Johnson's Pure Essentials Teen Cheer Competition 2001

It's the girls' time to shine 
By Walter Ang
November 28, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mobs greeted me at all three gates of the Araneta Coliseum. Parents were screaming at guards because they were not being allowed in for the Johnson's Pure Essentials Teen Cheer Competition.

I waited for the crowd to disappear before going in. When I asked one of the women at the gate, she muttered something about it being "standing room only" inside.

The oath of sportsmanship was already underway when I entered. If anyone had doubts that cheerleading was an actual sport, s/he should go to a competition like this to be convinced otherwise. It is not just a sport, but a difficult one at that! After a nationwide elimination search, 13 schools finally made it to the coliseum that day. Young women dressed in their school colors whipped up a storm as they performed their repertoire?they danced, they cheered, they yelled, they flew. And, boy, did they ever fly!

The Sisters of Mary School girls were the daintiest of the bunch, looking very lithe in their elegant costumes. Their 10-minute presentation incorporated rhythmic gymnastics routines, including a swaying stunt (or human pyramid to us noncheerleaders). The result was graceful and unique, but lacked the expected and necessary spunk and punch for a cheering competition.

Assumption College (AC) had good energy, used interesting music like "Moulin Rouge's" "Cancancan" song and was the only school that had flawless musical segues. It also had the scariest looking spotters and bases?these are the guys who lift and throw the girls into the air. Those guys looked like they were forced-fed steroids and testosterone! Bases get stepped on a lot and have to lift bodies, while spotters have to be quick on their toes to catch falling bodies.

Winners all
The AC girls were my bet for second runner up, but Poveda Learning Center took that one with its sharp and fun choreography as well as clean stunts and great basket tosses (3-4 bases throwing a "flier" into the air.)

School of the Holy Spirit was first runner up with its great ability to dance in sync aided by clean and sharp choreography. The girls had the healthiest glow among all the contestants and had an infectious, perky energy. One cheerleader looked like Gabrielle Union from the movie "Bring It On" from certain angles. Her mouth was opened wide in a smile from the moment she stepped on the floor until her team left.

Miriam College delivered on all the criteria used to judge the competition. It showed off its assets with dynamic and creative choreography that incorporated technique and skills. The girls danced in sync and the presentation made good use of everyone on the team?not just highlighting the fliers. They also had a strong background cheering squad that had dynamic choreography as well. All these factors combined to assure them of the grand prize. MC also won for cutest costume although it seemed to me De La Salle Zobel's costumes were cuter, with the nifty stylized letter Z in front.

We've got spirit
Other schools lost points for being unable to make clean stunts. Usually the bases and climbers (the girls on the tippy-top of the stunts) were bunched up together and slow on the lifts. And the dismounts were clumsy and didn't' have enough of a snap?some of the more creative dismounts even had girls blowing kisses before falling off the top. Elpidio Quirino High School relied too much on their fliers and climbers (although very impressive) and didn't have enough on choreography.

Colegio de Sta. Cecilia seemed to have too many spotters. This made their climbers seems less able since there were so many people waiting to catch them if they ever fell. But everyone was impressed when the CDSC girls had one leg in the air when their music conked out. And we all know the drill when the music stops: you freeze wherever you are. Troopers that they were, the girls had their legs up there for the longest time and endured it all.

Interesting to note was O.B. Montessori's rotating stunt and Pedro E. Diaz High School's use of Hotdog's (a band from ancient times) "Bongga Ka `Day" to end their presentation. Yes to using more original Filipino music next time, please!

Overall, the schools gave performances that showed a high level of commitment and effort. The girls performed stunts, twisted their bodies this way and that, fell on occasion but always scrambled back up?all this with a smile permanently attached to their faces! It was remarkable to see climbers dance on top of a base's shoulders or hand like it was the simplest thing in the world to do.

And you have to hand to those hardy bases who lifted and threw with all their might. It's tough to be in high school, no question. And to have hours and hours worth of practice and pressure added to your list of things to do is no joke.

It was great to see the fantastic support of parents, siblings, schoolmates and friends. Girls usually have to take a back seat to the boys in interschool sports competitions, so this was a great way for them to take centerstage for a change. Having private and public schools on one playing filed was also a good idea. However, one can't help but notice the economic differences?materials for costumes, props used and even the physical build of the girls. I don't need to tell you which girls had more "energy reserves" in their bodies.

Perhaps there should be a budget ceiling for costumes and props next time just to help even the playing field a little bit more. Or maybe they could come up with "public-private sister schools" teams to compete next time. It could help drive home the objective of friendship, exchange of ideas and sharing and all that.

French Film Fest 2001 at Shangri-La Mall

French Film Fest 2001 at Shangri-La Mall
By Walter Ang
June 2001

I caught two films at the French Film Fest held recently at the Shangri-La Cinema. The lovely people at the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise de Manille made the film fest part of their French Spring Festival and admission was at my favorite price, free.

Foreign films are not for every one. An open mind for cultural differences and nuances must be the first consideration. Speed reading skills are also a practical consideration. After all, apart from the word 'oui' and 'omlette du fromage' (courtesy of popular cartoon nerd Dexter) not everyone understands French. Only the subtitles are our saving grace. And they didn't even translate 'oui' anymore, for that matter.

The first movie I caught will be familiar to comic book lovers of two warriors from a Gaulish village. 'Asterix and Obelix Vs. Caesar' was a hilarious look at how these two and their fellow villagers fight off the nasty Roman empire with the help of a magic potion that gives them all superhuman strength.

Village people
Gerard Depardieu is the perfect person to incarnate Obelix (they're in production to do another installment and this time they'll be going up against Cleopatra) and he plays it with the perfect combination of oafish sweetness and genteel humor. Roberto Benigni, who shot to worldwide recognition with 'Life is Beautiful', was funny and fabulous as everyone's foil, Destructivus.

Their Julius Caesar had the most wonderful Roman nose imaginable (read: humongous) and the actor they picked to play a Roman general called Caius Bonus is, by far, the only human person I've seen who looks like a cartoon character. I swear if I didn't know the guy was a real person, I would've thought his face was computer generated.

The movie's visual appeal and production design was inventive and fun, and Asterix's village looked like it emerged from the pages of the comic book. The movie kept with the comic's funny treatment of the characters' names like Semiautomatix, Panoramix, Cacofonix and Parfarnalia. Of course, the audience just loved Obelix's dog's name: Dogmatix.

One thing I noticed though was the audience's reaction to one of the scenes in the movie. When the Roman soldiers got ready to attack the village, they formed phalanxes, the military move where soldiers interlock their shields. I guess this move must not be as well known as I thought it was since the audience laughed and thought their formation hilarious. Oh well.

Segue to black
The only other movie I got to see was 'Code Unknown'. This one starred the luminous Juliette Binoche, who last made waves with the Oscar nominated 'Chocolat'. Code Unknown is a far cry from the light comedy Asterix offered. The movie's subtitle stated as much: seven unfinished stories.

The movie's format was interesting as they had the first scene contain several different characters interacting in a street altercation. From that point onwards, most of the characters in that first scene shot off into their own tangent storylines, thus beginning the seven independent stories.

The stories had no 'formal' beginnings. You didn't know what the character's backgrounds and motivations were. The scenes were mostly 'a day in the life of' these characters as they sought to resolve one problem or another. You had the range of Juliette Binoche's character, an actress with a strained relationship with a photographer, to an illegal refugee from Bosnia. With so many characters and no neat resolutions, there was a lot left unsaid.

