Sandra Torrijos gives us her arts once again (view her works at the German Club)

(Please visit the German Club and view the works of Ms. Sandra Torrijos, a feminist-artist and a Pinay expat who is based in Germany for half of the year. I promised to blog about her show but I was not able to bring a camera when I went there so I had decided to wait. Meanwhile, I have upcoming travels so I think it is better to simply repost my February 20, 2010 blog in the old site so I can share with you some musings about arts and friendships, two things where Sandra is very good at. Please scroll below for the address of the German Club. The show ends on December 2 so please drop by soon!)

When I see works of arts, I feel divinity.  Creative works emerge from the depth and mystery of the human mind (and soul), which are anchored in the divine. We are all connected to this source of light, the very core of our existence, and it is only through this light that we can create lasting masterpieces of arts. To create is to reach for the divine inside.

“Awit” by Sandra Torrijos (2011). One of her paintings shown in the exhibit titled, “EDSA: ano ngayon?”, a commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of EDSA Revolution. (Photo credits: Jinky Joan Jorgio)

Arts, for others, is an expression of the soul. For some, it provides a link among diverse communities and different generations. For others, it is a continuing journey.

I cannot remember how my love affair with the arts began. As far as I can recall, I was not even in school yet when I started drawing stick figures and flowers, mountains and houses, the sun and the moon. I guess it was my Tito Buboy (Harven), Dad’s youngest brother who inspired me. He was a very good artist. He can sketch a person’s face with very close resemblance. He can paint beautiful landscapes in just a couple of hours. And so I tried to emulate this great artist. In my young mind, I had imagined that I can someday be like him. When he passed on, I grieved because I lost a very funny and kind uncle. I grieved, too, because I lost my first arts mentor.

“Pagkalinga” by Sandra Torrijos (2011), another painting now on exhibit at the “EDSA: ano ngayon”? (Photo credits: Jinky Joan Jorgio)

In the next ten years of my life, I sketched and painted. I knew I was somehow good at it because I even won drawing contests back when I was in grade school. However, the ‘busy-ness’ of life eventually caught up with me and I realized, one day, that all my pastel sticks, acrylic oils, and watercolors have either expired or dried up  without even being used. And then I entered college and even became busier. I did not try to draw again nor found the time for it. One day, as I passed by a gallery inside a mall, I began regretting that I did not continue the “passion.” I thought I had somehow lost “it”, lost a part of my childhood.

In 2003, I mustered enough courage to paint again. I decided to enroll in a painting workshop under the renowned feminist artist, Sandra Torrijos, with my close friend, Mar-vic (Cagurangan-Palmertree), and this decision started another journey into the arts. Sandra said it is not possible to lose “it”. It is always there, inside of us. We just have to look for it again, summon it to come alive again. And she was right. Before long, I was again holding pencils, colors, and acrylic oil, happy to be reunited with that part of myself that somehow “slept” for a while. Strangely, I lost many of my works. I had been moving around a lot the past 10 years of my life. Perhaps, they got lost while I moved apartments and traveled…perhaps they simply disappeared?

“Lagas” by Sandra Torrijos (2011), was also part of the exhibit, “EDSA: ano ngayon?” (Photo credits: Jinky Joan Jorgio)

Just like many things that we somehow forget or lose track of, some of my works eventually faded away. Is it time to create again?
Last week, Mar-vic (who, incidentally, has taken up painting more seriously the past years) and I had a much-longed-for reunion with our mentor and inspiration, Sandra. Mar-vic is based in Guam these days while Sandra is now a resident of Germany so it was actually serendipitous that both are here in the Philippines at the same time. It was a beautiful evening of kumustahan, conversations, musings, and reflections.  “How old have we become!”, we amusingly remarked as we sipped our ice-cold beers, discussing our lives, choices, politics, men, travels, and food (not necessarily in that order). Indeed, it had been seven years since we last saw her.

