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A portrait of the family as artists

The Cagandahan siblings are a unique family of artists in Laguna. Together, they help usher in a new age of Paete art.

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ALL IN THE FAMILY. Ma. Lourdes “Odette” Cagandahan (left), Glenn Cagandahan, and Christine “Tin” Cagandahan in Glenn’s showroom in Paete, Laguna. (Photo by Chris Quintana)

The mention of the quaint town of Paete easily brings to mind miniature to life-sized religious icons carved from wood, spilling from home workshops over to the streets. For four centuries, the town has been home to master wood carvers, with their craft being passed down through generations. The Cagandahans have been one of those families who keep the tradition alive, but Glenn, Christine “Tin” Cagandahan-Aquilo, and Maria Lourdes “Odette” Cagandahan-Monfero are deviating from the classical wood carvings and paintings the townspeople are used to seeing.

Glenn’s work is a wide range of classical wood carvings that pay homage to the Paete tradition and French sculptor Auguste Rodin; Michael Cacnio-influenced Filipino rural life scenes made of steel-reinforced epoxy; and dark, industrial, apocalyptic pieces like those in his “Transcrucifix” series, some of which are displayed in his showroom on the ground floor of his three-storey home. The 41-year-old sculptor and motorcycle enthusiast initially worked with wood but later ventured into other materials like metal, epoxy, ready-made elements, and found objects. Originally a painter, Glenn shifted to sculpture after realizing he had no patience for painting.

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Tin, like Glenn, also started as a painter, then switched to sculpture because she prefers the medium’s tangibility and the creative freedom it provides. The 37-year-old is fond of flowers and the smooth, abstracted marble figures of English artist Henry Moore. Her epoxy-made floral pieces combine the softness of flowers and the hardness of sculpture. Her brother influenced her in her choice of material, Tin says.

Odette constantly challenges herself by painting faces and human figures freehand and by doing large-scale pieces. For murals and portraits, she prefers using oil paint because it takes longer to dry, which makes it easier for her to blend colors further. She uses acrylic or water-based paint for speed-painting. And also recently, she has been experimenting with glow-in-the-dark and black-light paints. A fan of Michelangelo, Renaissance, and Baroque art, Odette incorporates these influences into her portraits and impressionist pieces that often reflect her interests, like music (she plays the drums).

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