Looking for Juan artwork exhibition 2009

Looking for Juan
By Walter Ang
May 18, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"What Does It Mean to Be Filipino?" is a question contemplated by Gigo Alampay, executive director of the Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (Canvas).

Having lived abroad for a number of years, he said, "Without judgment, Americans find it easy to say who they are. Here in our country, it's sometimes easier to answer 'What is a Batangueño, or what is an Ilocano?' than it is to answer `What is a Filipino?' There may be some stereotypes for regional identities, but at least there are characteristic identifiers. However, as a nation, sometimes it's not easy to figure out who we are."

He added, "There's a notion that our lack of national identity may be one of the reasons why some people feel the Philippines has not really lived up to its full potential."

To get people thinking about possible answers, Alampay founded Canvas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of greater awareness and appreciation for Philippine art, culture and the environment through art exhibitions designed to explore issues of national identity, environment and free expression.

Canvas' latest endeavor is the "Looking for Juan Outdoor Banner Project," an exhibition of artworks by some of the best contemporary Filipino artists who attempt to provide visual answers to the discussion.

Public engagement
"The project aims to collect at least a hundred artworks that will be reproduced as tarpaulin banners that will then be displayed in two highly accessible and pedestrian-friendly venues," said Alampay.

"The Looking for Juan Outdoor Banner Project will showcase some of the country's best creative talents. Artists, graphic designers and photographers have been asked to express their idea of the Filipino identity," he said. "The project is designed to engage visitors with its art-driven messaging about the Filipino identity. It will be a new kind of experience that allows visitors to view and appreciate great art as well as explore important social themes in a non-intimidating, relaxed, and creative environment."

The first forty to fifty original works that will be reproduced as banners were launched at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in an intimate ceremony led by Alampay. The artworks will be on display until June 7. This original artwork exhibit will transfer to the Alab Art Space gallery (Intellectual Property Philippines Building along Buendia St., Makati) on June 8.

Meanwhile, the first outdoor banner exhibit will be at the end of May at the new Philippine Pacific Rim Friendship Park in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The second will be in June at the University of the Philippines' Academic Oval in Diliman. "Just in time for opening of classes and Independence Day," he added.

Park for all
Canvas has been actively involved with The Pacific Rim Project to build a Friendship Park in Puerto Princesa. Architecture and art students from different countries like China, South Korea, the United States, Russia, and Mexico were flown in earlier this month to interact with counterpart Filipino students. These volunteers will design, present to the city government, and actually build the whole park under the artistic supervision of leading artists, architects and urban planners in just 30 days.

After the park is completed, it is given as a gift to the citizens of the Pacific and to the host city. All parks are for the public and are directly connected to the Pacific Ocean. The park will then become part of a network of Friendship Parks ringing the Pacific. There are already four parks in US, Russia, China and Mexico.

To date, participants in the Looking For Juan Outdoor Banner Exhibit include Buen Abrigo, Leonard Aguinaldo, Daniel Aligaen, Mark Arcamo, Ral Arogante, Anton Balao, Jeho Bitangcor, Plet Bolipata, Malyn Bonayog, Elmer Borlongan, Serj Bumatay, Michael Cacnio, Buen Calubayan, Jef Carnay, Marika Constantino, Dansoy Coquilla, Jigger Cruz, Don Dalmacio, Crisanto De Leon, Maan De Loyola, Farley del Rosario, Anthony Fermin, Tina Fernandez, Karen Flores, Liza Flores, Emmanuel Garibay, Sajid Imao, Agang Maganda, Josue Mangrobang, Lotsu Manes, Roel Obemio, Jay Pacena II, Anthony Palo, Anthony Palomo, Marcial Pontillas, Jucar Raquepo, Iggy Rodriguez, Kirby Roxas, Mark Salvatus, Julios Samson, Andoi Solon, Angelo Tabije, CJ Tanedo, Daniel Tayona, Juanito Torres, Wesley Valenzuela, Ian Valladarez, and Liv Vinluan.

Selected students from the UP College of Fine Arts, members of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, various creative writers, as well as a number of graphic design and advertising studios are also involved.

After the end of the outdoor banner exhibits, the banners will be recycled by two women's communities in Antipolo and Laguna into tote bags and sold as original works of functional art. Proceeds from the sale of the tote bags will support Padyak, a U.P. Mountaineers-led movement to promote environmentalism and cycling as a healthy lifestyle.

