Monday 3 September 2012

Filipino Martial Arts

Kali, arnis, eskrima, silat kuntao - these are just some of the terms used to reference Filipino martial arts, where weapon and empty hand skills are used interchangeably, are taught using similar training methods, covering fighting ranges and defending against armed and unarmed attacks with whatever is available - thereby turning ordinary household items into lethal weapons.  The term used for the art, whether kali, arnis, eskrima, etc., normally implies the region of origin or the the time period of development.

It is said that one of the foremost masters of this martial art is the first Filipino hero, Lapu Lapu.  When Ferdinand Magellan and the Spaniards set out to conquer Mactan in 1521, they were met with wooden sticks, spears, Kampilan swords and bolos.  Miguel Lopez de Legaspi noted in 1564 the Filipinos’ skill in stick fighting and swordsmanship, after being entertained by a Kali demonstration by the warriors of Raja Malitik and other succeeding demonstrations in other parts of the country.

With the declaration of bladed weapons as illegal by the Spaniards, the development of skills with hardened wooden sticks rose.  With this came the realization that due to the different handling nature of the stick versus the curved sword, it opened up other lines of attack for blocking, parrying, thrusting, etc.

In 1972, Filipino martial arts was incorporated in the Philippine sports arena, in high school and post secondary physical education curriculum, and has since been mandatory training in the military and police force.  Considered as an advanced practical blade system in the world, it is also a core component in the US Army’s combatives program and used by the Russian Spetsnaz.

Its popularity has also been fueled by Hollywood films which has featured/employed this particular fighting style: Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace; Matt Damon in the Bourne series, The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum; Tom Cruise & Keri Russel in Mission Impossible III; Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli; Wesley Snipes in Blade, Blade II and Blade: Trinity; Tommy Lee Jones & Benicio del Toro in The Hunted; Forest Whitaker & Jude Law in Repo Men; Vin Diesel for Chronicles of Riddick series; Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Dave Batista’s scenes in The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption; Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan in Hanna; Rob Schneider in Big Stan; Aaron Johnson in Kick-Ass; and movies like Ninja Assassin, Taken, and 300.

Last July 22, the 1st Edmonton Filipino Martial Arts Gathering, a free seminar, was held at the Hawrelak Park, from 1:00-5:00pm.  Organized by the Philippine Warrior Arts Society and the brainchild of founder Guro Oliver Salvador and members Herald Casana and Noah Walt, its objective was to bring cooperation, brotherhood and unity among the different schools/system of Filipino martial arts in Alberta.

Participating groups were the: Paclibar Bicol Arnis headed by Guro Rogelio Paclibar; Arnis de Mano lead by Guro Phil Mar Nadela; Edmonton Kali Combative Arts Group with Guro Carson McDonald; KPC Martial Arts with Randy King; Pekiti Tirsia Kali lead by Herald Casana; Okotoks Eskrimadors/FTSMA Arnis de Cadena with Guro Noah Walt; MK/Lighting Scientific with Mafel Dasilao; and Dog Brothers Martial Arts with David Powelson.

It had an impressive turn out.  Surprisingly, the Filipinos in this gathering were the minority.  Some participants were actually just strolling or hanging out in the park, and joined at the spur of the moment, out of curiosity.  The rest were enticed through word of mouth, social media and friends of Filipino martial arts practitioners.  At the end of the day, everyone felt that this gathering was a long overdue one, bringing together people engaged and interested in this martial art, creating one community.  A Winter Gathering (late 2012 or early 2013) of the same purpose and intent is in the works.  Considering that this is one form that is dependent on its being passed on from one generation to another by a guro/master, its propagation and preservation is vital.  So whatever your motivation - as a serious martial arts practitioner, for self defense or for physical fitness, go and check this out.  In the meantime, congratulations to the organizers and leaders of the Filipino martial arts in Alberta, and we hope to see more practitioners and events of this form.
Workshop Instructors from L to R: Guro Carson McDonald, Ms. Mafel Dasilao, Mr. Randy King, Guro Oliver Salvador, Mr. Herald Casana, Mr. David Powelson, Guro Noah Walt, Guro Phil Mar Nadela, Guro Roger Paclibar

* This was written for and published in the August 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

GRACE NONO: Enchantress Chantress

With the current and rightful idolatry of Filipinos for Jessica Sanchez, the spotlight is focused on gifted Filipino singers like Charice, Arnel Pineda, and others of Filipino descent like Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.  I would like to add to this group, a singer I have admired for almost a decade, and has totally carved out a niche unequalled by anyone - Grace Nono.

