Toast 2006: The Art of Winemaking at Wine Depot

Bottoms up with Toast 2006: The Art of Winemaking at Wine Depot
By Walter Ang
December 6, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In his book "The Metrosexual Guide to Style," Michael Flocker concisely articulates a great way of looking at libations: Beer is easily consumed, fun to indulge in and comes in a variety of brands. There are light beers, dark beers, cheap beers and top-of-the-line beers. Wine is more complex and is more of an acquired taste. Defined by region and produced with a much greater attention to detail, wines are multifaceted and contain subtleties and distinctions that are not always immediately recognizable. Of course, there are also cheap wines.

That being said, he also provides a great analogy for both, likening beer to movies and wine to films. If that's the case, then the recent wine festival, "Toast 2006: The Art of Winemaking," was a veritable Metro Manila Filmfest for wine-lovers.

Organized by WineDepot, the festival featured booths of the different labels and wineries that they carry. Taking over the Rockwell tent, the festival gathered wine aficionados despite the balmy weather. Attendees got to taste all the wine they could while chatting up representatives of different wineries.

Now, wine is one of those things that many 2bU! readers might only have a fleeting encounter with. The occasional wedding reception, a birthday party here and there, or a fancy date when you're out to impress or be impressed. After all, it's so much easier to order a keg of beer if you're out with friends or to get your buzz via cocktails.

However, trying out something new and gaining a better appreciation or perspective for it is always a good thing to do. When it comes to food and drink, there's no other way to learn about it than to literally take it in.

Trying it out
For wines, you can, of course, read up a little bit about it before you buy a bottle or two. You can try out your selections at home with family and friends (that way, you can make faces and be as loud as you want with your commentary). One good trick is to buy two kinds so you can compare. The next time, get a new one to compare with the one you liked.

When it comes to red wine, the usual kinds are cabernet, chianti, merlot, shiraz, pinot noir, and zinfandel. The last two are considered more "light and sweet" and are a good first step for those who want to begin exploring the universe of wines. Not only that, zinfandels can be usually paired with easy, everyday meals like pizza, spaghetti with meat sauce, barbecue chicken, steaks, and burgers.

At one of the wine-tasting classes at the festival, Angus Lilley of Ravenswood Winery (based in Sonoma County, California) shared copious notes and insights on five different zinfandels namely Big River, Barricia, Belloni, Dickerson, and Teldeschi.

Lilley explained that where a wine is made greatly influences the way it tastes. Apparently, California has diverse winegrowing environments, such as varying soils and climates, that confer different grape characters. The way a wine is made also influences the outcome. How a wine is aged, in French oak barrels for example, and how long it is aged also creates different varieties of wine. Thus, a wide varietiey of zinfandels.

The possible combinations and permutations have given birth to Ravenswood's thee tiers of zinfandels: Vineyard Designates (select and limited production), County Series (a blend of modern and classic winemaking techniques), and Vinters Blend Series (wines for everyday drinking). As Lilley uncorked and espoused the differences of the five featured labels, attendees of the class partook and experienced a taste of each.

Mini tasting sessions
The good news is that wine festivals aren't the only time that wine tastings are held. In the three WineDepot showrooms in Makati, Pasig, and Alabang, a nominal fee of P150 lets anyone have a mini-wine tasting session of their own. Advice on what kinds of wine you might like come courtesy of the staff.

"Our staff are well trained to answer any question. We even send them abroad to the different wineries for training," shared Hazel Buenas of WineDepot. "All the wines we carry also have easy-to-read identity cards that note the taste, let's say sweet or spicy, as well as what kinds of food can be best paired with a particular wine. This makes it a bit easier for first-timers to narrow down their choices."

In their efforts to make wine more accessible to a wider audience, WineDepot has a text-message service for updates on featured labels, as well as a website,, that offers online shopping, information on highlighted selections, current promos, and a newsletter to boot. A prime launch pad for further adventures with wine.

Call WineDepot at 889-4889.

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Not just a camera phone: Sony Ericsson K800i

Not just a camera phone: Sony Ericsson K800i 
By Walter Ang
November 29, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Apart from the K800's dandy camera capabilities, it's also packed with multimedia capabilities and lots of features that lets the user maximize wireless connectivity.

It's capable of 3G video calling as well as internet access. For insta-info junkies, it has a built in RSS reader. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a way to find out the latest updates of a website (for example new entries from a blog, the latest articles from a news site or even emails from a Yahoogroup) without actually visiting the website. Instead, links to the newest articles are sent to your RSS reader.

The camera is also integrated with software so that you can send your photos to your account. If you don't have an existing account (like, the phone will create one for you. It also allows you to edit photos (cropping and such) as well as add text before uploading to the web.

With 64 MB (megabyte) of memory, you can store up to 2,500 numbers. If you're using another brand and want to transfer your phone book entries, one way to do it is to sync your phone to Microsoft Outlook first and then sync the info to your K800i.

On the other hand, you can also store video files or up 124 photos at the highest picture setting. You can upgrade to Sony Ericsson's Memory Stick Micro M2 which provides another 1 GIG (gigabyte) of memory. This memory stick format is new to the market, so let's hope they incorporate it into other Sony Ericsson and Sony products for best long-term value.

The unit comes with headphones that have an FM radio tuner built in. The phone can be plugged into a speaker unit (sold separately) if you want to party. Using Bluetooth, you can control your phone remotely while transferring music files from your laptop or computer. The phone comes bundled with a USB 2.0 cable for more conventional file transfers. It also infrared-capable and can stream MPEG4 and Real video.

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First ever Student Advertising Congress held

Advertisers of tomorrow, first ever Student Advertising Congress held
By Walter Ang
November 29, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The first ever Student Advertising Congress, with the theme "By the Youth, For the Youth," was recently held at the Aliw Theater in Pasay City.

Philippine Information Agency director Conrad Limchaco gave the keynote speech and pointed out that there are currently 2.7 million students in advertising-related college courses like communications arts.

