Aug 3, 2020

For anyone who’s lived in Metro Manila, we know it’s not exactly what reminds us of paradise. More often than not, the city actually looks (and feels) like a jungle—with civilians rushing around, all kinds of vehicles plowing through its roads and a barrage of noise coming from every corner. On top of that, it’s an absolute metropolis with only a few green and chirpy spaces amid tall, grayish buildings.

Okay, that may have sounded a bit pessimistic, but who can blame me? It’s hard to see Metro Manila with rose-colored glasses when the region is just absolutely stress-inducing. While we’re stuck in quarantine, we’ve been scrolling through our phones, consuming more and more upsetting news—but occasionally, there’s something that brightens up the mood. For example, this artist who illustrated a hundred views of Metro Manila.

When I saw the work of Manila-based artist and designer Daniel Tingcungco on Instagram, I took a double take. The illustrations of Manila were picturesque—bright colors with soft hues, clean skies and robust architecture with just a few crowded spaces. The energy of the illustrations felt like scenes from a calm and joyful animated movie. While the artworks looked like a beautified version of the Metro Manila I knew, it still felt familiar, almost nostalgic.


The artist

Tingcungco, who goes by the Instagram handle @cafedandy, told us that the project started out as a drawing exercise for him to practice illustrating places and backgrounds. He was inspired by Japanese artist Hiroshige’s “100 famous views of Edo,” and chose to illustrate places that held some sort of significance—to him and to Metro Manila’s culture.

“Primarily, [I would draw] places that are personally special for me, but also considered places that represented Manila, such as select historical or heritage sites,” he shared in an interview with Nolisoli. Tingcungo would go to the sites personally to research and take reference photographs. “[B]ut more importantly, I capture the place’s mood when I go there. Then, I adjust some details to make it a bit more personal. I can take a photo and just simply copy it, but I think it’s important to have your own ‘vision’ even if you have references.”

Now, it didn’t take him just a week or so to work on these illustrations; Tingcungco has been working on this personal venture since January 2018, making it a two-and-a-half year project. This just goes to show that passion projects usually shouldn’t have any time pressure—the more care and effort you put into it, the better the outcome.

“Just start and don’t think too much. Many times we have this “resistance” of starting a piece because you may not be “in the mood”… but if you get past that and just start drawing, you’ll keep on going,” he said, sharing advice to artists with passion projects. “I would advise you to build a routine every day to draw just a little bit if you have a full schedule for work. I usually draw for an hour or two in the early morning before I go to work so that I feel like I’ve accomplished something for myself before anything else will take hold of my time.”


Lessons learned

“After several trips to other countries, then returning back to Manila, I always had this feeling of comparing it with these other cities I’ve been and feeling frustrated by how much it has fallen behind on several aspects,” Tingcungco shared. “But what keeps me loving the city is the spirit of the people living in it. So I decided to look at it from then on with a fresh perspective, to see Manila with fresh eyes that I hope I could capture through illustration.”

I’m sure Tingcungco isn’t alone in feeling this dissatisfaction with Metro Manila after travelling the world, or simply even visiting provinces outside the Metro. However, nothing can defeat the bustling energy of Manileños. There’s a reason why the illustrations felt familiar despite its picture-perfect beauty. 

Yes, Metro Manila isn’t the prettiest of places, but if you caught it at the right moment—if you were driving early in the morning, if you went to the park minutes after rain, if you rode the MRT or LRT without the rush hour crowds—the city looked and felt like a scene from the movies.

“I learned to appreciate so much of what Manila has to offer and to be more mindful of my surroundings,” Tingcungco said, citing his favorite illustrations which include the Marikina River, the LRT Santolan Depot, the MRT-3 train ride and the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ. Last July 6, he finished the hundredth and final illustration of his long-running project—a view of the Rizal Monument with shadows of people in front of it.

To view the 100 views of Manila Tingcungco illustrated and more of his works, visit his Instagram page or his website.



Header photo courtesy of David Tingcungco

Get more stories like this by subscribing to our weekly newsletter here.

Read more:

The first online Art in the Park has virtual portraiture sessions and mixed media exhibits

Todo na para sa TODA: We’re adding art and jewelry to our auction—ready, set, bid!

Reinvented mediums: A look into how the arts have been adapting to the new normal

TAGS: artists david tingcungco illustrations manila Metro Manila views