Juan Luna, Flying Pugs, and Seaweed

May 14, 2021

By Louise Beron

Art By Lucia Sacro

It was my first time seeing the works of Juan Luna in person. My professor for my art class took us to a field trip at the UP Vargas Museum — home to countless collections that belong to Jorge B. Vargas. As we moved along the exhibit, my professor discussed how Luna’s works differ from the rest. It was because he looked at life through a romantic lens for most of his paintings.

I guess Luna’s paintings were heavily influenced by western art and how it depicted life like it jumped directly off a Wes Anderson film set — curated and staged to perfection. The ladies had curves that would put the golden ratio to shame, the wind that blew the grass seemed to know which angle would flatter the frame, and you could swear that the sunbeams which had the most distinct color to them were practically bouncing off the canvas. Even the war scenes would make any coward die proudly in battle. I was in awe, but I realized that was Luna’s intentions all along — to look at crap with a pretty Instagram filter.

 That could have been the second time I went to the UP Vargas Museum. Id plans to visit with this boy I used to date weeks before this class field trip, but it did not push through — the date and the guy. Had that date happen, the field trip could have been the second time I went to a museum. I just find museum dates absolutely cute; the two of you walking around and trying to understand what the art or the artist was trying to say even if neither one of you knew anything about it. At least you tried… together.

Sometimes it does not even matter what you are doing at the time; it does not have to be special and formal to be called a date; all you need is each other. Back in high school, this girl I liked would join me every after class in anything I felt like doing no matter how crazy or mundane it was. Most of the time we would go to the mall and look at clothes we know we should not buy until one of us caves in and eventually ends up buying. We looked at different fruits at the grocery because we felt like it. She would tease me into buying two pints of ice cream — one for each; we sat at the pavement by her dorm building and ate it as we talked about nonsense. Every single one of those was a date to me.

If I would name my favorite date that we had, it would be the ones where we went to the secondhand bookshop. In there you could find all sorts of books under the sun — crochet, comic books, computer engineering, and thanksgiving turkey recipes. Half of the time we were there, we never really had any intentions of buying; we just wanted to see if there were any hidden gems under a pile of dusty and musty novels. One time, she found a book filled with photos of dogs jumping up and down on trampolines. Her personal favorite was a pug with its sagging face flopping all over the place; mine was the face she made whenever she saw flying wrinkly pugs.

It was in the randomness of the things we did where I realized how open I was for anything. Seaweed. You can talk to me about seaweed and I would not mind it. In fact, I would appreciate it if you would even make a slideshow presentation on how passionate you are about seaweed. It never mattered how random it was; as long as you light up before my eyes, I am happy. Thinking about it now, maybe there was a time in my life where someone I looked up to had cut me off whenever I would share my thoughts about the things that fascinate me; I learned that killing the spark of joy in one’s eyes could hurt the best of our dreamers. Since then, I swore to bask in the light one emits and to never let it dim no matter how bright it can get.

It was never always that random. Most times, it was nothing. Silence is a language that the heart knows, well, by heart. Whenever someone asks me what I look for in a person, I would say the usual things — kind, well-rounded, quirky, and other Hallmark greeting card adjectives. But the winning word for me would be silence; it is the same silence our hearts speak of. My eyes can only look, but my heart quietly stares. You and I could do nothing, but still feel everything all at once.

But like the Lunas that hang on walls, I was romantic. Too romantic. One could even say a hopeless romantic. My fantasies about a perfect day at the museum, a manic pixie dream girl for a girlfriend with a meet-cute story at a bookshop, or a desperate attempt to search for any connections that may hide in the comfort of silence are my ways of dealing with the awful consequences of falling in love in the real world and inevitably falling out of it. In spite of knowing how these fantasies are short-lived break-up stories waiting to happen, deep down I want to believe that every moment we shared was magical.

Alas, I am a dreamer that refuses to wake up, and the last time someone went into a death-like slumber was either in Sleeping Beauty or when someone actually died. Nevertheless, I still find it beautiful how I am able to look at the world with a romantic gaze no matter how many times it has failed me. Yes, it can get out of hand, but what keeps me at it is the idea that we humans, despite destined to leave earth one day, will make the most out of our stay with someone out of the billions of people living at the same time we are. Others call it coincidence; I call it cosmic intervention.

I also know I am not the only one out there with the same sentiments. Millions of hopeless romantics also dream of meet-cutes at the museum, spontaneous dates of ice cream by the pint, or that one moment where you fall silent with your loved one. We may be hopeless, but we make one heck of a fantasy I am sure everyone wants to live in. To dreamers!It was my first and last time seeing the works of Juan Luna in person since then. That was back in February 2020. I have been cooped up in my home like how most of us are. And like many of the hopeless romantics today, I have been talking to people online for the most part. I am still that hopeless romantic that I have known and loved despite going through a couple of heartaches and definitely exhausting failed attempts (this is a whole other story I have yet to write). But until it is safer for us to rejoin civilization, I am left alone with all of my fantasies, hoping for that second date at the museum.

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