Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ugu: The art of giving back to society

Photo credit from TRAVELS OF JOY
Some years ago, in one of our family's spontaneous out-of-town trip, we ended up at Tiaong, Quezon where one of our church elders were able to buy properties and had an outreach for the church built.  That was a Holy Friday, the best I could recall.  
During our stay at their house, we asked what else Tiaong is famous for aside from their succulent mangoes. According to our friend, people would talk about a pottery place called Ugu Bigyan.  Without them knowing it was an artist's name all along.  Had I not search online I would have known as well.  With that thought, I consoled my myself that we will visit the place in time.  The longing for that visit grew stronger when a friend blogged about Ugu Bigyan's house.
Lady luck was still not on my side yet as several attempts to visit were always amiss.  
However, I would want to share an inspiring article about Ugu and how DepEd was able to tap him to give a hand in how K to 12 Program can be extended, making the curriculum more interesting to students.

Photo from Ugu Bigyan 's Potter Garden
Photo from Ugu Bigyan 's Potter Garden
Ugu: The art of giving back to society
In the quaint barangay of Lusacan in  Tiaong, Quezon, residents have become used to seeing latest model SUVs trudging the bumpy road that leads to the brick house of Augusto “Ugu”  Bigyan, the celebrated potter favored by the rich and the famous.

As any self-respecting artist, Ugu does not have a marquee to let the public know what he has. His loyal clients do it for him. No doubt about Ugu’s popularity. Fact is, Queen Sirikit of Thailand has invited him twice to be part  of  select  Asian artists who shared their craft  with the Thai people in an art festival to celebrate the royalty’s birthday.   

Self-taught in pottery, Ugu gets inspiration from the earth, from nature. The potter’s medium is   clay  –the raw material for  his terra cotta bricks, chimes, vases, wall decors, ceramics and various works of arts. From the soil, he also gets intimate with the roots and trunks of uprooted trees,  flowers and leaves of indigenous plants.

All these are food for his art. He   takes in nature and exhales nature-inspired art pieces that find their way in the souvenir shops and rooms of posh  resorts such as Amanpulo, El Nido, Boracay Shangri-la and Crimson Hotel. And in the homes  of those who can well afford his art pieces.

But pottery as a profession and a calling  came to Ugu like an afterthought. Up until he graduated with a degree in Accountancy, Ugu remained undecided on what career to purse and promptly found out  that working in a bank was boring. “ Ala ay siyam na araw lang ako sa bangko sa Makati ay umuwi na ako at nagpipindot na laang  ng clay dine sa amin,”  Ugu said with a hearty laughter. ( It took me 9 days to realize that working in a bank is not for me so I packed my bag, went back to Lusacan and started tinkering with clay)

Ugu learned the technical side of potttery from Jaime de Guzman who has since moved to Sagada. “ It helped also that my father and siblings know how to manufacture the pottery equipment that I needed which enabled me to  focus my energy on creation,” Ugu said.

When Ugu  was approached by DepEd  to tap him  as one of the K to 12 teachers for Grades 11 and 12, he said yes. K to 12 allows  students to explore and  hone the skills  they favor and be the source of their livelihood when they graduate from high school. He explained: “ I   said yes  even if I  don’t have details yet of appointment or compensation which to me is not an issue.” I have always been willing to share my art.”

“ During my travels abroad, I noticed that many people draw their livelihood from their traditional arts, crafts  and culture  especially in countries that thrive on the tourism industry like Vietnam and Thailand.  I believe that if we can only awaken that creative consciousness among our youth, we can reconnect with our culture and become  prouder as a people,”  he explained. And help create jobs too.  

Ugu hopes  that through  K to 12,  we can erase the stigma that technical-vocational and skills-based professions are inferior to a four-year college degree. “ If  only many of us will realize how important   blue collar jobs, as well as  the arts and culture in our society, people will not look down to these professions anymore.”

“ If through K to 12  we can  produce a   new generation of young potters  who can be  more creative than myself, I will be pleased,”  said Ugu.

“ Kung may tinatawag na corporate social responsibility, para sa akin ito naman ay personal social responsibility kung may ganun. Panahon na para may ibalik naman ako sa lipunan na naging mabait  sa aking art,”  ( If companies have their corporate social responsibility, I call mine personal social responsibility, if such a term exists. About time I gave back to the society that has been  good  me.)

But Ugu has to lay the predicate before agreeing to the DepEd invitation to teach for K to 12: “ I require that the school should first shortlist the students who are really interested and willing to learn. “Baka mabarino lang ako kapag ang ipinasok sa akin ay hindi naman pala talaga kursunada ang pottery ay sayang naman ang oras naming pare-pareho. Doon sa mga interesado, gusto kong buksan  ang kanilang mata sa sining.” ( I might get pissed if I have students who are not serious. I do not want to waste time. To those interested, I really want to open their eyes to the art of pottery).

Teacher Marianne Zabat, one of the DepEd staff   who invited  Ugu to teach   pottery, used to  work for his family when she was younger. She  shared:. “Ugu has that giving heart, I know it from my own experience.”

Ugu, apparently, is also into the habit  of  paying it forward. (RVL)

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  1. What a great post; it makes me want to give his studio a visit as well. The only potters I know are back in Vigan. I wonder where Ugu will teach his courses?

    1. He teaches in some parts of Batangas. If you are interested in his pottery art, try to visit his place at Batangas, he gives workshops as well.

  2. Ugu's place is one of my family's fave place to visit in Quezon. We're hoping to catch Ugu on our next trip.

    1. Thanks to your blog it's now on the top of my to-go place:)

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