Sunday, July 22, 2007

(UPDATED) The art of Khanser

by Reddie Chua

QUEZON CITY, Philippines -- Once during her childhood, Marites Khanser went to their town’s library and heard shocking news. The librarian said there were no more books available for her as she had finished reading their entire collection for children. Young Khanser had to start reading books for adults from then on.

That was long before she became Dr. Marites Khanser, a doctor of business administration who constantly wants to learn. Even as a child, Khanser already had an insatiable desire to learn.

Though from a poor family, she consistently did well in school. She studied for free throughout her student life.

A summa cum laude graduate of the Jesuit-run Xavier University in 1979, she always wanted to excel.

“I would cry if I didn’t get an A,” she says.

She finished an MBA degree at Xavier and an MA in English at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She then earned her doctorate from De La Salle University-Manila.

An expert in a field of numbers and logic, she used to teach leadership and strategy at the Ateneo de Manila University’s
John Gokongwei School of Management, joining a pool of accountants, mathematicians and managers in the faculty.

Yet her hunger for knowledge remains with her today -- this time in the arts. Who would have thought that she is also a skilled painter?

“I’m really multi-skilled. I can do a lot of things,” she says.

Painting is a skill she has just learned.

“I am a late bloomer when it comes to painting and in fact, I never thought I could paint,” she writes in her book “Reflections on My Paintings: An Artist’s Memoir.”

Khanser used to manage an art gallery in Davao City that featured works of other artists, but she never thought she would make her own paintings someday.

About two years ago, she trained under the geniuses of the Manila Art Den and mastered the skill within months. For someone more than 40, there is indeed reason to believe that it is never too late to learn.

This is because she had an inspiration, a strong force that motivated her to acquire the new skill. That inspiration was University President Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, her mentor.

“I wanted to paint the portrait of Fr. Ben,” she says. “That’s why I discovered my gift."

Khanser was Nebres’s scholar for 15 years. The priest encouraged her to pursue a doctorate degree in business and supported her studies. When she finished, she put up a Doctor of Business Administration program at the
Ateneo de Davao University, which she headed.

Her first creation was a portrait of Nebres. She considers it one of her best, and later gave it to the priest as a gift.

Painting portraits of people is her favorite. She admits, though, that it usually takes a long time for her to finish a portrait because it is hard to capture the essence of a person.

She also loves to paint places she has visited, like a river in Thailand.

“When I go abroad, I take pictures and I paint right away,” she says.

Although she seems to have achieved so much, she still wants to do more. Painting is not the end of her skill-searching, she says.

“I really explore my limits. I don’t hold barriers to myself,” she says.

There is only one thing, though, that she would really love to do for the rest of her life: to travel. Aside from this, she promises not to stop developing new skills.

We might see her singing her lungs out, playing an instrument, or dancing in the ballroom someday. She believes that there is no end to whatever she might want to learn in the years to come.

This hunger for learning made her finish reading an entire library many years ago. But until now, Khanser is still hungry, and she keeps getting hungrier.

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