Recalling my 2009 interview with Filipina coffee painter Sunshine Plata
Almost two years ago, I got the chance to interview Sunshine Plata, a Filipina in her late 20s who’s known for using coffee as a painting medium. How known is she? She has been featured in various programs for network giants ABS-CBN (“Umagang Kay Ganda”) and GMA (“Pinoy Records” and “24 Oras”), and even Reuters (yes, the international news agency)! We talked for over three hours. I’ve done interviews with a number of people, and that is still probably the longest one I did. I remember having lunch at their Marikina City residence and meeting her parents, too. But did you know that interview almost didn’t happen at all?
It was July 31, 2009, and our J 195 class (Cultural and Fashion Reporting) under UP journalism Prof. Rachel Khan is supposed to visit the Plata residence not only for a meet-and-greet, but to also ask questions for Ms Sunshine. Prof. Khan and six of my classmates (the early birds) arrived to the place easily. Since I arrived to the college past 1PM, I was not able to avail of Prof. Khan’s free ride. I have to go there on my own. UP Diliman to Katipunan, then Katipunan to SM Marikina. No problem – or so I thought.
Suddenly, finding Gil Fernando Avenue (not the street!) and landmarks such as Pan de Manila became an impossible task. After almost two hours of walking and asking around in vain, I conceded. This is one of the rare times I got lost in looking for a particular place. Over that weekend, I consulted Google maps, where I realized that I took the wrong jeepney from Katipunan. Come August 3, I tried my luck again. As in my previous adventure, I asked essentially everyone I met for directions: jeepney and tricycle drivers, traffic enforcers, and street vendors. Looking for her house was never easy, but I found it in the end.
Frankly, I’d still probably have a hard time again if required to visit her again. I felt relieved when I finally saw their residence. A member of their household welcomed me. Miss Sunshine has just returned home, and she promptly invited me for lunch. That’s not surprising, after probably seeing how stressed I am that time. Her simplicity (she wore a plain yellow dress during the interview), outgoing demeanor, and approachable persona is truly remarkable. The Q&A started during this lunch with her father Reynaldo, who provided me with wonderful anecdotes about Ms Sunshine’s early career.
After eating, the two of us proceeded to her painting area. She set aside a potentially sound career as a preschool teacher (she holds a psychology degree from UST) to pursue painting full time. I am not an art enthusiast, but you can’t help but admire her for her passion. She told me that if one has a passion for something, he/she must pursue it. “Hindi ka na nyan titigilan,” she said, referring to her interest in painting.
Before my interview ended, I asked her for a remembrance. She took a “This painting is made of coffee” card, and wrote a dedication for me. Of course, she used coffee to write there! Her message was: “Thanks for appreciating my art. Believing is something.” Who wouldn’t appreciate the work of a trail blazer like her? Unfortunately, I can’t find the envelope where I kept that card at the moment. She must be around 30 by now, and still has decades of coffee painting years ahead of her.