Musical strokes: Lets art do the talking

He is not your typical artist. He does not shy away from attention nor does he shun everyone out in his creative moment. Tom Alvarado is exactly the opposite. He is gregarious, loves to entertain and involves his audience as he sings while painting his creation.


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

Published: Sat 13 Jul 2013, 8:50 AM

Last updated: Mon 11 Oct 2021, 7:36 PM

Ako, Filipino — a blindfolded nation.

Dubbed as the “Filipino Singing Painter” by Philippine ambassador Grace Relucio-Princesa, Alvarado’s fame snowballed overnight after appearing at last year’s celebration of the Philippine Independence.

He impressed the ambassador with his own rendition of Filipino singer, Freddie Aguilar’s,Bulag, Pipi’t Bingi(Blind, Mute and Deaf) while painting a portrait of a woman on canvas, rhyming each stroke with the lyrics and dramatically finishing off with the Philippine flag.

The portrait, Alvarado’s “mother painting”, is now kept on display in his gallery in Dubai that also serves as his office.

This year, Alvarado has been invited once more to showcase his talent and display his artworks at the Philippine embassy. This time, he interpretedAnak(Child), also by Freddie Aguilar, and painted a mother and child on canvas.

Asked how he prepares for his show, Alvarado said he doesn’t.

“I don’t practice. I think about what I want to do and paint on the spot,” said the 50-year old quirky artist.

A businessman by trade and mindset, Alvarado has denied his innate talent from flourishing in the early years, focusing instead on entrepreneurial ventures and jobs that offer a more stable income.

But his aptitude came to fore one day. While working as a security guard in a municipality, he passed off the time sketching a portrait of the then Philippine president Corazon Aquino in coloured pastel. His creative work did not go unnoticed and he got promoted as the provincial artist, painting murals on local stage productions. Despite this breakthrough and the opportunity to work on his art, which centres on abstract and surreal themes, his economist side came back knocking. And sure enough, he traded his burgeoning painting career into a different artistic and enterprising path – as handicraft artist.

“I went into handicraft in the 90s and started exporting Christmas decors from paper mache. I dabbled in mixed media using poly resin which I form as angels and fruits. I stayed in the export business for about seven years,” related Alvarado, who managed to break the Asian and European market.

However, China’s emergence into the market with cheaper products has halted his chance of progressing further.

“I am goal-oriented. I planned to get married at the age of 25; at 30, I said I will be a millionaire and I achieved those. Now at 50, I hope to conquer another milestone,” said the artist. And he did. Not only was he a successful entrepreneur, having his own home decorative painting business – Candor Decor - in Dubai, he is also the first, if not the only Filipino singing painter in the UAE. Two careers that he balances very well.

As a businessman, he hopes to pass on his talent in mural painting to his younger employees and open-up branches across the UAE and give his compatriots employment. As a painter, he plans to focus on his art fully this time around. Alvarado said he compares his strokes with that of Pablo Picasso’s surrealism with his somewhat distorted representation of his imagination.

Bayanihan— a nation’s undying love for colours. —Supplied photos

The self-confessed “weird” artist said he does not have any usual subject but expresses what is in his mind, including its clutters.

“My art has one trademark, the eye, which you’ll find in all of my artworks. This symbol eye is the spirit, which means that I can observe everything,” explained Alvarado.

What characteristics can you consider have brought you to where you are now? “Being humble and simple,” Alvarado said simply.

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