was even able to get close to one without him – or her – being scared away, which is quite something since the ducks I usually encountered in this park move away when I start getting closer.

I watched them walk around until they finally settled on the rocks by the pond. At that moment, I was struck by a revelation. That man feeding the birds was an angel. Whether he was an earthly angel who is as human as I am, a spirit, or pure energy, it did not matter. I knew with full certainty and clarity that he was an angel.

Feeling lighter and extremely blessed, I continued my walk.

The mayas. I was so in the moment that I did not think of taking a photo until there were a few of them left.

The two ducks that appeared as though by magic

Why do I get the feeling that this duck is as curious about me as I am about him/her?

They have found their place.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Remembering VJ

He was small, with a shaved head and an ever-present serene smile on his face. He spoke with the most gentle, soothing voice that can arguably cool off or tone down any hot temper. Occasionally I think he must have been a monk in his past life. And in our school paper, the Collegian, where I was privileged to be with him for three years, some fondly called him Sto. NiƱo.

He was an accomplished and respected Kultura writer then editor in our paper. But it was his poetry, fiction and creative prose which caught my attention. Before college, my idea of poetry in Filipino was limited to balagtasan and the like. He was one of the writers I read - and met - in college who showed that poetry in Filipino can be very real and present, resonating with people's experiences today.

And he did it beautifully. Maybe because he was always open and honest about his feelings, without apology. I sometimes had the impression that he wore his heart on his sleeve and he was feeling too much. But his heartbreak, suffering and joys were his raw material to write the most beautiful prose and verse, with both form and feeling.

Though we were not very close, I was at ease with him enough to confide in him from time to time. It was he who encouraged me to write poetry in Filipino. I was a News staffer then, and while I was starting to deeply appreciate poetry in our native tongue, I was still reluctant in writing it. But he persisted and told me I could do it. Had it not been for him, I would probably not have taken that first step and written my first poem. And he was very diplomatic in critiquing that first poem, in a way only a "monk" with the perpetually gentle voice could. =)

We lost communication after graduation but I always had fond memories of him.

The news of his death came as a shock. At first we all thought he was just missing. Death was far from my mind. But when his body was found last Tuesday, it seemed like a dream. Preliminary investigation showed that he was strangled to death, and possibly robbed, as the money in his wallet was missing. So far, it appeared to be a random incident, with no political motivation on the part of the killers.

I have family, friends and acquaintances who died of illnesses. A close family friend was murdered with political motivations. While they were painful, I could explain them away logically. But how to comprehend a murder that happened just because my friend happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I cannot understand his death right now and I am sad to know that there are many things he could still do that I will never know. But one thing I do know is that he tried and was somehow able to do the things he could do in his short time here. He embraced his life, feelings and experiences. He is one of the people I remember when I read this quote from novelist Wei Hui: "Suck dry the juice of life like a leech, including its secret happiness and hurt, spontaneous passion and eternal longing."

He also left a valuable legacy - he was a dear friend, mentor and teacher to many. I could see in the outpouring of support and condolences from people that he had touched many lives.

VJ, thank you for your life.


Police investigation on Vincent Jan Rubio's case is still ongoing as of this writing.

One of VJ's old works: Could not find other works online.