All throughout the shifts from one story to the other, I felt as if I was channel surfing, only someone else as holding the remote control. Perhaps this is what all movies will be like in the future. In this day and age of shortened attention spans, one wonders what kind of gimmickry or innovative idea will a two hour movie have to come up with next to catch an audience?

Speaking of audiences, I experienced another strange reaction from the audience. With seven stories to show, the movie relied on a simple technique to segue from one story to the next. The screen would go blank for a few seconds. Every time the screen went blank however, the audience let up a collective wave of sighs and groans and 'tsk, tsks.'

They let out this reaction with the same intensity as if the movie had been suddenly stopped by a power outage. The problem was they let out the same exact reaction with the same exact intensity each time the screen went to blank. We probably went through, and I'm not kidding, three dozen blank screen segues before most of the audience finally got it and kept quiet. Either that or they must've gotten tired of reacting so strongly. Well, c'est la vie.

REVIEW: Tanghalang Pilipino's "Carmen"

Love-spurned soldier stabs wanton sex goddess 
By Walter Ang
Nov 3, 2001

The first opera I ever watched was a shortened English version of Macbeth. For an opera novice, 90 minutes of the stuff wasn't too bad to get introduced to the art form. (Although I must admit I came out of the theater thankful that it wasn't any longer.) This time around, the opera was George Bizet's Carmen. In chamber version (read: shortened) and in Tagalog, it seemed interesting enough to try out.

With two friends, I caught the story of Carmen ? a "wanton sex goddess" (Bridget Jones-speak for you) who toys with the feelings of geeky, milquetoast soldier Jose. His love spurned by this free spirited bohemian, Jose goes into a convoluted rage ("Turns into a serial killer," said my friend) and eradicates everyone in sight, including Carmen. All of this while singing, of course. And that, little boys and girls, is the lesson of this story: always be wary of the quiet ones. They're the ones who go crazy and start shooting everyone.

In this Tanghalang Pilipino and Philippine Opera Company production, director Nonon Padilla interspersed the singing with monologues ? "letters" from OFWs that tell of the pathos in their lives away from home ? in an "experimental collage juxtaposing the opera Carmen with the lives of Pinoys living abroad."

Padilla likes to make his audience think and this time is no different. The monologues tackled the eventual problems and situations encountered by our OFWs ? lost loves, lost lives, the difficulties of living a transposed existence. The director aimed to parallel their experiences with Carmen's own gypsy life. This concept is not easy to digest however, and it takes some effort to reconcile the two.

Brought to life by the very able ensemble, the monologues seemed to take more prominence (perhaps of its grimmer tone) and the opera seemed to become mere a backdrop. When the show ended with bleak statistics of the OFW diaspora (for example, every year, 600 OFWs do not come home alive), the opera is reduced to a mere afterthought.

The opera featured Jay Valencia-Glorioso as Carmen (alternating with Josephine Roces-Chavez) and Eladio Pamaran as Jose (alternating with Nolyn Cabahug) who sang to the music conducted by Joesfino Toledo. Unfortunately, it did not feel as if there was enough passion and love onstage. The monologues seemed to douse most of the emotional build-ups in the opera.

It felt like watching two productions for the price of one. In fact, the monologues themselves could very well be spun-off and developed into an independent production. "The OFW Monologues" as an answer to the "The Vagina Monologues" perhaps?

With the Filipino translation by Jose Capino, an opera in our own tongue is at least more appealing than some foreign language where you have no idea what's going on. In this case, for audience members who aren't well-versed in Filipino, the opera also provided English supertitles. For all the grief we give Americans and their supposed lack of grammar skills, our own mastery of Filipino isn't so hot.

Just like subtitles except that it's flashed above the stage, during the night we saw the show, the supertitles were more annoying than helpful. Mostly off-cue, the titles were late or did not match the lyrics and not all the actors' lines had translations, which defeated the purpose.

The show runs two hours without intermission, but there's no need to raise those eyebrows since it runs at a fast pace and is over before you know it. Is it possible that since TP has a largely student audience, the monologues were used to keep the youth's notorious short attention spans on track?

It did seem the monologues served as a sort of "commercial break," ? before you could tire of the opera, the monologues stepped in to change the pace and vice-versa. Opera need not be an intimidating endeavor with productions like these. Not exactly a full-blown version of what opera is perceived to be, this at least gives the audience a taste of what it can be.

Review of movie "Hotel Splendide"

Review of 'Hotel Splendide'
By Walter Ang
October 2001

In the dreary, wet Saturday afternoon that Jolina visited the city (the typhoon that is), I was contemplating whether or not to venture out the safe confines of my house. After sweeping and mopping, doing the dishes and praying the laundry would dry despite the continuous downpour, I had my fill of domestic chores and went to catch the British filmfest at the Shangri-la Mall.

Sponsored by the British Council, this year's fest was dubbed "Light and Shadow." Surprisingly, the queue wasn't as long as the one during the summer French filmfest. My friend offered that perhaps British dry humor is more difficult to appreciate. Either that, or the rains make staying home seem more fun than getting stuck in traffic and floodwaters.

Also, now that the schoolyear is underway, it's a little harder to get to the mall to catch the filmfest. Another place that's hard to get to is the Hotel Splendide ? a run-down, sad-looking "health" resort smack in the middle of a coastal islet. The sky is always dark, dank and dreary; the halls are cold and rigid.

It's a family enterprise managed by the very stiff eldest brother Dezmond Blanche (Stephen Tompkinson). Brother Ronald (Daniel Craig) runs the kitchen and serves variations of eel and seaweed cuisine every night, while troubled sister Cora (Katrin Cartlidge) treats the handful of long staying guests with colonics, cold water showers and other nasty services.

Guests trudge along under the droning voice recordings left by "Mummy", who has long passed on. She has a menacing, lingering presence as her remains were ceremoniously "buried" in the hotel's central heating system. The system uses the guest's "by-products" as fuel to warm the hotel ? one of Mummy's brilliant ideas, which, of course, includes the "regime" undertaken by the guests.

Things change when the chef's former lover Kath returns. Unresolved feelings surface, old wounds break open, repressed love kindles and sparks fly. Kath was the former sous chef and this leads to some colorful kitchen sparring that brings the hotel and its guests to life. Mummy never really approved of Kath and the heating pipes moan, groan, swell and shudder at her return.

Director Terence Gross has the cheery, permanent resident Stanley Smith (Hugh O' Conor) narrate the goings-on as the movie proceeds to its fitting conclusion. In the end, the sky is still dark, dank and dreary, but it is no longer forlorn as in the beginning. Hotel Splendide is darkly comic with enough oddball characters to keep it going.

The luminous Toni Collete (who played the mother in The Sixth Sense) plays Kath and fills the screen with a light, happy presence. Tompkinson plays the deranged,Oedipal Dezmond with ham and panache that could top John Lithgow. With only an admission fee of P20, the British filmfest deserved a much bigger audience.

Of mooncakes and bookends: celebrating Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival in Manila

Of mooncakes and bookends
By Walter Ang
September 26, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is always fun. At the very least, it gives you a day where you can pig out on great food. On a more formal note, this festival that falls on the 15th lundar day of the 8th lunar month is a day to think of family. Sometimes mistakenly called the Moon Festival; the festival is a day for reunion, with the round shape of the moon symbolizing family, abundance and prosperity.

If you think about it, a day where it's "official" to have a little fun with family isn't so bad now that the world isn't feeling so cheerful. Chinoys (or the much longer label, "Filipinos of Chinese descent") around the country have a chance to bond and strengthen a few cultural roots.

Kids get to play a popular dice game that involves confusing dice combinations that will either win you a dinky consolation prize (usually a ballpen) or the biggest, grandest pot of the day (which could be a new cd player if the sponsors are generous). Regardless of the prizes to be won however, it's the coming together that's important.

