Drawing a melting pot of cultures and history in VN

January 12, 2023 - 08:02
Working and living in Việt Nam for 3 years, he may be the same expat as thousands of others.

Lê Hương

Working and living in Việt Nam for three years, he may be similar to thousands of other expats.

Yet Daniel Tingcungco from the Philippines has made himself special: enriching his spiritual life with paintings of the city he is living in.

His paintings of HCM City’s landscapes and food have won the hearts of many audiences.

Moving to Việt Nam during Tết (Lunar New Year) of 2019 to work as Senior Art Director for an advertising agency, he had friends who have worked and lived in the country for years. He then decided to stay and is glad to still be here until now.

Daniel Tingcungco works on his Ipad. Photo courtesy of the artist

Over time, Tingcungco has focused on his personal illustration projects, such as 100 Views of Saigon and 100 Tasty Food in Saigon.

“It’s important to always create a system, a routine or habits you can stick to because they always compound after some time,” he told Việt Nam News. “If before, I would only just draw when I have the inspiration, I now make it a point to draw at least one hour each day whether I feel it or not.”

Tingcungco said doing this keeps him sharp everyday, which becomes a week, turns into months, and next thing, it’s a year already and he has a great volume of work. It was how he was able to complete 100 Views of Saigon in a year and a half.

A reflection of Turtle Lake in District 3, HCM City, by Tingcungco.

The collection has been exhibited recently in Café Slow D3 and D2, and Breadventure in HCM City, which is now available online at 100viewsofsaigon.com.

Tingcungco has found a schedule for work, play and rest to keep him on track.

“Creating this rich environment highlights the beauty of everyday Vietnamese life that we don’t always notice,” he said. “This project aims to give fresh eyes and a new perspective for people who consider Sài Gòn, Hồ Chí Minh City, and Việt Nam as a whole as their home, whether they lived here all their lives or just for a few days - to see it beyond its misconceptions and tragedies, more than just being a stopover but a rich melting pot of cultures and history in Việt Nam.

When asked about his favourite paintings, he said: "Each one is like a diary for me, but if I have to pick one, it could be SGN050 The Church of Jeanne d’Arc at District 5."

His memorable painting - St Jeanne d'Arc Church.

“The time I decided to draw it was the time I was lost around Chợ Lớn, Google maps was confusing me until I walked into a corner and saw this beautiful view of the church with a part of its reflection shining on the puddle. Getting lost brought me to this captivating sight then, and every time I pass by it now, I am still reminded of that moment,” he recalled.

Tingcungco said he is always inspired by everyday life as with his current projects, from the most mundane things to the most interesting.

“I still look around Sài Gòn and Hồ Chí Minh City with the same fresh eyes I have since I arrived, you will always find something “new” as long as you view it in a different perspective,” he said.

Filtered coffee in his painting.

He spends a lot of time walking around or driving with his bike, taking photographs for reference and experiencing the mood of the place, then translating them into his sketchbook and then proceeding to his iPad to create the final artworks.

He is currently finishing his series of 100 Tasty Food in Saigon (100 Thức Ngon Sài Gòn), which he also hopes to bring to an exhibition soon.

“After this, who knows what I will do, but definitely more drawings with Việt Nam and Vietnamese life in it!,” he said.

He said among many Vietnamese dishes, he prefers bún thịt nướng (vermicelli with grilled pork).

Tingcungco's favourite dish - bún thịt nướng

“I make it a point to eat this at least every week because I just love the meatiness of the grilled meat and spring rolls, contrasted with the freshness of the greens and herbs, all combined with the sweet-savory-spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce),” he said.

Tingcungco said that on weekends, he might spend more time drawing or going for walks around the city, meeting with friends for coffee and food, experiencing everyday life to gather inspiration.

“It was easy for me to adapt into life here because of the warmth and hospitality I get from everyone,” he said. “Most Vietnamese people I meet always greet me with a smile or would be glad to help me as much as they can. As long as you open yourself to everyone, they will always be happy to help.” VNS


Warm hearted people of Sài Gòn.