By Gabriel Cardinoza Inquirer BINALONAN, Pangasina--Residents of Binalonan, an Ilocano-speaking town in eastern Pangasinan, can now read in their native tongue the highly acclaimed novel of their famous town mate, Carlos Bulosan. Thanks to Manuel Diaz, a local fiction writer, who translated Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart” into Ilocano. “Adda iti Puso ti Amerika” is now being serialized in Bannawag, a weekly vernacular magazine that circulates in the Ilocos region. The novel, which was first published in 1946, describes Bulosan’s boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer on that foreign land. Bulosan was born in a village in Binalonan, then known as Mangusmana, and died in Seattle, Washington, on Sept. 11, 1956. “I hope that my translation of Bulosan into Ilocano will trigger another translation of his other important works into the vernacular,” Diaz said. Bulosan’s literary pieces since 1914 consisted of short stories, poems, plays and essays, which have been kept in seven boxes, one folder and 17 microfilm reels at the University of Washington Libraries in Seattle. Since the writings are all in English, many Ilocanos may have never fully appreciated them, said Jaime Lucas, Diaz’s colleague in the local chapter of the Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano (Association of Ilocano Writers). “Some of us have not even seen Bulosan’s book in English. So it’s good that it’s now being serialized in Bannawag that even the ordinary Ilocano can now appreciate the writings of Bulosan,” Lucas said. First time Diaz, who is translating Bulosan’s work for the first time, said what he had done was not easy. “The novel was set in the 1930s and the ambiance was very different from what we have today. There were even words in the novel which are no longer applicable,” Diaz said. But Diaz said he hoped his work would not only help increase awareness among the Ilocanos about Bulosan but would make them become proud of him as well. Bulosan is not known now, especially among students because his works are no longer included in the required readings in high school and college literature classes. “There has to be a rediscovery of Bulosan,” Diaz said.
August 2007 Archives
By Ma. Diosa Labiste Inquirer ILOILO CITY--Inspired by stories that her grandfather was once a conductor of a local orchestra and that school orchestra competitions drew huge crowds in Iloilo decades ago, a 36-year-old Filipina, born in Manila but who grew up in Canada, has set her mind on forming an orchestra in Iloilo City. Finding nothing to start with, Melissa Lopez-Exmundo opened classes in violin, teaching children from three years old and up, hoping to build a base for a chamber orchestra she dreams of. Exmundo is among those who reversed the migration of professionals to North America and elsewhere. In 1998, she decided to stay in Jaro district and teach because she was amazed by the talent she was able to coax from her young students, who are now saying they want to be musicians playing in an orchestra. In a country where beauty parlors and movie theaters overwhelmingly outnumber concert and music halls, Exmundo’s effort caused naysayers to shake their heads, probably until they saw her students straining their bows to get the right sound from their violins. “I missed watching opera and playing in orchestra (in Europe and Canada). Sometimes I am invited to play in Manila. But if I create opportunities here, I could enjoy it too,” she said. In other countries, the way to join an orchestra is to take lessons and audition to join the orchestra. What Exmundo did was unusual. She gave group lessons to train children in orchestra playing. If they are serious about their music, they can audition for an orchestra later. Melissa taught violin at the University of San Agustin and Central Philippine University. She also taught French at the University of the Philippines-Visayas campus and West Visayas State University. But she wasn’t happy with the results of her violin classes because many of her adult students were taking lessons mainly for academic credits and less for the love of music. ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ “The problem with adults is that they have an expectation of what they should sound like, and if they don’t get results, they give up sooner. Their arms are not that supple. Adult students are more busy and hard on themselves. Kids are more resilient and they don’t mind playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle,’” she said. Exmundo started giving private violin lessons in June 2002. “I had no name, just a private class and all by word of mouth,” she said. Classes Her class of seven students grew to 20 and later an average of 25 to 30 per module. Since then, more than 50 students have attended her class, some of them on a continuing basis. Others have started coming, brought by their parents who heard about Exmundo or have seen her students perform in a recital. She didn’t turn them away even if her classes were already big because many of the children showed promise even at the tender age of three or four, which is about the same age she started to play a violin. Exmundo and her family migrated to Canada when she was two years old. She remembered playing with pseudo violin when she was three. She had a Hungarian violin teacher until she was six years old and she continued to take private lessons. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance. In Toronto she played in and coached youth orchestra and ensembles. She went to Prague in 1993 and stayed for a year to take private lessons in violin under Professor Ivan Strauss. She went to Japan to teach English and in preparing for her trip she took lessons on teaching English as a second language. The experience helped her prepare for violin teaching years later. Even if she was not trained in music education, she reads up on strategies in teaching music and designs modules that combine the Suzuki method and the conservatory way of learning music. Each module ends with a performance, which is the most-awaited part by students and their parents.
