Where Art Thou: Saigon Handicapped Handicrafts

In my recent trip to Vietnam, I couldn’t help but notice: decades of war influenced this country a lot. Most of the must-see destinations in Ho Chi Minh City, south of Vietnam, are giveaways to this. It’s really obvious, especially for places like the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Saigon Central Post Office showcasing its French and Gothic/Renaissance/Romanesque influences — going back to the days when Vietnam was part of the French Indochina in the late 19th century.

You can also see some cultural and social evidences in present-day Vietnam from the twenty-year war during the 50’s (up to the 70’s) as it left a very serious ecological and human impact. In War Remnants Museum, I learned about Agent Orange, one of the major herbicides used during the war, and how it left the Vietnamese with various diseases and disabilities due to the very harmful chemicals. It was a really depressing time, the war, and I can’t help but *sigh* and just… I don’t even know how I got through all those photographs. Leaving the museum gave me really heavy boots.

Two days after, the heavy boots became a little bit lighter than when I left the museum.  We were taken, as part of our guided tour to Cu Chi Tunnels, to a small lacquer painting shop in the countryside called Handicapped Handicrafts. Products from this shop were all created by handicaps, most of which were war victims who still want to earn a living but are no longer eligible for work in offices and other forms of work. It made me even more inspired when I learned that the ancient art of lacquer painting is not so ancient after all.

Lacquer painting is a famous ancient art in Vietnam said to have been found in ancient Vietnamese tombs dating back to the third and fourth centuries for the purpose of decoration and preservation. It was fused with French techniques later during the 30’s and was then considered as a distinct form of fine art painting in Vietnam known as sơn mài.


The finished products undergo a very long, challenging, and complex process — so complex it qualifies as one of the finest and most impressive forms of art in the country. Read More »

Where Art Thou: Upper Belvedere

With the stunning architecture, picturesque landscapes, and overall ambiance partnered with good food and good liquor, no wonder a lot artists thrived in Europe. Eat, drink, be merry and create wonderful paintings! Most of the great artists we look up to honed their craft in some of the countries in Europe.

Today, I am taking you to Vienna, Austria to visit the home of the works of one of the most famous artists from Vienna – Gustav Klimt.

To start off, I visited the Belvedere Palace. It has Upper and Lower Palaces, both of which are now art museums. I chose to Visit the Upper Belvedere because I was mostly interested in viewing the works of Gustav Klimt, most especially so his painting “The Kiss”.

Belvedere and Leopold-1Read More »

Color the World: Part 3

Sundae Scoops Color the World Watercolor Gouache Painting by Elaine Valerie Ramos

Mahal kong Ikaw,

Natagpuan ko ang aking sarili na unti-unting nawawalan ng tiwala sa salita.

Naipinta ko na ang gusto kong sabihin gamit ang makukulay na mga talinghaga, tila hindi ko maiparating sa iyo ang nais kong sabihin. Sa libu-long mga salitang isinigaw ko sa mundo, kahit gaano kalakas, hindi mo naririnig. Sinubukan ko ring isagaw sa tenga mo, lalo ka atang nabingi.

Nakalulungkot isipin ang hindi pagkakaunawaan dahil sa kahiyaan o sa kasakiman. Sadyang nakatatawa ang buhay dahil eto ako, umaasa pa ring darating ang panahon na maiintindihan mo ang katotohanan sa likod ng mga salitang mahal kita.


For the painting, I used ShinHan Hybrid Pass, Khadi Paper, and Water brush.

The Art of Journaling

Art Journal-1

Making a comeback into the scene recently is journaling. More particularly, art journaling is becoming more popular. Even in the advent of modern digital technology, people still feel the urge to go analogue. As such, a lot of people are still keeping handwritten planners or journals.Read More »

Where Art Thou: Filipinos in the Gilded Age

Crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets, damask wallpapers, heavily draped doors — it felt like a time warp as I opened the doors of Leon Gallery to visit a once in a blue moon exhibit.


Collected by gallery owner Jaime Ponce de Leon and curated by Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, Ramon Villegas, and Liliane Manahan, the Filipinos in a Gilded Age is a collection of works that showcase the highest orders of art, politics, history, culture, and society in the 19th century.

