Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation funds art teachers for the next generation

Funding art teachers for the next generation
By Walter Ang

The Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation recently announced their latest batch of grantees for the ACC Philippines Fellowship Program.

"The ACC supports cultural exchange in the visual and performing arts between the United States and countries of Asia by providing fellowship grants to artists, scholars, and specialists undertaking study, research, observation, and creative work in the United States," says Teresa Rances, ACC Program Representative in Manila.

"Some grants are also made to arts organizations and educational institutions if they have projects that have special significance to Asian-American cultural exchange."

Established in 1963 by John D. Rockefeller III, the ACC began to operate as an independent foundation in 1980. The council's main office is in New York and branch offices are located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei.

Though grants have been awarded to Filipinos since 1963, the Manila office was finally established in 2001?the same year that ACC Philippines Foundation was established. The foundation is ACC's partner in fundraising in the country.

"The grantees are all chosen by ACC New York. Once initial applications are screened, the New York office shortlists the applicants who then have to submit their portfolios. It is only then that the Manila office becomes involved by way of assisting these shortlisted applicants in the process," says Rances.

"The New York office will later inform the Manila office who the grantees are. The foundation has nothing to do with and is not involved in the selection of the grantees. It only serves to raise funds for the grantees. As a general rule, ACC New York matches the contribution of ACC Philippines Foundation, thus, enabling more artists and scholars to receive grants each year."

Last year's grantees include Jose Jay Cruz (Dance); Mideo Cruz and Clodualdo Aladen Llana (Visual Arts); Edgardo Maranan (Theater); Grace Nono (Music); and Wawi Navarroza (Photography). Other fields that are considered fro grants include archaeology, architecture, arts administration, art criticism, art history, conservation, crafts, design, film and video, museology, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

The current ACC Philippines Foundation board of trustees is chaired by businessman and board member of Ballet Philippines Ernest L. Escaler with Ma. Isabel G. Ongpin (wife of former Aquino administration Finance Secretary Jaime Ongpin) as president.

"In order to foster the cultural exchange of our artists, The ACC Philippines Foundation undertakes a yearly fundraising event," says Escaler. "We also have some good friends who contribute regularly, like the American Women's Club. But of course, anyone who would like to help out can do so anytime by contacting the foundation."

Trustee Isabel Caro Wilson, Philippine ambassador to Spain and former ACC Philippines chair, says, "Actually, ACC New York didn't use to have fundraisers, but now they do because they were inspired by how we were able to successfully do our first fundraiser in New York City back in 2001, just shortly after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. It proved that we Filipinos are always ready to support our artists. By allowing our artists to learn more outside of the Philippines, we ensure the continuity of excellence in art. Our grantees become teachers for the next generation."

"What is wonderful about supporting the foundation is that you know where your money goes," says fashion designer and trustee Rajo Laurel. "When the artists come back and share what they've learned, you will see that your money is a real investment. This is a form of philanthropy that contributes to nation building."

Last year, ACC Philippines' fundraiser was a fashion show featuring the work of USA-based fashion designer Josie Natori, also a trustee.

"We are already preparing for our next fundraiser, an art auction in February next year," says owner of Boston Gallery and trustee Dr. Joven Cuanang.

"We already have 100 paintings so far and it's a mix of seasoned and up-and-coming painters. Some of the painters include Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, and John Santos. It's also our way of letting Filipinos know that art is for everyone. If you can't afford one of the masters, you can certainly get a painting by one of our younger painters and support their growth, as well as assist with funding the grantees."

"It's nice to know that even if the world is in utter crisis right now, we have an organization that is in place to continually help Filipino artists learn more about their craft," says Laurel. "It is up to us not to forget that artists are the soul of a country."

To donate to the Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation, call 757-3006.

December 14, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bialetti and Saeco: Italian espresso makers for Pinoy homes

Italian espresso makers for Pinoy homes
By Walter Ang
December 9, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pinoy coffee lovers can now make their own espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos at home with premiere Italian-brand coffeemakers Bialetti and Saeco. "These brands meet the growing interest of Filipinos in gourmet cuisine with quality equipment," says Norman Reynoso, Institutional Sales and Marketing Manager of Fabriano S.p.A., the official Philippine distributor for both brands.

For families where only one or two members enjoy a cup of good, strong coffee (and acquiring an espresso machine isn't feasible), there is the Bialetti line of stovetop espresso makers. "These come in charming designs and are convenient since the smallest models are for single servings, though there are models that can brew up to six servings," says Reynoso. "You just fill it with water and ground coffee, put it on top of the stove, and in a few minutes, you have espresso!"

The original model was created by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti around the Second World War. Inspired by sealed boilers used by laundry women that had a central pipe to draw soapy water from the bottom and redistributed it over the laundry, Bialetti created a device where steam travels up a funnel (thus creating a characteristic gurgling sound), through ground coffee and into an upper chamber where the espresso is collected.

With most coffee makers, water simply drips through ground coffee and down to a pot. Bialetti's creation allows pressurized boiling water to steam through the ground coffee for more efficient extraction of flavor and caffeine. The result is stronger coffee compared to drip brew.

Bialetti's invention has become a staple in every Italian household, allowing Italians to have espresso-bar quality coffee in the comfort of their own homes. Prior to the creation of this nifty device, there were only two ways to get their coffee fix: going to espresso bars that had large, steam-pressured machines or to endure the slow filtration process at home.

Different designs
The distinctive Bialetti octagonal shaped stovetop espresso maker is iconic and a visual cue for Italian culture. It was ranked as one of Italy's best designs in the 20th century along with the 1957 Fiat 500, the 1946 Vespa, and the Nutella bottle. Bialetti's design blueprints are even featured in several museums including the Science Museum of London. The models manufactured today all feature a logo caricature of Bialetti.

The stovetop espresso makers come in several styles to suit different aesthetic preferences. "There are designs that are romantic, some are minimalist, and some are even playful," says Reynoso. There's even a model with a glass collecting chamber for those who prefer to see their coffee gurgle up in the mornings.

While most models come in stainless steel finishes, Fabriano S.p.A. is considering bringing over more colored models, even pink ones, and a model that changes color when the coffee is nearly ready. "The more experienced coffee lovers know not to brew the coffee to boiling point as it will affect the taste," says Reynoso.

He notes that the bestseller, thus far, is the stovetop cappuccino maker with a cow-skin design finish. "Most Filipinos are not really too fond of very strong coffee, so they opt for the cappuccino makers. The cow-skin design is kind of cute, which Pinoys like," he adds. The cappuccino makers have bigger collecting chambers compared to the espresso makers so that milk can be added. It can even make froth, technically called crema, with just a click of a pressure valve.

More technophilic households will be attracted to Saeco, the Italian market leader of home-use espresso machines. Saeco was established in 1981 in Gaggio Montano, a small Apennine town in Bologna.

Saeco has some lines that are exclusively designed by BMW Designworks USA such as the Talea line which features silver and titanium color palettes. "Saeco's Taleo Giro model is our bestseller," says Reynoso.

Most of the machines come with LCD displays and either programmable push-button technology or interactive click wheels. Some machines comes pre-programmed with coffee recipes so the user can get a great drink instantly but settings can be adjusted to user preferences.

Saeco's Royal Prof model is the ultimate in automated coffee making. "It will even grind your coffee beans for you," says Reynoso. "An autodose function detects the size of the beans that are put in. Just push a button or turn a knob to create the perfect cup of coffee to suit your personal taste." The model comes with a ceramic grinder which creates a soft hum rather than the usual loud buzzing, grinding sound most people are used to hearing.

Saeco has received several design awards for its different models such as the Red Dot Design Award for Product Design Excellence, the IF Product Design Award, and the Plus X award for design and ease of use.

"Both brands have consummate stylishness due to thorough design standards and research. They have also gone through exhaustive quality control measures. The Filipino coffee aficionado is assured of an attractive and durable piece that is a noteworthy investment, in and out of the kitchen," says Reynoso.

For details, visit the GE Monogram Experience Center, 2/F Serendra, Taguig City, or call 643-3456.

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Digital meridian system: Evaluate your vital energy

Digital meridian system: Evaluate your vital energy
By Walter Ang
December 8, 2009
Manila Bulletin

"Filipinos have a tendency to wait until they are really ill before they seek medical help," says Ian Nubla. "We tend to ignore symptoms, what our bodies are telling us. It's best to seek medical attention while a negative condition is still in its early stages, the longer you wait, the more expensive and time-consuming treatments and medicines will be."

