Salcedo Stories

When Life Imitates Art: The Conversation that Changed Cid Reyes’ Life

When Life Imitates Art: The Conversation that Changed Cid Reyes’ Life

  • 5 March 2021

Not many people can say they’ve shared riveting conversations with some of Philippine art history’s renowned masters— from the likes of Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Nena Saguil and Fernando Zobel to National Artists J. Elizalde Navarro, HR Ocampo, and Victorio Edades— but Cid Reyes can.

Reyes is a rare breed— a Renaissance man in the truest sense of the word. Though his career has always been entrenched in the creative field, he took on several roles, including that of an advertising executive, he ultimately found his life’s calling as an art critic and artist.

Suffice it to say that Reyes is a man who doggedly chased after his passions, despite the load of a full time professional career in a field as demanding as advertising. With multiple blank cassettes and a tape recorder always packed, he ventured across the country, not only to do market research for his day job, but also to seek out and engage in conversations with Philippine artists armed only with the spirit of adventure that can only be associated with youth. Luckily, we have a record of these interactions. In his pivotal magnum opus, Conversations on Philippine Art (1989), Reyes recounts the tales that he collected while chasing his dream to get to know as many Filipino artists as he could.

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Reyes is often asked if he is first a writer or an artist. To him, the question remains peculiar, as he cannot simply trace where one passion starts and the other begins. He offers humbly, “One begot the other,” as an explanation. Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin.

The upcoming ‘Important Philippine Art & Furniture’ sale features lots from Cid Reyes’ private art collection, including works by Lydia Velasco, Norma Belleza, Juvenal Sanso, and most importantly, a rare work by the ‘Father of Modern Philippine Painting’ himself, National Artist Victorio Edades.

Now, perhaps what’s even more intriguing than seeing an Edades painting up close is the story of how Reyes met the artist in the early 70s. In a phone interview, Reyes recounts the tale of his chance encounter with the modernist stalwart.

A Destined Meeting

A work assignment brought Reyes to Davao in the 70s. Let’s not forget that this was the era before mobile phones, the internet, let alone social media, and so although he planned to seek out Edades, he was unsure of how to get the stars to align and make it happen. All he had to go on was the knowledge that the former Dean of the Department of Architecture & Fine Arts at the University of Sto. Tomas had retired to the city. He had no contacts or the means to get to the reclusive artist.

Undeterred, he went about his work, handing out surveys and interviewing vendors at a local wet market. Tired and ready to call it a day, he hopped on a tricycle to take him back to his accommodations. Suddenly, a wave of curiosity came over him— nagbakasakali siya, as we say in Filipino— and he casually inquired from the driver if he knew of a Professor Edades, the one who used to teach art in Manila.

To his surprise, the driver knew exactly who he was referring to! And not only that, he even offered to chauffeur Reyes right up to the master’s front door, an offer which the young researcher of course giddily accepted.

Candid conversations

It was late afternoon, the sun was just beginning to set. The sky would turn dark soon.

Reyes mustered up the courage to knock on the front door, unsure of how the evening would play out. Sure enough, there was Edades— he’d come to the door already dressed in his white pajamas, a wooden pipe hanging out the side of his mouth. Reyes was quick to introduce himself as an aspiring writer deeply enthralled by the art world, and the retired professor let him in.

A photo taken from the chance meeting between Victorio Edades and Cid Reyes. Reyes describes his past self in this shot as quite a “hippy,” with his flowing long hair.

The conversations flowed like fine wine into the late hours of the evening. Both men had gotten lost in the spirited discourse they shared. Edades invited his young guest to join him once again on the following evening. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Full circle

The two would never meet again. Edades would pass away only a few years after their encounter. But this origin story of their friendship and the bond that was created all those years ago with the National Artist left a mark on the then-budding writer.

In the early 2000’s when Cid Reyes was serendipitously presented with the opportunity to purchase a painting created by his old friend Edades, he leapt at the chance. The 1973 oil on canvas painting, Untitled (Fisherman), has remained in his private art collection ever since. In many ways, there is no greater reminder of that fateful meeting one that began with an assignment to conduct interviews amidst stalls of freshly caught creatures of the sea, casting a wide net that reaped a bountiful harvest— the opportunity to meet and converse with the master.

VICTORIO EDADES, Untitled (Fisherman), 1973, Oil on canvas.

That vibrant Edades painting in hues of gold and teal will be going to auction on Saturday, 13 March 2pm at the ‘Important Philippine Art & Furniture’ sale. You can view the online catalogue and register to bid here.