A Kublai walk-through

My friend Kublai Millan and I have collaborated on several works, among which are for his galleries at his Balai ni Kublai in Ma-a, Davao City.

Galleries of dimensions very few artist could aspire to fill up, the one on the second floor features seven series of paintings the artist has created within a decade. For every series, Kublai asked me to write the poems that will accompany them so that the visitor can be guided on what to focus on and to experience the art not just through the eyes, but through words that touch the heart. In that way, a deeper connection is created. Here are the poems as they are laid out in the second floor gallery.

Imagine yourself entering the gallery from the center. The poem not just speaks to you about what you see but also directs you where to go as you walk inside craning your neck upto the ceiling and bowing low down to the floor, all walls filled. Now, imagine…


As is above, so is below, 
what is now can be tomorrow.
We’re all just passing through.
Say hello.

In this room, you are the center. 
Invited to turn around and see.

The earth orbiting the sun, 
the moon orbiting the earth,
The stars an infinite tapestry visible and invisible
Rotating, orbiting, rising and setting.
Entrancing, as if asking: 
What are you doing here?

Reach out to the stars, connect with the moon,
Bask in the glory that is the sun,
And tell me…
Has the moon called out to you?
Have you seen your light among the stars?
Do you have the desire to genuflect at the sun
Or do you resent that it burns your skin?
Where are you, how are you, and what do you see?

What are you doing here…
Can be the here and now, 
Reflections of the past,
Or resolutions for tomorrow.
Where are you, how are you, and what do you see?
Like seasons, answers change.
We are born, we die.
While the sun, moon, and stars, set and rise
Marking time with or without us.

Move right, 
Minutes have gone
Connect with the earth while you can.


Show me which flower you most respond to.
Which petal, which color.
Don’t even tell me what you see.
Just feel and then show me.

Swirl with the colors,
Dance with the petals
And find yourself within
Where new life begins.

No need to search for words,
Beauty and color wilt fast. 
For only memory can linger on, 
after the fragrance has gone.

That very moment we bloom
Focus not on the temporal beauty
But how the heart sings
And how fragrant the moment was.

For in that moment is purity
Like that of the sun rising.
Of innocence so fleeting,
Tarnished the moment it’s felt within.

Tucked at the heart 
of this state so pure
We embrace the gifts
Only the divine can give.

See the common people, watch their routine,
See the unremarkable, and then behold
The human, the being.
The self, the be becoming.

There’s nothing ordinary
To eyes that delve
Into the spirit of it all.
There’s nothing mundane
To hearts that feel the beat
Of every creation, living and non-living.

In the heart we nurture
Energies overflowing
In various stages
Of nature unfolding,
Living and non-living.

Walk on further,
For the last of the fragrance has gone.
Walk on far to catch the sun.


There is beauty even in the shadows,
There is geometry, there is symmetry
As only the God of all there is
Can create.

In awe, we are inspired
In reflecting, we create
With paints on canvas,
Colors burst out and swirl,
As if beckoning, as if dancing.
But that’s all there is… just as if.

As if light, as if flower,
As if is all there is here.
What we think we see
Isn’t really what is.

But that’s only so
Because of a disconnect
Of the patterns, the dots
The obscured whispers from above.

The all-encompassing vision
Of a consciousness awakened,
That sees more to what is than this
Is our mandala.

A circle of never-ending rhythmic geometry
Sacred, entrancing, sends your consciousness soaring
But then you blink, and it’s all gone
The feeling, the soaring, all nothing.

Inspired thoughts, inspired works,
Divine messages imparted, so powerful we gasp.
But then we look again,
And see just paint and canvas
And a message that barely makes it
Through the noise that is our thoughts.

Awakening is fleeting,
A whisper so soft it can slip past
In one moment of not looking.

Breathe in, be still, and then let go,
There’s more to this than you thought.
Step forward. Move on.


With cranes and steel
With computers and men of strong will
Another iconic structure rises.
I needed just a seed to become me.
I am the Mother Tree.

In realizing, it hits you… 
The biblical mustard seed
The size of which is all the faith you need
Was never about the size
But of the certainty.
And in realizing
You are set free.

We are born, we grow, we create and procreate,
And then we all go home to the Mother Tree.
The body, as temporal as the bloom, is no more.

We return to the perfection 
we always have been.
Freed of the chains of mortality
We achieve that level of certainty.
The soul, the perfect image,
From the body freed
Now soars high with the mythical,
The surreal, the immortal.

Among the branches
Of the Mother Tree we mingle
With mythical creatures and spirits
Of our stories, of our dreams.

Here is where the Sarimanok reigns
Here is where the mythical is real.
The weary soul bound by the body
Now freed,
Becomes the innocent child
we have longed to be.

You have come full circle.
Welcome home,
Rest now.

Ride the breeze,
Be cradled by my limbs,
Transcend the boundaries
Of your mind
And swing. Sing.
Laugh. Be free.

Be a child, be a mother,
Be your dreams, be another.
Just be.

Then let that sensation,
Lead you back to where you came from,
To see everything over again
And say if the feelings are the same.

Go back to the center,
And then go deeper.
For depth comes in layers surprising
There is always something, it’s never-ending.

For what is a tree
Reaching up for?
Even as it grounds itself
Into the deepest crevice of the earth.
What is down there that you pierce?
What is up there to endlessly reach?

Blessings, those are what there are.
Endless, boundless,
All contained within.
The Divine long said it’s ours for the taking,
Just be still and be certain.

As is above, so is below.
what is now can be tomorrow.
We’re all just passing through.
Say hello.

In this room, you are the center. 
Invited to turn around and see.

Walk back, retrace your steps.
There is more to this
Than you thought it’d be.

