Sunday 8 April 2012

In Honor of the City of the River of Gold

Cagayan de Oro has been dominant in our social consciousness lately due to the distressing images of the disaster wrought by Typhoon Sendong.  Fundraising efforts have continued all across the globe.  More recently in Edmonton, Tsada Edmonton (a group of Edmontonians who trace their roots to Cagayan de Oro) organized a drop off event by the 3J Variety Store for donations.  Collected items were sent directly to Cagayan de Oro courtesy of Manila Forwarders , and cash donations were coordinated with the Canadian Red Cross.  On other occasions, free concerts were held at the Millwoods Town Centre and West Edmonton Mall organized by the Pinoy Foundation for the Arts and Pinoy Singing Sensation, with 21 performers and groups involved,  raising $7,195 in cash donations and 37 boxes of relief goods.  
A lot of people, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, have supported these various initiatives. But what exactly are we helping rebuild with our contributions of time, talent and treasure?  Cagayan de Oro is located along the central coast of Northern Mindanao.  It should not be confused with other locations in the Philippines with a Cagayan name - Cagayan province in Northern Luzon and the Cagayan Islands in the Sulu Sea.  This city has ‘de Oro’ appended to its name due to the gold mining activities dating back to the Spanish times.
Known as the City of Golden Friendship, CDO boasts of outstanding scenic places ranging from beaches, mountains, limestone caves, museums, historical landmarks, timeless churches, and rivers.  Among these are: San Agustin Cathedral; Macahambus Hill, Cave and Gorge, site of the famous Battle of Macahambus Hill in June 1900, the first Filipino victory against the Americans; the Huluga Cave, where skeletal fragments were found dating back to 1600 B.C.; the Migtugsok Falls and Palalan Waterfall; the Museo de Oro at Xavier University, and Museum of Three Cultures; the Gardens of Malasag Eco-tourism Village and Mapawa Nature Park; and the Liceo University where most visiting artists from metropolis Manila perform.  Other events and activities are the: Kagay-an Festival, a week long festival honoring the patron Saint Agustin, held every August; arts festivals and heritage celebrations spearheaded by the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts; Kumbira, the anticipated culinary show & exhibit of the region; and for the adventurous spirits - white water rafting in the Cagayan river, kayaking, river tubing and the dual zip line, which is reputed to be the longest in Asia, as of this writing.  The white water rafting experience has twenty-three rapid count ranging from levels I to IV, the ceiling of most manageable whitewater rapids.
After the devastation of tropical storm Sendong, the focus is now on rebuilding, accountability of public officials, and environmental awareness.  In a joint project between the Ateneo Innovation Center and the CDO city government, a temporary resettlement site located in Lumbia is being designed as a cost-effective and disaster-responsive community - with clean water system, solar powering, rain catchment & wastewater management system, plus composting and solid waste management.
Another initiative further boosting the rebuilding’s media exposure is the involvement of Black Eyed Peas’ member (Allan Pineda, in real life).  When he visited the city immediately after the December flood, he recognized that rebuilding the Balulang Elementary School was imperative.  Leading the groundbreaking for the construction of a two-story building, he delivered the message that the disaster should not prevent the students from fulfilling their dreams of becoming professionals one day.  This project is funded under the “We Can Be Anything” education campaign in coordination with the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF).
With these rebuilding efforts, let us continue to contribute and hope that soon Cagayan de Oro will be remembered not for the devastation, but once again for its golden treasures - the natural beauty, the peaceful environment and the friendly people.

