Homebound: How an Art Studio in Laguna Tethers Family to Each Other


It took a while for me to embark on writing these words. Perhaps what it was that slowed me down was the nostalgia. I got lost in it. Both in the marring memories that signified what I had lost and let go of, as well as the memories my four siblings and I always try to simulate upon returns. I sat for a while in the studio. On our old barber’s chair, on our makeshift veranda, and even on our work table. At times, I simultaneously fiddled with a pencil on paper, cardboard, with ink and linocuts. Whatever I could my hands on.

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Sometimes, my memories fell with the rain and blew with the wind sent down by Makiling. I communed with them. At moments, the weight of them forced me to free my hands. I realized that this is what the Factory does. It carries what we are unable to catch in being away. It becomes a repository that tells accounts of our attempts to slow down or move with the inertia of time. What I seem to always come back to are those that hail from the bottom of that mystical mountain. 

My everyday life, both in Brisbane and Los Baños, is intruded by memories of our life at the foot of Maria Makiling. We have always had a strong connection with her. It’s no surprise that at the highest point of the studio, framed upon a view, you can sit with her. Converse with her. She often speaks of those recollections. I listen.


Photo by MJ Suayan.

At the studio, these conversations are echoed by the objects it houses. These objects relay our sentimental impulses to collect. It was funny finding what I would like to call the first iteration of the “Wings” hung up in the studio. Every time I looked at it, I was transported to one of my earliest memories in the time we lived in Makiling. I could recall my hollow wire wings wildly contrasting to all the other angel’s voluminous feather ones. I sensed an inevitable difference between myself and them. At that young age, I felt envy as I ricochet normalcy in my existence. To this day, it is not something that has changed as I embody the splitting duality of outsider and insider.

There are works that I remember watching my parents gather our belongings for. Perfectly folded clothes, my mother’s shoes, and books from my childhood, neatly packed in transparent frames. Large paintings implanted with miscellaneous wood, plastics, and bric-a-brac from our home in Makiling, rendered almost un-decipherable under paint and the texture of Abulug black sand. There was a tooth somewhere in there, as well, once owned by one of my siblings. We could always point out where it was. Now, these works stand in the factory, immortalizing the years before we left, as physical signs of the time. It may be that I seek in them what I long for when we are away.

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Photo by MJ Suayan.

Today, artworks find their home there, landing in from the long traversing of lands and waters. I always find a sort of attachment to the material that they are made of. They speak of moments in which we spent together. Eight a.m. starts, with 5 a.m. finishing on the next day. Although they are alien objects and materials, they remind me of my own experience and location. We find home in the studio along sporadic returns. 

Among the objects in the home that tell of change, so too do signs of the Factory’s decay. It was not always that we had the privilege of returning “home.” I remember it being a long while until my parents could save up and bring all of us back to the Philippines.

When we came home after (un)settling for eight years in Australia, I felt a kind of pain in driving through the yero gates. The unfamiliarity was almost painful. I recall being reluctant in disembarking from the car, to be met by dilapidated structures. With its cracked empty pool and floors of concrete marked by the carcasses of demolished buildings that once stood there, I had never felt so far away from Makiling. 


Photo by MJ Suayan.

Only when you place your ear on them, walls exist with the termites that they feed. Sometimes left are carcasses of fragile, but elaborate structures. In others, you just find small granules of devoured wood. The moist air and long rainy seasons nurture the growth of mold at the Factory. The smell of it clings to the air. You wear it, and you rest in it. A sign of decay, yet also a sign of life, reflecting the essential nature of the Factory. Always changing, while revealing the stunting hunger of time. We tend to always embark on rituals of cleansing to rid of this evidence. But what we always find is that they never really go away. It reminds me of what we had to leave behind. Its these seemingly menial things that remind me of the future. It also tells me what I have missed, and what continues to happen regardless of our existence. 

I see this dilapidation as a telling of our necessity of constant reconstruction. Some days, I can sit and stare at each corner of the house. There’s always something different to see. A composition or an assemblage of some sort, from our tin roofing to our door handle. Always a work in progress, we find ourselves subconsciously and continually creating in the space. It is constantly moving, physically, as well as what it holds. Much like our dogs, always growing, as they do with the trees surrounding our home. Trees that we know to be there, outlasting our lifetimes. As we sit outside for each meal, whether it be in the morning sun or under the cool night sky, we are sheltered by these flourishing and ever-changing tellings of time. 

But it was not until my return to Australia, that I realized how these things tether us to the intangible. I visualize this tether to accumulate knots each time a smell, a sound, or an object leads me back to an intangible time and space. To a suspended home. To memories of what, or where that home may be. Perhaps, it is why we create in the Factory, to form new knots and tethers. It is what aids us in negotiating being away. Is this, what it is to be homebound? To move within states of necessity. Remaining in the borderlands. 

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