Arts & Culture

Here’s to life, here’s to Vida’s art-making

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Fernandez Doria

A woman reading

To those who came of age in the Seventies, the name of Vida Doria (now Legaspi) is associated with her stint as Binibining Pilipinas and her winning the title of Miss Photogenic in the Miss Universe contest. But there is more to her than surface beauty. While she continues to be a fashion designer, she has been a painter since 2005 who found healing in art.

That year, she lost a brother to cancer and two months later, in the same year, her mother died. While at a wedding, a painter friend, Marisa Romero, noticed that she looked sad. Vida described the grief she was processing, and Marisa immediately invited her to join a painting group at the Santa Maria della Strada Parish in La Vista, Quezon City. The group was open to anyone who wanted to learn how to paint.

Vida recalled showing up for the “Paint to Heal” session. “The moment I rendered oil on canvas, I fell in love with painting.” She joined the group at its weekly Thursday meetings under Nestor Villanueva, who has passed on. Furthermore, she said, “Painting healed the pain in my heart caused by the passing of two loved ones.”

Summer roses

She concentrated on flora, a reaction to her childhood and youth spent in coastal Pangasinan “where there were no flowers,” she said, “except violet water lilies we would see on the fishponds or at wakes. At weddings, I’d see white lilies so I only knew white and purple flowers while growing up.”

She described not ever seeing a variety of flowers in the town of Binmaley where what she commonly saw were fish and vegetables, the color of sand, the green of mangoes.

In high school while on a seminar in Baguio, she went to the botanical garden and saw for the first time various flowers. She said, “I never knew those flowers existed. I was amazed and fell in love with them. Until now I love having flowers at home. The effect of those colors stayed with me forever, you might say. I didn’t realize that there were such things as colors!”

Gloriously orange

The same motif recurs in the clothes that she has designed, the  colors of the dresses that reflect the first eye-opening encounter in Baguio. She said, “Every time I travel, I take pictures of flowers. When travelling, I like to be outdoors. I’m drawn to arboretums, to English gardens and cottages. Their colors stay with me. I love leafing through magazines with gardens as background.”

She has been to impressionist painter Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. She said, “I couldn’t believe I was there! He has been my inspiration, especially that period when he was growing blind. I love the colors of the impressionists. Monet painted his feelings. His colors form the paintings.”

She was floored by “the radiance of Monet’s garden. I also love the colors of the peak of summer and of fall. Spring colors are too sweet for my taste. I’ve been to New Jersey and New York where I was able to observe the four seasons. I love their red trees.”

She tries to find that Giverny connection to her own works and their uniqueness, saying,  “My paintings are me, my passion for flowers, gardens, foliage, landscapes, heirlooms, vintage, classics, trees, prairies, meadows, romance, country, quaint, rustic and my rich, intense and vivid colors.”

Free spirit arrangement

Whenever she is in Baguio, she makes it a point to go to the public market to buy statice in lavender, yellow and white. Other flowers she likes are the waling-waling and the bougainvillea. She said, “I used to garden. Now I choose the flowers that I put inside the house.”

Apart from Monet, she is an admirer of painters Vincent van Gogh and Betsy Westendorp, the first for his texture, perspective and sense of light and shadows, the latter for her trees, foliage, flowers and landscapes.

Calling herself a colorist, Vida has saved enough paintings over the years for an exhibition by appointment at her sister Paulette D. Cancio’s home at No. 2 Bright Hill, Rolling Hills Subdivision, New Manila, Quezon City beginning April 20. Paulette was one of her sister’s earliest buyers/collectors.

Pangasinan beach
Boracay memory

Vida said, “In my younger years, I went to art galleries and stayed there for hours. I liked the pieces that had happy, radiant colors and with classic themes. I bought pieces that comprise my personal collection. In the course of my painting years, there were people who saw and admired my works and bought them. This boosted my confidence as an artist.” This feedback inspired her to make more paintings until she gathered “a fairly large body of works on hand,” she added.

Radiant landscape

Vida will share part of the proceeds of her exhibition sales to the Couples for Christ which is building homes for the marginalized. She said, “I often pray to God to make use of this gift as a channel of His blessing for me and for others in need. I pray to God to open avenues and opportunities where I can showcase and share my love for art.”

To make an appointment to see Vida’s works, text or call Paulette at 0917-892-1526 or email her at