* This article was written for the March 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Leandro Locsin: Philippine National Artist for Architecture

Leandro Locsin

One of Manila’s notable landmark is the CCP Complex.  Built on reclaimed land, it holds the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, Philippine International Convention Center (PICC),  Philippine Center for International Trade and Exhibition (PHILCITE), and the Sofitel Philippine Plaza - all designed by Leandro Locsin, making it a virtual Locsin complex.
Leandro V. Locsin (1928-1994) is the 3rd Philippine National Artist for Architecture (1990), after Juan Nakpil (1973) and Pablo Antonio (1976).  Most Filipino architects of his time were trained in Europe and the United States, or have taken undergraduate or graduate studies abroad.  He, on the other hand, pursued his studies solely within the Philippines.  A talented pianist, Locsin enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music to pursue a career in music.  A year before graduating, he shifted to the School of Architecture in the same university.  While pursuing his architectural studies, he worked as an artist-draftsman at the Ayala Corporation.  He graduated in 1953 but before establishing his practice, he designed stage sets for ballets.  Later on, he would design for the esteemed dance pioneer, Martha Graham.
In 1955, Locsin was commissioned by the Catholic Chaplain of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, to design a chapel that is open and with a capacity of 1,000 people.  The Church of the Holy Sacrifice, the first round chapel in the Phils. with the altar in the centre, and the first to have a thin shell concrete dome, is now a landmark not only in the university, but is a declared  National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute. 
Cultural Center of the Philippines
A visit to the United States marked encounters with architects Paul Rudolph, known for his use of concrete and highly complex floor plans, and Eero Saarinen, famous for simple, sweeping, arching structural curves or machine-like rationalism style.  These two would have the greatest influence on Locsin, as evidenced by his succeeding works.
Locsin’s designs are marked by his distinct use of concrete, themes of floating volume, the use of native materials, the roof emphasized as the dominant form, wide overhanging eaves, massive supports, interior lattices and trellises, ornamental detail contasted with simple forms, and spacious interiors.  His peers have described him as the “Poet of Space” for the way he articulated space using straightforward geometry.  
Up to the time of his death, his body of works include 75 residences and 88 buildings, including 11 churches/chapels, 23 public buildings, 48 commercial buildings, six major hotels, and an airport terminal building.  Aside from the five structures at the CCP complex, other notable works are: the Philippine pavilion at the World Expo in Osaka, Japan (1970); the original Ayala Museum (1974); some buildings at the University of the Phils., Los Banos; Ninoy Aquino International Airport; and the Church of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. 
Palace of the Sultan of Brunei
Locsin placed the Philippines on the world map in 1969 with his most recognizable work, the Cultural Center of the Philippines - with its gentle sloping curves giving way to an enormous box and a large lagoon in front, thus creating the impression of suspension.  But his largest and most spectacular work is the Istana Nurul Iman (Palace of Religious Light), the palace of the Sultan of Brunei.  The palace has a total floor area of 200,000 sqm, a grand reception hall accommodating 5,000, a throne room with a capacity of 2,000, and two mosques crowned by  a dome plated with 22-carat gold. Malayan and Islamic motifs, modern lines, and the latest building technology blend in what has been hailed as the new Versailles.
Phil. International Convention Center (PICC)
In 1959, Leandro Locsin was one of the recipients of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Awardees for Architecture and in 1992, the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize.  His citation for the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize states:  Mr. Locsin's works beautifully incorporate such traditional qualities with the openness and vastness of modern architecture. His unique interpretation of architectural features such as lattice and curved lines are eloquently expressed in his modern, Western form of art. What lies behind this originality is his principle: to synthesize or to blend Western and Eastern culture. Without this theme, the modern architecture of the West could not have taken root within the existing Filipino architecture... His private life is characterized by continued commitment to other arts and culture. He is a fine pianist, a deeply committed admirer of oriental art and the visual and performing arts. When his multi-faceted artistic talent is fully exhibited in architecture, its details display a well-calculated beauty of form, and its appearance reshapes the urban landscape... His phenomenal career is not only evidence of a natural wealth of talent, but also a tribute to his Filipino mentors and to Filipino culture which in its colorful variety has been a cradle of genius. 
Transfiguration Monastery, Bukidnon
Indeed, significant and symbolic words for a Philippine National Artist - hailed both for advancing our culture and for leaving an astute and creative legacy.

* This article was written for the February 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Year in Review - the Philippine Arts in 2011

The year end is always a time to look back on the year past - as reflection, as learning, as an inspiration in facing the future.  Here, we review the biggest news and achievements in the Philippine arts scene, culled from direct information, news and the social media, focusing on Filipinos around the world.

