Leah C. Salterio
MANILA — With no luxury liner cruising on the high seas during the COVID-19 pandemic, singer Reuben Laurente, who was a headliner on international cruise ships, rediscovered another profitable, career-making turn by using his palette and paint brushes.
Although Laurente started painting when he was only 11 years old after he joined art contests in school, his talent had been in the back burner for a long time.
It was undoubtedly through singing where Laurente made a name for himself. He joined a singing contest and landed a stint with the gospel group, Papuri Singers.
A bigger exposure came when he joined The CompanY, a vocal sextet that gave him a chance to be on the entertainment spotlight.
However, Laurente became scarce on the local front when he ventured in performing on the high seas. But when he returned home three years ago because of the pandemic, Laurente went back to painting.
“Every visual artist has a goal set for himself to be able to stage and showcase an exhibit,” Laurente told ABS-CBN News. “I know that in the grand scheme of things, the Lord gave me that passion to work during the pandemic years.”
In July last year, Laurente felt that desire to look for an exhibit grant so he could showcase his paintings.
“I just typed ‘exhibit grant in the Philippines,’ lo and behold! The National Commission for Culture and the Arts [NCCA] announcement for exhibit grant popped out,” he shared.
“The commission was looking for 20 exhibitors/art proponents and the deadline was August 15, 2022 to come up with your exhibit proposal. I submitted right then and there and prayed that I’d make the cut.
“They finally announced the grantees, thoroughly screened from quite a number of applicants and I made it. I can only thank God for this favor.
“I have been painting since the middle of 2020, so after I was announced as one of the grantees, I had already come up with a decent number of works to display.”
In the exhibit “Pilipino Ako, Ito ang Aking Lahi,” which opened on April 6 and runs until April 30 at the NCCA Gallery in Intramuros, Laurente will have 44 artworks on display.
“I will be exhibiting from my body of works dating 2013 and my works during the pandemic years from 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023,” Laurente said. “There are 18 works already bought by friends, mostly from the industry and art patrons, and 26 more that will be on sale.
“The challenge which I deliberately inflicted on myself was coming up with more pieces to suffice each category that I created for the exhibit.
“I prayed for this exhibit and I believe that now is God’s perfect time for this. Back in 2001, I joined a group exhibit, ‘Tindero, Tienda, Tindera,’ at the ArtSpace, produced by Heritage Arts and Antiquities. ‘Pilipino Ako, Ito ang Aking Lahi’ is my first solo exhibit.”
The artist reception on April 12 will have National Artist for Music, maestro Ryan Cayabyab, as guest of honor who will cut the ceremonial ribbon. Speaker will be Floy Quintos.
The CompanY will show their support to Laurente by rendering their brand of good music, with the husband and wife tandem of cellist Kiko Llorin and violinist Corinna Llorin, who will play some classic tunes and will accompany Laurente in his song number.
Former Channel 9 news anchor and Far East Broadcasting Company Philippines’ outgoing managing director, Dan Andrew Cura, will host the artist reception.
Laurente’s art pieces are divided into four categories: “Ang Babaeng Pilipino (The Filipino Woman),” “Kwentong Bayan at Iba Pa (Folk Tales and Others),” “Mwebles (Furniture Pieces)” and “Pagdiriwang (Celebration).”
Undoubtedly, Laurente gets a different kind of fulfillment seeing his finished art work on canvass. He evidently showcases the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage in his paintings.
“There is an immense feeling of artistic fulfillment that comes from painting,” he maintained. “Aside from that, painting was my saving grace every time challenges arise.
“I have experienced picking up my brushes and acrylic paints and painting while I had a vocal health condition on board a ship, where I was doing a contract as a production cast singer.
“The other time was during this pandemic, where it helped even out my mental state. It takes a great deal of patience and will power in order for you to endure the process little by little and persevere to finish the race.”
Laurente’s father Dominador Laurente was the original artist in the family and the one who encouraged him to draw his first portrait when he was merely five. It was a sketch of a neighbor who eventually became a popular Christian broadcaster and gospel singer, Maru Cepeda-Javier.
“I was five when my father, who was a graphic artist then at Philippine Crusades, a Philippine mission-focused entity founded by American missionaries, started bringing home scratch papers for me to doodle on,” Laurente recalled.
“He was the first man who encouraged that I could draw and even if I could only draw stick faces and astonished men in action then, which only your own father can say ‘beautiful’ to. He believed in me. Eventually, I also started believing in myself.
“He was constant reminder to continue to do good to all and not just to a select few people. He was an inspiration because he walked his talk and he showed me God’s love by how he led his life.”
Laurente finished Bachelor in Interior Design at the University of the Philippines. “I first wanted to become a doctor, then an architect, but both my parents were my reality check and totoo lang kami.
“We don’t have the resources and I barely passed my advanced college algebra in high school. I was also a working student, so I took up Interior Design.”
Not surprisingly, being a painter complements Laurente’s musical career. “I am flattered honestly knowing not too many people can both sing and paint well,” he said. “I believe I fall under that category.
“Well, I’d say I’d be able to showcase my works and make a concept show about my being a proud Filipino, not just showing slides of obra maestras of Filipino masters, but my own masterpieces.
“I really pray for God’s perfect timing that I’d be able to do that in this lifetime and how about being accompanied by a full orchestra at the Cultural Center of the Philippines? Word is power, most especially if you declare it with faith and confidence in the Lord.
“Though we love being validated as artists, I am now on that stage where I really couldn’t care less, because all I want to give is my personal best and my excellence in every field that I tackle.”
Leah C. Salterio