Saturday, May 19, 2007

Everything Moleskine…

MOLESKINE IS THE LEGENDARY NOTEBOOK, USED BY EUROPEAN ARTISTS AND THINKERS FOR THE PAST TWO CENTURIES, FROM VAN GOGH TO PICASSO, FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY TO BRUCE CHATWIN." That's what the company says about their notebook. And it still goes "This trusty, pocket-size travel companion held sketches, notes, stories and ideas before they were turned into famous images or pages of beloved books. "

I've known about this brand of notebooks for years now, but I have never quite come to the point of actually deciding to purchase one of their notebooks until recently. Their notebooks are after all very expensive, and you will indeed have to think twice before buying one. But after receiving my first Moleskine from, I realized what the buzz was all about, and the praises it had received are indeed worthy. The price is justified. It comes strongly bound in an oil-cloth carboard with an elastic band to hold the notebook closed and a sewn spine that allows it to lie flat when opened. The silky paper is impressive, in that although it is surprisingly thin, ink does not smudge on the other side.

I have owned a lot of notebooks – from the ledger types (which housed my ideas, doodles, poems, writings…) to huge sketchbooks, so I found the transition to Moleskine a naturally pleasant one. My writings and art has found a commendable home.

There is a huge community of Moleskine users all around the world, ranging from websites and photo groups. Moleskinerie recently featured one of my spreads entitled "A Brief History of Cats":


"suggested by my mom who said I should give tribute to the generations of cats that our family had taken care of. Starting with "Big Eyes" to the recent generation of family cats... Enjoyed a lot creating this!"

My other Moleskine entries can be seen at Flickr.

My Moleskine

Mukhang Pera

I love doing trick photography. And the above pictures are just a few of the countless things you could do with a P500 bill. It's quite simple really. All you need are the following: a camera, money (of course, folded to your desired half) and a willing subject, all appropriately aligned and positioned for the perfect capture. It will be much easier if you do it with a webcam, with the bill fixed at an appropriate distance from the lens so you could simply align your head for a perfect fit with the money's face. Below are the webcam images I took in gif animation (I didn't realize I look a lot like Gary Lising if I had Ninoy's eyes and forehead). It adds a whole new meaning to the term "mukhang pera".

Kidding aside, it made me think about certain things. “Mukhang pera” actually does not have any direct translation to English (I find “money faced” too weak a translation). Greed for money? It just goes to show how creative Filipinos can be with their way of words especially for something as undesirable as being materialistic. In today’s world feeding on consumerism and materialistic values, can we really say it is so undesirable to be materialistic when it seems to be the norm?

Materialism is defined by Richins as "the importance ascribed to ownership and acquisition of material goods in achieving major life goals or desired states". According to Oxford English Reference Dictionary, it is "devotion to material needs and desires, to the neglect of spiritual matters; a way of life, opinion or tendency based entirely upon material interests." In other literature, it is described as "the value of things rather than people". Being materialistic has its negative connotations, thanks to religious beliefs (it is said that love of things hinders spiritual growth), history and culture and societal values. As beings designed to manipulate objects for desired purposes, owned things tend to become expressions of one's identity, so some say there is a basis for man being inherently materialistic.

Psychologists claim that there should be a healthy dose of materialism. Research has shown that people who emphasize the role of possessions (high materialists) are not as happy as others. There seems to be a distinct difference in terms of attitude/behavior towards buying new things between high and low materialists. High materialists think that they will be happy in buying new things (thinking these will make their lives much easier) while low materialists don't think so, saying from experience that these things won't change their lives that much. It is surprising to find that high materialists often feel angry or frustrated even if they have already bought, perhaps due to higher expectations.

I admit to be an admirer of quality products (and it is so obvious, I always blog about my new toys), and as much as I can and have the resources to do so, I will own quality products (which are usually more expensive) rather than the cheaper alternatives. This prodded me to think whether I am materialistic for being so. I took an online quiz at ExpertRating, and these were the results:

Your Materialism Test Score : 53

The above bar graph indicates your score on a scale of 0 to 100 where 50 is considered a normal degree of the symptom/trait being tested. The higher the score, the higher the prevalence of the symptom/trait.