  • Candice Adea and Jean Marc Cordero, principal dancers of Ballet Philippines, garnered Special Awards in the Boston International Ballet Competition, winning the lead roles for a Russian ballet performance and in addition for Candice, the Maris Liepa Prize for Outstanding Artistry.
  • in Edmonton, choreographer/director Jojo Lucila was one of the City’s Awardees for the Cultural Diversity in the Arts Award.
Matthew Labatique, cinematographer for "Black Swan"
  • Nino, a film portrait on the decline of a wealthy family by director Loy Arcenas, was awarded the $30,000 top prize New Currents at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.  This festival is one of Asia’s most important showcases.
  • Auraeus Solito’s Busong won the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) International Critics Prize at the Eurasia International Film Festival, Kazakhstan.  Busong is a native Palawanon’s term for fate or instant karma. The film tackles the environmental degradation in Palawan and stars acclaimed actress Alessandra da Rosi.
  • Matthew Libatique, Filipino cinematographer of “Black Swan” won the Best Cinematography prize in the Independent Spirit Awards in California.  He was also nominated in the Academy Awards for his work on the same film, and in the same category.
  • the documentary program Storyline created by writer Patricia Evangelista and filmmaker Paolo Villaluna bagged two medals in the New York Festivals International TV and Film Awards
  • 18 year old Paulo Reyes won the top prize for his film First Steps to Recovery in a global film competition by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.  The judging panel included Hugh Jackman, Jet Li, Wendi Murdoch, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.
  • Bisperas (Trespassers) won the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award at the 24th Tokyo International Film Festival.  Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, the film is about a family whose house is burglarized on Christmas Eve and amid the tension brought about by the burglary, the members of the family realize how treasured sentiments have been lost and relationships have evolved. 
  • Cannes 2009 best director Brillante Mendoza’s independent film Lola got the Best Film award, and actors Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio tied for the Best Actress award, at the Tehran International Film Festival in Iran. This same film was also recognized at the 8th Asian Film Festival in Rome, won the Best Film at the Dubai International Filmfest, Grand Knight Award, the Miami International Filmfest and was also featured in the Tribeca International Film Fest in New York last April. 
  • political prisoner Ericson Acosta was named a finalist in the prestigious 2011 Imprisoned Artist Prize in the Freedom to Create Award Festival in Cape Town, South Africa.  The award is given to artists who are incarcerated because of their courage and creativity in pursuing their art, and the role of their work in highlighting injustice.  He bested more than 2,000 nominees from 145 countries by a jury consisting of Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah, novelist Salman Rushdie and ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov.
  • Jose Antonio Vargas, a former reporter for The Washington Post who shared a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, revealed in The New York Times magazine that he is an illegal immigrant and has been hiding it for nearly 20 years.
Maria Aragon with Lady Gaga
  • rise to fame of YouTube sensation Maria Aragon for her cover of Lady Gaga’s song, and Thia Meguia for her entry in American Idol
  • Karla Maye Carreon was declared grand champion in the vocalist category in the K-pop World Festival in South Korea.  
  • the passing away of National Artist Salvador Bernal
Visual Arts
  • Mideo Cruz’s controversial installation Poleteismo, which mixed Catholic icons with pop culture and sexual imagery, caused a public uproar and debate on artistic freedom and resulted in the shutting down of the exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
  • Rodel Tapaya was awarded the Signature Arts Grand Prize 2011, at the Singapore Arts Museum.  The winning entry selected from 15 artworks shortlisted from 130 nominations from 24 countries was Baston ni Kabunian, Bilang Pero di Mabilang (Cane of Kabunian, numbered but cannot be counted), an acrylic on canvas.
  • the entries of photographers Reynaldo C. Mondez and Romeo B. Doneza, Solar Energy Panels and World Wide respectively, won top prizes in an Asia-Pacific Economic Competition, besting 204 photos from 95 other photographers.
  • George Tapan won the National Geographic Photo Contest - Places Category.  The most prestigious international photo contest, 20,000 photographs from 130 countries were submitted.  George is the first Filipino to ever win, and on his first submission too.  The winning photo showcased the beaches of Palawan.
  • winning entry in the International International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment was 13-year old Trisha Co Reyes’ work showing a young girl pulling back a large grey curtain covered in images of dying trees in a polluted landscape, to reveal a colorful forest filled with abundant life.  She was formally presented the award in Indonesia by the United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Ifugao native Gilbert Bergano Alberto won the Silver Award and the Prix du Public (Audience Choice Award) at the 10th International Sculpture Symposium in Geneva for his sculpture A sitting old Igorot Man playing a Gong.
George Tapan's photo for National Geographic
* This article was written for the January 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