However, the seven years apart somehow did not matter. We talked as if it was just yesterday when we had the art classes and conversations with her. I felt so much at home. Perhaps, such is another testimony to the beauty of the arts. It draws people together in mysterious ways, as if sharing a pact, so that distance and time apart do not matter anymore. It is as if a silent bond was forged, beyond what can be fully understood.

And so, that evening, I promised myself to continue retracing my path.

Sandra Torrijos: Pinay in Duesseldorf

A One-Woman Show

German Club Manila
Opening Night: Nov. 10, 6:30pm
Penthouse of Eurovilla II Bldg.
118 V.A. Rufino St. Legaspi Village, Mkti.
Exhibit runs until Dec. 2, 2011

Here are some of my old sketches. :)

Mountains and a fence. One of my old sketches (2002), drawn from a picture in in a practice book on drawing.

A stone bridge. One of my old sketches (2002), based on a picture from a practice book on drawing.

Rivers. One of my old sketches (2002), drawn from a picture in a practice book on drawing.


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Thoughts on the SC, GMA, and Secretary de Lima (A repost)

I rarely re-post articles but this is a good read from former Senator Rene Saguisag (lifted from a friend’s post in Facebook). I do not really agree with many of the Senator’s decisions/declarations in the past ten years or so but this write-up is fair and circumspect.



The law we learned and teach in San Beda is not the worst. We work and pray. We placed Nos. 1 and 2 last year in the 2009 bar exams, if that would count for anything. Every year we are No. 1 or 2, class-wise, again, if that would count.

It is sad that Ms. Horn should take a cheap shot at San Beda, a small school but there those of us who are proud of and love it. We are expected not to take the low road of invective and insult.

The SolGen is from UP. Does he side with GMA?

The unelected Supreme Court is static and just waits for someone to invoke its authority. The Prez is dynamic, elected by the people and he receives information from all over. If Business Insight reports that the Dominican Republic Ambassador (not to the Philippines) saw GMA last month about an asylum request, it should be checked and verified.

That was why the unelected SC should have conducted a hearing and listened to both sides, not only to GMA’s. Balance and fairness are desiderata.

The Prez takes into account not only the law but also policy considerations and justifications and should verify leads. Jake Macasaet and Pocholo Romualdez of Business Insight reported that the paper has credible information on GMA seeking asylum in the Dominican Republic, through its Ambassador (not to Manila)which could very well have been discussed in a full-blown hearing in the Supreme Court; it should notify parties in the regular mode, not through TV. Chaos may ensue.

Ad hominem is always sad. San Beda’s Florenz Regalado holds the bar record of 96.7% followed by Bobby de la Fuente with 95.95%. Flor served in the SC and had the reputation of being totally unapproachable. They taught us to stick to the high road. Lo cortes no quita lo valiente.

The presidency is in the commanding heights but the SC, without hearings, could only be a bivouac.

If government could not deal with the TRO, it was because the SC provided only GMA with same. This is not law as taught in San Beda.

I speak up in support of Leila, my fellow Bedan topnotcher. We are trained to take positions, firmly, as a matter of conviction, ready to face the consequences believing that in all things God be glorified. If there was no People Power last night in support of GMA, it may be because she has cried wolf all too often.

GMA had the basic human and constitutional right to due process but so has the State.

                                                                                  – former Senator Rene Saguisag


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An Open Letter to Congressman Angara of Aurora

Dear Congressman Angara,

I wrote to you last June 9, appealing for assistance so that an ambulance can bring your indigent constituent to Ospital ng Makati (OsMak). The Office of VP (and then Makati Mayor) Binay has already kindly offered to accept and treat the patient, as a charity case. All that is needed is an ambulance ride from Diarabasin, Aurora to Makati City (roughly a 6.5-hour drive).

Because I was in Manila, I thought that the best way is to seek your help. I then sent you an email via the HOR’s “Contact Us” system. I also asked another congressman to relay my message to you and he said, he already did.