Description of your test score: The ExpertRating Materialism Test score indicates that you are a moderately material person. You are not too obsessed with it but do dream of having quite a few things. Big cars, big houses, big bucks definitely charm their way into your heart and make you get up for work each morning. All said and done, you are still a realist and are not too obsessed with the acquisition of such fancy things. You want, just like everybody else, to be rich but that does not mean that you will give whatever it takes to be so. You have your feet firmly planted to the ground and your head firmly planted on your shoulders. You are actually balanced right between being altruistic and being too materialistic, and that's just the way you like it!!!

So I am a moderately material person, an average guy in terms of material values. You can take this test too at: ExpertRating: Materialism Test. I don't know about the reliability and validity of this test but there is the standard measure for materialism known as the Material Values Scale developed by Richins (I wrote the items included in this scale in my Moleskine entry below).

These questions are quite interesting to answer too:

What is your most cherished object and why? To make this question more dramatic, let's rephrase it. If your house were fast burning and you can only save one object, what would that object be? Answer this first, before proceeding.

I would probably save my box containing all of the letters, mementos, paintings, pictures a treasure chest of all my personal memories. This box basically represents my life and my relationships. Otherwise, I'll save my laptop, being my new personal box, now that almost all of these are digitized. In a study that used this question, the researchers found that adult members of happy families tend to choose objects that reminded them of other people and the good times they'd had together. These objects are things you would find in average homes and look anonymous, but the intensity of relationships and sentiments are embedded in these. By contrast, members of unhappy families tend to look at their possessions as having meaning to themselves alone.

The $20,000 Question: How would you spend $20,000? (Distribute on the following: Savings/investment, Pay off debts, Buy things you want/need, Travel, Give/lend relatives/friends, Church/charity and Others). Answer first before proceeding.

I would spend it this way: Savings/investment: $6000, Pay off debts: $4000, Buy things you want/need: $5000, Travel: $1000, Give/lend relatives/friends: $2000, Church/charity: $1000, Others: $1000.

Here are the average figures provided by the participants in Richins' study:


High materialists

Low materialists

Savings or investments




Pay off debts




Buy things I want or need








Give/lend relatives/friends




Give to church/charity








Most of the answers I provided would fall between the values given by high materialists and low materialists. But what's so alarming is the amount I gave for buying things I want or need. I am indeed a big spender! How would you rate?

It's nice to know how you stand in a materialistic world, whether you have already been devoured in its ever hungry belly or still surviving. It's so sad to note that some people can be so greedy, that they will do anything to have money in their hands, and this is true not only for those living below the poverty line (you don't have to own much to be materialistic!), but ashamedly for the already filthy rich too. There's nothing wrong in possessing things or aspiring to be rich, but it has to be placed in a responsible moral perspective. Here's a song originally sung by The Youth, revived by Parokya ni Edgar:

O, ang tao kapag walang pera ay napapraning
Hindi alam ang gagawin
Tatawag sa Diyos
Samba dito, samba doon, oh, Diyos ko
Tulungan Mo po ako
Tulungan Mo po ako

Pero kapag nand’yan na ang maraming pera
Wala na’ng Diyos
Paano, nalunod na
Sa diyos-diyosang pera
Pera na’ng sinasamba
Pera na, pera na, ‘di ba

Oh, bakit ang pera may mukha
Bakit ang mukha walang pera
O, ang pera nga naman
O, ang pera nga naman
O, ang tao nga nama’y mukhang pera
Mukhang pera
Mukhang pera, ha ha
Mukhang pera, hoy wah

Mukhang pera ka ba?


Please do make your own versions of "Mukhang Pera" and send the pictures to or post in your replies. It'll be interesting to see your faces in your own money :-).

