On Color

A brewing interest. Let’s make 2018 #colorful! :3

This book is slowly opening my eyes to the fascinating world of colors and natural pigments. Read about the white pigment so far and how lead carbonate was used for the longest time despite its toxic properties (lead poisoning!!!) because it provides a vivid, opaque color. Zinc Oxide would’ve been an alternative, but it was too expensive that people still used lead. Fortunately, titanium was discovered! I’m in the chapter about ochre now and learned that it can be found in certain rocks!

Outside the book, I learned from a YouTube video how to extract pigment from bamboo! Now I want to try it!!! Just need to buy some alum powder (tawas?) and cook baking soda to turn it into washing soda. It’s also very tempting to buy clear acrylic gel medium to turn the pigment into acrylic paint (or watercolor, but apparently it has more components like honey, glycerin, etc., so let’s start with simple acrylic first).

Definitely something to explore next year after this jam-packed semester is over!




Silent Sounding Board

It feels weird sometimes. I’ve been in engineering for a little more than a decade now, eleven years to be exact, but from time to time the question still pops out: What am I doing here?

Before entering college, I remember my father asking me what course I wanted to take. “I want to be a scientist to help people,” I responded vaguely. He asked what type of scientist I wanted to become and how I intended to help others. I didn’t know (hey, I was just in high school! I feel quite sorry for the youth who are in K-12 now; they have to decide early on which track they are going to take!). Anyway, I ended up in engineering. There were times when I felt that it was perfect for me, especially last year when I worked in a chemistry lab. Oh boy did I really tell myself that I was meant for engineering! I was the one making contraptions or 3D-printed set-ups for some of my polymer chemist lab mates and I absolutely enjoyed doing it. I would sketch out ideas, do some basic 3D modeling, disassemble stuff, assemble stuff, etc. That has always been my general idea of an engineer: someone who designs and builds stuff that people can use to make life better or easier. But society would constantly dictate things from time to time that would really influence the way we think. In academia, for example, there’s this idea of prestige.

I was fortunate to be able to publish papers during my one year stay in the US last year. Over there, paper is prestige and papers come out quickly. My adviser gave me the impression that being able to publish as first author in a high-impact journal was a big accomplishment (maybe it is, but it took some time for that to sink-in). When I came home, I realized that I almost had the same number of publications as some of our returning PhDs. “Holy crap,” I told myself, “so it is an accomplishment.” By April another one of our papers was accepted for publication, and I’m finishing another one, which should be submitted by June. “I’ll have more papers than some of our PhDs if all of this come out this year. This is insane.”

Ego started kicking in. There were two arguments in my mind. On one hand, my mind is saying, “Go apply for a PhD immediately. If you can publish at least three papers in one year, imagine how many papers you’ll have after four to five years of PhD training!” But the other side of my brain is saying, “What’s the PhD for? You’ve proven that you can publish papers of equal number, if not more, without the degree. Why spend five years in a lab if you can spend that time doing projects for your advocacy?”

My advocacy. The thing that changed my life for the better. My commitment to my advocacy was tested last April. I was offered a PhD position in the UK. The voice in my head telling me to apply for PhD was suddenly in full throttle. I came up with my own dissertation topic in about a week with the guidance of my prospective advisor. But somehow something didn’t feel right inside. The topic was absolutely new to me and not connected with my advocacy; I just tailored it in such a way that it became related to some of the projects I worked on in the department. I realized how the entire process just seemed so forced. I also didn’t feel excited. I didn’t get the same “high” I got when I visited MIT’s D-lab last year or when I conversed with Penn State professors about their HESE program. It was as if I was just applying because I didn’t want to waste the opportunity and because it was “cool” to apply for a PhD in the UK (plus it was under a prestigious scholarship, too!).

After much thought, I declined the offer. The professor was kind enough to understand. That PhD offer was probably a temptation, something to test how strong my commitment to my advocacy is. I knew a university in the US where every single thing they do seemed to be aligned with what I want. My resolve got stronger to apply to that university after declining the UK offer. So all was decided then. I’ll take the GRE. I’ll take the IELTS. I’ll apply this Septemeber.

Then Makers ShowUP happened.

