Perhaps it was the folly of youth. (Visual Pond, Metro Manila)

Tenten, Rica, Lisa, and Cheska in the Ateneo Art Gallery just before graduation, 2005. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Perhaps it was the folly of youth. 

We were four girls, fresh graduates — or guinea pigs as we used to say — of Ateneo de Manila’s BFA Art Management course. There had only been one previous graduate, a grand batch of one person the previous year. In 2005, we were the “biggest” batch yet and tightly knit, given our small class sizes.

With graduation comes dreams. Though we were all working full-time jobs at different arts institutions — Lisa and Rica at the Met Museum, Tenten at Ayala Museum, Cheska at Ateneo Art Gallery — we also aspired to have something of our own. Who doesn’t fancy at that age to blaze their own paths, make a difference, be something of this world? We were 22: young, ambitious, and, admittedly looking back, kind of foolish. Our naïveté coupled without much of the responsibilities of actual adulthood cushioned us from fear.

In 2005, Lisa had attended an art camp in Bandung, Indonesia which had a focus on new media. She came back stimulated and suggested the idea of doing something on video art. We decided to create a video art festival but we needed to be more than individuals to get the support we needed to make this happen. We created our non-profit organization and, batting names around which didn’t really work, we decided to simply pull words out of a box. Thus came Visual Pond.

We always refer to that first year and our first project as our baptism of fire. While Cheska bowed out due to her move abroad, the rest of us continued to do full-time work while setting the foundation for our non-profit and our festival. It was a struggle to figure out the paperwork required to be eligible for funding and to work through bureaucracy. School had not taught us any of these things and we had to learn by doing. Paperwork, meetings, and grunt work were squeezed between our jobs, personal lives, and exhibition openings. 

Press photo for the 2006 End Frame featuring Lisa’s television, 2005. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Opening night of End Frame in Power Plant Mall, 2006. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Opening night of End Frame in Cubicle Art Gallery, 2006. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Memorably, we rented scaffolding as cheap tables for the televisions for the festival to provide a semblance of exhibition design with an industrial look. As they were initially a dirty yellow, we painted them silver in the garage of Rica’s grandmother, hauling the steel tubes around ourselves and learning they’re not as light as they look. To make the initial advertorial announcement of the festival, Lisa improvised by taking photos of the television in her bedroom. The night before the festival opening, we painted signs at what was around 3 in the morning in the middle of the shopping mall, the festival’s first venue. We were stretched and sleepless. The whimsical idea of creating a festival met hard reality. 

At the same time, we had gotten support from so many reputable people who were kind enough to lend their time and expertise to us young upstarts. Joining us for the curatorial committee were filmmaker Raymond Red, film lecturer Anne Marie de Guzman, art historian (and our former teacher) Eloisa Hernandez, and the walking Philippine film encyclopedia Teddy Co. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) provided most of the funding, Listening in Style lent us the flat-screen televisions, and Rockwell and the Cubicle provided the venues. End Frame Video Art Project opened in September 2006 in Power Plant Mall followed by a second exhibition of different works in Cubicle that same month.

The next year, another edition of End Frame was held in Shangri-La Mall. A third edition took a radically different format and spanned from 2011 to 2013 with solo shows in different venues in Manila. The specifics of the festival is a history to be told elsewhere. Suffice it to say that this project made us grow as curators, organizers, and friends. 

Billboard along EDSA for End Frame II in Shangri-la Plaza Mall, 2007. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Opening night of End Frame II in Shangri-la Plaza Mall, 2007. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Lisa, Tenten and Rica at the exhibit opening of “Garish Barish” in Cubicle Gallery, 2008. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Online announcement for the second episode of ARTiculation featuring Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, released in 2010. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Part of Tad Ermitaño’s video installation and first solo exhibition “Passage” at Pablo Gallery in 2011. The show was a part of End Frame 3. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Though End Frame is the project which Visual Pond became most known for, there were other things too. In 2008, we staged two video exhibitions, one curated by Jet Pascua and the other curated by Lisa at Cubicle. This was followed by being the conduit for NCCA Cinema Committee’s activities for the Philippine Art Festival the same year, which was the last government project of Visual Pond. We helped to realize their Sinesilip, Sinemaleta, and Sinemusikalye projects, bringing art films to a broader public. We also had an online series, ARTiculation, which we had envisioned to have ten episodes a year. Each episode comprised of a video interview of a single artist with images of the artist’s work. Executed with zero budget, ARTiculation was intended to be a critical and easily accessible resource for anyone who wanted to learn more about Filipino contemporary artists. Unfortunately, we only managed to complete the editing and posting of three of the six interviews we conducted: Mark Salvatus, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, and Ronald Caringal. The videos are still available on our YouTube channel. 

The do-it-yourself attitude proved to be our downfall. It was untenable in the long term. The years rolled by — we needed to make a living and our full-time jobs demanded more and more of our time. Visual Pond was largely self-funded, save for our NCCA grants. Most if not all of our other projects were paid for out-of-pocket which limited our ability to outsource work. While we managed to mount a number of exhibitions and events, there was still a lot which went unfinished and languished in our “ongoing projects” file. Perhaps our most apparent lesson from running this non-profit is we should know our limitations, have firmer deadlines, and just be more realistic about our ideas.

Tenten, Lisa, Rica, and Cheska at National Gallery Singapore in 2015, ten years after their graduation. Image and caption courtesy of Visual Pond.

Visual Pond was an undertaking of passion when we were in our 20s which allowed us to broaden our network, experience, and perspectives. People welcomed us, trusted us, and accommodated us as we were starting out in our careers, something we’ve kept in mind when we’ve been approached later on for help by students and fresh graduates. Visual Pond also gave us the rites of making the arduous effort that embodies working in the field of arts and culture. 

Though our non-profit has ceased to exist, the friendship between us continues and has even strengthened through the years. We are still working in different arts institutions full-time with the now added challenge of studying for our postgraduate degrees part-time. We are sometimes even able to work with each other, even if in small ways. We still have dreams that we’re chasing though they have certainly changed form. At the end of the day, while youth and its accompanying innocence has ebbed away, we have our memories, our experience, and each other.


Clarissa Chikiamco is a curator at National Gallery Singapore and is currently pursuing a PhD in Film Studies at King’s College London.

Rica Estrada is Officer-in-Charge of the Visual Arts and Museum Division of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. She is currently finishing her masters thesis in the Art Studies Department (Major in Art History) of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. 

Marinella Andrea “Tenten” C. Mina is an Associate Curator at the Ayala Museum, specializing in tradeware ceramics and indigenous Philippine textiles. She is currently working on her Masters in Archaeology at the University of the Philippines – Archaeological Studies Program. 

Cheska Tañada Young is an independent graphic designer and runs Designbrew Studio from Norway.


Right People, Wrong Timing (RPWT) is a series of texts on defunct or inactive independent Asian arts initiatives that had crossed paths or ran parallel to Papaya’s own 20-year history. With new posts every Friday from August to December 2020, RPWT is kindly supported through a local grant by the Japan Foundation Manila.