Artist's New Paintings Inspired by Mango | Pinay.com
“It looks like a sacred heart,” I said as I took a photograph for facebook.
I was in the Philippines, on a bus in Palawan with my partner. It was the late Winter of 2012, and we were en route to Puerto Princesa. We were, as was normal, eating mangos we had bought from the market under the one-bedroom apartment we had been renting on the mainstreet of El Nido. We had been able to rent the apartment through my partner’s connections at the dive shop up the street. I had enjoyed getting to know my landlords as well as their family. I loved that they were Filipinos still owning ocean-front property in the ever-growing western occupation of tourism in El Nido. When we finally settled in El Nido, we had been diving throughout the Visayas for months. (When in the Philippines, check out activities in other islands, “Life Lessons I Learned From Mountain Climbing.”
Now, however, I was leaving. My partner would stay behind to finish his Master Scuba Diver certification, and I would continue to Mindanao to join with other pinays from the U.S., in a journey into indigenous tribes of the Southern Philippines. Now, on this bus ride with the sacred heart of mango in my hand, I was preparing for this ancestral pilgrimage by contemplating my lola’s (grandmother’s) journey from Cebu to Missouri to Los Angeles all in the first half of the 20th century. I had, in truth, been seeking a sense of home in my (grand)motherland that I hadn’t quite found yet. My lola had died when I was young andI was unable to really know her or our Filipina culture. I didn’t quite fit in with local Filipinas nor white tourists. Altogether, I felt like one often does on the borderlands: lost. I was very excited to be meeting up with other Filipina-Americans to say the least. And, somehow, on the bus from El Nido, with this half-eaten mango appearing as if it were on fire, was my beacon of light.
Manai, our Tribal Tour leader, would tell me eventually about the story of the significance of mangos in the Philippines. Now I’ve heard many versions of this story, but my favorite telling of it offers that heart-shaped mangos and their seeds were gifts of healing love from the Earth herself. Planted, the mango tree bloomed with its plethora of hearts to feed not only the bodies but also the souls of the people.
Manai’s words about mangos only confirmed for me the invaluability of this sweet and blessed fruit of the Philippines. And, as Manai guided us from the honorable shaman in Cotabato to Bai Liza in Bukidnon to Ros’ treehouse on Camiguin Island, I found myself eating mangos with greater delight and reverence. I imagined the fruit healing not only myself but also my lola and all my Filipina ancestors.
Arriving back in Los Angeles, I was inspired to start a series of watercolor paintings dedicated to this “Sacred Heart of Mango.” These paintings, I wrote in my artist statement, seemed to so easily accomplish what the written (English) text strives so hard to do: integration, groundedness, belonging, and Pinay pride. Later these paintings found their way to art exhibits on Olvera Street in LA as well as at Cal Berkeley; nevertheless, they began, on a bumpy and dusty Palawan road as a meditation on mangos and fire and the journey to our motherlands. (Read more from Pinay.com writers on their travel and personal reflections.)
Dr. Cristina Rose Smith, 35, is a writer and artist, as well as professor of Women’s Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Becoming a Woman of Color: A Travel Memoir.” You can read more about our author, her publications, and art exhibitions on her website cristinagolondrina.com. Look for her “Sacred Heart of Mango” artwork at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture in Los Angeles.
All images are courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.
Altogether, her calling is to seek out her motherline (the women of color lineage in her family) through womanist-multicultural writing and art. She has been nurtured by Xicanas, including Cherrie Moraga and Ana Castillo, as well as Filipinas, including Leny Strobel and Ninotchka Rosca.As an artist, she speaks to her Xicana-Pinay multiplicity in the sacred mango fruit and the golondrina.As a writer, she employs academic and literary tools to address multi-vocality.She is now working on a manuscript with a working title, On Becoming a Woman of Color: A Travel Memoir.