Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sketches by Ely Santiago and others

by Ely Santiago, 1967
Ink on Index Card

There are people you come across in your life that will stick in your memory even through your Alzheimer haze. One of those folks for me is Ely Santiago, a gentle. soft spoken, talented soul, who I met when I was studying at the University of the Philippines Diliman. I met Ely at Vinzon"s Hall. the university"s student union building housing the offices of the Student Council, the Philippine Collegian (the school newspaper) and The International Club. It was a popular meeting place for students and was known at the time as the hot bed of the then fledgling student activist movement started by members of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. As dissent for the Philippines government and anti-American sentiment grew, so did the student activism which eventually sprouted SCAUP (Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines) and later a larger group called Kabataang Makabayan (KM). This was all happening during my stint at the University. For more info on the growth and impact of student activism that originated in UP, please read The Incubation of Activism in the University of the Philippines by Jose Maria Sison. Also look into Icons and Institutions: Essays on the History of the University of the Philippines - Confrontations with Student Activists by Oscar L. Evangelista.

As I often do when I'm blogging, I catch myself going on a tangent .. Sorry.....

Anyway, most groups of students find their own little areas on campus where they meet and hang around. Fraternities and sororities take over the lobbies of the buildings or the cafeterias and canteens.  Most of my high school graduating class ended up  at the UP Diliman campus and Vinzon's Hall was designated as our meeting place probably because we were used to hanging out there after our Saturday Phys Ed classes when we were at UP Prep. We knew that we could go there anytime and see one or more of us waiting for the others to join in. At the small cafe, we would often snack on empanadas, ice cream, cakes with tea, coffee or softdrinks until it is time for the next class.

Ely Santiago would often be found in a corner table quietly sketching his caricatures. He was already an institution then. Many students would stop by and have their caricatures drawn. He also did them during college fairs. My friends and I would often sit with him talking about life and campus activities and he would sometimes draw our caricatures at the same time.  In his caricatures, drawn on whatever material was available - such as a napkin, he would embellish the sketch with what he feels or sees as your essence and interests. I do not remember if he ever asked for payment from us but I know he did charge others a small fee - cigarette money.   Ely had a natural ability to read people, During one of these sketching sessions, he figured that my best friend, Gemma, will make a great writer before she even thought of herself as one. She now has a successful career as a journalist and a best selling author.

Ely became a regular newspaper contributor as a comic strip creator which showcased his talent as a cartoonist as well as his wit and humor. Ely passed away in 1993. One of his Beta Sigma fraternity brothers, Vic Tirol, wrote a moving tribute to him entitled Remembering Ely Santiago. Ely Santiago will always be part of my memories of  happy UP days.

I apologize in advance that this may seem a tad vain of me but I really just wanted to feature these works of art.

Some of Ely's sketches of me done in 1967:


Sketches done of me by some of my university friends:
by Nicky ?, was a Fine Arts student when he did this sketch. 

by Armand (Bim) Bacaltos, now a Professor of Fine Arts at UP and an award-winning artist
Another sketch by Armand (Bim) Bacaltos
by David Nguyen, a student from Vietnam who I met through the International Club.  He was a good friend who died in tragic circumstances.


  1. I envy those Talents.

  2. What a heartwarming piece about my Dad! Thank you so much for sharing these fond memories. :)

    1. So glad you liked it. I am thankful to have known your dad.