a fluorescent-lit basement suite in Capital Hill, Paulina
Constancia speaks of the tropical existence of her fellow
Filipinos on the Island of Cebu. In vivid colours, she describes
a land where people still experience wonder and savour the
unlikely trappings of the ordinary.
Tiling, Constancia’s current exhibition at Artspace
Gallery, tells the stories of these Cebuanos through skillfully
manipulated glazed tile images.
work is trying to show the simple pleasures," says Constancia.
"Not to say anything against people in the First World,
but it seems that in less fortunate economies, people have
more appreciation for the little things. Things that don’t
cost much but bring so much pleasure, like just being with
your family or going to the beach."
to Constancia, this appreciation stems from the way communities
define themselves in the Philippines. She explains that
when government doesn’t provide for the people, the
people tend to be closer to each other because that’s
their form of social security. Within a volatile economic
environment, relationships are valued over possessions.
pieces such as Gakus ni Mama (Mom’s Embrace),
a rosy-cheeked mom and daughter emphasize this idea. Other
images show extended families at the beach, weddings, shopping
day, Cebuanos waiting for the Jeepney (the Filipino bus)
or women doing laundry.
from the images of a problem-riddled Philippines of the
Marcos and Aquino era, Story Tiling depicts a carefree levity
and a child-like whimsy unfamiliar to those of us who have
only viewed the country through the eyes of network news
turtles, water buffaloes and birds weave their way into
the world of the Cebuanos, piggybacking on bicycles, orchestrating
trapeze acts on clotheslines and playing string instruments
at the county fair. The world of Story Tiling is equal parts
Aesop’s Fables and Marc Chagall.
Constancia says there’s a fine line between fable
and real-life stories in the Philippines.
lot of our real life stories are too grand to be real,
artist recounts one larger-than-life but true story about
her father checking on their rental properties on a neighbouring
island. People thought Mr. Constancia was a doctor because
he always had his first-aid kit with him. One fateful evening,
a man came knocking on his door. With no explanation, he
implored Mr. Constancia to come with him and to bring his
first-aid kit. When Mr. Constancia arrived at the man’s
house, he was greeted by a child with a huge gash on her
man and his wife had been fighting, throwing plates at each
other. One of the plates was embedded in the child’s
forehead. With no medical professionals in the vicinity,
Mr. Constancia cleaned the wound of blood, food and plate
shards and stitched it to the best of his ability.
few years later, Mr. Constancia was back on the island,
this time as a judge for a talent contest. One young contestant
kept pointing to her forehead when he asked her name. The
young woman with the beautiful voice was the same child
he had treated that night. Her parents had never taken her
to a real doctor, but, remarkably, she survived and only
had a faint scar where Mr. Constancia’s stitches had
Constancia is still wide-eyed as she tells this tale. Unfortunately,
narratives passed on from father to child, or grandparent
to grandchild, is a tradition which she thinks is slowly
dying and being replaced by mass-media stand-ins.
and Game Boys are like proxy-parenting – people don’t
have time for their children anymore… instead of children
gathering around their grandma and hearing stories from
her childhood, they watch TV."
imagines that if Story Tiling was based on TV narratives,
the rotund women doing laundry would be replaced by leggy
fashion models and a day at the beach would become a day
at the penitentiary after a dramatic drug bust. Constancia’s
idyllic scenes exist in stark contrast to these alternative
realities. They are cotton candy for an over-stimulated
a plate may land on a young girl’s head, but in the
end, she sings in a talent contest. Everyone is smiling