For details, visit lookingforjuan.blogspot.com or www.canvas.ph.

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Vagina Monologues for men

Vagina Monologues for men
By Walter Ang
May 18, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Back: Valdes, Wilson.
Front: Abuel, Williams.
As part of its fifteenth anniversary, New Voice Company is giving audiences a twist on one of the productions it is most known for.

Eve Ensler's seminal "The Vagina Monologues," a collection of monologues read by a varying number of women, has been a staple in the company's repertoire for several years now, having been shown in both English and Filipino as well as toured in different Asian countries.

In 2003, Ensler decided to include men in her annual "V-Day" benefit shows (a global movement to end violence against women and girls) by raising the question of addressing the problem of violence against women by involving men in the understanding and solution process.

"In Manila, NVC conducted a series of workshops and interviews with different men that resulted in a short but highly acclaimed segment of the "VDay" show at the AFP Theater that year," said associate artistic director Rito Asilo.

Asilo and actor Jamie Wilson have gone on to expand the material and have created "The Male Voice," a collection of monologues and vignettes that deal with men's experiences with violence.

Actors Tommy Abuel, Michael Williams, Joel Trinidad and Joaqui Valdes are the intergenerational cast for "The Male Voice." Williams said, "We've been tasked to convey and portray the different kinds of violence committed by and on men. The play sheds light on many things about `being a man' that we take for granted. It tackles how men, not just women and children, can be victims of violence, too."

Abuel noted that the play doesn't only explore physical violence, but also emotional violence and the idea that men can be victims of society's notions of how men should behave. "Society imposes an image and it can be difficult to sustain that image if a man experiences pain. There are expectations to be macho and how men aren't supposed to cry. The play deals with these issues and the shame and secrecy that sometimes accompany these situations."

Despite the cast's initial descriptions of the production's central theme, they are quick to point out that it won't be all doom and gloom. "There is drama, yes. But the stories that audiences will see are also poignant and sometimes hilarious," said Asilo.

All of the monologues are true-to-life and based on interviews with actual people: artists, students, men who are HIV positive, priests, gay and straight men, illegal Filipino workers abroad, macho dancers, businessmen, male prostitutes, military men, abused children, doctors, fathers and brothers. "The play is an honest, provoking and moving introspection of the rarely spoken issues of men," said Asilo. "It provides audiences with a unique and revealing perspective."

To keep the production "relevant to the Pinoy situation," Asilo has opted to use English and Filipino since "that's the way we really talk anyway." Valdes admitted that even though he's not used to speaking in Tagalog, he's up for the challenge.

He said, "Not only do I have to speak Tagalog, but the context is provincial. I'm more used to being cast in English-language musicals, but as an actor and artist, these are the opportunities that I want and need to grow."

Valdes, the youngest in the cast, revels in the fact that he has been cast together with seasoned and accomplished actors and that he's been able to pick up acting techniques from them. Williams said, "We don't necessarily coach each other since we have our director for that, but we sit down and talk about each other's monologues to get insights. We all want to be able to deliver the truth behind the lines."

Produced by NVC Executive Director Rossana Abueva and NVC Artistic Director Monique Wilson, "The Male Voice" runs on May 22, 23 and 31 at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City. Call 896-5497 or email nvc@pldtdsl.net.

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Jennifer Wee Tan Dreams Big and Steps Big

For success in life, Jennifer Wee Tan believes that you should
Dream big and step big
By Walter Ang
May-June 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

When Jennifer Wee Tan was in college, she joined two beauty pageants on a whim. She was crowned Miss Mandaue at 2am in the morning and she refused to smile because she was already very sleepy. "The person who put the crown on my head told me I should be happy. I replied, 'My feet hurt!'" she says with a laugh.

Later on, she was encouraged to join yet another pageant. She was told that if she won, she could get a chance to go to Sydney, Australia, all expenses paid. "I have an adventurous streak, I joined just for the heck of it. Come what may! After all, the prize was enticing, although I never thought I would win Miss Cebu-Australia," she recalls.

The political science major was brought to Australia with four other finalists and charmed the judges with her knowledge of current events. "I was used to talking with people since I used to manage the campaigns of the political parties in school. I am not afraid to talk to anyone and I'm highly opinionated," Jennifer says.

It surprises people to find out what she appreciates the most about these two milestones in her youth. "I loved the discipline involved. The rigid schedule, the rehearsals, the intense preparation. It really builds character," she says.

