By Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine REMEMBER that old saw about making sure you’re not hungry when you go shopping? Well, my corollary to that is, never never watch “Eat Drink Man Woman” when you haven’t had a meal. The first time I caught this Ang Lee movie on late TV was way past dinner, so that by the end of the opening scene where this longtime widower is shown filleting fish, blanching vegetables, chopping squid, delicately twisting siomao wrappers and deep frying the Peking duck that he had just blown up like a balloon, I felt like licking the TV screen, drooling desperately for some Chinese food. How can you resist such a tempting premise? You know that the deft slicing, chopping and kneading of meat, vegetables and dough are a prelude to something even better. Like the isolated notes on a music sheet, you just know there’s a symphony waiting to float out into the air once those notes are strung together on an instrument. The promise of several sumptuous dishes are evident behind all that steam and sizzle and in the furrowed brow concentration that the aging Chinese chef invests on his kitchen labor. But if there’s one scene that instantly activates my salivary glands, it is that which shows the elderly Chinese patriarch lifting a slab of fatty pork from a vat of boiling oil. Turning to a bowl filled with water by his elbow, he quickly dips this chunk of pure cholesterol into the icy bath, producing a sizzle so powerful it still inhabits my dreams. Suddenly the smooth pork rind erupts into rough craters that you just know must have made for the crispiest lechong kawali hereabouts. If Freud were to psychoanalyze my fascination for today’s cooking shows, he would have run smack into this movie that, looking back now, fairly describes my life so far. Well, a fairly accurate recipe of it, anyway. Basically, the movie follows a Chinese family -- a master chef and his three grown-up daughters as they partake of a festive Sunday lunch painstakingly prepared by the widowed father. Some reviewers see the huge mounds of food as an inadvertent barrier that block off conversation among the diners, who each nurse secret dreams and frustrations they’re too polite to articulate. The movie, Ang Lee himself admits, is about families and how they communicate. “Sometimes the things children need to hear are often the things that parents find hardest to say, and vice versa. When that happens, we resort to ritual. For the Chu family, the ritual is the Sunday dinner.” Ang Lee might have been talking about our own Sunday dinners back when I was young and single and sharing meals with my parents and five other siblings in our renovated home in Tondo. In the movie, the chef’s passion for cooking hides his inability to express his affection for his three daughters. In our household, Nanay’s passion to fire up the stove parallels her desire to make her daughters meet the accepted standards of the day. In cash-starved Tondo, this meant robust cheeks, glowing skin and well-groomed hair that marked one as well-nourished (read: rich) and not coincidentally, blessed with an ideal mom who is also an accomplished cook. It must have pained Nanay to think herself being publicly judged by her daughters’ unfashionably-thin arms and scraggly hair, so Sunday lunch often meant such calorific offerings as either pinatisang baboy (porkchop steeped in patis and calamansi and fried to a crisp), nilagang manok, the soup redolent with the native chicken’s yellowish fat, her suicidal kalderetang baka made thicker and richer with coconut milk, grated cheese and chopped pork liver, and her specialty, tinumis, a thick stew of pork, liver, spleen and blood much like dinuguan except it was chunkier and infinitely more lethal. Few words were exchanged over this family feast, not because we had trouble communicating our thoughts but more because our mouths were too full and busy for talk. If there were any festering frustrations kept under lid, that would be Nanay’s, who was probably thinking up more deadly dishes to fatten up her daughters. Or okay, mine, thinking of how it would be so embarrassing to bring such leftovers for school lunch when my classmates had hotdog, spaghetti, pork and beans or fried chicken, newfangled dishes that these Americans were eating in such popular TV shows at that time such as “Leave It to Beaver” and “Bonanza.” Talk about family legacy! The huge Sunday lunch eventually found a permanent niche in my hips and waistline. Nanay’s passion for cooking similarly rubbed off on me, maybe through osmosis, although the calorific dishes remain mostly in the realm of my fantasies and childhood memories in deference to the fitness lifestyle we’ve been trying to maintain. When time and schedule permits, I still cook a festive Sunday lunch and, like “Eat Drink Man Woman,” the meals are quickly consumed in silence. That is, if burps, slurps and the clink of dueling spoons and forks don’t count. For more sumptuous offerings on screen and how these movies have become a ritual of sorts for most Filipinos, read the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. Out this Sunday with your copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
May 2008 Archives
By Eric S. Caruncho, Staff Writer Sunday Inquirer Magazine PIONEERING radio disc jockey Dante David, better known by his on-air monicker Howlin' Dave, died last May 26 after suffering multiple organ failure. He was 52. David was best known for having championed Pinoy rock on "Pinoy Rock and Rhythm," his radio program on DZRJ, in the 1970s. It was on this program that local audiences first heard the music of the Juan de la Cruz Band, Anakbayan, Mike Hanopol, Sampaguita, Asin, Heber Bartolome and the other acknowledged greats of Pinoy rock's first flowering, in between Howlin' Dave's inimitable free-associating spiels. David is also acknowledged by most informed sources as being the first DJ to play punk rock on local radio in the late 1970s and early 1980s, also on DZRJ. It was on his program that the future members of the Wuds, Betrayed, George Imbecile and the Idiots and the first Pinoy punk generation were introduced to the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees: influences that would change the course of Pinoy rock forever. Above all, David was a true believer in the music. As hard as it might be to imagine today, 30 years after its birth, punk was considered too radical (and unmusical) by many of David's fellow rock jocks -- most of whom were into the mellow sounds of Firefall, the Marshall Tucker Band and Fleetwood Mac. It is thanks to Howlin' Dave's stubborn persistence that the local punk and hardcore scene was jump-started. As he once lamented: "Lagi na lang ba ganito? Palagi akong kailangang makipaglaban para sa music ko? (Does it always have to be like this? Do I always have to fight for the music I like?)" But he also added, with some satisfaction: "What we fought for, at least ngayon cool na. Kahit na baduy yung Parokya ni Edgar at Kamikazee, yung style nila na-a-appreciate na ng maraming tao. Naisip ko: eto yung efforts namin noon, ngayon mainstream na." Eventually, David got his due when NU 107 FM gave him a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his contributions to the local rock scene. David had been in poor health after surgery for a brain tumor in the late 1980s. By his own admission, he suffered from diabetes, hypertension, rheumatism and arthritis -- "Pare, AIDS na lang ang kulang (except AIDS)!" he would joke. He also suffered long periods of unemployment, unable to fit into the new radio environment with its tightly-regimented playlists and strict music formatting. In 2006, after a long hiatus, he shared a stint on the short-lived AM station Rock 990 with fellow RJ veterans. More recently, he was on the RJ-owned UR 105.9 FM station, until he walked out of the booth and his job due to musical differences with the station management. That was typical of Howlin' Dave: putting the music first above his own job security. Apparently he was still too underground for the self-proclaimed "Underground Radio" station. For more on the life and checkered career of radio maverick Howlin' Dave, check out "The Last of the Singing Cowboys," which came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine's March 4, 2007 issue.
