February 29, 2024

From a young and simple Brother who began his journey in De La Salle Lipa (DLSL),  Br. Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez FSC returns after 30 years—not to handle a class as he did so in 1993 when he had his first teaching assignment, but to serve as the new president of the institution. 

Br. Dodo’s leadership capacity is well-known in the line of education and service. In fact, he became the first Brother Visitor of the Lasallian East Asia District. He was also assigned in various La Salle schools as a teacher, administrative assistant, and school administrator. Other than that, Br. Dodo was appointed as the Chair of the Directors of all the Brothers Communities and Chair of the Board of the La Salle schools in the country. On top of these, he is currently the president of La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) and De La Salle-College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB).

When I had the chance to talk with Br. Dodo, rather than being excited in knowing his journey as a Brother-leader, I was more interested in hearing his life as an artist—a side of him that not a lot of people know. 

Br. Dodo recalls his experiences as an artist and how he pursued his passion for the arts. (Photo from Mr. Jaryl Renzo Decilos of DLSL Strategic Communications Office)

Upon entering his room, I was expecting a typical superior’s office full of piled up documents or an office with his artworks on display. However, I was welcomed by an almost bare room like a blank canvas, housing only two sofa sets and his table with only his laptop on it. 

Beneath his authoritative aura, I soon noticed that Br. Dodo has this calm and outgoing nature that received us in his modest office. More than entertaining us within the four corners of his room, Br. Dodo welcomed us into his life as an artist and a leader and earnestly shared both the brightest and dullest colors of his story.

Sketching his own path

Arts became Br. Dodo’s childhood friend. He grew up with the artworks of notable Filipino artists, including Vicente Manansala and Hernando Ocampo which were collected by his aunt, a fellow enthusiast of art and one of his greatest influences. 

With the hopes of shifting to Architecture, Br. Dodo entered the Fine Arts program in the University of the Philippines – Diliman (UPD). His love for the arts was so intense that he didn’t let go of it until college. When he finally passed the talent test for Architecture, he did not consider shifting anymore, contrary to what he had originally planned. He was eventually gripped with paints and brushes and ended up finishing the Fine Arts program.

Looking back at his development as an artist, Br. Dodo discovered that he has always loved drawing. He had a lot of drawings even when he was a Fine Arts student. Br. Dodo also shared that drawing is very meditative for him saying, “It was a medium I chose and I wanted to do intentionally.”

Br. Dodo shows a photo of the shell drawing that he did in his art residency in France. (Photo from Mr. Jaryl Renzo Decilos of DLSL Strategic Communications Office)

Being an artist allowed Br. Dodo to enjoy independence and to spend time alone— characteristics that reflect his introverted nature. He also finds fulfillment amid hobbies done in solitude like painting, building scale models of cars, and running. However, he was not spared from scrutiny and was always questioned about how he could make a living out of painting. 

“Maybe I was naive, maybe I was idealistic. I just wanna do this. I just want to take up Fine Arts […] I took it because I loved it and I enjoyed it,” Br. Dodo recalled with a glint of fondness in his eyes.

“If people find themselves, in a sense, trapped because they need to work but they have other hobbies, I think they should pursue that. I think there is space for as many interests in one’s life and I think it’s important in one’s own personal growth to pursue all those hobbies and interests.”

It was only after college that he decided to join the Lasallian Brothers. As a graduate of LSGH, Br. Dodo already knew a lot of Brothers. After studying, he was still meandering about what he wanted to do, but the moment he entered the ministry, he felt that it was the life destined for him.

However, being a Brother pushed him to meet, talk to, and interact with people—a track opposite from the arts that gave him the comfort of doing things by and for himself. 

Even after years of serving the Lasallian community, Br. Dodo never forgot the artist in him. Last 2019, he went to art residencies as a sabbatical. In an art residency, an artist would engage in an in-depth exploration of arts while working in an environment far from the normal studio. One of them was in Shiro Oni Studio in Gunma, Japan where he did a series of large drawings of foreshortened and skinny bodies modeled after Holocaustic themes. 