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monkey Connections…

Monkey connections and influences, from childhood to present as immortalized in my notebook


I remember I had a Monchhichi doll before. Better be strict with the spelling, it's spelled Monchhichi. Not Monnchichi. Not Moncchichi. But Monchhichi, with the double H… so that it can be prounounced Monch-hi-chi… These cute monkeys were created by Koichi Sekiguchi in 1974 to inspire respect and love in the young Japanese children. The dolls became a worldwide phenomenon (as anything from Japan would be) and my mom bought one. A Monchhichi girl would be my companion from birth, and to my great relief she's still around… this time with Sigrid. I thought she had already been thrown away (not expecting that this doll would last 30 years!) but Sigrid told me she had her kept safe in her doll cabinet. Apparently, Monchhichi became each of my brother's and sister's childhood friend. She looks old, but still very much in one piece… except for her tail and ponytail which detached through years of cuddling. I've always wondered why she is crying and smiling at the same time. Maybe she bit on her thumb too much.

Jose Rizal's Ang Pagong at ang Matsing

Jose Rizal actually wrote a parable about a turtle/tortoise (do you know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise?) and a monkey. It depicts how deceiving and selfish the monkey can get, always taking advantage of the turtle, but the turtle always manages to spin the situation around for his benefit. It was originally written in Spanish, but has been translated in various languages and formats. PilipinoKomiks provides a funny translation of this parable in Rizal's "Monkey and the Tortoise" Cartoons. I just discovered that this illustration by Rizal is considered as one of the earliest (if not the earliest) Filipino comic strip! The characters of the turtle and monkey would also inspire the creation of two of our most beloved icons from childhood: Pong Pagong and Kiko Matsing!

Batibot's Pong Pagong and Kiko Matsing

Who could ever forget Pong Pagong from Batibot fame? I feel saddened when younger generations fail to recognize these two characters that have greatly molded our childhood years. It's so refreshing to hear the cheerful sound of Pong Pagong's "WIIIIIIIII!" as his neck extends to 3 feet! (I am exaggerating). Take note, his neck will only elongate when he's excited, wink wink. Question: Ever wondered why Pong Pagong's other arm/hand doesn't move as if he had a stroke or something? Answer: The limits of one-man puppetry! (Refer to the detail of my Moleskine illustration below).

Who could also ever forget the forever husky voice of Pong Pagong's trusty bestfriend, Kiko Matsing? I always fail to ask speech pathologists about his voice… do all monkeys have to sound like that? And come to think of it, what's the difference between a matsing, an unggoy, and a tsonggo? A friend of mine as a kid always thought the eyes of Kiko Matsing were made from real eggs…

Too bad, both of them were taken away from us by the evil people from Sesame Street, huhu. When will we ever see these two beloved characters from my generation again? If I become rich enough, I would buy the rights for these two.

King Kong

We loved King Kong so much that my brother and I invested on the tin-boxed DVD collection which included the classic original versions of King Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. The latest adaptation of Peter Jackson is a worthy tribute to this wonderful story about a beast falling in love with beauty, "And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty, and beauty stayed his hand. And from that day forward, he was as one dead." The last line in the original movie would still be retained in the new version, "It was beauty killed the beast." Of all the characters I could relate to in that film, it would be King Kong.

King Kong Matsing

I received a free doll from Dad's buffet, and I specifically asked them if I could have the monkey one(among pig, cow, parrot versions). I fondly named him King Kong Matsing… as a tribute to a hilarious slip of my tongue (I was discussing about King Kong with a friend, when all of a sudden I blurted out King Kong Matsing. It stuck!) By the way, King Kong Matsing's arms can supernaturally move on its own. No one could explain how:

There's something about monkeys I really love and enjoy. They're naughty but intelligent and creative creatures. They're lovable and cute… but they can be very shy and silent at times. For sure, they love at most with the purest of hearts.