He cited the potentially "tremendous" contributions these students are capable of delivering for the Philippine economy once they graduate.

Opening remarks were given by Matec Villanueva, an officer of the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4A's), who reminded that students and teachers that advertising is "not glamorous and sosyal," and that it is "first and foremost a service industry" wherein the excitement comes from "creating communications that work."

The congress began with a call to use advertising and other marketing communication disciplines for corporate social responsibility. Campaigns Advocacy and Public Relations (Capri) president Bong Osorio opened the first day's line-up of activities with a backgrounder on the said topic.

Avenues for expression
Philippine Daily Inquirer president Alexandra Prieto was also invited to speak to the over 2,000 participants about the available venues open to them for speaking their minds. Prieto cited PDI's various sections that "address the need of the youth to be heard."

She pointed out the broadsheet's "In the Know" series of "fast facts" that help explain background information on issues to readers, usually highlighted in a box and using layman's terms. Prieto then featured the "Talk of the Town" section that comes out every Sunday that "aims to address current issues from the views of various sectors. The page gives readers a comprehensive and balanced understanding of a current issue."

Most interesting to the congress participants was when Prieto listed PDI's initiatives specifically for the youth such as the Youngblood column in its Opinion section and 2bU!'s "Change the World" series of articles in its Lifestyle section. She urged the participants to take advantage of these opportunities to let their voice be heard and to make a difference.

The first day's activities featured a forum, dubbed "Saan ka Swak sa Advertising?," where industry experts helped students figure out what kind of advertising-related work they are most suited for apart from the most known creative positions of copywriter and art director.

Moderated by journalist Che-Che Lazaro, the panel consisted of Juliet M. Mendoza of Mediaedge (media planning and buying), Alex Syfu of Dm9jaymesyfu ad agency (account management), Oli Laparel of RS Video and Productions and Sid Maderazo of 88Storey Films (production work), Meckoy Quiogue of GMA Marketing and Production (TV network), Jun Nicdao of Manila Broadcasting Company (radio network), (production).

The second day showcased the awarding ceremonies of the student competitions. Judging was made by officers of the Creative Guild of the Philippines.

Team Espresso from Lyceum of the Phils. University, with Brandy Mae Coco, Ramir Cambiado, James Milo Gamoning, Myra Mirasol Magante and Ruth Luciano, took home the Best Sound Production award (PDI's single medium radio category); and Best Editing and Best TV Ad awards (PDI's single medium TV category).

Pantheon Advertising of Lyceum of the Phils. University, with Jonah Brocka, Jonalyn Balderas, Leenard Delegero, Luela Marie Almazan and Jovy Intal, won the top honors for Philippine Daily Inquirer's single radio and print categories.

However, it was Team Adversingko from University of Santo Tomas, composed of students in the Fine Arts major in Advertising course: Raymond Olano, Jeslie Anne Esperas, Stephanie Mangalindan, Arabella Beltran and Joy Mongado, that took home most of the top awards that included Globe's Single Medium categories for TV, radio and print and the top spot in both Globe and PDI's tri-media category.

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REVIEW: Distilling Dulaang UP's 'Hamlet'

Distilling Dulaang UP's 'Hamlet'
By Walter Ang
November 27, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The world of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, is thrown into a doozy when he learns of his father's death and when his mother Getrude marries his uncle Claudius. He encounters his father's ghost who accuses Claudius of murder. Hamlet must now to find a way to confirm this claim and exact revenge.

In Shakespeare's most quoted play ("To be or not to be," "something is rotten in the state of Denmark," "murder most foul," "the lady doth protests too much," and so on.), death is assuredly a constant shadow hanging over the characters.

In Dulaang U.P.'s staging, dubbed "Hamlet: Redux," director Tony Mabesa couples death with its most famous partner: sex. He prologues the play with a bacchanalia of beasts and phantoms with oversized sex organs, then proceeds to immerse the characters in a world of sexual tension filled with shades of incest, Oedipal love and even voyeurism and cross-dressing.

With English and Tagalog shows, this production also attempts to bring the Bard closer to our times by having the cast wear modern dress and occasionally using pop-culture references like rock-and-roll music, cellphones and drugs, as well as utilizing a set design that incorporates video montages designed by Winter David. Mabesa uses these devices to effectively tighten the action and point out possible motivations of certain characters.

English and Tagalog
Mabesa has created this layered, complex world where his dual-language production offers subtle differences for each version.

Jeremy Domingo leads the English cast that channels a bit of good old British reserve, their emotions broil under the tough facades their characters so valiantly try to put up. Domingo imbues Hamlet with a constant rumbling interior confusion, he is torn by what's going on around him. Richard Cunanan as Claudius is incredibly at ease with the Bard's lines and uses them with great clever timing.

The Tagalog cast, led by Arnold Reyes, as Filipinos are wont to do, wear their emotions on their sleeves. Reyes takes Hamlet on a more frenzied path and lashes out at everyone around him. Angeli Bayani as Gertrudes and Cherry Canton as Ofelia deliver powerful nuanced characterizations.

Both casts maneuver through Mabesa's judicious editing of the text, sustaining the suspense and dread in this abridged two-hour version
(uncut, it runs for four hours).

We feel for Hamlet. He is grieving, he's in torment, his loses his girlfriend, etc. Serious themes, for sure.

However, one trick to watching a Shakespearean tragedy is to mine it for all its inherent ridiculousness. On the other hand, if you think about it, Hamlet is paranoid, neurotic, suicidal, sees and believes in ghosts, and is prone to exaggeration and theatrics. After all, this is the guy who pretends to go insane and employs an acting troupe to help solve the mystery.

There's the rub. While the poetry makes us smile, the underlying melodrama makes us smirk. In fact, in National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio's translation, some scenes unintentionally become quite funny as the Tagalog exposes a fresh take on how silly some of the situations or the English lines can be.

