MANILA, Philippines – It was a sunny Monday morning when we arrived at the home of artists Marina Cruz and Rodel Tapaya in Bulacan. We found them on the living room floor, reading to their two kids, Yohan and Keon. After quick hellos, the children were ushered into their bedrooms so that the grown-up visitors could get to work.
IN THE ZONE. Marina in her Bulacan home studio. Photo by Shutterpanda Photography
Around the living room, toys, picture books, tiny slippers, and framed photos complete the picture of a happy, normal family. Only one wall-to-wall canvas, partially obscured by the dining table, gives any evidence that this house actually belongs to an artist couple.
The second floor dispels all doubt. It is a true playground for Marina and Rodel, surrounded by colorful canvases, tables loaded with paint and brushes, and a various assortment of materials like vintage dresses and dolls – things which Marina is known to work with. However, on one small corner, there are kids’ doodles and scrawls taped carefully to the wall. One can make out dragons, fanged beasts, even something that looks like a manananggal, a mythical Filipino monster. Marina is as proud of these drawings as her own work.
We set up the camera and start the interview. First, we ask Marina why she paints. “Creating gives me a lot of pleasure,” she answers. “For me, it is like giving birth.”
Birth and family are recurring themes in Marina’s work. In her most recognizable painting, she depicted her mom and aunt’s fragile, tattered baptismal dresses, which she found buried in an old baul (chest) when she was looking for material to use for a college project. “It gave me a surreal feeling, imagining my mom as an infant,” she explains. She sees her pieces as reflections on aging, and a way to preserve memories.
RESCUED. An old dress that Marina found in her mom's chest became the inspiration for one of her paintings. Photo by Shutterpanda Photography
Furthermore, the analogy is apt for someone like Marina, who struggled with childbearing several years ago. She and Rodel thought that making a baby would be as easy as painting on a canvas or molding plaster. “But I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and I can’t easily create my kids,” Marina recounts.
The couple decided to adopt Yohan. Shortly after bringing him home, Marina discovered that she was actually pregnant with Keon. Marina and Rodel found immense joy in finally having the family they’ve always dreamed of. But they also realized that they had a newfound, full-time profession: parenthood.
“As an artist, if you don’t make any work, then you don’t make money,” Marina explains. Her pregnancy with Keon was a difficult one, and there were times when she was bleeding and needed to be in complete bed rest. Rodel kept painting, but he had to avoid using paints that did not give off harmful fumes.
“I could only read. So I asked my husband to buy me lots of books,” Marina says. Finance books became part of her reading list: “I told myself, if we make it through this pregnancy, I’m going to take concrete steps to plan for the future of our kids.”
FOLLOWING HER FOOTSTEPS. Yohan, Marina's eldest son. Photo by Shutterpanda Photography
Not that money was ever a problem in the household – Marina and Rodel are award-winning creatives who have held various solo shows in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Germany and Australia. But with two kids now in tow, Marina had bigger dreams.
“As an artist, you just want to create. You don’t really think of commercial value,” Marina says. “It’s just a bonus if somebody is willing to pay for it. But I learned that you also have to look at yourself as a professional, and be strategic in everything that you do.”
Marina realized that like doctors or businessmen, she will also face retirement, and that she won’t be able work forever. “And so I became very passionate about learning finance.”
One of the steps she took was to invest in the stock market. She prefers doing it online, through COL Financial. “I like it because it’s easy… as an artist and a full-time mom who works from home, investing has become a natural activity for me. It doesn’t take much of my time,” Marina says. “COL is helping me grow my money in such a way that it makes my savings grow further. It gives me the freedom to choose and engineer what kind of investments I need.”
AT EASE. Marina checking her online investing account. Photo by Shutterpanda Photography
Marina certainly defies the starving artist stereotype, and she knows it. “I think artists should be investment-savvy. As an artist, you are like the manager of your own business. You should not leave the finance side just like that. Financial illiteracy is expensive,” she points out.
For Marina, taking these calculated steps actually liberates her to be more creative. It allows her to live a richer life, with options and ample time to spend on the things that matter to her: her craft and her family.
PICTURE PERFECT. Marina and her family. Photo by Shutterpanda Photography
She likes to sum it up this way: “Of course, as an artist you can make do with the little that you have, like inspiration. But it's always exciting to do projects where you don't have to think about budget anymore.” – Rappler.com
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