Makers ShowUP is the maker fair organized by my Additive Manufacturing elective class.  By God’s grace, it was a huge success! It wasn’t perfect, but was very much successful in achieving the goal of connecting with makers within and outside UP as well as promoting the maker movement to the public. Makers ShowUP connected me back to the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA), specifically their Fab Lab and Ceramics Studio. I have always enjoyed visitng CFA. Their grounds are filled with artworks of different kinds and everyone always seems to making something interesting! This was also the first time I knew someone from the Industrial Design program. Oh and what fun they seem to have! I realized that my general definition of engineering somehow fits into what they do as well, they design and build stuff (without excessive math!)! Hence the question, “what am I doing in engineering?” I asked this question so many times now that I think I know the answer: my advocacy. Humanitarian engineering (HE) is why I am in engineering. As long as I don’t see HE institutionalized/formalized in the Philippines, then my mission as an engineer is not yet done.

So now I’m fortunately in a good place. I can be a materials engineer who has connections with the maker movement, which allows me to do what I enjoy (making stuff!), while working on my advocacy. This was really the semester when I felt that work and play actually intersected. I would come to class and have Tinker Thursdays or we would build a boat (a life-size one!) or create concrete pavers, etc. Ideas for collaboration and projects are already popping in my head, which brings me back to the question: How about PhD? If I start a long term project in this direction, I won’t be able to leave for PhD.

I guess I’ll just push through with the application in my dream school and see where I go from there. And while I’m at it, I need to constantly remind myself to watchout for the noises in my head telling me to go for prestige rather than what gives me meaning.

You know where you’re going. Stay on track.

On Collaboration

What Steve Jobs said about only being able to connect the dots looking back is definitely true. There were times since 2011 when I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere with my advocacy, or that I was going too slow. But things seem to be coming together now. I know that it’s not permanent and there will be time again for doubt and reflection (which is not altogether bad, I realized there is a need for that). For now, we should make the most out of the opportunities coming up. Opportunities to connect with other departments, institutes, colleges, and universities. May we be able to play our cards wisely to maximize everything for everyone, i.e. faculty, students, and institutions alike. As always, I don’t know where all this is going. Nevertheless, times have taught us to just dive into the uncertainty with a spirit of excitement and joy and curiosity and gratefulness (and lots of hard work!). Let’s go DMMME! :)

#engineeringeducation #engineering+art #design #materials

Taking Chances in a Small World

My service-learning advocacy is now nearly four years old. My progress might be slow, but nevertheless I am grateful for the journey. This dream– to formally introduce service-learning in local engineering education– gave me the opportunity to meet amazing people, visit various places both locally and abroad, and do things I never imagined I am capable of.

Tomorrow will be an exciting day again! I was lucky to have scheduled an appointment with a renowned Filipino ceramic artist from the UP College of Fine Arts to ask for advice regarding a service-learning project for my ceramics laboratory class next semester. While gathering online information for the meeting, I was surprised to find that the ceramic artist and the person from which I am basing my service-learning project were both at the International Ceramics Festival in UK early this month!

Small world! Their demonstrations were even scheduled (almost) at the same time!

Here’s to taking chances once again at exploring other possible engineering service-learning projects. Wish me luck! :)

P.S. I am delighted to share that two of my fellow teachers in the department asked if they can implement a service-learning project for the course that they will be handling next semester. Of course I said YES! That project, unlike the previous ones I headed for the past three semesters, will be their very own project! They will try to implement their very own service-learning project! This is a dream come true! I wish you all the best!

P.P.S. Since we are in the process of sharing good vibes, please allow me to share another short story. :) I went to the college library this morning to borrow books for the coming semester and one of the librarians informed me that I won the “Best Borrower Award” for last semester!!! :)))) I didn’t even know that such an award existed! Thank you Engineering Library! Yay! :D

Museum Hopping “Appetizer”: The UP Vargas Museum

Before starting my museum hopping adventure in Manila, I figured that it would be better to have a little “appetizer” in order to get the feel of a museum setting once again. And what better place to see than the University of the Philippines’ very own Vargas Museum!

The Vargas Museum is located at the UP academic oval, beside the College of Arts and Letters. It was named after the first executive secretary of the country, Jorge B. Vargas, who served during the Commonwealth period. He donated his collection of artworks and other memorabilia of cultural significance to his Alma Mater (University of the Philippines) in 1978, but these items were transferred to the Diliman campus only in 1986 and the museum building was inaugurated in 1987 by then President Corazon C. Aquino.