The Santo Niño Festivals

January is marked in the Philippines with several festivals honoring the Sto. Niño or the Holy Child. The most famous is the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, but in other parts of the country, there are: the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan; Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City; Binanog Festival in Lambonao, Iloilo; Biniray in Romblon; Binirayan and Handugan in Antique; Pachada Senor in Cagayan de Oro City; Kahimunan in Butuan City; Zambulawan in Pagadian City;
Sinulog (Kabangkalan) Festival in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental; the Makato Sto. Niño Festival in Poblacion Makato, Aklan; the Kahimunan Festival in Libertad, Butuan City; Batan Ati-Ati Malakara Festival in Poblacion Batan, Aklan; the Bansudani Festival in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro; the Altavas Sto. Niño Festival in Poblacion Altavas, Aklan ; the Ibajay Ati-Ati Municipal and Devotional Fiesta in Ibajay, Aklan; the Dinagsa Ati-Atihan Festival in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental; the Hinirugyaw Festival in Calinog, Iloilo; the Sto. Niño Festival in Malolos, Bulacan; and the Tondo Fiesta, in Manila.

These celebrations are usually marked by nine-day novenas or masses in honor of the Sto.
Niño, grand processions of folk, antique and new images of the Holy Child, street dancing,
beauty pageants, flea markets and fireworks. Images of the Sto. Niño are varied, reflecting an
individualʼs occupation or preference - as a sleeping child, a keeper of the world, a shepherd
boy, a student, etc. It has been observed that this image is the most dressed among all images.

The Filipinosʼ devotion to the Santo Niño reflects a love for children, who are usually a familyʼs
source of inspiration and joy. The Catholic Church in the Philippines sets the Holy Child as an example of humility, and as a celebration of the Incarnation. The Child Jesus is also a powerful
gospel statement that in becoming like little children will we be able to enter Godʼs kingdom.

The origin of this following is said to have started from the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in
1521. He presented the image of the child Jesus, the Sto. Niño, as a baptismal gift to Hara
Amihan, wife of Rajah Humabon. Hara Amihan was later named Queen Juana, in honor of
Juana, mother of Carlos I. Along with the rulers of the island, some 800 natives were also
baptized to the Roman Catholic Church. At the moment of receiving the holy image, it was said
that Queen Juana danced with joy bearing this image of the child Jesus. With the other natives
following her example, this moment was regarded as the first Sinulog.

It is interesting to note that while some festivals find their origin from this incident in Cebu, the
Ati-atihan was the original street celebration centuries before the Sinulog and Dinagyang
festivals. It was first celebrated as a pagan festival in honor of anitos or pagan gods of the
native people before the Spanish arrived, commemorating the arrival of the Bornean datus.

There are critics who have lambasted these festivals for their show business and tourism related commercialism and lamented the loss of authentic prayer and worship.  It is, however,
undoubtedly a cultural expression and a part of Philippine history. According to National Artist
Nick Joaquin, It is such a symbol of Philippine history because it came with Magellan, became
Arts and Culture a native pagan idol, was reestablished as a Christian icon by Legazpi, and has become so Filipino that native legends annul its European origin by declaring it to have arisen in this land and to have been of this land since time immemorial. During that strange interlude when the Spaniards left after Magellanʼs death, the wondrous miracle happened: we accepted the Santo Niño as part of our land, part of our culture, part of our history.  During those 44 years when the Cross had vanished from our land, the Santo Niño kept us faithful to him. The Santo Niño, Joaquin further stresses, connected, linked and joined together our pagan and Christian culture;
he belonging to both.

