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Monday, December 4, 2023

Unleashing the heroine within

When a promotional video of the “Nasaan si Darna?” mural at the ABS-CBN compound along Eugenio Lopez Drive in Quezon City was released a couple of weeks ago, I instantly recognized the woman in action – Anina Rubio. She is a multidisciplinary visual artist whose calligraphy and brush lettering workshops I was fortunate to have attended in 2015.

Aside from impressive workmanship, Anina’s art journey strongly made a mark on me. 

“I think I’ve always had a knack for creativity when I was younger, but it was mostly science that got my attention,” Anina shared and let me into how she started her professional life as an engineer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from De La Salle University and eventually earned her license. “I remember dismantling old electric toy cars and assembling the motors into robots. I’m a science nerd, to be honest, but flowing through life led me to this creative path at 29 years old, and I didn’t turn back since then!” she added. 

Darna mural at the ABS-CBN compound

It has almost been a decade since Anina took the leap. She has been a full-time artist since taking an exit from the corporate scene in 2014. After working for a telecommunications company, Anina dabbled in farming and jumped into five other jobs within five years before finally landing in the creative industry. The initial desire to destress ushered her into a different calling and required a lot of learning.

While it may seem all sunshine and rainbows now, the significant career shift was also faced with opposition. 

“Of course, at first, there were a lot of shaking heads from my family, especially when security and stability were at stake,” Anina explained. 

Anina (fourth from left) with Darna stars Joshua Garcia, Janella Salvador, and Jane De Leon

“Then again, I have always been dubbed as the hippie, so I guess, eventually, they understood my lifestyle and my choices. They have been very supportive,” the engineer-turned-artist expressed gratitude and emphasized how being surrounded by family and friends rooting for her made a huge difference. 

With her conviction to follow her heart and pursue the arts, Anina, in turn, is also making a difference. She is currently a staunch advocate of environmental protection, promoting sustainability and conservation with her works of art. 
When I referred to her as someone gifted, Anina was quick to dismiss the compliment. She said with a laugh, “I wouldn’t say gifted because I think I clocked in a lot of hours learning and practicing to be able to paint something – and take note, I still am learning. I’m always curious and experimental as to what I can do, trying this and that, but mostly focusing on painting and creating Cajas, which requires a lot of sewing.” 

Cajas are Anina’s upcycled textile artworks promoting sustainable art through scraps that form textures and mimic landscapes. 

Anina trying out the mirror element that was part of her pitch for the Darna mural project.

“My priority has now shifted to murals, designs, and illustrations, and creating my sustainable art pieces called Caja,” Anina shared as a life update to her former student. Seven years ago, I last saw her at the premiere of Sakaling Hindi Makarating, a film top-billed by Alessandra De Rossi. Anina’s watercolor paintings were showcased as a major part of the story. 

Following the film feature, Anina’s latest project for ABS-CBN’s Darna TV series perfectly aligns with her cause. In an Instagram post she made featuring the unveiling of the grand mural with this generation’s Darna, Jane De Leon, co-stars Joshua Garcia, and Janella Salvador, Anina said, “Heroism doesn’t always have to come in grand actions. Small acts of kindness toward yourself, others, and the planet is heroism in itself.” 

Entering uncharted waters displays strength a la Darna for Anina. 

“The public artworks you will see me paint revolve around flora, fauna, and conservation. So, this project where I have to paint Filipinos as our modern-day superheroes was definitely outside my comfort zone,” she gushed. “Another challenge was the mirror installation, which I suggested on a whim without thinking of how to mount it, was something I’ve never done before. The timelines were also very tight, but overall, I’m happy I stepped out of my comfort zone!” 

With the theme “Ikaw, ako, tayong lahat si Darna,” the mural speaks of empowerment, heroism, and hope inspired by and dedicated to today’s front liners and everyday heroes.

Anina holds the project dear as the message also hits close to home. She said, “I’ve never partnered with a TV show, let alone a superhero one, for a mural project, so for me, this was really special. Living during a pandemic made me long for better leaders who can ‘save’ us from this crisis – and I think that translating that and relating it to Darna, a Filipino superhero, was the perfect challenge I was looking for.” 

Engineer-turned-artist Anina working on the Darna mural at the ABS-CBN compound.

ABS-CBN commissioned the big project, and the marketing team reached out to Anina to bid for it. “During the meeting, I had a lot of ideas on the spot that I guess translated into something that they wanted for the campaign, so I ended up getting the project!” she related. The eye-catching mural is in line with the modern-day retelling of Mars Ravelo’s Darna, which highlights the plight of the iconic and courageous Filipina superhero and her battles to help those in need.”

On her own, Anina also helps others through teaching. Her art classes are available on the online learning platform Skillshare. She believes, “The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop creating. Fail but keep on trying.” 

Anina, indeed, is also a Darna. She soars high, transforms, and leaves no stone unturned. 
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