REVIEW: Repertory Philippines' 'Fiddler on the Roof' celebrates family ties

Celebrating Family Ties 
By Walter Ang
December 3, 2007 (

Miguel Faustmann and Tyler Alan Strand
Repertory Philippines' staging of the musical Fiddler of the Roof provides wholesome family fun with its story of Jewish milkman Tevye as he copes with the seemingly runaway love lives of three of his five daughters.

The entire cast, led by Tevye, comes onstage as the curtains rise to sing a rousing introduction to their insular village of Anatevka that includes a primer to their traditions and the social roles they all play.

Though he kvetches to God in amusing conversations and constantly misquotes the "good book," Tevye tries to live by these traditions while raising his children with wife Golde. Alternate leads Tyler Alan Strand (with Rep veteran Miguel Faustmann as main lead) is a bouncy, rolly-polly Tevye that grows on you and Pinky Marquez (main lead is Joy Virata) gives tenderness to the outwardly tough Golde.

Things get rough for Tevye when he has to reconcile his convictions with oldest daughter Tzeitel's, second daughter Hodel and third daughter Chava's choices in men and lifestyles. Though her young age shows through her characterization during some moments, sixteen year old Samantha Sewell shows potential as eldest daughter Tzeitel while Cris Villonco establishes the strongest presence amongst the sisters in her portrayal of Hodel.

Tevye is a protective, sensitive man who really does want his daughters to be happy and eventually acquiesces. He even comes up with an imaginative way of convincing his wife, ending in a wickedly funny number to end the first act. Tevye's daughters grow up to new responsibilities and possibilities in the second act while outside forces close in on the little town of Anatevka. The audience takes the ride with Tevye to see how he reacts and solves the problems that crop up.

The material, due to some historical and political underpinnings, may feel slow for some and the show's sense of humor may occasionally get lost on audiences. The cast's comic timing was a bit off when we caught the show and it would have been great to hear them deliver their punchlines with a bit more spunk, a mix of slight sarcasm and deadpan.

Nonetheless, Tevye's story is an endearing one. With direction by Robbie Guevarra, the show is a fun way for local audiences to catch a glimpse of Jewish history and to experience one of the more "classic" Broadway musicals. While one or two of the show's songs by by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, such as the opening number "Tradition," "Matchmaker," and "Sunrise, Sunset," may be familiar to audiences, the fact that this Rep's fifth restaging in its forty-year-history (and perhaps also that it is Rep's annual Christmas big musical) imbues the show with an intimate, comfortable and animated feel. And as with most Rep musicals, the songs where the chorus or entire cast has to sing all sound great.

As the story ends on a somewhat serious tone, one can always launch into discussions of families that are uprooted and separated, of the implications of reconciling personal convictions with the inevitability of change. However, at the end of the day, Fiddler is the stage equivalent of comfort food and shouldn't be overanalyzed. This holiday season, just enjoy the story of this musical's every-family and share in its celebration of the power of family ties and the enduring spirit of love.

Fiddler on the Roof runs until Dec. 16 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1. Visit or call 887-0710. Tickets are also available at Ticketworld ? Tel No. 891-9999.

Bobson Jeans founder Victor Tan's success is more than pesos and centavos

More than just pesos and centavos 
By Walter Ang
Dec 2007-Feb 2008 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Walter Ang speaks with Bobson Jeans founder Victor Tan who says success is
More than just pesos and centavos

Twenty years have passed since Bobson Jeans was introduced to the Philippine market. What began as a small venture in Divisoria has blossomed into a nationwide organization employing 500-plus people with a network of over 130 concessions outlets and 25 freestanding boutiques nationwide.

If you ask the man who started it all if he's reached the peak of his success, he promptly answers, "No." Victor Tan feels strongly that there is more to be done despite his having achieved more than what his contemporaries have been able to.

The eldest of six siblings, Victor started out as a salesman in bustling downtown Manila (comprised of the Chinatown commercial district Binondo, Sta Cruz, San Fernando and Tondo) while attending night classes in college. He speaks of an irrepressible spirit amidst his humble upbringing that led him to take on any job that came his way, whether it be tutoring grade school students or working in furniture and hardware businesses.

A passion for fashion led him to craft the dream he would build on. "I have always had a strong curiosity in what was going on around me. I tend to notice the tiniest details about clothes. I often comment on people's sense of style. I always make it a point to wear shirts/pants that is always in fashion."

He had been printing t-shirts for sale as Christmas giveaways for various companies and eventually worked for a garment manufacturing company, it was these entrepreneurial elements that finally came together when he wanted to create a "homegrown clothing brand that would prove itself through craftsmanship."

He then shares the birthing pains that came with making that dream a reality. "After spending a lot of time and money introducing Bobson to the market, getting rejected was becoming the norm. We got our first big break when the big department store chains in Manila allowed us to showcase our products," he says.

That began the continuous efforts of Victor to build on his brand. Bobson was only carrying its jeans line at that time, now it features an entire line of garments and accessories. His hard work has not gone unnoticed. For the years 2003 to 2005, the Consumer Union of the Philippines awarded Bobson as "Most Outstanding Manufacturer of Local Jeans Wear," while Parangal ng Bayan Foundation named it as "Best Jeans Manufacturer."

"Consumer satisfaction in our products and services has been the basic reason behind our steady growth these years," he says. "As a matter of business philosophy, we invest time, effort, and expense in building up our capability to design, create, and produce products that meet the needs and expectations of our target market." Given his steady hand in leading the company, it's no wonder that Victor was selected as one of the Top Ten Small-to-medium Entrepreneurs for 2005.

Central to all his achievements, Victor plays by a set of values: hard work, integrity and respect for others. Family also plays an important role in keeping him on track. A father of four children with wife Rosemarie, Victor says that his constant inspiration is the hard work and perseverance that his late father exhibited. "He was never daunted by poverty in his devotion to the family's welfare."

In addition, Victor is guided by Buddhist principles that advise, "all entrepreneurs should seek more than just business profits or materialistic wealth, but must seek inner peace, contentment and maintain lifelong integrity as well." He knows whereof he speaks since he is also currently the Director of the Philippine Buddha Light International Association.

"I do not measure success in terms of pesos and centavos only. Success to me becomes complete if along with my company's growth, it would have contributed to the betterment of society and our employees," he says.

Patty Limpe and her Antonio Pueo chocolate factory

Patty and her chocolate factory 
By Walter Ang
Dec 2007-Feb 2008 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

The Asian Dragon team is ushered into a high-ceilinged office with tables and equipment crammed into available space. There's nothing fancy about the wide hall except that it has a distinct aroma wafting through the door.

An invigorating scent cuts the air as Patricia Limpe offers us steaming hot chocolate in dainty porcelain cups. She smiles and announces, "They call me the chocolate lady." Patty, as she prefers to be called, is simply stating a fact. After all, she is the only woman who has stuck her nose into the male-dominated chocolate manufacturing industry.

But what a nose it is. As the manager of one of oldest chocolate factories in the Philippines ("I've been told that we're actually the oldest chocolate factory in Southeast Asia," she shares.), she's been able to sniff out a winning recipe to keep it alive and well.

