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Living in an Abstract World

He may not be the modern-day Vincent Van Gogh, but still, he lives his life in a different plane, a world which only few could understand and get lost in. He uses abstract paintings as his way of showcasing his talent—filling an empty canvas with his sharp and accurate brushstrokes. His painting career has blossomed to full potential despite life’s hurdles—providing for his family while managing his diabetes.

Loving Abstract
Roberto “Bert” Duldulao, a native of Ilocos Norte, first had his rendezvous with painting while in college at the University of Santo Tomas College of Fine Arts. After just one semester, he transferred to the University of the Philippines Diliman. During his time, abstract paintings weren’t that popular, but through constant encouragement, Bert carried on with his work.

Highly influenced by American painters, he says that his own paintings closely resembled their works. “You just cannot forget them. They were the ones who woke my painting spirit,” says Bert. Although his first love is abstract, he manages to squeeze in other styles of painting. “I sometimes paint portraits, landscapes, still life, actually any kind,” he shares.

Despite loving painting, Bert admits that his moods can affect his productivity. “If I’m in the mood during my first brushstroke, it can take me two to three weeks to finish my work,” he says. “But mostly, it will take months because if you don’t like the paintings, you leave them first. And then when you’re in the mood again, you’ll start working on it bit by bit.”

He may have his mood swings when it comes to painting, but it hasn’t stopped him from joining several exhibits. In 1962, he was chosen by his professors to participate in all modern art categories—still life, landscape and advanced composition. Along with painter-friend, Mars Galang, Bert was inspired to continue on with abstracts, due to their sudden participation in the advanced composition category.

But it was only in 2005 that Bert was able to hold his first one-man exhibit at the Heritage Art Center. “My first show was Heaven Images by the Bay, then the second was Images of a Rising Metropolis,” he says. He shares that his first exhibit was inspired by the land and sea that he was able to enjoy while he was still staying in Jeddah.

Aside from countless exhibits, Bert has also won several contests. With pride he shares, “Last year, I won Honorable Mention at the Art Association of the Philippines-Exhibition Center for Contemporary Art Semi-Annual Art Competition.”

Creativity in Advertising
Despite his love for painting, his responsibilities to his family had to come first. With a wife and three children to feed, Bert’s love for painting had to be put to a temporary hiatus to earn income. His next venture was advertising. “I stayed with my first job for 13 years before I transferred to Jeddah. I was there for eight years, so I have more than 23 years of experience in advertising,” he says.

Bert adds that he never had difficulty in letting his creativemind run wild in his advertising job, which he credits to the style of the agency he worked for. “In the agency I was with, we had a different kind of training. The client gives us the copy and the outcome of the project is subject to our own bidding. Other agencies demand the outcome of the project given to you.”

For Bert, this couldn’t be more of a blessing. Even if he had to totally stop painting while he was still with his advertising job, he was still able to use his skills to pitch in creative ideas for his work. Thanks to his creativity, it gave him a huge advantage over his co-workers, which eventually lead him to get ahead of them. “I started as a junior artist, but after three months I was promoted to senior artist. I got past the others. And then I went on to become senior artist, then art director and then eventually, senior art director,” he shares. Bert says that when he put up a studio, he was also promoted as studio supervisor.

Unfazed Despite Diabetes
With his zest for colorful abstract paintings, you would not think that he has diabetes. Having a debilitating disease has never hindered, nor stalled him from doing his life’s passion. Bert shares that fateful day in 1993 when he found out about his disease. “I was hospitalized because I had cough, then the doctors saw that my blood sugar level was very high,” he narrates. “I injected insulin when I was there, but when I came home after a month, the doctor changed my medication. From injecting insulin, I am now on oral [medication],” Bert reminisces.

He shares that coping with the disease wasn’t that hard as he simply followed his doctor’s orders. “I tried to do what the doctor said. I went on a diet, I controlled my food intake and I avoided sweets.” He adds that he also has taken on walking as his means of exercise.

Amazingly, even after 15 years of having diabetes, Bert hasn’t had any serious complications. His advice to fellow diabetics who wish to have complication-free diabetes: “Don’t eat too much. You can eat five times a day, but in small amounts only. Don’t eat too much rice, because it gets converted to sugar. Mostly I eat bread and just little rice,” he shares. To sum it up, he adds, “Just follow your doctors’ orders, exercise, and maintain normal blood sugar levels.”

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