Me and the Apolinario Mabini Wheelchair Project

I was honored to be asked and create for the “wheelchair project”. Alongside me were top artists of the Philippines: there’s  Eric (Kidlat Tahimik) de Guia, Kawayan de Guia, Io Regalado, Leeroy New, Plet Bolipata, Don Sulabayba, Ling Quisumbing, Karen Flores, Nuqui Cuizon, Wendy Regalado, Gerry Leonardo, Marc Cosico, Aba Dalena and my personal favourite: Agnes Arellano!robert alejandro and agnes arellanodr. cuanang, gilda cordero fernando and artistsWe were each to be given an old wheelchair and we had to “dress it up”. The only instruction (or more of a request really) was to make the art “positive”. We were told that most people who had to use wheelchairs were sad that they had to – thus the request to make our wheelchairs more “uplifting”.

Ever since Gilda (Cordero Fernando) told me about the project, I could not stop thinking about it. I would doodle “thumbnail” sketches. I normally sketch my thoughts in my planner (so that it doesn’t get lost). Here’s are my little sketches:IMG_6340 IMG_6341

From the sketches, I was able to draw my presentation drawing.  There was a meeting at Gilda Cordero Fernando’s lovely home – it was an evening of lively show and tell! This is my drawing – I drew it with a fountain pen (nice drawing instruments inspire me).IMG_6336By then, I knew the materials I wanted to use and I had a rough idea of how to do it. Let me take you through the process.

It is said that if you want to find out what your calling in life is, look towards your childhood, way before you had to make a living and worry about adulthood. I have a friend who, as a kid, used to keep getting into fist fights and now he is looking to get into MMA (mixed martial arts)….i digress. I looked back into my childhood and this is what I found:

IMG_6307This is a copper tooling artwork I did when I was Grade one or two at La Salle Greenhills. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. This was a gift to my Dad on his birthday (my dad enjoys sailing till now – he is turning 87 this year)!
And so from a 7 year old boy, pounding away with a hammer and nail for a school project, fast forward to the year 2010.

My friend, Jetro Rafael has an incredibly great restaurant called “Van Gogh is Bipolar” (it’s a long story – Jetro is bipolar and he serves incredibly good, nutritious food that’s good for bipolars which he calls the cuckoo diet), the restaurant has a beautiful small garden. I wanted to make art for the garden (Jetro didn’t ask me – I wanted to do it for myself) and so I found myself cutting, folding, pounding away with a hammer and nail for several days.

This is what I created after several days – a bipolar moon and sun (one side is happy, the other sad). They are lighting fixtures for the garden there are more hanging stuff too.
shoot3bipolar sun bipolar moon bipolar sunA year or so after, Manila FAME asked if I could be a “consultant” to work with manufacturers to come up with new concepts and products. I chose to use metal work as well.

This is what we (I and export manufacturers) created: a Christmas setting of trees, buntings and mobiles – all made with metal punchings and sculpture.AlejandroIn terms of design, there are what you call artist “icons” that an artist lean towards using. I know I love creating “moon images”, the sky, the sun, birds, wings, stars etc.

You can see me using my “icons” for the paper sculpture artwork I did for the Philippine Airlines calendar:pal_calendar1

It’s 2013 and here we are with the wheelchair project. Off to the actual work! First thing I did was create the little details which I knew would take a long time to do (I wanted to get this out of the way and it was a way for me to get a feel of the material I was using). I drew on the G.I. sheet using a white dermatograph (sold at National Bookstore).IMG_4727I created lots and lots of “scales”.IMG_4736IMG_4742This is “Mads” who kept me company while I was cutting. Meanwhile, my Dad and his team helped me create some kind of “roof” for the wheelchair. I wanted it high enough so that the person pushing the wheelchair would have a clear view of where he or she was going.IMG_4746Then I wanted to create more of the “bigger picture” and so I started to cut the larger elements.IMG_6036Starting to put things together. Getting cut by the sharp edges of the G.I. sheet. PLEASE BE CAREFUL if you want to try and use this material!!!!!! This is just the first cut I got – there were many others.IMG_4743IMG_6054Adding more and more elements. Did I have a detailed plan of what design to place? No. I designed, drew and attached right then and there, thinking to myself, what would I like to see on the wheelchair?IMG_4771We tried to weld things together – it didn’t work. The G.I. sheet was too thin.IMG_6042Each of the elements had details that were hammered with holes and drawn on as well.IMG_6046The wheelchair shaping up!IMG_6063We ended up riveting all the elements together.IMG_6081Metal stamps (designed by me!) attached to the wheels. I did one wheel and my Dad did the other – I have the BEST Dad in the world!IMG_6084IMG_6086Painted details on the seat using spray paint and enamel. I finished it off protecting the art with a fixative spray – also available at National Bookstore._MG_6175(1)The finished piece. Photograph by At Maculangan.

Please come to the parade (20 July 2013; 4pm / The Mind Museum at Fort Bonifacio) – commemorating the birth date (July 22, 1864) of national hero Apolinario Mabini (Philosopher and revolutionary confined to a wheelchair because of his paralysis).

To know more about the parade, click here.


    Tuesday, July 16th, 2013


    1. raadesign
      Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Test comment

    2. Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:40 am | Permalink

      thank you for sharing your process, Raba!!! You’ve gone a long way, guy! A very LONG way :-)! Mabuhay ka!

    3. Janine Dario
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink


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