By Pablo Tariman, Alcuin Papa Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The Philippine Madrigal Singers won the prestigious European Grand Prix for Choral Singing Sunday night (Monday morning, Manila time) in Arezzo, Italy. The Madz, as the choir is popularly known, is the first and only choir to win twice in what is known as the choral Olympics of the world. It won the European Choral Grand Prix (GPE) for the first time in June 1997 when the Madrigals represented the Tolosa Competition, the first and only Philippine choir to win this competition. When it won the Florilege Vocal de Tours in France in 2006, the Philippine choral group earned the right to represent the Tours in this year’s choral Olympics, held on Sunday at the Church of Sta. Maria della Pieve in Arezzo, Italy. The Madrigals beat formidable choirs such as Russia’s Vesna Children’s Choir, Hungary’s Cantemos Mixed Choir, Cuba’s Schola Cantorum Coralina and the Taipei Chamber Singers. “Its overwhelming. Up to now we are very happy and pleased. No words can describe it,” Mark Anthony Carpio, the Madrigal’s choirmaster told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone from Italy. Carpio said the choral group performed a 20-minute program for the competition which included: John Pamintuan’s arrangement of “Pater Noster,” a French madrigal, a German art song, the American contemporary song “We Beheld Once Again the Stars” by Z. Randall Stroope and a children’s song from Maguindanao titled “Kaisa-isa Nyan” by Nilo Alcala. The 44-strong Philippine choir is scheduled to arrive in Manila on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Carpio said the Madrigals were set to perform a homecoming concert in October before leaving for the US. The Philippine Madrigal Singers was founded in 1963 by National Artist for Music Andrea O. Veneracion, who led the choir in winning various choral competitions from all over the world. Veneracion passed on her choirmaster’s task to Madz member Carpio, who led the choir in winning the latest choral Olympics. “I never had the ambition of becoming the choirmaster of a group I have admired for a long time,” said Carpio who took over in 2001. “But I trusted Prof. Veneracion’s decision. She had been praying intensely for this when the Madz won the 1997 GPE." Carpio was overwhelmed when the Madz made history by winning its second GPE, this time, under his leadership. “Nothing is more enjoyable than to see our hard work pay off. Feeling good about ourselves inspires us to even work harder. As Prof. Veneracion always said in the past, competitions are not the end; they are just means for us to see how well we are on track," Carpio said. "We worked hard to achieve what we believed is the composer’s desire for each of our pieces. We did a lot of studying and research. But most of all, we did a lot of rehearsals," he added. According to Carpio, there is no such thing as an ideal sound in any choral competition. The sound that the choir always tries to maintain is a free and relaxed sound but at the same time versatile and flexible. “I believe there is no ideal or perfect sound for a choir. I have made this conclusion after listening to so many choirs from different countries of different cultures and ages. Each one sounds good but different from each other," he said. "There are qualities that are common to choirs. They are homogenous and the different voice parts are well-balanced. This is what conductors find very challenging: How to make the different individual voices blend together. This is difficult but attainable," Carpio added. The GPE is an annual choral competition for the winners of six European choral competitions. It was inaugurated in 1989. The six competitions are the Concorso Polifónico Guido d'Arezzo (International Guido d'Arezzo Polyphonic Contest) in Arezzo, Italy; the Bela Bartok International Choir Competition in Debrecen, Hajdú-Bihar, Hungary; Concorso Cesare Augusto (C.A.) Seghizzi, (C.A. Seghizzi Competition) known more popularly as the Seghizzi contest in Gorizia, Italy; Concurso Coral de Tolosa (Tolosa Choral Competition) in Tolosa, Spain; the International May Choir Competition in Varna, Varna Province, Bulgaria; and the Florilège Vocal de Tour in Tours, France. By winning the Tours competition in June 2006, the Madrigals qualified to join the GPE. Despite its name, the GPE is not strictly for European choir groups. Any group from around the world can join in the competition in any of the GPE’s six member-cities. The competition is also not limited to adult choirs. Two past winners are children’s choirs. Sweden has produced the most number of GPE winners with four choral groups. Lithuania has three winners, Hungary and the US have two each. Denmark, Japan, Latvia, the Philippines, Russia and Slovenia have one each. The last winner of the 2006 GPE held in Tolosa, Spain is the University of Utah Singers from Salt Lake City, US.
