Latest Stories

Fury, frailty in Kiri Dalena’s ‘Washed Out’


SEATED on hollow of tipolo tree’s trunk

The onset of the monsoon, the opening of classes, Corona’s impeachment, even Pacquiao’s humbling defeat, may have diminished memories of 2010’s yearend disaster, typhoon “Sendong.” But not in Kiri Dalena’s powerful installation and twin videos “Washed Out” in Finale Art File’s Tall Gallery.

Like a mythic Cassandra, this thin, long-haired woman, who answers to the almost self-prophesying full name of Gabriela (after the heroine from the North) Krista (after Christ), issues a strong warning to viewers who go through a hushed walk inside a maze of sawn logs, originally from three huge chunks of balete, tipolo and lauan. It is a walk that needs no strident environmental and political activist’s statement because the chilling message can be felt.

INSTALLATION of logs viewed from gallery’s midlevel

These logs are representative of the others that tumbled down from the mountains of Kapai in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Apart from the unexpected, thus deadly, floods that came in the night, the logs crushed hundreds of people to death, injured more and demolished property on their path at the height of the storm.

Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities are still in the midst of trauma relief and rebuilding.

Dalena, daughter of painter Danny Dalena and sculptor Julie Lluch and youngest sister of fellow visual artists Aba and Sari, remembers the fatal night of Dec. 16. She was at the lantern parade of University of the Philippines Diliman and noticed how unusually windy it was. The next morning, a cousin sent a message that her house was flooded, with all their stuff floating in the water.

Dalena says: “I found it strange. I’ve never heard of a flood hitting Iligan in the past. To my knowledge, storms never go the way of Iligan. More messages came in. The images posted by family members on the Internet followed. That was when we started to grow more worried.”

From Iligan

JOHNNY Endaya and Calixto Chikiamco

She had reason to be anxious. The Lluchs are from Iligan. The city was where the Manila-born and raised Dalena girls spent joyous summers of their youth.

She continues: “I have plenty of cousins there who’re my age. We were wild in the sense that we loved exploring our surroundings. Upon waking up, the first thing we’d do was climb trees. We knew where the birds’ nests were, if the fruits of the trees near us had ripened. We turned frogs’ eggs into necklaces; dug our own fishponds; kept snails, frogs and flying lizards as pets. When there was rain and water collected nearby, we’d be there immediately, soaking ourselves. We made up names for weeds (“water bombs”) and other plants or trees (aslum de lido) whose real names we didn’t know.”

This affinity with nature helped shape her decision to major in Human Ecology at UP Los Baños before she eventually gravitated to the arts. In high school, she thought she “would rather deal with the environment and animals and imagined myself working for something like National Geographic magazine in the future.”

KIRI with older sister Aba

Her exposure to politically aware parents also enabled her to articulate what was wrong when she saw it.

She recalls: “When I was nine, I always wrote down the plate numbers of smoke belchers on my way to school on the school bus. Then I sent the list to the Land Transportation Office. One day, some policemen (they looked like policemen, but I’m not sure now) came to my school and house and told me they received my letters and thanked me.”

All that seems child’s play compared to Sendong’s aftermath when she found herself “hitching” a ride in a military chopper during the Christmas season to film what would go into the two videos projected on the gallery walls. Dalena wasn’t even conceptualizing an exhibit then.

LIGHT-GREEN curtain that flutters in the breeze survives wreckage of house

She says, “There was space in one of the helicopters bringing food aid to the hinterland barangays that were cut off by Sendong. I was with an Inquirer correspondent. I asked permission from the general in charge of the helicopters and waited for available space. This was my second time to ride a Huey, so I was not uncomfortable about going very close to the edge to shoot the ground. What I didn’t like was a machine gun fixed on the side. It was intimidating. I was told it was for security because the helicopter was flying over areas known to be enemy lairs. I cropped the gun from the shots, but I wished that they dismantled it and just placed a symbol for the relief mission.”

When she later planned the exhibit, she didn’t realize she had to undergo bureaucratic red tape with various levels of the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, and Environment and Natural Resources. She had to make them understand what she would use the extraordinarily big logs for. These departments found the idea of an installation new. Getting the right permits took all of four months, starting Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s assistance

Dalena says: “Mom helped immensely in this. I don’t think this was possible without her. She shared my travails and showed patience in Iligan while we were in the process of getting a permit. Months after the storm, we still go to the seashore together looking at remnants of the logs.”


The video projections, portions of which show the remaining forested areas of the ARMM, the length of the mighty Mandulog River that overflowed, the ghost villages, even children playing by the shore at dusk to symbolize hope, were not without their challenges in mounting.

Dalena says Finale has projectors, but they weren’t enough for what she envisioned as a larger-than-life projection. What ensued were more collaborations with the technical and artistic sectors.

Canon, sponsor of the high-resolution projectors for a month, informed the artist that it was their first involvement in an art gallery/video installation. Optima Digital graded the images.

Her art network pitched in. A photographer, a filmmaker and an installation artist lent their equipment, such as media players and memory cards, for free.

The other hard part was conceptualizing which of the many images she shot would go into the projections. What she was sure of was the image of a ghostly house, except for a window where a curtain is seen moving at the slightest breeze.

Roberto Chabet flanked by Kiri and Danny Dalena

Dalena says: “I wanted the house in there. That house is etched in my memory. Although it was emptied of contents, the roof missing and most of its walls were down, it was still standing. That fluttering curtain was the only clue that it used to be a very normal house.”

She shares credit with curator Lisa Chikiamko, who helped on the video, the placement of logs, and making the content coherent.

What she wants is for viewers, particularly schoolchildren on field trips, to experience “what it was like to be in the presence of the logs,” she says.

She adds that the three-dimensional nature of the installation and the interaction with the space can make them understand the disaster which will be near-impossible to attain if seen on something flat like newspaper or television images.

“Washed Out” is on view until June 30. Finale is at La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Art , Kiri Dalena , Lifestyle , Washed Out

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  3. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  4. Fashionistas flock to designer’s wedding
  5. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  6. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  7. A tale of two Priscillas: my mother Prissy and Chona Recto Kasten
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  10. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  1. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  4. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  8. Prince William fuels speculation of second royal baby
  9. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  10. This is not just a farm
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Healing priest invites political leaders to join ‘prayer for nation’
  • Tagle: Christ’s resurrection a message of hope to faithful
  • Aquino vows to intensify anti-corruption drive further
  • Unease in Vatican over cardinal’s luxury flat—report
  • Nepal calls off search for missing guides on Everest—official
  • Sports

  • Rain or Shine grabs No.4, sends Ginebra to 8th
  • Red-hot Alaska rips injury-depleted San Mig Coffee
  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Teague scores 28 as Hawks soar past Pacers in Game 1
  • Lifestyle

  • Angono petroglyphs in danger of disappearing
  • Britain’s baby Prince George visits Australian zoo
  • Noli Yamsuan, Cardinal Sin’s ‘official’ photographer: ‘I could smell the aftershave lotion of the Pope’
  • Simplifying and lightening life
  • Where to go for Easter night-out
  • Entertainment

  • Show-biz celebrities’ other choices of summer getaway
  • Why ‘Noah’ can’t dock his ark at Philippine theaters
  • Acclaimed artist goes wild while on holiday
  • Believing in this mermaid
  • Missing Xian
  • Business

  • Supper power
  • Condo unit sales boosted Shang Properties earnings
  • ERC mulls over WESM price cap for May, June
  • Whatever happened to the ubiquitous pagers?
  • Huge 2013 net profits seen difficult to surpass in 2014
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats