Thursday, December 15, 2011


I lived with two Muslim families in Africa: a Fulani family in Cameroon and a Fang family in Gabon. It was interesting seeing the difference in the two families even though they were both Muslim. My Cameroonian host-father's affluence was measured by the number of children and number of cattle he owned. My Gabonese host-father's, on the other hand, was measured by the fancy SUV and cars driven and the success of his company. Both were really good men and did provide for their numerous children. Both did the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all able-bodied Muslims are supposed to do.  This painting is a dedication to my Hajji host-dads. "The pilgrim", 9"x12" watercolor on hot pressed paper.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


A beignet in Gabon is a circular, deep-fried dough that is covered in sugar.  In the cities, it is as common as manioc or cassava.  In the village, it was a treat.  There was only one woman, the village chief's wife, in the village of Ebe that made beignets and when she was not there, the sweet tooth waited.  This is a small painting of the chief's wife.  "Making beignets", watercolor.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Madonna and child

A Fulani family fed and took care of me when I lived in Cameroon. I lived in a compound, fenced in by adobe walls, with 4 other houses, one house for each of my father's 4 wives. It took time getting used to living without privacy, especially with 17 boys and about 4 girls running around the compound. I had to get used to eating from a communal bowl with all my brothers using only fingers. In the Philippines, eating food with hands is normal. However, it was hard to eat slimy gumbo with my hands and watch 17 pairs of hand go for the same bowl of gumbo. I was always given first dibs on the bowl of gumbo along with my father, and then after a few minutes, it was a free for all. My moms always cooked the food but I was never allowed to eat with them during dinner. The separation of the sexes was hard to get used to. This is a painting of one of my invisible "moms" who fed me well in Cameroon. This painting was from the last day of my stay with my adopted family. "Mama Awa with child", acrylic on canvas, 20"x24".


In the old days (old days meaning a generation or two!) in the rural areas of the Philippines, Filipino men serenaded (the ritual was called "harana") women at night with their songs of love, usually with a guitar.  This was a lowland ritual which most likely meant it was a Spanish influence.  I don't think I would ever paint that scene since it seems so fluffy.  So, here is one that's more to my liking: an old Filipino man playing a guitar, serenading no one.  "Harana", 6"x6" gouache.

Ridiculous lists

Stockton's an odd town.  It has a terrible public image because it always pops up in articles titled "The worst cities for...".  A few list that Stockton is part of: "Forbes' Most miserable city in America", "Least educated city in California", and "Highest foreclosure rate in America".  And there's more: "Highest crime rate in California", "Highest umemployment rate in California", and "City most resembling Dante's Inferno".  I made that last one up, of course, but I'm sure it would be in there also if there was such a list.  Like with all lists, it only takes into account big-time economic data and ignoring the data not often used for ranking.  Some of the data that easily places Stockton at the top: number of farmers' market per capita, most comfortably sunny weather year round, most culturally diverse collection of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, best collection of thrift stores, and neighborhoods where people know and watch out for each other.  That's my defense of this much maligned city/town in the Central Valley.  To Forbes, I say "Go fuc* yourself"...this city is still learning and has its problems but it's not that bad.  A friend of mine told me that Stockton is a one horse town. It is also quite the melting pot of cultures and colors. For a painter, it is a gift. For now, I am enjoying a good cup of iced tea and hanging out at the front porch, the Delta breeze making music with the wind chimes.  Here are a couple of paintings of Stockton:  "Stockton's finest" (top), gouache 9"x12" and "Colors of Stockton" (bottom), gouache 20"x14".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