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine WHENEVER I ask people what their all-time favorite movie is, they will invariably respond with “There’s just too many.” Now, despite the clarity of my request and the frustration I feel whenever someone can’t give a simple answer, I actually completely understand this feeling. Our favorite movies are so important to us that to name one haphazardly feels unfair not only to that movie but to the other movies which might have been overlooked. So let us change the question. If you were a movie, which one would you be? Now there’s a compelling quandary. I’d like to think of myself as a biopic, like one of those movies where a damaged person overcomes everything somehow, like “A Beautiful Mind” or “Seabiscuit” (yes, he’s a horse, I know that). Sometimes I’d like to think of myself as someone overflowing with snarky dialogue and observations, like “Juno” or even “Iron Man.” I’d like to imagine I have a powerful sense of wonder, like “Finding Neverland” or “Shakespeare in Love.” Luckily, my all-time favorite movie remains the one I identify with closest. The Wachowski brothers’ masterpiece “The Matrix” has received many brickbats, most having to do with its (in my mind, underrated but certainly) inferior sequels. But the core of the Matrix, about choosing to wake up even if the dream is bliss, of fighting back when you discover the deception, especially when others decide to go on with the subterfuge, is so authentic, the movie still matters. It’s a remix of so many elements (comic books, cyberpunk, anime), all of which I love, but it’s also about choosing to be an individual, not just different, amid a world of sameness. That’s something I can really believe in, a pill I’m most willing to swallow. For more on movies -- memorable movie lines, the Filipino as moviegover and great Pinoy moments in global cinema -- check out the June 1 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
By Pennie Azarcon Dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine ONCE, while watching "Lost" with family and friends, the question was raised: if we were stranded on a deserted island, what two items would we bring? It took me less than three seconds to come up with my answer: loads of books and White Flower! Yup, White Flower embrocation, that tiny vial of eucalyptus oil that comes in this white and green (or white and blue) box bedecked with Chinese characters that has crossed over to respectability from the quaint drugstores of Chinatown. Now even Watson’s stocks it, along with its twin, Polar Bear. I don’t remember exactly how I discovered “White Flower.” Could it be during one of those relentless migraine attacks when the mere whiff of menthol provided relief? Or once when a hacking cough persisted and could only be tamed by rubbing some of the stuff on my chest and back? Who gave it to me? It couldn’t have been my mom who swears by the magic properties of hot water. You have stomach cramps? Here, put this hot water bottle on your tummy. Sprained your ankle? This hot water bath should relax those nerves. Feeling feverish? Nothing that a hot sponge bath can’t cure. To make her treatment doubly efficacious, Nanay would often close the windows while administering a hot sponge bath, or swathe us in blankets while smoking out our fever with some slowly burning lanzones peel by our feet. Copious sweat, as far as my mother was concerned, was the highest form of well-being. If I remember right, one of my earliest form of rebellion was taking an ice-cold bath -- very early in the morning, in Baguio. But it was White Flower that changed my life. Suddenly, I couldn’t leave the house without a small vial of this wondrous stuff tucked in my purse. It was my cure-all, security blanket and talisman rolled into one. What if I suddenly got dizzy from all those fuel fumes during traffic? A dab of White Flower on the tip of my nose prevented that. A throbbing at the temples is easily tamped down with two fingertips’ worth of this mentholated medication. For persistent headaches and migraines, I’ve developed a self-massage that involves rubbing my forehead with White Flower smeared on three fingers from each hand, starting from the bridge of my nose down to the cranial area behind my ears. Dyspepsia, hunger pangs and cramps also get a generous dose of this elixir slathered across the troubled tummy. Muscle pain is no match either for the comforting touch of this potion, that also works to soothe insect stings and bug bites. When insomnia strikes, I pat some of the oil over my eyelids and I’m out like a light in 20 seconds flat. It even works like an air freshener, instantly exorcising stale cigarette smoke and funky smells with a few drops dispensed all around. So yes, I’m bringing some White Flower with me to that deserted island. It might take me some time to figure out dinner, but at least I shall do so amid the comforting mentholated haze of my favorite cure-all. For more cures — natural, bottled or mythical — check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Going Natural issue on May 25.
