The painter as vendor

Posted at 06/28/14 7:26 PM

Rey Coderes, 40 years old, is a local painter who frequents the streets of Manila to peddle his own art works.

MANILA – If you’ve been to Manila, you might have probably encountered Renato “Rey” Coderes, a painter who frequents the streets of the city to peddle his own paintings.

Rey, who has been in the business of selling his own paintings for 40 years now, admits that the practice has been very difficult for the likes of him.

“Mga 10 hanggang 12 – ‘yun ang dala kong painting. Pasan-pasan ko ‘yan. Ang hirap [maging] vendor. Talagang magtitiyaga lang. Sa isang araw nga, wala nang benta, dalawang araw, hanggang apat na araw. Duamgdag pa ang mga pintor. Dumarami ang mga pintor na rin tapos mura pa ang bentahan nila. Talagang napakahina ng painting – bagsak na talaga.”

Originally from the province of Sorsogon, Rey only finished third year high school.

After dropping out of school, he headed to Manila with his uncle who was a porter for a rice store in Quiapo.

At 21 years old, Rey was inspired to dabble in the arts and pursue painting as his career when he worked as a studio assistant in Manila.

At 16 years old, Rey became a vendor of floor wax in Manila. But when he turned 21 and started to build his own family, he realized that he needed a more stable job and greater income.

Rey then became an assistant at a studio in Manila. Little did he know that it would become the start of a fruitful career.

“Tagahugas ng brush – ‘yun lang ang trabaho ko dun. Kay Rodolfo Pasno, professional siya – naging sikat siya na pintor. Naging katulong ako ‘nun.”

Aside from being a studio assistant, he also peddled the painting of his boss in Manila, selling them for P150 to P300 per piece.

“Pakyawan kasi noon. Kung ilan ang dala mo, bibilangin lang ng foreigners ‘yan. ‘How much?’ Ganoon lang. Tapos wala na, uwi ka na.”

But there was something about painting that inspired Rey. Armed with nothing but sheer determination to make art, he resigned from his job and started dabbling in painting.

Asked about the result of his first attempt to paint, Rey said that it was not at all pleasant.

“Wala eh. Pangit eh. Unang subok mo pa lang eh, hindi maganda. Tinabunan ko ulit ng pintura.”

But he said that he did not lose hope. His second try proved to be more successful as he was able to sell it to a Chinese national for P360. This experience, he said, motivated him to pursue painting as a career.

Rey's favorite subjects are rural sceneries which reminds him of his provincial hometown Sorsogon.

“Pagsubok lang talaga. Kahit na pangit ang gawa ko, kahit na pangit pa ang kinalabasan niyan, basta magpipinta at magpipinta ako.

He sold his paintings in Manila, particularly in Mabini St. in Ermita where many galleries, offices and other establishments took notice of his art pieces.

Rey said that when he was just starting, he would earn P150 for every painting he sold.

“House to house ako noon. Kaya lang, ‘yung mga tinadahan ng furniture, bibili ‘yan so customer mo na ‘yan. Sa mga opisina – ‘yan ‘yung pinaglalakuan ko noong araw."

However, because Rey became too absorbed in his craft and earning, he unconsciously neglected his family. This caused his wife and children to leave him.

At 40 years old, Rey found himself alone, broke and devastated.

Shortly after the incident, Rey met a recently widowed woman named Ofelia or “Upe”, as she is fondly called by her friends. The romantic relationship of the two eventually led to their marriage.

With Upe’s help, Rey’s paintings were turned into a bigger business and became their family’s primary source of income.

“Malakas na kami noon nung kami ng misis ko kasi tulungan kaming dalawa. Mga P500 na [ang halaga] ng isang painting noon. [Binebenta namin ng] P1500. Mga anim hanggang wala – ganyan ang nabebenta ko. Oo, malakas kami noong araw.”

The family painting business allowed the couple to send their children to school and buy several properties.

Soon, his paintings caught the attention of galleries and organizations which offered to exhibit his paintings. But Rey declined every single time, saying that unlike other painters, his priorities were different.

“Ayaw kong sumikat na pintor…Gusto lang nila [painters] ‘yon para tanyag ang pangalan nila pero gutom din sila. Kapag mag-exhibit ka, ano ang puhunan mo sa pang-araw-araw?”

Upe, on the other hand, explained that her husband has always chosen to prioritize providing for their family first.

“Kasi kapag mag-e-exhibita daw, sila lang ang kumikita, hindi siya. Eh papaano naman ‘yung araw-araw naming gastos? ‘Yun ang katwiran niya.,” she said.

Although their business is not as lucrative as it was many years ago, Rey still peddles his paintings in hopes that a customer would appreciate his art and buy a piece or two.

But despite his current struggle, Rey is still able to maintain a positive attitude and outlook in life.

“Apektado talaga ang pamilya doon, wala kang maisu-submit na pera eh. Kaya lang, kaunting tiis na lang sila. Kapag mayroon, mayroon. Kapag wala, wala. Kaunting tiis. Ganon lang.”