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Weaving Our Dreams
The Tboli People of the Philippines

"Looking back at the Philippine cultural scene of my youth, I recall how the 1960s decade had signalled a robust interest in Filipino ethnic art and culture. That was when Mindanao minority communities, such as the Tboli, received international notice. We, therefore, welcome this current book on the Tboli in which author Sandie Oreta Gillis revives that early fascination with ethnic art and culture of the minority communities of the Philippines. In this illustrated monograph, Gillis gives us direct and detailed personal accounts of the Tboli dreamweavers efforts to preserve and continue their life and culture as manifested in Tboli cloth (tnalak)."

Alfredo Roces

Foreword Excerpt

Weaving our Dreams 2022

Capturing Indigenous Culture with Sandie Oreta Gillis

"When Sandie Oreta Gillis first started writing Weaving Our Dreams: The Tboli People of the Philippines, it was supposed to be a brochure for her friend Francis Herradura's art exhibit about Lake Sebu's indigenous T'boli community. Five years later, that brochure expanded to a 77-page book that features and impressive record of stories from the ethnic group's artists about their sacred traditions.

The book is so meticulously detailed that it comes as a shock that she’s never been in the same room as the indigenous women whose stories she is telling—from the details of Maria “Oyog” Todi’s family home to Barbara Ofong’s weaving work, Sandie has helped paint a picture of life in Lake Sebu from her home in Canada, relying on the dreamweavers’ words and translations from their relatives through Zoom calls.

After five years of research and a deep involvement with the communities around Lake Sebu, Sandie’s team realized that the beauty of the T’boli community’s culture couldn’t fully be captured in such a short piece. And so Weaving Our Dreams: The T’boli People of the Philippines came to be.

While Sandie’s name is on the cover, she insists on turning the spotlight away from her to give way for the T’boli people and their art to shine. Ahead of the book’s official launch, she walks us through her process—from the initial visions of a small booklet to the plans she is now overseeing to continue supporting the T’boli community."


Patricia Villoria

GRID Magazine, June 2022

"There are Filipino artists who, early in their careers, have chanced upon a successful formula which assures them popularity and financial patronage; they then stick to this manner all through their prosaic lives. They don't grow intellectually, aesthetically, they rot in a rut. Not SYM who has evolved slowly, but determinedly. His work today is in that inchoate margin between abstract cubism and formalism–in these pictures, we can see objective forms collaged with geometrical patterns as if the real objects of his focus are viewed through prisms of pastel shades, suffusing them with an aura of permeability. What is SYM trying to say?

Whatever, we can see the signature of master craftsman and artist as Filipino who has jumped out of the box, bringing with him all the ethereal wonders of his beginnings."

F. Sionil Jose

National Artist for Literature

Foreword Excerpt from SYM The Power of Struggle

"Sym is a painter who follows his heart when he paints. In the 60s and 70s, at the height of the Modernist-abstract movement, he persisted with figurative painting in the tradition of the Filipino masters and now, after gaining acceptance in Manila and Vancouver, has chosen to move along cubistic lines rather than to complacently profit from a successful formula. The artist who has the integrity to listen to his inner voice, merits respect.”

Alfred Roces

Philippine Asian News Today, 2010

Remembering a Filipino Legend: SYM


Sofronio Ylanan Mendoza, better known by his initials S.Y.M., passed away peacefully on September 21, 2021. He was 87.

I want to pay tribute to a great artist, mentor and friend.

It was an honour to co-write the biography of SYM with eminent author Alfredo Roces. SYM lived a life full of hope and promise for the future. He never stopped challenging himself to achieve his dream and to leave a legacy. The book’s title, “SYM: The Power of Struggle,” summarizes the artist’s life in overcoming the many struggles he experienced. His resilience and determination allowed SYM to reach the pinnacle of success.

In SYM’s paintings, we see all the “isms” in art from realism, impressionism, expressionism, neo-classical cubism and so on. An artists’ artist is what he is to me. Revered by the students, they referred to him as “Maestro” and “Master.” He was a well-read man who shared stories about the history and evolution of art, the great masters (past and present) and their works in great detail. He was passionate about his art—a true genius.

Co-founder of the Dimasalang Group, SYM led this group of artists for over half a century, 53 years to be exact. Last year, he reminded me, “Since we were fortunate to be given importance in Manila, and be part of the evolution of the history in Philippine art, my hope for the Dimasalang group is for its legacy to continue and prosper in the international scene.”

Most people will remember SYM as a great artist and inspiring teacher. And, we sometimes forget that he, too, was a much-loved husband to Ely and father of his seven children. SYM will be sorely missed. 

A wise philosopher in his own right, SYM shared some of his thoughts and quotes with me. To end, I want to share one on the ‘language of art’:

“To express with the whole force of my capacity, vitality and intensity of expressiveness. Bold and dynamic technique with profound intention to create and produce a work of art that is strong yet gentle to the human senses. In the end, it’s always my profound intention to create beauty which will stimulate not only our feelings but also widen our imagination.”

Sandie Gillis

Canadian Filipino Net, 2021

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