Celina Taganas-Duffy: ‘Wonder’ mentor and mother to Bridget, a 9-year-old ballet dancer

Celina Taganas-Duffy: ‘Wonder’ mentor and mother to Bridget, a 9-year-old ballet dancer

“It isn’t just what you see and what you hear, it’s more importantly what you feel, and the feeling is what translates to the doing. Without the feeling, there’s no doing. So you don’t transmit it to other people unless something is ignited in your heart. Whether it’s good or sad or bad, it’s got to start there first. The feelings transcend everything. If you can’t communicate a feeling, sit down. It’s your spirit, it’s your soul. It’s unlike anybody else. Nobody can tell you, nobody can put it in for you. It’s what you’re born with. This bubbling up in your heart is your personal expression, your original way of saying things. No two alike. It comes from a place of love and kindness; no matter what kind of vibes you’re getting from people, it always surmounts anything sad or bad. There’ll be no obstacle if you keep your love. That’s the answer.” – Nona Beamer, “Voices of Wisdom: Hawaiian Elders Speak,” 1999.

The heart of conscious parenting

Can you be so loving to your child that you can follow her lead in what she wants to be, “free to create, to dream, to explore?”

That is the quality of unconditional love that Celina Taganas-Duffy got, describing in her own words, from the parenting of her mother, Marcelina Caguimbal Taganas, and her father, Wilfred Coloma Taganas (who passed away in 2009). Even then, she felt uninhibited and was given the freedom to explore what she wanted to do, including athletics, playing four years of volleyball, softball and basketball in high school.

That kind of unconditional love is what Celina is passing onto Bridget (B for this piece), who just turned 9 years old.

I first met B when she sold me girl scouts cookies. Her mom had emailed that she was helping B sell boxes. I wanted to help so I bought a few, which B and her parents delivered to my home.

Celina gave me her business card, and B did the same and shared her birth announcement photo and told me this is her business card. I recall she was just 5 years old. Owen, her dad, stood by and smiled at B’s creative moment of outreach.

“This is my picture, so you can remember me,” and with both hands, she handed it to me.

“Here, let me put your picture in a special place, my altar.” I used both hands too, in the same manner that I got it.

Her parents were surprised with her outreach, but also I believe that she feels equal to anyone.

After all, her parents have been taking her to all their business and community events, even to a book launch, where she was the only child amongst a big room of adults.

“What is your definition of conscious parenting,” to which Celina responded, “It is about being the best mother I am capable of being, while empowering B to become the best person she is capable of being in all facets of life: as a student, as a dancer, as a friend, and as a citizen. I try to expose her to all things creative, to engage in learning by making it fun, and to encourage her to formulate her own opinions. I also value downtime, playtime and creative experimentation.”

Every New Year’s, this family drives to the beach to write in their journals their goals.

“Do you share your goals?” I asked.

“Sometimes,” she said, “it’s mainly a day to think about our personal and family goals for the year and a day that we choose to be together and count our blessings.”

Notice that she describes herself as the “best mother I can be,” that she wants to parent from a place of wholeness, not from her wounds if any.

Conscious parenting steeped in the arts

I asked Celina how she balances being a mom to B and her career as founder and principal creative director of Tagline Communications, Inc, a 20-year-old graphic design, marketing, and branding business.

A simple answer, she said, “Although my business is extremely important to me, being a mom is my most important job. I feel so blessed that my career affords me the flexibility to juggle work and mom duties.”

B goes to an elementary school near where she lives. Her mom shared a birthday card book with written notes from her classmates.

“Splendid dancer.”

“Sweet, brave, neat, helpful, friendly, smart and really good at dancing.”

“There are over a thousand girls that are all not as nice and graceful as you.”

“So compassionate and generous and best dancer.”

“Shares erasers with other people, you help C with her times table, you like to do things your own way.”

I read the Bridget Duffy Newspaper that was shared by Celina. In it, B wrote about the most important event in her life: “On Nov. 5, 2016, I attended the KAR competition in Long Beach, CA to perform a solo from The Nutcracker. I was given this solo from my teacher at Pointe Ballet. At the competition, I performed in front of a large audience, along with three judges. At the end of the competition, I received a trophy awarding me First Place overall in the ballet category.”

In this news story, B has a photo of doing arabesque at KAR competition in Long Beach, and below it, a photo of Stella Abrera, the first Filipina-American principal ballerina in the history of American Ballet Theatre (ABT).

B writes about her hero, “she inspires me to work hard to achieve my goal of being an ABT principal dancer like her. I want to dance professionally my whole life as well.”

B is now training at the Pasadena Dance Theatre under Artistic Director Cynthia Young and at Point Ballet under Du Hongling.

Cynthia Young also trained Stella Abrera, who gave B her first pointe shoes, autographed by Ms. Abrera. “Meeting Stella Abrera and seeing her perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion was such a pivotal and inspiring moment in B’s life, “ her mom added.

B just “auditioned for the Colburn School and was accepted to attend their summer workshop led by Colburn Dance Academy Director Jenifer Ringer and Associate Director James Fayette, both former principal dancers of the New York City Ballet. The workshop prepares young dancers to learn choreography and audition for the Music Center’s co-commissioned production of the all-new George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by Miami City Ballet (December 2017). B’s extremely excited about this opportunity,” wrote her mom in an email.

Celina also shared B’s school projects: write-ups on Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse and Faith Ringgold. The project consists of choosing artists, reading about them, drawing one of their chosen paintings and typing in their little computers, a write-up of these artists’ life story, using their own words.

Her mom showed me her clay projects, impressively detailed, and realistically depicting animals, people, and even hamburgers.

