My good friend Weena who organized the event asked me to do a mandala with the children. I reflected on it and figured the best way to theme a mandala for Christmas season would be the traditional Filipino Parol.
Inspired by the Mexican pinata and the Chinese Lantern - both influences from pre-colonial and colonial trade exchanges, the Parol is uniquely Filipino in a sense it draws spirituality (both Christianized yet indigenous-ly still at heart for the stars have been giving guidance to the ancients), craftsmanship, and the evolving creative genius together by weaving in the pentagram, a star as the main theme, with indigenous materials - bamboo, paper, fiber etc with unique petal, leaf, and other geometric designs with light.
Every Christmas season, you will see all these beautifully designed star lanterns in each home (almost all homes will have a parol on the window!) and all the streets of the cities around the country. It has become the Filipino "christmas tree." In our case, it is the star of Bethlehem which the Magis saw during Jesus' birth that is at the core of the Christmas tradition. It also symbolizes the Filipinos' resilience and hope-filled culture - shining light over dark times.
|The traditional parol (image from google images)|
|The modern parol with electric lights (image from clickthecity.com)|
The Pentagram as Mandala
At the start we planned to have custom made star shaped bamboo frames for children to design around but it turned out very tasking to prepare 100 frames in a few days. So we opted for a cheap yet beautiful medium - Origami stars. In the middle we used parchment paper as a circle for children to draw their dreams on so lights would shine through either through some neon colored sticks or the sunshine through a window.
|Child Testing the artwork with Lorenzo, here using the neon light sticks. We decided to take out the light sticks after for safety reasons.|
The whole afternoon's activities were designed to connect to the theme of dreaming and hope. The children from the streets are also orphans, out of school children, with some who have been sexually abused in the past. Staying in several partner centers and facilities, these children are already being taken off the streets and given proper care and assistance.
Inside my head, I play around with styles for designing mandalas. Everytime I design a workshop, I either go Jungian/Expressive or Geometric/Meditative or a mix of both. For this case, because of the workshop design of expressing hope, I decided to focus more on dreams in the middle of the circle. The children were encouraged to make designs and patterns on the pentacles of the mandala star.
The Star Guides the Dreamers
A story and theater play written by Leah Tolentino, Executive Diwata of GINHAWA was a beautiufl weave for the entire afternoon. We acted out the story through lights, projected images, and indigenous music for effect.
Inang Tala (Mother Star), played by Mini, wished to help a child forced to leave home and sleep on the streets because of poverty. Alas because she was so far away, she couldn't be heard by the child who lives in the nosiy and polluted streets of Manila. Asking the guidance of her Creator, she was advised that the only way to reach earth and to help others is to break up into pieces because she is very big and hot for the earth and its beings. And so she did break into pieces out of deep contemplation and compassion for the child. She then became all the many stars we have in the sky.
|Are these the alignment of planets? (gives me the shivers)|
The following photos show how the workshop transpired. Step by step we started with a visioning reflection of the meaning of hope and how dreams can be achieved if they believe. Aftewards, we drew dreams on the circular parchment paper so that it can be a transparent suncatcher during the day sans the use of lightsticks for light effect. The last steps were to design patterns on the pentacles and because they were so creative and wanted to play with designs and colors, I did not ask them to do symmetrical patterns which is the usual way mandala making is taught.
|Most of the dreams from these children were houses. It tells much of their experiences growing up in the streets|
|He wants to be a musician|
|He wants to be a seaman|
When we got back to the activity center, we made a mandalic installation with a song by Gary Granada as part of a ritual of commitment from the volunteer mentors (students, staff, etc.) and shelter coordinators in helping foster love and literacy for these children.
|Inang Tala Mini leads the parade around the school|
|The streetchildren are proud of their dreams|
|Dreams like a litter of starfish out on the seashore|
|A mandalic installation to cap off!|