What's most funny about the Mid-Autumn Fest (among other Chinoy celebrations) is that usually, most of my Pinoy friends are more excited about it than I am. They're the ones who are the first to look for mooncakes. Whenever the festival looms close, morning greetings are punctuated with "And don't forget my mooncake!" All in good fun, of course.

Sweet treats
You can't live in the Philippines and not know about mooncakes. Sweet treats that come in round-shaped bronze-colored pastries filled with sweet lotus seed or red bean paste. Tons of the stuff are sold in Chinatown a couple of weeks prior to the day of all days. Sidewalks are lined with metal tins and whatever new containers they've thought up to make the stuff hipper for the younger crowd. I've heard of mooncakes with cartoon character faces ? I guess the novelty cake concept has spread to these kinds of sweets as well. People descend in droves into the little streets of Ongpin in Chinatown and leave with armfuls, bagfuls or car trunks filled to the brim with the stuff.

As for my friends, I'm happy to oblige their requests for mooncakes. After all, food doesn't taste as good as when it's being shared with good friends and sprinkled with great conversation and stories. Speaking of stories, there's a funny one about the ubiquitous fruitcake. There are only ten fruitcakes in the whole world and that nobody really eats them, they just get circulated from one family to the next. There are times when I tend to think that the same might hold true for mooncakes.

The first few pieces you get to eat are always fun, but once you realize you're left with a dozen or so of the stuff and you can't give them away anymore because it's too late, it's not so fun anymore. You have to endure several days' worth of eating mooncakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner just to finish off your surplus.

Sometimes, you have to think creatively to get rid of excess mooncakes. Of course, one can always go the altruistic and magnanimous route and donate to charitable organizations. Then, there's always your classmates, orggmates or officemates.

If you're having problems with one of your subjects, you can always give a couple to your teacher to help sweeten her disposition. Also, you can give one to your boss if you're positioning yourself for a raise. Just make sure you don't wait too long after the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise she'll figure out you're just using her to get rid of your leftovers. Her disposition may just turn sour instead of the desired sweet!

We could probably even contribute to the world of science using mooncakes. Scientists who study microscopic germs like Neisseria gonorrhea, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Aaron Carter need to grow the germs first. They use a growing concoction they call "culture media". We all know what kind of stuff can grow on leftover food if you leave it out for too long (it's not a pretty sight), perhaps scientists can use it as a new kind of culture medium.

At the end of the day, if you still have a couple of cakes left, I suppose you could use them as hockey pucks, doorstops, paperweights, or as fancy bookends. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Butterfly farm and crocodile farm in Palawan

A Visit to Paradise 
By Walter Ang
September 19, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

This is your intrepid 2bU! correspondent traversing the lush island paradise of Palawan. We have come to conquer the city of Puerto Princessa via an Air Philippines flight from Manila. To rest up for the adventure ahead, we spent the night at the tony Spanish villa- inspired Asturias Hotel. We all had a short nightcap at the lobby's Scenario Bar before turning in for the night.

After devouring a hearty breakfast, we dropped by the butterfly farm first. They showed a video of the butterfly's life cycle that we all thought was hilarious. We felt like a bunch of kindergarteners with this video voice over telling us not to do this and not to touch that and all sorts of other precautions.

I grew up in fume-filled Metro Manila, so butterflies were, and still are, a rarity. It was interesting to see all these colorful flying insects hovering about. There were plates laid out with gumamelas and sliced bananas to attract the little creatures but all you had to do was look up and they were all over the garden. You just had to look a little harder for the ones that were camouflaged like leaves.

The highlight of the morning was when our guide showed us two butterflies that were, well, in flagrante delicto. The garden boasts of its Yellow Breadwings, the second largest butterfly in the country, but it also has a few other creatures that call it home. If you loved the movie "A Bug's Life," then this place will give you a chance to see those computer generated bugs for real. They've got big, juicy millipedes, a walking stick and some fantastic Malay scorpions, among other creepy crawlies.

Crocodilus Park
Moving on, we ventured to the Palawan Wildlife Refuge and Rescue Center, more popularly known as The Crocodile Farm. The skeleton of the largest crocodile ever captured in the country greeted us as we entered the center. All 17 feet and 6 inches of its hide was stretched across the wall like an ominous welcome sign.

When we got to the holding area for the adult crocs, it felt like we were in Jurassic Park ? there were metal walkways and everything. There were so many crocs that were just lying there and not moving at all. Our guides Glenn Rebong and Rene Baylon explained that these reptiles stay very still because of their opportunistic nature. They're all waiting for the first piece of food to come along. That's when the action gets going.

Of course, our guides were quick to dispel the myth that crocs are manhunters. They only attack when they're hungry or protecting their young. They can't even tell the difference between humans and the rest of the animals they usually munch on!

We also had a peek at the infirmary where injured crocs and those born with congenital defects (like missing tails) were kept. 2bU!'s favorite was a croc who had a calcium deficiency and, as a result, had no teeth. Although it is still fed regularly, it looked so forlorn. And who wouldn't be melancholy if the rest of your kind can go through 3,000 teeth in a lifetime and you had none!

Baby, baby!
At the nursery, baby crocs were placed in tubs all lined up in the warehouse. We got a chance to hold one, but to make it safe, its snout was held together with rubber bands. The tiny little thing wriggled as I held it by its neck and tail and it gave out the cutest little croak when we took pictures.

The croc's underside was smooth and it reminded me of Zoology class with all those frogs we had to poke, prod and dissect. Baby crocs are a lot less slimy and messy than frogs, I assure you. But, just like frogs, they do move a lot. Unlike the adults, these were hyper little devils and would snap and scatter every so often.

Their sudden movements would elicit screams from the correspondents as we jumped with fright. The Center is currently being funded by the DENR, but proposals have been made to let the local Palawan government have a bigger hand in running the center to attract more tourists.

I wish we had enough time to explore the underground river, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would also have been fun to visit the Vietnamese refugee camp and taste their cuisine, which a friend has done and bragged about. But then, it gives me a great excuse to visit Puerto Princessa again.

2bU! readers can get the best deals on trips to Palawan by getting in touch with the Network of Independent Travel Agents. Call 522-2434 and they'll refer a travel agent nearest you.

Nature Trip to Coron

Nature Trip to Coron 
By Walter Ang
September 12, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

2bU! arrived as the sun was setting into the earth, casting a glow across the clouds. After landing in Busuanga Island (found at the northern tip of Palawan) via a 19 seater Seair plane, we took an hour jeepney ride to Coron town. We used air, land and, finally, water transportation (a 5 minute boat ride) to reach DiveLink Resort.

Nestled into the hillsides of Uson Island, the bright yellow color of the resort's jetty was already visible from afar. Welcomed by the indefatigable resident manager Maween Reyes, we shared dinner and stories that night. Buffet was served in a charming miniaturized boat as 2bU! and other members of the media were told of the exciting activities that were lined up for us.

In the light of the morning sun, we were able see our cottages in their full Caribbean colors of red, blue and yellow (as are even the bathrooms tiles). Cristina Matta (whose husband Noel co-owns the resort along with Bobong Velez and Henri Blasckiewicz) said the colors were chosen to make the resort "a happy place." The cottages, with endearing fruit names (I stayed in Buko), contain no aircons and television sets. "And they can never, ever have one," said this gracious lady. "The lack of amenities is meant to encourage guests to come out and bask in nature."

Treasure hunting
Dapper Noel Matta, who also heads the security committee of the Palawan Provincial Tourism Council, gave us the lowdown on why Coron is such a hotspot for divers. In 1944, as the second World War was coming to an end, freight ships of General Yamashita docked in Coron.

