Art is My Constant

I painted watercolor “thank you” cards for medical front liners who were risking their lives at the height of the pandemic.”

By Gigi Campos

As a young wife and mother transported to Negros from Manila in the early 70s, I easily fell in love with Negros—the landscape, the people, the arts and crafts, and definitely the food. Having taken some courses in interior design at the New York School of Interior Design, I partnered with a sister-in-law and opened a home furnishing store and interior design office in Bacolod. 

In the mid-80s a monumental crisis hit Negros that caused the collapse of the sugar industry. I soon found myself involved with different NGOs. With a small group of like-minded friends, we decided to spearhead livelihood projects for displaced sugar workers in Negros. Not long after, the Association of Negros Producers was formed and I became its founding president. The ANP’s mission was to provide an alternative source of income for the farm workers by promoting Negrense heritage and crafts.  

I also set up Reeds and Weeds, a company that manufactured products made from indigenous materials. I started to train and organize communities of weavers throughout the province.  

Then I fell in love with the mosaic art of Antoni Gaudi. On a visit to Barcelona I saw his radical approach to mosaic that mixed traditional square cut tesserae with irregularly shaped pieces, from broken ceramic tiles to stained glass, to other found objects. I was challenged. I told myself, I can do this! 

Upon our return home, I lost no time and started my first mosaic installation, a 4x8-ft high mosaic image of the sun for Solana, our vacation home in Sipalay, a city in the south of Negros Occidental. I was hooked. Many more mosaic installations followed in Solana—mosaic stairs, benches, tables, and garden decor.

I found fulfillment in sharing my passion for mosaic art. I wanted the community to recognize mosaic as an art form that can be pursued by anyone with the desire and passion for art. NVC Artisans of Hope is one of the beneficiaries of my workshops. Its founder, Millie Kilayko, was one of my students. Another is Lisa de Leon-Zayco who has already had several exhibits of her mosaic work in Manila and in Bacolod.

My most meaningful mosaic workshop came in 2019. I conducted it for the children of Kalipay Negrense Foundation. I was witness to the powerful impact of art and self-expression on the children, most of whom had experienced severe trauma in their young lives. 

And then my own trauma happened.

It was a diagnosis of breast cancer that shook my world. It came like a death sentence as I always prayed to God to spare me of this dreaded disease. I was fearful of the physical pain that came with it. I guess God sometimes leads us through a dark tunnel for us to appreciate the light that awaits us on the other side. 

At the onset, I struggled with the prospect of undergoing chemotherapy. I prayed for guidance. And in the end God spoke to me through the words of a priest in a homily about the lepers Jesus healed, when he said, “healing comes after obedience.” I was surprised when the priest turned to my direction and seemed to look straight at me and said, “obey your doctors and you will be healed.”

It has been a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ve been through much, physically and emotionally. I am not yet at the finish line, but Philippians 4:11-14 says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing, or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation…with plenty or with little. For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Through the pains and discomfort of my body, my mind kept telling me I could get through the depression, anxiety, and even cancer by doing something creative that could benefit others. I painted watercolor “thank you” cards for medical front liners who were risking their lives at the height of the pandemic. NVC, who led the project, tucked the cards among donated PPEs.

It was in my quiet moments that I discovered the magic of what life is all about. I discovered a special love for God’s creation—the beautiful blue skies, brilliant sunsets, and all the different birds and flowers in the garden. In my pain God gave me the passion to pick up my brushes and paint once again, to work with my hands and discover new crafts, and to put into words all the wonder and discovery I was experiencing. 

My art has followed the different aspects of my reality. One of these is my deep and lifelong relationships with the women in my life, relationships that have remained strong—my mother, my sisters, my daughters, and friends.

Another aspect is my faith that has inspired me to create various mosaics of the cross, entire Stations of the Cross, and images of Mary, Mother of God. My faith allowed me to travel the difficult road to healing. Ironic as it may sound, cancer gave me a renewed passion for life. It gave me the heart of a fighter, thriver, survivor.

Design and Architecture

Cultural Experience

Art and Craft