I know Grace professionally and personally - she is a close friend of my sister, I have watched several of her performances, I was ballet teacher to her daughter and we performed together in Berlin for the Philippine Department of Tourism.  Just recently, visiting the same sister in New York, I had the pleasure of being part of Grace’s birthday celebration.  

Grace Nono is known for her interpretations of Philippine traditional music, rhythms, oral traditions and for advocating women’s issues, environmentalism and spirituality.  She has created original Filipino music, not as a derivative of Western influences, but of singing authentic Filipino, rooted in ethnic traditions.  “The act of singing is in fact one of the few things that generate hope, healing and redemption in the midst of destiny’s misadventures,” says Grace, whose musical journey ran parallel to uncovering one’s spiritual essence.  

Born and raised in Agusan, Mindanao, Grace is a performing artist & producer, researcher, author, teacher, cultural worker and administrator.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and Master’s degree in Philippine Studies, at the University of the Philippines.  She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in Ethnomusicology at the New York University.  She has also had training via the Asia-Pacific Performance Exchange residency, the Asian Cultural Council residency, the Asian Institute of Management Arts Management Program, and the Asia-Pacific Cultural Center for UNESCO’s training on Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Grace has six critically acclaimed solo recordings and five other albums produced by her Tao Music Records.  She has represented the Philippines in world music festivals, performances and conferences: at the House of World Cultures in Berlin; Mercat de les Flors in Barcelona;  Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid; the Music Village Festival in London; the Lincoln Center’s La Casita Festival in the US; concerts in Paris and Monte Carlo; WOMAD in Yokohama; the Exposition on Nature’s Wisdom in Aichi; the Asian Fantasy Orchestra tours of New Delhi, Bombay, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Miyazaki, Bangkok, Vientiane, Yangon, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh; the Hong Kong Asian Arts Festival; the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Arts Festival; and performances and conferences in Huairou, Bangkok, Jakarta, Nanning, Shanghai, Seoul, Penang, Taipei, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago.

She has won 40 awards including: the prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM), The Outstanding Women in Nation's Service (TOWNS), numerous Catholic Mass Media Awards, Katha, Awit, National Press Club, and other awards for her artistic and cultural contributions.  Her book, The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines won in the 28th National Book Awards, Arts category. A second book on the music of the Philippine babaylan (Visayan/Philippine shaman) is in the works. She elaborates, “Aside from being drawn to matters of spirit and healing, and of course, music, this study came about because again, we observe the trend of our medical professionals simply mimicking trends in the west in the emerging fields of music therapy, or our religious shunning our rich musical heritage in most of their rites. Yet, if one takes a good look at our traditions, we have always used sound and music in our rituals which invoked spiritual sources and healing of body and soul... I myself have all these years experienced the healing power of music, which never fails to lift the spirit, transforming whatever negative energies we carry in our hearts and bodies (stress, fear, doubt, anger, etc.) which could eventually lead to illness, into a renewed sense of clarity, vitality, bliss.”

In collaboration with composer Bob Aves, Grace has produced an audio and print series on Philippine oral traditions and instrumental music, which are being used by a number of teachers and students in the study of Philippine music, arts and culture. She has also taught Philippine Traditional Arts at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, and Philippine Oral History at Miriam College.

As cultural worker/administrator, Grace serves as Founding Director for the Tao Foundation for Culture and Arts, a non-government organization engaged in cultural regeneration and holistic development initiatives, for which she has been granted support by the the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and Arts, Toyota Foundation, the Ford Foundation, UNESCO, the British Council, Advocates of Philippine Fair Trade, AusAid, and local communities and institutions.

Grace Nono is a cultural icon and role model.  She is credited for breaking new grounds in the understanding of Filipino identity through her research in oral traditions.  Her scholarly research bridges the past to our future.  When she sings, she imparts pain, loss but at the same time healing and redemption.  Her commitment to indigenous cultures, the environment and spirituality is compelling.  Go and know more about her - google her name, check out her youtube videos, listen to her music in iTunes, learn more about the Filipino and be proud of the Filipino artist.

