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."