Yesterday, as I was in mass, I remembered that you have not even replied to my email. Not a single word from your camp. I prayed for the patient and started figuring out how much will I spend if I just pay for an ambulance service myself. I also prayed for funds for it as I began to worry…is she still strong enough for the ride to Manila? I worried, too, because it was months since I have written to you.

Today, I received a message from my Mom. She said that the patient already passed on. You can imagine my mixed emotions of frustration, anger, sadness, and admittedly, some guilt. I felt guilty because I did not make some more follow-ups to your office. However, I ask now, isn’t it enough that someone from Aurora, a kababayan, wrote to you? Isn’t it enough that one of your colleagues also sent the message to you? Aren’t all these enough, Representative Angara? More importantly, how can this happen when you yourself is an advocate of health care for all? (I know that you have recently filed a House Bill pertaining to mandatory universal health care coverage.)

It is not your fault that she died already. However, I am pretty sure she will still be alive now had someone in your office (you?) been kind and attentive enough to lend one of the province’s ambulances to her. June to November was a long time for someone to recover. Even if she will eventually die because of her deteriorating condition, it will still make a difference that someone in your office (you?) has sent out for an ambulance for her. Your thought and concern could have really mattered.

I do not know you and I have no right to judge you. However, I want to ask you these questions: Did you receive my email? If so, what did you do about it? Did you get the messages that I relayed through another Congressman? What did you do after that? What could have possibly prevented you from helping out your constituent, a person who must have been voting for you and the others in your family so that you can all enjoy your seats in government? Where were you when someone badly needed your help? And how many more will die like this? How many more will hope that they can use your province’s ambulances when they needed them most? I already have a direct access to you and yet, you never bothered answering my email. What more for someone who has no access to the right persons?

I wish I have the answers for you.

As I type this, a family in Diarabasin grieves over a lost loved one. It may not matter to you. She is just among your many voters. But for this family, she is a nurturing mother, a caring sister,  and a loyal friend. And she once needed your help so she can continue to love and nurture. Alas, her knocks on your door went unanswered, and she had to leave with nary a smile on her face.

I grieve, too, not just for her, but for the rest of this country who continue to hope that somewhere, somehow, there are still strong and compassionate leaders who have a good head over their shoulders and a kind heart that knows no bound and limits.

I end this letter with the hope that this will not happen again to any person in Aurora.


Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

P.s. Below are the exact text of what I sent you and the auto-reply which was generated by the HOR contact system.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Subject: Your email to the Office of Rep. Angara, Juan Edgardo M.
To: velas.mei@gmail.comDear MARY ANNE VELAS-SUARIN:This email has been automatically generated. We have forwarded your message to the Office of Rep. Angara, Juan Edgardo M. and they will get in touch with you as soon as possible if you have requested them to.Yours Sincerely,The Webteam
House of RepresentativesFor committee affairs, CMSD: +63 2 931 5001 local 7122
For technical info and other concerns, ICTS: +63 2 931 5001local 7616– Original Message –HREP Website Visitor: Urgent help for an indigent in Diarabasin, Aurora (request for ambulance)
Name: Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
Dear Congressman Angara,Greetings of peace and hope! Sir, I am writing this letter with deepest hopes for your kind help. I have also sent urgent SMS through Rep. xxx (name deleted to protect the Congressman’s privacy). Sir, there is someone who needs urgent hospitalization but who is so hard up that she seems to have given up all hope and simply waiting for death in a dark and impoverished hut in Brgy. Diarabasin, Aurora, Province.Sir, I wrote to the Office of Vice President Jojo Binay and they just called me up to say that they are willing to help in ensuring admission to the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak). However, they cannot provide an ambulance as Aurora is very far.In this regard, Sir, can your kind office assist in sending an ambulance to Brgy. Diarabasin so that the patient can be brought to OsMak?