"The chocolates we make now are produced in exactly the same way they were made back then. We are faithful to the original recipe so we can preserve its distinct taste and its unique character," Patty says proudly. "We want to maintain the authenticity of our chocolates. In fact, we still use the original machines of the factory. No one makes those kinds of machines anymore."

Antonio Pueo Incorporada was founded in 1939 by Spanish immigrant Jose Maria Pueo. The company is named for his godfather, a Spanish friar, from whom he learned the knowledge of chocolate making. In the 80s, Pueo sold the factory to Patty's father, Julius, after losing a big account supplying to a fastfood chain.

"My father has a passion for acquiring food companies with a history. Pueo chose my father among other potential buyers because our family wasn't in it just for the money. Our family really cares about the process and the final product," she says.

With a family business that has diverse interests across several food manufacturing companies, Patty is the designated member who "sets up new projects." However, despite managing other companies, most of her time is dedicated to the chocolate factory. It's a one-woman show where she handles almost every aspect of the process, from purchasing the raw ingredients to marketing the final products. "I'm even the one who designs the packaging!" she laughs.

The core of the business is still the tableas, round discs of chocolate goodness sold in rolls that come in pure form or mixed with milk. "Everyone wants the taste of chocolates but no one wants to bother with preparation anymore. I try to make it as easy for them as possible," she explains.

With this as the jumping off point, this self-confessed "food scientist" has created a whole line of new products ranging from instant chocolate drink mixes to chocolate cookie mixes. Popular are her oatmeal and champorado mixes as well as her churros con chocolate mixes. "These are the same stuff that people having been eating or drinking, but now it's easier to make." Her efforts are well appreciated, so much so that her churros mix has won an award for "Classic Products Made Convenient."

She is proud of the fact that they don't scrimp on quality when it comes to ingredients. "We use only the best fermented cacao beans. We don't use sun-dried beans because it lacks flavor and aroma. When it comes to chocolates, the higher cocoa butter content, the better its taste," she points out. "Antonio Pueo is made with all 100% cocoa butter still intact."

"All the ingredients are locally sourced." Patty beams. "We're in the chocolate and coffee belt, the area twenty degrees above and below the equator. Countries that are in the belt have the humidity, sun, and shade to grow cacao beans." The results are definitely world-class since Pueoe chocolates are currently exported to countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, and China.

It really is Patty's advocacy to bring chocolate to more and more kitchens and dining rooms. Starting them young, she has been teaching grade school children how to mix and bake using Pueo cookie mixes for years now. "It not only tastes good, it's good for you, too," she says. For proof of the health benefits of chocolate, Patty asks us to look no farther than the founder of the factory himself. "Jose Maria Pueo drank chocolate everyday of his life and passed away only last year. He was 97 years old."

As the sole custodian of his legacy, a healthy respect for tradition has guided Patty in maintaining the longevity of the Pueo name into our modern times. Patty brings out the original metal printing plates of the old labels used for packaging and proceeds to show us the delicate evolution of small adjustments and changes of the labels into their present designs. "We had to do a gradual process. We couldn't just change the labels right away since people are very familiar with the brand name."

It is this same careful thought and meticulous care that she imbues into the birthing of new products carrying the Pueo name. "I don't develop ideas only for them to become fads," she says. Now, her own vision comes to light as she proclaims, "I want to be like Kellogs, whose cereals have been around for hundreds of years. I create products that will last."

REVIEW: Atlantis Productions' 'Dogeaters' presents a multi-layered Philippines

A Multi-Layered Philippines 
By Walter Ang
November 20, 2007 (

Dogeaters, now playing at the Carlos Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza though the staging of Atlantis Productions, begins with the ensemble cast announcing snippets of news reports, as if an invisible hand was tuning through all the stations of a radio, cleverly bringing the audience into the milieu of the this multi-layered play based on Jessica Hagedorn's novel of the same title.

The sentences are clipped and the sound weaves in and out, leaving the audience with only enough bits and pieces to make out that the setting is the beginning of the end of the Marcos regime.

A plethora of characters and their stories are introduced in the first act and the audience must stay attentive to grasp everything that is going on amidst the textured set designed by Kalila Aguilos. Smack in the middle of the galvanized iron sheets and barbed wire is a massive portrait of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whose off-stage ministrations, such as the construction of a film center and organizing a film festival, are a constant onstage presence that inexorably help bring the plot threads together.

Mirroring how many of the characters seem to be on the periphery of bigger events around them, however close to falling in to or quietly orchestrating the fray they are, the audience is made to feel like expectant voyeurs with all of the scenes being annotated by two broadcaster-announcer personalities Nestor Norales (a dapper Leo Rialp) and Barbara Villanueva (played with gusto by Ana Abad-Santos).

Much like the long running radio soap opera hosted by these announcers, the play unfolds in snatches of scenes where tawdry gossip and dangerous secrets are revealed.

The cast is populated by a wonderful mix of actors popular in TV and movies such as Michael de Mesa, Gina Alejar and Joel Torre as well as theater stalwarts like Rialp, Abad-Santos and Richard Cunanan with up-and-coming Philippine High School for the Arts alumnus Nicco Manalo in a convincing turn as a drugged-out Amerasian hustler.

Directed by Bobby Garcia, all sixteen actors take on double or triple roles.

Not to be missed is the fun and fabulous Diana Ross impersonation by Jon Santos, the scene-stealing thunder of Rez Cortez and the subtle but sure changes that Abad-Santos imbues her character as the play progresses.

The multitude of subplots soon builds up to the assassination of Benigno Aquino-inspired Senator Domingo Avila (Joel Torre), revealing two characters, his beauty pageant winner-turned-rebel daughter Daisy (Jenny Jamora) and witness-to-the-assassination Joey Sands (Nicco Manalo), to stand out and drive home the near epic story in a poignant, though somewhat curtailed, encounter.

For those of in the audience who lived through or grew up in the 70s and 80s, the stories in Dogeaters are at once familiar yet blurred, distinct yet fractured. Watching the play becomes an exercise in gaining perspective on the events that inspired the veiled retellings onstage as filtered by time and through the playwright's distance from where they actually happened.

Though it seems some scenes would have worked better if the dialogue were in Tagalog instead of English, it only goes to build on the fact that Dogeaters is decidedly a vision of the Philippines in Hagedorn's voice.

As a counterpoint to the play's insane, colorful array of drugs, guns, power, sex, politics, religion and everything in between, Hagedorn's alter-ego Rio Gonzaga (Teresa Herrera) provides the concluding commentary. The balikbayan, who returns after more than a decade of being away and is lost in the middle of it all, points out that "everything is different but nothing has changed."

REVIEW: Tanghalang Pilipino presents a heavy, uneven 'Mulan'

Heavy, uneven 'Mulan' 
By Walter Ang
October 15, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A stark white stage with three scarlet arches greets audiences in Tanghalang Pilipino's production of Mulan, a new Tagalog musical version of the story popularized by the Disney animated movie a few years back.

The simplicity of the acting space provides the perfect canvass for the rainbow colors that soon fills it via sets and costume designer Gino Gonzales' highly textured outfits. The exaggerated shapes and cushioned fabrics filled the costumes with a life of their own. Anime-inspired hairpieces in wild, crazy shapes as well as wiggling ornaments and ribbons made to look as if they were permanently flapping in the wind are also fun touches.