By Reni Roxas Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--In Spain, people are snacking on Filipinos. Not exactly a cannibalistic practice, when the Filipinos I refer to are foil-wrapped wafers. I’ve tried them. Yummy! But are they yummy enough to start another Spanish-Filipino War? Don’t think so. Because over here, Filipinos are too busy calling each other names. Pinoys have a fun name for everything. No business establishment is deemed too sacred to be spared from creative name-calling, from branded bottled water to laundromats, salons and restaurants. Look around you. Hasn’t wordplay become a national pastime? The hilarious gift book “Ngalang Pinoy: A Primer on Filipino Wordplay” (Tahanan Books) celebrates Pinoys as marvelous innovators of language. Within its pages, editor Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz and artist Dindo Llana pay tribute to the lexicographic genius of the Pinoy. Llana engaged in a bit of what he calls “guerilla photography” to snap pictures of the funniest signs and names. “Where do such creative juices flow from?” Cruz inquires in her book. “How do these folks, untrained in the nuances of advertising and brand management, dream up [these] names?” Cite a few examples of Pinoyisms at a dinner party, she adds, and you’d be amazed at the treasure trove of words that could come up. “Truly, ours is a living language.” But no wordplay is as much fun as when it comes to naming our children. “A nickname is the hardest stone that the devil can throw at a man,” remarked William Hazlitt. Wise words indeed, and one way to explain why in western countries, John remains John and Mary will ever be called Mary. Over here, though, a nicknamed child is a loved child. And heaven help the child who’s been given a particularly “inspired” nickname. Filipino parents, it seems, have a field day when it comes to naming their progeny. Siblings have been named after pies (Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Strawberry Pie), vehicles (Chevy, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volks), beverages (Brandy, Whisky, Cali, Champagne, Punch), and science (Atom, Quark, Nova, and Nuclear Bomb). Repeated names sound particularly endearing, and so we have Au-Au, Bekbek, and Junjun. And let’s all answer to the doorbell names Bingbing, Bongbong, Bingbong, and Tingting. And then there’s the "H" factor. Tess can’t just be Tess. She’s gotta be Thess, a friend of Ahlex, who is also a cousin of Rhob. When it comes to merchandising, being original seems to be the most, well, original, claim. As in the “original buko pie” of Los Baños. Playfully thumbing their nose at Webster, buko pie tycoons unabashedly tout their products as original. There is Elvie’s Original Buko Pie right alongside Mitzi’s Original Specialties which competes against Areane’s Original Sweets. Being original however best defines the Filipino’s gift for making up puns from established names while commenting on the Pinoy’s various proclivities at the same time. So there’s the karaoke bar Sinto Nado for all the Frank Sinatra wannabes singing it their way. Or would you rather croon your heart out at the Blue Marilyn, a sing-along ihaw-ihaw joint in Sucat? Movie titles are also ripe for the picking: there’s Hair Force One or Con Hair. Or would you want to sink your teeth into salty swear words as in Cooking ng Ina Mo, a food place just a stone’s throw from Cooking ng Ina Mo Rin? Showbiz is a fertile place for similar puns. There’s the dress shop called Elizabeth Tailoring, the hair salon Felix d’Cut, the laundromat Baywash, and a moneychanger shop called Starbucks. With apologies to Yves St. Laurent, would you weep if you found out that your YSL jacket was actually Yari Sa Laguna? Even at death’s door, Pinoys still find reason to laugh. How would you like to get on a hearse headed for the Last Trip Funeral Parlor? Or would you rather enter feet first at Funeraria Mabuhay? Or, if you can’t take it with you, would you rather leave your earthly stuff to your family and make do with the Factory Price Funeral? Ngalang Pinoy invites readers to “open our eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of Pinoyhood.” From the time we get our nicknames to that last ride to the cemetery, we are forever coining labels for all that surround us. It makes the trip so much better. “Ngalang Pinoy: A Primer on Filipino Wordplay” is available at all major bookstores. Published by Tahanan Books.