Nubla is connected with Health is In, a company that promotes products related to complementary medicine ( To address this ingrained lack of vigilance in monitoring the status of our health, Nubla is advocating the use of the Digital Meridian System (DMS), which is a method of evaluating a person's "vital energy" level. The system indicates potential health problems and suggests alternative modes of natural therapy to help restore and balance one's energy.

"People are more receptive now to the idea of vital energy as a way to assess health, even if it's something you can't really see," he says. Nubla goes on to say that the concept of vital energy has been around for thousands of years, especially with Asian medical theories such as chi from China, ki from Japan and prana from India.

Based on science
Meridians are pathways along which the vital energy of the body is considered to flow. The meridians form a network that connects all parts of the body, such as the skin, tendons, bone, and internal organs. Disease is said to be caused by blockages or disruptions of energy flow along the meridians.

Acupuncture, acupressure and some martial arts like tai chi and qigong operate on the principle that manipulating the meridians help balance out a body's energy.

The technology behind the Digital Meridian System started in Russia as a way to monitor the health of its cosmonauts. The Russians combined ancient Chinese meridian theories and modern electronic physiology. Detailed tests were conducted in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, atomic energy medical health departments, clinics, and the military.

The test results provided the database of over a million people for the past 40 years and the data was processed by computers, proving that meridians and human organs are interrelated.

"The system eventually replaced X-rays and ultrasound monitoring for the cosmonauts," says Nubla. "Imagine how stringent the medical testing for an astronaut can be. They have to withstand great stresses in outer space such as extreme changes in air pressure. So the doctors have to make sure they are in top shape. For the Russians to use this system is a testament to its accuracy."

Preventive tool
"The Digital Meridian System can be used as a tool for early detection of illnesses," he says. The concept of the DMS may be new to Filipinos, but these kinds of systems are widely used in hospitals in China and in Europe. "When some Europeans visited our store and saw our DMS, we didn't have to explain, they were familiar with it."

While the concepts of meridians may seem alien and confusing (after all, there are as many as 20 meridians and up to 600 acupuncture points), one does not need to know anything about it to operate or use the DMS.

"It's convenient and easy to operate, it's safe and non-invasive, and it's quick?a session only takes around ten minutes," he says. "You simply move the hand-held sensor over several meridian points on the hands and feet. The program shows you a diagram so you'll know where to place the sensor."

The sensor picks up data that are then analyzed and a report is generated. The report will show an individual's vital energy status: whether low, balanced or excessive. It also identifies possible root causes of diseases while giving early detection of potential illnesses.

Once these "imbalances" and potential illnesses are listed down, the system then recommends suitable supplements (like vitamins or herbs that one can take) to help correct the imbalance. It even recommends aromatherapy scents for a user's particular needs as well as acupuncture, body massage and foot reflexology points.

Not to replace
I was able to try out the system in the company's showroom along West Avenue, Quezon City and it correctly identified my chronic upper back pain. I had not told the staff anything about my state of health prior to the procedure. My individual report suggested root causes of my body pain and recommended supplements that I should take as well as acupressure points that I could either massage on my own or as a guide for an acupuncturist or massage therapist.

Admittedly, some portions of the report (like graphs) may not be understandable right away, but the staff are very helpful and are patient with their explanations. "People who acquire the system can call us at 4160123 any time to ask for help," says Nubla.

The system comes with a hand-held sensor and a software program that will be installed in your desktop computer or laptop. If you don't own a desktop or laptop, Health is In can customize a package to include a laptop with your digital meridian system.

It's ideal for families who want to monitor the health condition of their members or for companies or organizations that would like to have a general health assessment of their employees or members.

Nubla points out that health practitioners such as doctors, acupuncturists, nutritional therapists, reflexologists, alternative, naturopathic and holistic practitioners, as well as those in the spa and wellness industry may find good use for the DMS.

"Nonetheless, this system is not supposed to take the place of doctors," Nubla cautions. "It can aid and compliment a general check-up, but it does not replace conventional laboratory tests or technology-aided diagnostic tests like MRIs or X-rays. It's simply a tool that will allow you to take your health into your own hands by monitoring how your body is functioning. We hope that the digital meridian system will promote the habit of preventive health care management."

Geraldine Javier does art shows with a heart

Art shows with a heart
By Walter Ang
December 8, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Thirty-something contemporary visual artist Geraldine Javier has been setting records in major Asian auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's in Hong Kong and Borobudur in Singapore in the past few years.

Last year, her "Curating the Sky" sold for at least 10 times its estimated selling price in Christie's. In 2007, her "Absurdity of Being" sold for 16 times more than the original estimate. Other works that have been sold include her "Storm Chasing Dog Chasing Girl Chasing Storm" and "One Leads to Oblivion, The Other to Sorrow."

Her most recent international auction was for Christie's just a few weeks ago. Javier acknowledges that her success at the auction houses makes her "happy" but she notes that "there is also a lot of pressure." She has not rested on her laurels and is known to keep a very strict schedule (this interview was conducted after her regular work hours) to continuously produce new work.

This year, she has participated in exhibits in Milan, Beijing, and the Czech Republic. In Manila, she was part of the group show "Interior Motives" at Mo Space Gallery and had a solo show, "Butterfly's Tongue," that opened in West Gallery and moved to Manila Contemporary Gallery.

Giving back
Javier completed a degree in nursing before becoming an artist. A recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines's 13 Artists Award in 2003, she has been participating in group exhibits since the mid-90s and has consistently done solo shows this past decade.

Her work has been lauded as "sophisticated and enigmatic," touching on subject matter such as "death, misery, dysfunctional relationships, and emotional violence" with executions that mix "absurdity, imaginary, fantasy, and reality."

Javier uses oil on canvas; her technique is described as photorealistic and has now evolved into a more painterly direction with the inclusion of other media such as preserved insects and hand-embroidered elements.

Despite her success, Javier does not live in a bubble. Her home was flooded in the recent spate of typhoons and she was acutely aware of how her colleagues were affected. "Many artists' works were destroyed in the flood. There was very little I could do to help. After the storms, I had to finish pending deadlines and wasn't able to volunteer. It was very frustrating, not being able to help," she says.

She called on news broadcaster Julius Babao for help. Javier had participated in the Art 40 fundraiser auction last year organized by Babao for a Gawad Kalinga village he had sponsored. "I knew it would entail a lot of work for Julius to organize another fundraiser auction but I brought up the idea anyway," she says with a laugh.

Art 2 Heart
"Ghe is a real gem in the art world," says Babao. "She is well loved not only here but also abroad, as evidenced by her success in the international art auction scene. Her works are extraordinary and unique. The time, effort, and skill that she puts into every painting is really amazing. That's why her paintings are sought after by Pinoy and Asian art collectors. The young collectors say you're not "in" if you don't have a Geraldine Javier.

"But what makes her more interesting is that aside from being a great painter, she's also a good person. When she sent me a text message to suggest that we organize another fundraising auction, I immediately agreed."

Babao didn't have plans to organize any fundraisers this year. "The success of Art 40 is a tough act to follow. I also wanted my artist friends to take a break from fundraising and to concentrate on their shows here and abroad. But when Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng hit the country, it awakened the volunteerism spirit in all of us, everybody was eager to do their share in helping people."

Gawad Kalinga is a movement for nation-building that aims to transform poverty stricken areas with the goal of building 700,000 homes in seven years (2003-2010). Babao hopes to replicate the success that his first GK village has achieved. "Close to a hundred artists joined Art 40 and it was able to raise P2.5M. The money was used to build 30 houses for 30 families in Bagong Silang, Caloocan, which is doing very well. It has become tourist attraction for foreigners and a GK model village because it's the only village with houses that have graffiti murals spray-painted on them.

"This year's fundraiser auction is titled `Art 2 Heart,' and we're targeting P3M. The amount went up because of higher production costs for construction materials. GK is giving us land in Sitio Amparo, Caloocan where we plan to build the Art 2 Heart Village for 30 families who were badly affected by typhoon Ondoy."

Javier is putting the finishing touches to her Art 2 Heart piece titled "Casta Diva." She says, "It's inspired by opera and can be described as Louvre Museum-meets-flea market."

Babao adds, "So far, we have 50 artists joining us in this event, masters like Ang Kiukok, Ramon Orlina, Mauro `Malang' Santos and the best crop of contemporary artists that the country has ever seen like Ronald Ventura, Elmer Borlongan, Rodel Tapaya, Winner Jumalon, Mark Justiniani, Gabby Barredo, Wire Tuazon, and many more."