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine BOY, some of those home-brewed cures can be scary. The ones I like are those that make a weird kind of sense, and are a combination of the modern and the mythical. Take for example that great idea if you have a bad cold or fever. Get hold of that immortal Vicks VapoRub (in the little blue jar, for tradition's sake), spread it all over the bottoms of your feet and cover with socks. It sounds awesome and I have heard people swear by this. But my favorite cure has to do with that dreaded scourge of the mouth -- cold sores or singaw! Singaw can be excruciatingly painful. Every bite, every sip can be torture. There's no telling how long it will last, and in the summer it can be interminable. But the cure makes sense. Take a bottle of authentic Tabasco sauce (not one of those watered-down substitutes) and pour a couple of drops straight into the sore. Now, it is going to hurt like crazy and you'll feel your eyes rolling back in your head with the world turning white. But the right amount right on the money will burn that sore into submission. One imagines that a stronger sauce (like those scary Mexican and Asian condiments) would be even more effective but also exponentially more painful. Besides, it's an improvement over pouring poison into your mouth. At least if any of the sauce drips into your tongue, it will remind you of tacos, not the dentist's office. For more cures -- natural, bottled or mythical -- check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine's Going Natural issue on May 25.
By Leica Carpo, Publisher Sunday Inquirer Magazine FAMILIARITY breeds contempt and with music, this is most painfully true. Here’s a short list of my all-time pet peeve "overplayed" songs in random order of disgust: 1) "Just Got Lucky" (JoBoxers) -- Which I sort of liked until it became the noontime anthem of "Eat Bulaga!" (a guaranteed song killer) 2) "Macarena" (Los Del Rio) -- I had a classmate named Macarena in grade school who seemed nice enough with a few odd traits. This song just reminded me of her "weird" side. The funny dance steps which were aped by everyone from 2 to 80 did not make the song any cooler. 3) "Funky Cold Medina" (Tone Loc) -- I actually remember people attempting to dance "their version of the wild thing" in a few clubs in San Francisco and to this day, the memory still makes me ill. 4) "Ice Ice Baby" (Vanilla Ice) -- Like Vanilla, this one became just "plain ol' irritating" because it's so cocky. 5) "Can't Touch This" (MC Hammer) -- Arghhh!! It's Hammer time and no matter how "bad" the lyrics are, you just can't help but sing it… It's disturbing because it sticks in your head no matter how much you try to shake it loose. 6) "The Ketchup Song (Asereje)" (Las Ketchup) -- How can three mildly attractive girls sing a song that hurtles to global fame then crashes and is now the equivalent of baduy? Deejays actually shudder when this song is requested at weddings. 7) "Why" (Annie Lennox) -- This was a decent song until my mom made a 90-minute tape of it and played it every day for months every time we got in the car. Now I hear it and feel car sick. 8) Any song by Rick Astley -- the surefire dance floor filler -- overplayed to death and all blending into each other that I can't recall any of them. It's a feared collective. I'm stopping now before I start to recall all my horrible experimentations in karaoke -- but that's another story which could possibly be even nastier than this one. For another look at music and the good folk who make them, check out the May 18 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
By Eric S. Caruncho, Staff Writer Sunday Inquirer Magazine AIR SUPPLY -- Come What May Air Supply -- Even The Nights Are Better Air Supply -- Every Woman In The World Air Supply -- Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) Air Supply -- I Can Wait Forever Air Supply -- Just As I Am Air Supply -- Lost In Love Air Supply -- Now And Forever Air Supply -- The One That You Love Air Supply -- Two Less Lonely People In The World Anne Murray -- You Needed Me Billy Joel -- We Didn’t Start The Fire Bobby Vinton -- Dick and Jane Bonnie Tyler -- Holding Out For A Hero Bonnie Tyler -- Total Eclipse of the Heart Charlene -- I’ve Never Been To Me Charlie Dore -- Pilot of the Airwaves Dan Fogelberg -- Leader of the Band Dan Fogelberg -- Longer Dan Hill -- Sometimes When We Touch Dennis de Young -- Desert Moon England Dan and John Ford Coley -- It’s Sad To Belong England Dan and John Ford Coley -- Nights are Forever England Dan and John Ford Coley -- We’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again Europe -- The Final Countdown James Ingram -- Just Once Lionel Richie -- Lady Lobo -- Love Me For What I Am Mary MacGregor -- This Girl Mary MacGregor -- Torn Between Two Lovers Melissa Manchester -- Don’t Cry Out Loud Melissa Manchester -- Through The Eyes of Love Michael Johnson -- Bluer Than Blue Morris Albert -- Feelings Olivia Newton John -- Please Mister Please Paul Anka -- You’re Having My Baby Peter Cetera -- Glory of Love Rainbow -- Temple of the King Randy Vanwarmer -- Just When I Needed You Most Rex Smith -- You Take My Breath Away Rupert Holmes -- Terminal Rupert Holmes -- Touch and Go Starship -- Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now Starship -- We Built This City Stephen Bishop -- It Might Be You Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney -- Ebony and Ivory Styx -- Babe Styx -- Mr. Roboto Survivor -- Eye of the Tiger Survivor -- Moment of Truth Tony Orlando and Dawn -- Knock Three Times Tony Orlando and Dawn -- Tie a Yellow Ribbon Whitney Houston -- I Will Always Love You For another look at music and the good folk who make them, check out the May 18 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
By Pennie Azarcon dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine Whom the gods wish to destroy They first make mad with really bad songs NO, I haven't heard a banshee, this female spirit whose wailing, according to Irish legend, warns of a death in the family. But I'm positive that Anita Ward is a banshee. How else explain that excruciating, keening, shrieking anthem of hers, “Ring My Bell”? That song, I'm sure, foretells of a death in every family that must have had the misfortune of hearing it. The first time I heard it, I swear all the dogs in the neighborhood suddenly whimpered in fear, tails tucked limply between their legs. For once, I was thankful human ears can't always hear what dogs can. Well, except for "Ring My Bell," which must have been specifically written to torture dissidents into betraying even their mothers. Imagine a fingernail grating across a blackboard while the banshee coaxes: "You can ring my be-e-ell, ring my bell…" Since you've probably become catatonic after hearing these words a gazillion times, the banshee turns ballistic and orders you toward the end of the song to "ring it, ring it, ring it, oww!!!" Alright already! Just as annoying because really, haven't we got enough Lito Camo songs with which to prove that we truly deserve Willie Revillame? Why oh why do we have to listen to Shirley Ellis' "The Name Game," like we don’t already hate our baptismal name without having to make a stupid repetitive song out of it. Imagine, just imagine how this song, a favorite during acquaintance parties, can prod a shy