The actors all have make-up designed by Dennis Tan evoking Chinese opera masks while the deities Jade Emeperor and Empress Wang Mu are provided larger-than-life masks that tower over the actors's head. With enlarged hand extensions and their faces showing through the costumes' "chest," this is a great design that recalls our very own higantes of Angono and reminiscent of the costumes used by Lion King director Julie Taymor in her production of the opera Oedipus in Japan.

The solidly red set pieces are life-size Chinese paper cuttings with the shapes and outlines of household furniture and landscapes intricately cut-out from delicate sheets of paper (although plywood is probably the material used).

Director Dennis Marasigan counters these massive motifs by having the cast perform in stylized movement (also inspired by Chinese opera) while choreographer Denisa Reyes provides graceful yet powerful action sequences that incorporate wu-shu martial arts. Bong Cabrera as a ballerina soldier is particularly hilarious. Marasigan also provides moments of tension and excitement for the audience by having enemy soldiers attack Mulan's camp from the back of the theater.

These extreme and zany elements are everything you would expect a children's musical to have. It is a wonder then, why the themes explored by librettist Rody Vera and composer Jed Balsamo were executed in such a heavy and uneven tone.

The poem on which different versions of Mulan's story have been inspired is a rich source of virtues for story-telling: filial piety, social obligations, patriotism, sacrifice, personal freewill, team effort, gender roles, etc. For this ninety minute children's musical, it could have proved too rich.

With what seemed an appropriate theme for children to learn from, Vera starts off with the classic case of boys versus girls where his two deities fight over why men like waging war so much.

He supports this by having Mulan's parents wish for a boy (they get Mulan instead with some divine intervention from the Empress Wang Mu), scenes of Mulan being taught to use a sword by her father and a matchmaking segment with the last available bachelor who Mulan promptly pummels.

However, his narrative soon does flying kicks and tangents into the weariness and loneliness that sets in during war mongering, though beautifully illuminated by lighting designer Jonjon Villareal who showcases the passage of time and distance with effective transitions from sharp yellow desert to cold dreary blue mountain terrain. Plot points introduced in the beginning lost their follow through and those revealed in the second half were denied the luxury of a proper build-up.

Balsamo's music, while imaginatively using instruments gleaned from Chinese opera, threads a loneliness throughout the production. He gives Mulan an elegy when she has to leave her family, which Mayen Estrañero sings with much bristle and brio, and follows with a hauntingly beautiful threnody "Gusto ko ng umuwi" for her camp when they hit the ten year mark of fighting the enemy.

These songs that pine and mourn are in aligned note for note with Vera's desire to explore vulnerability and realism. But wouldn't a marching ditty or jolly fraternal jingle or even a bouncy ballad about secret crushes been a little more ? fun?

The yin of this musical's exposition doesn't quite match the yang of its denoument. Like the dual concepts of yin and yang, the production feels like watching two different shows at the same time: one for children and one for adults. The production design and make up are perfect for young audiences.

The stylized movement and choreography can go either way. It would be interesting actually (because the themes and music do have potential), if Vera and Balsamo could consider further developing their current material and angst into a dark adult romance musical.

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Actors' Actors stages Yasmina Reza's 'Art' in Tagalog translation

Art: Once more, in Filipino 
By Walter Ang
Sept. 3, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Three men talking about a painting. It's easy to brush off the premise of this straight play, seeing as how it could easily be boring. Or weird. Or both.

Thankfully, Yasmina Reza's "Art" is none of the above. It is an engaging and hilarious time eavesdropping on three best buds as they traverse the fine line that defines their friendship.

Originally written in French and produced by Sean Connery in London, Art has won numerous awards, including the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1997 Olivier Award for Best Comedy, and has been translated into 20 languages including English, Mandarin, Japanese, German and Spanish.

The Philippine premiere of Art in 1998 featured Bart Guingona (who also directed), Audie Gemora, and Jaime del Mundo in the English translation. The show proved to be one of several productions that became trademarks of Actors' Actors, Inc., Guingona's theater company, enjoying repeat stagings throughout the years.

After Lito Albano saw one of these restagings, he approached Guingona and brought up the idea of translating the material to make it accessible to a wider audience. "I do poetry and copywriting, so I gave it a shot and translated the first ten pages for Bart's approval," said Albano. "I think he liked it because I got a text message instructing me to finish the entire play."

While the translation work continued, actors were rounded up to fill the roles. Michael de Mesa, who has become popular with the English theater crowd with his involvement in musicals, was chosen to play Serge (played by Audie Gemora in the English version) ? the character whose purchase of a painting, which happens to be completely white, sets off heated reactions from the other two characters.

Jett Pangan, front man of The Dawn and star of such musicals as Once on This Island, Beauty and the Beast, and Tick, Tick Boom!, was recruited to make his non-musical straight play debut. He would fill the role of Mar. "He is the quintessential leader-of-the-pack, head-of-the-gang alpha male," described Guingona, who played Marc in the English version. "He's the one who disagrees with Serge's foray into the art world.

Caught in between these two explosive personalities is Jun (Yvan in the original, played by Jaime del Mundo) , the milquetoast sidekick whose shoes were to be filled by Ricky Davao. Familiar to younger audiences as one of the villains in the television show "Lupin," Davao has graced the stage in Tanghalang Pilipino's "Insiang" and "Speaking in Tongues." He won an Aliw Award for Best Stage Actor for his work in the latter.

Everyone was excited to come on board. De Mesa revealed that he had been meaning to sink his teeth into a straight play as well as work with Guingona again. "You mean you wanted to work with me," joked Davao. The fraternal banter was present throughout the interview as both finished each other's sentences and joshed around. Both were also all praises for Pangan in his first foray into straight plays, citing his openness to learn new techniques and diligence in discovering dimensions to his acting.

The ease in the cast's working relationship helped them achieve a more dynamic tone when they worked with Albano to thresh out the translation. "We had to change some lines because there were jokes that had no direct translations. However, we remained faithful to the essence of the material," said de Mesa.

Long-time collaborating producer Hendri Go of Little Boy Productions bravely premiered this new version in his hometown of Cebu. "It was a real test, as you know how Cebuanos can be when it comes to Tagalog material," said Go. "But we feel that the material was adapted properly to Filipino sensibilities and humor."

It also helped that Guingona is intimately familiar with the play. "I know the material inside out already so I was able to guide them through the translation. I already know which parts where the audience will laugh, so if the Filipino wasn't working, we would test new ways of saying the lines," he said. "We would replace stilted dialogue with Taglish lines to make the repartee more realistic and fluid."

Despite the thorough preparation, a few butterflies lingered in the casts' stomachs. "I'm used to more intimate performance spaces where there would only be 400 seats. Our theater in Cebu had 1,100 seats, and there were only the three of us [actors]! We were nervous, we didn't know if people would come and watch," said Davao.

The nervousness promptly disappeared as two additional shows were added to the scheduled performances due to public demand. The successful Cebu run has emboldened the cast and crew to stage a special one-night-only Manila performance at the Music Museum on September 22, 2007 (Saturday) at 8:00 p.m. to allow potential show buyers to book the production for runs next year.