The ships supposedly carried treasures that the Japanese army looted from Indochina (Cambodia, Myanmar, Burma). Some were even disguised as Red Cross ships but Gen. William ''Bull'' Halsey sent his planes to bomb them anyway since Japan never signed the Treaty of Paris.

There are now 37 total wrecks with 14 diveable sites ? certainly a haven for divers and treasure hunters. We were told of fake "treasurehunters" who buy cheap vases, allow coral to grow on them for about three months and claim these "artifacts" were scavenged from the wrecks. Caveat emptor!

And speaking of buyers beware, since the tourism scene in Coron is pretty much still in its infancy, have the resort arrange any tours or diving trips you wish to take. They know which establishments and operators are reliable and safe. You wouldn't want your day ruined by hooking up with inexperienced or unsavory characters.

Even if Coron is a divers' hotspot, it accommodates non-divers as well. Our multi-talented guide Robert Agusto prepared a whole day of non-diving activities. We started off with swimming at the Twin Lagoons where the water was a clear, rich blue. There were magnificent limestone cliffs all around us; giant monolithic sentinels guarding us as we swam.

Next up was kayaking at a lush, picturesque mangrove that was so serene and teeming with a silent energy. For a city slicker like me whose main form of exercise is channel surfing, the kayaking was quite a workout for my biceps and triceps!

Nothing will compare, however, to Kayangan Lake, an Hall of Famer for being one of the cleanest lakes in the country. This fresh-water lake is accessible by a short climb up a small hill, then down again. When I caught a full view of the lake on my way down, I had to stop in my tracks. It was just oh-so-beautiful.

There we were, appreciating this piece of untouched nature. The silence punctuated by our "Oohs" and "Ahhs." All day long, you could hear people say "Ganda, ganda!" ? and you could only nod in agreement. It was wonderful to just bob contentedly in the water with our orange life-vests (aside from the safety, you needn't tire yourself out so you can concentrate on looking at the sights).

We kept joking that this would be a perfect spot to shoot a porno movie. Both Maween and Robert seem to recall that someone already did. It was supposedly called "Bakit May Pakpak Ang Ibon" ("Why birds have wings," but the sexual innuendo is completely lost in the translation.)

To the ends of the earth
Last stop for the day was Maquinit Hot Springs where we settled down in the fantastic hot salt-water. There we soothed our muscles ? so unused to that much physical activity. And as the sun was setting yet again, I thought to myself, "So this is what an eco tour is like!" You hear about it all the time, but when you actually get to see nature at its best, you gain a deeper appreciation for the word. More people should get to see Coron; let's just hope they keep it clean!

Foreign tourists, mostly Italians and French, have come to visit Coron's beauty, but its guests are still primarily local tourists. The owners are appreciative of the WG&A vessels now plying the Coron route. "For around P6,000, you leave Manila Friday night after school or work and rest on the ship. Spend two days here with all meals and tours inclusive. You leave Coron Sunday night and arrive in Manila early Monday morning. It's great for the weekend market." For those without sea legs, Seair flies to Busuanga from Manila and Puerto Princessa.

Bobson storms Baguio

Bobson storms Baguio 
By Walter Ang
August 1, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In the not-so-distant past summer months, parties and events were liberally sprinkled with "wet" themes. They had rain machines, foam machines and only heaven knows what other kinds of water producing machines. Now that the rainy season has begun and is well under way, the party climate is beginning to take on a different dynamic. The scene won't need artificial water sources anymore, but that certainly doesn't mean the energy levels have gone down the drains and open manholes.

Baguio City was besieged by real rain when 2bU! arrived to join in the fun of this school year's first splash of a party. Despite the continuous downpour, the city was enveloped in a lovely mist and the crisp cold air was perfectly appropriate for some serious revelry making. What better time to usher in another year of studying hard, and of course, partying hard?

Bobson Jeans was throwing an event for all the students and yuppies to kick off the school year. Baptized "Assemblage: A fusion of fashion and music", the clothing line was set to have a general assembly all of its own for the youth in the city. Manolet Tizon, Marketing Manager of Bobson met up with us when we arrived and brought us over to where the evening's event was going to be, Padi's Point.

2bU! was able to hang out with the crew in the late afternoon as they were setting up for the show. The bar's rock lined walls and metal framed stage was being dressed up with large pieces of denim in different colors and shapes for the show. We chatted with exhibit coordinator Rhea as she oversaw the setting up the tables for an evening of henna tattooing, caricaturing and fortune telling. As the rain pelted the sidewalks, Manila based henna tattoo artist Rica Peron amused us with stories of how he got started doing his thing.

A few days before, the Assemblage production team had gone around schools to scout for amateur student models for the show. They found a couple of winning lookers in schools like University of Baguio, University of the Philippines, and Saint Louis University. Assisted by Padi's Point owner Alvin Cagungun, they took these students and threw them together with the Klik Shop Image Models (also students from the same schools) to rehearse for the upcoming fashion show.

The party scene
The drizzle notwithstanding, 2bU! saw firsthand how punctual young Baguio partyphiles were. A line had already formed by the entrance at 7pm. Talk about Filipino time being on time! The venue was packed by the time the party was ready to begin. There was a line outside the door that couldn't get in because they wouldn't fit inside anymore.

The Bobson Assemblage fashion show featured different looks young people can adapt for the rest of the school year. Segments featured the whole gamut of a young, active person's wardrobe from daily campus ensembles to hip, fun partywear. The show even had a segment called "Academic" where the models were made up to look like school geeks, complete with large, black plastic eyeglasses, but sporting preppy, well cut outfits.

The end of the fashion show segued to the evening's special guest star, actress Ara Mina, who had also attended the ribbon cutting with Mayor Bernardo Vergara at the new Bobson boutique in the Baguio Center Mall earlier that day. The audience was surely appreciative of her song numbers and casual interactions with some of the gentlemen in the crowd.

Post show dinner minglings and conversations revealed that director Larry Asistin was pleased with the over-all look of the show. As he should be since he had certainly made the effort to make it happen. He had brought over Jonathan Piao, and his assistant Gigi, both from Salon de Orient (Edmund, who gives great Cold Eucalyptus scalp massages, didn't come along). They'd traveled all the way from their Timog branch to do the make-up and styling with the new hit cosmetics line Anthony Braden.

The effort wasn't lost on the audience and they were pleased as well. When 2bU! asked one local his thoughts on the evening's events, he enthused, "This is one of the most happening places in the city these days, and this event is great!"

The booths were doing brisk business even until after the fashion show had long ended. We left as the party dwindled down, bundled in our jackets and with our arms tightly wrapped across our chests. Walking down the mist laden streets onto home and our warm beds.

Dulaang Talyer tweaks two plays

Dulaang Talyer tweaks two plays 
By Walter Ang
June 27, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dulaang Talyer is certainly revved up to take on the theater scene this year. This theater company's purring along smoothly like a well oiled car with its performances so far. It recently showcased Tagalog translations of a well known Columbian fictionist's short stories in "Mga Kwento Ni Gabriel Garcia Marquez."

Herbert Go directed mostly Philippine High School for the Arts alumni in this trilogy of short plays, performed at the CCP Rehearsal Hall. The show began with a children's play "Isang Napakatandang Lalaking May Higanteng Pakpak" and ended with "Ang Pinakamakisig na Nalunod sa Buong Daidig". Both these plays took off from the author's magical realism style and had a light and surreal, dreamy feel to them.