Art 2 Heart fundraiser auction is on Dec. 19 at Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Foundation, 4/F Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell, Makati City. Call Art Verite at (632) 915-1982 or 63917-329-6273. Preview viewing begins Dec. 18 at 12noon or visit

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Alli (Orlistat) diet pill is a new ally in weight loss

A new ally in weight loss
By Walter Ang
December 7, 2009
Manila Bulletin

The latest report from the Food and Nutrition Institute indicates that the incidence of being overweight is on the rise with 21.4% of Filipino adults weighing significantly more than they should. "The prevalence of obesity has risen 24.9 percent since 1998," says endocrinologist Dr. Cristina Chua.

She goes on to note that being overweight increases the risk of developing several serious health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, among many others. Aside from physical problems, being overweight can also affect one's self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.

Dr. Chua points out that lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity (read: exercise) are the key factors in weight loss. The trick, she shares, is in setting realistic targets. "Aim for 5-10% reduction in weight over six months," she adds.

An ally
To help Filipinos jumpstart their weight-loss efforts, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has introduced weight loss aid Alli to the local market. "For every two pounds you lose on your own, Alli helps you lose one pound more. It will partner with you towards your journey to gradual, steady, sustainable weight-loss," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.

Alli's active ingredient is orlistat, which works by combining with the enzymes in your digestive system to prevent the fat you eat from being absorbed by your body. "When taken three times a day, Alli blocks about 25% of the fat you eat," he says. "Fat is the most calorie-dense food, so preventing the absorption of some of it while eating reduced-calorie, lower-fat meals helps you lose weight."

When taking Alli, the unabsorbed fat passes naturally out of the body. Most people have heard of horror stories of the side effects of taking orlistat that would need extreme measures such as wearing adult-diapers. However, this side-effect only happens when one eats large amounts of fatty food and should instead serve as motivation to eat less fatty food.

He says that the target duration of using Alli is usually around six months. "The assumption is that during this time, the user would have gotten used to the lifestyle changes and would have reached their targeted weight loss. However, they can opt to continue using it if they wish to lose more weight."

He adds, "Alli has had success in the United States and Europe because of the program it offers. Each Alli starter pack contains a weight loss program that includes a one-week meal plan, a healthy eating guide, and tips for a healthy lifestyle."

A Pinoy menu
Registered nutritionist Virgith Buena of Cardinal Santos Medical Center designed the eating menu and includes food items that Filipinos actually eat such as pan de sal and chicken tocino for breakfast, daing na bangus and sinampalukang manok for main courses, and even leche flan for dessert.

"This nutrition plan is not a deprivation diet. Users can continue to enjoy their favorite food, but in moderate amounts. You don't eliminate fat completely with this meal plan because the right amount of fat helps the body absorb vitamins and perform other essential functions," Buena says. "This eating plan is different from many other common diets in several ways. It allows you more calories a day than many others do and it allows you to eat three meals a day, plus a snack, if desired. However, while you can choose any food you like, it has to fall within your fat and calorie targets."

She points out that making nutritious choices is not complicated. "Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods are rich sources of necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber. Look for the words `whole grains' or `whole' in the ingredient list on food packages. Keep fruits and vegetables on hand for instant grab-and-go eating. Drink low-fat or fat-free milk. Select lean meats, fish and poultry."

As an added tip, Beuna notes that one must learn to distinguish between hunger and thirst. "You may think you're hungry when, in fact, you're just thirsty."

In addition to changes in diet, users of Alli are also encouraged to increase their physical activity. Jim Saret, coach and fitness and consultant says, "You don't need to enroll in a gym, as long as you do some kind of physical activity where you feel `challenged,' you will already be on your way."

He also advises, "Some people find it difficult to change their eating and exercise habits. They may occasionally slip. The awareness of slipping is a positive sign compared to before when they didn't care if they did. The conscious effort to do better the next day is the beginning of changing one's lifestyle."

For additional movitation, users can log on to for online support. "There are tools and advice on the website to help you adjust to eating reduced calorie and lower-fat meals, as well as a list of physical activities to help you burn calories. You also get to interact with other Alli users in the online discussion forum where you can share tips and help motivate each other," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.

Just a little off the top, please: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in "Sweeny Todd"

Just a little off the top, please
By Walter Ang
December 2009 issue
Metro Magazine

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was excited but also scared when she found out she would essay the role of "Mrs. Lovett" in Repertory Philippines' staging of Tony-winning Broadway musical "Sweeny Todd."

You wouldn't think that someone who grew up acting on stage and has 25 years of experience under her belt would be afraid of anything at this point in her career. Menchu has starred in the leading roles of musicals such as "West Side Story," "Camelot," "The King and I," and "Evita," just to name a

Not only that, she's actually acted in this musical before. Menchu played Todd's daughter Johanna in Rep's 1982 staging with Junix Inocian (Sweeny Todd) and Baby Barredo (Mrs. Lovett). But it is her familiarity with the material that intensified her apprehension.

The 2007 movie version, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) and Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett), introduced to a wider audience the story of how Todd returns to London after being imprisoned on false charges. When he learns from his former landlady, Mrs. Lovett, that his wife killed herself after being raped by the Judge who wrongly accused him, Todd vows revenge.

The original musical premiered in 1979 on Broadway with Angela Lansbury (of "Murder She Wrote" and Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" fame) as Mrs. Lovett. Nominated for nine Tonys, it won eight, including Best Musical.

So perhaps it is the pressure of performing such a well-known piece that scared Menchu? Or maybe it's because of all that blood? (For readers who are not familiar with the story, Sweeny Todd is not called the Demon Barber for nothing--he puts a shaving razor to much use apart from actual shaving.) The reason for her initial apprehension, apparently, was the musical's, well, music.

"Sondheim's music is not your usual predictable sequencing of melody. On the contrary, to someone not familiar with his work, it may seem jarring at first. It takes genius to create a harmonious fluidity in the dissonance," she says.

Sondheim is a multi-awarded composer and lyricist for stage and film. He's won nine Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He wrote lyrics for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," and was composer/lyricist for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Into the Woods," among others.

Menchu finds the chance to perform Sondheim's music for "Sweeney Todd" a major milestone for any serious actor. She notes that it can be frustrating when you "come in from the cold." With this in mind, she rose to the challenge and started rehearsing a few months before the actual cast rehearsals, working with a voice coach to prime herself for the work.

"It sounds complicated and is complicated to sing, but the music is extremely beautiful. The songs go from super low to super high Ds. There is even a song with six-part harmony in dissonance. It makes the actors sound like they're off, but they're not," she says. "When you think you're singing it right, that's when you're off. And when you think you're off, that's when it's right!" she adds with a laugh."

Menchu will share the stage with Audie Gemora who plays the titular character. He's always considered "Sweeny Todd" as the classic masterpiece of Sondheim. He jokingly remarks that if Repertory Philippines did not choose to produce it, he would. "For athletes, it's the Olympics; for actors, it's "Sweeney Todd." He adds that the musical is an art piece that has to be performed with precision, because the ear has to be trained for this particular type of music. The challenge is to bring the audience to that space where the dissonance is actually harmony.

"This musical is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for audiences to hear this kind of music," says Menchu. "Combine the music with a darkly irresistible story, you're bound to have fun in a darkened theatre when the bizarre events unravel and you experience delicious, tingly sensations."

The tale is somewhat dark, but there is a satirical, black comedy mood that takes off some of the edge. And as Audie points out, "[What happens to Todd and the things that he does] ? are things we see everyday and take for granted. We've become cynical. To see live actors act it out for you, it helps you understand and get drawn to the story. It can be a potent and shocking piece of work. It is impossible for you to remain unaffected. Bottomline, this production really has good music and it's good theater."

Menchu is excited that long time fans of Rep and new audiences will get to see "a mix of the old and new." Half the cast are actors in their first production for Rep. "It will give audiences a different flavor. Everyone is learning from each other and making things fresh," she says.

The musical also features Liesl Batucan (beggar woman), Robbie Guevara (Beadle), Robbie Zialcita (Pirelli), Franco Laurel (Anthony), Lena Mckenzie (Johanna), Marvin Ong (Tobias), and Roger Chua (Judge Turpin) with Ms. Juno Henares as the Mrs. Lovett understudy.

Baby Barredo (The Fantasticks, The Sound of Music) co-directs with Michael Williams (Miss Saigon, original London cast). Other members of the artistic and production staff include Gino Gonzales (Golden Child, Mulan Jr.) for costume design, John Batalla (West Side Story, Once On This Island) for lighting design, and Mio Infante (West Side Story, N.O.A.H.) for set design. Gerard Salonga (West Side Story) conducts the FILharmoniKA orchestra.