* This was written for and published in the July 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Buwan ng Wika (Month of the Language)

Buwan ng Wika, or National Month of the Language, is observed every month of August in the Philippines, to promote the use of the national language.  It was originally observed as Linggo ng Wika (week of the language), around the 19th of August, to coincide with the birth date of Manuel L. Quezon, the President of the Philippine Commonwealth, who pushed for the institutionalization of Tagalog as the country’s national language.  At that time, English was considered the language of refinement and sophistication, and those speaking the Philippine languages were deemed uneducated.  The 1935 Philippine constitution designated English and Spanish as official languages and Manuel Quezon pushed for a national language from one of the country’s various languages.

In 1997, the Linggo ng Wika was expanded to a month long celebration by President Fidel Ramos in 1997.  This event is generally observed by: coming to school in native costumes, conducting classes in Tagalog, staging presentations, art contests, essay writing contests, exhibits and parades, showcasing the use of the Filipino language.

There has been a lot of debate on the designation of Tagalog as the official language, considering that there are about 170 ethno-linguistic groups in this country of 7,000 islands.  Furthermore, Tagalog is not regarded as the majority language and English still remains as the primary tool of communication in business, government, higher education and other professional fora.  There is also the belief that the promotion of this one language for the Philippines, will lead or has lead to the marginalization and extinction of other dialects.

Regardless of these opposing views on the Filipino language, for us Filipinos here in Canada, it will do us a lot of good to exercise this fluency in our language, be it Tagalog or another dialect.    Whether the Filipino language is the first language or not, this will keep us attached to the mother country and its history.

Furthermore, extensive studies have revealed the advantages of knowing more than one language.  In Alberta, language learning was made a requirement for Grades 4-9 in 2006.  The ministry’s study stresses the impact of language education on intellectual potential, scholastic achievement, first language skills, citizenship and the economy:
  • Students fluent in two language score higher in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence.
  • Students studying a second language are superior in divergent thinking tasks and in memory ability and attention span.
  • The earlier the start, the greater the positive effect on the first language.
  • Students studying a second language have superior cross-cultural skills, adapt better to varying cultural contexts, and display greater cultural sensitivity.
  • There is an urgent requirement for qualified speakers of languages other than English in areas of science, technology, medicine and global commerce.
So maximize these summer months and learn more about our mother tongue.  Immerse in Filipino literature, films and be part of the community and make an extra effort to work on Filipino/Tagalog fluency.

  • The first written example of the Tagalog language dates from circa 900 AD.
  • The first known book written in Tagalog is a Christian doctrine, published in 1593 in two versions - one in Latin alphabet and the other in Baybayin script (also referred as alibata), an ancient writing system that existed in the Phils. before the arrival of the Spanish people.
  • Because of Spanish colonization, about 40 percent of informal Tagalog vocabulary are derived from Spanish origins.
  • The modern Filipino alphabet has 28 letters, composed of the entire 26 letter Latin alphabet with the addition of the Spanish ‘ñ’ and the Tagalog ‘ng’.  This version of the alphabet was instituted in 1987 by President Corazon Aquino.
  • English words that are of Philippine origin: boondocks, cooties, yo-yo, manila folder/envelope.
  • Filipinos were introduced to the English language in 1762 by British invaders, not Americans.
* This was written for and published in the July 2012 issue of Pinoy Living.

Ardee Dionisio: Target, of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam

Cirque du Soleil (CDS) is known for its “dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment”.  Any Cirque du Soleil production is considered a “must see”, characterized with big production designs, magical concepts and amazing feats of skill.  Established in 1984, to date it has produced about 30 shows and performed in approximately 300 cities in different parts of the globe.  

This August, Cirque du Soleil brings “Quidam” to Alberta, specifically Edmonton and Lethbridge.  Quidam (kee-dam)  means a regular person or an anonymous passer-by.  It is a story of a young girl named Zoé, who escapes from the boredom of her reality and lack of connection with her parents, to a magical world. One of the main characters, Target, serves as the guide for Zoé as she transitions into this dream world.  And this role of Target is played by a Filipino, Ardee Dionisio.

Ardee Dionisio as Target
Ardee is a dancer I have known back when he was an artist of Ballet Philippines, the resident dance company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Even back then, Ardee’s dancing was characterized by clean lines, clarity of movement and heartfelt musicality.  He was not the flashy type of dancer but rather a quiet one exuding strength, purpose and stage presence.  He danced principal roles with the company, easily catching the eyes and impressing guest choreographers -  like Hervé Robbe, Claude Brumachon, Redha, Renato Zanella, Jan Linkens, Natalie Weir and Agnes Locsin, among others.