The second play though, "Makikitawag Lang Ako", was suspenseful and occasionally frightening. It reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode I saw as a child where a teenage girl was trapped inside a department store after closing hours. This play had its protagonist, Maria Cervantes, trapped mistakenly as a patient in a mental hospital. A dark comedy if I ever saw one, you laugh at all the comedic bits, but you're unsure if it's okay to laugh. At the back of your mind, you wonder if she'll ever escape as the remainder of the play unfolds.

A revelation from "Makikitawag" was Mylene Dizon look-a-like actor Kristine Balmes who essayed six different characters. Quick costume changes kept the audience on their toes as they witness her change again and again. Her ambulance driver, with the afro wig and the deadpan face, was the most hilarious. But it was her buck toothed Herculina that elicited the most response, laughter and revolt among others.

The lighting design was wanting but maybe because the rehearsal hall was not their originally intended venue. The evening, however, sustained the intimate mood suited for the material.

Light to Heavy
Paul Morales took the driver's seat in another production as he directed Australian playwright Andrew Bovell's "Speaking in Tongues." This was a turn off the light and comedic road as the material was decidedly edgier and more adult in tone compared to "Maikling Kwento."

Produced in cooperation with the Australian Embassy in celebration of their Centenary of Federation, the play was initially shown in Sanctum*Unmasct bar at the Intramuros. We were able to catch the run in the Australian Embassy in Makati. The play, having won the Australian Writers Guild Award in 1997 for Best New Play, is a novel intertwining of several subplots. Audiences can compare it to the non-linear treatment of Quentin Tarantino's movie "Pulp Fiction."

The play starts off with the story of two couple who cheat on each other with each other. Sounds confusing in a way, but a treat to watch as the couples interact and their lives intertwine. The first four characters talk of their encounters with other individuals, and these individuals eventually become the protagonists in the second act.

In the tangential stories that unravel from one to the other, the same four actors portray the nine different characters throughout the play. It's always fun for the audience to see an actor perform double roles, like Mailes Kanapi's mousy housewife Sonia in the first act transform into a loudmouthed, bitchy Valerie in the second act.

While this company does not usually perform in English, this performance shows language is not a considerable roadblock. Filipino audiences are used to theater companies importing material from America and Europe. It's refreshing to see a play brought over from a much closer neighbor. Perhaps this could start a new trend in the theater scene.

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Set design workshop at the Cultural Center of the Philippines

Summer Designs 
By Walter Ang
June 6, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For close to two months, the Cultural Center of the Philippines became a sort of office/second home to me and a motley crew of diverse personalities and characters. With seven other individuals, I took the set design workshop offered this year. We commandeered the lobby of the Production Design Center everyday for almost eight weeks. Drawing floor plans and set design perspectives in the morning and working hands-on in the Scene Shop building stages and sets in the afternoons.

The set design class was composed of an interesting mix of students, school-based technicians, and community workers. We came to class bleary eyed every morning to take in nuggets of set design techniques from Bobot Lota, who was the set supervisor for the local production of Ms. Saigon.

The whole class had fantastic rapport and we got along gloriously with Bobot. Bobot is fun and has a light, uncomplicated approach to teaching. He has a deceptively sneaky way of getting what he wants from you without being pushy, bitchy or dictatorial. You're sitting there with eyes wide open, wondering if you can draw or build the things he's describing as he talks to you and jokes around. Before you know it, he's coaxed it out of you and you're amazed you could actually produce what you've just done.

After an initial assessment, Bobot adjusted the course syllabus to suit the class's capabilities. Since most of us had a little background in visual arts, he upped the ante and made our class an advanced one. Under his eye, we spent hours drawing, measuring (a real pain I assure you), mixing latex paints, hammering away, sawing loads and loads of plywood, among other glamorous activities.

Light moments
Of course, it wasn't all heavy work. We spent an equal amount of hours sharing stories, making jokes, eating lunch together, talking about the elections, gossiping about actors and other, well, substantial activities.

We had guests from the industry who gave us talks and advice. One thing was apparent from what they shared. They encouraged workshops and formal training for theater practioners since there is a dearth of abled people in the Philippines. Eric Cruz, director of the Production Design Center, stressed that more people should know about the availability of workshops so they can learn more about the craft of set designing.

Apart from special lectures, we even had an educational trip (well, that's what they called it anyway) together with the lighting design class to historic Barsoain Church in Bulacan. The trip was lovely and great fun even though the weather wasn't as sunny as we hoped it would be. I was surprised to learn how near the city this landmark is and how come my grade school never arranged a field trip to the place. I was equally astonished to learn the interior was made of wood and not stone as the ten peso bill would make it seem to be. By the way, the cat isn't there.

We also got to visit the Church museum and experienced a neat light and sound show/exhibit. The hours after lunch were devoted to swimming at a nearby resort and bonding all around with the other class. And another round of gossip about actors.

Coming to an end
As the workshop drew to an end, all the other classes merged to come up with a culminating show of what we've learned. Along with dozens of other students taking workshops in lighting design, stage management, directing and a whole gamut of theater disciplines, we were like ants in a colony. Almost the entire complex was abuzz with activity. It was so filled with enthusiastic activity and hungry people that the cafeteria had to close early on our last day because it had run out of food by 4pm. Much to my shock and dismay, since I was completely famished by then. Poor me.

The teachers of the various classes were on hand to make sure we were on the right track. Even Eric would drop in everyday, giving advice and suggestions. He even taught everyone The Beauty Pageant Candidate Wave, a graceful turning of the upright palm that would surely clinch any crown. You had to see it to believe it, people were waving that way until the very last day.

As the show dates crept nearer, all you could see were people sticking masking tape everywhere while actors invaded every corner and corridor to rehearse scenes. Copies upon copies of scripts, announcements, directories and, ehem ehem, set designs were photocopied and distributed. The frenzied pace of energy swirling around was a sight to behold. Soon, the magic of blending everyone's contributions was becoming more and more concrete.

Everyone was learning from everyone else. We had to figure out how to make things work with only the materials we had. The most creative and wonderful ideas were thrown together to create a show we could all be proud of. And as the curtain fell on the very last performance, the audience applauded. We applauded with them. We applauded ourselves. We applauded each other.

The author recently won Second Place in a Set Design Competition sponsored by Saigon Company Manila and Cameron Mackintosh.

Start your own school club

Start your own school club 
By Walter Ang
May 30, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

School has just started and you're raring to join one of the many campus organizations available. The only problem is, you don't feel like joining the Math Club and you re not interested enough in writing to try out for the school paper. The sound of Chemistry Society makes you cringe and the Drama Guild feels too intimidating to join.

None of the organizations or clubs offers anything that you might remotely be interested in. Too bad, what's an energetic, enthusiastic, eager person like you to do? What if, say, you're really into the esoteric arts and want to get in touch with other persons who like to read rune stones? Start your own organization, of course!

Getting started
First thing you have to do is figure out what it is exactly that you're interested in. Make sure that there aren't any other orgs that cater to your idea already. If your search ends up in zero, then you re on your way to making waves. You'll have a good chance of succeeding if you've got something different to offer. A few years ago, an organization for homosexuals was put up in the University of the Philippines. So far, none of the other Catholic universities have followed suit. Yet.

Your org doesn't have to be politically motivated, however. It can be about anything under the sun. If you're into cars, you could initiate an Auto Action Club. Want to start a crochet club? Go right ahead.

Second step is to ask your school authorities for the proper procedure in starting an organization. Certainly, you'll need to complete some paperwork, like filling out an application form and writing down a constitution. It helps to ask around for copies of the constitutions of other organizations, so you'll get an idea of how to draft yours. Of course, if you're going to start a Young Business Achievers Club, borrowing the papers of the school's Dance Club might not be too good an idea. But you never know what useful ideas you could utilize!

