Style/Travel Diaries

BenCab’s cherry blossoms

Sakura comes early this year,
just in time for the National Artist’s 79th birthday

National Artist BenCab amid a cherry blossom shower at Yasukuni Shrine on a previous trip to Japan (Photo from BenCab)

If there’s anything that stops us from losing it these days it’s our memory bank of pictures that remind us of the normal, even if hard, past. Who would have thought that the innumerable images and selfies we took during our travels—until 2020 struck— could be a source of simple joy these days?

Like memories of Japan. Cherry blossoms bloomed early in Japan this year, and the news prodded us to ask National Artist BenCab to send us a few of his photos. BenCab loved photographing Sakura on his recent visits to Japan.

On his visit to Tokyo a few years ago, BenCab is shown enjoying Sakura in the garden of Kudan, the Philippine ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, with Maritess Lopez, the wife of then Philippine ambassador to Japan, Manuel Lopez. (Photo from BenCab)

He writes us: “Cherry blossoms herald springtime—a time of renewal, rebirth and hope. The flower’s ephemeral beauty is a gentle reminder that life is fleeting and should be enjoyed while it lasts. After they peak in two weeks, the blossoms start to fall.”

He adds: “I wish we had a similar hanami (flower viewing) tradition in the Philippines. We have beautiful flowering trees like Golden Shower, Narra, and Fire trees which are in full bloom in the summer.”

He knows what he speaks of, when it comes to trees. The National Artist’s BenCab Museum is a popular destination in Baguio (Benguet really) where it nestles in a rainforest. There he spends the days tending to his plants and trees, growing coffee and relishing the rising and the setting of the sun.

BenCab, who turns 79 on April 10, has seen the ebb and flow of life, the revolts and the rich heritage that fuel his art. Even as he says life is as fleeting as the cherry blossom, the National Artist—by his art, his museum, his interaction with people and commentary of the times—tries to leave his mark on each passing day. And it’s a good mark.

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