Category: Filipino Art

Everlasting Flowers

Everlasting from Baguio, Photo by PH Morton

Everlasting from Baguio, Photo by PH Morton

Everlasting garland, photo by PH Morton

Everlasting garland, photo by PH Morton

Everlasting Flowers

As soon as my mother saw the Everlasting leis when we were in Baguio, she had to buy a few of the garlands.  She said Baguio is Everlasting.  You have not really been to Baguio if you do not bring home the garland 🙂 or something like that.

I have forgotten about the Everlasting and its connection to Baguio City.  But I remember it now and also recall a song, an Ilocano (language of Northen Luzon, Philippines) song… which advised that the Everlasting flowers come from Baguio.

These flowers are dried from strawflowers of the daisy family (asteraceae),  If dried properly, the flowers keep their shape and colour for a long, long time (or until dusts overpower them), thus, given the name of Everlasting.

These garlands are used to decorate religious icons in the Philippines.  Everlasting is just too itchy to use as leis  to hang round a person’s neck.


Growing up in the Philippines in the 80s, the last thing you would want was a bayong as a school bag, or as an accessory. It would have been such a reputation suicide to be seen carrying a bayong. 😉

In the 80s, a bayong would have been a shout-out and a label of being someone prom da probins (from the province); as being provincial and definitely lacking in sophistication, which was the last thing you would want when meeting loads and loads of new people for the first time.

Students, during my time would have opted for fashionable and, if available and affordable, something made from abroad, stateside (i.e. from the USA or abroad). Never mind that some of these foreign made bags can be rather inferior, to say the least.

Having said that, I suppose, the old style bayong was not very attractive. They were of natural fibres from palm trees. Though woven beautifully, they were not prettified. No ribbons or embellishments were added, no buttons, intricate handles and the bayong did not come in different colours. They were just ordinary box-type bag, useful to carry when going to wet markets to buy fish, fresh meat and vegetables.

Bayong was just too native and screamed naivety and even ignorance of life, the life in the neon-lit and cosmopolitan Manila.

But when I went back home a couple of years ago, I fell in-love with the bayong and can’t get enough of them. I bought five of various sizes home and would have gotten more if I could carry them back to London without paying excess luggage at Manila airport!

I bought my first bayong in Tagaytay. It was raining at that time and as we did not bring umbrellas, we thought we would treat ourselves with those funny, cute hats which were proudly and snazzily displayed in vivid colours, designs and sizes in the mini-shops in Tagaytay. As I was doing a bit of rummaging in a shop, I found a beautiful bayong, half the size in height of the classic bayong. Unfortunately, one of the handles had come off so I did not buy it, but at that moment, I knew I had to possess a bayong. With my entourage of my beautiful Filipino family, we went from shop to shop, buying souvenirs after souvenirs, but I couldn’t find a bayong 🙁 Luckily my Auntie Glor, with her keen eyesight, saw a bayong and that was that, I had to  get it. My family were so lovely indulging me but I got the feeling, they didn’t really understand nor get my desire & feelings about the bayong.
Call it nostalgia if you like 🙂

A few days later we went to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, where Hannah’s beach resort is located. A fantastic place, I have to say. Lots to see and even a lot more to do. Little tinderos (mini merchants) would walk the street selling their wares. One was selling bayongs. I have to say I was able to get four bayongs for P1400 (pesos) which is about £20 because of my great bartering skills, LOL. Seriously, a good buy & great value for money.

I don’t really use them much in London, only once in a while, not because I think they are not sophisticated or well made but because I have so many bags. One day they will see the light of day in London again when it is their turn! So many bags, so little time.

My favourite story about bayongs was that of Carlos Bulosan, who was an Ilocano born in 1911. Apparently at the age of 17, he migrated to the USA with just a bayong (filled with Filipino delicacies such as bagoong, fermented fish and burong talanka, pickled small crabs) and a small matching tampipi (suitcase woven from palm leaves)

Many say that Carlos Bulosan was barely literate when he first arrived in America, but he went on to publish important and influential books written in English in America!

In fact Carlos Bulosan said it first part of one of President John F Kennedy’s iconic speeches did a few decades later.

“But we must not demand from America, because she is still our unfinished dream. Instead we must sacrifice for her: let her grow into bright maturity through our labors. If necessary we must give up our lives that she might grow unencumbered.”
– Bulosan (America in the Heart 1943)

Ask not what your country can do for your. Ask what you can for your country.”
JFK, Speech 1960

Rodrigo Revote – Sword Maker

Believe Me  


                                            A five-minute immersion in Philippine history

                                                               LET US EXPLORE OUR

                     Resourcefulness, Creativity plus Artistry

                            Meet Our Man from Pangasinan



                                                     Jose Sison Luzadas

                                                       Delray Beach, Fl 


Let us have a parade of great Filipinos of the past! Start with the ghost of our ancestors from the Sri-Visayan and Madjapahit times. Were they not gunpowder experts? They designed their canon called LANTAKAS and built strong forts for defense known as “KUTA” thus the province of COTABATO probably derived its name. Literally means “stone fort”.