Next, you'll need to look for people who share the same interests. You can't have a club if you don't have members. Usually, there's a requirement for the minimum number of members for the school to approve your application. Ask around, set up posters, pass around flyers. Wear a funny hat and grab their attention. Once you know you're not the only person in school who wants to save the rainforest, you'll have to decide on a set of officers.

This special group of people gets to handle the nitty-gritty of running an org. From paperwork to logistics to reservations to handling money, they hold the structure in place. So when everybody runs off to the next Outdoors Club-sponsored mountain climb, someone will still have to stay behind to type up the project report, finish up the financial report, talk to the sponsors. You get the idea.

Paperwork is a given when you're managing a school organization. It helps to have someone on board who doesn't mind typing excuse letters and filing documents. Someone who doesn't harbor murderous thoughts against the school secretary is an added bonus, especially if you need a lot of papers signed by the principal or dean.

Once your application has been approved, you can start planning activities for the schoolyear. This is tricky since you don't want to schedule anything that'll coincide with long exams. The Auto Action Club can plan campus exhibit and motor parts sale, kicking things off with a motorcade. A car auction with proceeds going to charity doesn't sound too bad either. The Comics Coalition could have a sale and invite local comics artists to grace the event. Workshops on drawing and comic book production can also be held. The newly established Felicitous Society of Jane Austen's Admirers could perhaps schedule tea drinking sessions and spirited readings of the author's works, or even fashion shows featuring modern takes on empire-cut gowns. How's that for fun?

Review of Actor's Actors' staging of "Mother Tongue"

Review of Mother Tongue
By Walter Ang
May 11, 2001

"Mother Tongue" is overwhelming at first glance. After all, it explores race, culture, language, identity, homosexuality, and family in two hours' time. The list goes on, but this latest play from Actors' Actors, Inc. does not choke its audience and serves up a full course of ideas that's done in a funny, poignant manner.

Written by Paul Stephen Lim, "Mother Tongue"'s protagonist is David Lee, a Tsinoy (Filipino born of Chinese descent) who immigrates to America and becomes an English teacher in Kansas. The play is semi autobiographical and goes on to show the inner workings of Lee's mind, more to the point, conversations with his mother in his head.

Lim explores what makes a person who he is. Are we the language we speak, our skin color, where our parents are from? The play brings to light Filipinos who live in a bicultural, displaced world. Most Filipinos have at least one family member abroad, be that America, Saudi Arabia or China, so the idea of a Filipino who does not live in the Philippines is not new. However, the intricacies of balancing two cultures is rarely discussed.

Sentiments are sometimes reduced to selfish requests for pasalubong and resentful looks at relatives who cannot speak Tagalog because it seems they don't try hard enough to learn. For those of us who know what it's like to grow up between countries and cultures, this play hits home right on the dot.

Neither here nor there

How interesting, strange, and funny is it that a Chinese man who grew up in the Philippines teaches English in America? Ask your Tsinoy friends and they will easily relate. Like David Lee/Paul Stephen Lim, I also had to grow up learning English, Tagalog and two Chinese dialects but feel most comfortable using English.

When David's father dies, a Catholic nun questions his mother's Chinese mourning traditions. David's mother answers, "We are Chinese first, then we are Christians." She goes on to perform a Chinese ritual before her husband gets a Christian burial. This was an another interesting scene for me as most Tsinoys do have altars at home where Buddha and Sto. Nino sit congenially beside each other.

This is the kind of play I wish Tsinoys and Fil-Ams would watch since it tells their story of cultural displacement. While the list of cultural quirks in the play go on, at the core is a man's struggle to find himself, a journey any audience would recognize regardless of race. And when David's mother keeps trying to find him a nice girl to marry (among many other motherly things), everyone will recognize the struggle between family obligations and personal freedom.

The Past
Last year, AAI staged another of Lim's plays, "Faces of Clay" at the Batute Theater of CCP. That venue would have been better suited for this play as well. The material needed a more intimate space and the GSIS stage seemed to swallow the actors.

Bart Guingona played Lee under Chris Millado's direction. My dream of seeing actors Nieves Campa and Miren Alvarez together on one stage have finally come true. The mother-daughter tandem is a delight to watch with Campa as Lee's mother Lillian and Alvarez as the young Lillian. They have the ability to convey a full lauriat of emotions with just subtle movements of their faces.

With set designer Iñigo Elizalde, Millado made everyone and everything from Lee's past appear in spectral white. Ghostly images of a past Lee is desperate to forget. It comes full circle at the end of the play when Lee finally gets his green card and is branded by his mother as nothing better than a "white ghost" -- a Chinese derogatory term for Caucasians.

The play is liberally filled with puns and wordplay. It would have been fun, but the jokes were dangerously on the edge of turning into the kind that only stuffy and insufferable English majors who read Russian novelists would laugh, excuse me, snootily chuckle at. The actors made great efforts to pronounce Chinese words but could have used more coaching. It would be interesting if there where Tsinoy actors who were available to cast. Would their personal experiences and knowledge of Chinese infuse a different dynamic to the play?

With the current rallies at the EDSA Shrine going on, the theater wasn't filled up. AAI really should consider another run and marketing it to Tsinoys. Surprisingly, word must've already gotten around since there were Tsinoys seated beside and in front of me. I was very surprised since Tsinoys who watch straight plays are rarer than blue moons.

On a side note, after the play, my friends and I were relieved beyond belief when we caught a passing CCP shuttle. We felt extremely lucky to catch one. Usually, if we commute to the GSIS theater, there aren't any shuttles left when the play ends. We have to walk in the dark (and sometimes the under the rain) all the way to Roxas Boulevard just to catch a ride back home.

In the future, I wish AAI and other theater companies who use the GSIS Theater would provide at least one shuttle for its commuting audience. The venue is just so far away and the streets inadequately lighted that walking just doesn't seem safe (and probably isn't) so late in the night.

A few of the Hundred Islands (in Pangasinan)

A few of the Hundred Islands 
By Walter Ang
April 25, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In every out-of-town trip I've joined, someone always forgets to bring something. It's usually a toothbrush or a pair of nifty sunglasses especially bought for the trip.

You knew things were off to a funny start when 2bU! went to the Hundred Islands and realized each and every single person in the group forgot to bring a camera. Thus, no single picture to show of the trip. Lack of visual proof notwithstanding, we still had loads of great fun.

Day one
We had to call and wake each other up in the dead of night so we could get to the bus station by 2 a.m. Of course, with a relatively big group of eight people, delays were inevitable and we got to the station at 4 a.m. instead. The 4 a.m. bus was already full and the next one wouldn't be leaving until 6 a.m. Groan.

Plans were hatched and it was decided we would use Lavinia's van and wake up her driver to bring us to the promised (Is)lands. Waking someone up to tell him to drive eight people to Pangasinan would surely rattle a few nerves, which was probably why our hardy driver Guado made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

This turned a supposedly quick four-hour trip into an almost eight- hour trip as we took the long way instead of the shortest route possible. Thank goodness for conversations about television shows and cartoons from the '80s and my highly effective sleep-while-in-a- moving-vehicle genes!

Since we got to Alaminos, Pangasinan late in the day, we first looked for a place to sleep. I just love the Pinoy penchant for giving creative names to establishments like Elizabeth Tailoring and Kina Rogers Grill. We finally picked a place with the most hilarious name: The Last Resort. It was recommended by a friend and we had visions of a dark and scary resort that was literally at the end of the line. As it turned out, it was a brightly lit, clean and spacious place near the port.