Ardee was a student of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Los Banos.  His introduction to dance was through a girl he had a crush on, whom he would follow on her way to ballet class.  Pretty soon, he was taking dance classes, then taking it more seriously until he realized that it was exactly what he wanted as a career.  He trained in ballet, contemporary and folk dance and eventually joined Ballet Philippines.

From Ballet Philippines, he was offered a scholarship to the HongKong Academy for the Performing Arts where he graduated with Honours.  On the same year of his graduation, he became a soloist of Nicolas Musin’s “abcdancecompany” troupe in St. Poelten.  He then joined the Grazer Oper in Austria as a first soloist, dancing roles like Romeo in Darrel Toulon’s Romeo and Juliet; Eros in Anthony and Cleopatra; Siegfried in Swan Lemminkainen trilogy; and solo parts in The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

Ardee was fond of posting his dance and performance videos on YouTube.  One day, he received an email from someone who claimed to have seen his videos and was asking him to audition for Cirque du Soleil in Berlin.  Not surprisingly, he googled the sender’s name and confirmed that she was indeed a legitimate talent scout for the famous company.  He then did the auditions, got into CDS’ database of performers and eventually asked to perform the main character of Target in Quidam.

Ardee’s career pretty much parallels the story of Zoe - a regular guy transported into this magical and dream world in the most surprising and unexpected way.  He brings on his years of training in the different dance genres in this production that features acrobatics, clowning and contortion.  The role of Target, both dancer and acrobat, weaves the various acts of the show and sums up the spirit of the whole production.  Ardee says his character “brings the magic, joy and peace to Zoe’s dreams”.  He attacks the role as a mixture of both the Peter Pan and Tinkerbell characters of the J.M. Barrie story.  One critic has written that Ardee Dionisio’s portrayal of Target should be the benchmark of all Targets for Cirque du Soleil.
Under the direction of Franco Dragone, Quidam differentiates itself from other Cirque du Soleil productions in terms of theme, having a stronger narrative and wider in appeal.  “This one’s about family, family issues you see in normal life”, says Ardee.  “Everyone can relate to it.”  So when you watch “Quidam”, you will not only be transported in a dream world of fantastic and seemingly impossible human feats and creation, but will be proud of yet another manifestation of Filipino talent and achievement. 

* This was written for and published in the June 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Edmonton Performing Groups: Philippine Choral and Pacific Island Dance Troupe

For this issue, I would like to spotlight on two Edmonton performing groups, both of which have shown passion and dedication to their respective artistic endeavors - the Philippine Choral with leaders Artie Atienza, Ray “Bart” Kavinta and Chito Atienza; and the Pacific Island Dance Troup, headed by Emily Soriano.  These two groups we have continually worked with, due to both our respect for their artistic outputs and the friendships we have developed.  They are also featured performers in the upcoming Philippine Arts Festival this June at the University of Alberta’s Myer Horowitz Theatre.

Philippine Choral

The Philippine Choral was formed in 1991 from a group of friends who constantly gathered in basements for karaoke nights.  Fortuitously, they discovered at that time that Mil Villareal, Cebu’s best musical director and regarded by many as a musical genius, was quietly retired in Edmonton.  Through mutual friends, they were able to set up a meeting, and immediately worked on  forming a four voice group.  Within a week they had a four-part choral harmony of the kundiman “Dahil Isang Bulaklak” down pat.  Composing this founding group, among others, were Ferdie Belvis, Onie Nitoral, Rene Alcantara and Delia Marsh - who the other members fondly recall as their Tony Bennett, Ray Valera, Yoyoy Villame and Barbara Streisand, respectively.  And of this original group, five are still active members of the choral - Artie Atienza, Alex de Leon, Chito Atienza, Gilda Yee, Leny Dagondon.

This love of singing then branched out to the local church community in Edmonton.  Currently, they are now one of the most sought after cultural performers for major events, community functions and special promotions throughout the city of Edmonton. And  with these increasing engagements, came an expansion of their repertoire to Filipino, English, Spanish, Italian and French song favorites.  In 1999, they had a major concert at the Winspear - the first Filipino group to perform at this prestigious venue.  This sold out concert featured a 10-piece orchestra, culled from members of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.  Other concerts were held at the Myer Horowitz Theatre and Victoria’s Eva O. Howard Theatre.  They also had a road tour of Filipino restaurants for a period of three weeks.  A pipe dream is a performance of songs of faith, hope and love in a stone-built Catholic cathedral.