adolescent to slash her wrist because for crying out loud, her name is Eufrasia: "bee-bo Eufrasia, banana pana Eufrasia…" Of course if you've ever heard me sing, you're probably thinking I'm the last person who should bellyache about bad songs. Well, yeah. But at least I only sing in the shower, probably annihilating all the molds, mildew and toilet bowl fungi before Miriam makes an example of them. I don't go around imposing my vocals on persistent winos who have taken up residence in karaoke bars. Which brings us to "My Way," easily voted the most murderous music around. How many drunks have deep-sixed each other while grappling for the mike for a chance to brutalize this song? How many bar brawls have been provoked by the stampede to the CR, where everyone rushes to upchuck their sisig everytime this song is played? Finally, I just hate rap and disco. Okay, so I was born a square. Still, think of how I'm doing humanity a favor by sparing music lovers my version of "Push, Push in the Bush," Rick Dees' "Disco Duck" and Donna Summer's "Love to Love You, Baby!" while thrusting my humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps like there isn't enough shame in the world already. For another look at music and the good folk who make them, check out the May 18 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine DAMN Last Song Syndrome (LSS). It is a nefarious condition, often choosing the yuckiest song possible for you to hum all day long. It is particularly effective when you're taking public transportation, especially when the jeepneys (check out the speeding Montalban ones) feel like discos, playing non-stop remixes of the Carpenters' greatest hits. But even in this day and age when heavy rotation usually gets us used to certain songs no matter how horrendous, there remain the ultimate ugly songs, songs so bad they still give us sonic nightmares, gooseflesh and sweating. Now, there remain many songs that automatically qualify as radio terrors, such as anything by Lito Camo ("Boom-tarat-tarat" has got to be some kind of karmic retribution) or one of these unintelligible disco songs from Asian countries ("Aringkingkingking" and "Dayang Dayang" prove that some things are better off left local). But there are international hits that just cry out for billboard euthanasia. Here are the worst three offenders: 1) "Love Hurts" by Nazareth: Hearing this song always makes me feel like it's 1978 and the workmen next door are taking a break while listening to the radio. Maybe it's the fact that the singer sounds like he’s going through a case of hemorrhoids, a case even worse than that of Michael Bolton (who deserves a category all to himself), or maybe it's the fact that the song has like four words you can understand ("Love hurts love hurts") and everything else is gibberish, but man this is a horrific song. It's so bad that nobody has successfully remade it. Some things are beyond the powers of P.Diddy. 2) "The Coconut Nut" by Smoky Mountain: I realize that Smoky Mountain (the first version with Geneva, James, Jeffrey and Tony) is an important group and this song is written by Ryan Cayabyab. But not only is the song silly, its rhythmic progression makes it unforgettable ("The coco fruit/of the coco tree"). Remember the group's grass-inspired outfits? Ugh. It's enough to make you swear off this product of the coco palm family. 3) "Big Girls Don’t Cry" by Fergie: First of all, let me clarify that I think the Black Eyed Peas are really good and that Fergie has really good pipes among other good things. But I believe her strength lies in the hip-hop fusion dance element that she does so well ("Pick It Up" is sonic pop corn and even though it's really slutty, "London Bridge" was really accomplished as a piece of ear cotton candy). But The Dutchess' anthem to keeping it all in is all wrong. Its acoustic nature saps it of any originality and, oh my, those lyrics are really, really stupid. "I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket?" Seriously? And that video, with the hat and the stool and the contrived intimacy? It makes you feel like you got dumber just by watching it. For another look at music and the good folk who make them, check out the May 18 issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.
By Leica R. Carpo, Publisher Sunday Inquirer Magazine I COULD never sit still as a child. I had to be literally strapped into my high chair and force-fed to eat. As I could run and chew at the same time, I did not see the point of sitting down to digest my food. Belonging to a fairly active family, I was perpetually influenced to get involved in one form of physical activity or another since the age of 3. My dad had me waking up at 6 a.m. for swimming lessons in Wack Wack with Pete San Pedro before I could barely walk. My mother’s crush on Jimmy Connors prompted her to enroll me for tennis lessons with Manila Polo Club’s pro Tom Falcis at age 9. Then one summer, my uncles and aunts got it into their heads that we all needed to learn some "self-defense tactics" so I and my clan of 30+ cousins found ourselves taking Tae Kwan Do lessons three times a week with 7 degree black belter Mr. Hong. From there, I expanded my sports’ repertoire to other fields to include Jane Fonda/Hot Legs aerobics, Billy Blanks’ taebo, Bela Lipat’s Ashtanga and Pye Trinidad’s Bikram yoga, as well as golf, badminton and even boxing. I had become not so much a sports addict but a workout fanatic. I must confess that as I aged, the appeal became less about fitting into my high school jeans but more about the adrenaline rush that accompanied the racing heart and sweaty brow of a pulse rate galloping at maximum speed. Another key element was finding the right crowd to work out with. I relished the camaraderie and friendly competition found in "Group Workout Sessions." Solo workouts just didn’t do it for me. No one likes to suffer alone. Over the years I have found that "getting physical" was a thought bubble that began in my head and found its way into my extremities. After I had wrapped my mind around the activities needed to get my heart pumping, like the urgent need to wake up at the crack of dawn, the importance of working through a cramp and the need to keep running even though my lungs felt like they were on fire, my legs and arms took over. "Sucking up the pain," says my sweet sister Chesca, is all part and parcel of kicking ass. Amanda, my super athletic sister, says that there is always some degree of discomfort involved, and that the difference between running a mediocre race to a winning one is the degree of pain you are willing to take on to finish it. From Jane Fonda’s line of "going for the burn" to the Adidas slogan of "Nothing is Impossible," it all boils down to putting your body into a situation that will push it to its limits. From a 9.77-second hundred meter dash to a 1,003-mile ultimate ultra marathon, there is no physical undertaking that is not up for grabs. World records like personal records are meant to be broken. Basically, it’s not a question of "how can I get physical" but more of "how physical can I get?" Editor's note: First photo shows (l-r) Amanda, Chesca, Fiona and the author. Second photo shows the author just before the swim leg of last month's Alabang Mini-Sprint. Read the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Getting Physical issue on May 11.