LeonGallery_JuanLuna-6455Read More »

Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box


Koi Water Colors Pocket Field Sketch Box is a student grade portable watercolor set that contains:

  • Half pan watercolor paints (12, 18, 24 or 30-colors)
  • Refillable detachable medium (#6 round) water brush
  • Dabbing sponges
  • Lid that can be used as an easel for postcard size paper
  • Palette that can be secured at the side of the sketch box

The best part is that it is only 6.25” x 4.5” x 1.125″. This set will definitely be my must-have on an urban sketching session!
Read More »

Stop, Look, and Sketch

In this day and age, when did you last took the time to pause, and just look at your surroundings? When was the last time you took note of how green the trees are, or how blue the skies are? When was the last time you looked up from that phone of yours, and actually captured the moment with your eyes? It’s so easy to just take a picture, share it on Instagram or Facebook. I, for one, am guilty of not being as present as I’d want to be. I’m always engrossed scrolling through my social media feeds or chatting with friends online.

In an attempt to be more present, and to have a digital detox for even just an hour, I decided to try on urban sketching.

Urban sketching is the act of drawing or painting, indoor or outdoor, with any medium you prefer. As the name implies, it is usually artful renditions of cityscapes or urban scenes, be it inside a coffee shop one lazy afternoon or a busy central business district’s pedestrian during a work day. People usually use watercolor as the medium since it is the most convenient one to bring outside the house for painting. It can be downsized to a pretty compact palette, or if you want you can opt to bring watercolor pencils. All you need is a water brush and you’re good to go. Also, others prefer to have outlines in their drawings, so they also bring with them black markers or pens. Famous ones are Copic and Sakura black ink markers with tiny felt tips.

Urban Sketch-2

While it can be daunting to paint an urban scene with so much detail and with such a large area, I suggest you try to just do it. Draw the scene not so much as to how much detail you see, but to how it makes you feel. Render in your sketch the overall vibe of the place. Sketches don’t need to be down to the single brick on the road exact, it is enough to just suggest where you are and how the overall look of the place is. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that the activity shouldn’t feel stressful for you. Instead, think of it as an act of taking time to be present. Take the time to be ‘in’ the place and not just pass by it. It is a time where you are taking time to appreciate the world around you.

When you are much more comfortable with it, then you can move on to learning about perspectives. To be honest, this is one thing I’m still struggling with and still learning about at this point.

I recently went out to do urban sketching with my dad one Saturday afternoon. And him, being a Civil Engineer, nailed perspective right on its head. Haha! See his work in the small sketchbook in the picture below.

Urban Sketch-1

So, as the saying goes, “stop and smell the roses”. Well, in this case, stop and sketch the roses. 🙂

Where Art Thou: Museo Dabawenyo

You know a city is soulful when its history and culture is preserved so well it entirely moves you. When we went to Davao City a few weeks ago, we were really clueless about which places to prioritize visiting given the number of places our friends recommended and the limited amount of time we had . We’ve heard it from our friends, and we’ve read it in most of the travel blogs in our research: Museo Dabawenyo is one for the books.

Locals say they also call it the “people’s museum” —


True to its dubbed nickname, the people around are so friendly. Look at Kuya waving by the entrance… 😀


Upon entry, a beautiful work of art in the staircase leading to the second floor of the museum welcomes everyone.


It is named Tri-people by Banjo Satorre, Jr., a mixed media art that represents the three people in Davao: the Islams (10% of the population), the Christians (85%), and the Lumads (5%). To date, it has become one of the icons of the museum. If you’re wondering how it became a mixed media art, let’s zoom in to the “jewels” on one of the sides of the canvas.



Photography is prohibited inside the museum. All I can share in this short entry is a quick rundown of the galleries inside. Some notable features include a peek into the life of the Lumads or the different tribal groups in Southern Philippines: photos of the appointed heads and their families, replicas of their houses, weapons, and a showcase of their official tribal costumes. (The beadwork, the patterns, and the method of making them were jawdropping! What kind of detail and how much effort was put into it?)