There were seven exhibits at the Vargas Museum when I went there yesterday morning, May 25. I arrived at 9:30am and finished at 11:45am. I was able to see six of the seven exhibits (because I didn’t know how to go to the basement where the last one was and I was very hungry already. haha). Here are the exhibits I would like to highlight:

Bliss Market: Exchange in Time | Space of Transience

I did not understand what this exhibit was about when I was reading about it the night before my visit. Apparently, a group of artists collaborated and did different art projects that promoted community interaction between the residents of UP Bliss. I’ve only been to UP Bliss once when I went to my classmate’s unit in one of the twenty-three buildings of the complex. If I understand correctly, UP Bliss was one of the housing projects during the Marcos regime. The place looked really nice in the old photos displayed at the exhibit- so different from the dark, eerie, and almost worn out building I saw when I went there a few years back.

One of the artists in the exhibit proposed having a UP Bliss Plaza to encourage people to go outdoors and socialize instead of spending their whole day indoors watching TV or surfing the Internet. The artist feels that technology has lessened community interaction. Another project I liked was the one where two artists would go from one residence to another to interview about people’s life in UP Bliss then after each interview they would give an artistic sign saying, “God Bliss Our Home,” which people could hang on their front doors. There was also an interesting part of the exhibit where several family pictures of UP Bliss residents showed the common practice of having a carpet-turned-wall-decor in their houses. Drawings, murals, and artworks of UP Bliss children were also on display. I left the exhibit with a strong sense of community and it reminded me that art can be an effective means to bring people together.

Urban Legend (Lawrence Dizon Sumulong)

This exhibit showcased photographs of the Parthenon-inspired Manila Film Center. The pictures were all black-and-white which I think helped to fulfill the artist’s objective of showing that this building has been neglected (the pictures gave me an impression of an abandoned building), but is being revived as the site of the Amazing Show by transvestite performers.

Revisiting Modernity

If there is one thing I love about Imelda Marcos that would be her influence in the propagation of Filipino arts and culture during her husband’s rule. This exhibit features photographs of different buildings built under the former First Lady’s supervision- CCP, PICC, Philippine embassies, Zamboanga International Airport, and many others. The structures were truly impressive with their local touch and creative architectural designs.

Drawing (Jose Legaspi)

“Oh my goodness, this is one talented but terribly disturbed artist” was what I kept telling myself as I looked at countless drawings depicting dark and gory images. I really think that if you look at that exhibit and then went directly to sleep afterwards, you would most likely have a nightmare! There was a naked woman eating a baby, a naked man with a sword stuck in his ass, a naked woman who seemed to have been crucified because blood was flowing from holes in her hands and feet, and she was vomiting too! There were, however, two life size drawings of the artist that were really awesome. The details were great in that one would think it to be a photograph rather than a pastel drawing. But still it was a bit creepy because it resembled the framed photos found in horror films- the type that would rotate its neck to follow you when you walk by. For goodness sake, I was alone in the room! :)))

The Vargas Collection

This permanent exhibit at the second flor Main Gallery features Jorge Vargas’ collection of paintings by Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, and many other artists. They say that if we want to create or think of beautiful things, we should surround ourselves with the beautiful. This gallery is certainly one of the best places to be for such inspiration and beauty. I particularly like Fernando Amorsolo’s Fishing Scene (1942) and Cirilo Salonga’s Going to the Misa de Gallo (1942). The former is a large painting (about 1.5-2 meters in length and maybe 1 meter in width), which makes me feel as if I were actually by the shore looking at the man and woman carrying the fish basket with a fishing boat nearby and a beautiful view of the mountains and clouds at a distance. Salonga’s painting, on the other hand, depicts a family going to the church for Misa de Gallo. One of them is riding on a carabao, while the rest are standing inside a cart that is being pulled by the carabao. They have two traditional star lanterns to light their way. I like it because it shows how important Christmas is to the Filipinos and that this season is always a time to be with loved ones, especially our family.

After my museum visit, I went to the UP Shopping Center (SC) to grab a bite at the turo-turo stall (beside Alicia’s if I’m not mistaken), which serves my favorite fried talong with garlic soy sauce. I also tried their tofu because my other favorite, the tasty and FAT longganisa, wasn’t available. With this, I had a satisfying vegetarian lunch for only PhP50. Yum!

Before heading back to the college of engineering from SC, I stumbled upon this second hand bookshop by the waiting shed behind the Coop. I was totally thrilled to find several volumes of Peanuts Comics! My brother has two volumes at home, which we have read so many times already because we don’t know where to get other volumes locally. Now we know where. Hooray!

*You can visit the Vargas Museum blog here for more information on the latest exhibits, schedules, and rates. :)