I have seen and touched his life-size rattan sculptures. The human-like ones have seemingly deep-set eyes as if the eyeballs are not there. He even made a water buffalo complete with its organ. He’s that precise.
Why am I making a fuss out of the works? Because the artist, Rogelio, is blind from birth.
I was fortunate to meet Rogelio in person. He is from Ifugao but now lives in Nueva Vizcaya.
I was in a van from Ifugao to Baguio with Kidlat Tahimik. We were going home from the Punnok. Kidlat said we will visit Mang Rogelio. Kidlat is his patron.
When we neared his house, we saw Mang Rogelio carrying a long stalk of sugar cane. Unassisted.
He’s a very simple man but I felt honored to be in his presence.
When I introduced myself, he held my hand for a long time. I felt infused by his touch. He was trying to know me by feeling my palms and listening to my voice. I have not had that much attention for a long time that I was taken aback.
When Kidlat chose from his works that were found here and there in his house, it was evident how happy he was that someone appreciated them enough to buy them.
His contagious smile was from ear to ear when Kidlat took notice of the music instrument he made from wood and thin metal sheets. The sound was that of a gong.
Rogelio struck the metal while another man hit the wood with a stick creating that familiar Ifugao music. A grandmother danced like a teenager.
Like magic, a wooden box turns into a gong. A grandmother transformed into a girl. A blind man can see.