Tickets start from P300 and are available at National Bookstore Ticketworld. Call 891-9999 or visit

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Domini Primero's new groove

Domini Primero's new groove 
By Walter Ang
July-September issue 2007
Metro hiM Magazine

Looking for the newest dance club in Metro Manila can be quite a challenge. As it's tucked away in a street that's not too commercialized, it's easy to miss if you're driving fast. Carinderias, massage parlors and a car repair shop are the few landmarks that pepper an expanse of similar-looking warehouses and brick walls lining the sidewalks.

When you do find Warehouse 135, its understated glass and steel entrance feels, strangely enough, very appropriate to its surroundings. If it seems carefully planned, that's because it has been by managing director Domini Primero. "I was inspired by New York City's meat-packing district. This alley has character. I'd been eyeing this spot for the past three years."

His vision of mixing grit and glamour finally came alive earlier this year. Upon entering, a long foyer ends in a wall of dramatic black velvet curtains. They open to reveal a cavernous chic interior throbbing with energy. Inside are the de rigueur components of a happening dance club: a prominently situated DJ's booth, a dancing area, a central bar and a satellite bar. Deep orange lounge chairs soften the industrial concrete pillars and walls.

An architecture graduate from the University of Santo Tomas, Domini lays claim to creating the lay-out design of the club as well as being the main "idea man" behind its over-all concept. Warehouse 135 has been brewing in his mind since he came to fore with the creation of Big Fish, a dance event company that bought in big name international DJs and branded dance parties to Philippine shores.

It all began when this son of a lawyer father and homemaker mother started working as a fashion model. "I was able to attend parties and always had a great time. I knew I couldn't model forever, so I figured why not turn what I liked doing into a source of income?"

The turning point was in 1995 when he went to Crowbar dance club in Chicago where Carl Cox was spinning. "It was my first underground club experience. I wanted to bring it over to Manila but I knew it was too soon." The late 90s saw the heyday of small and under-the-radar dance bars like ABGs, Insomnia and Orange. "That was when warehouse parties started to become popular. People were ready for what I had in mind."

"Since 1999, I've done over 100 parties, big and small, all over the country," he shares. All of which revolved around a love of music. "I'm really passionate about music. I loved the local dance parties and the vibe it can bring." He eventually partnered with the late DJ Tuck Cheah to create Big Fish. "Tuck was the music man, he brought in foreign acts like Paul Van Dyk and Chicane. I was the PR and marketing guy and we imported international dance event brands like Hed Kandy & Ms. Moneypenny, Slinky, and Cream."

In its prime, Big Fish had the reputation of being the leading dance production outfit in Southeast Asia. "We would get seven-figure sponsorships just like that," he claims. Toward the mid-2000s though, attendance and support began to plateau. Sponsors began looking for the next new thing and his partner Tuck passed away in 2003 from an aneurysm.

This middle child of three wanted to quit while he was ahead. "I wanted to reinvent myself. I'd always wanted my own venue." With the help of investors such as entrepreneurs Mickey Romero, Louie Kaw and JP Bautista as well as Raffy Florencio of TechnoMarine and Robbie Carmona of Saga Productions, the dream came to fruition.

"Now I can foster a new breed of clubbers. I want to give them a taste of the true meaning of `underground.' That's why I wanted to situate the venue in an out-of-the-way area." The effort to get there will not be without its rewards. Warehouse 135 is also the residence of Domini's new dance events company, Driven Manila.

"We don't compromise our music. You'll never hear cheesy, bubblegum house here." True to form, the club's pre-opening private party included Global Underground's Lee Burridge, Anton Ramos, and DJ Patch playing tunes. During the grand opening, guests danced to the sounds of DJ Shunji Moriwaki and Elmer Dado.

"We use sound systems by Eastern Acoustic Works, winner of the "Best Sound System" and "Best Sound Product" awards at last year's Club World Awards," he says. DJs like Lisa Loud, Deep Dish and Andy Caldwell have already broken in the equipment barely half a year since the club's opening. To complete the clubbing experience the 600-sqm converted warehouse uses Martin lighting equipment and special effects, a brand used by such institutions as London's Royal Shakespeare Company and Ministry of Sound.

With the meticulous eye of a true Virgo, this 38-year old has plotted and traversed the map of his success. He points out, however, that he's not alone in this journey. "My wife Joanne and I have three kids: Rafael, Mayumi and Mulawin. This fulfillment of my dreams is as much for them as it is for me." His eyes gleaming with excitement, Domini announces his newest goal: "We want to usher in the rebirth of the underground dance scene."

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Institutions like the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center and the Chinese Cemetery have been around for so long that many people take them for granted. What a lot of people don't know is that both were founded and is still managed by a not so little group called the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association (PCCA).

It is composed of Chinese-Filipino businessmen who, true to the name of the association, give back to the community that sustains them. The PCCA also owns and operates the hospital's nursing college, a charity clinic, and a retirement home.

The current crop of officers have been actively infusing changes and improvements to their resources, heeding the directives of the association for civic-action, and living up to the heritage passed down by more than a century of past leaders.

The PCCA traces it beginnings as far back as 1877, when the Spanish government created the position of Capitan de Sangley (Chinese Captain) to administer the affairs of the local Chinese which included monitoring their trade and commerce as well as overseeing education and civic programs.

Prominent Chinese were appointed to this position and the first capitan, Lim Ong, donated land for a cemetery due to the fact that Chinese weren't allowed to be buried in Catholic cemeteries. The second capitan, Mariano Yu, purchased additional land from Dominican friars for the construction of the Chung Hok Tong temple. A clinic, which would go on to become the Chinese General Hospital, was built in 1891 under the aegis of Capitan Carlos Palanca Tanchueco.

In 1907, after the defeat of the Spanish colonists and during the occupation of the Americans, the different properties and assets of the group were consolidated into a corporation named Communidad De Chinos. The collective's new legal status enabled to them to do more work, such as putting up a nursing school in 1921, and purchase more real estate, like their office space in downtown Manila in 1934.

Phoenix rising 
When World War II broke out in 1941, then president Go Pin Chiu was arrested by the Japenese Kempeitai for his involvement in the anti-Japanese movement. Operations were halted and did not resume until Tan Unliong became president in 1945.

As the group started to become active again amidst the post-war rebuilding, it suffered an identity crisis in the late 1950s when its government registration was up for renewal. Despite some initial internal disputes, it was decided that Communidad De Chinos would be reborn with a new name: Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc.

Chua Kwei Lim was named the new president on June 15, 1958, carrying on the mandate of using the group's assets for charitable endeavors. Since then, a host of notable personalities have served as president or chairman of the board.

Even with term limits for the presidency, the likes of Vicente Dysun Sr., D.K. Chiong, George Lee See Kiat, and Johnny Cheng enjoyed the honor of being re-elected several times over. James Dy was elected into the presidency of the twelfth board of directors in 1987.

With business interests in music recording, real estate, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and travel-toursim, Dy has since been re-elected several times and has effectively been leading the PCCA for close to two decades now.

From the initial system of having fifteen directors, with three seats reserved for representatives of the Cantonese Association and the rest for Fookien representatives, the PCCA now has twenty-five directors. Current officers include executive vice-chairman Florante Dy, and vice-chairmen Chua Kee Lin and Siy Yap Chua.