By Eric S. Caruncho, Staff Writer Sunday Inquirer Magazine Editor's note: And while you're at it, check this out: What didn't see print in the SIM, May 11, 2008 issue because of limited space. WHILE going through my e-mail, I noticed one forwarded by a fellow “Jingle” magazine alumnus, which announced that June Millington would be conducting a workshop on “the global Pinoy musician” sponsored by the Lunduyan ng Sining, a local women's NGO. The phrase “blast from the past” is overused, but in this case, appropriate because I knew who June Millington was. I remember a Time article that came out sometime in the very early 1970s -- possibly before martial law -- which featured two rock bands: Joy of Cooking and Fanny. It was the very first time the general public heard about the phenomenon of "women in rock." There were of course female singers -- Janis Joplin had only recently died of a heroin overdose -- but women musicians playing their own instruments and composing their own songs and competing on equal footing with the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones? It had never happened before. Joy of Cooking was led by two women but had male members. But Fanny was really an all-female band. Fanny had been signed to a major label (Reprise Records) and released an album first (Fanny, in 1970). More importantly, it had been started by two Filipino-American sisters, June and Jean Millington, who had grown up in Manila. Now, we Filipinos pride ourselves on our supposedly native musical talent. Pinoy breasts swell with pride whenever one of our own makes it on the world stage: witness Lea Salonga in "Miss Saigon," and more recently Charisse, Madonna Decena, and Arnel Pineda. Strangely, the local press didn't catch on to Fanny, despite it having two certifiably brown members. There were a few articles in music magazines, and local rock radio did play some of their songs on the air, but the local record subsidiary never even released their albums here. They did release a single, the A-side of which was a rock ballad titled "Beside Myself," on which Jean Millington sang and June Millington played a memorable guitar solo. I was frantically sorting through my old vinyl looking for that 45, and an import copy of "Fanny Hill," the band’s third (and many say, best) album from 1973, the night I was supposed to interview June Millington. I had gotten in touch with the good people at Lunduyan ng Sining (keep on rocking, girls!) and they had informed me that she was going to be playing at Kublai's on Katipunan Ave. When I got there June was going through her sound check, playing a nice ESP guitar through a Fender amp. She still had the long, untamed hair she had in Fanny, only now it was stark white. She was with her uncle and aunt, also visiting from the States, from whom I learned that her mother was a Limjoco from Lian, Batangas, and that her father had been the US Navy’s flag officer after the war. Presently, June finished her sound check. I found out that this was her first time back since she left for the US in 1961, at age 13. Kublai's was starting to fill up with girls (me, her uncle and the sound technician seemed to be the only men in the room) and she marveled at how everybody was on their mobile phones texting. June was very open and refreshingly frank in sharing her vast and unique experience in the music business. I asked her, as one of the pioneers of women in rock, how much had changed for women in what is still largely a male arena. Following are some excerpts from our interview (see also my article in the May 11 issue of SIM). On her work: That's why I am part of the Institute for the Musical Arts (an NGO for female musicians she co-founded based in Massachusetts), because we want to change the infrastructure. The fact is, if you make it as an artist and you’re a woman, you still have to deal with a lot of issues, issues of body image and that’s a problem. It’s causing a lot of girls to have serious mental problems. I don't mean that facetiously -- it’s true. And so they develop these phobias, no matter how good they are, and it's hard because there are a lot of talented girls. You have to change the infrastructure in order to change that. You can be attractive, you can be talented but still there's that one way they want you to look. It's a huge problem. Men have space provided for them to be in positions of power whereas women aren't. It's just expected. Just being a man you're in a position of power. Whereas as a woman, you're talked down to. Guys can walk onstage and they can look homeless, but a woman can't. Fortunately we (Fanny) handled that ourselves for a while. We took make up lessons, we learned certain things that had to do with being an entertainer. You can't really resist certain things if you're in the entertainment industry. You really do have to think of yourself as a commodity, you have to think of how you look onstage and be professional, and your sound and all that. On being Pinoy: Most people didn't know where the Philippines was. Whether or not we were Filipino was beside the point. Ringo Starr, when we recorded at Apple Studios and they said these girls are going to record, said 'Oh, the oriental girls.' He wasn’t being racist about it. I like Ringo. That was just his context, "the oriental girls." On learning the ropes: We felt like we were musicians from the time we were playing ukuleles. It was just a matter of how to access what was popular, how to catch the wave to use the California parlance. Part of it was luck, the fact that we were in California, and I was very shy but very aggressive about getting information from the guys my age who knew. And then we started to play with really big bands so I could ask these guys who were totally amazing. And don’t forget our recording techniques got better and better because we had great producers and we worked at amazing studios. When we were recording at Apple you can bet I asked a lot of questions about how the Beatles got their sound and how George Harrison (did), you know, that kind of stuff. They were very nice to me so I learned a lot and you can’t recreate that. I was really lucky in that I was able to interface with a lot of great recording engineers and they liked it that a girl was asking them. On 'women In rock': It's complete bullshit. They don't even know what they're talking about. It's all corporate marketing. They give women the title women in rock (when they) don't even play. It's all become corporate marketing. And it's gone way off the scale, it has nothing to do with reality anymore. This is what we do -- we analyze, we teach, we have women working with us who are in positions of power -- one of the