"Sweeney Todd" runs from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13, 2009 at Onstage, 2/F Greenbelt 1, Ayala Center Makati City. Call Repertory Philippines at 8870710, 8880887 or Ticketworld at 8919999 or visit

Discovery Suites offers exercise toys for the big boys

Exercise toys for the big boys
By Walter Ang
December 2009-Janurary 2010 issue
Garage Magazine

While working out in a gym can provide certain comforts and conveniences, routine can also quickly set in when you use the same machines again and again. Most weight-resistance machines only provide a singular, linear route of motion (either up and down, side to side, or front to back).

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club of Discovery Suites now offers spanking new exercise equipment that allows for freedom of movement that is much closer to how we use our muscles or bodies in real life.

Cue the spotlight on the Kinesis One, a machine that looks almost like a space-age transporter with a collection of cables suspended from a metal frame. It won't take you back and forth in time, but it can give you one of the most versatile workouts in terms of providing a well-rounded, zero-impact session, regardless of your current level of fitness and ability, whether you're aiming for balance, strength, or flexibility.

The cables are strung horizontally above the head and in line with the feet while another set of cables are suspended vertically. The cables have handles for you to hold on to, so you can already begin to imagine the different possibilities of positions. The cables are mounted on a 360-degree rotating pulley system which enables movement (and providing weight resistance) in almost any possible direction of the human body.

You can push, pull, row, and swing or do combinations of these actions in one movement. Aluminum alloy arms support the cables and allow the cables to slide through during outward and return movements, providing smooth action for the user. There is definitely a child-like appeal in being able to pull and push the cables, adding an element of fun and a sense of play when working out on these machines

The sense of play belies how effective the Kinesis One can be for developing muscle tone. Specific muscles (chest, back, abs, glutes and quadriceps) are exercised in the standard movements whereas the combined movements work several different muscles synergistically at the same time.

It has two weight stacks, one for each cable, which allows you to set different weight resistance for each arm or side of the body. It allows for variable resistance depending on the range and angle of the movement.

The Kinesis One is manufactured by Technogym, the exclusive supplier of 1,000 exercise machines for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It will also be supplying the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Its equipment is used by the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team.

Balance also acquired the Excite line from Technogym to provide users with multimedia cardio workouts. This line includes treadmills that have heart rate monitors, iPod compatibility, and video screens. There are also Cardio Wave step machines that allow users to stride from side to side, enabling more workout positions to change the level of involved muscles like the glutes, stabiliser muscles of the backbone, and lower limbs.

If these technical facts don't sway you to try out these exercise toys for the big boys, then some celebrity approval might help: Slyvester Stallone and George Clooney have their own Technogym equipment in their homes.

Of course, machines are only as good as the effort you put into using them. You have to make sure that your form is correct and that you still seek advise from, well, humans. Good thing Balance's staff use different up-to-date training programs backed up by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

There are several Balance Signature Workouts which includes fat-loss programs and sport-specific programs such as their Golf Performance Enhancement, which focuses on often-neglected aspects such as muscle strength and flexibility.

They also have a Corrective Exercise program that helps rid the body of muscle and joint aches and pains and helps correct postural defects by correcting imbalances in muscle strength.

One can never look buff or cut enough without a shirt, so the Leonidas Workout is sure to sound enticing. A regimen inspired by the movie "300," this workout program aims to result in a Spartan-like body.

The Atlas Workout, on the other hand, is a program for achieving muscle-tone and build without resorting to use of steroids. Customized workouts are possible upon consultation with their trainers.

If you'd like to get in shape together with your friends, Balance offers group exercise classes from as meditative as tai-chi to as funky as hip-hop classes.

After a good session, you can wind down in the club's jacuzzi, steam room, or sauna room. There are even toiletries so you won't need to pack vanity kits when you visit the gym. A membership to the club will allow you access to the Discovery Suites pool.

If you need to check for that all important incoming email, you'll rest easy knowing that the entire gym is Wi-Fi enabled. What's more, it's right beside the Terra Wellness Spa, so a relaxing massage or spa treatment after a workout is only a few steps away.

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club is at 4/F Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

In the wake of a storm, in the lay of the land

In the wake of a storm, in the lay of the land
By Walter Ang
December 2009-January 2010 issue
Garage Magazine

Living in a tropical country like the Philippines, one would think that we'd be used to typhoons and other natural weather and geographic phenomena like earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and landslides.

Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the devastation wrought by Ondoy and Pepeng when these two storms whipped the country in September. Ondoy is now known as the worst storm to hit the country in 40 years, dumping one month's worth of average rainfall in a matter of hours. Pepeng, on the other hand, will be long remembered as the storm that did a u-turn and stayed for almost an entire week. Manila, its surrounding cities and northern Luzon were hit badly and are still in the process of (a long) recovery.

News reports have pegged the damage to crops and fisheries in billions of Pesos. It's almost too overwhelming to imagine how much infrastructure damages could amount to. And, of course, there is no value to compare to the number of lives lost.

There is a host of factors that come into play in analyzing what has happened: weather, climate changes, inadequate civic and government preparedness, gross mismanagement of dams, pollution, unregulated real estate development and urban planning, etc.

In the context of urban planning, Manila was built on marshy land with rivers criss-crossing it. Augusto Villalon noted in his newspaper column that during the Spanish colonial era, there were efforts to build towns and cities with the local terrain in mind. Manila's various districts were built around Pasig River and its tributaries (esteros), allowing for natural drainage to Manila Bay.

By the time American colonizers took over in the early 1900s, architect Daniel Burnham created a master plan that proposed elevating the status of our esteros into romantic Venetian canals that would be used for ferrying. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Manila was one of the worst razed cities in Asia during World War II. Reconstruction efforts that followed did not follow any master plan. Succeeding years saw the rise of homes and buildings (as well as squatters) all over the city without any regard for the area's underlying risks. For example, if the area is in a low-lying area prone to flooding or landslides, or even its proximity to creeks, rivers or dams.

Architect and environmental planner Anna Maria Gonzales pointed out in an article that many residential subdivisions have been built on former wetlands, rivers and creeks that were cemented over to become roads or create more space.

All of the experts who have shared their advice to the media all say that cementing over open spaces and natural vegetation limits the land's ability to drain flood water naturally.

All also agreed that pollution and disregard for natural resources played a very big role in the calamity. Garbage blocked channels for water drainage. Uncontrolled logging has denuded forests that now no longer absorb excess water.

We've also heard of horror stories of poorly constructed public infrastructure such as streets or drainage systems that would show damage sometimes as early as even before construction would be completed.

In an interview, green architect and urban planner Dan Lichauco noted that engineering also played an important part in the calamity. He said that the existing infrastructure that Manila has for water control and drainage "just really could not deal with that much water."

When asked by different news organizations, green architect and urban planner Felino "Jun" Palafox, bemoaned the fact that a plan sponsored by the World Bank for Manila drawn up in 1977 was never followed. He noted that the plan included proposals to construct spillways in certain areas to drain excess water from Laguna Lake to Manila Bay.

Most of the professionals who spoke to media agreed that the existing plans and infrastructures were either obsolete or no longer efficient. Lichauco said that "existing [urban planning and engineering] standards are developed based on historical and existing data and are created to withstand destructive risks but within certain parameters" and that since many of the factors (such as population, waste and, even weather patterns) are now so different from when old standards were made, "Manila will have to reevaluate and revise its standards, too."

There are calls for better management of urban sprawl (both population and property development). For creation of more accurate urban planning and zoning codes, and for stricter implementation of laws. For relocation of squatters and for home buyers to be more vigilant in selecting the location of their homes. There are calls for better garbage and pollution management. For canals to be dredged, for garbage landfills (which should be acting as draining fields) to be relocated. For people to stop throwing their trash all over the place.

Yes, there are proposed solutions, but the cry for political will and a more mindful civic response is on top of everyone's wishlist. You, Garage reader, can be part of this mindfulness, of this will. From small things like watching where you throw your garbage to actions with bigger impact, like voting wisely in the coming elections, you can perform tasks that contribute to change. Our land depends on it, our future depends on it.

Taal's not-so-hidden wonders

Taal's not-so-hidden wonders
By Walter Ang
November 29, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

To roadtest the Nokia N86, we joined a daytrip to Taal, Batangas for some connecting with the past, some capturing of the sights via picture taking, and occasional Internet surfing.

While Taal is most known for its volcano sitting serenely in the middle of Taal Lake (it's active, actually), there are many other tourist spots to visit. We started the tour at Escuela Pia, the site of a school built in the 1880s that's now used as a multi-function venue and cultural center, where we were treated to demonstrations of the local crafts.

A collection of balisongs (fan knives) were on display, including ones with handles that are disguised as hair combs and some mezzaluna-looking blades that look like Klingon weapons. In the garden, two men showed how balisongs are actually assembled, while a third showed off a few moves and stances that are supposed to inflict the most damage to an opponent.

