Healing through art and trees

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NATURE and art can both lead to healing, so it is not surprising that a museum owned by a doctor provides both.

The Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Rizal is home to more than 300 artworks by Filipino artists — paintings, sculptures, and installations — that can calm the senses and spirit, which can lead to rebirth and healing.

“Art to me is about wellness,” said neurologist Dr. Joven Cuanang, art patron and owner of Pinto Art Museum. “If you go and look at the art, your blood pressure and heart rate go down. Whether it’s painting, music, dance, or poetry, there’s wellbeing sa puso mo (in your heart)… if you’re reciting a poem you like, what do you feel? If you watch dance, what do you feel?,”

The former medical director of St. Luke’s Medical Center also told BusinessWorld that art is “the highest level of complementary medicine.”

He pointed out: “There’s too much stress in the world, that’s why we need art. Wellness is not only about drugs — sometimes, you don’t need drugs. What you want to promote is wholeness and wellbeing through art.”

Besides art, nature too has healing powers, said Dr. Cuanang, and Pinto can provide this too.

Aside from being a showcase of local art, the Pinto Art Museum has an extensive a garden which has received a major upgrade — it is now home to rare and threatened native tree species planted in the 4,000 sq.m. Pinto Arboretum.

Thanks to a partnership with the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) through its BINHI program, 100 native trees from 20 species are being planted at the arboretum. These include bagoadlau (Xanthostemon philippinensis), Sierra Madre mangkono (Xanthostemon fruticosus), Yakal saplungan (Hopea plagata), and Yakal malibato (Shorea malibato), which are all increasingly rare in the wild.

“Art, culture, and ecology, for me, are one,” said Dr. Cuanang at the sidelines of the EDC and Pinto official launch of a memorandum of understanding on Aug. 19 at the museum.

The arboretum is not yet open to the public. The seedlings have only just been planted and will take some time to grow.

“It takes generation for them to grow, and that’s fine. It’s about patience. You start with one and nurture it. Like a child, they don’t grow overnight, but they have to be nurtured slowly. You have to have a tree that you nurture throughout your life,” Dr. Cuanang said.

One of the purposes of the arboretum is education. “People do not know what we have in terms of plants and trees,” said Dr. Cuanang. “For more people to get acquainted with them, you have to showcase [the plants in the arboretum]. Like in the museum, a lot of people don’t know what Filipino art is, and they are all excellent works.” he said.

The plan, once the arboretum is open, is to hold scheduled viewings. “We don’t like 1,000 people converging in the place in the arboretum… Since it’s going to be educational, we want somebody to teach [visitors] what the plants are all about. It’s not just a place for selfies. It’s supposed to be educational, too.”

A repository of hundreds of artworks, the museum, Dr. Cuanang said, has inevitably become a selfie location. He said the most “Instagrammable” work is Cos Zicarelli’s Future violence no. 1 (2010), on which is written the statement: “We are the kids that your parents warned you about.”

Dr. Cuanang said we should not be too quick to judge people who take their photos with art works.

“They’re understanding the paintings, which is profound, and it astounded me,” he said. “If you take a look at those who take their selfie, they have their pictures together in their favorite painting. To a certain degree, the artworks have become backgrounds. But I interviewed these people and asked ‘Why did you choose this?’ They said it has meaning for them.”

These museum goers are mostly students and young people. “I won’t lose hope on them,” said the good doctor, “and they bring their friends along. This is one of the museums which is visited by a lot of students, which is what I like. A lot of people say ‘Ah, ang mga Pilipino gusto lang pumunta sa malls (Filipinos only like going to malls).’ This is the alternate for malls.” — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman





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