For Br. Dodo, these drawings were the most meaningful pieces he ever did as they were rendered out of his personal grip on cruelty and death. On a lighter note, he even cracked a joke that nobody would actually want to buy a drawing of lifeless people.

“Part of [those pieces] was my own abhorrence of violence […] plus my own fascination with mortality that eventually we all die”, he said.

Two years after finishing his art residencies, Br. Dodo was given a chance to launch his solo art exhibit, “Drawings: From Residences in Japan and France” in Finale Art File in Makati City. Not all artists can have the opportunity to hold their own exhibit, so for him being able to put his works on view overjoyed him. 

Drawing the line between art and service

Whenever I would ask something about his artworks, Br. Dodo became more outspoken, a sign that he’s become more inclined to his artistic side as he grew older.  He even rummaged through his gallery just to look for pictures of his drawings so we could better visualize what he was describing. I also heard him muttering when he was having a hard time finding the pictures, that they were in his ‘favorites’ album.

Br. Dodo shares a photo of his favorite drawing in his art residency in France—a poster of dead flies. (Photo from Mr. Jaryl Renzo Decilos of DLSL Strategic Communications Office)

At some point in his life, Br. Dodo believed that he should merge his two personas of being an artist and a leader, but he later on realized that they have always been dichotomized. Despite this realization, he still acknowledges his responsibilities of being a Brother-leader while still pursuing his artistic interest.  

“In order for me to nourish the artist side of me and if I really want to paint, I have to get away from work. I have to go on a sabbatical. I have to go [to] an artist residency. It’s hard for me to do it while working and while having an assignment lalo na as president. Yes, it’s really hard to balance but I’ve learned to nourish that side of me,” Br. Dodo revealed.

Wanting to be just by himself and working for the Lasallian community are the two opposing poles of Br. Dodo that he has learned to live with. He further understood that his roles  as an artist and as a leader, though contrasting, are actually complementary sides of him that feed on each other.

“There’s a lot of the artist that seeps into my [leader side] […] I like my campus to be nice, clean, and beautiful. And what else is that if not the artist in me, ‘di ba? At the same time, the leader in me seeps into my artist [side] in terms of discipline [and] creating schedules. When I was in art residency, gusto ko may schedule ako. They kinda really forge each other,” Br. Dodo said.

After returning from his art residencies in the same year, Br. Dodo assumed the duty of heading LSGH and DLS-CSB during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the experience of managing two schools amidst a troublesome time, Br. Dodo said he learned some lessons that he would use in leading DLSL towards the new mode of education. He saw how the remote setup of management and online mode of learning have their own advantages that should be maximized.

Meanwhile, when it comes to artistry, DLSL is also home to creative students who are inclined into different art forms like film, multimedia arts, and fashion. Not to mention, DLSL has also recently introduced the Architecture program, expanding its courses that have creative application. Br. Dodo eagerly said that he would be the first person to support the students’ artistic skills and that this can pave the way for more art-related programs.

***

Br. Dodo is proof that it’s still possible to pursue your interests while answering God’s calling. His story reminds us that life offers a lot of ways through which we can foster our passion—be it professionally or not. 

For those who have been holding themselves back from pursuing their interests, Br. Dodo leaves a piece of advice for you:

“If people find themselves, in a sense, trapped because they need to work but they have other hobbies, I think they should pursue that. I think there is space for as many interests in one’s life and I think it’s important in one’s own personal growth to pursue all those hobbies and interests.”

Last May 14, 2022, it was announced that Br. Dodo would succeed Br. Dante Jose Amisola FSC. His presidential investiture is set to happen this February 17 at the DLSL Sentrum. 

 

Article by: Jazmine Bustamante

Photo manipulation by: Realjoice Bobadilla

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