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What makes Orlina happy — at 80

Guests at his birthday party were greeted by the sight of Orlina’s vintage art cars prominently lit to show the art painted on their bodies

Ramon Orlina and his family thank guests at his 80th birthday celebration. (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

Foremost Filipino sculptor Ramon Orlina, when he celebrated his 80th birthday Saturday, January 27, told us what makes him happy at this stage in his life—and it is quite endearing. One of the most sought-after Filipino artists today has a singular source of happiness these days: his three-year-old granddaughter Mari, and he added, “She can sing!”

Turn-of-the-century Philippines as setting of Ramon Orlina’s 80th birthday celebration

Orlina’s family, long-time friends and peers in Philippine arts and culture, gathered at the sprawling Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Quezon City to celebrate his birthday, in the open plaza, with a stage in the middle, surrounded by houses contemporized following the bahay na bato style of 19th century Philippines. Buffet tables lined the garden with spreads of favorite festive fare, starting with lechon, of course.

Entering the vast garden, guests were greeted by the sight of Orlina’s art cars—vintage cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle—prominently lit to show the art painted on their bodies by Orlina’s artist friends, such as National Artist BenCab. Known also as a committed car collector, Orlina mounted an Art Car exhibit last year, showcasing five priceless vintage cars painted his friends, including BenCab. Orlina is building an Art Car Museum in Tagaytay.

Orlina’s wife, the Malaysian-born Lay Ann (their love story is beautiful, but that’s for another day) and their children Naesa, Ningning, Anna and Michael obviously left no stone unturned to make this celebration memorable and very meaningful. Naesa is married to RJ Miso, and they have daughter Mari. Anna and Michael already have their own following for their glass sculptures—different from their father’s and so evocative of their generations.

Orlina, the architect whose foray into glass sculpture 40 years ago eventually gave him a defining niche in contemporary Philippine art, is a man of many passions—from art to car collecting—and also Marian devotion (Our Lady of Caysaysay shrine) and heritage conservation (the old houses of Taal, Batangas, and the traditions of Batangas). It was no surprise then that the mix of guests was of rich variety, from artists and culture workers and advocates to car collectors to religious groups and media friends.

Orlina’s art has been winning national and global acclaim. His sculptures are always the top drawers in local auctions, fetching tens of millions of pesos. He has won enviable awards. Soon, leading art critic and writer Cid Reyes will release a coffeetable book on Orlina.

At the end of an enjoyable dinner, Orlina went up the stage to give thanks for those 80 years productively lived, the success he has gained, the people whose ties he’s kept through the years, and the loved ones who surround him.

Ramon Orlina and Thelma Sioson of TheDiarist.ph

CCP vice chairman Margie Moran-Floirendo at Orlina birthday celebration

Metrobank Foundation president Chito Sobrepena, Anna Sobrepena and urban planner Paulo Alcazaren

From left, author and art critic Cid Reyes, art collectors Rene and Ann Puno among Orlina’s guests

Indeed, amid this bounty, Orlina at 80 enjoys the ultimate blessing: a grateful heart. —Thelma Sioson    


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