This is where we experience Mabesa showing us the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge"-ness of it all. He presents Hamlet's childhood friends Rosencratz and Guildenstern as bumbling pansies that recall Tin-tin's detective friends, Thomson and Thompson. He also chooses strong actors Alan Palileo (English) and Jacques Borlaza (Tagalog) to portray the "lowly" clown/gravedigger, whose flippant remarks about death mocks all the "high" characters and provides perspective for the audience.

For a cheeky coup d' grace, Mabesa stages the final duel in a way that's inspired by a widely emailed video of Japanese ping-pong players manipulated like bunraku puppets by men in black. Definitely a Hamlet for our times.

Hamlet runs until December 9. Call Dulaang U.P. at 926-1349.

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Confessions of a 'Jewel in the Palace' addict

Confessions of a 'Jewel' addict 
By Walter Ang
November 15, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

By the time the first run of "Jewel in the Palace" was about to end earlier this year, I had become so enamored with the show that when two of its actors visited the Philippines, I waited three hours amidst a throng of fans to catch a glimpse of them.

When they finally appeared onstage, they were as small as ants from where I stood. They scurried away after only about three minutes in the spotlight.

I was first encouraged to watch this Koreanovela (the show is on its encore run, weeknights at 6 p.m. on GMA network) when a friend told me how funny it was. I remembered the seminal "Betty La Fea" back in the '90s and how hilarious it was, so I asked for more details.

"It's about Jang Geum, a little orphan girl who wants to become a kitchen chef in the King's palace. She's the 'jewel' the title alludes to," he explained. "When someone steals the flour she needs to use for her final exams, everyone cries."

Intrigued, I dutifully tuned in to see what the fuss was all about. I figured that I, too, could have a good laugh over all this melodramatic silliness of crying over spilt milk, or in this case, stolen flour.

First time
The episode I caught that fateful night had Jang Geum (already one of the junior kitchen staff since she was able to pass that exam by making her own flour) playing detective in an attempt to find out what was causing the paralysis of the King's son. Ah, a mystery as well!

As it turned out, one of the ingredients used in the prince's meal, while medicinal in small amounts, became a paralyzing agent when its effects were magnified by another ingredient in the recipe. How did Jang Geum prove her theory? She cooked the recipe again, adjusting the amount of the paralyzing ingredient, ate it herself, and promptly fell to the floor as she lost all feeling in her extremities.

The episode ended with her friends chiding her, "I don't know if you're smart or stupid." I was laughing so hard I thought I'd end up losing all sensation in my limbs myself. And I was hooked.

How could anyone not fall in love with this naive but determined heroine with a heart of gold who struggled at all costs and endured all to achieve her dreams? If that's quite a mouthful, it is. In the grand scheme of soap operas, her plight is nothing new. But finally, here is a fresh take on the same old themes and archetypes.

Production values
Jang Geum's trials, travails and ultimate triumph when she is forced to shift careers and becomes Korea's first lady doctor is based on a real historical figure. The show is set in another culture and in another time?something fanciful to take the mind away from our daily grind. Production values include gorgeous costumes, detailed sets and inventive camera framing. Let's not forget all those wonderful sequences dealing with food preparation!

However, it was the superb Tagalog translation and dubbing that really kept me glued. The emotions conveyed by the dubbers were spot on. The voice actors of Jang Geum's adopted parents had perfect comic timing to match the facial expressions of the Korean actors. They were absolutely hilarious.

Lessons learned
The translation also brought "deep" Tagalog closer to a huge audience. We have to admit, who among us can actually construct Tagalog sentences with correct grammar and syntax?

So it was great to hear the lyricism and poetry of our own language come to life. I don't know by how many notches my Tagalog skills went up during the run of the show, but I now know the Tagalog word for sulfur (from the episode when Jang Geum had to cook sulfur-fed ducklings for the King).

"Jewel in the Palace" came into my life at a time when I was dealing with my very own cast of dubious characters with ill motives. With Jang Geum, I could have some de-stressing entertainment and also pick up?hokey as this might sound?tidbits of inspiration as she outmaneuvered the many hurdles thrown her way.

I spent the next several months living vicariously through Jang Geum, screaming and shaking my fist at her enemies, laughing at their repeated comeuppances, and smirking at their eventual downfall. For all the months the show was on, I followed Jang Geum through her multiple stumbles and cheered her at her every rise. And, yes, I refused to attend weeknight meetings if it meant I would miss the show.

We all need a Korean fairy tale every now and then.

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Kitchie and Barbie in back-to-back concert

Kitchie and Barbie in back-to-back concert 
By Walter Ang
November 8, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Barbie Almabis and Kitchie Nadal recently performed back-to-back for the first time, albeit only a handful of selected people got to see the performance. The two musicians actually headlined a private concert for 19-year old Veron Samonte and forty of her friends and family.

A 19-year old nursing student from Kestergard College, Veron was treated to a free private concert as her winning prize in Sunsilk's "Great Hair Day" promo. Used to taking care of other people as part of her academic tranining, Veron said she enjoyed having the tables turned. "[The Sunsilk staff] made me feel special," she said. "Up until the concert ended, they gave me and my friends VIP treatment."

The concert was held at the intimate Teatrino Hall in Greenhills Promenade where a dinner buffet was also served to the guests. "I've always loved rock bands," exclaimed Veron. "That's why it was such a treat to watch Barbie and Kitchie sing their wonderful songs, just for me!"

As a bonus, Veron was even invited onstage by the two musicians to jam with them in a cover of Erasherheads' "Ligaya." And to think that Veron didn't initially believe that she had won. "It was too-good-to-be-true," revealed. When she was finally convinced that it was no hoax, she wasted no time in inviting her friends. "They said that I'm really lucky. I've never won anything in raffles or that sort of thing. Yup, winning Sunsilk's contest makes me a lucky girl."