Other things in museum include Spanish, American, and Japanese war artifacts, a Japanese map of Davao prior to its conversion to a charter city prompted by the Philippine government, a history of undivided Davao, a memorabilia gallery for olden day clothes, currencies, and porcelains from old Davao, a gallery of paintings of city mayors with some photos recognizing the prestigious Datu Bago awardees, and some awards and recognitions that the city got for peace and good governance.

I fell in love too much with this particular gallery about the Lumads, the tribes in Southern Philippines, that I wanted to remember a piece of something about this museum trip. When I got the chance, I bought a piece of their traditional clothing, the malong, in the market. A malong is big piece of tubular cloth adorned with patterns that are innate to the tribe. Every tribe has a recognizable pattern, and I am toooooo amazed by the intricate details!


I’m really proud of how such art is tied with a very rich culture. Some malongs are made of silk while some are made using batik. The malong I got had gold threads woven with regular colors, majority of which is royal blue. I also learned that, aside from the patterns, the material and the method of making the malong itself is different for every tribe.



Soledad Roa Duterte, fondly called Nanay Soling, is the better half of the last undivided Davao Governor Vicente Duterte. She envisioned the whole idea of Museo Dabawenyo which first opened last March 14-16, 2008. It was, indeed, a very good idea as the museum has become a valuable gem to Davao. It shares an intangible treasure to everyone who visits it: knowledge — of how rich and beautiful the city is. I even learned (and relearned) some things I can’t imagine. I was too amazed by the preservation of their heritage especially when I learned from one of the guides that all (Southern Philippine) tribes are still being represented by a “mayor” and helping the incumbent mayor of the city. I also learned that the current president of the Philippines native to the city of Davao, President Duterte, is part Tausug, a tribe of the South.

It would take me a while to list down all the things I learned and realized from this visit but the best recommendation is an actual visit to the place. If you find yourself in Davao, don’t forget to visit this place! It only takes less than an hour to walk around the area (and sometimes a few more for digesting the facts). The entrance fee is free of charge and there is always a friendly museum staff to guide you through all the galleries. Believe me, it will make you appreciate this lovely city and their living culture and tradition even more. 😉

Museo Dabawenyo, translated as Davao Museum, is one of the two known museums in the city of Davao. The building, formerly the Court of First Instance, was restored and rehabilitated to house and showcase the rich history and diverse cultural heritage of the people of Davao. First opened into public during the 71st Araw ng Dabaw grand opening celebration on March 2008, it was established by the City Government of Davao under the City Ordinance No. 0266-2006 and was signed into law last November 2006 by Mayor (now President of the Philippines) Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays at 9:00AM-12:00PM and 1:00PM-6:00PM. It is located near the Andres Bonifacio Rotunda at Pichon corner CM Recto Street, Poblacion District, Davao City, Davao del Sur.

Going Sugar Free

These past few months, I have been hooked on crochet. Yes, pun intended. 😆 Every time I finish a project, I am finding it harder to put down my hook. Unknowingly, I have more than ten browser tabs open every end of the day; all containing new prospects for a next crochet project. Sometimes, I surprise myself by not buying a new yarn!

Since I have probably spent so much time stalking yarns (yes, it is a thing.), Facebook introduced me to Yarns by Sugar Free! Thank you so much, Facebook algorithm.

Every few weeks, Sugar Free releases a limited number of multi-colored multi-strand yarns. The first yarn I bought from Sugar Free is this lovely cake, which they call the MYC Unicorn Fart V2.0 from the Cottonbery Diamond Line. I’ll be honest, I bought the yarn for two reasons:

  1. Yummy eye-catching colors
  2. The name. I see unicorn; I have this unexplainable urge to buy it.

Sundae Scoops Crochet using Sugar Free Yarn Unicorn Fart 2.0

Here is a closer look of the yarn.

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Watercolor 101: Color Mixing

So from the last Watercolor 101 blog post, you’ve seen some of the different materials used in watercolor painting. What now? Now, you need to learn more about colors and how to mix them to achieve the hue you desire.

For basics, you can survive with just 3 colors – red, yellow, and blue. Other colors can be added to achieve different effects, like warm and cool toned reds produce different tones of oranges and violets.

In this demonstration, I am using a basic 8-color Prang Watercolor Set. I only used the red, yellow, and blue to demonstrate color mixing. Here are 3 simple steps to make your own color matrix:Read More »