January Auction for Abot Tala

Abot Tala’s partnership with the country’s premiere auction house, Leon Gallery pushes strong with an online auction this coming January 23 and 24, 2021. Following are pieces that will go under the hammer and part of the proceeds will go to support Abot Tala’s mission of re-envisioning school for teenagers.

The lovely lady depicted in the artwork has a mysterious and enchanting gaze as if contemplating what is happening in today’s confusing world. The artist, Rellie Liwag, painted this a few years ago, a prophetic painting indeed. 

The person seems to be looking beyond the bird like how it’s a challenge for us to look past what is in front of us, to find hope.  The bird could represent the burdens we carry on our shoulders which eventually will fly away and dissipate. The bird looks up as if to say, let us not lose faith.  We shall prevail — a message we need to hear more now.

Artist, Fred Agustin is always inspired by the energy and passion of people in the field of arts (visual artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, poets) — how they work and spend hours and years doing what they love to  express, and pursue their creative muse, whatever it may be urging them to do so.  The fire and spontaneity can be seen and felt.  It is something that resides deep in all of us waiting to be unlocked and released.

Fred says, “I try to paint what my eyes cannot see. . . . I’d like to think that when I paint – I paint with my soul.”

Seventeen year old Alexa Yap always felt that art is a conduit of human experiences.  Life may be messy but art has to the ability to contain the dichotomies and contradictions.  What words can’t adequately express such as grief, sorrow and pain, art can.

When she was 15 years old, Alexa painted this work called “Lamentation” during a time in her life when she couldn’t explain why she felt such immense melancholy and apathy.  Despite what some people say disparagingly about choosing art as a career, Alexa is set on pursuing her dream of creating concept art in the entertainment and gaming industry.

Regarding Abot Tala, Alexa says, “Alternative schools are always intimidating to some as there is a stigma of whether it is considered to be a ‘proper’ way of teaching and learning. But learning is at the core of the human condition and it is at that supple and tender age that we should be exploring the world around us.  As a person who adores art, I wish that I had something like Abot Tala.”

When Monica Castillo delivered her speech as the Grand Prix winner in an international art competition in Seoul, South Korea two years ago, she shared what is most important to her as a person in the creative industry: “To see the world through the eyes of a child.”  “The harsh realities of life can easily get any adult to see the world as nothing more than troublesome or uninteresting,” but Monica hopes we never forget to let our inner child take control every now and then.

Her painting of a train suspended in haze shows both forward movement and stasis. Engulfed by nature, sharp edges and clean lines give way to chaotic shapes.  Progress is relentless but nature endures.

A recent graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, Monica also taught the teens of Abot Tala last year.  She saw for herself how teens are encouraged to love learning in an environment of curiosity, wonder and acceptance. 

This piece also by Monica Castillo entitled, “Lupang Hinirang at ang Yaman Ng Dagat” was inspired by several elements of the Philippine heritage: the biodiversity of our waters, the depth of our native language known as baybayin and the beauty of the simple ancient art of Pintados.  Monica observes how Filipinos tend to take for granted the richness of our cultural and natural heritage.  She hopes that our love for the treasures that we have been given will be renewed and cherished.

For Monica, unlocking limitless possibilities starts with a point, following it to where it leads with painstaking commitment and love.

Interior Designer, Tessa Alindogan does not plan her paintings.  When she sits in front of the canvas, it is only then that she decides what to do.  “Art is an expression of one’s soul and on that day, my soul decides and my brush just takes the cue.  My brush dances to the dictates of my soul.”  This almost spiritual process can’t be put in words – that feeling of being on a different plane, of enjoying solitude much like when you savor music and unchoreographed dance. 

Tessa’s aesthetic sensibilities infuses her interiors, her art and her life.  She has passionately pursued her interests and that is why Abot Tala’s mission resonates with her since teens have the freedom and flexibility to follow their interests and passions. 

Let’s also celebrate the Filipino artists: Ibarra dela Rosa and Jose D. Castro from Nueva Ecija, Jerry Morada from Paete, Laguna and Japat Guevarra from Taytay, Rizal.

Ibarra’s productive life as an art professor and celebrated artist was cut short at 55 years old in 1998. His Impressionist style, sense of color, and subjects have an enduring appeal.  He had a distinct brush stroke similar to the pointillists though slightly larger and like a comma which he called “wipings”.

