Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photos courtesy of Edwin Dinapo
Someone once said: “I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.”
Such is the case of Edwin “Buboy” Dinapo, a multi-awarded painter and visual artist from Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur (from where Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and Olympic silver medalist Nesthy Petecio also came from). Born on Valentine’s Day in 1969, he is the fourth son of the six children of Advendigo B. Dinapo and Mila M. Parohinog. Before him are Elma, Renato, and Wilma. The two youngest are Tata and Sammy.
He was actually born in Oroquieta City in 1971. He was only two years old when the family moved to Sta. Cruz, as his father got a job at the Franklin Baker Company. He attended Coronon Elementary School but stopped schooling after finishing elementary grade as his father was paralyzed. He cried intensely, knowing he could not join his friends in high school.
“Our life was really difficult in those times that I had to help my mother to make both ends meet,” he admitted. He joined her in selling vegetables and fish in every corner of the municipality.
Even though they didn’t have any luxuries at home, he said he never experienced any problems. “I could not remember any problem; I was happy despite all the struggles we had at home.”
Growing up in Sta. Cruz was an experience he couldn’t forget. It was there that he learned the intricacies of fishing (“My skin was so dark that some people mistaken me for people living in the seas”), the fun of disco dancing in open venues (“My friends and I had to walk long distance from Coronon to the town proper and then back”), and courting girls. He also became the youth president in Malusing, Talisay Beach.
When he turned 21, he decided to do something with his life. He enrolled at the Talairon National High School. “Most of my classmates laughed at me since I was the oldest among them,” he recalled. He took a special exam and passed it with flying colors. Now, he could pursue a college degree, but due to poverty, it never materialized.
In1987, Buboy went to Manila with a great desire to provide his family with a better life. Luckily, he found a job at the Manila airport in-flight operations. He was given a chance to take the ATO (Air Traffic Organization) Airmen Examination Board even though he was only a high school graduate. ATO guidelines state that people whose work is related to air traffic can take the exam.
Buboy was able to pass the five subjects of Civil Air Regulations, Air Traffic Control, Navigation, Meteorology, and Weight and Balance. As a result, he was given a license as Flight Operations Officer (FOO).
This was in 2002, 11 years after working at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. But two years later, he quit from his job. “Nag-resign talaga ako as FOO kasi sobrang bigat ng responsibilities. Hindi makumpleto ang flight departure kung wala akong pirma sa mga documents per flights. Pero ang sweldo ko ay napakababa lamang. Halos ‘di naman magkalayo sa mga suweldo ng cabin cleaner o baggage handler.”
Free from all responsibilities, he decided to pursue his childhood dream: that of becoming a painter. “It was really my passion to become a painter when I was kid,” he admitted. “So, when I resigned from my work at the airport, I started painting. I followed my passion and I felt fulfilled. As if I was a bird finally freed from the cage and flying in the open air.”
Now, he can follow in the footsteps of his idols. He mentions Fernando Amorsolo (one of the most important artists in the history of painting) and Vicente Manansala (a cubist painter and illustrator) as those who inspired him to become a painter.
But Dinapo is not your ordinary self-taught painter. “Award-winning, internally-driven, and emotionally-charged, Edwin Dinapo’s original art executed mostly in abstract, human forms, landscape, portraits and still life – have been described as ‘evoking a feeling of peacefulness and serenity.’ Buboy’s works mostly with acrylics but he does dabble in mixed media,” a souvenir program stated.
“When viewing Buboy’s portfolio for the first time,” the souvenir program stated further, “one is under the belief that the works presented are the creations of a master artist. The diverse collections however are the efforts of just one.”
But it wasn’t an easy journey, though. At the start of his career as a professional artist, Dinapo had a hard time getting a break. It all changed when he went to Rozzy Ann Frame Shop in Sta. Cruz, where he had some of his paintings framed. He met Thelma Lim, who was captivated by his artworks. She asked him to bring more artworks that the shop could frame. From the said collection, an exhibit with other artists was done.
The success of the exhibit led him to be taken as a house artist of Lim’s gallery on the second floor of Greenhills. More exhibits followed, and before he knew it, he had solo exhibits in some well-known venues, including the Manila Hotel. So far, he has done 18 solo exhibits. He has joined 45 group exhibits in different venues and galleries.
He also gives credit to Jerwin Buerano for discovering him as a painter. “He is a true friend,” Buboy says. “He supported me even if I was still a struggling painter. He bought some of my artworks so I could have money to buy milk for my children and daily needs. He really helped me a lot.”
Dinapo has gone a long, long way. Some of his artworks have been exhibited in other countries, including the United States, Canada, Malaysia, and Vietnam. They have also been displayed in some countries of South America, Europe, and the Middle East.
“In a fairly short period of time, Buboy accomplished unheard of achievements for a self-taught and self-representing artist,” said a souvenir program. “Though he did not have any formal training in the Fine Arts, through the years, he learned to love the beauty of nature and mastered his craft by capturing the essence of his own style in every brush stroke.”
It’s no wonder why he is collecting recognition and citations from various award-giving bodies. In 2006, he caught the attention of the astute and art critics who named him the “Prodigy of the Year.” In the same year, he was bestowed the prestigious Dangal Pinoy for the Culture and Arts of Buhay Pinoy category given by the Philippine Television Network RPN9.
In 2015, the Dangal ng Bayan awarded him the Outstanding Visual Artist. He was also one of the Asian Achievers for Outstanding Artist/Actor for Arts and Cultures.
A coffee table book, The Different Faces of Mother & Child by Carlos Arellano, has featured some of his artworks. You can also take a glimpse of some of his paintings in Manuel D. Duldulao’s books: The Art Collector’s Guide Book and The Lives and Loves of Artists and Models. He is also included in a book written by Lander Blanza entitled Alphabet of Filipino Contemporary Artists.
Among the famous personalities who have bought some of his artworks include boxing phenomenon Manny Pacquiao and former Mayor Sonny Belmonte. The following senators have also collected some of his paintings: the late Edgardo Angara, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Chiz Escudero. If you happen to visit the mansion of ex-beauty queen Marilou Bendigo (who is also from Sta. Cruz) in California, you will see some of Dinapo’s paintings.
To those who want to follow in his footsteps as a painter, he has this advice: “Be true to yourself and don’t be embarrassed with whatever experiences you have. Make your own paintings straight from your heart that give you joy from within. I’m sure there will be other people who will appreciate your work.”
He gets inspiration from his family and from the people who believe in him.
Dinapo is not only a painter but an actor, too. He has indeed the good looks of becoming an actor. In fact, there was someone who wanted to get him as a film actor but declined when he learned that it would require him to bear.
In 2011, a friend cast him in one television show that led him to several TV appearances in various networks like GMA and ABS-CBN. He also received a Best Actor trophy from some agencies and companies.
Dinapo has appeared in several movies, too, but mostly indie films. In the ten films he had done, he was always given the role of a father. One role he couldn’t forget was in Rolyos as Snooky Serna appeared in the movie.
He has also appeared in some commercials and billboards. You can watch all of his videos via YouTube.
Dinapo has been married to Melissa Andrade since 1998, when he was 28. She was his neighbor in Pasay and is ten years younger than him. The couple now lives in Trece Martires, Cavite. They are blessed with four children: Gian Franco, now 23, father of Caspian; Angelo, 21; Edwin, Jr., 19; and James Brandon, 11.