Philippines, 18 Jun 2024
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In Memoriam: Natalia ‘Naty’ Santiago (1932-2023)

“The show must go on,” the late Natalia Santiago (1932-2023) used to say for the better part of the past 90 summers.

After living a full life worthy of the big screen, ‘Naty’, as she was fondly called, passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family in Quezon City, Philippines; this according to her fellow artist and son Jun Aquino.

“Our mother was a mentor, artist, actress and friend to many, and her legacy will live on through her children and our immediate family,” Jun Aquino, the first Filipino hall-of-fame artist to be recognized by the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame, lamented.

“I do not know how I just finished all 72 artworks of all the Filipino governors. I have been trying to keep busy with my art to ease the pain and loneliness,” bared Jun Aquino as he kept vigil.

It is with great honor to share Sir Jun’s reminiscence about his late Mommy Naty and how she nurtured her brood of five and paved the way for someone like Jun to be the best multi-media artist around.

My Magic Brush
By Jun Aquino
(written May 12, 2013, and re-written today)

“There are many memories that filled my childhood. Some days were happy, sad, and others were embarrassing…name, it is all there. But little did I know that incident would turn out to be one of the defining times of my early years.

I was in first grade, seven years old, when my mother became a single mom. It was a huge responsibility for her considering there were five of us in her care. Not having my father around was already painful. With regular support from him, life became more complicated. Until now, I still wonder how Mom managed to make ends meet.

I am certain it was all by God’s grace that we were nurtured, provided for to overcome hardships. Mom’s brother, Uncle Romy, decided to remain single to fill our father’s shoes. There was not a single time when he was not there for us to encourage, guide and see us through the different phases of our lives.

One day, my teacher chose me to participate in our school’s on-the-spot painting contest. Our requirement was to bring a pencil, illustration board and crayons or watercolor set. As soon as I got home, I told my mother about the contest and the things that were required. Inexpensive as they were, we could hardly afford to buy the art materials because of our tight budget. Deep inside, I was thinking of quitting not because of the lack of materials, but because I was scared to compete. My mother, as though she read my thoughts, insisted that I should join the contest. She pointed out that I could be a “winner” because she believes that I have a God-given talent to draw.

That night, she told me to sleep early and reassured me that she will take care of all the requirements.

We woke up at five o’clock in the morning to prepare for school. Mother immediately handed me a used watercolor set. I was curious where she got it from. I was thrilled to see the watercolor set, as it was my first time using that kind of medium. As I opened the set, it hit me that fifty percent of the color from the pan was empty. Very little paint remained.

“Where is the paint brush, Ma?” I asked her. She rushed to her bedroom and gave me a strange looking homemade brush. Something was unique about the bristles. There was hair on the end…my mother’s hair which were securely tied on a barbecue stick with a rubber band. She tried her best to convince me that this brush is superior to the ones sold in art stores.

“Ah, okay,” I nodded while unzipping my bag. I took one of my big books, opened it in the middle and put my brush to keep it safe. Upon reaching school, I proceeded to the library where student artists from first to sixth grade gathered, all excited to show off their new sets of art materials. For some reason, I was the first one called by our teacher.

“Rodolfo Aquino, please stand up and show us your art materials,” announced the teacher. I pulled out my watercolor set and the book where I inserted the brush. Unfortunately, my brush fell on the floor, bristle first. I quickly grabbed it and placed it on top of my small desk chair. Bewildered, the teacher asked, “Is that your brush? Can I see it?"

As she inspected the brush, I noticed the hairs were no longer pointed. Some students began cracking jokes. “It looks like a witch’s broom!” shouted one. Laughter filled the room. “Quiet!” ordered our teacher. She asked me if I really knew how to use it and gave me the option to use crayons. I tried to persuade her that I really would like to use watercolor. Unconvinced, she asked if there was anyone who had an extra brush. No one raised their hand to offer any extra materials. To make matters worse, someone jokingly said ”‘Mam, that thing can fly!” Everyone was laughing uncontrollably.

“Quiet, class!” our teacher exclaimed firmly. My tears were ready to fall because I knew I was the laughingstock, being the object of ridicule is never funny. Finally, our teacher announced the contest’s theme which was ‘Who is your best friend?'”.

Suddenly, I forgot my sadness and began conceptualizing about my pet dog Bantay (Guard). It was a piece of cake to draw a portrait of my pet. Holding my homemade brush to color the dog was difficult at first. The tip of the bristles was hard to control because the hairs were distorted. The leftover paint on the watercolor set was also very limited. They were plenty of blue and brown but neither green nor yellow. So, I filled up the background with plain blue. I did not touch the dog’s body and just left it white and used my ball pen to color the dark spots and details. When it dried, I applied a second muddy coating on the background. For the first time, I discovered that painting was fun and not difficult to master, especially using my “Magic Brush”.

The damaged tip created special effects and strokes. I was the first to finish and my artwork was the first to be displayed. I was very happy when the judges picked my painting for third place. May art, together, with my ‘magic brush’ was exhibited for almost a month in the school library. I was an instant celebrity in school. Both my teacher and classmates respected me. In spite of it all, some kids still called me ‘Son of a witch’, but I did not mind them. During recess, I made a lot of friends who wanted my drawings done on the back of their notebooks.

These days, the technique which I accidentally discovered way back then was to finish the background first and then the subject. This is the primary lesson I teach all my students as an effective way of painting. Every time I paint, I cannot help but remember my special childhood memory.

The “Magic Brush” made from my mother’s hair will always be a special part of my life.

“I admire my mom for her strength as she endured those hard times. I am grateful for all her sacrifices, her selfless ways of giving herself to us. Even now, we are still covered by her hopes and prayers. I truly thank God for giving me my mother, who has always loved me unconditionally and always believed in me. Every time I paint, she will always be near, and she will always be right in my heart.”

Natalia ‘Naty' Santiago
A Celebration of Life in Christ Jesus
1932 - 2023

• St. Peter Memorial Chapel

• Commonwealth Avenue Corner Tandang Sora Street., Barangay Matandang Balara, Quezon City (Across INC) Room 214

• Saturday, August 26 to Monday, August 28: 1:00 pm - 10:00 pm

• Funeral Service - Monday, August 28: 7:00 pm

• Interment Service

• Loyola Memorial Park, Marikina Salvation Garden Sec. D Block 143

Naty Santiago on the big screen (circa 1960-80’s)

(L-R) Mrs. FPJ, Susan Roces, and fellow actress-artist Naty Santiago during their reunion in 2020

Note of Sympathy: Sir Jun Aquino…On behalf of our editor-in-chief Sue Dong Secuya and your friends here at, we offer our deepest condolences.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Emmanuel Rivera, RRT.

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