Morada’s interest in history expressed itself in nostalgic paintings of a bygone era. His early fascination with old photographs empowered him with a vision that was to be his guiding style. His depiction of the Filipina is true to the classic image of Maria Clara, imbued with character, strength and femininity.

Both Jovito Andres and J.D. Castro depict the beauty of Filipino family ties, the parent-child bond which is a theme that touches everyone.  Both artists capture these fleeting moments of togetherness and care, giving it permanence in our minds.

Through his paintings, Japat transforms machines into powerful storytellers through fantastic automotive hybrids from past centuries. Mechanical and organic at the same time, the imagery sparks realizations about the clockwork universe and transience.

Celebrated nomadic painter and activist from Batanes, Pacita Abad is known for her boldly colorful, vibrant artworks inspired by her extensive travels and continuous exploration of materials.  In 2004, she passed away at the age of 54 leaving behind a legacy of art that not only nourishes the spirit but drew attention to issues that were close to Pacita’s heart: displaced people, refugees, women’s issues and social justice.  While still being treated for cancer, she completed her painting of Singapore’s Alkaff bridge, filling it with her signature circles that continues to bring smiles and joy to pedestrians.

This prized collector’s item, Pablo Neruda’s book of love poems and a song of despair signed by the renowned poet himself will be auctioned on January 24, a day after the art pieces go under the hammer.  The proceeds from this sale will not only partly go to Abot Tala but mostly to sustaining a beautiful library on an islet in Lake Caliraya and other community libraries as part of the Library Renewal Partnership started by Quintin Pastrana. 

While he was studying at Georgetown University, Quintin acquired this opus from a Washington-based Chilean diplomat in the winter of 2007.  Enamored with the Neruda treasure, Quintin had to sublease his apartment for a month to absorb the cost of acquisition.  As part of his diplomatic mission, the Chilean diplomat traveled with Neruda and his entourage. The diplomat eventually retired in Chile during the post-Pinochet era while Quintin eventually returned to Manila and among many other things, launched his continuing love affair with building and stocking community libraries all over the Philippines. 

Check out the auction catalog at the Leon Gallery website.

Check out also the Abot Tala website and Abot Tala YouTube Channel.

October-December 2020 Rewind Magazine

If you were able to catch our post last week about our very first Rewind Magazine, you know that it’s one of the ways we let you in on what goes on within a block at Abot Tala. It also functions as another platform where our teens get to contribute and share their work. (There’s a lot of that in this issue!) Our Rewind Mag also helps our homeschooling families when it comes to putting together a portfolio for their homeschool provider because the summary of the lessons per class is in the mag.

Before we share the last block’s issue, we’d like to make sure you know that we’ve got a new block starting on January 18. You can read more about it here: Abot Tala January-March 2021.

As promised, here’s what went on during our October-December 2020 Block:

The Very First Issue of Abot Tala’s Rewind Magazine

If our classes at Abot Tala are all interest-led and teen-requested, what goes on throughout a block? What do the teens do? What does learning at Abot Tala look like? Here’s a sneak peek through our very first issue of Rewind Magazine which covers what our teens learned from August-September 2020.

If you’d like to see what our teens were up to from October-December 2020, check back next week. Meanwhile, if you’d like to know what we’ve got in store for teens who’d like to join us from January-March 2021, click here.

The Story of Abot Tala: A Vision of What Education Could Be

“Education has always been a passion for me because I love learning but I never imagined I would be putting up my own alternative to conventional schooling. The change came about when I became a mother and I began to think about what kind of education I wanted for my children,” Joei Villarama, founder of Abot Tala, shared.

As a university professor in Tianjin, China, Joei heard many horror stories from her students regarding their experiences with traditional education — from elementary to high school. “Their stories made me afraid for my own children,” she said. “Since we were based in China, I didn’t want my kids to go through that kind of education system. So I started researching and discovered that there were so many options around the world.”

But Joei didn’t just research by reading books and articles.  In 2017, she and her husband embarked on a three-month-long road trip in the US, from San Francisco to New York, visiting 15 progressive and non-traditional schools and centers. During the trip, she met Ken Danford, founder of North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens, and connected with Liberated Learners, a network that supports the establishment of learning centers based on the North Star Model.

North Star was established by Ken Danford in 1996. Ken was a former public school teacher disillusioned with conventional education and he wanted to provide an alternative for young people who wanted to take the lead in the way they learned. Ken himself visited Manila in July 2018 to help the local team set up Abot Tala.

Joei and Owie with their families in their natural element.

