Pinoy geologist turned painter, captures emotions, energy to create his art

Manila-born Manuel “Nonoy” Gamboa, the second of six children to parents Dr. Elpidio Liongson Gamboa from Batangas and Regina Mayor from Romblon, “Nonoy” is a professional geologist, who retired at the early age of 56 years old from his job as senior executive assistant to the president of San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) Packaging Products Division. He was once the president of the Geological Society of the Philippines and to this day, has retained his membership with the Philippine-American Artists group based in New York City and the Art Association of the Philippines.
 It was with SMC, where he helped discover numerous mines and developed several mining companies for his packaging and glass production needs.
As a geology graduate of the University of the Philippines, during his younger years, “the great outdoors became his laboratory, by climbing mountains, crossing rivers, digging the earth while searching for precious minerals and setting up camps in unknown places, not only in the Philippines but also abroad.
He pioneered the development of two SMC glass companies in Vietnam, while exploring for silica sand in Cam Ranh Bay.”
As he recalled during the turbulent times of his exploration days, in the mid-60’s, he was “introduced to a baptism of fire and the hazards of the trade.Their mineral resource targets were directed towards discovery and eventual establishment of mining operations. In hindsight, their target areas were the hinterlands, where they were exposed to unknown terrain and hostile natives and rebels. As a young, single and curious student then, he was imbued with an adventurous spirit and optimism.”
Though he was young and ambitious, his relentless pursuit for adventure came to a halt when he ‘got married to Linda Calaunan, who likewise graduated from the University of the Philippines in June, 1967 and they were blessed with three children: Paolo, Manuel, Jr. and Maria Karla.
In a recent interview with journalist Mila Alora, he said that “my mindset at the time was that any mineral resources on the ground left unexploited serves no purpose, and therefore was considered as just waste.”
His company’s (SMC) belief in him, sponsored his training at the Asian Institute of Management in the country and further at Wharton in the U.S., where his business orientation enabled him to ultimately apply everything he learned.
However, after 34 years in the corporate world, Nonoy felt his  “creative awakening,” making him realize that “there were more challenges to be met.” So, due to his passion in doodling and scribbling while still a student in college making configurations on mapping and surveying, he embarked on enrolling for a short course at the Art Students League in New York City.
It was there where he learned the “rudiments of color, anatomy and composition; but most of all, how to be a professional painter.”
As a budding painter, Nonoy always referred “to his exploration days for subject, commencing with his initial job of prospecting for iron ore deposits and various minerals, for Iligan Integrated Steel Mills, a Soriano Corporation Exploration company.
Due to his numerous travels around the country, he “took note of the picturesque scenery he came across, such as: women sitting on stones by the river, young boys sunning in open fields, young swains serenading a Barrio lass or just simply watching dancers perform in various events.”
Nonoy’s first medium was watercolor. but he later on shifted to oil. And, in all his paintings, there is a recurring theme of happy people, like the dancers he has often depicted. In addition to his paintings, he also discovered his passion for poetry. Thus, he has developed and created a combination of his  creative poetry along with his paintings.
In an article written by sorority sister, journalist, Mila Alora, he described his inspiration in painting by saying that ” it’s always challenging to paint people. You have to capture the emotions, the likeness and get into that energy.”  Unlike other creative artists, Nonoy does not “exhibit the common artist’s temperament, but a methodical and even-tempered disposition. He attributed these traits to his training as a geologist and as a community worker, setting up livelihood projects in mine sites, and as a businessman.
For him, geology and painting are worlds apart, yet similar in a way; by searching for that mother lode in mining to finally discover ‘something’ or a ‘subject’ on what to paint, which most certainly requires dedication. It is like extracting materials from the earth, whether they’re minerals, gold, silver or copper, and you as the artist go after the quality and purity of the product.”
To date, Manuel “Nonoy” Gamboa has shown his creative craft in 24 exhibits, in the Philippines, US and Canada. Though he is still actively painting and joining art competitions, he also remains as a consultant for mining firms seeking advise based on his geological expertise.
For people who wish to enhance their creative undertakings, his word of advice is: “listen and learn, but don’t forget that the quest for quality and excellence will always put you in the right track in anything you do.”
Indeed, some of us who know him as the cool and humble gentleman, we are truly amazed at his accomplishments, not only in his continuous mining projects back home but also revel at his ongoing creative excellence. To our dear Nonoy, we thank you for sharing your creative prowess with us and we will forever treasure your craft. Mabuhay!
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