Though by now were relics of history, these artifacts remind us of the glorious past of Muslim Mindanao.


Remember the name Panday Pira? He was a celebrated artisan, a heavy metal guy when Rajah Soliman and Lakandula were the native rulers of Manila and Tondo, two kingdoms that existed long before Adelantado y conquistador Miguel Lopez Legaspi surfaced to the Philippine shores. Legaspi was sent by the King of Spain to warn other colonizers that Spain is seriously establishing a permanent settlement of her overseas colony after forty-four years of inactivity. THE YEAR WAS 1565.


We FAST FORWARD our history to surf the events when General Aguinaldo and his army were waging a protracted war against the Spanish colonial government. He has a Chinese ammunition expert named General Paoa who complimented the services of another general, General Jose Alejandrino, Dr. Jose Rizal’s contemporary who studied military science and tactics in Belgium. The latter served well using his talents taking care of the ragtag Katipunan army in the use of guns and ammunitions.


Try to remember when problems of violence and peace and order in the provinces accounted so much death because of loose and unregistered guns. Did the PALTIKS in Ilocos and the deadly BALISONGS in Batangas contribute to the stats on crime? 


WELL, on the brighter side of our current history, here is an article from eBALITA on the subject of Filipino craftsmanship as reported by Carlos Marquez Jr.


Take a good look to this gifted provinciano from Pangasinan whose special and unique skills are providing sparkles, “special”effects” and genuine entertainment tools to Hollywood and London’s Pinewood studios. 


‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Braveheart’ swords made in RP


                            By Carlos D. Marquez Jr


CABIAO, Nueva Ecija – The breathtaking beauty of New Zealand and Scotland may have provided the memorable backdrop for the blockbuster Hollywood films The Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and First Knight, among others, but the swords that were so indispensable to them were designed by a Filipino mechanical engineer—and made in a small blacksmith shop in this town.


The designer, Rodrigo Revote, 44, said he made the Gandalf swords used by “Frodo” and “Aragorn” in winning the throne of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings from metal scraps he picked around his neighborhood in barangay Entablado, in Cabiao town.


For some other knife and sword designs, he simply used lahar and other debris from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption.


“They were laughing at me, scorning my appearance like a scavenger,” Revote recalled, while holding a replica of the sword used by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. He knew from his American export broker that his custom-made products would be used in those movies.


Now, his Revote Enterprises ships an average of 700 to 1,000 custom-made swords to the US every month. A Gandalf sword costs $300. It takes the Revote Enterprises, now with about 75 workers, at least three days to finish a Gandalf sword.


“Swords, knives and armor are favorites of some interior decorators. The swords and knives displayed in the house of Fernando Poe Jr. came from here,” he said, adding that he also drew inspiration from Poe’s Ang Panday in designing his world-class swords.


Revote said the original Flavio (Poe’s main character in Ang Panday) was Servillano Revote, his deceased father. He said his father started as a vaciador, going from house-to-house in their hometown Pozzorubio, Pangasinan, sharpening scissors using the pedal stone grinder, and calling for customers by shouting at the top of his lungs, “Ha-sa! Ha-sa!”


“Out of necessity, because he was sending us his children to college, he learned knife-making the crude way, using metal scraps for the blade and carabao horn for the handle,” he said. Among Servillano’s eight children—six females and two males—only Rodrigo, who graduated with a mechanical engineering course from Feati University in Manila, inherited and applied the skills—also by sheer necessity.


His family was broke when they moved from Pangasinan to his wife’s, Irene, hometown in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, in 1985, with their two children. They tried putting up a piggery from a loan from relatives, but it failed. “Kahit P100 walang magpautang sa amin noon, he recounted.

His innate creativity helped a lot. He spent his time collecting metal scraps from neighbor’s automotive shops and shaping them to “something that could be useful in the future.”


One time, he recalled, he found a four-inch nail which he forged into a kitchen knife. From it, inspired by the memory of his father’s perseverance, an idea flashed in his mind. “I, too, could do it,” he said to himself. When Pinatubo erupted, he conceptualized some souvenir knives, whose handle he crafted from ‘lahar’. It sold like the proverbial hot cake. I just labeled it with something like ‘Pinatubo knife’ and it clicked,” he recalled.


Some servicemen-friends in Clark Air Base, where he worked briefly as a mechanical engineer, suggested that he export his products to the United States—and later helped him to do so. There, somebody whom he refused to name introduced his knife and sword designs to a production designer in Hollywood.


           Revote has more than 300 sword and knife designs. The longest

           sword he crafted is the two-meter landesknetchte used by German

           by warriors in the 14th century.


           Revote’s advice during the time when the country is in economic



         “Pick up every scrap on the ground. They could make you survive”.