In December 2017, there was another person dreaming of and watching videos about alternative forms of education.  The idea of personalized education and a community that celebrates individuality kept Owie dela Cruz up at night.  She had been a homeschooling mom of two kids since 2011 and because her eldest was about to turn 13, she envisioned starting a center that embodied her beliefs about learning.  She contacted friends about it but had to give up the idea around February 2018 when she needed to take care of her Mom. 

It was February 2018 when Joei reached out to Ken specifically to help set up something like North Star in Manila.  Eventually, Owie and Joei’s paths would intersect when Owie saw a Facebook post looking for a full-time mentor for a self-directed learning center for teens.  It was the exact thing that destiny concocted since both needed the other to complete the puzzle, including their rhyming names.

Ken Danford in Manila with Abot Tala Founder, Joei Villarama, and Abot Tala supporters Owie dela Cruz, Phil Smithson and Rachael Barton del Mundo

On April 2019, Abot Tala held its first program on the second floor of the Commune, a popular, hip coffee shop in Poblacion, Makati, setting the tone for a unique and open space for learning. Students ages 12 to 18 requested specific topics to learn about and the mentors selected for these came from various fields and industries. These mentors shared their expertise as actual practitioners and were free to conduct classes without the rigid constraints of the typical classroom.  The cornerstone of Abot Tala is the one-on-one mentorship each young person gets weekly.  

There is no set curriculum and every two to three months the classes change depending on what students are interested in. So far there have been classes on improvisation, Filipino sign language, self-esteem, grit, financial literacy, lightsaber training, first-aid, geek culture, and even traditional subjects such as math, science and history taught in unconventional ways.  

In June 2019, Abot Tala moved to their own space Taguig. It wasn’t just a physical space for classes — it was where the community flourished. After their classes, teens would relax, talk to fellow students and mentors, play board games, jam and just hang out. Teens were encouraged to pursue their interests, share their thoughts and questions with the community, collaborate on creative output, and initiate projects on their own.  It was the home of Abot Tala teens and mentors until the lockdown happened and the program had to completely pivot online.

Joei and Owie

Sadly, we had to give up our cozy space. But we look forward to meeting face-to-face again when it is safe for our community to do so,” Owie said.   From the start, Owie made it clear that Abot Tala is not a school. Students are not formally graded or evaluated, and the center is not DepEd accredited.  It has, however, partnered with a DepEd accredited homeschool provider, Gopala Learning Haven. Abot Tala serves teens who have been searching for an alternative and feel that trad school is not working for them. There are also teens who are homeschooling or unschooling and want to join a community of like-minded learners.

“People are questioning how education could evolve in the 21st century, given the current changes and pace of society. We may need something radically different from the educational models we have gotten used to.” Joei mused. “The vision for Abot Tala is to see teens empowered to make their dreams come true. Simply put, Abot Tala is what school could be if we could redesign and redefine it.”

Abot Tala partners with Leon Gallery for a Fundraising Auction this October

As Abot Tala continues to serve teens and families who want to take charge of their learning, we constantly seek new avenues for support and fundraising. The recent collaboration with Leon Gallery has proven to be a wonderful venue for people who want to support Abot Tala while enriching their lives with pieces that represent the best of art and culture.

Leon Gallery has a reputation for auctioning off pieces that are museum-worthy and historically important, which makes their auctions exciting for bidders who are looking for quality items to collect. Last July, the gallery auctioned off the work of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. His painting was contributed by international art collector Lin Bildner, specifically to raise funds for Abot Tala.

Here are the artists, artworks, pieces, and contributors that will be taking part in the Leon Gallery auction on October 17-18 at 11:00 a.m. Part of the proceeds from the items mentioned below will benefit Abot Tala and its mission. You can find out how to take part in the next auction in January 2021 at the end of this post.

Tessa Alindogan: An Unstoppable Creative Force

When Tessa Alindogan—style maven, interior designer, painter and baker— is “in the zone” while pursuing her passions, she is unstoppable. That’s why Abot Tala’s mission to help teens get into the “zone” of developing their interests and strengths resonates with her. 

Tessa happily offered one of her abstract masterpieces for the Leon Gallery auction. This piece, with its muted and thoughtful color palette, is a modern yet elegant addition to any home.

Quintin Pastrana: Renaissance Man

Quintin Pastrana is a renewable energy entrepreneur, library-builder, mentor, news anchor, poet, producer, SME supporter, rower, traveler, and now Abot Tala board member. 