Latest milestones
Among other achievements, this current batch of officers are credited with streamlining the management of PCCA's hospital and nursing college by implementing a separation of administrative responsibilities for the two institutions.

The nursing school started with only 21 students. Today, it is a full-fledged college with around 1,400 students. The hospital, on the other hand, undergoes continuous renovations and expansions. It celebrated the 10th year anniversary of its Heart Institute last year.

And, yes, charity still lies at the heart of these PCCA institutions. The hospital has more than one hundred beds in its charity ward, averaging 3,500 charity cases a year, and it provides free medical care for employees of many government agencies and NGOs. It also sends its staff to render free medical consultations to indigent patients at the group's charity clinic located in the PCCA office building in Binondo.

The PCCA has also recently inaugurated a newly constructed retirement home, aptly called the PCCA-Home for the Aged, located in one of the many properties owned by the group. The new structure cost P20M to build and is an addition to the original home built in 1951. Medical care for the residents are provided by the hospital while funding for the home is provided by contributions from the Filipino-Chinese community as well as annual fund-raising efforts done in partnership with United Daily News.

The PCCA does not limit its generosity to the Manila area. It has held medical and relief missions to provinces throughout the nation. Neither does it curb assistance to Chinese-Filipinos only. The credo is to help others regardless of race or religion. In a time when the world is making headway in breaking borders, extending aid and embracing diversity, it's good to know there's been a group of people who've been doing the same thing for quite a while now.

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. (PCCA) 1122-1126 Soler St., Binondo, Manila Tels.: 244-7231 to 34

The mother of all business clubs

Prior to 1904, only music associations were legally permitted by the Spanish government. When business-interest groups were finally allowed to be formed, the same Chinese merchants who became involved and banded together in the seminal beginnings of the PCCA also became the same group of people who formed the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Since then, both groups have more or less shared the same members and officers.

James Dy, Emeritus President of Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (FCGCC), claims, "We are the oldest business organization in the country. We are the mother of all business clubs."

It has been involved in protecting the business interests of the Chinese community and claims to have been the "biggest Chinese trade chamber" from the 40s to the 50s. The FCGCC celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2004 and marked the event with the creation of a commemorative postage stamp.

Dy admits that from the 50s to the 80s, it suffered a "low season" due to politics. In 1958, Ralph Nubla of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCGCII), which had been formed in 1954, offered ten seats in its board to the leaders of the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

One of these seats was given to Dy. However, internal disagreements spurred Dy to leave the Federation with his colleagues in 1988 and return to what is now known as the Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

As with the PCCA, Dy has been leading the General Chamber of Commerce since then. He boasts that the individuals who were at loggerheads with him back in the Federation now concedes, "that it was a mistake to let me go." [The Federation and its splinter group, the Chinese Filipino Business Club, were featured in the first issue of Asian Dragon. Ed.]

He points out that the reins of leadership will eventually have to be passed on to a deserving candidate who understands the sacrifice involved. "I am scouting for a successor to lead both PCCA and FCGCC. It is more demanding than your own business and it takes time away from your family because you are, in effect, serving the entire Filipino-Chinese community."

The Learning Connection School Teaches Tots

The Learning Connection School Teaches Tots
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Julie Pascual-Peñalosa has been teaching little children for as long as she can remember. When she was a young student herself, Julie used to round up younger kids after class and tutor them. "The joke in my family is that I my resume should state that I've been teaching since I was in the first grade," she laughs.

Julie eventually went on to teach preschool and that was where she met Hazel Gan-Go, another teacher who had given up a life in the corporate world to follow her dreams of educating young minds. "I was miserable in my old job. I had no teaching background but when I was given an opportunity to teach, I took it. I really believe we should all end up doing what we are passionate about," she says.

The two became fast friends. Early in the morning, over cups of coffee while preparing for their classes, they would talk about opening their own school one day. At first, each thought the other was joking. When they realized that it was a serious ambition for both, they wasted no time in getting started.

Unique philosophy
Hazel took the role of navigator in their partnership and charted the course they would take. She started the ball rolling by acquiring a piece of land from her father in the San Juan area. Julie, on the other hand, serves as the pilot, steering the pair through the journey. "I have the foresight for planning," shares Hazel. "While Julie is the one who takes care of the here and now. Since we share the same core values, we really compliment each other."

The tandem didn't want to open a school just like all the other ones. "When I went back to school to take up further studies in education, my professor asked me what I remembered about my own experiences in preschool," recounts Hazel. "I remember little things like painting or dancing or having fun. In other words, I remember having new experiences."

This epiphany has guided them in developing the "progressive" teaching philosophy for their school, "The Learning Connection." The school aims to provide children 2 to 5 years old with an environment to explore what they want to explore in a hands-on manner. "We believe that children learn best through experience and discovery," says Hazel.

Different approach
"For example, we don't just teach them about colors using flash cards. We bring out poster paints and let them use their imagination and creativity. We don't just talk about animals, we invite people like Kim Atienza to bring over his pets and animals for the children to play with," explains Jules, as she is known to her students. "There's really no set curriculum because we pick up on what the children are interested in and build on that. We adjust to what they are attracted to because we want them to shine in that area. We nudge, not push, them towards building self-confidence."

This paradigm is actually so different that it didn't fit any of the government's prescribed rules and existing standards. "It was a challenge getting our permits to run the school. The government asked for our syllabus and we couldn't give them any since we don't operate that way."

"We had to invite them over to see how we actually held our classes so they would understand what we were talking about. Fortunately, they finally got what we were trying to do and they saw that it worked."

Maternal instincts
Just because their teaching methods are not standard, it didn't mean they could take it easy. In fact, they had to work even harder to prove themselves. Both took further studies in education to strengthen their skills and knowledge. They also regularly attend seminars and workshops to stay on top of new trends in child education.

It also helps that both partners have two children each. "I'm actually a better educator than a domesticated homemaker," jokes Hazel. "As mothers, we don't just look at the business per se. We bring a nurturing and caring atmosphere into our teaching. We treat all the students like our own children. Even when we buy materials for the school, we make sure to buy things that we would feel comfortable giving to our own children. We only want the best quality for our students, for example, toxic-free paints."

Jules adds, "We're able to work with every single child in our school. It's important that we get to know our students because we don't give out grades, we come up with detailed progress reports that we give the parents."

Small dreams
Although both dreamt of having a small, manageable school, the popularity and track record of their efforts have attracted so many new students that they've had to expand. "We started out with only twelve students in our first year, but now we have an average of sixty every year and we've had to add a second floor to our building to add more classrooms," Hazel says.

They are unfazed, however, and embrace the added responsibilities. "Our husbands and families are supportive," she says. "We have also earned the respect of our students' parents. In fact, a lot of our enrollees are from referrals and we also have `repeat' families who send their younger children to our school."

"There are new challenges all the time but at the end of the day, all we want is to give our students the best we can. It's a wonderful feeling to see them spark up when you enter the room," adds Jules. "We want to give them good memories they can look back on."

The Learning Connection is at 182 Pilar St., San Juan, Metro Manila 725-2300 and 725-2400.

