World Class Glass Master
By Chelo S. Aloria


When asked what his middle initial stands for, Ramon G. Orlina laughingly answered, "Glass!" Well, there's no doubt he earned such a name being the firstFilipino to master glass sculpture.

There's only a handful of Filipino artists who use glass as medium. That's because glass, unlike wood is not an easy material to carve. But Orlina proves otherwise and can do more than just carve. He can transform a simple piece of glass into a work of art through months of cutting, reshaping, and polishing.

As a result, viewers will be able to see the lights trapped by the glass' unique forms. The architect shaped into a sculptor

This native of Taal, Batangas was actually a successful architect for 10 years -- the reason for many of his contemporaries to wonder why he's now into sculpture.
It started with drawing being his passion ever since he can remember. He was the only one among his college classmates who really excels in drawing freehand (drawing without using rulers). And this talent he probably got from his great grandfather who was a known painter in Batangas.

On his first 2 local painting exhibits in 1975 and1976, Orlina used glass instead of canvass. Somehow, he was able to sell most of his works despite criticisms from other artists. "Hindi ko alam yung oil, o yung acrylic. Sabi nila bakit puro primary colors hindi secondary colors. Well, I studied on my own and developed my own technique," Ramon says.

His unending need to create something new led him to explore glass sculpture. His combination of his artistic visual imagery and architectural background resulted in countless masterpieces. However, when his art was first introduced in the local scene, it was met with in difference. "Tinatapon dati yung glass ko. Sabi nila magaling lang ako sa technique [pero] walang art," he recalls.Filipino's Pride

Orlina's sculpture was first recognized when he represented the country in the 12th Grand Prix Internationale D'art Contemporain De Monte Carlo in Monaco in 1977. From then on,his popularity spread through Singapore, Japan, China, USA, and Chile where he was commissioned to create work for public places and museums.

In 1981, Czechoslovakia's leading glass artist, Maestro Stanislav Libensky accompanied him personally when he was invited over for a tour in recognition of his works.
Orlina's most notable awards were the Mr. F Prize of the Toyamura International Sculpture Biennial '99 in Hokkaido, Japan and the grand prize in sculpture category of the 2nd Int'l Biennial of Basketball in the Arts 2000 in Madrid, Spain.

As a striving artist, Orlina also had his share of disappointments over competitions he joined and lost. But he's proud enough to be among the top finalists in Japan, Monaco, and USA art tilts.

As of this writing, he is preparing for 2 major exhibits at Glorietta and in Hongkong. "Being able to develop a unique technique in glass sculpting is what I consider as my greatest achievement," the proud Batangueño states.Secrets Revealed

I was given the privilege to see his studio where he doesmost of his obras. If you see his works, you can figure out that he is a perfectionist. But for Ramon: "Wala namang perfect. Alam ko na may pangit din sa trabaho ko. Pero sometimes 'yung pangit sa 'yo, maganda sa iba."

With all the awards received and successful exhibits mounted in 25 years, Ramon humbly says that he still has a long way to go. He still dreams of starting his own school that would develop glass art in the Philippines.

He says though that talents need to be imported because we don't have much expertise in this field.
From 1992 to 1999, he served as president of the Arts Association of the Philippines, a group that continually promotes the welfare and interests of Filipino visual artists.

For a renowned artist like Ramon, success is simply being happy and content with one's blessings like family and work.

And that there are 3 rules for aspiring artists: "First, be original. As artists we are creators, hindi ka creator kung nangopya ka lang ng style o technique. Second, you should have a goal. Lastly, be dedicated to your work."From waste to treasure who would've thought that what we used to consider as worthless and artless glass would now cost P30,000 to P500,000 a piece in the market?

That's the work of Ramon Orlina. The Filipino artist who managed to cut through the conventional and ultimately revolutionized Filipino art with world wide recognitions. A world class artist, and of great worth being the Filipino glass master.


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