CAGAYAN de Oro has been a hub of talent and originality for contemporary arts and literature with the city’s art scene being dominated by creative individuals in their own right. While some artworks need more exposure, a number of personalities are making names here.
Two Kagay-anon emerging artists are already taking the spotlight in the field of art today. Kristyn Maslog-Levis, known as KM Levis, is bringing Filipino creative writing internationally while Emmanuel Mulawan II, a visual artist is gracing the city streets and establishments with his art.
These two artists are Filipino contemporary art's young bloods who are now making their own artistic brands and earning the respect of many artists in their fields.
Krystin Maslog-Levis was born in Cagayan de Oro city on December 25, 1978. In her childhood days, she has always been fascinated with literature and the effects of good storytelling to people. She has spent most of her time exploring the literature of many writers.
“I think being a writer is always inside you from the moment you are young. It’s either you’re a writer or you’re not. I remember always writing and reading. I kept journals, wrote for the school publication, wrote short stories. I was always fascinated by the stories in my head and the stories I read from other writers. I wouldn’t have been able to ignore it even if I wanted to,” said Levis.
Levis started as a reporter in ABS-CBN Cagayan de Oro in her younger years but later headed to Singapore to finish her degree in communication. From there, she migrated to Australia to become a journalist for various print media organizations until she finally started to write her own fiction stories.
Today, Levis is popularly known as the author of “The Girl Between Two Worlds” which has sold millions nationwide since its publication last year. Levis is now known to fuse Philippine mythology to foreign setting and portray the plight of strong modern women with her work.
“I take inspiration from everything. It can be a simple question of ‘what if’. It can be a societal injustice that I see. It can be any ordinary daily thing with a dash of new problem. I see inspiration everywhere. I read a lot too and get inspired by other authors that I read,” Levis explained.
The publication of her novel lead her to fame in the local Kagay-anon writing community as she has repeatedly been invited to speak in various writing workshops by writing guilds in the city.
Happy with the acceptance that she got from publishing her novel, Levis plans to write more fiction from her home in Sydney, Australia. In the next years, she plans on releasing the two other novels that she is currently working on.
“I think literature is always going to be important no matter how technologically advanced we become. There is truth in fiction. Societal issues that are relevant in the real world can easily be discussed in fiction. This is how it’s been done since forever. I don’t think it’s ever going to change. Reading keeps your mind sharp. I feel bad for those who move away from reading because of social media. They are missing out on so many wonderful stories,” she said.
While she can’t point a single writer as her biggest influence in writing, Levis aims to continue to inspire other emerging writers and wants to remind not to give up in their passion to write.
“There is no single person that I look up to when it comes to writing. I am, however, forever in awe of those who kept going despite the odds. The single mothers who kept on writing even when the rejection letters piled up. The writers who worked three jobs, those who kept going despite discouraging feedbacks. Every time I read about these writers and their success I am always inspired,” she added.
Like Levis, the appreciation of one’s self and inner art is the artistic advocacy of Emmanuel Mulawan II, whose artworks are spread all over the city today. Lifestyle districts in the city as well as various events led by the City Government have featured the works of Mulawan.
The 23-year-old Mulawan has put his art in various commercial establishments such as Ranchero’s Steak house in Malaybalay City, Kenya Kafe in Lifestyle District, Mom’s Pig Out in SM City, One Yoga Wellness Studio in Velez St., and in many events in the city such as Miss Cagayan de Oro 2015 Stage and the Miss Earth Philippines.
When he was younger, Mulawan was fascinated by the stories and the characters of the cartoons he watched. His art then started there as these became the subject of his first few drawings as a child. He said at that time, he did not basically know what art was but he just continued to draw because it was his love.
Throughout his elementary years, Mulawan did not stop drawing and showing off his works in art contests in and outside school. These then paved the way for his fame when people from the City Tourism office and the Tourism council discovered his artworks and hired him to become the official artist for the City Government’s events.
Since then he has been a part of the Marketing and Promotions and Research and Planning Department of the City Tourism Council and renders his skills in graphic design, lay-out, and architectural design. Mulawan is an Architecture graduate of Cagayan de Oro College.
Mulawan said in the future, he wants to become a fashion designer since that is his biggest dream. For now, he encourages other aspiring artists to be more confident in their art and to be honest in their own selves because it is only through self-acknowledgement that one can truly realize their dreams, he said.