You were born in the Philippines—where do you consider home and how has your attachment to your birth country changed over the years?
I’ve always felt that I have two homes, but they’re very different. Singapore is a safe and secure place to raise a family—although I agree it could be better and more equitable, things actually work here. This has led me to play a more active role in addressing political and social issues back in the Philippines.
What’s one assumption about your occupation that you’d like to debunk?
It’s not glamorous at all to be an artist. Most of the times, I feel more like I’m working in construction—I live in my overalls for this very reason actually!
A lot of young people assume that if they want to take it easy, they should pursue art. Well, they shouldn’t. Just like any other profession, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication and literal tears. Validation is few and far in between so you gotta trust yourself—hard. Now that we’re in the thick of a pandemic and a climate change crisis, with the world bordering on an apocalypse, you also gotta have the sheer audacity to ask: “Would you like to buy a painting?”
Is there a quote that you keep close to your heart?
Yes, there is! I’m sure you’ve seen it a lot lately, it’s a quote by Angela Davis: “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”
I grew up in a country with a long history of revolt and it’s really ironic how corruption has taken over everything back home, with people growing weary from poverty and having to fight to simply exist. We can see how dissent is being suppressed under the guise of a drug war—which wasn’t against drugs as much as it was against the poor. I’ve had enough of that and now I’m using my voice to speak up against the tyranny and cruelty towards the disempowered every chance I get. I’m a bleeding heart, yes.
Times haven’t been smooth-sailing for many of us—how do you maintain your sense of optimism during this period?
I paint. I feed my obsession and just paint. Oh, and memes. I’m neck deep in memes, and it comes out in my work every now and then.
If you could do a dream project (either in Singapore or beyond), what would it be?
I’d love to do some epic-scale kinetic installations at a music festival. Thanks for letting me put it out there! (laughs)
What’s one of the biggest life lessons your son has taught you?
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be different and if someone’s being an ass to you, demand an apology. Sorry, that’s three; my son is the one raising me (laughs).
You’re moving houses soon—share with us something about your new home that you’re most excited about!
I’m just excited to be in a different space. We currently live in a studio apartment close to Kampong Glam and it’s all cityscape as far as your eyes can see. So we’re moving to a flat next to the water with an awesome view of Pasir Gudang (laughs).
I can’t wait to finally put up some art my husband and I have been collecting, get houseplants and a cat—in other words, a millennial starter pack. We can throw some avocados into the mix too. I’m just stoked to live by the water and have some open space. It’ll be great to not just see the walls of my house everywhere I turn for a change.
Apart from your home and RSCLS studio, what’s one of your favourite places in Singapore?
The Kallang River where I run about three, four times a week, and the aquarium.