Women artists in high spirit

The Inbox

By Elizabeth Lolarga,VERA Files

Photos courtesy of CHS alumnae

The College of the Holy Spirit (CHS) on Mendiola Street, Manila, has found a better way to address its centennial year than hosting fund-raising parties or issuing commemorative stamps, plates, key chains and the like.

“High Spirits,” featuring 15 alumnae visual artists, led by Imelda Cajipe Endaya and Lenore RS Lim, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, was put up because the organizers believe that exhibits create an impact, leaving behind beautiful visual memories.

Cajipe Endaya, who studied at CHS from kinder to high school before taking up fine arts at the University of the Philippines, said, “Lenore and I thought we’d have a back-to-back exhibit dedicated to our alma mater. An exhibit is what we’re good at. Then we decided that since we have many alumnae artists who could get involved and in the spirit of veritas et caritas (truth and love), we could project not only our own art but how women artists promote the school’s ideals and vision. Identifying and promoting fresh names and talent in the visual arts would be an additional accomplishment.”

The artists defined what CHS means to them. Cajipe Endaya said, “The images of the dove, the tongue of fire, the words ‘veritas et caritas’ were ubiquitous. These were mantras that the sisters used in educating us. I lived my youth and adulthood praying to the Holy Spirit. I’m grateful for that. It has inculcated inner strength, faith and confidence that guide me in every challenge and decision to be made, even my every word and action of my daily life.”

She added, “The nuns and teachers were stern and demanded discipline. They taught me simplicity, efficiency and working at tasks one at a time, each and every day like bricks in a building. I’m good in keeping deadlines. Early on, I learned to accomplish my tasks ahead of time.”

Chi Panistante, a graphic designer in Dubai, said, “If I sum up all that I learned, it would be love for what I do, sincerity and truthfulness in doing it well. The choices I make spring from a question in my head: Is there love, is there truth? I've seen nuns, faculty and lay personnel live out this love and truth every day in small and big ways.”

Elaine Ongpin Herbosa, once a stocks and insurance marketer before becoming a painter-gallery owner, said, “The nuns were strict, almost rigid. But they gave us a solid foundation, a strong sense of values. Some classmates were punished—standing under the sun and other unthinkable stuff for offenses like coming to school with traces of lipstick from a weekend party. Though these sound strange now, the measures instilled discipline. We became no-nonsense members of society.”

Rona Buenaseda-Chua, watercolorist, art teacher and owner of Rona’s Art Center, said, “The school helped me grow in faith through frequent reception of the sacraments. We were encouraged to find our vocation by joining the Vocation Circle, invited to participate in daily mass in a tiny chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed all day. Theology was taught by a nun or a priest to make the lesson more credible. Professors taught us truth and love by disciplining us with firm kindness and understanding.”
Tiffany Elaine Ty, a junior business executive into digital art, said, “The training helped me reach the peak of my spiritual transformation. We were trained to become women of substance, deeply rooted in strong faith, value and morals. As professionals, we are not just competent. We’re dedicated to serve, we’re morally adept, always motivated and inspired to be humane in our commitment and service.”

She called the exhibit “a God-given opportunity to express gratitude to my alma mater and to embellish the creative side of my persona.”

The exhibit preparations had their sorrows when two artists died.

Asked about their contributions, Cajipe Endaya said of Rosita Tayag Natividad and Maria Gracia Gargantiel, “The significance of including works of these low-profile alumnae posthumously is to make us remember that even if life and work circumstances drive one’s art-making into the periphery, we appreciate how they had the commitment to make art a vital part of the life of the individual and the community. Gracia was into community puppet theater. She died two years ago. Her older sister Ellen Leaño is Lenore’s batch mate. That was how Gracia’s works came to our attention. Rosita had been ill for some time, but she arranged for her participation in the exhibit. She died recently after she had packed and sent her work via courier.”

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

(“High Spirits” runs until March 27 at the CCP Little Theater lobby and second-floor hallway. Others included are: Celine Borromeo, Maria Antonia Gonzalez-Cruz, Athena Santos Magcase Lopez, Rhoda Recto, Aurora Go Bio Shakespeare and Mimi Tecson.)