I was first introduced to this Japanese art of flower arrangement several decades ago when I was still in Cebu on my first job. My lady boss at Pan Am, the late Pansy Paterno, was a member of the Cebu Ikebana Club and she, together with the Club’s President, Zelia Borromeo, would bring to our office some of the outstanding floral set-ups from the various exhibits they had over time. I wasn’t really into flower arrangements but what I saw opened my eyes to the many other unique and impressive ways to arrange blooms.
When I was new here in Manila and still didn’t have enough friends to keep me busy on weekends, I would go “hotel-hopping” (the five-star hotels were still new then) and, sometimes, I’d see an Ikebana Exhibit, so, for lack of anything better to do, I’d go in and see the display. The more I got exposed to these exhibits, the more I realized the beauty and elegance of this art which, I learned later, is one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, together with incense appreciation and the popular tea ceremony. I also learned that an Ikebana arrangement always displays three elements – heaven, humans and earth – while evoking serenity, harmony and beauty.
It’s been several decades that I haven’t seen an Ikebana exhibit so when my friend, Leny Fabul, invited me to the 55th Founding Anniversary of the Ikebana International Manila Chapter’s Ikebana To The Future virtual exhibit, I immediately said ‘Yes.’
The event started with a video-history of Ikebana in Manila, featuring founding President Carmen Guevara and founding members Rose Avancena, Virginia Avancena, Remedios Cepeda, Dolores Luz, Jane Markusson, Gloria Monzon, Pilar Relova, Carmen Roces, Asuncion del Rosario, and Susie Winternitz.
After the chapter was officially recognized in 1967 by Ikebana International in Tokyo, members received training through workshops with headmasters of Ohara, Ichiyo and Chikusen, and with Master Senseis (teachers) from Ikenobo, Sogetsu, and other schools.
This landmark celebration of the Manila chapter evoked so much enthusiasm from the many other chapters worldwide and even had the participation of Ikebana International chairperson Nobuko Sakata and honorary adviser Etsuko Hattori.
The virtual exhibit showcased a total of 150 arrangements, a few of which are shown on this page. The Philippines displayed entries from the Manila, Cagayan and Davao Chapters. The Americas showed entries from the chapters in Montreal, Washington DC, Florida, Michigan, New York, Philadelphia, Houston and Seattle.
Europe was represented by masterpieces from the chapters in Vienna, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Paris, South Germany, Moscow, Spain, Stockholm and Zurich. Not to be outdone, our Asian neighbors Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Taipei came in strong with their own entries.
What I found very interesting during the event was the demonstration given by the renowned Sogetsu Ikebana Riji instructor of the highest level, Christopher Lim, from the Singapore chapter. He did several beautiful and unique flower arrangements, each time taking less than five minutes, much to everyone’s amazement.
Having seen all the entries shown during the event, I now agree with French artist Camille Henrot who said, “In the traditional Ikebana, things always have to be asymmetrical because, this way, they look more natural and balanced.” And I guess that pretty much sums up the mystifying elegance of Ikebana.
YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE
Two Hollywood stars ran into each other at the door of their psychiatrist’s office. “Hello there,” said one. “Are you coming or going?” “If I knew that,” said the other, “I wouldn’t be here.”
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