Arts & Culture

Fresh spring in Dario Noche’s step


AFTER decades of doing editorial illustrations and cartoons. Dario Noche is setting his sights higher as a visual artist.

In his show at the Conspiracy Bar on Visayas Ave., Quezon City, he reminds viewers of the body of works he has come up with in his long years in journalism. He has roughly 40 black and white illustrations and 15 in color in the exhibit, including original artwork from his Asiaweek stint.

In his heyday, he designed or redesigned publications some of which are in the annals of journalism history: Initiatives in Population, Manila Women’s Wear, Moptop, the weekly magazine Oh!, What’s Up cultural magazine, Standard Express, Jingle magazine when it morphed into Twinkle and The Manila Standard Today.

His interest in the visual arts was stirred as a boy in the province walking home from school and stopping at a place for more than an hour to look at a man working on the billboards of a movie house.

Noche recalls, “In the olden days, movie promotion was done this way. I was greatly impressed. They were to me huge murals. I was hooked. From then on, every blank paper in the house became my canvas. There was no artist gene in the family; I was the first aberration.”

He started as an architecture student at Mapua Institute of Technology but realized he couldn’t bear the math and shifted to fine arts at Feati University where his professors were mostly from the old Manila Chronicle.

Liborio “Gat” Gatbonton liked Noche’s work and recommended him as illustrator at Philippines Free Press. Although still unfinished with college credits, he was accepted.

He rues, “It was THE magazine at that time. It may have been sudden for me, but I managed. I was in the midst of the cream of Philippine journalism: Teodoro Locsin Sr, Nick Joaquin, Greg Brillantes, Kerima Polotan, Napoleon Rama, Jose Lacaba, Lorna Kalaw, Ricky Lee, J. Ser Sahagun, Danny Dalena, Alex Ngo. Most of them were very considerate. I fitted in snugly.”

He continues, “It was a time of turmoil then, internationally and right in our place of work. An unsettled labor dispute gave birth to Nick Joaquin’s Asia-Philippines Leader magazine that readily trounced Free Press.  It was from this group of professionals that I inherited the bane that few managed to ingest: coffee, cigarette, and beer. With Nick around, beer was never lacking.”

His years in journalism have been instructive. He says, “I hated the drudgery, the nine to five inhibition of the work, the flying egos. But in no other place else was my intellectual hunger sated. I learned grammar while poring over heavily edited manuscripts that were handed to me for layout. Listening to editors’ informal discussions, you had not only a glimpse of them but also learned vast literary knowledge and secrets. All these rubbed off on me, and I’m forever grateful.”

He put aside a cherished dream to be a full-time painter. Now retired from journalism, he says, “I am psyching myself up to become a painter. Earning a living is still a paramount concern. Painting was always on the back burner. My stay in the paper made me realize I was in the wrong profession, but I must admit it wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

Today he joins sketching sessions to hone his grasp of the human anatomy. His intention is to specialize in historical painting or illustration.

He explains why he is concentrating on historical paintings as his niche, “I am a First Quarter Storm participant. This awakening profoundly affected my thinking.  Former Third World countries, now recently developed nations, achieved their economic status because they have a deep sense of nationhood, culture, traditions and values. These nurtured and propelled them to impossible achievements.”

Noche bewails that “our youth today don’t have that. They grew up with wrong goals and values. Our educational and cultural system is wanting or doesn’t have a clear goal. I gave up on the older generation to ever deliver us. Maybe I figured re-educating the youth or the few remaining open-minded elders through historical paintings or illustrations can help inculcate and waken the right values hidden in our past.”

His illustration skills were also honed during his Asiaweek and Straits Times years in the 1990s. After joining many group shows in photography, illustration, graphic design and painting, he will explore sculpture through bas reliefs of historical events.

To do all that, Noche at 62 practices what he calls “moderation, restraint, physical and mental activity. Occasionally, I do weights to stay trim. I walk the short distance going home or to the market.”

He quips, “I’ve seen too many decrepit old men and some few hardy old men. I know what I will be when my time comes.”