Sawali (woven split bamboo mats) and walis tingtings were being assembled by a family. The fragrant scent of caramel-y sweetness led us to an area where panutsa (peanut brittle) was being cooked.

Varied features
Like the cornucopia of crafts presented, the Nokia N86 also comes with a gamut of features. The lazy photographer (like this writer) will enjoy the autofocus feature (just press the shutter button halfway to allow the camera to focus), automatic motion blur reduction, and up to 20 times digital zoom (whenever you don't move to take that shot).

The more serious photographers will know how best to maximize the xenon flash and Carl Zeiss Tessar ultra wide-angle 28mm lens.

Inside the Escuela, a group of ladies were embroidering intricate designs. We took close-up photos of their output using the Nokia N86's macro function.

If the embroidery required us to become intimate with our subject matter, our next stop required us to take a step back and use the camera's zoom-out function to fully appreciate what it had to offer.

Historic church
Inaugurated in the 1860s, the Basilica of San Martin de Torres is one of the largest churches in the country. The exterior's lower Ionic columns and upper Corinthian columns as well as two different wall treatments make it look almost like a double-layer cake. Given its imposing scale and "historic" look, this church is apparently a favorite stand-in for castles for movie shoots.

Just as expansive as the church, the Nokia N86 comes with 8GB of internal memory, providing enough space for up to 4,000 photos. The memory can be increased even further with an exchangeable 16GB microSD card.

The church's ceilings used to have extensive murals but only those over the sanctuary have survived. While the Nokia N86's can't take photos as big as murals, its whopping eight megapixels does allow you to take photos as big as 16x12inches.

We had lunch at a private home where we tried out the camera's panoramic function. It comes with a guideline grid that allows you to move your camera to match a series of red succeeding frames so that you're taking photos in one straight line. The camera automatically takes the shot when you match with the grid's frame and automatically stitches the photos together.

Dramatic sight
After lunch, we walk to the Church of Caysasay, a small lesser-known church, appropriately built in honor of a small (less than 12 inches high) image of the Virgin Mary. The image was supposedly fished out of the Pansipit River by fisherman Juan Maningcad in the early 1600s. It created devotion for itself when it would disappear and reappear as well as having miracles attributed to it (such as a blind girl being cured).

Near the church is the Arch of Sta. Lucia, marking where the Virgin Mary of Caysasay is said to have made one of her apparitions. The well in front of it is said to contain miraculous healing water. The arch is a dramatic sight with its height, crumbly walls, and overgrowth, standing against a backdrop of dense foliage and crowned with the afternoon's hazy light.

This romantic ideal is spoiled because the path leading to the arch and the creek beside it are littered with garbage and trash. Not exactly the best sight to see at a place called "Banal na Pook" (sacred site).

Calling the Taal residents and local government! Making a place look better through cleaning and sprucing up is something that doesn't need divine intervention. But speaking of things you can control, you can make your photos look better with the Nokia N86's active camera toolbar that allows you access to all sorts of scene modes and color tones.

Built-in photo editing capabilities allow you crop or frame images, adjust brightness, or even add text and different effects. The Nokia PC Suite software also enables basic photo editing, including making slideshows that can incorporate soundtracks.

The trip ended with merienda at Villa Tortuga, a house built in the 19th century and repurposed as a heritage restaurant, bed and breakfast, and antique store in 2007 by designer Lito Perez.

Perez owns the costume rental shop Camp Suki in Manila and brings his love for costumes over to Taal via a small photo studio where guests can don period outfits for pictorials before or after their meals at Villa Tortuga.

On our way back to Manila, we used the phone to surf the net. It has high-speed 3G and WLAN connectivity and comes preloaded with its own browser (but you can download other browsers if you want). International travelers will find the phone's preloaded maps feature useful in countries that provide the service.

Aside from using the phone as, well, just a phone, it has a camera, it stores and plays music and video files, it has a file management section, and a word processing program?really, a handheld computer, if you think about it. Ideal for people on the go who want to stay connected and functional.

Nokia now also has its own photo and video sharing website ( where Ovi-enabled phones can automatically upload photos to your account. The site has online photo editing functions and allows for creating slideshows that you can embed in your blog or website.

Also published online:

Virgie Moreno's 'Itim Asu' transforms into dance deconstruction

Virgie Moreno's 'Itim Asu' transforms into dance deconstruction
By Walter Ang
November 23, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Contemporary dance artist Myra Beltran is working with video artist Sherad Anthony Sanchez and sound designer Teresa Barrozo to choreograph her deconstruction of Virginia Moreno's play "The Onyx Wolf / Itim Asu."

Titled "Itim Asu 1719-2009," Beltran's production will "attempt to bring this important work from the 1970s and convey it in a contemporary language." She says, "We are using contemporary dance, video and sound design to convey a slice of history. Fiction and reality blur in the drama, and myth blurs with history."

"The Onyx Wolf / Itim Asu" won the Cultural Center of the Philippines' 1969-1970 National Historical Play Contest. Its first staging, directed by the late National Artist Rolando Tinio, became the inaugural performance of the CCP Little Theater (Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino).

"This drama is a play within a play, and contains the story of La Loba Negra: how the wife of Gov. General Bustamante (a governor general in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era) avenges her husband's mob assassination supposedly by a conspiracy of friars," says Beltran.

Despite very few historical documents that note Bustamante, his story enjoys a rich lore of related controversies. Accounts of his death are gruesome and violent: his arm being broken by a machete and his head receiving a death-blow gash by a saber.

The La Loba Negra story is from a document attributed to Fr. Jose Burgos, one of three martyred priests during the Spanish colonial era. PDI columnist Ambeth Ocampo has noted that the La Loba Negra story is now attributed to Jose Marco, a forger "who created the most elaborate hoaxes of the 20th-century Philippines ? [passing off] fake historical documents to librarians, scholars and collectors."

Ocampo has also noted that Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo's painting, "The Assassination of Governor General Bustamante," remained hidden for a better part of the last century due to controversies. Hidalgo allegedly titled his work originally as "Iglesia contra el Estado" ("Church against the State").

Aside from Hidalgo's painting and Moreno's play, the mystique and thrill of Bustamante's death has spawned other works like an opera by Francisco Feliciano. A modern dance based on Moreno's play was created by Alice Reyes and remained one of the most performed works in the repertoire of the then CCP Dance Company, now Ballet Philippines.

"This drama is about history but also, it created its own history, with its various incarnations as plays, and as dance ? involving many 'heavyweight' artists who worked on its material." says Beltran. "I feel it is important to look back at these 'landmark' works of art, to ground us more as artists of the 21st century. My interest is how this drama shows the level of complexity with which we, as Filipinos, create meaning in history, how we readily blur fiction and reality, myth and history. I also ask what implication this has to us as contemporary artists."

Presented by Myra Beltran's Dance Forum, "Itim Asu 1719-2009" features the University of the Philippines Dance Company with guest lead dancers Marielle Alonzo and Reagan Cornelio.

Sound designer Teresa Barrozo scored Brillante Mendoza's award-winning film, "Kinatay," while video artist Sherad Anthony Sanchez recently won the Woosuk Best Film Award at the 10th Jeonju International Film Festival 2009, South Korea for his video "Imburnal."

Virginia Moreno was dubbed "The Empress Dowager of Philippine Poetry," by the late National Artist Jose Garcia Villa. She was the lone female member of an influential group of writers in the 1960's who called themselves "Ravens," which included National Artist Nick Joaquin. The Onyx Wolf is listed as the lone Philippine entry in Avant-garde Staging Around the World, published in Paris. Moreno has served as Chair of the UNESCO Culture Committee of the Philippines.

Beltran has blazed trails for independent contemporary dance in the Philippines and her group Myra Beltran's Dance Forum led the way in using alternative spaces for dance. Her dedication has pushed her initially solitary efforts into more than a decade's body of work and her dance studio, Dance Forum Space, has become a performance space that nurtures experimental choreography.

Given the work's historical subject matter and its objective to make audiences re-evaluate the way they process history, Beltran is working on possibly touring the production starting January 2010. "We're inviting organizations and schools to consider having us in their line-up of activities. The show can serve as a good preamble in terms of creating an attitude of critical thinking for the coming elections. Our history is one of resistance, and the present, meaning here and now, is included. What we do today affects our future," she says.

"Itim Asu 1719-2009" is presented by Myra Beltran's Dance Forum with friends and collaborators with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It runs from Oct. 26-28, 2009 8pm at Dance Forum Space, 36E West Ave., Quezon City. Call 373-2947.

