Thursday, November 15, 2007


hi there pureza,
i found your charming blog, and the display of your works and the items therein really made a connection to my love of philippine arts and culture. the time you were here in l.a. i was really trying hard to attend your presentations, but crazy work sked and other immediate family concerns would not allow me. my name is david casuco. i am a friend of zen and mat relox. last week, i wrote a feature story of him for a real estate magazine (see attached). you can include this in your blogspot if you like. i will tell mat that i found you in the net.

(David Casuco is a seasoned Fil-Am journalist from Hacienda Heights , California . He finished journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and took post graduate course at the Angelus Bible Institute in Los Angeles . In Manila , he worked as a sportswriter for the Journal Publications. In 1989 he moved to Los Angeles with his family and became editor of several Fil-Am publications. This multi-awarded writer who was president of the Philippine Press Club International (2001-2003), is currently the editor-in-chief of the California Examiner).

By David Casuco

Almost all the interesting things about the storied Mangyan tribal life are now gone never to be seen by the future generations of Filipinos. Imprudent and insensitive, the people who were supposed to be the curators of Philippine culture were not looking as the Mangyan natives in Mindoro disintegrated from genuine tribe’s people with exotic and distinct lifestyle into just another group of poor and underserved villagers.

Sure the charming Mangyan life will soon be an important item in Philippine history books, but it will not even be a guarantee that historians can capture the essence of what a true Mangyan life was.

It looks like the job belongs to the multi-awarded Mangyan maestro Mat Relox, one of the most celebrated global Filipino contemporary artists. Relox, an exceptionally gifted painter, muralist, and sculptor loads his canvas with a generous stroke of the Mangyan life as he knows it first hand. Relox remembers, recreates, paints and immortalizes the images of the Mangyan people, their temperament, their lifestyle and original habitat with cunning accuracy. He knew them. He grew up in their midst. He was, and is always one of them.

“Napabayaan man ang mga Mangyan, di pinansin ng lipunan ngunit sa trono at pinakamataas na antas ng sining ay aking iwawagayway ang tagumpay ng mga Mangyan na walang kamatayan (The Manyans, as a people, may have been ignored, but I will immortalize them thru the highest form of the art),” he said.

And immortalize he did, and continues to do so; in most of his works (over 300 pieces of objet d’arts), the strain of the Relox’s subject matter waves in and about the milieu of the Manyan life. He is a master of all mediums – pastel, pen and ink, watercolor, and charcoal.

Now based in Riverside County, a place near one of the artists colony in California where the famous “Tournament of the Masters” is held annually, Relox continues with his artistic vision of elevating the Mangyan life through the power of his works, even as he regularly reaps honors in art competitions here and there; the most recent of which was an honorable mention at the Winter Juried Art show in Pittsburgh, California.

Relox winning work, “Sa Piling Ni Inay,” is a rendering of a bucolic Mangyan Madonna and Child ( 14”x 20 pen and ink on paper). It portrays an amazingly powerful impression of the unbreakable cycle of life. It was chosen along with three others from among the 170 entries. A total of 58 artists participated in the said art show.

Relox is such an enormous talent. He’s one artist that cannot be ignored; even without trying, his works lay bare to people that the man is a consummate artist. As a testimony to Relox celebrated stature as a painter, the prestigious Phil-Am Expo, an annual undertaking by noted FilAm broadcast journalist Ms. Awee Abayari, honored Relox as one of the Most Outstanding Fil-Am Professionals. In that event, Expo-goers had the chance to see first hand the works and shook hands with the maestro.

Humbled by the recognition, Relox was self-effacing in his acceptance speech, saying: “Sa aming mga artists kapahingahan naming ang maparangalan ng ganito (To artists like me, recognitions like this are greatly-appreciated consolations).

Relox acknowledges that he gets motivated and becomes more passionate about his craft whenever he wins art competitions, gets recognitions, and when big time patrons and patroness of the arts take a second look and buy his paintings. He still can feel the thrill that he had when Imelda Marcos, then the powerful first lady and known for her collections of expensive and beautiful things, took home one of his paintings on display at the Cultural Center of the Philippines gallery.

“That was big deal for me. I felt like I made one little step up the ladder of eminence leading to the exalted pedestal of Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo ,” he said.

Relox, essentially a realist-impressionist, does not have illusions to even get near around the area where the legends dwell. For him, it is enough that he can do whatever he want to do with his God-given artistic talent. He is glad that every now and then he can put up solo art exhibits in Southern California . He is, right now, deep at work on some art pieces that he wanted included in his next one-man art show in Los Angeles .

His relative success as an artist notwithstanding, Relox’s road to becoming a serious artist was a rough one. He was barely 12 years old when his father became disabled due to freak stabbing incident. He took the place of his father in supporting the family.

“I worked manual labor out there in the open fields and had to take long lonely walks just to attend school,” he said. “But even then I always knew I wanted to become an artist. I always thought of doing what painters do, and imagined my works displayed in the august halls of some art galleries.”

His break came one night when Rodolfo Ignacio, then the governor of Mindoro , saw him doing some painting. The governor was so impressed that he promised to bring Relox to the Big City to learn and enhance the finer points of his craft.

In Manila , he took the job as an illustrator at the Rex Printing Press, at the same time studying civil engineering at the University of Manila . The problem was when his boss demanded that he must stop school if he wanted to keep his job; options that came down to him like the devil and a deep blue sea.

“I cried. My young mind couldn’t figure out why life can have tough choices,” he said.

Little did he know that the problem would bring him right into a place where serious artists work and where high level of art is a norm. Hermilio Burad, the editor of Rex Printing having seen him suffer for his art, introduced him to the University of the Philippines Sunday Group, composed of seasoned artists like Juan Hidalgo and Loreto Racuya.

It was while he was with this Group that he blossomed as an artist, even as he honed his raw artistic skills and his passion for the art reaches a new level. He basked and later shone in the presence of greatness around him, and his works were featured in prestigious art galleries and hotels in Manila . The rest is, well, a history that is still unfolding.

But right now, the one legacy that Relox has secured for himself right now is that he will be remembered as the Filipino artist who immortalized the charming Mangyan life.