As a graduate of Ateneo, Georgetown, Cambridge and Oxford, Quintin believes that the educational option Abot Tala provides is important. Students shouldn’t be squeezed into a one-size-fits all program; take it from someone who has turned his ADHD into a strength, not a weakness.  

Quintin contributed his restored white Volkswagen Beetle as well as an antique wood desk to the October auction. The proceeds from the sale of these items will go to not just Abot Tala, but to the Library Renewal Partnerships as well.

Rellie Liwag: The Artist Within

Two things bring Rellie Liwag great joy: her dog, Matisse, and painting. The artist within Rellie fought hard to claim her own space, as she took art classes in New York, Philadelphia, Florence and Burgundy.

She has participated in a number of solo and group exhibits including two on 5th Avenue, Manhattan.  Now most of her time is spent in her studio in Metro Manila, where she follows her bliss creating landscapes, portraits and commissioned work.

Monica Castillo: Great Art-venturer

Art is Monica Castillo’s great adventure. “I want to inspire others to look a little more closely, think a little more deeply, and look at the world a little more wondrously,” she shared. She is a graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts and has participated in the Folkeston Triennial in the UK, as well as group shows in Japan. 

Two of her works will be auctioned for the benefit of Abot Tala which show her attention to detail.

Belinda Olivares-Cunanan: Awesome Octogenarian

The indefatigable Belinda, known fondly as “Tita Bel”, recently celebrated her 80th birthday with a virtual tour of St. Petersburg together with her family and friends. Tita Bel is that cool aunt you wish you could visit regularly for inspiration and interesting stories. She is also a respected columnist, veteran journalist, Sunday radio host, avid gardener and classical music lover. She and her radio partner, Cecile Guidote Alvarez, interviewed the founders of Abot Tala for their long-running program, “Radyo Balintataw.” To help support Abot Tala, Tita Bel contributed a number of her lovely and precious antiques.

Tinky Cabanatan Cruz: A Woman with More than One Cause  

Tinky Cabanatan Cruz is an inspiration when it comes to supporting causes. She has helped different NGOs give scholarships, procure musical instruments for disadvantaged children, stock libraries, plan eco-farms, start farmers’ co-ops, and promote entrepreneurship. Together with her husband, renowned pianist Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, Tinky ran a youth program patterned after Venezuela’s El Sistema, a music education initiative for kids in impoverished areas.

With her family’s involvement in music, it’s quite fitting that the painting Tinky has contributed for the Leon Gallery auction this October 17 features a violinist and cellist.

Anonymous Contributor

An exquisite pastel piece entitled “Pinatubo Father and Children” by Arlene Villaver was given by an anonymous donor to Abot Tala for the October auction.

According to her website, Arlene Villaver has been painting for over 30 years. As a Christian artist, she considers art as a tool for serving the Lord and a platform that reveals how God sees people. She dreams of setting up a creative arts center where she can teach art therapy for seniors and conduct art outreaches for women and children. Arlene’s dream and vision as a woman of faith complements Abot Tala’s quest to empower teens as they learn, think creatively, and develop their identities. 

Abot Tala is what school would look like if we could redefine and redesign it from the ground up. It’s a modern, personalized co-learning hub for 12 to 18-year-olds—a space where teens can discover their gifts and talents, set goals, and dream freely with the guidance of mentors. Abot Tala is all about helping the next generation uncover their full potential. 

Abot Tala is a member of the Liberated Learners, a network of self-directed learning centers based on the North Star model started by Ken Danford in Massachusetts, more than 20 years ago. It opened its doors in Taguig last June 2019 and continues to operate online during this new normal phase. Families who come to Abot Tala are surprised and grateful to find that a place like this exists—a place where their teen can find a community to belong to, thrive in, explore avenues of expression, and embrace learning fit for their unique selves.  

While Abot Tala is going strong and continues to build its community online, we look forward to the future when our community can meet face-to-face once again in outdoors spaces safely. 

For those interested in submitting pieces for the next auctions by Leon Gallery that can help support Abot Tala, please contact Abot Tala founder, Joei Villarama, on Facebook Messenger or on Viber: 0920 917 4527.  

The proceeds from the sale of the donated Amorsolo painting has helped Abot Tala provide teens with unique and relevant classes and encouraging mentors at affordable rates. Various contributors have helped us serve teens who want to be empowered in their learning journey. Is there something you would like to contribute? It may be our next “Amorsolo!”