The patient that I am referring to is Mrs. xxxx (she is known in the neighborhood as xxx). (Name deleted to protect her family’s privacy.) According to relatives, she met an accident some 3-4 years ago when a container of gasoline accidentally hit her and she was near a burning stove. I am not privy to the complete details but all I know is that she suffered a serious burn. She was brought to a hospital but due to her extreme poverty, she was not able to afford the long-term medical treatment that she needed. Her condition deteriorated over the years. Right now, she can no longer stand up so she is just lying in bed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even the sheer act of urinating is a difficult task for her and her husband who assists her (he is also old and perhaps, deteriorating, too). She is so thin (and I think partly blind) now. Looking at her brought so much pain. She is in a very bad condition but I also think that she can still recover and become productive/partly-productive again if she can get a decent and loving care in a good hospital such as the OsMak.

Sir, may I humbly appeal for your assistance so that she can get the treatment that she needs? An ambulance ride from Diarabasin to OsMak is urgently needed at this point.

Sir, I do appeal for your touch of kindness. In the right time, and with God’s graces, your kind help, Sir, will be returned. No specific promises but I do believe in “paying forward” so please do be assured that somehow, in the future, I will help someone, too, and maybe more of our kababayans who may need my help in the future.  I end this letter with hopes and prayers. I wish you and your family all the best. God bless you and your family, Rep. Angara!

Kind regards,

Mary Anne Velas-Suarin


UPDATE: Through a friend, Rep. Angara was able to read this blog. I have posted his reply below (see comments field). Here is my reply to his private letter to me (which is basically the same with what he sent here):

Dear Rep. Angara,

Thanks for your email. I appreciate your time and the fact that you have helped Ms. (name withheld to protect her family’s privacy) previously. It is very much appreciated.

However, with all due respect, Sir, I think that the serious flaw was in how you/your staff had never checked with the House ICT about the email address assigned to you/your office. What if hundreds of people have written to you through that email address, too? The HoR’s website was the only available “public” access to Congressmen and people expected those “contact us” page to work. That address existed and even the ICT cannot be blamed. They did their job to assign those addresses to all the Congressmen. The next question that comes to mind is on whether many Congressmen also do not use those email addresses assigned to them? Is the HoR wasting such a valuable resource?

This is a very sad episode Sir. Alarming even. Another life could have been saved only if that email had reached you.

Nevertheless, I understand that we can no longer undo what had already transpired and we can only do our best to ensure that this does not happen again. Let me also check with your Colleague as he assured me that he relayed my message to you.

Thank you once again for your time and efforts in reaching me.


(By the way, I have checked with my Congressman-friend and he reiterated that he passed on my message to Rep. Angara. So it makes me wonder who is saying the truth…)


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A Black Rose blooms in Tagaytay

[UPDATE (26-March-2014): The shop is no longer in Tagaytay. Please scroll down for the new location.]

Let me tell you a story. Her beauty has struck me as feisty and enigmatic. Back in my first or second year in college, when I didn’t know if I’d adjust well to the liberal (almost radical?) style of UP education, I found a new friend seated in one corner of our UPSCA* tambayan, happily puffing away at her cigarette (don’t worry, she has, fortunately, given up on that habit a long time ago). ;)

The Black Rose Shop opens in Tagaytay! (Photo credits:

In what I would probably describe as a fateful event, our deep friendship began. There were no formal introductions. It was as if we have been friends for the longest time already. I have somehow forgotten that we do not come from the same batch (I will not divulge our ages…wink!) because she did not make me feel so juvenile with my remarks. In my young mind back then, she was the epitome of an accomplished woman–finishing her UP education while already building (and managing!) a family with two young daughters. How did she survive the exams, term papers, habla espanol, late-night outs, UPSCA activities, etc. while boldly and happily carrying her role as a wife and mother is beyond me.

