He Is Risen!
As we celebrate the message of hope that Easter brings, allow me to share the story of a friend who found light amidst darkness, strength in the midst of fear, and joy in spite of sorrow. She is a true inspiration.
Her name is Christina Dy.
She is a visual artist: a recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ 13 Artists Award in 2009, participant at the Busan Biennale, aside from her solo shows (see christinady.com
). She is also an award-winning production designer (her works include Big Time and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros). Extending her artistry to the performing arts, she also created Polecats Manila, changing the perspective of pole dancing from banal and sleazy to brilliant and creative through lessons and performances.
Last year, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. It was devastating news, as cancer goes, but CD, as she is called by friends, while pragmatic enough to admit her lows, did not wallow in pity or allow the diagnosis to get her down.
Instead, she turned to art. In the past, she had turned to pole dancing. In fact the story of how she created Polecats Manila – to heal her broken heart after breaking up with a boyfriend – was so moving that Maalala Mo Kaya in 2016 even did an episode on her story, with no less than Jessie Mendiola playing her character! This time, though, she had to find a new medium of expression. And she did … in the kitchen!
“Suddenly I couldn’t do pole anymore. So I had to figure out what to do with my time. I didn’t want to do any serious ‘art’ so I decided to draw on food,” she recalls.
She started with macarons for a very realistic reason: “They seemed less of a commitment. They’re tiny and readily available and less expensive than a cake. If I paint ugly things on them, I can just feed them to my sister and no one has to know, haha!” Then she moved on to cakes. “After macarons, the cakes came next naturally so that I would have a bigger painting area.” She learned to do art on this new canvass by googling how to paint on cakes online.
The cakes are baked by her friend Rachelle Sarzona, former pastry chef at Shangrila Fort, who now has her own pastry brand, I Don’t Make Sweet Desserts. Then CD paints on them.
CD posted about the first cake that she painted on, she recalls vividly, on February 27 this year, and got her first order on the same day.
But note that CD does not offer your usual cake art – no characters or kiddie themes. Neither are her cakes bright or festive or chirpy. In fact, all her cake art are black and white. “I never really liked colors. I don’t understand them,” she explains.
So the cakes are simply edible versions of her art.
And as art has helped her in the past, they did help her heal emotionally this time as well. “Painting on cakes helped relieve my feelings of not being productive. It was nice being able to produce something
It did not erase the other pains she had to go through, though. She hated having what she calls a “blistery boob”. “With a blistery boob all you can do is think while lying motionless. Everything else is painful. … What cancer has taught me is that all i have is today. Now. What will I do now?” she mulled candidly on Facebook.
But she pulled herself together with resolve: “How many times have I thought of making this art work or learning this piano piece, but I said I’ll just do it tomorrow? Then tomorrow again. And again. Well guess what CD, today was yesterday’s tomorrow and have you done it yet? And now my attention and energy and resources are directed somewhere else. So yes, what will I do today?”
Then she has pulled herself up with gratitude and optimism: “I never thought that the biggest challenge of my life would be a blistery boob! During times like this, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing something fun and having something to look forward to. Today I went out and took a silversmithing workshop, and getting dressed was painful, but I made it and had so much fun and forgot the blisters for 4 hours. … Tomorrow, after the hospital, I plan on going to ArtBar and All About Baking and will look at all the pretty supplies and get inspired to create new things. And having that purpose makes the discomfort and pain worth it.”
Her advice to those going through challenges like hers as she finished radiation: “Do something that gives you joy every day. Doesn’t have to be big. Just something. For me, it’s painting on macarons or cakes, playing with origami and chocolate, making clay cakes, making nonsense abstract paintings. It’s important to have something to look forward to everyday, because it’s so much easier to just be angry and give up.”
Just last month, CD turned 43.
It is evident – and heartwarming – that after her Black Saturday, by grace, she found her personal Easter morning, as she wrote poetically on her birthday: ” So many things in life I have no control over, but I can always choose the kind of person I want to be. And right now, I want to be the kind of person that laughs, makes time for herself, takes things slow, listens, tries to make the world a better place, sleeps (who knew I’d love sleep this much!), plays with new silly ideas (likepainting on macarons!), says thank you for each day, wears eyeliner and red lipstick just because.“
I thought of sharing CD’s story today, on Easter Sunday, because that is what today is about: celebrating the fullness of life.
I hope that you find your Easter morning, too – and celebrate the fullness of life by the grace of God, in the presence of the Father – today and everyday!
Story in today’s column in the Inquirer