I met Jordan Mang-osan in the late ‘80s when he was enamored by the then popular artists who made Baguio their home. In his early 20’s, he was beside them and learning from them how to bring out the natural artist in him. Unlike Ben Cabrera, Robert Villanueva, Santiago Bose, Kidlat Tahimik, Willy Magtibay, Tommy Hafalla, Benhur Villanueva, Adelaida Lim, and the others who made Baguio an art haven, he and the other young artisans were not learned in the history and techniques of art. But they – Jordan, John Frank Sabado, Leonard Aguinaldo, Perry Mamaril, Kigao Rosimo, and the other young ones – were every inch artist as they have proven through the decades.
The Roofless Studio of Jordan was a popular social media destination before the pandemic but not until Monday did I have the time and opportunity to be there in person. Khristine Cariño-Pablo found her way back home and wanted to meet the artist personally, of course, we had to go. This creation of this unusual studio revealed what kind of artist Jordan was and it was a pleasant discovery.
The solar pyrography artist that Jordan became is credited to the late Santi Bose who encouraged him to use the medium when it was not a common art form, according to him. This rooftop was the best place to do his art with the sun and a magnifying glass. He said that he could stay for hours while the sun permitted, but on rainy days, he used his electric torch to complete his renderings. As he toured us, he explained how he was still fixing it up because of the damage wrought by Typhoon Egay.
He showed us the trellis that he redesigned as a dreamcatcher for his masa flora and another plant to control blood sugar to creep on. He explained that he has grown some plants for his wife, Len, and him to have organic remedies for their diabetes. He has used GI sheet bulols or rice granary deities to replace the broken ones. There is even an outdoor water closet that he installed in this part for when the boys have an evening of drinks or even ladies when the need is urgent. The pine trees in double tiered rubber tire plant boxes are thriving but will be stunted because of the limited soil. He says the plants have also cooled the area. On the cement walls were discarded old t-shirts with his image on silk screen prints, he says these were going to rot anyway. He also spoke of the changes in the landscape of La Trinidad as he bragged of the 360-degree vista and how they climbed the mountainside and discovered coffins in a burial cave. He talked of the trees and how these were disappearing.
On a lower level, he opened a room of his art collections. He had his mentors’ works that he swapped or was gifted with. He has a BenCab rubber cut image of him, and some works of fellow artists that captured his image too. In this room is a toilet that is an installation of sorts. He said that the wood lever was pulled to flush the toilet but has been broken. The walls are murals. There are various objects that are included, even a kitchen sink that serves as the lavatory.
The stairwell walls are full of items from the culture like gongs and spears, wall hangs, and rattan woven hats. But what was impressive, everything was neat and clean.
Jordan Mang-osan is a name in art books of the world. Discovering that he thinks and breathes art everyday makes him an even more amazing person. He continues to improve his craft and life using his God-given creativity. – Nonnette C. Bennett