La cuisine

In the Gabonese villages, like in a lot of other cultures, the kitchen (la cuisine),  plays a big part in family life.  It's where women spend a lot of their time in the late afternoon and on to the evening, cooking and catching up with the other villagers about the day's events.  The cuisine is usually occupied by women but I spent quite a bit of time hanging out there since I wanted to see how they prepared their food.  Plus, there really was not much to do once the sun sets in the small village of Ebe Messe.  I always wonder how much it has changed there especially with the coming of the internet and easy access to computer gadgets.  I am sure that during les vacances, when Ebe's children come home for a few months, internet gadgets are brought back along with all the baggage that comes with it.  I suppose it is kinda like how the television first arrived into the homes of Americans and changed its culture.  I hope the internet does not alter life in Ebe too much.  This painting is titled "Empty cauldron", the way cooking in the cuisine always begins.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a good bush taxi journey

Bush taxis in Central Africa is basically a large van with several seats and one never knows who or what will be sitting next you.  I’ve sat next to young women who are amused by my foreign ways and laugh at everything I say, drunk men carrying dead monkies for dinner, dead antelope with blood still dripping, or old women with handbags full of market trinkets.  I even sat next to an older woman with six fingers that, I suppose, is not too unusual.  On one particular long road trip in Cameroon, I met a very well-spoken tall Cameroonian who spoke of his music and his aspirations on introducing his music in France and outside of Cameroon.  Usually, talking to strangers in a bush taxi is usually just that, bullshitting. We shared the same first name; he was my “homonym” as they call it there. At the next pit stop, he said he promised to buy me a copy of his album.  At a stall that was selling cassette tapes, he spotted a copy of the tape he was looking for next to pirated copies of American albums.  It has his dapper image at the front with his name, Rene Ben.  He signed it and told me to listen to it when I have time. After the long trip and great company, we parted ways, inserted the tape in my cassette walkman, and listened to the album in the bush taxi that took me back to my Gabonese village.  His music had beautiful rhythms of drums mixed with classic central African melodies.  It was the best African album I’ve ever listened to, even better than Cameroon’s idolized Papa Wemba. I don’t know if he ever made it big but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. This is a painting of Rene Ben based on his album cover.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My memories of Gabon and Central Africa are slowly fading away with age and so I feel an urgency to put them into paintings.  "Travail du sol", watercolor 12"x16".

Monday, March 14, 2011

snake beads

The older women of the Sagada region in Northern Philippines often wear beautiful beads and jewelries during ceremonies. There are a few that wear the snake skeleton around the head also. I remember my grandmother wearing one.  This is a painting of a woman in Kilong, my ancestral village near Sagada. Watercolor, 8"x10" (Original SOLD).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Head dresses

Towards the end of summer in Stockton, a three day pow wow is held at the University of the Pacific campus. I always look forward to this event because the gathering reminds me a lot of my tribal roots. Even though I trace my tribal roots to the mountain tribes of the Philippines, I am always amazed at the similarities in dances, feather head dresses, and even the patterns used in the clothes. I see this similarity also in the Nepalese, the Andean folks, and several other mountain people from other parts of the globe. During these pow wows, it is easy for me to forget where I am. I become a spectator but also a participant just by being there. Interestingly, I always get asked if I had danced already.

This is a painting of a Southern Traditional dancer typified by the buckskin pants and the porcupine hair head dress. I couldn't come up with a good title for this painting without sounding generic so i am just titling it "Pacifica", watercolor 12"x16".

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Manioc, or cassava, was ubiquitous in Gabon.  It is the equivalent of rice in Asia or bread in America.  "Mama with baton de manioc", watercolor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the lesser known cowboy

I grew up thinking all cowboys of the American West were white.  This is understandable since dominant cultures usually dictate history.  It turns out there was quite a large percentage of blacks, Mexicans, and Native American cowboys.  This is a portrait of the lesser known cowboy.  I tried combining the three groups in this portrait. "The American cowboy", gouache 12"x16".

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I was walking in downtown Long Beach one evening when I heard blues coming from a bar.  I stopped, listened, hesitated, then started walking away until a young woman whom I recognized from the conference I was attending, asked me to join her group. I did a few sketches of the blues band in the dingy bar. I ended up staying until midnight.  This is a painting from that bar.  "Long Beach blues", gouache 9"x12".