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Four artists in various fields spring up surprises to break borders

I have a confession to make.

I’ve only known Ian de Leon as a good actor, Emmanuel de la Cruz as an award-winning filmmaker, Edna Vida as a dame in Philippine dance and Noel Garrovillo as a talent manager.

Edna Vida, Noel Garrovillo, Emmanuel de la Cruz and Ian de Leon

I’ve been a witness to the growing up years of Ian especially when he was staying in the Valencia digs of her parents, Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon. I saw him when he was a toddler when I was attending parties at Nora’s house. I was then a full-time Speech and Drama teacher at the St. Martin Technical Institute (now ULTRA) in Pasig when it was still a town. Eddie Boy Villamayor, Aunor’s youngest brother, was one of my students. Whenever Guy had parties at home, especially the common ones, she would invite us teachers of Buboy—Eddie’s pet name.

I would see Ian in the household with her sister Lotlot de Leon. He was a quiet and obedient boy. He was a keen observer as well. He would courteously respond with a smile if he was called on by fans, guests, stars, reporters etc.

Until he became an actor. He would always greet me anywhere he’d see me. After a Star Olympics at the ULTRA one day I was surprised when he tapped me in the shoulder and we had pleasantries.

A few years back, we were together going down the crater of Taal Volcano on the side of Talisay town in Batangas. Ian was close to Zeny Marcelo-Poe, the common-law-wife of the late Conrad Poe. It was Zeny who brought us to Talisay because she was doing business with its former mayor who invited us to visit the volcano.

My relationship with Ian was revived because of this trip which was fun and exciting. He was very wary of relating to other showbiz folks simply because of his stature as the son of both controversial celebs.

Meanwhile, I’ve known Emmanuel, simply addressed Emman by friends and colleagues, since he directed the prizewinning “Sarong Banggi” for the 2005 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. After that, being one of the officers of the Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (IFC), he was the one—together with fellow director Paolo Villaluna—coordinating with me for the launch of my second book on media studies, “Expose Peryodismong Pampelikula sa Pilipinas (Movie Reporting in the Philippines)” published by the UST Publishing House. IFC had an event at the Robinsons Galleria Cinemas and one of the components of the project was my book launching.

Emman is such a lovable fellow despite his achievements in filmmaking. I would always see him in most film events as an active participant in them with or without a movie to represent himself. He loves film so much.

As Edna loves dance as a seasoned terpsichorean.

I had the privilege of meeting and talking personally to Vida when she spearheaded an independent program on contemporary dance. I got her on cam and she was some kind of an iconoclast. She’s an innovator. For her, even hip hop or strut steps as dance forms are taken seriously. She was a freedom-loving artist and even critical about the social conditions in the national life.

Edna Vida, Noel Garovillo, a guest, Emmanuel de la Cruz and Ian de Leon

On Noel’s part, I’ve known him as a talent manager and discoverer. I met him in Facebook. But he is already a showbiz fixture for a long time. He is a friend to many movie and TV stars. When entertainment writer Dave Rojo and I were doing “Photocomics” for a now defunct tabloid, we contacted Garrovillo because he had many newbie talents who could tackle acting for our visual project.

I never knew they are also visual artists except for de la Cruz who was suggested by his fellow filmmaker Jim Libiran to be written as a visual artist.

It was Emman who invited me to attend the opening of “Breaking Borders,” an art exhibit he mounted with de Leon, Vida and Garrovillo at Hot Off The Press in 163 Maginhawa Street at Sikatuna Village in Quezon City. I was set to go but there was a threatening bad weather which would develop into a Rolly typhoon. I begged off but promised to write about it from his Facebook narratives.

These artists don’t want to be confined only to what they are famous for so they are breaking the borders.

According to Noel, “art is unbounded but for a certain reason, artists have to choose a specific genre to master and work hard for its perfection. Excellence is always the goal and it’s always coupled with hard work, knowledge, and resources.

“Four artists have mastered their craft in their chosen fields. They have proven their worth and established names in the industry where they belong.”

Edna is synonymous to dance. Her performing and creative careers brought her recognition as one of the leading artists in the Philippines today. She performed leading roles with international guest artists and her ballets have been performed locally and internationally with acclaim. She served as principal dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Ballet Philippines. After her retirement, she choreographed and directed for the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino, Repertory Philippines and international productions. In theater, she appeared in various leading roles in CCP’s Tanghalang Pilipino and Labfest productions.  Edna served as columnist, contributing writer, and critic for various national dailies. She had two solo exhibits as a visual artist at Megamall’s Gallery Y and the Penguin Gallery Café.

Vida exemplifies the spirit of artists - going beyond limitations, transcending, and endless rediscovering.

Garrovillo said that Ian got into painting and discovered his passion just 2 years ago, when his sister Lotlot De Leon, had a private painting class at her home in Parañaque. Since then, he reinforced his artistic learning and understanding of the craft by watching YouTube tutorials, dialogues with some artists and visiting galleries and exhibits. As a full-pledge painter, Ian had his first exhibit at Romeo Lindain’s art cafe followed by another show in Tagaytay for "Istorya ng Obra at Kultura Natin" where he was recognized and won awards for his pieces.

For Ian, “Breaking Borders” is an off-screen opportunity and chance to showcase his ideas, visions, and emotions through oil paint and canvas as his primary medium for more creative explorations and artistic expressions.

De la Cruz is also known as Ibonman.

This exhibit is his fifth group show and it marks his return to his first love which is painting and art-making. Breaking Borders for me is an act of imagining and re-imagining. If we can imagine these borders and barriers between us as illusory and ephemeral, we can go beyond ourselves. I think that's the goal of every artist, to go beyond the self.”

Direk Emman has exhibited some of his artworks and photography at Surrounded by Water, The Cubicle, Ufo Gallery, Cusina Salud and Krem Contemporary Art. He is preparing for his first One (ibon)Man Show at vMeme Contemporary Art Gallery this November.

Emmanuel de la Cruz

Meanwhile, Noel is one the prime movers of Culture and Arts in Mindanao. As dance and theater director and producer, his works earned for him recognition in various arts festivals here and abroad. He established Kahayag Community Dance and Theater Company, 1996 CCP National Theater Festival 10 Most Outstanding Theater groups with their performance of “Tudbulul: A Journey to Lemlunay.” He produced and staged the Mindanao National Modern Dance Competition which gathered various contemporary dance groups from all over the country for the title of Best Contemporary Dance Group of the Philippines from 2002 -2010. He was part of Wifi Body Contemporary Dance Festival, as co-founder, which was staged at CCP and brought various contemporary dance artists to fame both in their works and performance here and abroad.

As a former Committee Board Member of the National Committee on Dance, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Noel was one of the founding members of Dance X-Change International Dance Festival and Workshop and the Sayaw Pinoy National Dance Competition and Workshops. As the Chairman of South Cotabato Culture and Arts Council, Noel founded the T’nalak Festival and got involved in community artists’ movements in the locality, leading the group with various community projects, art workshops, and group exhibits. “Still Dancing” was Noel’s first solo exhibit in 2016 followed by “Images of Desire” in 2018 and “Moving Stillness” just recently.  

From his personal experience during this pandemic, Noel would like to believe that the exhibit which runs until November 25, 2020 posits “a statement that artist cannot be confined to limitations—they break borders to be free.”

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