Aze Ong: Crocheting and life

MANILA, Philippines - Whoever thinks that crochet only belongs to crafts like bags and table spreads has not seen Aze Ong’s artwork.

A humongous rainbow bag that can easily fit a kid or two inside, a shawl that transforms the wearer into a life-sized butterfly and “bonnets” whose tails — when pressed — squeal with sounds to delight babies, are among some of Ong’s bright, bold and quirky artwork.

Ong’s art has an organic and untamed — almost wild — feel, a characteristic she attributes to the fact that she follows no set pattern when crocheting. “When I begin, I don’t have any design in mind,” Ong explains. “I just go with the flow. I don’t know what the final artwork would look like.”

Her art is largely a product of intuition.

With no formal art schooling, Ong has, however, been making art for most of her life.

She used scrap fabric from her mother’s garment business when she was in elementary school. Even then, she chose bright colors for her artwork; colors she says are not usually the norm in “traditional crochet.”

Ong became more serious with her art, though, when she volunteered after college to teach for one year at a high school in Kibangay, Lantapan, Bukidnon. Most of her students were from the Talaandig tribe from the Mount Kitanglad area in the province. 

The Talaandigs are an indigenous tribe who has successfully preserved their art and culture, and continue to wear their traditional clothes and perform their traditional dances.

Ong was awed by the creative spirit of the Talaandigs. She wore their clothes, learned to play their tribal flute and danced their dances.

“Art is part of their lives,” she reveals.

She loved the bold red, black and white colors in the Talaandigs’ traditional wear and their artful headdresses and accessories. She admired the painstaking process in the Talaandigs’ sewing and embroidery.

“They take one month to make it as everything is handmade. They also pray over the clothes,” she relates.

Inspired by the Talaandigs, Ong put more time and effort in creating bigger, bolder crochet art. Her exhibit series Liwanag is her celebration of her insights and experiences throughout life.

Liwanag here is not just about the light we can see, but about enlightenment,” she clarifies. “It is an exhibit I will keep having all through my life, as new realizations and experiences come in.”

Each Liwanag exhibit displays old and new artwork. 

A constant artwork in the Liwanag exhibits is the Liwanag ng Karanasan, a 16-ft artwork that is only destined to grow longer while the artist lives.

“This artwork will only be finished on the day I die,” Ong shares. She requests that the finished artwork be displayed on her casket.

To Ong, performance is also an art. Also inspired by the Talaandigs’ dances, she started incorporating performance art in her exhibit openings.

At the opening of Liwanag, she danced with unplanned, intuitive steps to the beat of drums, while wearing her crochet art.

So long as she lives, Ong believes that more realizations and experiences will inspire her to create more art for her Liwanag series. -


Aze Ong’s current Liwanag exhibit is on display at the extension gallery of San Beda Alabang’s college building until September 30.