Walk on, walk further.
Take that step,
Look forward, look up, 
but also look deep, and then look back.


Now undressed of the worldly,
Now in touch with the child within,
Look and feel again
With a heart made pure.
Feel the spirit of the rocks and soil
As you trace the contour of the land
With eyes no longer corrupted.
Listen to the silence, pierce through the noise. 
Then soak up the colors, the scents, the energies.
See, feel, take it all in, and then learn
From the tribes who once communed with them all.

They told time through the hornbill’s caw
They set about their day
Guided by the alimokon’s coo.
They sowed, they reaped
In cadence with the rain.
The seasons came and went
Marked only by the stars.
They invoked Manama,
They sought guidance from the diwatas
And then they listened and discerned
Through dreams, through the babaylan.
The voice of the Earth was once loud and strong
As only the sound of the wilderness
Came in between.

The forests, plains, rivers, and streams, 
That nourished them all,
Were where children frolicked and grew strong.
Flowers, fruits, hedges, and trees
Were a delight for children to play and feast on.
No carousels just horses,
No jungle gyms just branches.
The mountains and hills their playground,
Their farm, and hunting ground. 

Long before we came,
Long before roads and cars,
They were cradled in nature’s bosom,
In the deep green forest they thrived.
Clothed in hues of the Earth,
They danced to the rhythm of bird songs 
and frog calls and monkeys shrieks, 
and the wind in its varying strength.
They swayed and swung like hawks and eagles.
They invoked the spirits of both animate and inanimate
Holding in reverence the energy within all, bar none.
And when they laughed. 
‘Twas in boisterous joy that only hearts
As free as theirs could.

They who learned their ways and myths 
From chants embedded 
With long-held beliefs and their stories
Woven into the mythical and the chanter’s prose
as only souls cradled in deep green forests can.
In them, spirituality and reality
Were in a tight embrace.
Where one is the other and the other is the One.

Downstream by the rivers
And where earth meets the sea
More thrived.
Mother Nature filled their fish traps,
Their fishing nets, and lines.
In the poblacion were traded,
The harvests, the catch.
Every tabò was a celebration
Of bounty, of fun.

Uplands and lowlands, rivers and sea,
They sowed, they harvested
With invocations and thanksgivings
In cadence with Mother Nature’s cycle.

They who thrived in the ways of the Earth
Took up ploughs and nets
And tubs and baskets 
as only souls cradled by the Earth’s bounty would.
In them, spirituality and reality
Were in a tight embrace.
Where one is the other and the other is the One.

But that was before… no more…


Don’t despair.
Be cradled
By both words and colors.
Let the disquiet be pacified
Let the lines carry you
Into this dreamland where everything is perfect.

Mother Tree and Mother Nature are whispering
Listen to their call, heed their distress.
Long gone are the forests, long dead are the trees,
The rocks and the earth pulsate no more.
The life-giving mantle of the Earth
Now just dust and seen as dirt,
No longer vital in the consciousness of many.

We work for money, we are awed by cars
Our dream job is up there, 
glass-encased, temperature-controlled,
enabled by gadgets that isolate the soul.
The tribes now dance for survival.
The boisterousness of yesteryears
Now muffled into self-effacing bows.
The brave long brought down to their knees
The forest, the earth, their strength, all gone.

Be cradled
By both words and colors
Let the disquiet move you
Let the lines carry you
Into this dreamland where everything is perfect.

Stand up, soar, shout.
Till the clouds will take heed
Till rainfall will return to the rhythm it once had.
Bring back the perfection of Mother Nature providing
And the limbs of Mother Tree cradling
As our souls soar in longing
For what we used to have, the could’ves and should’ves.

Be cradled
By both words and colors.
Let the disquiet be transmuted
Into how you want things to be.
Let the lines carry you
Into this dreamland where everything is perfect.

Pierce the mist and the clouds of dreams
Attune your senses to the colors and light streams
Feel the warmth of an embrace not there.
Hear. See. Taste. And behold.


Now in a slumber, deep but purpose-filled
Reach out to the skies and the stars
And let your dreams take shape
From the seemingly disconnected.

With your being now rested, you see
Deep into what has been hidden
And you find the patterns
That lead you to your heart’s true longings.

Let these patterns
Take the shape of what
You desire to see.
Let the colors shatter
That which has imprisoned your soul.
Then soar.

Storm the heavens
With your deepest yearning
Paint the skies with the colors
Of your choice and then decide,
What in this chaos do you want unraveled
And rebuilt, to that dream place
Your heart has formed.

From here, move on
And find the place
Where all these
Take that one step further.
Come home.


After the sojourn
Through beauty and destruction
Rest your spirit, take a breath.

Tap into the depths
Of your soul’s desiring
Find the rhythm, feel the passion
Strum your heartstrings,
Find the tune.
And then connect
To those who sing in cadence.
Embrace the joy of shared visions
Of building better tomorrows.

From the self that journeyed
Into profundity
And finding the spirit that emerged from within
It’s time to settle down
And foster
Friendships and love
And partnerships and trade
In a nurturing environment,
Our biome.

In that self, surrounded by love, by respect,
Unfolds the unflawed long sought.
The perfection that only a power greater than all
Can create with every leaf and bloom,
Every raindrop, and being.
Feel the love in every stroke
Connect with the soul 
Abstracted in every shape.
Caress the perfect image and likeness 
The Creator intended all of us to be.
Flow with the lines
And then touch your heart.
You are home.

Outside the Masonic Grand Lounge.

You may ask, so where are the paintings?

It’s there in the gallery. It’s not mine to share…

But come over and visit. There’s more than one gallery, and more than this set of poems…


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s