By Juan Mercado Inquirer "IT'S your fault that i never got to talk to the man," my son Francis gripes when former senator Benigno Aquino’s death is remembered, as we do today. Francis was a grade-school kid when our family bumped into Ninoy Aquino at San Francisco’s international airport. We were flying to Bangkok, and Aquino was booked on a Boston flight. The years have blurred most of our chat that day. But we did laugh over my securing a "carrier pigeon" to sneak his article, smuggled from a Fort Bonifacio prison cell under martial law censors’ noses. A sympathetic Air India manager brought it to the editor Theh Chongkadikhij at the Bangkok Post. In February 1973, the Post published “The Aquino Papers,” a three-part series that challenged martial law. “I will not accept President Marcos’ offer of an amnesty because I do not believe I’ve committed any crime,” Aquino wrote. “He violated our Constitution and broke our laws.” Information Minister Francisco Tatad cabled a furious 8,000 word reply. Reprisals followed. Aquino and his cell mate, former senator Jose Diokno, were hustled into solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija -- and half-starved to death. Prison guards turned Corazon Aquino and family away for 43 days. Carmen Diokno and her children received similar brushoffs. “When Cory asked Deputy Defense Minister Carmelo Barbero why, she learned it was ‘punishment’ for the Post series,” Miriam Grace Go reported. The airport boarding call cut our talk short. “Why didn’t you introduce me?” Francis groused as Ninoy left. “He’s the next Philippine president.” That was not to be. While military agents “guarded” Aquino as he descended the service gangway from his China Airlines plane, a single bullet tore into his jaw. A reporter from The Nation in Bangkok phoned for a reaction. Given United Nations restraints, all I could mumble was: “Marcos claims he heads a ‘command society.’ He has all the powers; so he has all the responsibility.” As a numb afterthought, I added: “Manila will be renamed Aquino International Airport.” The censored press suppressed Aquino’s arrival address aborted by that murder. Manuel L. Quezon III may someday publish a second edition of his book, “20 Speeches That Moved A Nation,” and perhaps he’ll see fit to include this speech that never was. “I have returned of my own free will to join the ranks of those struggling to recover our rights and freedoms through non-violence,” Aquino planned to say. “I seek no confrontation.” He flayed the supine Supreme Court justices’ abdication of the cherished right of habeas corpus (today a centerpiece in the search for “disappeared” activist Jonas Burgos and similar victims). He would have appreciated the irony in Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s plan to wield the “writ of Amparo” in order to leash some military officers who haven’t learned history’s lessons. Aquino thought a direct appeal to the ill, isolated Marcos could usher in peaceful change. He saw the danger. “If they kill me, they’re out in two years,” he predicted. That forecast fell short of the People Power Revolt by two years. Was this stupidity? Or principled stubbornness? The Duke of Norfolk badgered the imprisoned Thomas More to heed Henry VIII’s demand for consent to his divorce. “Think Master More,” the Duke urged. “Indignatio principis mors est.” [“The prince’s anger is death.”] More replied: “Is that all, my Lord? Then, there’s no difference between your Grace and me -- but I shall die today and you, tomorrow.” Under the dictatorship’s thumb, Military Commission No. 2 found Aquino “guilty” of subversion. They sentenced him to “death by musketry.” Censorship ensured that few heard what Aquino said after the sentencing. But Aquino, we’re told, asked the tribunal if they could recall the military judges who sentenced Andres Bonifacio. They could not. Aquino ticked off names of Gen. Mariano Noriel, Col. Agapito Banzon and others. “Today, few remember the names of those judges. But we meet in a fort that is named in honor of the very man they sentenced to death.” This was historical irony. Bonifacio’s trial has been documented by retired Justice Abraham Sarmiento and others. And deadline-pressed laymen, like us, can only hope that scholars of Ambeth Ocampo’s competence will one day compare transcripts of these two mistrials. Ninoy’s funeral brought two million mourners into the streets. Thousands tuned in to Radio Veritas, the only station that dared report the rites. “No umbrellas,” people chanted as rain fell. “Only Imelda uses an umbrella!” That was a jeer at cronies who trotted with parasol behind the First Lady. When the coffin passed Rizal Park, crowds forcibly lowered the giant Philippine flag to half-staff. Did that presage People Power four years later? No one could say. All that the people clung to was the belief that the blood of martyrs is the seed of heroes. Now a 39-year-old Northwest Airlines pilot, Francis never met Ninoy. But he sees the nation mark his death yearly. And Ninoy’s features grace our currency and stamps. Schools and streets are named after him. So is the Manila International Airport. The Aquinos never demanded a plot in the Libingan ng mga Bayani [Cemetery of Heroes]. The Marcoses have wheedled, unsuccessfully so far, for such an interment. Sorry old questions, however, continue to fester: Who were the mastermind(s)? Why have they escaped accounting? And who remembers the judges of Military Commission No. 2? Do people give a damn? Indeed, the “struggle of man against power,” as Czech novelist Milan Kundera once said, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