In addition to the free concert, part of Veron's prize included outfits from Genevieve Gozum and shoes from Celine as well as a make-over package from David's Salon.

The Sunsilk "Great Hair Days" promo is still ongoing. Participating partners include Jollibee, Celine, Cinderella, Nafnaf, National Bookstore, YRYS, 99 Store, David's Salon, Netopia, Dunkin Donuts, Kamera World, Western Union, Odyssey, Toby's Sports, Super Ferry, Sari-Sari Store, Genevive Gozum, Marcela, SWATCH, and RRJ.

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Halloween party madness

Halloween party madness 
By Walter Ang
October 25, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

So you're tired of the same old Halloween party themes where everyone puts red liptstick on their chins and runs around screaming, "Blood! I have blood running down my chin!" Pretending to be monsters, vampires, fairies and pirates sure are a fun way for us to let our hair down but they can get a little trite. For a change this year, try out some of these alternative themes.

Run, Tagpi, run! 
Want the chance to scream, "Hayop ka!" to your friends? Fun and animal welfare consciousness come together when you organize an endangered-species party. Guests must announce the scientific name of the animal that their costume represents followed by "Save the (common name)!" For example, "Pithecophaga jeffreyii! Save the Philippine Eagle!"

Endangered human species like "honest politician" or "intelligent person" are not allowed. As a twist, you can just have an cartoon-animals--only party where barkadas must have a theme such as Sanrio characters, Disney characters or Hanna-Barbera characters. Use of real animal skin, fur, feathers, scales and what- have-you is strictly prohibited.

Your days are numbered. 
Mathletes of the world, unite! Who says braniacs can't have fun? Get inspiration from the educational television show "Math-tinik," and stage your very own fraction party. Yes, fractions! Everyone must come as their favorite fraction. Wear it on your head, splash it across your shirt, come in color coded patches where one color is the numerator and the other color is the denominator, the possibilities are endless!

Keep the non-math fans at bay by requesting everyone to reduce their costume's fraction to the equivalent lowest term. If they can't compute, they're not true math fans.

Attack of the killer tomatoes.
Admit it. Whenever you see little preschool children dressed up as vegetables for their classroom play on healthy foods, deep down inside your heart of hearts, there is a little quivering tinge of regret. Oh how you wish you had raised your hand all those years ago when your very own teacher asked for volunteers.

What are you waiting for then? Throw a vegetable-costumes-only party. Finally, you now have a reason to dress up as a giant eggplant. No pressure of being graded either! For bonus fun, try using real vegetables as part of your costume. You can start eating your costume in the middle of the party and scream, "I'm becoming a cannibal!"

REVIEW: Ghosts in the toilet, skeletons in the closet

Ghosts in the toilet, skeletons in the closet 
By Walter Ang
October 25, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THIS Halloween, you can opt to explore haunted, dingy bathrooms or you can just take a trip to a darkened theater situated in the basement of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Nope, no cobwebs and coffins here, only Tanghalang Pilipino's staging of "Bakeretta (Ghost Operetta)," a Filipino translation of a Japanese play that deals with an amateur theater company as they rehearse a ghost (bake) story "The Ghost in the Toilet."

In this horror-comedy-musical-drama, fans of Japanese horror movies like "Ring" and "The Grudge" will certainly enjoy the way this production pokes fun at the recently popular movie genre. For example, a gaggle of Sadako-wannabees make an appearance, however, they share the stage with one of our very own manananggals. In a recent preview held at lighting designer Shoko Matsumoto's Sinag Arts Studio, even the pacing seemed to mimic the halting rhythm of a suspense-thriller.

As the play was originally written in a provincial dialect of Japan, this Manila production transplants the action to Cebu in an attempt to retain the rustic flavor of the characters in a (mostly) Tagalog translation by Liza Magtoto.

Humor and laughs come as the strong and talented ensemble cast ham it up to effectively portray the not-so- strong and not-so-talented fledgling "actors" go through the paces of their hokey musical numbers (choreographed by Novy Bereber) and overly melodramatic scenes. It's a treat to see the entire cast switch effortlessly from comedy to serious drama and back again.

The audience watches the "rehearsals" unfold to find out if there really is a ghost in the toilet. Along the way, they see how the amateur theater group grapples with their own personal skeletons-in- the-closet: specters of mistrust, fading memories of the past, phantoms of disillusionment, the ephemeral nature of hope, and the ever-present and hanging shadow of death.

At the core of it all is a love triangle brilliantly threshed out by Ronnie Lazaro (to be alternated by Nonie Buencamino), Irma Adlawan-Marasigan, and Mailes Kanapi. These three theater veterans anchor the show with their highly nuanced and sensitive characterizations.

Playwright Chong Wishing flew in specially to direct this staging as part of the commemoration of 50 years of Philippine-Japan friendship, with support from the Japan Foundation Manila Office and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The regular run will be held at the intimate Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater) of the CCP from November 10 to 26.

For details, call Tanghalang Pilipino at 832-3661 or 832-1125 loc. 1620 or 1621.

Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Rhett Eala do Bikram yoga

Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Rhett Eala do Bikram yoga
Some like it hot
By Walter Ang
Sept.-Nov. 2006 issue
Metroactive Magazine

Unlike most gyms that blast icy, cold air into your face, the lobby of Bikram Yoga Manila makes you feels as if you've stepped out into the street on a sunny day. Ceiling fans provide a semblance of a slight breeze in this sparse foyer as you step onto its hardwood floors that are lit just-so. None of the thumpa-thumpa beats of a remixed version of yet another Kylie Minogue song. More of the silence of a library with a similar palpable, mute energy.

The only sound you hear is the constant stream of directions barked out by Tristan Choa, instructor to a group of students striving to hold their asanas or yoga poses in the heated studio. Choa, who opened the studio late last year, explains that the raised temperature, 36 degrees Celsius, is the trademark of Bikram Yoga -- an attempt to simulate the climate of India, where all current iterations of yoga are derived from.