Also published online:

Added nutrients in Argentina Corned Beef

Added nutrients in corned beef
By Walter Ang
November 15, 2009
Manila Bulletin

Nutritionist and dietician Dr. Zenaida Fainsan Velasco explained the health benefits of nutrient-fortified Argentina Corned Beef at a recent installment of "Canned Cuisine Chef's Series" held at Living Well, The Podium. The series is aimed at presenting easy-to-prepare recipes developed by different chefs that use corned beef as the main ingredient.

Velasco has been teaching nutrition at the University of Santo Tomas since 1989. She noted that more than half of all child deaths are associated with malnutrition. Malnutrition includes both undernutrition, which results in weakened resistance to illness, and overnutrition, which can increase the risks for developing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. "Malnutrition can also aggravate existing diseases or conditions," she said.

To engender healthy eating habits, Velasco stressed the importance of balance (eating just enough and not too much food), variety (having different types of foods), and moderation (monitoring the serving size of meals).

Velasco debunked the assumption that canned foods have less nutritional value compared to their uncanned counterparts. "Due to the science of nutritional additives, some canned foods are actually nutritionally superior in some ways compared to their natural form," she said. As an example, she noted that Argentina Corned Beef has 35mg of zinc and 20mg of iron.

Corned beef is a source of protein, which the body needs to develop muscles. Zinc helps children grow taller and strengthens their immune system, while iron promotes brain development and good memory. Together, zinc and iron promote children's physical and mental development.

Severe cases of protein deficiency can lead to Kwashiorkor, a condition that results in muscle wasting and mental retardation. Zinc deficiency can lead to blurring of eyesight, skin lesions and slow wound healing. Iron deficiency, on the other hand, can lead to anemia and fatigue.

Recipes were demonstrated by Chef Eugene Raymundo of Five Cows Ice Cream Bar and Restaurant, Chef Sam de Leoz Jr. of the UST-Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management, and Chef Mia Carla Yan of the Heny Sison Culinary School and Magsaysay Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts.

Each chef presented a dish for "everyday meals" and a dish for "Weekend Couture Cuisine." "The wealth of Argentina Corned Beef recipes makes it possible even for the busiest moms to plan weekly family meals that are delicious and nutritious. We plan to hold more installments of the Canned Cuisine Chef's Series to encourage more mothers to bring out their inner chefs," said Melissa Lim-Lara, senior product manager of Argentina Corned Beef. "To get copies of our recipes, simply email us at"

For more "familiar" dishes, Chef Mia presented Argentina Corned Beef Frittata and Easy Argentina Shepherd's Pie. On the other hand, Chef Eugene featured his Flamenco Maki, a spicy twist to a Japanese dish, and his Argentina Cheese and Mushroom Penne, a way to bring this Italian dish closer to the Filipino palate.

Chef Sam shared his recipe for Farmer's Lattice Omelet Corned Beef Wasabi, where a squeeze bottle is used to spread beaten eggs onto a frying pan to create a lattice shape as it cooks. Nutmeg and wasabi are key seasonings that create interesting flavors for this dish. His Rosti and Apple Stack Corned Beef with Apple Vinaigrette Dressing is a fun way to make children (and even adults) eat more fruits and vegetables while introducing them to new flavors. It "sandwiches" corned beef, sauerkraut, french fries, and cheese between apple slices.

'Sweeney Todd'--the musical, not the movie--in Manila

'Sweeney Todd'--the musical, not the movie--in Manila
By Walter Ang
November 9, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The movie musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" directed by Tim Burton in 2007 generated awareness for the Stephen Sondheim musical. It starred Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the "Harry Potter" movies) as the antagonist Judge Turpin, and Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat" and "Bruno") as comic relief Pirelli.

Sweeney Todd returns to London after being imprisoned on false charges. When he learns from his former landlady, Mrs. Lovett, that his wife killed herself after being raped by the Judge who wrongly accused him, he vows revenge.

Repertory Philippines will stage the musical at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 in November. Given Tim Burton's quirky filmmaking style, the movie did not scrimp on blood and gore. "But the musical is not just about that," says director Michael Williams.

"The movie was more like a horror slasher movie. It cut down the songs, took out the chorus parts and a lot of the lyric orchestrations," he says. "Come watch our staging to get the full version where you'll hear all the great songs."

Menchu Launchengo-Yulo played Todd's daughter Johanna in Rep's 1982 staging with Junix Inocian (Sweeny Todd) and Baby Barredo (Mrs. Lovett). This time, she plays Mrs. Lovett. "This musical is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for audiences because they will get to hear Sondheim's very complicated but extremely beautiful music. The songs go from super low to super high Ds. There is even a song with six part harmony in dissonance. It makes the actors sound like they're off, but they're not."

Sondheim is a multi-awarded composer and lyricist for stage and film. He's won nine Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He wrote lyrics for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," and was composer/lyricist for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Into the Woods," among others.

Powerful story
While this is not the usual Christmas fare from Rep, it is nonetheless a production with a strong cache. It premiered in 1979 on Broadway with Angela Lansbury (of "Murder She Wrote" and Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" fame) as Mrs. Lovett. Nominated for nine Tonys, it won eight, including Best Musical.

Aside from its music and awards, Williams notes that the story is "fundamentally powerful" and "can move audiences." The story has themes that may appeal to educators and parents, such as family, love, capitalism, social injustice, and class struggle, to name a few.

"It shows how society and environment can drive a person to the extreme," he says. "The story is set during the Industrial Revolution. People were working and living in really bad conditions in 1930s London. Though the use of coal was banned under penalty of death, businesses still used it anyway. That's why if you watch movies set in those times, London is always portrayed as dark and foggy because of all that pollution. People got pneumonia and consumption."

"Against this backdrop, the story shows how all of these things can dehumanize you. You can get caught up in the system. Politics, bureaucracy, abuse of power, and big businesses can eat you up. It shows how revenge can consume a person. Todd's circumstances and the things he does are exaggerated. Killing people and making them into pies is absurd and extreme, so if you pick up on the dark humor, it's actually funny in a bizarre way," he says. "Audiences can even discuss the importance of quality control in food establishments," he adds with a laugh.

Good theater
Audie Gemora, who plays the titular character, says, "These are things we see everyday and take for granted. We've become cynical. It will be interesting for audiences to experience the musical on stage because to see live actors act it out for you, it helps you understand and get drawn to the story. It can be a potent and shocking piece of work. It is impossible for you to remain unaffected. Not just that, this production really has good music and it's good theater."

Yulo is excited that long time fans of Rep and new audiences will get to see "a mix of the old and new." Half the cast are actors in their first production for Rep. "It will give audiences a different flavor. Everyone is learning from each other and making things fresh," she says. Franco Laurel is playing the romantic lead Anthony opposite Lena Mckenzie as Johanna, while Robby Zialcita is Pirelli.

The artistic team includes John Ilao Batalla for lighting design; Gino Gonzales for costume design, and Mio Infante, who recently designed the set for Trumpets' "N.O.A.H.," for set design. Gerard Salonga will conduct the PhilHarmonika orchestra.

"Sweeny Todd" runs from Nov. 13-Dec.13. Open for buyers who wish to use the show as a fundraising event or as a Christmas gift for employees or clients. Call 887-0710, 215-8752 or 0917-528-0765.

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One-on-one diet: Beverly Hills 6750's meta-morph weight management program

One-on-one diet
By Walter Ang
November-December 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

A comprehensive and personalized strategy using a combination of 
techniques and tools, Dr. Ed Santos tells Walter Ang, 
is the way to battle nagging weight issues
One-on-one diet

Studies have shown that with people who embark on weight loss strategies, especially through diets, only about 5-10% lose at least 10% of their original weight and keep it off for a whole year.

The National Weight Control Registry was thus created by Brown University and the University of Colorado to study the mindsets and habits of these dieters who were successful.

"One of the implications of the research results is that those with the most dramatic weight loss are methodical and disciplined. They always have a plan, timetable and calendar with appointments penciled in," says Dr. Ed Santos, managing director of Beverly Hills 6750, an aesthetic and weight management center. "It makes sense that someone who is inclined toward plans and routines would be most comfortable with the mundane details of calorie counting and portion control."

He notes that the studies also pointed out that having a mentor or coach to guide one through the weight loss journey was important. Beverly Hills 6750 has developed the "Meta-Morph Weight Management Program," incorporating these ideas into the process.

Complete approach
Patients consult with Dr. Santos who acts as their "mentor" throughout their weigh management endeavor. "This program is very personalized. All teaching and coaching is done by me," he says. The program includes teaching patients to be more systematic and detail-oriented by planning out and scheduling their weight loss, doing it step-by-step.

