A medical condition that could have weighed Conchitina Sevilla-Bernardo down became a catalyst to her emergence as a visual artist of no small talent
Learning something new unleashes a passion within that ignites new facets in you that you did not even know existed. This is the story of my mother, which I share to inspire others to continue to explore the parts of ourselves we might never even know we have.
The Grace of Weakness
My mom is an amazing achiever and a leader in whatever field she chooses to get into. Everyone knew Conchitina-Sevilla Bernardo during her youth. She was either their favorite fashion model, voted for her as Vice Mayor, mentored by her in finishing school, Philippine Airlines or Bb. Pilipinas. She was the founder of Karilagan Finishing School. Others may have been helped by her when she headed the Makati Medical Center Foundation or any of the charities she has supported through the years. She pretty much led a multi-faceted life with massive achievements, contributing to the welfare of others, attending social events, while remaining spiritually grounded. She led a pretty awesome life that didn’t have to end because of age.
It started with a sudden, unexpected surgery that required my mom to get a pacemaker. Aside from high blood pressure, there was really no indication that she had a bad heart. Post op, she began to feel weak and couldn’t do very much anymore. This seemingly debilitating medical condition was key towards re-awakening her passion. The dark night of the soul is not depression or despair. Rather, it is an opportunity to light it up. It is a choice to light it up or stay in darkness.
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A Teacher’s Put Down
Gilda Reyes, who headed the senior recreation center Sunshine Place is my mom’s friend from her Centering Prayer Group. A spiritual foundation is necessary to move from darkness to light, but in the end, the choice is for us to make. Gilda suggested that my mother take art classes in Sunshine Place. Mom hesitated because when she was in her 30s, her Chinese painting instructor told her she would never make it as a professional artist. She could have chosen to believe this person and put herself down. I am so glad she didn’t. Instead, she took her first class and showed up for herself. It was a risk exposing herself to being judged as not good enough, but she made the choice to transcend fear.
Imagine recreating herself in her 70s. That age is just a number is so true in this case. My mom found another aspect of herself, but I think the most important thing is that she found a way to bring joy back into her life. That inspiration to direct her physically-limiting state into expressing her creativity became the key to this second half of her life. The joy and thriving she created is now being translated into the canvas. To me, this is the greatest expression of living. It’s about being able to say no to what doesn’t feel good and saying yes to what brings out your true self.
Canvases of Her Heart
Here’s what happens when you say yes to life and to your passions. She received two awards from the National GSIS Art Contest, mounted several exhibits where her paintings sold, and has been commissioned to create works of art that are skillfully executed, but more importantly, expressions of the heart and soul. My two favorites, aside from my portrait, are the portraits of my nieces Ella and Nicole. She can do portraits, landscapes and abstracts. Each piece is a part of herself.
Choosing to learn new things is not about reinventing ourselves, but more about discovering and unleashing a part of us that was hidden by constructs and beliefs. Once these are transcended, who we truly are emerges. A crossroad may just be an invitation to rediscover amazing parts of us, just like my mom did.