It's actually supposed to be hotter, 42 degress to be exact, but adjustments have been made for our country's humidity. Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this particular yoga style aims to allow for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. Thus, its more popular moniker: hot yoga.

Even society maven Tessa Prieto-Valdes's usual effervescence takes on a completely subdued turn as she concentrates on the instructions, beads of sweat rolling off her body. "Even though we were supposed to be quiet," she recounts. "I complained the loudest about the heat when I first tried it out. But now, I don't even notice the heat anymore."

Despite the initial disorientation of working out in a room that makes you perspire even before you start moving, Tessa has come to espouse the merits of this kind of yoga. "I started doing Asthanga yoga five years ago but had to stop during my pregnancy," she says. "I tried Bikram yoga after some prodding and after a few months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight."

Because it is relatively new compared to other more established yoga styles such as Iyengar and Kundalini, "Purists say hot yoga is for lazy people, that it's the Hollywood version of yoga," confides Valdes. "But, hell, it works! You might as well get into it."

She is quick to point out that it is not a easy work-out at all. Concentration and endurance goes into achieving the sequence of 26 asanas (2 sets in a 90 minute class) that stretch and tone the entire body.

Lauded fashion designer Rhetta Eala remembers the first time he saw a class of students contorting themselves into pretzel shapes. "I just looked at them and laughed. I said to myself, 'They look so ridiculous!' But after I tried it, I felt so good. I loved it!" he raves.

Newbies are given orientations before their first class: Each class is always the same series of poses. It differs for beginners only in intensity. The more classes you take, the more you are able to do the poses correctly. Everyone is to try to do each pose if they can, but not to force themselves if they can't.

"That's why it's such a challenging work-out," explains Valdes. "You are constantly self-correcting yourself. You reinforce your muscle memory and you find yourself bending more and more each time without you really being conscious of the effort involved. I always feel so toned and fit after a class."

She also notes that because students go at their own pace, "Anyone can join regardless of age, gender, or physical condition. In fact, I encouraged my 60-year old friend to come and she's doing just fine. It's great for people who are getting back into fitness or just beginning to get into it."

Rhett, on the other hand, enjoys the low-impact cardio work-out that hot yoga provides. "I used to exercise on treadmills at the gym but my left knee can't take it anymore. With this kind of yoga, the heat loosens the muscles and lessens the chances of injury. It's not a painful way for me to get my cardio."

He dismisses the notion that it is a quick-fix for weight loss. "Yes, the heat helps in reducing injuries and it makes sweating easier, but at the end of the day, if you don't push yourself, nothing will happen to you." The slow-and-steady mindset is quite effective in Rhett's case as he's lost close to 50 lbs. over the course of a year.

Even as Rhett and Tessa have incorporated hot yoga into their schedules, "When I have a full evening schedule, I go to Pye Trinidad's home studio in the mornings. It's suited for those who want a more private environment," claims Tessa, they both agree that it is not the panacea to all of life's aches and extra pounds.

Rhett still religiously goes to the gym in between meeting clients while Tessa mixes it up with flamenco, belly dancing and swimming as she attends to her family and glamming it up for her many events and functions throughout the week.

Both also extol the added boost to their self-discipline as a result of taking hot yoga. "It helps in controlling my diet because yoga makes you feel more aware of your body. You become conscious of what it needs and what it doesn't. When I started doing yoga, I always felt so hungry afterwards, but now I don't," shares Rhett.

And while hot yoga may not be the most spiritual of yoga styles, it can act as a channel for meditation. "With other yoga styles, it's usually very quiet so sometimes your mind wanders. It can be hard to concentrate. I find the constant guidance of the instructors helps me focus on the yoga," enthuses Tessa. "Not only that, after each class, they allow you to stay for as long you need to. You get a chance to meditate on your own, too. It's like meditation for real people"

Rhett concurs, "Because of the guidance, by the time you know it, the class is over. Whenever I feel down or am in a foul mood when I start a class, everything is equalized at the end of it. I've become a much calmer person." He also enjoys the group dynamic of being in a class. "It helps boost your motivation when you see all these other people working hard. Their energy is infectious. It's also a nice way to meet new people. I've become friends with my classmates and all we can talk about when we go out is our poses."

Contact Bikram Yoga Manila at tel. no. 889-1011 or and Pye Trinidad at 0917-834-0659.

Lauren Dyogi is Walking Tall

Walking Tall 
By Walter Ang
August-September 2006
Metro Him Magazine

Lauren Dyogi towers above everyone in an ABS-CBN studio bustling with production assistants and auditionees. A veritable lighthouse wearing a crisp white long-sleeved polo, you can feel him sending out invisible beams of guiding light to keep everyone on course. It is just another day in a busy week for this prolific director when we encounter him. Today, he is filtering out groups of hopefuls in order to distill a workable cast for his upcoming show ? the Pinoy version of international reality-TV hit "Big Brother."

As the 29th franchise in the world and the 2nd in Asia, the voyage of mounting our very own adaptation of the show is daunting to say the least. Dyogi, however, is blanketed in an aura of serenity. "I pace myself," he announces in a deep, deliberate voice. "As a director, I always believe that the particular ingredients for putting up a show will fall into place at the right time." He then mentions casually that he will be selecting 50 to 100 finalists from an original 30,000 applications. From there, Dyogi will whittle it down to the final 12 for the show which debuts in August.

The viewing public has a somewhat intimate knowledge of Dyogi's powers of selection when they used to watch him daily as one of the jurors on the talent-search show, "Star Circle Quest." His acerbic evaluations of the contestants made him the juror everyone loved to hate. In this behind-the-scenes process, however, fans of SCQ may find him uncharacteristically courteous as he softly thanks groups of auditionees after giving them a once through.

This is the real Lauren Dyogi, insiders assert. Congenial, professional and with an eye for detail, many readily claim that he is, "a reliable guy to get a show on the road." Dyogi joined ABS-CBN during its resurrection in the mid-80s after graduating Cum Laude with a Communications degree from the University of the Philippines.

