By Analou De Vera
Edgardo Lam, 64, is a man on a mission. He wants to convince people they could become somebody even at old age if they continue to harness their God-given talents.
Lam, a self-taught painter from Bicol province, has been living in a Malate sidewalk for almost 20 years now, together with his two sons, aged 18 and 24. They survive mostly through the meager amount they earn as jeep “barkers.”
Lam, who claims to be half-Chinese, said he discovered his knack for painting only recently, using discarded paint and scrap wood he found.
“Nakatambay kasi ako dito at nagpaparking-parking ako. At para may magawa ako, may mga pinturang nakikita ako na tinatapon- tapon lang. At ayun nag drawing-drawing ako. Nangangalakal at pulot-pulot ko lang yung mga pintura at kahoy. Kinukuhako lang yung mga plywood dyan at dinadala ko dito,” he narrated.
The old man said he never had art lessons nor visited a museum and as such he was never sure if he was doing a good job of it.
He only learned to appreciate his work after some people started buying them.
“Napapangitan talaga ako sa mga gawa ko. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nakikita nila,” he said with a smile.
Lam also mentioned a certain Chinese man who boosted his morale by giving him a set of brush.
“Lagi syang nakaitim at nakataliyung buhok nya, lagi nya akongbinibigyan ng mga brush,” he said.
As to how he finds his subjects, Lam said it is all about imagination.
“Minsan may nakikita akong imahe, paglalaruan ko yung mga kulay-kulay, nakakabuhay. Inaabot ako ng tatlong oras o higit pa pag talagang ginaganahan ako,” he said.
He also finds inspiration from birds that flock to his side of the street.
“Minsan, bumisita ka dito ng maaga, makikita mo na sobrangdami nila,” he said.
Lam loves to paint landscapes and portraits. He displays them in a part of a street he calls his own gallery.
Sometimes, he writes bible phrases or quotes at the back of his artwork.
More and more people, especially tourists, now wants to buy his works, which he sells for whatever amount the customer offers.
“It depends how much you think it is,” is his oft-repeated reply to curious passers-by asking for them.
Other folks, meanwhile, have been giving him more art supplies.
“Yung mga tao, minsan, ‘Oh Lam! May pintura ako dito! Napulot ko lang yan sa basurahan.’ Minsan naman din may napupulot akongpamaypay, ginagawa kong bulaklak. ‘Pag may naisipan akong magandang gawin, ginagawa kopara malibang ko sarili ko.”
From using scraps, Lam is now able to buy real painting materials through his earnings.
“Nung tumagal-tagal na, nu’ng may mga bumibili, nakabili na ako ng gamit. Pumupunta ako sa National Bookstore bumibili ako ngmga mumurahing brush. Pintura tulad ng acryllic, ganyan,” he said.
Some customers already approached and offered him to transfer to another place where he could seel more of his work but he always declined.
“Kahit anong alok, may mga krimen man dito sa lugar na ito, hindi ko ito ipagpapalit. Para sa akin ang lugar na ito ay isang paraiso,” he said.
Lam now also teaches street kids how to paint. A high-school drop-out who engaged in petty crimes during his youth, Lam knows how important it is for his students to receive guidance.
“Sabi nga nila, “birds with the same feather flock together,’ gusto ko magkaroon din sila ng pangarap.”