Before turning in for the night, we decided to get temporary tattoos to show off at the beach. Rica bought a bottle of Bigen hair color and, after preparing a mixture in a bowl, started giving each of us an appropriate design with only a trusty toothpick. For less than P100 and a little imagination, we had fantastic tattoos ready to go. So much for expensive henna preparations! Rica made a great Chinese design on my back. I didn't want to wash it off so it could set overnight. I slept on my stomach but still woke up to find my tattoo design imprinted all over the sheets. Sorry, Last Resort!

Day two
While everyone was preparing his/her personal stuff to bring to the beach, we discovered each one of us had brought some kind of medicine. It was amusing and interesting to see all sorts of medications in our bags. I brought a bottle of Tylenol, and Tish, Seirrogan pills. Seirrogan pills are the ultimate Chinese remedy for all kinds of stomachaches. They're round and smell awful, but ask anyone who grew up with a bottle of the stuff at home and they'll swear by its curative properties. Further investigation yielded even a small vial of Chinese eye drops. We could've opened our own pharmacy. It was just too funny for words!

We found a boat to take us to an island, with each of us paying P15 to some guy wearing a barong and claiming to be from the Department of Tourism. To make things easier, we made Emma our treasurer and she gamely held on to the group funds every time we had to pay for something. We later found out that you only had to pay if you were planning to spend the day at one of the developed beaches with electricity like Quezon Island. We had no such plans but we had to pay anyway. P15 is not a big deal, but the DOT might want to look into this.

We boarded the boat with our tote bags, sun block and fresh seafood we bought at the market and cooked at a nearby stall. About 20 minutes later, we set foot on Kagaw Island. It was fantastic: the sun, the wind, the sea, the sand. We even found a great little nook with a pond and tunnel leading to another side of the island. So aside from just swimming and lying around the sand, we did our own eco-tour! It wasn't as rigorous as what you see on the TV show "Survivor," but it was certainly an exciting and fun activity.

By the time we got back to the resort, we realized the medicines we brought would be serving us well. The little cuts and bruises we got from the sharp rocks we bumped into while swimming were largely ignored. But the people in our group who were sunburnt took some Tylenol while I had to use the Chinese eye drops because my right eye had swollen up. I think some evil insect must've bitten it or something. Groan again.

Day three
An ounce of SPF is better than a pound of sunburn, so with sun block and another batch of cooked food (fried chicken this time), we set out for Quezon Island so we could use our P15 per head fees. We were told to show our receipt to anyone who would check. The sheer number of people spread out on that island made us change our minds in two seconds flat. Our boat operator couldn't even find a spot to dock the boat. We had him turn around pronto.

As we set out to look for another island, we bemoaned our cameraless state as we took in the picturesque scenery. The imposing islands reminded me of that giant turtle in the movie "The Never Ending Story." The turtle's shell looked like an island, complete with trees, and he would emerge from the water, scaring the daylights out of the protagonist. The little kid in me secretly wished that one of the islands would actually rise up and reveal itself to be a giant turtle. Wouldn't that be fun?

We quickly found another island. The sun beat down on us mercilessly so we tried to be resourceful and used everyone's sarongs to make an awning. While other families and groups rented canvas awnings to give them some shade, we had the most colorful, creative, tie-dyed awning on the little stretch of beach that day. We swam and relaxed and felt all of the city's tension and stress melting away.

Day four
Lavinia announced a change of plans. Instead of spending another day in Pangasinan, we were going to Baguio. The last time I went to Baguio was when I was 7, so I readily agreed. I knew we weren't going to visit the tourist places and go horseback riding, but I didn't mind. The chance to go was reason enough for me.

We got there around 3 p.m. and we went straight to the ukay-ukay where we spent a good two hours, well, making ukay. The ukay-ukay building is this great bargain center for used clothes. I got myself a great purple long-sleeved polo for only P100, apart from a few other things. Everyone found some great buys. We even bumped into 2bU! columnist Tim Yap going through the merchandise.

After a hot meal, we walked around the city to pass the time, soak up the cool temperature, and let the traffic ease so we wouldn't have to suffer too much on our way back to Manila. Of course, we also had to pass by the market to buy the de rigueur pasalubong of strawberries and peanut brittle. The cool weather was the best part of the whole trip. It felt perfect and we were all a little sad leaving since we'd have to go back to the hot and humid concrete jungle that is Manila.

Turn off those cellphones and earn people's respect!

Turn off those cellphones and earn people's respect! 
By Walter Ang
March 10, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last Sunday, a friend invited me to watch "Mansfield Park" at the Glorietta Cinema. We're both avowed fans of the movie "Sense and Sensibility", another movie based on a Jane Austen book, so we figured Mansfield Park might be worth a look.

About halfway through the movie, an old grandfather sat beside me. He whipped out his cellphone and promptly started to compose a text message. He had one of those annoyingly bright blue screens that is even more distracting than the regular green ones.

Of course, I wasn't about to raise a ruckus just because this man was using his cellphone inside the movie theater. It's a given these days that most people do not have a clue when it comes to cellphone etiquette. (I still believe those elementary school lessons on phone etiquette should be updated to include cellphone and email etiquette.) In most instances, a politely worded request usually does the trick. Usually.

I leaned in a little closer and whispered, "Excuse me, could you please turn off your cellphone? It's very distracting." Nothing happened. I thought he may hot have heard me since he was an old man, probably in his mid-60s. About four minutes later, he still hadn't turned it off. He was still eagerly punching away at his keypad. I leaned in again and repeated my request, a little louder this time.

What happened afterwards was one of the most surreal things that has ever happened to me. This old frail grandfather stared at me and said sternly, "You don't look at this! It's none of your business! Stupid!"

I was blown away at how incredibly rude this person was! If it had been a young child, I would've assumed he had lousy parents. If it had been a teenager, I would have blamed it on the clichéd teenage angst.

But sitting next to me was an old grandfather blatantly using his cellphone in a theater where it was supposed to be banned. I obviously couldn't pick a fight with him even if I wanted to. I was so taken aback by what he said that all I could mutter in response was an incredulous, "You're not even supposed to be using that inside the theater!" To which his wife, who was sitting beside him, promptly replied, "Walang ka ng pakialam!" (It's none of your business) Talk about adding insult to injury!

What is that walang kamatayang (undying) complaint of the older generation? That the youth are rude and have no respect for everyone and everything. Apparently, some people never outgrow this trait! They should change that adage that older people deserve respect. People (young or old) certainly deserve courtesy, but not deserve respect. Respect has to be earned.

Costly manners
This person can afford a cellphone. He has enough extra money to toy around with so he gets himself a nifty blue screen and an added design acetate to boot. How come he can't afford some manners as well? Mansfield Park is not your everyday blockbusting box office hit. One would assume that the only people who would be interested in watching it would have at least completed high school. Is this the kind of behavior one expects from educated people?

But money and education (or lack of it) is not the issue here. Are people so smitten by the novelty of high tech gadgets these days that basic human interaction skills are completely forgotten? The age of the Jetsons is already here, but the Flintsones would put our behavior to shame.

As for the cinema's management, I do take this feedback seriously. They deserve kudos for bringing in arthouse films, but can they please do something about maintaining order? A short message at the beginning of the movie is clearly not enough. I'm sure they can easily have a check-in counter for communication devices.

The local production of "Ms. Saigon" is the only theater production doing this so far. But when I went to see another play at the CCP and the guards found out I wasn't watching Ms. Saigon, they let me in without a second glance. Oh well, at least someone's started doing it. Check-in counters will certainly not be a hundred percent effective, but at least it will serve as a reminder to movie patrons.

