I got into the visual arts a very long time ago; I'd been obsessed with illustration and animation since I was a kid. I discovered art styles that appealed to me and I took inspiration from them until I came up with a style of my own.
My family encouraged me to read voraciously so I guess that's where my love for really beautiful art comes in. It also inspired me to write, but I didn't know about spoken word until I first participated in open mics and later, developed my poetry. I've always wanted to be a performer and connect with a live audience but I didn't know how to sing or act or play any music. So, spoken word is the next best thing!
Who are your influences and inspiration?
My list of visual influences changes and updates constantly mainly because I find someone new to take inspiration from or call my "art god" whenever I feel that their style fits my aesthetic or how I want my own art to look like. My heroes in the visual arts include Tony DiTerlizzi, Brett Helquist, Mary GranPre, Arnold Arre, Elbert Or, Em Carroll, Mike Mignola, Albert Gamos, Glen Keane, James Baxter, Bruce Timm, and so many others.
As for spoken word, Sarah Kay exposed me to the whole scene, but I also love the work of Jesse Parent, Taylor Mali, Clementine von Radics, Gypsee Yo, local groups such as Words Anonymous, White Wall Poetry, and KM64, and a lot of others whose work I stumble upon online.
Yes, I do! Art always has the potential to hold all kinds of meaning and to be revolutionary, subversive, and political. Viewers take one glance at art and immediately they'll start to feel things without even noticing or having to process too deeply yet. There's a possibility that when something catches their eye, they'll want to learn more about it, so I do think visual art is a very effective vessel not just for nationalism and feminism, but also for human rights in general and all their respective branches.
Modern spoken word sprung out of North America from the African-American civil rights movement and up to now is a platform not just for "hugot" or love poems but also for speaking out on social issues.
I do believe it's important that artists and poets look beyond themselves and how only they feel so they could use their skills and media for higher causes and hopefully benefit other people.
What can you say about the art scene in the Philippines? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
I find that the art scene in the Philippines is pretty solid from where I'm seeing it. In every medium there's a local artist with their signature style, whether it's visual arts or performing arts or literature or music, or even fusions of any of them. We Filipinos are constantly told that we're a talented people and I agree.
On weaknesses, I find that some traditional Filipinos have a stigma about the arts because we get hung up on the salary aspect of careers to see that art really is everywhere - some people just get stuck on a specific definition of "art" to notice.
I believe that the Philippines, historically, has always possessed a feminist culture. Even though male datus were the head of the village, women (whether cisgender or transgender) played vital roles in their society too and were treated with about the same amount of respect as the men. We even have a hermaphrodite goddess. Look up Lakampati! Filipinos used to be so much more open with sexuality and equality until the colonizers mandated our actions according to their beliefs. Today, our society is extremely conservative and views sexuality as something immoral or to be ashamed of, and that women should conform to a certain modest, conservative attitude while at the same time condoning their hypersexuality and objectification. We're still a long way from moving on from these traditional, patriarchal attitudes, but hopefully with the emergence of the internet and of women's rights groups, Filipinos are opening up to all these "new" ideas and ways of thinking.
What about our Filipino Pride? From most scenarios we've seen it becomes a double edged sword. Do you agree or disagree?
Haha, I agree! I find Filipino Pride misplaced at times... I don't know where this whole phenomenon even came from. Sometimes it's a weird mix of crab mentality and cynicism, then a kind of zealous fanaticism and imposed affinity when someone of Filipino blood achieves celebrity. I wish everyone were more supportive of one another from the start and not be fixated on the definition of "success" as fame, wealth, and the approval of foreign white folks, instead focusing on the real roots of the poverty and hardship they think that this "success" will bring.
I perform spoken word when I'm invited, if it's for an organization I'm in known as Mga Apo ni Lola Basyang (check them out here), or when there's an open mic event and I have the chance to borrow the stage. My stage fright stems from my fears of forgetting my piece, embarrassing myself, or making myself look obnoxious or mean. I just try to be as laid-back as possible during the performance and imagine that everyone in the audience is a close friend. I think I also cope by awkardly rambling out my introductions.
What advice can you give to budding artists and performers?
A lot, heh. Have fun with what you do. Don't forget why you started getting into the arts and started performing in the first place. Don't stop doing what you're doing, don't be ashamed of sharing your work. It's okay to feel afraid of being judged, but don't let the opinions of others get to you if all you want to do is share your ideas with the world - there are always going to be people who won't agree with you, but there's usually people who will agree with and encourage you. And if there aren't any, that's okay too. Just don't stop improving and honing your skills, because there's always a better version of yourself. :D *two thumbs up*
What's the song you sing in the shower the most?
Usually Broadway songs or Sia songs! Sometimes I even rehearse spoken word in the shower so I can memorize them, hahaha.
If you were a pizza topping, what would you be?
I'd say barbecue chicken because it's my favorite, and not a lot of people I know order it much.
Shrek or minions?
Shrek. I like the story and ideas better!
What's your favorite Ice cream flavor?
Green tea! Or vanilla.
How do you like your potatoes?
Mashed, fried, or rosti a.k.a. latke a.k.a. hashbrown/pancake! I'm not picky. :P
Below is a video of her short spoken word piece, Stone.