By Perla Lena
ILOILO CITY — A landscape painting featuring a man, with both arms heavily loaded with frames and walking along a street walled by houses on both sides, serves as the centerpiece of a small house in Barangay Baldoza, La Paz district.
That man is Larry Casinao. For 15 years he has immersed himself into the art of painting to be able to put food on the family table and to spend for the medication of his common-law wife, who, for the past four years had to endure twice a week dialysis due to a kidney problem.
“I have long been planning to paint that but I have yet to start. I will display that in our house to remind them of who and what I am,” he said on Wednesday in a dialect when asked to describe his life through painting.
Casinao has no formal schooling or training to speak of. He shared that as the only boy among the five siblings, he stopped attending school while in his second year as a drafting student in college.
He decided to find work as he could not endure seeing his mother sell corn and other native delicacies to meet their family’s daily needs.
He used to work in a factory, tried being a pedicab driver and later on joined a friend offering lamination going from house-to-house.
“I decided to go back to painting because I have been prodded by my friends to put into use my knowledge in the art. I started with charcoal and later on shifted to acrylic,” he said.
As an artist, he said his ideas are free-flowing. He got inspiration from what he saw each time he travels. He learned techniques from drawings and paintings that he saw.
“I never run out of idea on what to paint,” he said
For 15 years, he was able to produce around 10,000 paintings. The items were sold out-of-town or by simply displaying them in the streets or showing them to passersby.
“Sometimes I feel like crying, especially when there are no buyers. I was thinking of how I could feed my family,” he said.
Until he was caught on camera displaying his craft along the street that was posted on social media and went viral last month.
Tefel Pesigan-Valentino, vice president for marketing and business development of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, shared that one of the members of the Festive Walk team saw the post about Casinao and tried looking for him.
The Festive Walk team is part of the marketing division of the mall with the same name in this city.
“They found out that Mang Larry was asked to leave the streets. They immediately extended assistance by offering him a venue inside our mall where he is safe and people can see and appreciate the paintings,” she said in an interview.
The mall charges none for his stay and instead, he got further promotional help through social media accounts.
“The manager of the Megaworld called me up and offered me to use a space at the Festive Walk for free for three months,” he said.
With the venue, his paintings were placed in a strategic location; just across a book store. He said that during the first two days, he was able to sell all his display.
The price of paintings varies. For a smaller one with a frame, a painting will cost PHP10,500 and PHP8,500 without a frame. The large painting costs PHP12,000 with a frame and PHP9,500 without one.
With his paintings getting viral, he admitted that life is a bit easier. He now has funds for his partner’s weekly dialysis.
His partner, Angelita Salazar, 42, was full of appreciation for Larry because he never failed in his obligations for their family.
“His painting has helped a lot in my medication,” she said. She looks forward to more customers buying his paintings.
Larry, she said, does not only paint. He also knows how to draw, especially comic characters.
Meantime, Casinao has received a call from actress Heart Evangelista who ordered landscape paintings with birds and plenty of flowers as among the designs and a colorful abstract.
Right now, he is trying to also convince his Grade 12 daughter to go back into painting because he has been receiving orders.
“I convinced her because now I am already loaded with customers,” he said.
Aside from the Festive Walk, he also looked forward to displaying his paintings at the Museo de Iloilo. He already received a call from the management of the Museo but is yet to come up with paintings for another show.
Paying it forward, he entertained the idea of accepting tutorials for only PHP350 for three hours. He said that the rate is lower compared with other tutorial schools.
Meanwhile, aside from playing big brother to Casinao, Valentino said that Megaworld Lifestyle Malls has been hosting exhibits featuring local budding artists, some from as far as Antique.
Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) “is closely working with Ilonggo artists and groups, not just in visual arts, but also in other forms of art including literature, music, and theater,” she said.
“Right now, we are working on getting local writers to showcase their works at our Museum Shop. One of ILOMOCA’s goal is for everyone to have access to art, regardless of social class,” she explained.
ILOMOCA is a three-story museum with six exhibition spaces open as a venue for art exhibits, concerts, theater performances, film screening, and workshops.
She said their museum has reached out to various schools for them to bring their students for educational tours to expose them “closer to the works of some of the most significant Filipino artists”.
“And while art education is important to create interest and develop a passion for the arts, workshops held in the museum have also provided knowledge and inspired those who want to create art,” she added. (PNA)