Block those signals!
Better yet, movie theater owners and theatre companies/producers could invest in a device featured in the year end issue of Time magazine. It's called C-guard and it's described as "a jammer device that ? cuts-off communications between cellular handsets and cellular base-stations." In other words, within its area of coverage, it renders use of cell phones useless. If restaurants and movie houses here start using these devices and advertise that they do, I'll be sure to patronize those establishments. Hint, hint to all those owners and managers out there! Consumers have a voice you know.

Let me just say that, yes, I do have a cellphone myself, lest some readers start complaining that I'm just an envious, bitter cellphone coveting loser. I turn off my cellphone when I watch movies and plays. I turn it off when I'm in a place of worship. I put it in mute mode when I'm eating with someone in a restaurant. These are not hard things to do!

Oh yes, by the way, Mansfield Park is worth watching. It's funny and paced well, faltering a little only near the end of the movie. Of course, maybe you should just rent a copy and watch it at the comfort of your own home.

Lee-Limketkai Wedding: A colorful Oriental wedding

Lee-Limketkai Wedding: A colorful Oriental wedding 
By: Walter Ang
March 4, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Kulit!" was what Noel first thought when he met Bonita. On the other hand, she considered him, "sungit." As with classic love stories the world over, in this case, first impressions certainly did not last because one year later, Noel Georgson Lee asked Bonita Limketkai to marry him.

Daughter of Alfonso and Benita Limketakai, Bonita was born in the Philippines but raised in Toronto, Canada, and took up her MBA in Calgery. Noel, son of George and Concepcion Lee, on the other hand, grew up here and attended the Ateneo, taking up chemistry.

First catching each others' eye at a family gathering, with the gentle prodding of their matchmaker Atty. Geronimo Sy, they exchanged wedding vows at the Manila Cathedral in January this year. The bride wore a gown by Oliver Tolentino and had 24 children serving as attendants and flower girls. Principal sponsors were led by the Honorable Edgardo Angara and Ms. Gloria Angara..

Reception followed at the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati with a theme of Oriental fusion. Colors used were rich, designs were elaborate and intricate. Flavors of Chinese, Thai, and even Indian cultures were infused into the festive mood.

Guests invited from all over the world were already given a hint when their invitations arrived wrapped in crisp parchment paper, sealed in the center like a document that could have been received by a Chinese Emperor.

As guests from Europe, China, Taiwan, Singapore and other places from around the globe entered the ballroom, they were greeted with the music of a Chinese orchestra from the Philippine Institute of Quezon City led by conductor Mr. So Giao. As they sat down, they were given a floral treat with the centerpieces on each table, arranged in an ikebana-inspired style by Junjun Hen.

To complete the Oriental theme, a towering wedding cake with a dragon and a phoenix intertwined was created by Penk Ching and Shen Chen of the Pastry Bin. Even the décor used in the ballroom added to the atmosphere as the bride even traveled to Shanghai several months before the wedding to purchase large scarlet obis, silk sashes and bright, red lanterns.

The large authentic lanterns hung magnificently in the middle of the ballroom, with a couple of smaller ones laid on the four corners of the dancing area. A fitting stage for the newlywed's favorite children, swathed in bright red and yellow Chinese outfits, when they performed a cute little number for the newlyweds.

As the guests feasted on a Chinese lauriat, they were serenaded with love songs by host Michael Sy Lim, who also assisted Bonita's sister Donna in the creating the look and feel for the day. It's fitting that these two creative individuals had a hand in developing the day's theme; Donna had taken up fashion design at the FIT in New York.

Instead of the usual games for the bachelors and single ladies, a trivia game about the couple was concocted a la "Pera o Bayong" (a popular game on a noontime variety show) style, which amused everyone as the "contestants" rushed towards the letter of the correct choice. The afternoon was completed with provisions of little bells that guests could ring instead of the traditional tinkling of silverware on their glasses so they could urge the newlyweds to give each other a loving kiss.

Gems of Filipino Theater for the Year 2000

Gems of Filipino Theater 
By Walter Ang
January 22, 2001
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Luna: An Aswang Romance (from
The theater scene in 2000 was certainly filled with pomp, big machinery and extensive publicity. There were, however, gems throughout the year whose creativity and charm were easily eclipsed by the noise of bigger productions.

We caught several smaller, intimate plays and musicals that didn't enjoy the same amount of hype of the other shows. It's heartening to know that in Philippine theater, big things do come in little packages.

With a lot of debate and discussion surrounding Western themes and stories invading the Philippine stage, the year 2000 certainly didn't start off in that direction. Gilda Cordero-Fernando's "Luna: An Aswang Romance" was an imaginative (and big) production that showcased what the creative Pinoy mind could conjure.

Delving into local engkanto folklore, this tale of love between a manananggal and a mortal is as Filipino as Erap jokes. It brought together a hodgepodge of well-known artists and fashion designers. With close to 60 costume changes, it was described by its makers as "a fashion show masquerading as a play."

And what costumes they were, with materials that ranged from abaca to cassette tape ribbon, everything you could think of, except the kitchen sink. With Chin Chin Gutierrez as Luna, creatures of the night had never been this beautiful.

What was most exciting about "Luna" was the coming together of artists from different theater companies in and around the city. Actors from Peta, Repertory Philippines, Tanghalang Pilipino and Gantimpala Theater Foundation interacted onstage, producing such dynamism that was fresh and fun to watch.

The exchange of talents didn't end there. Tanghalang Pilipino's John Arcilla guested on the Repertory stage as Valentin in the musical "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Michael Williams played the gay cell mate Molina.

While we weren't able to catch Peta's musical drama- comedy "informance," ''Tumawag Kay Libby Manaoag," friends gave glowing reviews of the company's efforts in bringing women's issues to the forefront, using theater to make the material accessible, and touring the show to audiences who needed to learn from it the most.

Bankard trilogy
We were also able to catch two productions from Bankard's Trilogy of plays. Kudos, by the way, to Bankcard for making their shows free to students and educators. Shown at the PCIBank Tower Auditorium in Makati, "Diary of Anne Frank" featured a set design patterned after the actual layout of the house where Anne Frank lived. It strived to convey the cramped and claustrophobic living quarters her family had to endure during those hard times.

Another play in the series was American playwright A.R. Gurney's "The Dining Room." It had no plot to speak of. Instead it featured six actors essaying more than 20 different characters in 17 completely different vignettes unified only by their setting?the dining room. To watch actors Nieves Campa, Jocelyn De Jesus, Sandy Hammett, Richard Cunanan, Paul Holmes and Bonggoy Manahan change personalities at the snap of a finger so many times within two hours was just incredibly awe-inspiring and fun.

Actors' Actors Inc. also staged a play written by a US-based playwright, but a Filipino one this time. Paul Stephen Lim's "Figures in Clay" had only three characters in a bare acting platform with three chairs. Bon Vibar, Bart Guingona and Paolo Fabregas portrayed the intimate and intertwined relationships of three gay men, each separated from the other with a 20-year age gap.

Some companies took on another Western playwright as well, but "indigenized" the material with Asian sensibilities. Shakespeare proved he's always in vogue as the year closed with two of his works in translation by the late Rolando Tinio.

"Twelfth Night" and "Macbeth" were staged by Tanghalang Ateneo and Tanghalang Pilipino respectively. Both productions infused Asian settings, costumes, make-up, choreography and stylized movement into these timeless tales of comedy and tragedy, giving them a definite Filipino twist.

The year 2000 was ripe with choices for the Filipino theatergoer. Big Broadway musicals, original Filipino productions, enduring classics and experimental shows. Pomp and circumstance, heart and soul, all dished out with Filipino ingenuity and talent.

What will the year 2001 have in store for us? Raise the curtains and start the show!