By Sol H. Gwekoh
Hard at Work. Surrounded by saints, he always keeps good company.
Where physical defects have been a handicap in the pursuit of happiness and livelihood to a great many unfortunate individuals, to Jose Dakoykoy of Cebu City, they have been a blessing in disguise and an indispensable factor in the attainment of his chosen work.
The fourth son of a family of seven, he accidentally became deaf at an early age. He comes from a family known for its musical talent and artistic taste. His brothers are all musicians, having inherited the art from their father, Marcelo, who attended to the choir of the Augustinian order in the Santo Niño church in Cebu. They now furnish church music and religious music for the traditional and popular novenas in the southern islands.
Although Jose is deaf, he has not given up his love for art. He embraced early the painting and sculpturing lines, in which, though no Michaelangelo, he does well. From his eldest brothers, he learned to master the brush and palette as well as the chisel.
As a result, for the last 30 years, he has been furnishing Cebu and the neighboring islands with his pastels or miniature images of the different religious characters connected with the life of Jesus Christ in different stages. The rich and the aristocrats as well as the poor go to him for their Belens, especially shortly before Christmas.
He also does interior decorating and portrait ainting, and designs decorative fancy objects. He works fast and alone throughout the year in his own home which he constructed out of his earnings as a painter-sculptor. Quiet and reserved, Jose leads a peaceful and simple life. To him, cockfighting and gambling, and drinking are mere frivolities.
He is a determined bachelor. Simple and humble as he is, relatively few know of his real talent. Contented with His Art Unschooled in the art and technique of his profession, he is contented and at ease working with crude instruments, principally with a small, sharp knife for shaping objects, and the chelepads of crabs for carving delicate features of images.
From religious and illustrated calendars, he copies his models. From September to December, he is kept busy until late at night when orders for belens from different provinces have to be delievered before the Yuletide season. An ordinary belen of 30 figures sells at between P40 and P60, while the more elaborate, which have bigger characters, cost as much as P150; part of the amount he receives for his productions is distributed to his relatives on Christmas Day.
Now 54, he still plays native songs—the popular and melodious balitaws—on the guitar, especially at night to comfort him in his solitary life.