The above is another scan from my Moleskine, clickable for zoomed view.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ambigram Project: One Love One Blood

I've been recently commissioned to develop an ambigram for Robert Renling, a fellow deviantArtist. He wanted an ambigram for a tattoo on his forearm, and he needed the words "One Love" and "One Blood." So, this is essentially two ambigrams… two projects. Seeing my other works, he liked the particular style (the Gothic font) I used for the ambigrams, so he wanted that style retained in his tattoo. As for the embellishment, he wanted it to look like this:

With all the preferences set, I set out to the drawing boards. Usually, I start with pencil sketches in determining possible "solutions" for the ambigrams. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, a word or words that will be set as an ambigram is like a "problem". The task of the artist is to look for the solutions to that problem. Naturally, there will be several solutions to a problem, but the best solution is one that is easily readable and beautiful at the same time. The goal in the pencil sketches is to figure out the optimum configurations of the letters (not so much about how the letters should look like) in the ambigram. This would require constant experimentation, lots of paper flips to make sure the letters work inverted until I am satisfied. Here are the sketches:

I work in an iterative design process, that is, I work closely with the client, asking for feedback in every stage of the ambigram's development. The design after all will be immortalized on his skin, so I better be sure the client is highly satisfied with it. As soon as I received approval and am ready, the solution is digitized in a vector drawing program. Appropriate fonts are selected and almost all the time, the fonts are drastically modified to the required configuration of the ambigram.

At this point of the development, I realized how the word could be combined to one ambigram, and suggested to the client to have both combined, so that in one configuration, it would read "One Blood One Love" and in another "One Love One Blood". I already integrated minor embellishments to get a glimpse of how the final design would look like.

The client agreed to the proposal, and eventually I was working on the embellishments. I wanted it to look aggressive but at the same time dramatic, giving focus and attention to the words. Here is the final design.

Only thing to wait for are the pictures of the design tattooed eternally on Rob's forearm. I also set the design in a flash animation, so that each configuration of the ambigram can be read without having the readers of this blog twist their heads in front of their monitors.

For those interested, I accept commission works. E-mail me for more information at

Friday, May 11, 2007

Of Coconuts and Apples…

Before, I always bought fresh buko juice from a vendor (or who we would refer to as "mambubuko") near our home. It was almost a daily habit, making sure that I have fresh buko juice, slightly sweetened with sugar, with my late dinner. I would always order the "mala-uhog" type, characterized with a cloudier juice, which they say is more nutritious compared to the cleared ones. The only downside with this type is that it has thinner meat, so those who enjoy a meal with buko will most probably not enjoy this. The name itself, "mala-uhog" is enough deterrent for the sensitive ones.

It has been a long time since I bought buko juice, since I often came home late finding the buko stand closed already. Recently, I've been buying apple juice (the 100% all-natural ones, with no added ingredients) to replace the gap left by the buko juice. According to Treetop, only the best apples are used and about two quality apples go in every glass of apple juice! As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. And I've been having a lot more successful bouts at the toilet ever since I drank apple juice regularly (this would be further validated by my mom and sister, whom I have already converted to Apple Juicism). I love apple juice!

One time, as I've been buying the usual 2-liter bottle of apple juice in a nearby grocery, I noticed that just in front of me, in queue to the counter, was the mambubuko buying packs of cigarettes. I've always wished he would stop smoking because I've noticed before as he hacks with his bolo on coconuts, some of the ashes from his cigarette would fall on my fresh buko juice. It's been a long time since I bought buko juice from him, and I'm sure he noticed my long absence. I was trying to avoid his line of sight, but too late, he was able to recognize me. He looked at me, almost revealing a smile, but then he noticed the big bottle of apple juice I already placed on the counter. He stared at it jealously and glanced back at me, now with a look of a betrayed lover… "NABUKO AKO!"


By the way, the drawing above is my first entry spread in my new Moleskine notebook…

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Logo Design: Savoy Special

Looking back on my previous works that has been successful as identifying marks of clients; I would consider the work I did for Savoy Special, a rock and roll band based in Houston, Texas as one of my most distinctive designs. Not only did I employ a unique style in rendering the logo, but the requirements of the client were quite challenging: the idea of using Art Deco, while maintaining a modern appearance. Of course, the logo should still be representative of a rock and roll band.

