Photo by Kat Malazarte

Momo Dalisay, The HEARTist

By kristine buenavista

We as artists see all these images dancing in the cycle of creation. It’s all beautiful unending process of birth and decay. We are friends of humanity.

Momo Dalisay - Project Iloilo
Photo by Kat Malazarte

I don’t know how it’s like with the rest of those whose lives he has touched right from the moment they met him. But to me, the first day I met him in person was in a crowded art exhibit opening. His presence reminded me of that much-needed breathing space and pause. From then on, he has inspired me to continuously cultivate tenderness and openness, and to revel in the wonders of nostalgia.

Momo Dalisay breathes art each day. You may find him walking around the garden of his earthly abode—which is in his home at Balay Kaliwat in Lawigan, San Joaquin — planting new trees, or clearing his backyard of wild grasses. You may also find him standing quietly, taking in the sight of the waves from the view of the nearby sea. His life stories are a delight to hear: from the challenging years of being an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) and, later on, serving as a public official; from the magical years of being involved with the Maharlika Artists and Writers Federation; and the slow, yet inspiring, times shared with various individuals and groups—sometimes just relaxing together; sometimes working on projects and collaborations. Despite his achievements, Momo is the embodiment of humility. And this is why I feel so immensely grateful of having him in my life.

Storytelling as healing, children as teachers

When asked what has been the most unforgettable community project he has ever done, he answered “Being with the children and just talking to them, sharing lives. They are beautiful, genuine, fearless, and open.” Teaching and storytelling with children is one of his advocacies. To him, children are the best teachers of our times for they are always in the moment; they laugh toothlessly, and they constantly wonder about this world of magnificence freely. He would gather children in a group, and regale them with stories and music to interact with them and impart to them his own dreams and imagination. His art has been influenced by the amazing world of children: careless and colorful. Then, with stories and music, we create mental holes and from these holes, we begin to explore, experience, and understand.

Sometimes, a college degree can’t save you. A valuable lesson or story shared to a child (who is below 7 years old) can even make a difference.

balay kaliwat in san joaquin - Project Iloilo
Photo by Kat Malazarte

Environmentalism, non-violence, and children. I asked Momo if what has inspired him to slowly build his beautiful abode and to live simply. I did ask him, too, if he was never lured by staying in galleries—that is, through the constant cycles of exhibiting and selling artworks. “I had a stage when I did exhibit my works as well. I think we need artists who are active in galleries because it is also a form of education. Other art enthusiasts love to visit galleries and museums and we need to cater to those, as well. Once, I realized I feel at home with the earth as my canvas, so I found myself painting, carving, and sowing… in my own natural surroundings.” A visit to Balay Kaliwat is a special rejuvenation. Touching the cool waters of the handmade stone bath tub told me so much about the miracles of the forest. The trees around his home spoke gently about Momo’s gravity, as well.

If we see destruction of our surroundings, we feel a certain degree of hurt inside us. And if we continuously destroy our elements of life and our needs for survival like our ecology and habitat, then we are also destroying our human nature. It is our responsibility to heal our planet. To heal humanity.

Artists as friends of humanity, breaking walls

balay kaliwat san joaquin exterior - Project Iloilo
Photo by Kat Malazarte

Creativity has always fascinated me. I am drawn closer to creators and artists who use their passion to make a difference in the lives of others. Sometimes, I have to admit, I judge those whom I find selfish, those whom I think just lavish on the fame and fortune of it all, stuck in their so-called avant-garde life and “image”. Meeting Momo as he opens his heart to me vulnerably has made a tremendous change in my perception.

I really sincerely have nothing against those who express themselves differently to how I communicate my life, my vision. We experience stages in our artistic lives, and if their lives lead them to community work, I am very glad. If they are fulfilled in their chosen path now, then that is their own message to the world, to humanity.

His words resonate. His life, an example of what I dream of: to freely capture beauty, awe, and magic—be healed on my personal journey and share it to the world, to communicate, to heal…to be one.

A celebration of colors, vulnerability, and dreams — he truly is.

After all, we indeed are dream beings. All of us.

Kristine Buenavista is the Co-Founder and Self-development Program Facilitator of Alima Community. She is constantly stalking the slow life.