women who teaches in our recording camps runs George Lucas' Skywalker Studios. We have our fingers in the industry and we are consciously trying to make things change and part of it is the fact that we have a history behind us, the fact that Jean and I were Fanny, we're in the history books, people learn about us in college, in social studies, in feminist classes. We fit into every niche because we're women, we're half-Filipino, we're this and that. On the rock'n'roll lifestyle Sex and drugs? No. We were very disciplined. Come on, we experimented, but we never got completely out of control. We were disciplined because it was really what we wanted to do before we got to LA, and we knew how hard we had to work. Why squander it? We were just a very hardworking band. If we weren't performing we were rehearsing, or we were in the studio. That's all we did, 24/7. It was full time. On playing guitar: I would go see other bands and talk to the guitarist, playing with them and figuring out new sounds or guitar positions. I never let any grass grow under my feet, I can tell you that. No. There were no role models. They just didn't exist. We created it. Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery would be way up on the top of my list. I listened to everything. It's not just the fact that I played lead guitar but we also hung out in LA with all the greats, so I understand what it means to create an electric guitar tone. It's an art form, and the guys that I hung out with were the best. We all did it together. I wasn't separate from them, and they loved having a girl who was just as interested in guitar and the techniques of guitar and the actual equipment. I worked as hard on my guitar sound as on my guitar chops. People who understand guitar know that about me, they appreciate my tone and miss it. It’s nice to hear that because I worked as hard on that as on my guitar technique. June and Jean Millington still play together in a band called the Slammin’ Babes. Check out the Fanny fan site at www.fannyrocks.com. Read the Sunday Inquirer Magazine's May 11 issue.
By Pennie Azarcon Dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine WHOEVER said that teachers cast a long shadow must have been talking about Mrs. DR, our math and PE teacher from the elementary grades to high school in this small Catholic school tucked in the armpit of Manila. She was humongous and was probably the template used to cast the bastonera (jail warden) role in B movies. With her perpetual scowl, Clint Eastwood squint and the foreshortened limbs of a seasoned pugilist, Mrs. DR immediately stomped on my outer and inner child the moment she met our Grade 1 class in the school quadrangle and barked orders like we were in boot camp. Forget Private Benjamin's nemesis and that dour-faced sergeant in the "Police Academy" series. Compared to her, they’re positively cuddly. Not being particularly coordinated, I easily became my PE teacher’s favorite prey, the slowest and weakest of the herd who was chopped liver the moment she started that day’s calisthenics routine. It didn’t help that Nanay, who came to Manila straight from the rice fields of Central Luzon, had very definite ideas about a woman’s behavior culled from generations of Maria Clara-inspired living. The moment we got our period, her iron-clad rules were up: No biking lest we damage our hymen (and who’d want to marry us then?). No swimming because we could get pregnant (what if a guy had swum in the very same waters just before we did?) No running, either: that could make our uterus sag and would we rather adopt than have our own children? And so I spent the better part of my childhood reading komiks and school textbooks and playing house, the perfect nerd with thick glasses, buck teeth and skinny arms. Sure I got good grades and learned to cook, but PE had always meant calvary. No sooner had I gripped the ball and was preparing to launch it in a volleyball match than my classmates would be hooting, “Ouutttt!!” I never made it to any sports team all through school and it was with relief that I greeted my monthlies because they excused me from PE. The Mrs. DR curse hounded me through college, where I barely passed folk dancing, gymnastics, volleyball and badminton through the four-semester compulsory gym classes. Fast-forward to so many years later: Today, I eagerly attend high school and college reunions, making sure I wear form-fitting clothes and sleeveless blouses that show my rippling muscles to full advantage. I am not above meeting old friends in my workout clothes even when our session had ended hours ago. This is the New! Revitalized! Totally Buff! Me! I want to scream out every time I meet folk from my distant nerdic past. I’d willingly soak in a dripping sports bra and savor the scent of sweaty socks just to see once more the look of surprise, envy and wonder in their eyes: “could it be, could she be, but how…” the confusion in their faces went. The answer: workout! Taebo, weights and pilates three times a week for the past seven years. Has it been that long? I remember how, when I first joined the Inquirer’s workout class some eight years ago, my biggest fear was passing out even in the warm-up stage. Except for jumping to conclusion and running around in circles, I’ve never been very physical. But how could I not join this office-organized workout? I had the time, classes were subsidized and it was held right here in the workplace. Though I quit after a few months when I found our first gym instructor to be too much of a whirling dervish, I finally hit my stride a year later with our current trainer, a Gold Gym’s instructor and certified physical therapist (with a Ph.D in Sports Kinesiology, mind) who makes sure my brittle bones don’t buckle under me when we do lunges. I can now confidently locate my biceps, triceps, lats and gluteus maximus, and beat my strapping 19-year-old son at arm-wrestling. Even my mom and siblings who had initially blanched when I showed off my muscles (“but that’s not very feminine; para kang bakla,” Nanay groused), have changed their minds. In fact, they had generously offered to give me some weights for my birthday, ordered directly from the neighborhood goon: two empty condensed milk cans filled with cement and held together by a smoothened dos por dos. I wouldn’t want to impose, I quickly demurred, alarmed at the thought of betraying my thuggish roots. I still wish I could swim well, bike and drive without denting the car. But well, the night is young. And so am I. Editor's note: Author getting physical in Batanes. Photo by Pablo Apostol. Read the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s Getting Physical issue on May 11.
