Broken tile art helps put back shattered psyche of Bocaue woman
BOCAUE, Bulacan, Philippines—Marcelina San Juan, 59, has been wrestling with bouts of depression that began in 1992 when she lost her job at a garments factory. Her condition worsened in 2008 when her father died.
But Marcelina has been coping with her personal tragedies by turning her energy towards collecting broken tiles from construction sites in the province. She then shapes these sharp, jagged bits into fine pieces of art.
A wall of the family house is now host to this wide colorful collage, which represents three years’ work. The mural seems to have inspired Marcelina to put back together the pieces of her broken life.
She had always resisted whenever her family urged her to seek medical help for her depression.
So they tolerated her when she began scouring the area for tiles.
According to younger sister, Norie, 56, Marcelina began to exhibit this odd obsession in January 2008 after their father died from an ailment.
Norie says her sister would wake up early in the morning, take a quick bath, and then set out on her quest, often tracking down construction sites or repair sites where she would pick up an abandoned tile or two.
Sometimes, Marcelina would venture into cemeteries, the market or nearby school or hike through long stretches of the highway looking for broken tiles.
There are patterns of logic in the way the mural was made.
Norie says a pattern of tiles, set together because of their matching colors, suggests to her a reflection of Marcelina’s clear state of mind. A pattern of tiles that are in disarray, however, seems to reflect Marcelina’s depressive state.
The mural also appeared to be Marcelina’s way of contributing beauty to their home, Norie says.
“I think my sister believes she lost something in her life—in our lives—and she tries to address that by picking up tiles. When she cements them in place around our house, that means she wants to fill up the vacuum in our lives,” Norie says.
Marcelina was more definite about her intentions. “I need to beautify this house or else people will leave. They left because no one took time to fix the house. They need to see our home fixed up and attractive,” she says.
Her 89-year-old mother, Remedios, says only the tiles seem to have calmed down her daughter.
But lately, Marcelina returned home empty-handed.
“I can’t find anymore more tiles. They’re all gone. No one is constructing a house around here anymore. But I think I want to plant a tree instead. I can find a tree and plant them around my home,” she says.—Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon
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