I met Allan Cosio through my late husband, Onib Olmedo. The two of them struck up a friendship that would last for over two decades, from the 1970s all the way to when my husband passed away in 1996.
I was impressed by Allan’s gentlemanly demeanor, his aura of quiet intensity and his sense of purpose in life.
To this day, the image that is instantly conjured in my mind whenever Allan is mentioned, is that as a debonair escort to his wife Ivi during the 50th wedding anniversary of Ivi’s best friend and my college batch mate from St. Theresa’s, Josie Padilla, and her husband Ernest Rufino.
In a sea of black tuxedos, Allan stood out with his all-white, perfectly tailored tux matched with a white bow tie and a pair of formal, glossy off-white shoes. I asked Ivi if Allan was wearing a bespoke suit from Hong Kong. Ivi burst out laughing and told me that Allan was just wearing a tuxedo sewn right here in the Philippines.
Allan joined a theater company as production manager. He later accepted an offer to manage the upscale haberdashery Lor’s.
On April 4, 1970, Allan married the love of his life, Ivi Avellana, whom he had met at the theater production company, at the newly opened St. Pancratius chapel on the grounds of Paco Park.
Allan had married into a family of icons. His father-in-law was Lamberto Avellana, who was national artist twice over while his mother-in-law was Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana, who would later be proclaimed national artist as well.
Allan and Ivi settled down in a bungalow one street away from the house of Ivi’s parents at San Antonio Village in Pasig.
Ivi relates: “When our landlord said that he needed the house for his son, Allan and I planned to move to Makati, but Papa would not hear of it. He practically begged us to move in with them, because if he was working late or out of town, Mama would be left all alone in their house.
“It was a very difficult decision to make, especially for Allan, and though it would be crowded, we finally agreed on the condition that we would share in the household expenses. When Papa passed away, our relatives thanked Allan for being selfless enough to have agreed to stay in San Antonio Village, or else ‘we would have had to bury two people, not just one.’”
In the mid-’70s, Allan confided in his wife about his secret dream to become an artist. He thus left his job in the tailoring shop and embarked on an artistic career. In terms of style and substance, Allan Cosio was basically an abstract expressionist.
In the course of his artistic career spanning three decades from the ’70s to the 2020s, Allan never allowed himself to stagnate. He produced eye-popping, jaw-dropping pieces of cutting-edge art, constantly experimenting with new, unorthodox modalities of creative expression through the use of nontraditional materials.
Allan received prestigious awards in the course of his artistic career, through which he gained national acclaim and well-deserved recognition. He reached the pinnacle of his artistic career when he was awarded the Chevalier de L’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres, the highest award given by the French government’s minister of culture to individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the arts and literature.
Allan and Ivi bonded with their art colleagues in Saturday Group of Artists, one of the oldest artists’ organizations in the Philippines, which has existed for over five decades.
One of the projects undertaken by Saturday Group was done in collaboration with Hyatt Terraces Hotel in Baguio.
The Hyatt management invited the group for sketching and painting sessions held in one of their function rooms, offering free accommodations in its deluxe suites to the artists as well as their families. In return, the visiting artists would turn over their creative output to the hotel’s management, so they could hang them on their walls.
When Hyatt Terraces Hotel expanded with a new wing, the management honored its visiting artists by naming the new hotel suites after them. Thus there was a Cosio Suite and an Olmedo Suite. I still have happy memories of the summers when Onib would bring me and my daughters, Bambi and Franjo, for vacations at Hyatt Terraces Hotel. Those idyllic summer vacations proved to be short-lived. The killer earthquake in 1990 made the imposing Hyatt Terraces Hotel literally crumble like a deck of cards.
After this tragic event, the former general manager of Hyatt Terraces Hotel, Heiner Maulbecker, transferred to the establishment known as the Manor. He resumed his project of bringing over prominent artists based in Manila to Baguio to produce artworks that would become part of the hotel’s permanent collection. To this day, the works of Allan and Ivi still adorn the walls of Le Chef, the restaurant at the Manor, and at the establishment known as Forest Lodge.
Versatile and generous
Ivi and Allan were actually versatile individuals who also loved to sing. I am personally grateful to Allan, because he showed that he was a loyal friend to Onib even when he had already passed away. During Onib’s retrospective exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, he graciously gave tribute to Onib by singing some of his favorite songs.
Allan and Ivi not only attended Onib’s art exhibits but also extended their support to me in the course of my PR career. When I was working at Ramada Hotel, I launched my major PR project, an art competition for fine arts students from schools in Metro Manila.
During the initial competition, Allan and Ivi graciously accepted my invitation for them to act as members of the board of judges, along with Onib and Odette Alcantara. And so, Allan and Ivi, together with my husband Onib and Alcantara, had to plow through more than 100 paintings that day to choose only three winners.
By accepting my invitation to serve as judges in our art competition, Allan and Ivi proved that they wanted to do their share in developing the talents of students who are inclined toward the arts, certain that these students would comprise the next generation of professional artists in the Philippines, who could someday make a significant contribution to the advancement of art in our country.
The last time I saw Allan was when he gave a talk on my husband at Art Fair Philippines in February 2020, rendering a verbal portrait of Onib as a person and as a friend. A few weeks later, our lives would be turned upside-down by the pandemic.
The pandemic aborted a major event which Allan and Ivi had already calendared. They were all set to put up a joint painting exhibit of their major works, along with a recital of popular love songs, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary on April 4, 2020.
Even if the event did not push through, however, l think it may be said that the artistic husband-and-wife team truly make them the “golden couple of the Philippine art world.”
Now that Allan has left us, I am sure that he is now in heaven, causing quite a commotion among the angels and saints up there, producing more of his experimental art by exploring the use of unorthodox materials like billowy clouds and the twinkling lights in the canopy of the universe. —CONTRIBUTED INQ