The key strength of the program, however, is that it focuses on all the different aspects that are involved in weight loss. It aims to be comprehensive "from assessment, to prescription and implementation of weight loss therapies."

The program looks into uncovering possible "hidden" problems with a battery of laboratory tests, physical examination, clinical history taking, and assessment. "It's important to find out if there are underlying endocrine, metabolic, and psychiatric conditions that can affect the patient's weight," he says.

"It would be an uphill battle to start a diet-based weight loss program, for example, for a person who has undiagnosed diabetes since this condition hinders the body from utilizing available energy sources to support the body's metabolism, thus slowing down weight loss," he says.

Aside from diabetes, other conditions that may affect weight loss include hypothyroidism, low levels of Human Growth Hormone, depression and anxiety, and nocturnal eating syndromes. Female patients are tested for polycystic ovarian syndrome and hyperandrogenism.

"Patients often are in a hurry to see weight loss results. The use of technology can help jump-start the whole process and encourages the patient to continue with the strategy or plan," he says.

The program uses technologies like whole body vibration, high intensity focused ultrasound, ultrasonic cavitation, radiofrequency with low level lasers, and endermology massage techniques (used independently or in combination) to increase metabolism and spot reductions in areas of the body that are known to be resistant to weight loss.

"Patients notice weight reduction after a series of at least six combo-treatments that are spaced one to two weeks apart, with noticeable improvement in the size of the abdomen, hips, saddlebags, and arms," he says.

The program assigns an essentially low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet that portions out the amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that a patient should be eating to promote the loss of body weight and fat as well as to prevent the loss of lean muscle tissue. "This diet has been associated with long-term efficacy and more people stick to it because it keeps energy levels up and hunger pangs down," he says.

The program designs individualized diet plans for each patient and includes teaching the patient on visual zoning and portion control of food, food selection, reading food labels and shopping for low-calorie food, advertising traps, and hunger control. For convenience, food-delivery service is available.

"Exercise is an important part of the weight loss battle," he says. "The connection between exercise and weight control is simple: exercise burns calories."

The program has partnered with leaders in the fitness industry and recommends exercise programs based on frequency (minimum of three days per week with no more than two days off between sessions), intensity (should take place at a "moderate" intensity level; "not too easy, not too hard"), and time (minimum of 20 minutes per session, working up to 60 minutes over time) to promote aerobic activity and strength training.

"Time can be cumulative. You don't have to do 60 minutes all at once. You can do several 10-minute mini-workouts each day," he adds.

"The use of medicines, such as appetite suppressants, is limited and selectively prescribed for patients who meet strict criteria recommended by the American Society of Bariatric Physicians," he says. "On the far end of the spectrum of weight loss solutions is weight loss surgery. The patient can undergo minimally invasive surgical techniques, usually either a vertical sleeve gastrectomy or a gastric banding procedure, (both procedures reduce the size of the stomach), that results in an average weight loss of 20-30% of the patient's baseline weight."

Dr. Santos cautions that while there are really no quick-fixes to weight loss, "the Meta-Morph Weight Loss Program can offer a comprehensive weight loss strategy that uses a combination of techniques and tools to battle nagging weight issues."

Dr. Eduardo A. Santos has 15 years of experience in general and cancer surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a Fellow of the Philippine College of Surgeons, and a Diplomate of the Philippine Board of Surgery. Dr. Santos sits on the Board of Directors of the Philippine Society for Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition (PHILSPEN).

Stem cells by the bottle: Dr. George Eufemio endorses StemEnhance dietary supplement

Stem cells by the bottle
By Walter Ang
November-December 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

A new dietary supplement, surgical oncologist Dr. George G. Eufemio 
tells Walter Ang, can help the body boost its stem cells and 
keep the organs and tissues functioning
Stem cells by the bottle

Stem cells are increasingly being regarded as this millennium's fountain of youth. Stem cells can be thought of as "master" cells. A stem cell has the ability to duplicate itself endlessly and to become cells of virtually any tissue or organ in the body. Initial research has shown that embryonic stem cells have an exceptional ability to duplicate in test tubes and can be triggered to become virtually any kind of cells (e.g. brain, heart, liver, etc.).

The use of human stem cells in medical therapies has been a topic of public debate. Most of the heated discussions revolve around the use of embryonic stem cells (stem cells gathered from human embryos).

However, stem cells can also be harvested from the bone marrow. "Recent developments over the past few years have established that adult stem cells have capabilities comparable to embryonic stem cells, not in the test tube, but in the actual human body," says surgical oncologist Dr. George Eufemio.

In adults, stem cells act as a repair system for the body, not only replenishing specialized cells, but also replacing dysfunctional cells (for example, of the blood, skin, etc.). Adult stem cells have been routinely used for many years to help treat leukemia. The research community believes in potential uses for stem cell therapy to treat diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and muscle damage, among many others.

"As you age, the number and quality of stem cells that circulate in your body gradually decrease, leaving your body more susceptible to injury and other age-related health challenges," he says. "Many studies indicate that simply releasing stem cells from the bone marrow can help support the body's natural process for renewal of tissues and organs. The Stem Cell Theory of Renewal proposes that stem cells are naturally released by the bone marrow and travel to the body's organs where they proliferate and develop into the cells of the target organ."

Dr. Eufemio notes that numerous studies performed by various scientific teams throughout the world, including the National Institute of Health, have clearly established that the higher the levels of circulating stem cells the better the ability of the body to maintain optimal health. "A recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the level of stem cells in the blood was one of the best indicators of cardiovascular health," he adds.

Based on these findings, Dr. Eufemio is advocating StemEnhance, a dietary supplement that has been shown to support the release of stem cells from the bone marrow. "Just as antioxidants are important to protect your cells from free radical damage, stem cell enhancers are equally important in order to keep your organs and tissues functioning well by helping your body release stem cells, so that these stem cells can travel to areas of your body where they are most needed," he says.

StemEnhance was developed by business entrepreneur Ray Carter and botanical researcher and neurophysiologist Christian Drapeau based on years of intense research. They founded the company StemTech Health Sciences in 2005 and their research showed that the compound aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), a natural botanical extract, supports the body in naturally releasing more stem cells.

"Whole AFA has been used for more than two decades with a very good track record of safety and health benefits. It has been used as a natural anti-inflammatory product, to support the immune system, and to improve mental clarity and mental energy," says Dr. Eufemio.

StemTech's scientific team further isolated and identified the components of AFA that were responsible for these health benefits and concentrated these extracts in StemEnhance. "AFA has been found to contain phenylethylamine, responsible for providing a feeling of mental energy; phycocyanin for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as L-selectin ligand, which supports the natural release of stem cells (specifically, CD34+ cells) from the bone marrow, and Migratose, which may support the migration of stem cells out of the blood into tissues," he says.

"The formulation of StemEnhance is patented and is the first of its kind on the market. The AFA grows naturally in a fresh-water lake in Southern Oregon, and is not farmed nor manipulated in anyway, hence no genetic modification," say Dr. Eufemio.

Several clinical studies and trials have been conducted on the product, the results of which can be found in the website StemEnhance was tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study where volunteers were given either StemEnhance or a placebo. "Since the study is blind, no one, not even the scientists doing the study, knew which pills were the placebos and no one knew who got the placebos," he says. "The results showed that those who received StemEnhance had a significant 25% increase in the number of circulating stem cells."

StemEnhance is available through independent distributors and part of the proceeds are donated to the StemTech Global Foundation, dedicated to the support of children's causes around the world. "As with all dietary supplements, consult your doctor before you begin taking StemEnhance," he notes.

Dr. George G. Eufemio is past Chairman of the Philippine Board of Surgery, former President of the Philippine College of Surgeons and former President of the Philippine Cancer Society. He is also past Chairman, Department of Surgery of the Philippine General Hospital. He received an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (1992) and served as President (1979) and Governor (1999-2002) of the Philippine Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. Presently, he renders consultancy work for Medical Center Manila and Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

In this garage-based school, 'bulilits' are 'iskolars'

In this garage-based school, 'bulilits' are 'iskolars'
By Walter Ang
October 17, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Having grown up along the railroad tracks of Muntinlupa, Danidon Nolasco knows how difficult life can be for children who have to grow up in low economic conditions. To help out, Don has been providing free pre-school education to children of Bgy. Buli for the past eight years.

Don's project is called "Bulilit Iskolar" (Little Scholar). "It concentrates on the fundamentals of learning, like how to read and count, arts and crafts, and, most importantly, social interaction," he says. "The program prepares them for elementary education. There is also a feeding program. A nourished mental faculty is better for absorption of learning."

