By Marivir R. Montebon
“Perfection is no small thing, but it is made up of small things.” – Michelangelo
New York – Artist Fernando “Pando” Manipon, in 2009, locked himself in seclusion in his Malate condominium months after the super typhoon Ondoy devastated much of Manila with its high waters and merciless winds. His friends were concerned. At one point, Louie de Vera, one of his closest pals, visited him to find out what could be the matter. He asked why he was not coming out of his house.
And Pando, in his workshop, showed de Vera his most recent work of art: the Malate Church depicted in a collage of leaves. These leaves were stuck in Pando’s veranda right after the super typhoon. Instead of throwing them away, Pando decided he could do something artistic out of them.
And indeed, the Malate Church mosaic in sepia was beautiful. De Vera loved it. It justified Pando’s withdrawal from the world to be able to create something amazing. He has, after all, immortalized the fallen leaves through his intricate mosaics.
Pando, in a telephone interview, said his creations were inspired by the documentary made by Kaatzuo Akasaki on dried leaves, which he saw 10 years earlier before he embarked on his own creative streak.
Pando had been a fashion designer for 30 years. His label Pandora’s Box was carried in major department stores in Manila. He shifted to visual arts after coming full circle as a fashion designer.
“I got bored with the fashion industry which began to just recycle itself in the late 1990s. I wanted something new so I decided to study Fine Arts at the PWU in 2000 and learned to use oil, water color, and acrylic,” he said.
The fallen leaves of super typhoon Ondoy in 2009 was Pando’s new door to the boundless world of creativity. There was no turning back since then. Pando was in love with his work again, creating mosaics of churches and heritage sites.
In 2013, he was the featured solo artist at the halls of the Philippine Senate which showcased his leaf mosaic of 12 churches, following a feature article written about him and his work by Ruben Cruz of the Philippine Mirror.
He also made another exhibit at the San Agustin Museum for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Its centerpiece was the Shroud of Turin which was made of dried leaves of the Balete Aurora Tree.
Another claim to fame for Pando was his Ostrich Egg (a gift from a friend who had an ostrich farm) where he fashioned into a leaf mosaic of St. Peter’s Basilica on it. Before Pope Francis received it during his January 2015 visit in Manila, the Ostrich Egg mosaic became an instant news sensation, as the leaves used were gathered after super typhoon Yolanda.
Beginning August 27, 2019, Filipinos in New York would be able to see Pando’s leaf mosaic on exhibit at the Philippine Center. There will be 43 art pieces to be shown in the “Dahon ng Lahi”, Pando’s first international show sponsored by the ministries of San Lorenzo Ruiz in New York and the Philippines.
Fr. Erno Diaz commissioned on him the San Lorenzo Ruiz image using his now famous leaf mosaic. Pando said he prayed earnestly to be able to do the work correctly. “I prayed hard for a vision as there was no available picture of the young martyr. All I know is he was of Filipino and Chinese descent, a brown lad who served as sacristan in Binondo Church,” he revealed.
Fr. Erno was stunned by the imagery he created of San Lorenzo Ruiz. The project commenced and took two months to finish.
Other equally stunning art pieces on exhibit would be the images of Dr. Jose Rizal and La Madre Filipina which is made of skeletonized leaves (showing the veins of the leaves) and garlic peels.
Pando said that his works of art cannot be copied, unlike other visual art forms which can be digitized. “It is so unique and rare in itself.”
At 73, Pando is constantly exploring on various media to use for his mosaic: garlic peels, leaves, and grains of rice, where each intricate detail is perfected only by love.
His exhibit, which will be opened by Arch. Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the UN, will run until August 30, 2019. (Featured photo: Pando Manipon in Manhattan, photo by Atty. Ferdinand ‘Dean’ Suba, Esq.)