And now this woman, called as a “Black Rose” in her elementary (or high school?) school days by one of her teachers, opens a quaint and cozy shop in Tagaytay.** JR and I were among those invited in the shop’s opening last October 30. It was a particularly busy weekend for me and JR because we were then printing our course modules (we are both back in school–he in his culinary studies, me in my MBA Renewables coursework) but we felt we wouldn’t want to miss this for anything in this world!

Grab these 5-year Planners at the Black Rose (but call first because they disappear from the shelves so fast! Photo taken through HTC Tattoo.)

What does the Black Rose sell? For one, the shop sells beautiful notebooks and planners, books, bags, scarves and shawls, costume jewelries, school supplies, home and kitchen accessories (they have beautiful spoon and fork sets embellished with stones!), spices, and other art pieces. It is actually a one-stop-shop for those looking for gifts to their loved ones. I particularly liked a planner because it is handy enough and good for five years! What I really do not like about those being sold in bookstores is that you need to throw them away just after one year of use.  The one that I got from the shop has no date entries so you can begin the planner at any time of the year and when I counted the (generic) calendar pages, they’d be good for 5 years! So the planner can be your handy companion in the long haul. I missed the first one that I liked so I ended up buying the ‘Paris, France’ version with a photo of Moulin Rouge on the cover. (Yes, someone else snatched the first one I liked in just a matter of minutes so dear readers, if you saw something that you liked at the Black Rose, get it right away as another person will surely want it in the next hour or so!) Here is a photo of my planner. :) I liked it, too, even if it was just my second choice because I consider it serendipitous that it has a picture of an old wind mill! Remember, I have just began my coursework in renewable energies. (Wink!)

A nice pink bag with old world charms. (Photo taken through HTC Tattoo.)

The other find that I was not able to resist (the hubby certainly did not complain because it was a 2nd-hand item and did not cost him our weekly allowance, haha) is a nice pink-and-cream bag, with an old-fashioned look because of the way the straps were designed. See here? I think it is even big enough for a laptop. The bag is made of local materials, too, so it shouts, proudly Philippine-made.

There is another reason why you should also swing by Tagaytay. The Black Rose shop is located at the lower ground floor of the unit occupied by Papa Prito (yes, it’s quite an interesting name!), the newest food joint in Tagaytay, where you can find the best fried dishes that go with the Pinoys’ favorite staple, sinangag (fried rice). Hubby and I did not eat there because we were still full when we left Tagaytay so we decided to order take-out. It turned out to be a good decision because we enjoyed the tapa (Taal-style) with sinangag immensely. It was marinated in their own secret sauces and fried in just the right texture (not rubbery!). You can enjoy it through their sinangag-to-sawa meals, at only P95.00. In the menu are offerings with interesting names such as Wow Sabaw, Papalicious, Arroz Tuyo, Kalibre 45 meals, and other all-time favorites like pancit, liempo, sisig, and goto. And don’t forget, with the very reasonable prices, you also get to enjoy the view of the world-famous Taal Volcano! The restaurant (and the shop) are fortunately situated by the Taal ridge, just by the rotunda (almost across Mang Inasal). For those who have to keep a budget while enjoying a Tagaytay weekend, this is certainly a good option: you enjoy the perfect view of the volcano and you get to satisfy your gustatory cravings, too. ;)

Enjoying the goodies and ambience of The Black Rose shop (Photo credits: Homer Verayo)

The Tagaytay landscape is certainly evolving through the years. New surprises happen every day and this time, it has embraced a Black Rose warmly, mesmerized by its enigmatic beauty. Visit the Black Rose shop and be equally smitten!


*UP Student Catholic Action.

**UPDATE (26/Mar/2014): The Black Rose has recently joined the Evia Trunk Sale in Daang Hari, Las Pinas. See her there on Saturdays and Sundays, from 4:00 to 10:00 pm. Cp # +63 920 9209628.


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