By Hazel P. Villa Inquirer ILOILO CITY--Sashaying to the live renditions of old Ilonggo favorites like Pinalangga (Beloved) and the more current Handumanan (Remembrance), models made their entrance up the burnished narra stairs, glided through antique rooms, and preened before an audience seated atelier-style on a balmy evening at the Sanson y Montinola Antillan House in E. Lopez Street, Jaro District, Iloilo City. The Antillan House itself, one of the very few left intact in the country, was like a debutante dressed for a grand ball—its trademark yakal rooftop carved decors were restored and repainted, shuttered windows were cleaned, and the exterior was painted a more cheerful mocha and pastel blue even as the brick foundations were spruced. It was not only because the Iloilo Heritage Gala was held at the Antillan House in May that Greg Sanson, the owner, decided to glam up his family’s turn-of-the-century ancestral home but also because heritage-conscious Ilonggos have once more revved up the advocacy machine calling for the preservation of Iloilo City’s heritage houses and buildings. The Gala was but one of the activities of the 15 members that the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC) spearheaded during the celebration of the National Heritage Month in May. The ICCHCC has architect Antonio Sangrador as chair representing the private sector while Noel Hechanova, its director, represents the government. “We must promote responsible appreciation of our culture. To preserve, we have to unite and beyond that, make people conscious of our heritage,” Bambi Harper, National Heritage Festival director, had said. For their “exemplary act of ongoing preservation and stewardship,” the Iloilo City government recently awarded plaques of appreciation to the owners or managers of the following heritage buildings: Sanson Y Montinola Antillan House, Zafiro Ledesma Residence, Casa Mariquit of the Lopezes, Nelly Garden, Montinola Residence, Marquez Lim Residence of former Sen. Nikki Coseteng, and the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in J.M. Basa Street. Fashion, music, poetry Soon after cocktails, the guests, numbering about a hundred with some dressed in formal wear, entered the Antillan House for a night of Ilonggo fashion, music and poetry—effectively setting an ambiance of greater appreciation for things uniquely Ilonggo. The fashion show, topbilled by Ilonggo designers Don Protasio, Bo Parcon, Angelette Borja-Ragus and Jaki Peñalosa of the Designers Guild of Iloilo, started with two actors from the University of San Agustin Little Theater delivering excerpts from “Kawayan,” a poem by eminent Ilongga writer and poet Magdalena Jalandoni. Tingug (Voice), a young vocal ensemble formed in August 2006 under the directorship of Gerardo Muyuela set the mood for young designer Don Protasio’s collection with their rendition of the upbeat but distinctly Hiligaynon performance of Benny Castillon’s “Kruhay!” Though the fashion show’s motif was bamboo, avant-garde Protasio’s collection had models wearing mostly billowy black or gold dresses and blouses “as inspired by dark clouds, leaves and wind” for “dark romance” with bits and pieces of bamboo on the models as accessories. Apropos with Bo Parcon whose collection was made distinctive by a rugged, earthy look with tiny bamboo pieces forming squares and rectangles in his creations as “inspired by windows” or with bamboo acting as embellishments on what could have been run-of-the-mill creations. Bamboo gown, anyone? Women designers Angelete Borja-Ragus and Jaki Penalosa hewed more to the bamboo fashion motif as they pleasantly surprised the audience with their ingenuity and innovations with bamboo and indigenous fabric. Penalosa redefined the Philippine terno by marrying indigenous fabric such as hablon and raffia with contemporary designs with bamboo bits and pieces incorporated into either the beadwork of the gowns or into the shawls. Borja-Ragus had a model wear a bustier made of geometrically arranged bamboo and one wore a cocktail dress with bamboo “tapestry.” As if that wasn’t remarkable enough, another model came in wearing a skirt made of curled bamboo for that billowy look which you never thought was possible with such a hard material as bamboo. Applause followed a model wearing a Borja-Ragus ball gown with bamboo shavings as embellishments on the gown itself, complemented by an intricate but elegant hairpiece made of bamboo shavings too.
By Pennie Azarcon dela Cruz Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The idea, says fashion designer Barge Ramos, is to come up with clothes that are unmistakably Pinoy without looking like one is bound for an Independence Day Parade or a costume party. “It is possible to look thoroughly modern and contemporary and still retain the Filipino touch in one’s clothes,” says Ramos who is widely known for his barong Tagalog creations. Aside from being a gauge of one’s age, taste, income level and politics, clothes should proudly hark back to our cultural identity, says this erstwhile fashion journalist who expounded his theory through a weekly column for the newspaper Malaya from 1990-1995. The best of those columns have recently been gathered into a book of the same title, “Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture Into Fashion,” a scrumptious coffee table book that details how history has shaped the way we dress, and how clothes in turn reflect cultural beliefs and traditions. Among some tribes, it is believed that continuously weaving cloth transmits spiritual force and protective powers to the woven fabric. The process of weaving itself represents “continuing the threads of kinship and descent, with the simple motions of tying, binding and wrapping celebrating lineage, ancestry and solidarity.” The barong, a formal wear usually worn on special occasions, used to be a cautionary measure against Filipino insurgency during the Spanish times. Fearful of brewing dissent, colonial rulers required Filipino ilustrados to wear the sheer tunic shirt to reveal any hidden weapons tucked in their waistline. Such cultural minutiae and fashion history have always interested Ramos who held his first barong exhibit at the Ayala Museum in 1985. There he showcased photo silk screening of ethnic patterns on barong using synthetic silk. “I used photo screening instead of embroidery on barong because some foreigners find the lavishly embroidered national dress too feminine,” explains this designer who was first exposed to costume design as part of the theater group Dulaang Sibol at the Ateneo de Manila. Ramos has also toyed with historic imprints on his barong, including the signatures on the country’s declaration of independence in 1898. “My friends were joshing me, ‘ano yan, pirma sa tumalbog na tseke?’ (what are those? Signatures on bad checks?)” he recalls. His use of woven fabrics as accents on barong has found a receptive audience among balikbayans and Filipinos living abroad. This he attributes to “cultural pride, the need to assert our identity in a world where blending in seems to be the norm.” Among locals, the response has been mixed, he acknowledges. “Filipinos are rather conservative when it comes to fashion. They won’t wear anything until everybody else is wearing them.” His best bet are younger Pinoys who are more open to ideas and more experimental, notes this designer who hails the Monday rule during the Ramos presidency. Back then, he recalls, government employees were required to wear a Filipino dress at the start of the week. It was a chance to dress up and to feel proudly Pinoy every Monday, he says. But even the best intentions are weighed down by the ills of the local fashion industry, rues Ramos. “How can we compete with cheap fabric imports from China and the ukay-ukay (secondhand clothing) bargains?” he sighs. “Our textile industry is dead—killed by too many taxes.” Thirty years as a designer has taught Ramos that “everything in fashion begins with the right fabric—how it feels, how it falls and behaves… Before you can even conceptualize a design, you must know what fabric you’re using and where to source it—mainly abroad, in our case.” Fortunately, Ramos adds, brightening up, there are two things going for the Philippine fashion industry: “Creativity and design.” Production costs may be prohibitive, fabric choices may be restricted and the market limited, but there’s no arguing with the Filipino designers’ creativity, he sums up. “Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture into Fashion” will be launched on Aug. 17 at the second level of The Podium in Pasig, with an exhibit and fashion show interpreting the fashion illustrations in the book. For details, call Anvil Publishing c/o Gwenn Galvez at +63 2 637-8840.
By Carmela Reyes Central Luzon Desk CITY OF MALOLOS, Philippines--Bulacan residents and officials hailed an 11-year-old girl from this city who topped the junior division in the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) held on July 31 to August 3 in California. Aria Daniella Clemente, who arrived here last week, was proclaimed grand champion in the WCOPA junior division after besting 5,000 contestants from 52 countries. Clemente, a Grade 6 pupil of Stella Maris Academy of Malolos, also bagged the "Performer of the World" award in the junior category after she beat winners in other categories. She received the "Vocalist of the World" honors after besting 50 other finalists in the singing tilt held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. The WCOPA is an annual search for artists involved in modeling, singing, acting and dancing. The Bulacan government recognized Clemente's achievement during a program here on Monday. Clemente reached the finals after winning five medals and plaques in the two rounds of the singing competition. She topped the five categories of Broadway music, gospel, Latin, pop and rock.
By Rafael Castillo, MD Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Just when I thought that Filipino doctors have forgotten their solemn oath "to serve humanity to the best of my ability," and just when I thought that Filipino doctors have no qualms of giving up their medical profession for the prospect of earning green bucks abroad, Dr. Rogie Tanco, the cardiologist-editor of The Filipino Internist, reminds me of the Filipino medical volunteers of the Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF (Doctors Without Borders), who serve in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic and pandemic diseases. The MSF is a Nobel Peace Prize awardee and annually, it recruits about 3,000 doctors, nurses, midwives and logisticians to provide health care in more than 70 underserved developing countries. A good number of these volunteers are Filipinos. "These doctors and other volunteers are unsung heroes," Rogie told me. Filipino volunteer Among these volunteers is Dr. Elpidio Demetria, a board certified internist and infectious disease expert previously of San Lazaro Hospital. Before volunteering for MSF, Elpidio signed up with the Philippine medical contingent to Iraq. After Iraq, he could have thought that he had done his share of public service and could have started a lucrative private practice. But, he set aside the glamour and rewards of clinical practice, and signed up with the MSF, without any precondition on where he would like to be assigned or what he would be willing to do. He was initially assigned to Cambodia where he manned and later supervised HIV clinics in various regions of that country. While most of us would not even touch HIV patients with a 10-foot pole, he took care of them with such care and compassion which has earned the respect and admiration of his staff. After his stint in Cambodia, he was assigned to Sierra Leone, a fledgling African country, which was still rebuilding itself from the devastation of a civil war. Making do with limited resources and facilities, he managed a small hospital and conducted medical missions and malaria control sorties in the hinterlands of this impoverished country. A sense of fulfillment Elpidio was in the country last month for a vacation and when his peers teased him of what he was missing as a medical consultant in posh private hospitals here, he replied without reservation that volunteer work was his calling and he has decided to make it his career. "I get a sense of fulfillment in serving the really underserved, and being able to do it in such a professional manner," he said. While many private practitioners find fulfillment in handling pampered and demanding well-heeled patients, Elpidio finds a great sense of fulfillment in being able to handle neglected patients with tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS. While many of his colleagues shun disaster areas, he looks forward to render service to those who may need his expertise in such areas. And while many