"I never planned on becoming a director," the 6-foot tall director intimates. "But when I started doing directing work, it all seemed familiar and right." His decision to honor his gut-feel has served him well on a path towards sure success. Starting out as a production assistant, Dyogi has steadily climbed up the ranks while involved in shows that run the gamut of, as former colleague TV host Apa Ongpin shares, "drama, comedy, talk shows, family shows ? you name it, he's done it."

Of late, the limelight has shone on Dyogi's work with young actors. He is currently directing the winners of the SCQ in their show "SCQ Reload: Kilig ako," and recently helmed the romantic movie, "Now That I Have You," with John Llyod Cruz and Bea Alonzo. Yuppies who are just beginning to find their way through the workforce may remember him as the director of the seminal show that dealt with teenage triumphs and travails, "Gmik."

What audiences may not be aware of, though, is that he is also one of the brains behind meatier fare such as the pioneering dramatized police-cases show, "The Calvento Files," as well as arts and culture program, "Tatak Filipino." A wide and diverse body of work behind him, Dyogi is, "a good choice to handle [Pinoy Big Brother]'s complex technical and artistic issues," says Ongpin.

"It's a big project as you can imagine," concurs Dyogi. This time around, he has to deal not with actors, but with "real" people, so to speak. Technical considerations alone will have Dyogi overseeing, "Twelve people living in one house filled with 26 cameras and 52 microphones. The staff had to take a ten-day training workshop to learn the show's `bible'." Newly promoted as Vice- President for TV Production and a Business Unit Head, Dyogi is quite aware of his responsibilities to mentor newbies to the industry, "Part of the appeal for me is the transfer of technology. We will get a chance to learn the more progressive methods and techniques used globally in television production."

Named for the novel "1984" by Orson Wells, "Big Brother" will let audiences view the interactions between the 12 housemates (that Dyogi will finally select) as they are instructed by "Big Brother" to go through planned activities. Weekly evictions are held until the last remaining resident wins the contest. Dyogi is aware of the cultural sensitivities that the show touches on. "It might not be too Filipino since we will deal with issues like voyeurism and saving face, especially during the evictions."

Dyogi will strive for balance by, "Adjusting and adapting the show to local audiences. I want to make the show concentrate more on the contestants' interpersonal relationships." And that's why the casting process is so crucial. "I want to assemble a cross of different personalities. I want the contestants to be representative of the modern Filipino," he says. Having briefly worked as a fashion model, Dyogi would certainly know that interesting faces appeal to Filipino audiences. Be that as it may, this show, "is not just about being beautiful or handsome.," he promptly explains. "I want to have a good mix of pleasant and obnoxious personalities. No monotonous characters."

Since the contestants will be barred from any outside contact once they are inside the house, Dyogi will not be "directing" the contestants. Instead, he will be tasked to tell a story gleaned from the 24-hour surveillance tapes that record the residents' goings- on. "It's exciting because I cannot plan that much on what will happen. No matter what happens, I still need to be able to tell a story for the audiences," says Dyogi.

The prospect of taking on such a task could easily scare off even the most seasoned veteran. Instead, Dyogi is visibly excited and his large, penetrating eyes gleam in the light as he exclaims, "This show might change the history of Filipino television!" Perhaps it helps that he has decided not to let work take up too much of control of his life. "I remind myself that there is life outside of this edifice [the studio building]. I take time to be with my wife and daughter."

Things really are falling into place for "Direk," since he has been, "Getting a little tired of directing. I am a bit of a control freak and it's good that I will be having more control in this show as a producer (overseeing the editing of the storylines). I've missed being a producer." Fans need not worry that their favorite director might give up on guiding actors though. "Things are cyclical for me. Right now I want to be a producer again, but I'm sure there will come a time when I will want to direct again."

Charmed life of Miguel Castro

Raising the curtains 
By Walter Ang
July-September 2006 issue
Metro Him magazine

After Miguel Castro decided to leave his bucolic childhood in Lipa behind to pursue higher studies in the loud and crazy streets of Manila, he soon had to choose between college, his job, and pursuing his growing interest for the performing arts.

The stage wooed him over from the classroom and he hasn't looked back since. While Miguel is soft-spoken and projects a come-what-may attitude, a relentless zeal for theater broils behind those limpid eyes.

Cutting his teeth with Gantimpala Theater Foundation, Miguel started out developing his acting chops under the tutelage of theater pillars Tomy Abuel, Mia Gutierrez, and Roni Lazaro. Since then, he's essayed character roles and lead roles, protagonists and antagonists. He's also forayed into broadcast with occasional roles in television drama anthologies. He's currently in ABS-CBN's "Bituing Walang Ningning" in a supporting role.

Miguel eventually tested his mettle in related disciplines like writing and directing. Just recently, he translated and adapted Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde" (the play that Nicole Kidman's "Blue Room" was adapted from) into a treatise on Pinoy machinations of love and power called "Laro."

Not one to back down from exploring self-expression, during a time in his life where he was "surrounded by writers like Danton Remoto and Rinehartt Linmark," Miguel was also inspired to write short stories. One of his works, "Lucy," was eventually included in an anthology of short stories.

Aside from just committing his thoughts to paper, this second of ten siblings also works with paper. During one summer hiatus from the theater season, "I helping out my grandfather and father in our family bookbinding business and, out of boredom, I started designing some paper products like boxes. Friends saw what I did and my business, Castro Designs, grew from there." The business grew exponentially, bringing Miguel to different countries to meet clients and establishing him in Manila as the premier designer and supplier of Venetian masks.

While serendipity seems to play a constant role in Miguel's life, giving him the leeway to explore his other interests, he always returns to his theater roots. "In fact, even if my business has become the main source of income for my family, I see it simply as a way to supplement my career in theater," he states.