Current membership is a high of 24, comprising 8 sopranos, 6 altos, 5 tenors and 5 bass, always of Filipino descent.  An exception however, was made when Angela Chen, of Taiwanese descent and who earned her Master’s Degree in Music and Voice from a conservatory in Vienna, wanted to join.  Fluent in 6 languages, she was able to tackle the Filipino lyrics competently.  Membership is open to both professionals and non-professionals, Filipino or non-Filipino - the essential requirement being a pure love for singing.

Moving on to its third decade of existence, the group shows no signs of slowing down.  For the members, their continued rehearsals is a source of therapy and a good excuse to share food and drinks.  It has enabled them to simultaneously fulfill a passion and establish friendships.  This all together gives a whole new meaning to their title as Musical Ambassadors of Filipino-Canadian Goodwill.

Pacific Island Dance Troupe

Last April 20, the Pacific Island Dance Troupe had their 7th Luau, and indeed it turned out to be a night of hawaiian/polynesian dancing, games, and good food.  On hand were booths for face painting, photo booths, crafts table, and jewelry.  People came decked in Hawaiian attire and reveled in the performances of hula, tahitian, and a few modern take dances.  The event showed all the traits of the indefatigable Emily Soriano, who harnessed her years of experience as a cultural dancer in the Philippines, an event organizer, her good eye for design and penchant for fun.  This group, who not only performs Hawaiian/Polynesian dances but also Philippine folk dances, has consistently participated in Heritage Days and community events.  It adds another dimension to the interesting landscape of Filipino offerings in the Edmonton arts scene.

* This was written for and published in May 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Celebrating the Filipino Artist - the Philippine Arts Festival

Philippine Choral

Filipino artists take center stage in the Philippine Arts Festival on June 23, 2012 at the University of Alberta’s Myer Horowitz Theatre.  On its 2nd offering, the festival is a bi-yearly celebration of the arts, life and the spirit of the Philippines.  It is a multi-disciplinary festival of theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, film, literature, visual arts, design and more.

Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association
A brainchild of yours truly as Festival Director and choreographer Jojo Lucila as Artistic Director, the Philippine Arts Festival aims to increase awareness and promote the public’s appreciation of Philippine arts and culture; collaborate with artists and companies by initiating and producing new work; provide artists of all ages and at all stages of their career with greater exposure, recognition, networking opportunities and professional development; and to forge unity and community spirit within the Filipino community.

So what was the impetus for this project?  Living in another country lends a new perspective on your own culture - things that one tend to take for granted.  I have worked with foreign artists in the past who have remarked on the incredible talent of the Filipinos, and all the while I thought that they were merely paying lip service.  Now, far removed from my home country, I realize that they were simply stating a fact.  And Filipino artists, all over the globe and in various disciplines, continue to give us pride and honor with their work.

Through this Philippine Arts Festival, we salute our artists and provide them a vehicle to showcase their talent, works and legacy.  We remember our country and the people who have shaped our culture through their art and became a voice for society.  We bank on the solidarity and bayanihan spirit that Filipinos are known for, no matter where in the world they may be.  So that at least for a couple of hours, in this festival, when we come together as a community and celebrate the core of our being - we bring the Filipino back home.

This year’s festival will headline the Filipino themes of love and romance, the traditional games of skills, the fiestas (feasts), and the social issue of Filipino migrants.  It will gather about 70 artists from Edmonton, Vancouver and Red Deer.  Featured artists include: Vancouver-based filmmaker Angelina Cantada, who has proven herself in film festival circuits in the US and Canada; the long-standing Filipino-Canadian Saranay Association; musical arranger Geris; the authentic Filipino martial arts Pekiti-Tirsia Kali - Alberta; the much sought after Philippine Choral; the versatile dancers of The Lucila Project; the Pacific Island Dance Troupe; the folk dance sector of the Phil. Canadian Association of Red Deer & District; and Pinoy Singing Sensation young champion Wency Calderon.  Lixmila Serrano of Gala Management and Event Services joins our team as Executive Producer.