of his colleagues do their work in the comforts of their private hospitals, donning their immaculate white gowns, Elpidio and his fellow MSF volunteers do their work in their perspiration-drenched scrub suits, unminding the heat or humidity in the volunteer stations they call their workplace. Learning a lot Elpidio also feels that he’s learning a lot from his volunteer work. He learns from his interactions with a team of experts in a multiracial and multilingual environment. In the various teams, color, creed and culture of the volunteers blend in an undistinguishable blur and their common zeal to render service to the underserved is the only thing that binds them together. Why not work here instead, Elpidio was asked. His expertise can certainly be of great use here having been honed in the treatment of endemic diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. "I wish to serve where I am needed more," he answered. "In Sierra Leone and Cambodia, there is a scarcity of medical workers far worse than the Philippines." He explained that in an MSF mission there may be 375 staff volunteers with only one medical doctor to man all the referral centers, clinics and refugee camps. Most of the staff are medical assistants, trained for three years by MSF to become physician assistants. They can diagnose and prescribe, but a doctor is needed to back them up. Ministries of health are appreciative of the training that MSF provides its local staff. Well-planned projects The MSF has been acknowledged to accomplish its mission in a very organized and professional manner. All its projects are well- planned and there is logistical support in every aspect of the various missions. Although the MSF volunteers’ work surroundings may be suboptimal, their dignostic facilities for endemic diseases are at par with any modern hospital. For example, MSF introduced rapid diagnostic tests for malaria, which can specifically identify the various species of the organism causing malaria. They also have tests for the various species of schistosoma. The MSF also provides advanced treatment regimen for tropical diseases such as malaria (artemisin-based treatment) and anti-retroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. Come to think of it, the MSF volunteers probably have a higher sense of professional fulfillment that cannot be equaled by our doctors-to-the-barrio program of the Department of Health. Our rural doctors have to make do with crude methods to diagnose malaria and schistosoma. We salute Elpidio and all our healthcare volunteers both here and abroad. You provide the true meaning to the type of service to humanity which the oath of Hippocrates embodies.
By Ruth L. Navarra Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--A Filipino graphic artist literally makes waves in Sony Pictures’ latest animation “Surf’s Up.” Armand Serrano confessed that’s he’s no surfer dude but, has worked the waves for the past three years as only geeks can — he studied and researched on the principles of water. It was necessary because he had to know how water moved and flowed so he could draw it accurately. “I also had to study foliage of a tropical forest because there was a scene in the movie where a character called Geek took in the hero Cody into his secret home,” he said. For the interiors of the forest, he drew inspiration from photographs he took while hiking in Palawan in 1992. “I would add Filipino flavor to my work anytime there is an opportunity. The Palawan inspiration was almost a default since ‘Surf’s Up’ required a tropical island. It could have been any of the other exotic islands in the Philippines,” he said. He added that being able to design the settings enabled him to add something personal in the films. “For example, I put my Darth Vader mug in a scene that I worked on in ‘Tarzan’ and I added my son’s name to the ice-cone vendor cart in ‘Lilo & Stitch.’ In ‘Surf’s Up,’ the Japanese surfer has Japanese characters on his board, which translates to ‘Hannah rules.’ Hannah is my daughter’s name,” he said. Serrano left the country for California in 1996 to work in a small animation company. A few months later, the company folded up but Walt Disney Feature Animation happily took him in. When Sony Pictures ventured into animation in 2004, he was one of the first few artists who took a leap of faith to join their roster. “Surf’s Up” is their first film. He lives in Culver City, California, with his wife and three kids. It’s nice to note that even if he’s been living in the States for the past 10 years, he still speaks Filipino sans the American accent. Engineer-animator When he was filling out his college application forms, his parents did want him to take any courses leaning towards like Fine Arts or Music. To appease them, he took a Civil Engineering course from University of Santo Tomas because he said the course still required drawings. But as soon as he graduated, he joined Fil-Cartoons, a Hanna-Barbera subsidiary in the country. This was where he met ex-pats who encouraged him to apply abroad. When he got to the States, he studied Layout Visualization and Background Design to supplement his animation know-how. “I love animation and filmmaking in general. Not only do I get to do what I love—to draw—but I also get paid for it and the world gets to see it, too. On top of that, I am able to use my talents to their fullest effect! It’s also a privilege to work with and learn from the world’s top-notch artists in this business. Hey, I’m creating cartoons — and it’s fun!” He was proud to say he had developed patience as working on one animation film could last for years. Quality takes time and it would show on the big screen, he said. “My work can be summed up into two parts: research and design -- and both are important. The best thing about my job is the challenge of conceptualizing, designing and building environments from scratch. Just the thought of having my handprint on the design of the film is very rewarding. It can be compared to an engineer or an architect’s satisfaction -- when a structure he’s been designing all those years has finally been completed.” “Surf’s Up” opens in theaters nationwide Aug. 15.
