Elmo's House
Artist Residency

Batan, Aklan

Morgan Abella's response to Asking

Morgan Abella's response to Asking

Batan, Aklan
December 2017

The mural project started as an open call for submissions directed to all Batangnons. The open call requested for a drawing inspired by Barbara Jane Reyes' 2002 poem called, Asking.

The winner with the drawing that most depicted the essence of the poem will paint a mural based on their creation. The completed work was slated for unveiling during the Batan Fiesta 2018 as part of Elmo's House yearly exhibition.

The open call was received positively. However, only Morgan Abella showed serious interest. The lack of participants was disappointing and could have resulted from a number of different factors. However, the call initiated a fruitful collaboration with Morgan Abella, which was a development that surpassed expectations. The contest evolved more like a commission; working with Morgan to come up with a mural design evocative of the poems’ spirit.

The painting of the mural began at 6 am on a Friday morning. Armed with already mixed enamel paints and brushes, Morgan made quick work of the project, finishing the mural in two mornings. First, Morgan translated her drawing via projector. After the rendering, she colour-blocked the panels and allowed the painting to dry overnight before working on the details and touch-ups the next day.

The gate was chosen as the mural site, as it is the mechanism that converts the residency from private to public space. Morgan’s mural is the first point of contact; one that will always be associated with the welcoming of visitors and the beginning of events at Elmo’s House.


by Barbara Jane Reyes

there is ghazal swimming inside of her, wanting to be born. on the matter of foretelling, of small miracles, cactus flowers in bloom on this city fire escape, where inside your tongue touches every inch of her skin, where you lay your hand on her belly and sleep. here, she fingers the ornate remains of ancient mosques. here, some mythic angel will rise from the dust of ancestors’ bones. this is where you shall worship, at the intersections of distilled deities and memory’s sharp edges. the country is quite a poetic place; water and rock contain verse and metaphor, even wild grasses reply in rhyme. you are not broken. she knows this having captured a moment of lucidity; summer lightning bugs, sun’s rays in a jelly jar.

this is not a love poem, but a cove to escape the flux, however momentary. she is still a child, confabulating the fantastic; please do not erode her wonder for the liquid that is your language. there is thunderstorm in her chest, wanting to burst through her skin. this is neither love poem nor plea. this is not river, nor stone.


‘Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, the Philippines, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. She earned a BA in ethnic studies from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from San Francisco State University. She is the author of the poetry collections Gravities of Center (2003), Poeta en San Francisco (2005), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Diwata (2010).’

Excerpt taken from the Poetry Foundation’s profile of poet, Barbara Jane Reyes. To read more, please visit here.


In the words of Morgan herself, the painting depicts the female in light and shadow. This duality indicates the inner and outer strength of the feminine. Undeterred, the woman remains steadfast in her journey represented by the central line. The circles represent the beginning and end of time.


Morgan Jade M. Abella is a Grade 12 student currently studying at the University of San Augustin. Morgan Abella is a self-taught artist with an affinity for painting. She won first runner-up in a group mural competition in 2017, through the University of San Augustin. Since this project, Morgan has continued painting with other mural commissions.


Morgan’s mural was first unveiled at the group exhibition, Mga Sugilanon which opened during the week leading up to the Batan Fiest 2019 (December 1-9, 2018).

Mga Sugilanon

Mga Sugilanon

Moving forward

Moving forward