ONE BLESSING that the pandemic has given me is the opportunity to catch up with friends I have not been able to spend time with over the years but I hold close to my heart, and I marvel at their achievements and new discoveries as well.

One such dear friend whom I look upon as a little sister, wali in Kapampangan, is Maria Lourdes Limbitco Nunag, or Malou as we fondly call her.

I first met Malou when I was a newbie at the City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga and she was still a college student at the University of the Philippines doing her internship at that time. Since her parents both worked at the City Hall too, we were able to keep in touch through the years and I was very proud of her accomplishments as a young professional who rose through the ranks in the corporate world.

After more than a decade in one of the best automotive companies in the region where she eventually became a top manager, Malou decided to shift to career and advocacy she is passionate about and spend more time with her family in Pampanga.

Malou’s first foray into the arts was in her elementary days when one of her drawings was published in the Blue Quill, St. Scholastica’s Academy’s official school paper. In high school, she joined the school’s art organization Likhang Kamay. While Malou found the arts interesting, she never had the chance to fully pursue and make something more of it. It was in 2018 while on an out-of-town work assignment that Malou purchased different art materials and delved into drawing in an attempt to deal with the sadness of being away from her family for the better part of a week. Out of this period came a lone artwork, that of a blue turtle inspired by her lucky charm.

Career shift and pandemic aside, it really came out as a pleasant and amazing surprise that Malou is a gifted artist. While she may have never had any formal art training to speak of, her current creative output is largely appreciated and acclaimed even among professional artists and international art audiences in social media. Her sheer talent and newly-rekindled passion for the arts have enabled her to bloom as an artist.

Malou is currently developing her own style as a painter and uses mostly watercolor as her main medium. As she effortlessly puts it, “Iam really fascinated by how watercolor seems to have a mind of its own. When paint starts to move on water, there is magic in every stroke.”

With her watercolor pieces which are easily labors of love, I am readily transported to a different season where I can literally recall the sweet scent of lavender wafting in the air, or feel as if a rare colorful bird will flutter its wings in a second.

Malou also emphasizes how her art helped her overcome grief and sadness when she suffered from a miscarriage late last year. Facing such profound loss, she found consolation in watercolor painting and realized that by painting flora and fauna, she was capable of celebrating and honoring her lost baby’s life by painting life. Malou is known to capture a striking likeness especially in portraiture, a feat that is difficult to achieve even among more established artists. I especially love a beautifully captivating portrait of her daughter Jillian which she rendered in watercolor.

The artist in Malou has gained quite a following from among her family and friends and while she keeps most of her artworks as family mementos, some of her paintings now adorn the walls of her friends’ homes and offices, and they keep asking for more. Her artistic journey has paved the way for Malou to encourage people to look deeper and pursue their own passions. As she generously shares this nugget of wisdom, “It is never too late to find one’s talent which might only be hidden somewhere, waiting to be discovered.”

I count myself as one of the followers who can hardly wait to discover what’s the next piece of beauty to come out from Malou Limbito Nunag’s easel.