In Betsy Westendorp’s home: lunch, art, and a beautiful view

‘Art for a Vision’ artists pose for a group shot. Seated: Dr. Felipe Tolentino, Arturo Luz, Betsy Westendorp, and Valeria Cavestany. Standing, from left, Cesar Caballero, Gus Albor, Ramon Orlina, Igan D’Bayan, Ramon Diaz, Juvenal Sanso, Cid Reyes, and Pandy Aviado.

Juvenal Sanso reminisced about his father and his experiences during World War II. Ramon Diaz patiently answered questions from a newspaper reporter who asked what his painting style was like.

Arturo Luz preferred to shy away from anymore interviews and just be in the company of his artist friends. And who could blame him? A young writer had earlier inquired, “And, Sir, what else do you do aside from painting?”

Igan D’Bayan, painter and bass player of The Black Vomits came in a black shirt with a David Bowie image. Valeria Cavestany had to be persuaded to join the group photo shot.

And in between the flurry, the host, Betsy Westendorp-Brias, was welcoming and thanking her guests, members of media, for making it to her Makati City apartment that day. Lunch, by the way, didn’t disappoint as well as Westendorp had asked her nephew, Tony Brias, to prepare two giant-sized paellas that everyone just relished with the roast pig, fresh lumpia, and dessert. The buffet was set up at the veranda, where some people enjoyed a view of Makati’s grayish but expansive skyline.

Writers enjoyed the good food and engaging conversation with the participating artists. Photo by Peter C. Marquez for

One editor mentioned that back when Westendorp still lived in a building along Roxas Boulevard, she hosted brunch and served a hefty tortilla Española along with nice breads, pastries, tea and coffee. Even during that time, people have always appreciated her passion when painting and when entertaining at home.

For the second time, Westendorp is organizing Art for a Vision, an exhibit of paintings by an impressive gathering of leading artists—all artists are giving their art works for free—to help raise funds for the various projects of the Opthalmological Foundation of the Philippines. The exhibit will be mounted at the Crucible Gallery in SM Megamall from February 10 to 21.

From left, lunch with Sari Ortiga, Ramon Orlina, Dr. Felipe Tolentino, and Arturo Luz. Photo by Peter C. Marquez for

Call it star power, as the accomplished and untiring Westendorp was able to sway her friends—Gus Albor, Pandy Aviado, Cesar Caballero, Valeria Cavestany, Igan D’Bayan, Ramon Diaz, Arturo Luz, Ramon Orlina, Impi Pilapil, Cid Reyes, Juvenal Sanso, and Jaime Zobel—to donate their paintings and sculptures for a good cause.

Last year’s art sale helped fund the construction of the IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center. The center is now Philhealth-accredited with consultations and surgeries scheduled every Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is equipped with a Yag Laser for more efficient treatment of cataract and glaucoma. To date, it has served almost 2,000 patients from Ifugao Province and other neighbouring municipalities.

The IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center has regular visiting physicians who conduct vision screenings. They also give training seminars to medical officers, nurses, barangay health workers and teachers.

Dr. Felipe Tolentino, founder and president of OFPHIL, is an accomplished and distinguished Filipino-American ophthalmologist based in the US. He is a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty and has written over 100 papers viewed by his colleagues and published by prestigious medical journals in the US. Dr. Tolentino has received many awards for his charity works, including a Philippine Presidential Award for humanitarian achievements in 2000.

“You are my heroes,” says Dr. Felipe Tolentino, shown here with Betsy Westendorp, as he thanked the artists who donated their works for the charity art show, ‘Art for a Vision.’

Personal story
Besides being a distinguished painter, Westendorp, a Spanish citizen who married a Filipino is also a Philippine Presidential Medal of Merit Awardee. She has been known to participate in many philanthropic activities but none perhaps could be a most personal advocacy than raising funds for the OFPHIL.

The painter met Dr. Tolentino in Spain when she became his patient. Westendorp had been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, wherein the cells of the macula lutea degenerate and causes blurred vision. It may also lead to blindness.

“Losing your sight is the most difficult thing,” said Westendorp, “and I’m thankful for Dr. Tolentino for giving me treatment. So when a friend told me about his project in the Philippines, I took the opportunity to participate and help in raising funds to give medical attention to indigent patients with cataract and glaucoma in the Ifugao Province. I don’t know why, but apparently, Ifugao has a high incidence of both eye diseases.”

Westendorp’s enthusiasm for the project is infectious. Proceeds of the art sale last year yielded enough funds for the construction of the IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center, whih is now Philhealth-accredited with consultations and surgeries scheduled every Tuesdays and Saturdays. It is equipped with a Yag Laser and, to date, has served more than 2,000 patients from the province and other neighboring municipalities.

This year, Dr. Tolentino’s team of volunteer doctors hopes to develop a traning center withing the IFSU-OFPHIL Eye Center to help accredit specializatinos for ophthalmic nursing, ophthalmic assistant and ophthalmic technician.

Painting No. 1298-12 by Betsy Westendorp. Oil on Masonite, 18 x 21.75 inches. 2012


Objects from the Past by Arturo Luz. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches. 2011.


Glow of Spring by Juvenal Sanso. Acrylic on canvas, 28 x 39 inches. 2010.

“My father was an air force officer and he didn’t hesitate to help a lot of people during his time,” recalls Westendorp. “I guess he was my inspiration and gave me the importance of helping others. It’s a great feeling when you do that.”

“Some people think the easiest thing is to ask artists for paintings,” says Crucible Gallery owner Sari Ortiga, who is graciously providing the venue for the exhibition. “It’s easy to go past the time, effort, and creativity that goes into each work and the thought that it is being created for an advocacy. Knowing that the artists are doing this from their heart and for a worthwhile cause makes the works even more important and valuable.”

Butterflies by Jaime Zobel. Digital print on photo paper, 15.5 x 16.5 inches. 2011.


Together in Love by Ramon Orlina. Carved amber crystal, 26 x 17 x 17 cms. 2012.


Illumination 14 by Cid Reyes. Acrylic on wood, 38 x 26 inches. 2008.


Proceeds of last year’s art sale helped in constructing the IFSU-OFPHIL Eyephil Center in Ifugao.

• Art for a Vision opens on February 10, 2012 at 6 p.m. at The Crucible Gallery, 4/L Biulding A,