Behind the Spoliarium



                                                                                                By Jose Sison Luzadas  

                                                                                                      Delray Beach, FL







A combination of natural talent, formal studies in fine arts, apprenticeship in Rome with known disciples of Renaissance artists and immersed in ancient history, provided an arsenal of knowledge andskills to paint a masterpiece. Juan Luna’s Spoliarium evokes realism, drama and tragedy.

It was a masterpiece indeed, that won gold medal in the 1887 National Fine Arts Exposition in Madrid, Spain. Luna acknowledged having been influenced by Rembrandt, Delacroix and Daumier, masters of Impressionism.

A silver medal went to another Filipino, Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo. It was an unprecedented event to see two Filipino painters first and second places in Madrid’s Arts Expostion. Of course, there is every reason
to celebrate.

And so Filipino patriots and propagandists gathered in a meeting attended by Spanish liberals and members of the Masonry
who showed their support and sympathy to the Philippine Reform Movement. It was also a momentous occasion for  Dr. Jose Rizal to deliver an important and memorable speech that left his audience stunned to remember that:

Genius has no country, genius burst forth everywhere and genius is like light and air – the patrimony of all”

Juan Luna is more than an Ilocano icon and legendary painter. If Rizal can interpret the agony of his oppressed countrymen with his pen, Luna did with the bold strokes of his brush and palette. Take a close look at the painting and you will see people in the background with the sullen and sad faces of weeping mothers and relatives waiting to recover and bring home the bodies of fallen combatants in a gladiatorial fight. To Luna, the scenario mirrors nothing but the story of tragedy and misfortunes of his countrymen under the Spanish colonial masters.

It was no surprised that the Madrilenos and art aficionados in Spain were awed and amazed when Spoliarium was entered and adjudged first prize winner in the 1887 fine art exposition.

His studio in Paris doubled as drop-in center of the Filipinos. When Buffalo Bill and his Traveling troupe staged live performance of real Indians and Cowboys, it made headlines and “Indian” became a household word too.

Because of this popular American extravaganza that delighted French and Europeans, the Filipinos organized themselves a fraternal club they named “Los Indios Bravos”.

Juan Luna and Jose Rizal are two gifted Filipinos whose patriotisms are beyond question, each one doing his share for the motherland. Rizal knew the Lunas very well. In fact, Antonio Luna, Juan’s brother, one time, challenged Rizal to duel out of jealousy regarding a woman Antonio was suspected of courting. It did not materialize and was amicably settled.

Luna’s other known painting is the “Pacto de Sangre” or “Blood Compact” depicting his version of pre-Spanish Filipino meaning of “gentleman’s agreement, of sincere and lasting friendship sealed with blood-letting and drinking ritual. He invited Dr. Pardo de Tavera because of his Castillan features a made-to-order selection to pose as Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, Conquistador and Adelantado.  By his strong physical appearance and distinctly Malay, Dr Rizal was a perfect match to impersonate Sikatuna, the native chieftain from Bohol. You have to see this painting at the National Museum in Manila before going to Bohol to see or participate in “Sanduguan” festival.

The shifting fortunes in life did not spare this proud Ilocano. Tragedy fell in 1893 as his marriage to Paz Pardo de Tavera broke up. He was accused of killing his wife and mother-in-law in a fit of jealousy, but the French court acquitted Juan Luna of parricide and murder. Some sources say that because was Luna imminently popular to art connoisseurs in France and Europe could have something to do to influence the court decision based on letters of support and sympathy that flooded the French government calling for clemency. It was also reported that Luna only paid small fees as token for court administrative services.


To find peace in the aftermath of a broken marriage, Juan Luna moved to Madrid with his son. While visiting the Philippines in the late 1896 he was arrested for complicity as member of the Katipunan.  Again luck was on his side

in 1897 as he was able to secure his freedom and safe passage to return to Europe, but this time, it has nothing to do with his celebrity status but due to the good graces of the Spanish King Alfonso XIII, who was then celebrating his birthday.

It was Apolinario Mabini, brain of the Philippine Revolution, suspicious of the American promise for an independent Philippines advised Aguinaldo to send a delegation to participate in the Treaty of Paris in order to protect the interest

of the Philippines and to drum up support for the recognition of the first Republic proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite.   As patriot, Juan Luna readily accepted the appointment as delegate headed by Filipe Agoncillo.

Unfortunately, Luna was not able to work effectively because of the bad news coming from the Philippines.  Upon learning the untimely death of his brother, General Antonio Luna in Cabanatuan City, he hurried home to the Philippines but succumbed to heart attack upon his arrival in Hong Kong on December 1899. The genius from Badoc, Ilocos Norte who brought pride and honor to his countrymen was buried in Hong Kong. In 1920 his remains were exhumed and transferred to the Crypt Chapel of San Agustin Church in Manila.

At last, this “tangsit ti Ilocandia” (pride of Ilocandia) and talented “annak ti aminen” (son of the North) found his final resting place. He now belongs to a select throng of heroes, men and women of the Revolution. The grateful nation celebrates a national holiday in their honor every 30th of November.


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