By Alex Vergara Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--After three years of burning the lines and spending extended dinners with collaborators Ige Ramos and Winnie Velasquez, designer Barge Ramos has finally succeeded in combining his twin passions for fashion and journalism into one handsome coffee-table book that best reflects his niche as a purveyor of Filipino-inspired fashion. Published by Anvil Publishing, “Pinoy Dressing” is a collection of newspaper articles Barge wrote as a columnist for Malaya. The column, which went by the same name, ran for five years in the newspaper’s lifestyle pages in the early 1990s. Just like what he did in its previous run, Barge combined his essays, which are now grouped into corresponding chapters, with contemporary sketches by fellow designer and accomplished illustrator Loretto Popioco. Aside from providing the book’s pages with eye candy, just like in the past, Popioco’s illustrations offer readers with visual pegs on how these indigenous fabrics actually work if juxtaposed with today’s raging trends. If anything, the sketches help underscore the books’ two main objectives: to show people, especially Filipinos, how rich the country’s culture is through its indigenous fabrics; and to open up minds to the possibilities of using these materials in more contemporary ways. Even the book’s subtitle, “Weaving Culture into Fashion,” was lifted from the column’s very first title. But fans of the column, which tackled such diverse and sometimes dying art forms as tribal weaves based on chants and dreams, will be in for a surprise as Velasquez, the project’s book editor and Barge’s former boss in Malaya, consolidated several articles into one. Distillation process Apart from imbuing the book with a timeless quality, the distillation process makes for a more seamless and informative reading, says Barge. Anjie Blardony Ureta, Velasquez’s former assistant, wrote the foreword. “In essence, Winnie retained what I wrote and simply removed certain parts that pertained to current events then involving fashion,” says Barge. Being the true fashion designer that he is, he simply can’t resist comparing Velasquez’s editing process to that of making clothes. “She sort of got several gowns, took them apart, recut them, took out the best parts, re-sized them and merged these parts into one,” he adds. Velasquez also sat down with Barge and Ige to help them sift through hundreds of columns. When the purging process was over, they were able to whittle the number down to 70 or so columns, which, in their abridged form, eventually became part of the book. Since Loretto’s original sketches were no longer around, Ige had to scan the illustrator’s works one by one from actual newspaper pages. It was a good thing Barge had the foresight to keep most of his original columns, which, together with their illustrations, used to occupy entire pages in Malaya. The designer had to fill in the blanks by trooping to Ateneo de Manila University, his alma mater, to do some old-fashioned research. Research work is no stranger to Barge, who worked as a scriptwriter soon after graduating from college in the early 1970s. In fact, most of the information found in his columns was culled from research. Others came about from his dealings on the ground, particularly with weavers in Iloilo and Cotabato. Barge’s efforts to preserve and promote native, handloom weaving, embroidery and other art forms antedate his work as a fashion journalist. Cultural weight “The thought inspired me to stage my first barong exhibit embellished with silk-screened images of tribal weaves at the old Ayala Museum,” he says. “I figured that someday all these traditions would be gone unless they are passed on to younger generations, who are willing to learn them.” As the book’s designer, Ige, who won a National Book Award for best design for Ureta’s “Pilgrim’s Diary,” worked primarily on updating the book and giving it more cultural weight through several visual devices. Not only did he mixed and matched the sketches with certain articles (which, because of editing, weren’t in their original forms as well), he also supplemented each page with early 20th-century photos of tribal Filipinos from the collection of Jonathan Best and John Silva. “Ige took all the illustrations out of context from the columns and used them freely,” says Barge. In quite a number of cases, Popioco’s stylized drawings seem to match photos of real people, who wore the fabrics the way they were supposed to be worn almost a century ago. There was no way Popioco could have copied them, as he never saw those vintage pictures while he was providing Barge with weekly sketches for his columns. Archival images “The drawings mirror the articles,” says Ige. “Now, as we use them in the book, they dovetail. Loretto didn’t see any of these archival images, but being a Filipino designer the patterns and silhouettes were most likely in his subconscious.” Ige further updated the book’s look by framing each page and juxtaposing Popioco’s sketches with authentic indigenous prints culled from books provided by the Design Center of the Philippines and Intramuros Administration. There are quite a number of instances when he used recognizable patterns and actual photos as backgrounds to Popioco’s sketches. As a designer, Barge is aware of the absence of a real and viable local fabric industry that -- apart from providing people like him with a steady source of raw materials -- is nimble enough to cater and adjust itself to the needs of its clients. Addressing such problems isn’t the purpose of his book. “I just look at the positive side, what we have and what we can make use of,” he says. “The book’s aim is to inspire designers and entrepreneurs to explore various possibilities. I want to show them that combining local fabrics with current designs can be done.” Barge Ramos’s “Pinoy Dressing” will be launched Aug. 17, 6 p.m., at The Lounge, L/2 of The Podium.