Benito Vacio

A teacher and an artist

A special man who has overcome all the odds in life

Let me feature this month a friend of mine Gumban Pandes who has beaten numerous odds in his life as an artist. He is an EFL teacher in Thailand but does painting during his spare time, an ideal role model for teachers.

Childhood talent

When Gumban was young he loved copying pictures from comics, magazines, and calendars he liked. He would draw on old notebooks, coupon bonds, or some milk cartons without giving much value to them. His parents had no interest in whatever he did for they were too busy doing their own work on the farm.

His four brothers and four sisters never bothered for they had their own interests too. As a result, he never got the chance to hone his talents with supervision. He plainly learned on his own by appreciating the paintings of his work education teacher, who painted the background of their stage during school programs.

Early successes and prizes

He did not have any formal training in art but he was able to bring his students to success not only in English but in art as well. Other than this, ordinary people appreciated the beauty of his paintings. Perhaps it was the reason why in 2011 he was featured on the ASEAN episode of an art show on PBS Channel 6, Thailand and had a successful exhibit with friends at the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok that year.

Back in the Philippines he bagged ($1000) in the National Christmas Tree Making Contest in the Philippines. On his first year in Thailand, his director assigned him to paint the school library to prepare for the preliminary selection of the Best School in Thailand, small school category. The school became a finalist of the competition and the library became more conducive to students' appreciation of literature.

He also organized the 90-meter mural painting of the same school to beautify his school. He tapped young artists of the school from Grade 1 to Grade 6, parents, teachers, 21 volunteers from England and several students of International School of Bangkok which was done only in a day.

In 2010 he won 1st Prize in the Christmas Lantern Contest sponsored by the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok. He never expected that he could go this far as an artist. He thought his talent would remain unused but he was wrong.

In fact, the talent he failed to develop saved him from hunger when jobless in a foreign land. It gave him the opportunity to help orphans and special children in Thailand. More so, in 2014 he was able to inspire the Regional Director for Religious Studies in Asia and the Pacific of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) to purchase and use his two paintings for a promotional poster and book cover of the international conference in Thailand that year.

Sought after paintings 

Oh, so many Filipinos in Thailand even foreign nationals from Italy, Turkey, Cuba, USA, and Thailand bought Gumban's paintings. In addition to this an embassy driver, teachers, pastors, employees, lecturers, and resort hotel owner, were also awed by his work

Sad to say, his talent experienced a drought from 1963 to 1967 He only developed it during his Biology class when he drew many parts of things; in Geometry where they were made to submit a project showing different polygons; and in Literature where he would not submit his book reports unless he made them beautiful.

The significant change in his took place in college when he got recognition, from his art teacher, who retained almost all of his art projects for her students

A love affair

One time, he fell in love with a classmate in fourth year. He was madly in love with her but she never showed any sign of reciprocation. Oh, he sent her letters almost every week. Unfortunately she never responded. When he graduated, she was still in his mind. Gumban wrote to her and poured out all his emotions of endearment and love, but she was a stone. For 4 years, during birthdays, and all occasions he sent personalized cards for her...Well he didn't regret doing this for somehow it indirectly developed his art.

When he began teaching, his talent was put to test. His creativity, passion, resourcefulness and imagination surfaced. He made extra-ordinary teaching materials, decorated his classrooms as beautiful as a gallery, made thousand of cards, and took charge of decorating their stage on special occasions. Was he a good art coach? Of course, he was.

Diversifying his artistic talent

His students won major prizes in coloring and painting locally and internationally. Well, he did not claim solely the honor, for it was more of the students'. To supplement his income in the Philippines , he made hundreds of Christmas cards and sold them outside St. Anthony Church in Manila and did consignments on some small souvenir shops and bookstores in Ermita, Manila.

One time he was invited as an art speaker to a friend's school. This gave him an idea for a sideline. He offered his services to other schools and their principals hired him as a part timer. Meanwhile in his school, he was the Art Club adviser and his students brought a lot of honor to the school winning district, provincial, national, and international, competitions.

While working at ICMC Bataan in 1986 he sold handmade and painted Christmas cards. An art curator, Silver Chan, who was also working there as an ESL teacher was amazed by Gumban's work such that he bought a dozen and encouraged him to enlarge his cards so he could join an Art exhibit. Silver's assistance opened the world of art for him.

His first was followed by a second, and a third and a fourth. From 1992 to 2009, Gumban stopped painting but in 2010, when he lost his teaching job in Thailand, he put his brushes back to work. It was a Herculean job to invest on his talent without a assurance of return of investment but he succeeded. Of course, through God's love and patronage of Filipino teachers and art lovers, the sales from the paintings met his day to day expenses for 3 months.

Three years later he helped finance the gift giving of the ministry for orphans. As one of his friend's said "Gumban lives in the world of art for a lot of people like his paintings, although at first he only painted for fun."

"Once a talent is used, it will grow and prosper. It will break the boundaries of hesitation and uncertainty; confidence will flow on and on."


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