Today, the image of the Santo Niño can be seen almost anywhere, and even in the most
unlikely places. But the most important place for one to express his/her devotion to the Child
Jesus is no less in the heart.

* This article was written for January 2012 issue of Pinoy Living Today.

From Songs of Worship to Mania: “One” and the “Coco/Maja/Angeline show” in Edmonton

Nov. 13 - Fourteen groups and artists gathered together in one big concert aptly titled “One” at the Gateway Alliance Church.  An evening of worship in music, dance and drama, it brought together groups of varying faith denominations and cultural background from different parts of Edmonton, with the desire to share their talent, and spiritual messages and experiences.  Worship, after all, is a community experience.
Participating groups were the: Christ Centred Mission Church, Church of the Holy Trinity Levites,  Filipino International Baptist Church, Gateway Worship Team, Gateway Youth,  Journey Youth Ministries of Journey with Christ Church, Pacific Island Dance Troupe, PureBride of Jesus is Lord, St. Dominique’s Couples for Christ, Soul 2 Soul; and crowd favorites, The Philippine Choral, Indonesian Christian Fellowships and artists Bernard Quilala and Wency Calderon.
Conceptualized by Dr. Leonila Mateo, despite just a month spent for planning, it produced an impressive amount of performers and audience.  Notwithstanding technical difficulties and programming gaps, the concert served its purpose of celebration, unity, forgiveness, redemption and faith.  The night ended with the song “God of this City”, with the words “For greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City” ringing in our heads, providing all the belief and strength needed to accomplish whatever we have set for ourselves in life.
Nov. 27 -  On a 3-day whirlwind concert tour in Canada (Nov. 25 in Saskatoon, Nov. 26 in Calgary), Coco Martin, Maja Salvador and Angeline Quinto performed to a jam packed audience at the River Cree Casino, Edmonton.  The three artists arrived at a luncheon straight from a road trip from Calgary for a “Meet and Greet” with the Edmonton guests, making their engagement at least a 5-hour performance (taking into account both the main concert and pre & post concert reception).  

The evening concert was like a reunion of sorts for us, with people greeting friends almost every 5 meters on their way to their seats.  It must have been the biggest gathering of Filipinos that I have witnessed.  Front act performers were Macky (who hails from Australia) and Darren Espanto (from Calgary and Pinoy Singing Sensation 2011 Champion).  And as expected, as soon as the house lights dimmed and spotlights descended on main feature opener Maja Salvador onstage, the mania started.

Coco Martin and Maja Salvador are both more known for their acting credits, with independent films and soap operas respectively, than for their live performance skills.  The duo, in fact, have no qualms hinting about their ‘pretensions of being a singer’ and capitalizing on their charms and physical attributes rather than their vocal prowess.  Nevertheless, entertain they did and much to the delight of their screaming and titillated fans.  Coco also related his experience of being a foreign worker in Alberta - endearing himself further to the already smitten crowd.  

The true talent of the concert was Angeline Quinto, who was impressive with her full voice, crystal clear pitch and unbelievable range.  The three stars, true stalwarts of their mother company, also did strong pitches for ABS-CBN’s flagship charity project, Bantay Bata.  
All in all, I was an audience for both the performances onstage and of the crowd, who just completely amused me with their uninhibited adulation and humorous heckling of audience participants.  It was that side of the Filipino seldom seen and rarely experienced, in all our preoccupation and seriousness in living the daily grind.  The stars did sizzle, and the crowd responded with equal fervor, raising the emotional temperature of the evening and turning it into a welcome respite from the freezing temperature of Alberta. (Concert photos courtesy of Earl Golveo.)

* This article was written for the December issue of Pinoy Times.