On Friday afternoon, just before the work week that began in Malaysia and ended in Manila came to a close, I dropped by the residence of H.E. Wilhelm Donko, Ambassador of Austria, to have tea with Madame Yan Donko and to get an exclusive preview of her beautiful Chinese-style paintings of the Philippines.
Madame Donko is going to be exhibiting 70 of her paintings at the National Museum from this week. If you're looking for a refreshing and enjoyable cultural event, I suggest you head over to the National Museum and see Madame Donko's paintings.
She'd already told me about her exhibit earlier this year, and so I'd had the exhibit opening reception on my phone calendar for the longest time. I also knew that she'd been using all her free time here in Manila to paint watercolors of scenes all over Manila and all over the Philippines.
But on Thursday, my first day back in Manila, I bumped into Madame Donko at a lunch and -- knowing how much I love art and how Travelife Magazine is all about tourism -- she invited me over to see her paintings at home before they are brought over to the National Museum to be set up for the exhibit.
I was completely unprepared for the simple joy it gave me to see her paintings, which were so sincerely painted and also so innovative in their interpretation of scenes from around Manila and the Philippines, and of Philippine life.
A NEW TAKE ON PHILIPPINE SCENES
Being of Chinese descent, she'd used the Chinese-style of painting and also Chinese watercolor materials, but the topics were all of the Philippines. The results were truly lovely paintings that gave an innovative approach to scenes we know so well like Mayon Volcano, Taal Lake, Fort Santiago or the Banaue Rice Terraces.
And there were so many paintings. I asked her: "When did you ever find the time to paint all these?"
Apparently it takes her about two to three days to paint one painting, although when she's sufficiently inspired, she can finish a painting in a day -- especially as watercolor is the kind of medium that requires quick work. And almost all the paintings of scenes are of places she visited all over the Philippines.
She told me: "The Philippines is so beautiful. You must do more to promote it." In her own way, Madame Donko hopes that her paintings will generate more of an interest in the Philippines and its many tourist and historical attractions.
Madame Donko also painted several works with local items like the sungka. To do so, she actually went out and bought a sungka. She said: "Every item in these paintings is something we own or something in our house."
Her lovely and large watercolor painting of Taal Volcano with tilapia jumping around at the bottom, already promised to a very prominent society lady, was another challenge to paint. She actually bought tilapia and posed these in different ways to be able to accurately get the various poses of tilapia in her painting.
19TH CENTURY RECORDS
OF THE PHILIPPINES
Later on, as I was enjoying the Donko residence's famous sacher torte -- it's the best sacher torte you'll find in Manila -- Ambassador himself came out for a chat, as he'd previously been working on his next book, a historical work on the Austrian Navy in the 19th century.
I also love talking with Ambassador Donko because he is extremely knowledgeable on history. On Friday, he gave me a copy of his latest book on Philippine-Austrian relations. In the mid-19th century, several Austrian naval warships called into port in Manila and they brought back with them to Vienna accounts and illustrations of life in the Philippines then which are very little known.
There was even an artist onboard who sketched the life in Intramuros and the clothing of Filipinos at that time. Ambassador Donko told me: "These are basically like photographs of the Philippines from the 1850s. We see what the city was like and what people wore. They make for such interesting study."
I couldn't agree more. Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.
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