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine IT sounds so ridiculously easy, getting into shape. Everyone can do it anytime they want, us especially. I considered myself to be in good shape as a teenager, thin as a reed, yes, but also someone who took up swimming and then judo. College was the time when I kept in shape simply by doing what college students do: run around, attempt to get to class on time (note: not always successfully), stay up late and eat on a madly erratic schedule. Yet the moment I began working, I began gaining weight and soon, I really was a man of broadened horizons. I kept telling myself, I can just start and that will be that, I'll be buff and cut and chiseled and so on. But the day never seems to come. I compensate, of course, by buying exercise equipment that remains woefully underused. I have rows of clothing deep in my wardrobe that I promise to wear once I get back into shape. And I dream of this diet and that exercise regimen. Every year, I think that this is the year I'll do it, the year when people will say, "Wow, you're in good shape," rather than "Wow, you really have gained weight." Of course, it occurs to me now that nothing short of an illness will zap my fatty tissue away. But one never knows. I believe that the day will come when I finally get tired of huffing and puffing up the stairs and when I can wear shirts that aren't size L or something similar. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't. One can hope. Now, where did I put that can of Pringles... Read the Sunday Inquirer Magazine's Getting Physical issue on May 11.
By Pennie Azarcon-dela Cruz, Executive Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine IN TONDO during my high school years, one gauged the success of the fiesta by how raucous the sound system was: that meant a lot of people had gathered at the basketball court to watch the pa-Liga and were each trying to convert the game into a one-man comedy hour. Towards late afternoon, there would be the furious thump of running feet and the cacophony of raised voices, often slurred and querulous. “May saksakan! May saksakan! Si Mang Kwan, lasing na naman!” one eventually made out from the general hubbub. Well, nothing really extraordinary for the occasion. The fiesta, after all, is an exercise in excess, the culmination of the Pinoy’s “bahala na” attitude where one made the most of present circumstance and followed expectations, never mind what comes next. For days on end, we’d be cooking assorted dishes, slicing onions till our eyes bulged with painful tears, polishing the good silver, putting up the good curtains and waxing the floors till they reflected our faces. Always, there would be too much food that we would dutifully try to finish in the days to come. On the third day, tired of all the reheated leftovers, we would heave them into the garbage pile, hoping that Nanay would believe that we had worked up a giant appetite to finish everything off. It went on till most of us siblings got married, left home and started our own traditions which, thankfully enough, did not include a cooking and feeding frenzy also known as the fiesta. Wary of not leaving our children their own trove of Pinoy memories, however, we made room for summer holidays that revolved around the occasional fiesta -- the Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon or the Sta. Clara festival in Obando, for instance. Because they were seen as extra treats and not obligatory occasions, fiestas retained much of their colorful novelty and infectious good cheer for our kids. Should they expect much more, I can only hope they’d find vicarious enjoyment in my collection of fiesta memories, such as this: Many many years before, in our pre-teen years, we would be packed off in a cramped rented jeepney for this obligatory trek to Nueva Ecija’s May 1 fiesta. It must have been a big deal then, at least for our parents who had rented a long passenger jeepney weeks ahead and counted off heads, trying to decide which relative to bump off from the limited seating space. Two other vehicles would join our motley caravan as it crawled past the backyard poultries of Bulacan and the ripening rice fields around Mt. Arayat. Fidgety in our starched Sunday clothes, us kids amused ourselves by pointing to giant Aji-nomoto canisters, imagining half-asleep giants forgetting their condiments along MacArthur Highway. Talk of kapres was rife and rambunctious, but our elders drew the line at attempts to ride the jeepney’s running board. We generally kept our peace -- until the road stalls came into sight. Suffocating from all that grown-up talk, we would race down to buy boiled corn on the cob, sliced melons and boiled peanuts that were the mid-60s version of cheese curls. If we got lucky and our parents were feeling particularly generous, we would stop at Sevilla’s for some pastillas de leche and chicharong may laman, those stroke-inducing, cholesterol-choked pork rinds that have remained our secret pleasure. At Baliuag, Bulacan, our reward for good behavior was a brown paper bag of sweetish pandesal the size of an adult thumb. It took about two hours of often-dusty travel on the plains of Central Luzon before we got to my parents’ bustling hometown. Then the real fun began. Fiestas in those times were strictly participatory: you didn’t just stroll in and raided the household pantry. You offered to help stir the soup, cut up the sticky sweets or harvest banana leaves for plates. Kids were expected to cook a thin sticky gruel from Liwayway Gawgaw and use that to turn colorful Japanese paper into festive buntings. The older kids quickly tired of this routine and would mosey around the low-ceilinged ground floor that doubled as our lolo’s bodega, discovering packs of homemade cigarettes he would later peddle on market day. Experimenting with a puff and turning blue in the face from all that coughing forever cured me of any romance with smoking. Shortly before lunch, just before the hordes of guests and relatives stormed the tables, the kids would be called to a mini-feast of all the usual fiesta dishes: small helpings of lechon skin, sinampalukang manok, tinumis (something like dinuguan, only meatier), and bowls of tamarindo, an odd dessert made of tamarind pulp that alternated between sweet and tart and which one ate by the spoonful or spread on pandesal for merienda. It was one rare concoction I haven’t tasted since my lola died. Post lunch, we scurried off to the town plaza where a perya, a mini-carnival held sway, the plastic doodads given away as prizes holding our eyes. The best part of the fiesta, to my memory, was the carabao race, with everybody yelling themselves hoarse as the dressed-up beasts raised the dust. A procession of religious figures followed soon after and we would solemnly walk behind, until we heard our parents calling. Tired, sleepy and sated, we would straggle into the jeepney for the ride home, dreaming of next year’s fiesta and the perya prizes we would win next time. But soon, much too soon, we grew up. And the fiesta became just another imposition. Editor's note: Photo by the author shows church with buntings heralding the start of the fiesta in Basco, Batanes. For more insights, inquisitions and incredible fiesta photos, check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s May 4 issue.