There didn't seem to be anything else that Miguel would want, except one thing. "For fourteen years, I was told that I couldn't sing," he confesses. Then along came a little musical called "St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos" that finally changed everything. Not only was Miguel cast in a singing role, it was the lead no less.

Getting pointers from cast-mate Lionel Guico, Miguel immersed himself in the milieu and immediately felt right at home. "I always get very nervous in the few minutes before the curtain rises when I do plays. But when I was doing St. Louis, I never got nervous, I always got excited." Finding himself in a breakout position was such a memorable experience for Miguel that "[St. Louis] erased the memories of all the past roles that I have ever done. It is now my favorite production."

Encouraged by glowing reviews, Miguel has even ventured to produce an album. A collection of "narrative ballads," the album brings together new compositions that have a theatrical sensibility mixed with a pop edge. "I was able to get my good friend composer Vince de Jesus to allow me to sing the songs he had written. I picked out songs that I liked and since Vince is also a theater artist, we understood what the other wanted. We wanted a sound that "sounded" like it was from a musical."

As the curtains rise on yet another act in the charmed life of Miguel, audiences will have the chance to see another side of him in this album sassily titled "Miguel Castro Sings."

An interior designer's compact city retreat

An interior designer's compact city retreat 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2006 issue
Metro Home & Entertaining

Forty square meters. That's all the new studio owner had to work with in her new little cubbyhole in one of Makati's newest high rise condominiums. But for this on-the-go restaurateur and interior designer, it turned out to be more than enough.

"When I got this studio, I just wanted to try out having a small space near my restaurant, a half-way house if you will," she recalls. "But having spent several nights here already, I've realized what a huge convenience it is."

The long commutes home to the family residence south of Manila during the week have lessened. More than just a place to rest or freshen up before zooming off to the next meeting, the space has been imbued with a more meaningful purpose. "It's become somewhat of a spiritual center for me. I come here to clear my mind. I even hold Bible study sessions here."

The elegant purity of the tiny space is the handiwork of interior designer Ana Rocha. Emphasizing that this is a place intended to reconnect with clarity, the designer draped white shower curtains by the door to create a small foyer. Stepping through them creates a sense of entering a space shielded from the outside world.

To encourage the cleansing of noise from the mind, the designer retained the studio's original white color. Creating the illusion of added space, she unified a pair of sofas and a daybed against one side of the room by upholstering them in white as well. For practical purposes, she ingeniously employs fabric that's usually used for sneakers. "They're super easy to clean. You just wipe with a rag and you're done!" exclaims the designer. She clad the pillows in the same semi-waterproof fabric she used to create the foyer.

For entertaining the occasional small group of friends, two square wooden tables are placed together to create a long table for dining. A long bench against the walls and chairs on the other create variety while still maintaining a Zen atmosphere. For a personalized touch of creativity, the designer transformed a set of capiz bowls and cups that she "couldn't stand" into centrepieces with a simple glue gun.

Touches of color are courtesy of paintings of fruits and vegetables hung above the couches. "At least that's what they look like to me!" she jokes. Further enhancing the vertical clearance of the studio, two standing lamps are placed on elevated surfaces, making their shades almost graze the ceiling. The lamps' coconut tree trunk design adds an organic element to the room as they flank the picture window.

An elongated oriental lamp in the middle of the room adds a touch of whimsy. "You've got have fun!" encourages the lady of the house. "You have to pick out things that make you happy."

Ana Rocha designs a multicultural Asian-safari home

Ana Rocha designs a multicultural Asian-safari home
By Walter Ang
June-August 2006 issue
Metro Home & Entertaining magazine

A safari awaits visitors to the home of this Filipina and her Irish husband. As one treads through the foyer, the feet and eyes are led into an open space that serves as the living area. Awash in varying hues of the earth, an organic sensation of earth and sand persists, yet a lightness of being pervades.

A herd of elephant figurines and a nest of ostrich eggs are stationed in the living area table. Surrounding it are three long sofas. Swathed in fabrics with interweaving elements, they meld into one another despite their girth. The moss color of this is found in the other, the textured fabric of that is repeated in that one over there, and so on. Leaf motifs are iterated and textures are alternated in the multitude of pillows, almost like a neat row of foliage.

Further down this rectangle hall is another seating area. Surrounded by four wooden chairs, a large kawa (carved from single piece of wood) rises from the floor like a well. Above it is a lighting fixture hung low, in a diaphanous casing that brings to mind the moon. And as if being teased by a mirage, one realizes that the same light also hangs by the sofas.

"I actually designed the whole living space around those two lighting fixtures," recounts interior designer Ana Rocha. "Since the homeowners have three beautiful children, I wanted to imbue this home with a sense of brightness and life. I wanted to explore the things that make them happy."

Nestled into one of the southern Makati villages, the homeowners hunted down Ana to lead the design expedition for their new house. Trekking onwards from her initial concept, Ana has achieved a homey sophistication with her clever compositions.

Using the homeowners' existing furniture and décor pieces culled from their travels, Ana edited out "pieces that were too whimsical" and layered everything together with finds from antique stores. With several pieces of the homeowners' Oriental wooden chests, bureaus and armoires at her disposal, Ana created what she calls "a multi- cultural Asian safari with an influence of Filipino, Thai and Chinese."

Bending the rules is key in Ana's design aesthetic. "I love to exaggerate and mix things around. Traditionally, the smaller seating area comes before the living area, but I reversed them and brought the kawa closer to the lanai. The Chinese buffet table is used together with locally crafted chairs to create a more interesting combination."

Ana utilizes lighter fabrics and color to keep the darker wood tones and larger furniture pieces from weighing the room down too much. Curtains that recall the color of ivory tusks billow in the wind while shaggy abaca rugs defines her areas.

Punches of color come from paintings flanking the living area together with anahaw leaves freshly picked from the garden. Mixing old and new, organic and structured, Ana punctuates the space with Thai metal figurines with geometric lampshades in staggered heights. "Don't be afraid to mix and match!" she urges.

