Think about it

Art, a vehicle to divinity


By Jun Velasco

Dream big and hang on no matter what,” — Paco Santos

WHEN you are in Dagupan, don’t tarry a day to visit (till Nov. 30) an exhibit “Lakbay” at the Llongoren Gallery at the Teotinay Crisologo Bldg., in Barangay Tapuac.

A quiet  — but universal – evidence of sculptor Paco Santos’ surreal imagination, the art exhibit may not be what you expect to see.

What you will see may not have any “artistic” appeal in the immediate sense because it consists only of lean metals, sculpted in rectangular or square shape and unless you have the nose for literary beauty, you’d miss the punch line.

The exhibit’s components, all works by Paco, are  “Lakbay,” poetry as visual, stations, painted metal sculptures and Dream Sculptures, sketches of large-scale works.

It is a truism that most of us have our own idea or ideas on what consists a piece of art.

The visual form, executed by our very own Kababayan, Jose “Paco” Dela Cruz-Santos, 67, from Lingayen, in the estimate of art connoisseur Normal Crisologo-Liongeren, is a product of genius.

An old friend, Paco strikes us as an odd intellectual. He caught our interest when we were mulling a joint book of poems venture, when the orig  guru Armando Ravanzo was still alive.

Over a glass of lemonade at a coffee shop next to the gallery, Paco disarmed us for remembering our book of poems, “Entrances.”  He even remembered the cover of our book –  the face of the poet covered by flowers.

He describes his art as “experimental,” which to us would only attract the artistic, the avant garde, the intellectual.  

He was earlier schooled in St. Columban Academy in high school and later, at the University of Pangasinan, where he finished BS Commerce (Major in Economics) with Masters in Developmental Management (Major in Public Management).

He used to work in Manila, under NAMFREL’s Jose Concepcion until Martial Law forced him to  come home to Lingayen.

Paco then came back to his first love – art.  This love, he says, was first introduced to his consciousness when he was only 8 by a St. Columban Irish teacher who fired his young mind to the world of fantasy.

Later, as he moved about in the circle of other art enthusiasts including members of the literati, he met the late Johnny Amor, a lawyer and artist; Atty. Manuel Manuel, brod Dante V, Manny Vent Cornel, and others.

Paco cites with fondness his “PR woman,” Ms. Norma Crisologo-Llongoren, a dear friend of this columnist, who enthrones him in the pantheon of the great artists.

He has shown his works in many exhibits and won several awards.

In 1995, he won 3rd place in sculpture under the auspices of the Art Association of the Philippines.

He was 2nd place, also in sculpture, in 1999, also under the AAP.

He figured in many group shows — HeART Auction Exhibit at the Ayala Museum in Nov. 2003; PHILCOA 100 Years Celebration at the GSIS Museum in 2002; Lakbay Sining in La Union, 2002; Pista’y Dayat Art Exhibit, 1999; ART Manila, 1995, A Travelling Art Show by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts ; Tribute to National Artist Victorio Edades, Dec, 1993, Llongoren Gallery at SM Megamall, and many others.

He is a member of the NCCA, AAP, the Society of Philippine Sculptors and Pangasinan Art Group.

How did he discover this love for art?

Deep within one’s self, he says “when you do a piece of art, you feel something different; you feel something differently. You realize you need something more than our everyday material needs.

He and wife Fe Dela Cruz are charismatic, soulfully serving the Lord. His father Raymund, was a good chef (btw, cooking is another form of art), while his mom, Amparo Castro, was good in business.  “Though we were poor, mother could produce money like a magician,”  he recalls with fondness. Though a Roman Catholic, Paco pays the highest tribute to “man’s inherent goodness.”

Does he enjoy his work though dubbed by the materialistic as a poor man’s career?

“I love working like a rock star,” he says,  “it is the act of doing your art that’s enjoyable.”

Art, he says, improves man’s taste of things, enriches his spirit, gets him in  league with the beautiful and the saints.

We envy his sense of wonder, childlike faith, ironically perfected by his immersion in art.

Here’s a toast to a great artist, a genius – Paco Santos.   

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