CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- A Kagay-anon doctor now based in Iloilo City will stage her own art exhibit at the Philippine Center Gallery in New York on March 19.
The art exhibit of Dr. Minda Marie dela Serna Cabrera which runs until April 6 is entitled “Tumandok- a Glimpse of the Ati, Indigenous People of Panay: A Collection of Portraits in Charcoal.” Everyone is invited.
Dr. Cabrera was born and raised in Cagayan de Oro City and is the sister of lawyer Eli de la Serna. As her exhibit suggests, Dr. Cabrera will use charcoal pencil in drawing the Ati, the natives that live in the island of Iloilo.
Ati is one of two ethnic groups that live in Iloilo and most of them were displaced by mining, deforestation and urban development in the past few decades. Dr. Cabrera graduated at the South City Central School in Nazareth, High School and at Lourdes College. She took up Natural Science as her pre-med course at Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan.
Dr. Cabrera graduated at the University of Santo Tomas College of Medicine and works as a rehabilitation medicine specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo.
When asked why she chose the Ati as her subject, Dr. Cabrera said her inspiration came after she saw a group of women selling ”hibyok” brooms by the roadside in Pavia town, Iloilo City. Hibyok are tall palm trees endemic in Southeast Asia and are found in deep forests and mountain slopes, said Dr. Cabrera, a self-taught artist.
As such “hibyok” brooms cost a lot more due to the difficulty in procuring the material from the forest and slopes. “After I bought some brooms, they obliged to have their photograph taken.
“When I arrived home, I started sketching my very first Ati portrait. In the process I realized that drawing the human face was an intensely intimate encounter with another human being. In this experience I saw beauty, character and emotion,” Dr. Cabrera said.
The Ati are often a target for discrimination because of their color, physical features, stature and culture. “As a busy rehab medicine practitioner, my exposure to them was limited to random encounters in the streets of Iloilo,” she said. Her fascination of the Ati grew to the point that she visited the Ati settlements in Sitio Katikati, Barangay Lanit,Leong and Nagpana.
Dr. Cabrera developed her sketching skills after studying the human form in her biology class. Her course also required a lot of drawing of the human anatomy. Her fascination with the paradoxical complexity and simplicity of the human body led her to charcoal which provided the perfect foundation for her passion in sketching.
Dr. Cabrera said she uses lines, light and shadow to enhance her understanding of the form, spaces, tone and texture of her subjects. Though admitting to starting late as an artist, Dr. Cabrera is still happy that she discovered her artistic side.
She is happily married to a gentleman farmer from Barotac Viejo, Iloilo with whom they have two boys and two girls. Her love of natives and nature is found in her early works that featured flowers drawn in pencil, water color and oil.
It was in 2014 that she began the daunting journey of learning her craft and through sheer determination and persistence, Dr. Cabrera has come out with her own art exhibit. She said she realized the vast potential of portrait drawing in communicating ideas and evoking compassion and discourse for her subjects. “My exhibit history is very short. Despite my limited and mostly intuitive skills, I am privileged to be able to share stories as well as my personal reflections and insights on the present condition of the true natives of our islands through my charcoal drawings,” Dr. Cabrera said.