B is steeped in the arts and started painting at 2 years old. She is now taking art lessons every two weeks and dabbles in different art media: watercolors, pastels, paper art and sponge painting, and she wrote in her art project, “her most favorite artists are her mom and dad because they create beautiful paintings.”

She also excels in her favorites: math and science. She loves to sing and has been with the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus for three years.

In the upper right-hand column of B’s new story is her photo participating in a White House Easter egg hunt and below, B’s photo holding a bouquet of flowers, with her mom and dad, after performing her first ballet solo.

Celina, together with her husband, Owen, both teach B to be kind and even if folks are unkind, for B to still be kind. But, not a third time, she has to put a stop to it by telling them how it makes her feel.

She is tutored to feel with her heart and to listen to her instincts, not skin color.

“How is their heart?” she is asked by her parents, and they teach her, “You can tell if a person is good, bad, happy, or sad by looking at their heart. Trust your feelings.”

When asked what her parents has taught her, B shares, through her notes: “Always be kind, Never give up, Follow your dreams and my parents are here to help me, Always do my best, If people say mean things to me, don’t let it get to me…to believe in me.”

Owen takes B on daddies and daughters ski and camping trips. Being outdoors is encouraged with bicycling and trail walking; the latest, with Celina to enjoy the blooms of the poppies at Chino Hills State Park.

Would you not gain enthusiasm that all seems right about this child’s life?

Do you see a consistency of focusing the children to see how their lives can be extraordinary works of art, just unfolding, and to allow them a glimpse of past artists’ lives?

Celina Taganas-Duffy’s art-centered business

Celina’s portfolio of finished work-products reads like the who’s who of brand names, institutions, buildings, and brand icons: The White House Young America Series through Millennium Momentum Foundation, Smithsonian, Taylor Swift invitation from Encore, Deluxe Entertainment, USC Pacific Asia Museum, City of Los Angeles, Epson, Hilton, Starwood Resorts, Viceroy, W Hotels, Kobe Bryant book by NBA photographer Andrew Bernstein, American Library Association, Pro Bull Rider & Bud Light Cup, Westpac Materials, USC Trojan Flashback Football, Boy Scouts of America and the Smithsonian Filipino American Centennial Commemoration four-panel brochure as part of the Singgalot exhibit in DC that traveled to Los Angeles and Honolulu.

She has now branched into environmental design, incorporating her original artworks and graphics of plants, water, medicinal plants, healing stones into the different floors of medical buildings, using triptych, multiple panels of windows looking outside. One, in particular, registered with me, backlighted lavender fields in this building’s women’s restroom and backlighted palm fronds in the men’s.

CAISO HQ, a non-profit public benefit corporation that moves power to homes and communities, has also commissioned her works.

Much like her art business portfolio and her exhibits which shows how her artworks have evolved through two decades, her lineage shows an evolution of struggles transcended to accomplished Filipino Americans in America’s history, characterized by waves of migration, working in the sugar cane fields, the Navy to professional careers, to lives of community engagement, enterprise and creative expressions in the arts, martial arts and cooking.

Felix Taganas (Celina’s great grandpa) was a sugarcane worker who arrived to work in the sugar cane fields in 1924. He later joined the U.S. Navy. He owned a Filipino diner in the 1930s, which became a haven for Filipinos then, to eat their favorite dishes without being harassed or refused service. His diner is memorialized in Carina Monica Montoya’s “Los Angeles’s Historic Filipinotown” book.

Alfredo Taganas (her grandpa) worked for an admiral in Port Hueneme while her cousin, Conrad Caguimbal, worked as a sous chef for Bellagio’s Picasso and later, as a chef for Google’s 12,000 employees and now, executive chef at Compass Group, where he recently opened a restaurant at UFC’s new headquarters in Las Vegas.

Her uncle, Faustino Caigoy, is the first muralist in the Filipino American community, whose signature paintings and artworks were exhibited in community events, primarily FPAC, Festival of Pilipino Arts and Culture and SIPA. He has popularized the baybayin, parols, eskrima sticks, and whistling kites.

Celina credits her uncle, Faustino with teaching her to trust her artistic instincts, of thinking outside the box, of not being boxed in by existing genres, but to do her own styles of painting. In her home, her original paintings are exhibited on her walls.

She also credits her mentor and teacher, Margaret Collins from Santa Cruz who took her for a walk and asked her, “What is it that you want with your life?”

She trained with Filipino martial arts’ masters: Master Christopher Ricketts of Kali Illustrisimo, Faustino Caigoy of the Jack Santos Method, Magtitudlo Ramon Rubia of San Miguel Eskrima and Guros Bud Balani, Arnold Noche, Dino Flores and Felix Valencia of Lameco Escrima. She is also trained in Wing Chun, Qigong, Baguazhang and Daitu Ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai. She then imparts what she has learned to empower middle school children and also, young girls.

She credits most of her abilities to balance to Owen, “who is helpful and doesn’t hesitate to take over mom duties when I have a meeting or I’m in the middle of a deadline. He’s the best husband, and the best father to B. He’s such a great team player.”

Notice the words, “best persons” are used a lot in this family. Seeing her art business portfolio is like an art exhibit, a curation of cards, logos, invitations, business labels, and now, buildings with colorful, visually stunning and “calming” murals.

Celina wears her imperfections comfortably as much as her personal brand of excellence. She accessorizes her clothing by being with grace, inner calm, humility and communicating as a whole and a wholesome person, who is an entrepreneur in the arts. All while raising B, with unconditional love, as much with her husband, Owen and is occasionally involved in the community’s pursuit of arts and martial arts.

* * *

Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.

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