An artist talks about his love for animals.

Text and illustration by Norman B. Isaac

“I have two ‘puspins’, one black and one white, given by a neighbor,” Edgar Cruz, 42 years old, says while putting the finishing touches to his entry in the Manila Bulletin’s Christmas Tree Making Contest. “The black cat is very good [at] catching mice,” he adds.

One notices his love for the animals as he carefully arranges the twenty-three pairs of papier-mâché animals made of MB newspaper. “I used over 20 kilos of MB pages bought or given by friends, spending at least two months to make the entry,” he says.For the two-tiered four-foot diameter rounded platforms where the animals stand, he uses the colorful supplement pages of the Lifestyle Section, and for the animals’ coats, fur, or feathers, he uses the regular black and white pages. “I learned my lesson. One entry I did in the past, I painted Santa Claus and the newspaper’s text was totally covered,” he laughs.

One imagines Noah’s ark and his animals roaming Intramuros: giraffes, tigers, lions, leopards, reindeer, bulls, donkeys, cranes, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, iguanas, civet cats, rabbits, butterflies, frogs, and assorted birds of all sizes. He shows a description of his entry which says, ‘Circle of Life – It doesn’t matter if you are on top of the food chain. All things great and small, regardless of color and stature, must come together and humble themselves before God. Peace and serenity is founded by love and respect. It’s not something we can only dream of. If we are united by faith amidst the slimmest of possibility, chance is a probability. It’s something we all could think about.’

The former fireman and Electronics and Communication Engineering undergraduate wipes his brow as he sweats under the scorching heat of the morning sun. Alvin, his sixth-grade son, assists him lining up the animals. Edgar has been a consistent participant and winner in the annual contest since 2005. This visual artist worked for a year in Saudi Arabia doing mural painting and landscaping for the royal palaces.

His fish-inspired Bangus Festival won First Prize in the previous contest for this animal lover. A funny anecdote he loves to tell is the year he made 50 monkeys only to change them to suit the theme of the contest. “Tinanggal ko mga buntot, iniksian mga kamay at ginawang mga bata. Umaakyat sila sa parang palo-sebo (I removed the tails, shortened the hands, and made them kids. They were climbing [something like a] palo-sebo [pole]),” he laughs.His entry with the last-minute transformation won second prize, worth thirty thousand pesos.A very clever and a wily monkey move.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2016 issue.