While Ana juggles this delicate balance, she also makes sure that fun is an integral part of the jigsaw puzzle. True enough, as one traverses the hall, a tremendous pop of fuchsia suddenly springs out from the dining area. The walls and even the curtains here all revel in this whimsical color.

"I like using colors to stimulate the senses. The dining area of a home should make your eyes hungry first. This color is great for tickling the mind first, then it translates into the palette. I want this dining area to make you want to eat!" she explains.

Again, the careful blending of elements comes into play. The wild wall color is anchored by a wooden dining table. A table runner embroidered with golden curlicues are deliberately placed off to the side. "It's just a little bit of fun as part of the design. The design is rich and condensed, but the fabric is light, airy organza, so it doesn't feel heavy at all."

Ana expands this intimate space by simply using mirrors that face the windows, bringing in more of the outside. She reinforces the Oriental touches from the living area courtesy of a wall painting featuring Thai elephants. It's an apt symbol of the life journey that the homeowners and their children (who have lived in the house for only a month) are sure to embark on.

Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team

Aquamen, the Philippine Water Polo team
By Walter Ang
April-June 2006
Metro Him Magazine

The sun pierced the morning clouds with shafts of light that skimmed the water's surface. Across the pool were sinewy bodies, skin glistening, cutting figures that belied graceful strength.

These bronzed gods of the National Water Polo team broke the stillness of the air with their whoops of encouragement for each other. Through the motions of a training session, their exuberance was to be expected. Under the aegis of coach Reynaldo Galang, the team had just recently won the silver medal in the SEA (South East Asian) Games held in our country.

The triumph is testament to the commitment this group of hardy athletes has put in to the team. Meeting daily at 5am, the next four hours are purely dedicated to training. Every day is a heady dose of drills and swimming exercises, with weightlifting thrown in for good measure.

With an average age of 28, these men have come together from across the nation. Nine out of the thirteen members do double duty for our country by serving for either the military or navy. Discipline and obligation comes part and parcel of being a member of the team. Team captain Sherwin de la Paz spoke of sacrifices made, but that "if your heart is in it, you enjoy it a lot. It's feels good and it's fun."

Despite the cut muscles and towering presence, the team is less a squad of snobby power athletes than it is a fraternity of affable blokes. Smiles, smart one-liners, and guffaws punctuate everything they say. No one is spared good natured ribbing.

It's this apparent collegial group dynamic that made Tani Gomez and Roy Cañete transfer from another water sport. "They saw how much fun we were having," recounted Coach Galang. "So they joined the team."

Stronger the a siren's call, the sport is apparently difficult to give up. Co-captain Allan Cesar Payawan is so enamored with the sport that he's been trying to leave for the past few years to no avail. "I have finally graduated with an architecture degree while still being part of the team, but I'm having too much fun here."

The team is not all sport and social bonding, however. Part of their physical prowess is fittingly channeled into spiritual growth as well with once-a-week Bible study lessons. The shared efforts and common victories have forged an unseen yet highly palpable connection within the troupe. This band of brothers, in fact, fondly refers to their team-building sessions as "family-building."

DJ Montano yearns for old-world elan

Yearning for Old-World Elan 
By Walter Ang
April-June 2006
Metro Him Magazine

"My favorite piece of clothing is my plain black Bench t-shirt," states DJ Montano in his paced, genteel manner. "It's so versatile. I can dress it up with a jacket or pair it with jeans for a casual look."

DJ credits grandmother, Virginia, for fostering his ability to mix and match. "She was a politician's wife and she was always so elegant. At our home, there was always a constant stream of visitors calling on my grandfather, former Cavite governor Delfino ? the "D" in DJ. As such, she was very particular about what we wore and how we behaved. My sense of style is greatly influenced by her."

Born into a family dedicated to public service (great grandfather, Justiano ? the "J" in DJ, was a senator), DJ's upbringing was steeped in propriety, etiquette and graciousness. It appropriately led to his calling as one of Manila's most happening restaurateurs.

Having had trained in Le Roches in Switzerland, when it comes to style and fashion, he's seen it all. "When I was studying, I traveled throughout Europe. I was exposed to so many different ways of dressing up. I could spend an entire afternoon in a Paris café just looking at what people were wearing. The street was their catwalk. The Europeans have a style that has a certain flair, a je ne sais quoi that I like."

Upon his return to Manila, DJ promptly gave birth to three of the most popular dining venues of the metropolis in the early 2000s. His international verve was clearly infused into Indian-cuisine restaurant Raj and Asian-cuisine restaurant Courtyard. Interestingly enough, it was a passion for water that inspired DJ to create one of the hottest places to be at during those years: the revolutionary chill-out lounge Acquario.

Fearless in pursuit of originality in both work and fashion, DJ's pet peeves are people who look like they replicated everything from a fashion magazine print ad down to the last detail. "Copying is fine, but you have to turn it into something that's your own. I myself am always inspired by film noir, the classics."

The nostalgia for a bygone era is grounded in fond memories of his grandfather. "He would always look so dignified in cream linen suits with a hat. Oh, if we could only bring back the stylish days of old Manila." This seminal yearning is probably the reason why, despite being on the forefront of the "it" scene, an old-world panache seems to organically envelope him.

Don't get him wrong though. Staid and antiquated is something he's definitely not. "I consider my style very, very eccentric. I'd wear an all black ensemble with a pair of snakeskin loafers." He points out, however, that while clothes make the man, how the man wears the clothes makes all the difference. "You have to carry yourself and your clothes appropriately. Attitude is important."

The delicate balance he achieves with his clothes carry over into his work as well. As a columnist for a national broadsheet and occasional stylist for Metro Him, DJ makes sure he finds the time to serve in his family's foundation that provides education for indigent students in Cavite. With regular visits to Boracay to get some downtime, DJ is currently cooking up a new dining establishment slated to open by the end of the year.