Equestrienne Rebecca Dosch is all about balance

Equestrienne Rebecca Dosch is all about balance
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

The morning dew is just beginning to evaporate from the tree leaves. Under the light of the morning sun, Rebecca Aragon Dosch impishly mentions that when she was in college she didn't care much for the studying and wanted to "just ride horses." If you were eavesdropping and this was all you heard, you might be tempted to conclude that she's one of those wild, reckless types with no respect for rules and discipline.

But then you would end up being very far from the truth. At a veranda near the stables, Rebecca is the picture of poise and grace. Her spine is arched just so, her words are clear and deliberate. She sometimes takes a moment of thought before she answers. This is a woman who has competed (and won) international equestrienne events, something that certainly requires control and discipline.

It's a good thing she continued to ride while studying business management in De La Salle University-Manila, because the training gave her the honor of bringing back medals for the country. She's part of an elite force of very few women, like Mikee Cojuangco and Tony Leviste, who have excelled in the sport. Quite a feat since "men and women compete on the same level in this sport. Unlike other sports, there are no separate divisions," she says.

After competing in the 90s and a stint as an assistant coach at the Olympic Youth Festival in Australia in 2005, in perhaps a funny twist for someone who claims to not have cared much for studying, Rebecca now teaches riding full-time.

"It's important that I pass on a passion that's very dear to me," she explains. There is no question that she simply loves what she does as her sultry eyes light up when she speaks of teaching.

Rebecca points out that "It's all about balance." This is a sport, after all, where you are working together with another living being and the relationship is key. "It's about coordination and rhythm. There's a point when I let my students ride bareback (i.e. without a saddle) to let them feel what the horse's muscles are doing. It's about being one with the horse."

The right mindset also helps. "It's not about strength. You need to have respect for this majestic and powerful creature. Like any sport, it takes hard work and determination. If you fall, you just have to get up."

Rebecca was recently requested to train the new White Castle girl, Roxanne Guinoo, to learn riding in just ten days. "She was able to do it because she had the right attitude and she was willing to work hard. She was a sweet girl and respected what I had to teach her. It didn't matter what she had to do to learn, she just did it."

While it usually takes a little longer than ten days to learn to ride, Rebecca says, "It really depends on the student. Children have less inhibitions so they learn faster." She reminds us however that, "Every horse has its own personality, so it's different every time. It's a never ending process of learning." As with life, persistence and endurance goes a long way, "The older you get, the better you get."

Roxanne Guinoo: Galloping to ibe an icon

Roxanne Guinoo: Galloping to ibe an icon 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

A young, nubile lass in a scarlet bikini astride a white horse. Ah, the seminal icon that has long been associated with a brand of whiskey called White Castle. Women who have filled the role include such names as Carmi Martin, Cristina Gonzales, Glydel Mercado, Angela Velez, Maria Isabel Lopez, Lorna Tolentino, and Techie Agbayani.

And now, the newest White Castle girl has finally been chosen. Among many who auditioned, Roxanne Guinoo was handed the reins. After her initial euphoria upon hearing the news of her selection, she promptly got down to the business of learning to ride a horse.

"I was really excited and, at the same time, nervous," she says. Despite visits to vacation spots known for horse-riding like Baguio and Tagaytay, she'd never ridden one before. "It was really a challenge since I didn't have any experience."

Not one to back down from an obstacle, Roxanne learned to ride, without a saddle no less, in all of ten days. "It's funny because I never fell off [the horse] until our last day of training, but I guess it's really part of learning."

"My parents taught me the virtue of hard work and that I have to do things whole heartedly. That's why in everything I do, I put my 100% so I'll be able to do whatever is expected of me," she says. To look her best for the shooting of the commercial, "I tried to maintain a strict diet and went to the gym regularly."

Aside from her guts and determination, she credits her instructor Rebecca Dosch for her newfound riding skills. "She is the perfect trainor! She was very professional and focused on teaching me the basics. She made it a point that I understood whatever she teaches. And if it were not for her, I wouldn't have been able to do it well. I'm very thankful that she appreciates my eagerness to learn."

It also helped that she was given a good partner. Roxanne is all praises for Djina, the mare she learned to ride on and the same horse she shot the commercial with. "She's very nice and accommodating."

Currently one of the hosts of the popular lunchtime television show "Wowowee," Roxanne has a heavy schedule filled with rehearsals, photo shoots, tapings, and preparations to be part of a new teleserye. Through it all, she is fueled by the support of her family. "My family serve as my greatest inspiration. They are very supportive in whatever I do. My family is what keeps me going and give me the drive to fulfill my dreams."

Asked if she would accept if she were asked to perform in a movie with Djina as her co-star, she replied without batting an eyelash, "Of course! I love Djina and I had a lot of fun working with her."

Shrine of Peñafrancia needs help

Shrine of Peñafrancia needs help 
By Walter Ang
April 16, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Barely twenty years has passed since its last renovation but the Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City, Bicol is once again in dire need of repairs. "When it rains outside," said Ninfa Saballegue, "it also rains inside."

Saballegue, chairperson of the shrine's pastoral council, explained that the church's internal wooden supports and trusses are being eaten away by termites, causing structural weaknesses. "Half the year is rainy season and it is difficult to maintain cleanliness because the floors become wet and muddy. The chandeliers cannot be lighted because of fear of shorting out the electrical circuits."

Further aggravation has been inflicted by numerous typhoons, the latest of which were typhoons Milenyo and Reming last year. With not much to go on, the council has spearheaded repair efforts under the aegis of Most Rev. Leonardo Legaspi, O.P., D.D., Archbishop of Caceres, and Rev. Fr. Gerardo Hernandez, the shrine's parish priest.

The council's vice-chairperson Ester Elopre said, "We would like to fast track the repairs, but we desperately need funds." The council is full of women like Saballegue and Elopre who have been working to hold raffles and contests, selling commemorative items, and generally drumming up awareness.

"Every little effort helps but we're not a very big group," said Elopre. "We'd like to get at least the structural repairs done so that parishioners can have a comfortable and safe place to worship. Later on, we hope to raise enough funds to continue with the interior repairs."

While the stone façade of the church stands strong, it's missing a baluster. Also, the painted mural on the ceiling is pockmarked with holes, broken tiles pepper the floor, and the sacristans' ready room has blown-out windows covered with plastic trash bags.

The shrine's current state belies its rich history and lore. Originally made of nipa and bamboo, it was built in the early 1700s by Miguel de Cobarrubias, vicar general of Nueva Caceres (Naga). This Dominican missionary had pledged to build a church to honor the Virgin of Peñafrancia and was finally prompted to do so when fugitives and slaves requested a church for their needs. They wanted a church near the river so they could sneak in and out on their boats without alerting the authorities.

Devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia originated in Spain, where a Frenchman named Simoun Vela, following what he claimed was a divine voice, found an old image of the Virgin in a small Spanish village. A miracle related to the construction of the church established the devotion to the Lady of Peñafrancia in the Philippines.

When Cobarrubias commissioned a wooden statue of the Virgin, the sculptor needed blood to color it, so a dog was sacrificed. When the animal's carcass was cast to the river, Cobarrubias is attributed with saying, "The Virgin will work her first miracle in Nueva Carceres. She will bring back to life that innocent animal that gave the blood for her." The dog is supposedly to have started swimming and ran back up to its master's house.