* This was written for and published in the April 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

Casa San Miguel

Mention Zambales and what generally comes to mind are the Aetas of Mount Pinatubo, succulent mangoes, Subic resorts and beaches.  But to our family, when one refers to Zambales, it means  Casa San Miguel (CSM), the artists’ haven considered by not a few as the Cultural Center of the Philippines of Zambales.  Located within a mango orchard in San Antonio, it was established by acclaimed violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata in 1993, upon his return from studies at the Julliard School of Music in New York and the University of Indiana.

Coke Bolipata is one of the country’s leading artists who won the First Prize in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists at the young age of 12.  He then pursued his studies in the USA and has performed worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician in the world’s major halls.  In 1990 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, and Artists Affiliates, New York to bring culture to the rural areas of America.  After which, he returned to Zambales with a vision of a community-based approach to art education and production.
Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata with students

Casa San Miguel was initiated at a time when the province was recovering from the devastation from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.  It holds the vision that art can: 1) transform a fishing village to a destination for visitors from all over the Philippines and abroad; 2) provide the impetus for community growth and development and providing jobs in all levels - the artists, tour guides, labor work, etc; and 3) raise self-esteem and confidence in transcending barriers to creativity.  It  has brought art, music, theater, dance and film to the barangays, orphanages, and indigenous communities.

The CSM boasts of varied facilities: the Ramon Corpuz Hall, a 300-person seating capacity designed for intimate concerts like chamber orchestra, theatre plays, operetta, with a 7-foot grand piano; a 1,000 capacity circular Outdoor Theatre; a 2-story visual art Anita Gallery;  a 7-room Artists Residences for visiting artists. Every room is connected to a porch overlooking the orchard with views of Mt. Pundaquit and Mt. Maubanban on one side and the South China Sea on the other. A tower sits above the entire structure, providing a 360-degree view of the San Antonio landscape.  The Sunken Terraced Garden provides a meditative retreat for visitors and also has a main stage where Sunday masses, outdoor film showings, community plays & concerts are done.  All events are free for Zambales communities while visitors from out of town are requested to make a donation in any amount at the door.
CSM holds regular classes for violin, cello, viola, visual arts, theater production and shadow play.  Open to children ages 5-16 within the Zambales community, it has had about 3500 scholars.  Aside from music and art making, the students also learn discipline from gardening and have access to children's library books, recordings, and videos. Some of the graduates of these programs make up what is known as the Pundaquit Virtuosi, which has two divisions - Quadros for the visual arts and Cuerdas for music. The CSM also offers short and long term residencies to artists, providing free board and lodging in exchange to providing lectures and workshops to the surrounding communities. Annually between October and April is the Pundaquit Festival which features artists of different nationalities with the resident ensemble Pundaquit Chamber Players.  The CSM also has its book publishing arm Osnofla Books, with publications of folktales series and a community newsletter promoting literacy among the youth of San Antonio.

With known mentors like Cecile Licad, Joey Ayala, NVM Gonzales, Matthew Barley, Roberto Feleo, Myra Beltran, among others, the CSM has successfully prepared its students for scholarships and grant awards in leading conservatories in the Phils., Germany, United States, Australia, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.  They  have also won prizes at the National Music Competition for Young Artists.  The Pundaquit Virtuosi has had the honor to perform with the famed New York sextet of Julliard School, violinist William Harvey, Frank Shaw and cellist Jeremiah Shaw. They also represented the Philippines in the Tianjin International Children’s Culture and Arts Festival in China, and in Indonesia, in celebration of 60 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.  As an institution, the CSM has been awarded the prestigious Gawad ng Hiraya Award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the National Book Award, Urian Award, Aliw Award, Golden Screen Acting Nominations and Awards, Star Awards, the TOYM Award and the Gawad ng Maynila Award.
In the midst of the beautiful Zambales beaches, mountains and Capones Island, Casa San Miguel, with Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata at the helm, has indeed been a haven to all persons alike - the artists, the students, the local community and the visitors, as it continues to transform lives and persevere in their work of enlightenment, empowerment and excellence through and in the arts.  It is a jewel that all should support and be proud of.  

Filipino or non-Filipino, artist or non-artist, if you are interested in being a benefactor and supporter of these programs, contact Coke Bolipata at  Your contributions and yield will definitely not be just monetary.  

* This article was written for the April 2012 issue of Pinoy Living magazine.