Art Deco was a popular movement evident in the decorative (architecture, interior and industrial design) and visual art (sculpture, paintings, film and fashion) of the 1920's to late 1930's. In architecture, the most representative of this style can be seen on the design of the Chrysler building's spire. Numerous posters from this time period reflect the elegant geometric (almost industrial) lines representative of this distinct style. A favorite landmark film of mine, which holds the distinction as the first science fiction film (and sometimes infamously as the film Adolf Hitler loved and rumored to have sown the seeds of Nazism in his mind), Metropolis, also bears the marks of Art Deco.

I made several sketches developing a mark for the band. Among the ideas were the use of a stylized geometric wing, combined with a flaming wheel, and a distinguishing nameplate. Although, I am quite satisfied with these two, they don't have that "X" factor that will make the band's image stand out. The wheel version looks quite dated, and may even be confused with a vintage automobile shop (which some rock and roll bands might appreciate, but doesn't quite cut the modern feel the client requires). The nameplate is just that… a nameplate that lacks personality.

Reviewing my sources of inspiration for Art Deco pieces, I noticed a recurring graphic element in most designs… people were always drawn stylistically with regal and flowing lines. Art Deco is heavily integrated by how the head, limbs and body are positioned, how the hair is drawn… and oftentimes, a distinctive headpiece among other implements is worn by the human subject. I wanted to invest on a distinctive headpiece for the graphic element of the logo, and build a suitable font around it. What turned out was something reminiscent of the robot from Metropolis, an infusion of Art Deco with modern styles. It would pass for an old era design but still be successful as modern or even futuristic. The client loved it. I even made an SS monogram based on the design (and I guess this can be considered as one of my earliest attempts at ambigrams).

It had been more or less a year since I designed this logo and it seems Savoy Special has come a long way since and have worn crowns of success. The logo, which I actually titled "Music Crown" can be seen at their website, promo materials and CD's. Visit their website at to learn more about the band.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Walking the Road to Emmaus…

Last week's Sunday Mass (April 29, 2007) was a unique experience. Not only did I run late for the 7PM mass at the Antipolo Cathedral (I had to wait for my sisters Gelyn and Sigrid, who seem to have no idea how long the commute to the cathedral takes), but the mass there took an unusual 2 hours to finish. It was after all a high mass, celebrated by the priests of the diocese. And it turned out to be more than just an ordinary high mass (because as I recall, there was no special feast day that day), but it was made more special because it was the first mass being led by a newly ordained priest. Gelyn and Sigrid were obviously devoid of any trace of energy they had earlier, since they really weren't expecting the mass to take this long, and be attended by so many people. But I found the mass quite meaningful, uncomfortable though it was. After the mass, relatives and friends of the newly ordained priest gave away prayer cards which featured the exact drawing shown above: "The Breaking of the Bread at Emmaus" by the icon painter Nicholas Papas. It immediately reminded me of one of my most loved story: The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:15-36).

I related in an earlier blog how many Catholics seem to have numerous questions about the celebration of the Mass, often leading them to have misconceptions about this. This lack of understanding, I think drives one to lose impetus in sincerely participating in the Mass. One gets easily distracted and bored (to sleep!)

