Year of the Dragon, bow! | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


My introduction to mythical dragons was the image of Archangel Michael hacking at a dragon which catapults into eternal fire. Eventually, it becomes the iconic label of a gin bottle. Michael with the vanquished devil is also the figure on an anting-anting medal selling in Quiapo. It is supposed to bestow courage on its wearer.


Then there was the figure of the legendary St. George riding a horse and trampling a dragon to death. The dragon was supposed to be a carrier of the plague. It polluted the water of the town’s lake and made the people ill. To stay clean, the dragon had to be bribed periodically with a nubile maiden (which it presumably ate).

One day, there were just no more young maidens left to offer, except the king’s daughter. That was a bit much, and St. George trampled the beast to death. St. George won many followers who became Christians (it seems now to be St. George’s hidden motive).

Since I am incurably for the underdog, I pitied the poor western dragon. It was always being made a stand-in for Satan. Western dragons always live in some dark cave where they have to be smoked out or lanced to death, spitting fire and all.

Oriental dragons are better regarded. They are never depicted as social monsters. There are water dragons who take care of the H2O of wells, rivers and waterfalls. Today is its birthday. Asian dragons protect a lot of other things. They are the favorite of New Year crowds who flock to Chinatown to watch the Dragon Dance and eat pansit.

The Philippine dragon is known as the bakunawa. A rather confused creature with some secret resentment in its heart, it rises up from the sea and tries to eat the moon. To keep the bakunawa from swallowing the moon completely and causing a total eclipse, the Bagobo natives of Davao allegedly emerge from their houses, beating pots and pans. This reportedly frightens the bakunawa into spitting the moon back into the sky.

I love incorporating dragons in my paintings, although my grandchildren say they can draw better dragons.  I love the Eastern dragons’ pop eyes, grinning mouth and soft flowing whiskers. You can paint dragon scales green, pink, red or blue, whatever, since nobody has ever seen a dragon. My dragons stand for instinct, so they’re always good because instinct protects you.


1) In “Dragon Taming is an Art,” a girl is in her private chamber of dreams, soaking languidly in a bathtub. The top third of the painting shows her defying convention by riding a bike, naked, connecting with the dragon in the sky. The lower third of the painting shows all those conventional women gossiping about her. Owned by Lanelle Abueva Fernando

2) In “River of Tears,” the young daughter (top) has befriended her instincts (the dragon) and is happy with the world. Her mother (below) is still attached to bad memories in her past and can’t stop weeping. The lower part of the dragon is, like the mother, half submerged in tears. They’ll eventually snap out of it. (The decapitated head below means nothing, it was just something I found among my scraps and pasted on).

3) “St. Michael and the Fallen Angels” shows the Archangel with swords on his back like a ninja. He has just cast down the bad angels. There was a blank space on either side of the composition so I drew in a pair of dragons. I was so pleased with myself until my daughter Wendy complained, “Ay, ma, mukhang pansiteria!” Actually, I love the painting. Owned by Tina Ozaeta Lebron

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.