Arlyn May Baqui-Bongay: Artist Extraordinaire
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Arlyn May Baqui-Bongay is living proof that a troubled childhood is not a hindrance to success. Despite the fact that she came from a broken and dysfunctional family, she has managed to create big waves in her life. Despite the difficulties she encountered, her passion and determination were strong. And these are what helped her turn her sad story into a happy and successful one.
As a child, Arlyn treasured anything new that brought her out of the dysfunctional situation she was in, “Like when I could climb the mansanitas tree, go up the roof, and just spend a quiet time there.” She admits that she has always wanted to be someone else. She wanted “to escape what I was going through. I didn’t know at that time. I needed only to become an artist. All I knew was that writing stories and daydreaming (and talking to myself in the mirror or shower) took me to safe and happier places”. According to her, the 10-year old Arlyn was lost. “I didn’t know what was missing with myself, but I knew there was something missing.”
Instead of sulking and crying, Arlyn decided to make up for everything by being KSP or Kulang sa Pansin (lacking in attention). “Oh, my cousins hated it! But at that time, it felt like the more people saw me, the less I felt incomplete. So, I would sing, dance, participate in anything that was annoying and crazy.”
Growing up, Arlyn set her sights on changing the dark path and bringing more light into her life. She made her mother her inspiration, especially as a writer and artist. “She writes very well and she has a knack for performance arts without her knowing it. When she relays a story to her friends, she does it with all the facial expression, actions, and sound effects involved,” Arlyn shares. She adds, “Then, of course, Lea Salonga! I love her. I wanted to be the next Lea Salonga, but, I guess that ship has sailed already!”
Love and Family
With her passion and determination; and her limitless talents, of course, Arlyn made it through her troubled days and emerged victorious. One of her greatest treasures is her family. She has three adorable daughters with husband Jumbo Vedrero Bongay. Their daughters are all princesses: Jam, Jelly, and Jube. She values time with them, especially since her husband is away for work most of the time.
Jam is Jumbo’s mini-me. She’s also Arlyn’s artistahin princess. Young as she is, she’s already aware of her talents, especially her ability to entertain people. She’s an artist-in-the-making.
Jelly is everybody’s happy pill. She’s adorably cute and cuddly. She can turn anyone’s smile machine on anytime of the day.
Jube is the baby princess. Arlyn and Jumbo’s light bulb when things start turning a little dark.
Arlyn believes that family should always come first. So, when faced with situations where she has to choose between family and work, the loves of her life would always come first.
Advocacies and Projects
Arlyn is the kind of person who knows how to stand up for what she believes in. She proudly displays her support for worthwhile advocacies and projects. She has three major advocacies that take up some of her free time (but she doesn’t complain!).
“Firstly, there is the HIV & AIDS advocacy. The Hulagway project is the brainchild of many artists who are fellow advocates. This year, as was the original plan in 2013, we let the excitement simmer down so we can come up with a better project in 2016. I have a lot in mind for that to push awareness on HIV & AIDS. Secondly, I am very happy to be counted as a cast for The Vagina Monologues, which brings me closer to advocates for Violence Against Women and Children. A friend came up to me to push the possibility of bringing the advocacy to hinterlands. I have yet to speak with the involved parties. Thirdly, my new advocacy is financial literacy. It is a fairly new concept and discipline to me, which I am taking time to study. Among my advocacies, this is closer to my heart and my purse.”
Onstage at Rodelsa Hall for The Vagina Monologues.
Of course, Arlyn is also an advocate of art. For her, art is “both an advocacy and passion. It is what got me across hard times. With my art, I can bring all my advocacies together.”
In 2016, Arlyn is once again going to be part of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s award winning play that highlights the importance of awareness about violence against women, girls, and members of the LGBT community. This is the perfect vehicle for her to explore and share her passion for creativity, and art in general.
Last December 2014, Arlyn was one of the awardees of the first ever UrbanLife Awards given out by Mindanao Gold Star Daily. She won as the “Performing Artist of the Year”. She recalls how she felt at that time.
“Funny! I have to tell you that when the award for “Rapper of The Year” was presented to the winner, they took out the next award in line, which had my face on. You (referring to me) and I were laughing at this, remember? I haphazardly wrote a thank you speech in my head, which I didn’t take seriously. So, I went up, my heart (and chest) bared…haphazardly. I vaguely remember doing a clumsy British accent for an acceptance speech and went home to realize that I won.”
It was a well-deserved award. Arlyn performs practically all the time: when she talks to her pretty daughters, she often acts out some characters to make them laugh or just feel better; at times, she’s a photographer, other times, she’s the model; she sings, she can deliver a mind blowing monologue even without rehearsals; and she can do whatever artistic performance you’ll ask her to do – again without practice. Arlyn is definitely a born performer.
Her Greatest Achievment
Arlyn went through a lot of difficult times before she finally got a taste of success. It was a long, hard road for her, but she didn’t give up. Instead of following the broken road, she used her passion, determination, and all the talents she could muster to cross that dark path. So, it is understandable that when asked what she considers as her greatest achievement, without batting an eyelash, she’d always say, “I was able to conquer my own demons”.
Getting through her (and her family’s) troubled times did not break Arlyn. It made her stronger and better. “Because of that, I was able to establish a sense of self so people can see and say that, ‘I want you to work with me’, ‘I want you to be in my team’, and ‘We know you can do this’. Because of that, I worked with great minds and great personalities, and companies I used to only dream of. An achievement within myself comes full circle with the little lost child who felt incomplete.”
What does the future hold for Arlyn? For someone like her who knows how to use her creativity and artistry to good use? A lot. The future has only good things in store for this generous, kind hearted, passionate, and genuine person. Our Maker knows how hard she has been working not only for herself, but also for her family, and for everyone she loves, including the people of Cagayan de Oro.
She challenges today’s youth to lead a meaningful life. “I would like to say this to the younger people as if I am talking to that sad and lost lonely 10-year old Arlyn. First, when you are down, remember that heroes do not have happy stories; like Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, the Maze Runners, and in real life, Jose Rizal and other Filipino heroes. Second, do not rush. When it’s time, it is time. Third, read books. Write journals. Do not stop learning. Speak your mind for as long as you do not offend anyone, especially yourself. Fourth, save and invest while you are young, so you can retire and travel young. And lastly, love and cherish the people who put food on your table and wisdom in your youth. Most importantly, pray. “
Words of wisdom from a lady worthy of emulation. Our very own artist extraordinaire, Arlyn May Baqui-Bongay. Mother. Achiever. Advocate. Kagay-anon.
Photo credits: UrbanLife Awards photo by Raphy Arcaina, The Vagina Monologues photo by Jessie Villegas of Capturing Smiles Photography. Featured image/Hulagway photo (colored with red ribbon) by Ed Abella. All photos provided by Arlyn Baqui-Bongay. Used with permission.
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