In fact, the readings and gospel nowadays have been very fascinating. The Acts of the Apostles is one of the main books of source for the readings recently, and for those familiar with the book, it tells the story of the Early Christian Church, how the disciples were spiritually moved to spread Christ's story of redemption beyond the borders of their familiar world amidst persecution and even death. This is an impressive transformation, because within weeks after Christ's death, these were the same people who were hiding, confused, doubting and even oppressing each other. They were like sheep that had lost their shepherd. The two disciples walking in the road to Emmaus was among the sheep, so lost and distraught in faith, they even failed to recognize that the third person who accompanied, spoke and dined with them was already Jesus himself! Jesus had numerous appearances, and this was one of them, but it is quite interesting to note that in most if not all of these appearances, the disciples and their friends always failed to initially recognize him (John 20:11-18, Luke 24:35-48, John 21:1-14, Mark 16:9-15). These disciples were friends of Jesus who accompanied him in most of his ministry life, and yet they failed to recognize him, even at close, during a long 7-mile trip to Emmaus! Quite puzzling isn't it? But to put it quite simply why this could be so, the disciples just weren't expecting him. For them, he was just another man travelling on the same road. Jesus, whom they were expecting to be the Messiah, the hopeful ruler of Israel who would deliver them from Roman rule was dead – a missing body in an empty tomb. This led me to think how I myself could have failed to recognize Jesus in my daily routine. Could I have been too focused on my own expectations and selfish thoughts that I have failed to see that Jesus had already been working in my life all this time? God works in mysterious ways, as the motto goes. Cliché it may seem, but it is perfectly true. We might just be surprised to realize that the person that we have often neglected (an annoying friend, a pesky street child, a parent or distant relative or a wary stranger) was Jesus all along… and the moment we realize it's him, he's gone before our midst (as what happened when the two disciples finally realized it was Jesus dining with them). In the end, we realize it is not important to see him with our own physical eyes, but to seek him with eyes of faith, recognizing him in every person that we will encounter in our lives. As with the gospel today, this reminds me of a verse from a song from Les Miserables that goes "To love another person, is to see the face of God."

In my own quest in finding meaning for my practice of the Catholic faith, I found a refreshing take on the Emmaus story, one that revitalized my outlook on the Mass, particularly the Liturgy of the Word (the part of the Mass, where we listen to the reading/s, the psalms, the gospel and the homily). Scott Hahn wrote in one of the chapters in "Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy" that "Nowhere is the relationship between the Bible and liturgy presented so vividly and succinctly as in the Bible itself, specifically in Luke's account of the conversation on the road to Emmaus." He states that although Luke did not present the exact contents of what Jesus told the disciples in the story, he relates how distinctly Jesus used a certain method: "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." This teaching method adopted in revealing God's divine plan in a manner understandable by humans is theology (or economy) in basic form. Interestingly, Jesus places himself in the picture as the culmination of the prophecies, and the ultimate "types" (typology) of the old scripture characters. The disciples, feeling their "hearts burn" as they are opened to the scriptures, asked Jesus, still a stranger to them, to dine with them. At the table, as Jesus breaks the bread and gives the pieces to them, the disciples finally gained complete understanding (mystagogy). At this point, Jesus vanished out of their sight. But the disciples were not disheartened. In fact, they related what they had experienced with the other apostles.

It is interesting to note that the story identifies so much with the structure of the Mass. The teaching on the road corresponds to the Liturgy of the Word. Notice how most readings which features heavily the Old Testament connects to the gospel which is solely taken from the New Testament. As with the manner Jesus taught the two disciples, the scriptures had to be understood and read canonically, that is in the light of God's plan – how the old scriptures (the Old Testament readings) culminate in Jesus' ministry (the New Testament gospels). The homily aims to bridge an understanding between the read scriptures, how it relates ultimately to our own present lives. What's more interesting to note is that, the purpose of the liturgy is not only to remember what has happened (thus simply relegating it to the distant past), but to actually relive it. As what Jesus did in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus, the Liturgy of the Word culminates in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It's as if we were at the Last Supper itself and every instance of the breaking and partaking of the bread thereafter!

With this knowledge, I now find it difficult not to focus in each aspect of the Mass. I find beauty at the convincing logic in the celebration of the Mass and thus being convinced intellectually, the spirit easily follows! I no longer judge the Mass by the quantity of emotional boost I get from it but the mere participation in it, "together with the choirs of angels and saints" is enough for me. It's funny, I know I've been taught all these since I was a kid being raised in a Catholic school, but it took me until 30 years old, to finally appreciate what I have been doing for nearly two decades. And I know it doesn't stop there and I won't stop asking, the mystery is just beginning to unravel.