By Eric S. Caruncho, Staff Writer Sunday Inquirer Magazine 1. WADD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN C. HOLMES. Both "Boogie Nights" and "Wonderland" were based on the life of Holmes, porn's first superstar. This documentary follows his rise to X-rated stardom, thanks to his unique physical gifts (13 and 1/2 inches), and his descent into hell as a result of cocaine addiction, culminating in his complicity in the murder of four people and eventual death from AIDS. 2. THE PUNK ROCK MOVIE. A verite document on the rise of punk in London, circa 1978. The low-fi footage taken by Don Letts, the DJ at the legendary London dive the Roxy, adds to the excitement of seeing the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Generation X, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees and others in their natural habitat. 3. THE MAYOR OF THE SUNSET STRIP. Not another music documentary!? This one tells the story of the rise of rock'n'roll in the Sixties through the eyes of LA disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer. The supreme hanger-on, Bingenheimer had his photo taken with everyone from John Lennon to Joey Ramone, but he was also often the first to break important new acts through his radio program. It ends on a note of pathos with Bingenheimer relegated to relic status, barely hanging on with a dead zone slot on his radio station. 4. DAYS OF BEING WILD. If "Blueberry Nights" left you puzzled as to what all the fuss about Wong Kar Wai was, this film -- Wong's second and his artistic breakthrough -- should make a believer out of you. Set in Hong Kong (and the Philippines!) in the 1960s, "Days" features charismatic performances from the late Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung. Wong would later expand themes from this film in "In The Mood For Love" and "2046." 5. LONE WOLF AND CUB, Vols. 1-6. Quentin Tarantino stole much of the spectacular swordfight scene in "Kill Bill" from this 1970s Japanese series featuring Tomisaburo Wakayama as Itto Ogami, former executioner turned sword-for-hire. The bodies pile up exponentially as Ogami roams the Japanese countryside with his infant son Daigoro, pursued by ninja assassins, expert swordsmen and bloodthirsty bandits. 6. NAKED LUNCH. Only David Cronenberg could have filmed William Burrough's hallucinatory Beat Generation-era chronicle of heroin addiction. This double DVD edition features illuminating extras on the making of "Naked Lunch," including interviews with Cronenberg, Burroughs and actors Peter Weller and Judy Davis. 7. PERDITA DURANGO. If you thought Javier Bardem's hair in "No Country For Old Men" was heinous, check out his 'do in "Perdita Durango." Bardem plays a gunslinging outlaw-cum-Santeria shaman opposite Rosie Perez as the title character, wearing what I can only describe as an Amazon river mullet. 8. THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH. David Bowie plays the alien in his acting debut, Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film that explores the classic theme of alienation in modern life in a science fiction context. 9. TEKKONKINKREET. If you watch only one anime film this year, make it this one. The visual design, overseen by "Animatrix" director Michael Arias, is simply awesome. The plot hinges on two street kids trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic city of the future. 10. FEMALE TROUBLE. More brain-melting trash art from John Waters, the auteur behind "Pink Flamingos" and the original "Hairspray." Here Divine plays Dawn Davenport, who mutates from a juvenile delinquent and teenage mother to a criminally-insane killer. For more insights, inquisitions and incredible fiesta photos, check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s May 4 issue.
By Ruel S. De Vera, Associate Editor Sunday Inquirer Magazine HAVING lived in the metro my entire life, I have a completely different understanding of fiestas. Here, fiestas are almost invisible affairs, palpable only to people who are involved in the parish church. For the rest of the barangay, the fiesta is marked exclusively by the colored (and, notably) recycled plastic flags hanging above the streets. There's no open house where people can just drop in and eat to their heart’s content. There are no big gatherings. In fact, if you don't go to church, you can go on completely unaware that there is a fiesta at all. But within the church, everything revolves around the fiesta, in a way that can only be rivaled by Christmas and Easter. In that sense, it becomes a purely religious event, no longer attached to any social or civic significance. As mentioned earlier, fiestas are a big deal to those heavily involved in church affairs. This begins with the parish priest (who will be in the shiniest stole combination for the fiesta mass) down to the lay ministers (who will roll out the brand new barong tagalogs for this occasion, so heavily starched the shirts will probably stay standing on their own) to the foot soldiers of the choir (new arrangements and new songs) and us the altar boys. Yes, you can lower that eyebrow. I was an altar boy at my parish church for five years, from the time I was 13 to the time I was 18. It will be a shock to people who met me in college and beyond, but I took my altar duties pretty seriously and (gasp) even pondered entering the seminary. Luckily, that little catastrophe never happened, but serving Mass was a major part of my routine for years, and the fiesta was the biggest deal of all. Aside from the fact that the new soutanes were unveiled, there were a lot of processions to attend complete with the Cross, candles and even the incense burner (now that is a difficult piece of equipment to get acquainted with). At the end of every procession was yet another Mass and a good buffet. But that was pretty much it. Sometimes, there would be a marching band, but that was rare. Otherwise, the fiesta spirit would be fleeting and nearly invisible, fading away like the sound of the church bells tolling. For more insights, inquisitions and incredible fiesta photos, check out the Sunday Inquirer Magazine’s May 4 issue.