The church was eventually replaced with a stone structure and has undergone modifications since then. An ornate façade donated by the local Chinese community was stripped down and made to look more austere in the late 1870s along with an expansion of the church's length. Chandeliers were donated by Spanish families in the late 1880s.

Malice and miracles
The shrine has had its share of mystery as well. In 1981, the statue of the Virgin disappeared from the altar. It reappeared a year later in Manila in five separated pieces. After confirming the authenticity of the image, it was returned to Naga amidst a roiling typhoon. It is said that the skies cleared and the moon shone during the one hour celebratory mass but became stormy again after the mass ended.

When major renovations were done in the late 1980s, the mural was discovered to have been painted on galvanized iron sheets. The sheets were so rusted that attempts to peel them off only crumbled them to dust.

Despite the loss of some undocumented details like the mural's original design (created by artisans from Pampanga), accounts from that particular renovation has a trove of little miracles. The chandeliers were discovered to be hanging from completely rotted wood that would have given at any moment. Donations would come at opportune times when the coffers ran dry and suppliers needed to be paid. Materials needed for construction appeared mysteriously and totally unaccounted for.

Fit for a queen
The stories from the last major renovation inspire the council ladies in their endeavor to bring the shrine back to its former glory. "We're trying to reach out to Bicolanos throughout the country and abroad to help us generate the money by way of any contributions they might be able to share," said Saballegue.

To this end, the council has been holding brainstorming sessions to come up with new activities to raise money. They've been brushing up on their shrine history so they can share more engaging stories to pique people's interests. Exploratory talks are underway to stage a fundraising dance-concert later this year featuring homegrown talents and with the possibility of an international performer.

"The renovation is a manifestation of our devotion to Ina, the Patroness of Bicolandia. No matter where they are, many Bicolanos come home every September for the feast of Our Lady while pilgrims and devotees come and visit her throughout the year," said Elopre. "We are simply responding to the parishioners' spiritual well-being and to have a home befitting a Queen for Our Lady."

For more information or to support the renovation efforts, email or call (054) 473-8468.

Ayala Musuem's 'Chinese Diaspora: Art Streams from the Mainland'

Ayala Musuem's 'Chinese Diaspora: Art Streams from the Mainland'
By Walter Ang
March 21, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

When I invited a Filipino friend of mine to my clan's annual new year's reunion party a few years ago, it struck me at how amazed he was at the proceedings.

To me, it was nothing out of the ordinary. It was our usual thing, a lauriat lunch at a Chinese restaurant with lazy susans and chopsticks, everyone wearing something red and speaking a mix of Chinese, English and Tagalog, the little kids scampering to the aquariums to look at the fish, things like that.

To my friend, it was out of this world. "I need subtitles! It's like 'Mano Po' the movie in real life! " he exclaimed. I was happy to have shared the occasion with my friend, giving him a glimpse into the world of Tsinoys. It occurred to me that a lot of my Pinoy friends don't really get a chance to know more about what it is to be Tsinoy. More to the point, did I and my generation knew enough of our own histories as well?

Whenever my friends ask about my family history, I can usually go as far back as my paternal grandparents' story of how they came over in boats from Fujian province just a few years before WWII, of how my father and his eight siblings grew up in Tondo.

Growing up, I didn't ask about the reasons why my grandparents and, I assume, a whole wave of other mainland Chinese decided to settle here. It was something I took for granted. After all, watching Sesame Street was more fun than asking about how difficult life must have been back in my grandparents' hometowns to make them want to leave. How scary it must have been for them to stray so far from home, how brave they must have been to start a new life in a strange new world.

These thoughts filled my mind when I visited the Ayala Musuem's current exhibit entitled "Chinese Diaspora: Art Streams from the Mainland," a six-part collection that "celebrates the extraordinary achievements of syncretic Chinese cultures in Southeast Asia."

"The Peranakan Legacy," on loan from Singapore's Asian Civilizations Museum, shows the objects and furniture of Chinese who settled in Singapore. Peranakan is what Singaporeans call their Tsinoys, so to speak. I think this will appeal to Tsinoys the most because it mirrors our own experiences and attempts to hold on to our "old" culture while blending in with our "new" culture.

I liked it because it showed "ordinary" stuff -- everyday things used around the house like slippers, garments, altars, ceramics, etc. I found an intricate silver case for chewing betel nuts (apparently, something people used to enjoy doing) fascinating and funny at the same time. I wonder if a hundred years from now, museums will feature bejewled cellphone cases.

Closer to Philippine shores, the museum shows what Pinoys used to buy and trade from the Chinese before the opening of 168 mall: a collection of close to two hundred pottery and other trade ware from the Roberto T. Villanueva Collection.

On the other hand, "Tsinoy: Mestizo Art of Colonial Times" features jewelry and sculptures created by Tsinoy-Mestizos artisans and craftsmen of the 19th century. My favorite is actually some ornamental silver clips used for hanging mosquito nets. It seems a little silly now to have such beautiful pieces hung together with something as mundane as mosquito nets, but there you have it!

The exhibit also features the paintings of Damian Domingo, regarded as "The First Great Filipino Painter." Domingo was a Tsinoy-Mestizo who did miniature portraits and albums of Philippine costumes. When I saw his painting of two Chinese women, their disproportionately small feet made me think of my very own grandmother whose toes are bent out of shape. She had to suffer foot-binding when she was much younger. Thank goodness for my grandmother, it was discontinued because it had already started to go out of style and, according to her, her family was too poor to keep up with it. Besides, it hurt a lot, she'd tell me and my siblings.

In "China Gaze," Filipino-Catalan artist Valeria Cavestany showcases her mixed-media artworks inspired by her love affair with the Chinese culture. So enamoured is she that Cavestany has studied Chinese history, Chinese painting, and the Mandarin language. Cavestany's artworks gave me a glimpse of how someone who is from another culture views my own.

From the serene halls of the museum, I moved to the vibrant streets of Binondo to see how the past has morphed into the present. In conjunction with the exhibit, which runs until May 27, the museum had partnered with Ivan ManDy for a special combo-walk incorporating his regular eating tour and historical tour (

Even though I grew up in Binondo, I still took the tour to visit old haunts and to see if there were new things I could discover about my hometown. We began at a Roman Catholic church that was, ironically, the focal point of Binondo's beginnings. ManDy informed the group that the Spanish colonists had spurred Chinese migration because of their need for cheap labor, in short, they needed Chinese OFWs to work in Manila. We came full circle as we ended the tour in a hidden, back-alley Chinese temple.

In between these bookends, ManDy took us up and down and all around the streets of Binondo, with stops at a Chinese drugstore, a family association hall, a Chinese wedding store, a combination Catholic/Taoist altar, and, yes, a Chinese factory making Spanish chocolate. He fed our bellies with Chinese food from hole-in-the-wall joints and fed our minds with stories of scandal, tenacity, rumors, perseverance, and love affairs. With his hilarious sense of humor and theatricality, it was a fun (and delicious) way to complement the museum exhibit.