The thing is, Don isn't a teacher. He took up computer science in Adamson University and joined the banking industry during the big Millennium Bug scare. The idea for Bulilit Iskolar was actually from a former partymate when Don ran for Barangay Kagawad in 2002. Don won, the partymate didn't. Nonetheless, Don decided to push through with the project.

While the project is subsidized in part by barangay funding, Don shoulders the allowance of the volunteer teacher and other expenses. Just like a regular school, classes are held Mondays to Fridays. Instead of a school building though, students learn in Don's family's converted garage.

"In the mornings, I make sure the scholars are doing well before I go to work," he says. "We have 60 kids this school year. We had our largest batch last year with 80 students. The garage isn't very big, so there is a morning class and an afternoon class." Since there is only one teacher, some of the students' parents volunteer their assistance as well.

The project has become popular and now accepts children from nearby barangays like Bgy. Cupang and Bgy. Sucat. Even though Don is on his second term as Kagawad, he wants to ensure that Bulilit Iskolar remains apolitical. "I want the scholars to say that they are the product of the project, and not of any politicians," he says.

The students of the project usually proceed to public schools for their elementary education. "The difference is that they are better-equipped than other students. They receive good remarks from their principals because most of the Bulilit Iskolars excel in their classes. I'm proud to say that we have already `graduated' around 500 students from the program," he says. "Some `alumni,' like John Josehwi Felipe and Jean Laurente, who are already in the fifth grade, are consistent honor students in Buli Elementary School."

Don's penchant for volunteerism started even before he joined public office. He was president of Akbayan Radio Communication Group, an organization that conducts youth leadership training, rescue operations, and distribution of relief goods. "We received a Hall of Fame award for being one of the Three Outstanding Youth Organizations in Muntinlupa," he says.

Don's interest in education may have stemmed from the fact that both his parents were part-time college teachers in Saint Rita College, Paranaque during the 80s and 90s. They are retired now and run a small store selling, what else, school supplies, while helping out with Bulilit Iskolar by shouldering the power bills.

Don's enthusiasm for helping children become better educated is apparently infectious. "Members of the Christus Boys Choir of San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish and Akbayan Radio Communication Group assisted us in constructing the classroom. College student volunteers from different schools like AMA Computer Leanring Center-Alabang conduct feeding programs and community services," he says.

But it's not just big groups that help out. His friends do what they can in their individual capacities. His colleagues from the banking industry usually donate materials while his friend Julie Garcia helps out with solicitations. "Not just for money, but also for school materials like books, notebooks, coloring books, pencils, and crayons," she says. "People who help Don with Bulilit Iskolar don't get anything in return materially, but we get a lot of self-fulfillment because it helps us feed our passion for helping others."

"Education is a primary concern of society. Education builds character," Don says. He plans to formally register Bulilit Iskolar as a non-governmental organization. "So it will cater to a broader scope of indigent children not just in our barangay but elsewhere, too. We want to conduct leadership programs for the youth and instill in them the value of learning, so they can realize how they can contribute to society."

To donate or volunteer, email or call 215-9167.

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Finalist, 2010 Lasallian Scholarum Awards, Feature story on Youth and Education Category

Five Philippine Daily Inquirer stories ... were included in the list of the top 10 finalists story in the Lasallian Scholarum Awards contest sponsored by De La Salle University ... 

"In This Garage-based School, 'Bulilits' are 'Iskolars'" by Walter Ang, an Inquirer Lifestyle contributor.

The ... Scholarum Awards recognizes outstanding media coverage of Filipino youth and education issues by print, photo, broadcast, and campus journalists.

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Boom, Zoom, Pow, Art (The new Filipino art scene)

Boom, Zoom, Pow, Art (The new Filipino art scene)
By Walter Ang
Oct. 12, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Kiri Dalena, Mark Salvatus, Dina Gadia, Buen Calubayan,
Farley del Rosario and Lindslee, with curator Jay Pacena. 
The Filipino art scene is in the midst of a renaissance. Last year, Filipino artists set record highs in auctions abroad. Local galleries have been expanding and multiplying. This year saw the first-ever Manila Art Fair.

As part of this explosion, the Nokia and Inquirer Lifestyle Series will hold an exhibit of the country's "10 Most Exciting Young Artists" on October 28 at The Gallery of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati.

The exhibit's curator, multimedia artist Jaime "Jay" Pacena II, says there is growing awareness of Filipino art and artists by collectors, and also awareness by the artists themselves of where their art is going.

"Filipino art is beginning to be recognized locally and internationally," he says. This is due in part to the unique forms and content that set apart Filipinos from other Asian artists.

Pacena notes that Filipino artists are open to new forms available to today's generation.

"Multimedia is part of this one big play now. Artists today explore different mediums, they don't use traditional forms. They break, reconstruct or go beyond the form. They explore different techniques and have new output," he says.

Award-winning artist Guillermo "Ige" Ramos, Cocoon magazine art director, concurs: "In the last five years, there's been a surge of creativity among young artists. Aside from using paint and canvas to express their ideas, they employ a gamut of other materials. Digital art and photography has opened new avenues. Film is dead, and the gazillion-gigabyte memory chip, which can store a multitude of images and sound bites, replaces it. Web design, animation, mangga, animé and flash animation are all evolving every second."

More critical, sensitive
As for subject matter, Pacena says: "Young artists today are more critical and more sensitive in choosing what and what not to show. More artists are now making statements. They have something to say and they want to be heard, whether about personal struggles, sacrifices, fantasies or personal ideologies, or with more general concerns like talking about the people, the institutions, the agencies, the government, the system, religion, or the absence of being."

"Content and substance is still king," Ramos declares. "Art can communicate and refuse to communicate. More complex themes are explored. There are no longer right or wrong answers, black and white opinions. The `moral/immoral' dichotomy is replaced by moral ambiguity. There are artists who make art for art's sake."

Continuing evolution
Pacena credits the continuing evolution of Filipino art, in part, to the openness of established artists in collaborating with up-and-coming artists.

"Some senior members of the art scene exchange ideas, methods and even process with the young ones. At the same time, young artists ask and question certain ideas," he says.

Schools, Pacena points out, also play a role.

"The development of the Filipino artist starts within the school. Institutions today give big importance to being at par with other schools outside our country. A lot of young artists today are also part of the faculty, honing new aspiring artists," he says.

Ramos says galleries and art spaces are also key in the art boom.

"Alternative art spaces are growing, away from shopping malls and back to the suburbs. Former warehouses and ancestral homes are now the preferred spaces," he says. "For example, Cubao Expo, a former cluster of shoe stores, is now abuzz with art spaces like galleries, performance spaces, screening rooms, coffee shops with open-mic poetry readings and musical jamming."

Impact and demand
"Young artists are in demand," internationally known sculptor Ramon Orlina said in Inquirer Lifestyle's 2008 yearend art forum. "There's a market for Philippine art in Hong Kong, Singapore and Asia in general. Now auction houses are looking for young artists because buyers are also very young."

(Orlina, along with Ramos, has been tapped to choose the "exciting young artists" who will join the Nokia-Inquirer exhibit.)

Pacena says: "Some of the artists who are really exciting with their form and content, old and new, are José Tence Ruiz, Karen Ocampo Flores, Noel Soler Cuizon, Norberto `PeeWee' Roldan, Ronald Ventura, Alfredo Esquillo, Tad Ermitaño, Wesley Valenzuela, Kawayan de Guia, Kiri Dalena, Buen Calubayan, Iggy Fernandez, Mark Salvatus, Lyra Garcellano, Leeroy New, Allan Balisi and Goldie Poblador.

"Their works are charged. They treat the viewer as intellectual people who will think and will savor the experience of looking, touching or even smelling and hearing their art. They are varied in their chosen subject matters, pero may pinaghuhugutan sila. You definitely see it in their works."

Voice and vision
"Before wars or revolutions happen, it appears as a prophecy in art," Ramos says. "Look at what young people are communicating now ? anarchy. All of these creative excursions and experiments have one thing in common: They are trying to find a voice and a vision that is unique and independent.

"Bucolic and social-realist themes persist to this day due to painting competitions sponsored by telephone-book companies and banks as part of their corporate social-responsibility agenda. These paintings end up as covers for phonebooks and annual reports. Nonetheless, these themes can be amplified by using new media and materials.

"Corporate entities should understand that the return on investment in art sponsorship is not measured by financial gain, but how their support of the arts elevates the spirit, culture and the taste of their audiences. If it's a major multinational company, it must adhere to its vision of innovation and multi- and transculturalism. That art should be brave and able to cross cultural boundaries. It should be innovative, provocative and stunning."

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