It doesn't matter if you're Pinoy or Tsinoy or Whatever-noy, take a trip to the Ayala Musuem to see this exhibit. In a time when the world is truly getting smaller, it's a good thing to learn something about another culture or rediscover your own. Besides, it's only a few feet away from the Ayala malls, so it shouldn't be too hard to fit it in your weekend schedule. Plus, the jackfruit sans rival in their café is to die for.

The museum has a series of talks until May: March 23 features Ditas Samson, curator and Valeria Cavestany, artist, of China Glaze; April 28 features Rita Tan, curator of the Roberto T. Villanueva Collections of Chinese and Southeast Asian Trade Ware; and May 23 features Dr. Luciano Santiago, curator of Damian Domingo: His Life, Art & Times.

Ayala Museum is at the corner of Makati Avenue and De la Rosa Streets, Makati City. Call 757-7117 to 21 or visit

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Dulaang U.P. stages anti-sarswela 'Basilia ng Malolos"

Dulaang U.P. stages anti-sarswela 
By Walter Ang
February 26, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

After having directed several productions using foreign material without any "linear" plots, Dulaang U.P. artistic director Jose Estrella wanted to do something "with a storyline, something Filipino." She then came across "Basilia ng Malolos," a sarswela written by Nicanor Tiongson, and was instantly intrigued when the playwright informed her that it was actually an "anti-sarswela."

"It still includes the usual elements of the form like a bida (protagonist), contrabidas (antagonists), the music, and the 'morally correct' ending, but we reinterpreted and transformed, subverted even, these very elements to suit our storytelling needs," said Tiongson.

"Basilia ng Malolos" deals with a group of women that Jose Rizal had written to in 1889 to congratulate them on having a night-school opened. "That was the only thing people knew about them. That they made an innocuous, upper-class request from Governor-General Valeriano Weyler to have Spanish language classes."

There was certainly more than met the eye. After having written a book, entitled "Women of Malolos" and published in 2004, on the history and biographies of these women, Tiongson has intimate knowledge of the reach and implications of their little school.

"It wasn't just a school," claimed Tiongson. He contends that this group of "feisty and intrepid" women were deeply involved in the revolution efforts of the time. They made waves big enough to warrant notice from notables like Rizal and Marcelo Del Pilar. Wanting to bring their stories to a broader audience via an art form, "The sarswela seemed the logical choice. Also, her time period corresponds to the beginning of this form."

Changing the form
Tiongson already has one sarswela, "Pilipinas Circa 1907," under his belt. It was performed in the 80s and 90s by companies like Peta and Tanghalang Pilipino. "This time, I explore the life of Basilia Tantoco (to be essayed by Jenny Jamora) and her role as a leader of the women of Malolos. In the context of the whole reform movement, the things she did were a major salvo," he said.

"When I heard the term 'anti-sarswela,' I had to ask what it meant." laughed Estrella. However, the opportunity to reinvent and update the sarswela is just the kind of thing this innovative director likes to sink her teeth into. "The material is a challenge to direct. At the basic level, there's an idea that sarswelas follow the love angle of the protagonists and they live happily ever after. In Basilia, the surprise comes at the end when all of that is defied and we all see what she does after that."

Tiongson hopes that audiences will ultimately be led to question long-held perceptions and notions of society and culture. "We want people to examine the roles that society assigns them. How the colonial rulers and the feudal elite, with their patriarchy and oppression, have given us customs and beliefs that we hold as 'natural' and 'Filipino.' But are they really as natural and Filipino as we think they are?"

Contemporary sarswela
Tiongson's desired results are a tall order, "But I have one hundred percent trust in Jose. She's a very intelligent and original director." To this end and to further deconstruct the usual devices of the sarswela, Estrella collaborated with musical director Joy Marfil to retool the music of the songs to highlight the struggles of the characters. The objective is that, unlike the pretty melodies and kundimans of romantic sarswelas, the music for this anti-sarswela must not overpower the ideas conveyed by the lyrics.

Estrella is excited by the development of the production's different elements. "I like directing stories that have movement and songs. It's an interesting way to tell the story of Basilia, of feminist ideals, of equal rights. I want to give the audience a different way of looking at it all."

Executing this vision has attracted collaborators that include Dexter Santos for choreography, John Abul for costume design, Ludendorffo Decenteceo for set design, John Batalla for light design, and Mele Yamomo for video design.

And because the scope of Basilia's active life extends well into the 1920s, many years after the end of the revolution against Spain. "Most of the cast and staff have to do double and triple roles. It's really epic!" said Estrella. "But I staged it as simply as I could so that it's easy to follow. There's a contemporary touch to the staging to make it accessible and familiar."

"Basilia ng Malolos" runs until March 4 at the Geurrero Theater, University of the Philippines. Call 926-1349 loc. 2449.

Also published online: article_id=51563

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Alternative Valentine's Dates

Alternative Valentine's Dates 
By Walter Ang
February 14, 2007
Philippine Daily Inquirer

We know the formula for Valentine's Day dates. You have the de rigueur chocolates, flowers, fancy dinners, soft music, the works. It's all fun and exciting and romantic, but if you'd rather not deal with the crowds, the traffic and the endless list of things that could go wrong, you can also try 2bU!'s alterna-date ideas. We've come up with a list of different date ideas you can try on the day of love. Hey, your time together can be just as romantic even without candlelight.

Take a hike. 
Arrange for a private walking tour of either vibrant Escolta or bustling Chinatown or colorful Quiapo any area of downtown Manila you haven't been to before. If you've never been to these parts of the city, you might as well visit them with someone you like, right? The nostalgia in those old art-deco buildings, the aromas of the merchandise, the vigor of the people are all ingredients to this on-your-feet date. If you're feeling brave, you can go on your own and revel in the joy of the unplanned itinerary. If you'd rather have someone guide you along, check out the websites of streetwalkers Ivan ManDy ( and Carlos Celdran (

Picnic in the city. 
Forget Tagaytay or Baguio. Have a picnic in the middle of the city. Where you ask? Away from the maddening crowds, you can spend a nice quiet evening together on the rooftop of a building. Sitting on your gingham blanket, you can dine under a canopy of stars and amidst the glow of city lights. You heard right, a night time picnic. The sound of the occasional car horn from down below will only add to the urban flair. You know what kind of soundtrack would make it feel like a scene right out of a movie? Bring along a transistor radio and tune into an AM station that plays those old Tagalog love songs. The crackle and static is all part of the fun.

You can make your cake (and eat it, too!).
Try learning something you both have never tried. Not only will you experience or learn something new, you create a new memory for the both of you to share. Why not learn how to ballroom dance or take a one-day cooking class? You don't have to say sweet nothings to each other but you can surely bake it right up. Remember the movie "Ghost"? Be your own Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in a pottery class. The Instituto Cervantes ( has some upcoming gustatory-related classes like "Mastering Spanish Wine" and "Introduction to Spanish Cuisine."

Day at the museum. Admit it, the only time you've been to a museum was back in the fourth grade with your classmates. This time, no one is forcing you to go so you'll have a better chance of enjoying yourself. Plus, you're a little older now, which means you can finally actually appreciate the things you can see in a museum. There are lots of different kinds of museums (and art galleries) that will suit your fancy (art, history, etc.). To find one that will interest you both, you can visit the site of the Musuem Volunteers of the Philippines (

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