Her candor, can-do attitude, and discipline are just some of the traits that have served her well as mayor of Tangub City since she won her first term in 2002. Mayors can serve a maximum of three terms, with each term encompassing three years. Jennifer is on her third term, a testament of her constituents' approval.

Love is blind
Born and raised in General Santos City, Jennifer was the third of five siblings to Luis Chang Wee, a manger for General Milling Corporation, and Milagros Con Uy, an obstetrician-gynecologist. Despite the course she took at University of San Carlos in Cebu, she never entertained the thought of running for public service.

"When I was still in school, I preferred being in the background. I never wanted to run, but I always wanted to pick the people who I wanted to run," she says. "I found that planning projects and events was a more challenging task than actually being the frontliner."

She was thrust into the world of politics when her college sweetheart, Philip Tan, officially proposed with his parents. "I announced that I wanted to get married on May 7 and they started looking at each other. I wondered why until they finally mentioned that it was an election day," she says.

"That's the only time I found out that my fiancé was from a political family and was actually running for mayor of Tangub City." Jennifer laughs at the memory. "That's what true love is. I didn't do research on my fiancé's backround!"

Community and philanthropy
Tangub City is a third-class city in the province of Misamis Occidental with a population of roughly 52,000 spread over 55 barangays. Prior to Jennifer winning as the mayor, she had already started becoming involved in community affairs during her husband's own terms as mayor.

During her first Christmas in Tangub as a newly married woman, far away from her home and family, Jennifer was lonely and disappointed to see the city plaza without any festive décor. Her husband appointed her to head a decorating committee. "We never spent any government money, it was all through donations. A few days later, so many families came to the plaza to have picnics and enjoy the lights," she says.

Today, Tangub City is known as the Christmas Capital of Mindanao for its annual Christmas Symbols Festival. "We never spent on advertising or promotions. We only intended to create something for the community to enjoy. By word of mouth, people from all over the country started to visit," she says.

With a seemingly magical touch that ensures success for all her projects, Jennifer combined her passions for education and philanthropy to create the Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe. "I didn't like how out-of-school youth were given livelihood projects instead of being encouraged to go back school. I created the troupe for out-of-school youth under the condition that they must return to school first," she says.

The troupe started out teaching dance to the youth and has now branched out into teaching singing as well. "We started joining the Sinulog contest in 1994 and has since won seven championship trophies," Jennifer says. "I wanted to promote the performing arts since there were already organizations and people who were taking care of advocating sports."

Enabling the future
Jennifer credits her Chinese heritage as an important part of who she is today. "My upbringing really involved a lot of discipline. It was more strict compared to today's `accepted' style of parenting, but I am very thankful for it. I'm grounded and I turned out well. This is why I'm also very strict with my own daughters and son. I strongly believe that we should never give up our culture, it's part of our soul," she says.

Having been taught to be independent and hardworking, she endeavors to teach others the same principles. "I hate it when people ask for dole outs," she says. "I hate it when people simply talk about their dreams. I tell them dreaming is important, but taking actual steps toward your goals is more important. Don't just dream big, take a very big step."

When she finally did become mayor, she rallied her staff to follow the same philosophies she espouses. "It was a challenge because I wasn't used to the bureaucracy. I can be impatient at times because I want to see results right away," she says. "I think I was able to make a difference because we eventually became a team. We were able to win an `Outstanding City Mayor' award in 2003 from the Senate of the Philippines. I was the only female nominee at the time and the only nominee from Mindanao. We were up against really big cities, but we won. My accomplishment is their accomplishment. Our city may be small, but when we won, we felt so big."

Mayor Enrique Yap Jr. is bringing change to Glan, Sarangani

Bringing change to Glan
By Walter Ang
May-June 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Enrique Yap Jr. enters the room in a whoosh, rushing in from a just concluded meeting with the President in Malacanang. He is in a plain red shirt and jeans, not exactly mayoral threads.

However, when you begin to notice Yap's kinetic aura, you soon understand that he wants to be dressed for maximum movement, ready and poised for action.

Yap is now on his last term as the mayor of Glan, a first class municipality in Sarangani, a province in Mindanao. Each term is three years and the city has a mandatory term limit of three.

He didn't entertain the thought of serving in public office when he was younger despite the fact that both his parents were public servants. His mother, Esther Yap, was district supervisor for the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education) and his father, Enrique, Sr. was Glan's mayor from 1992 until passing away from a heart attack in 2000.

The third of four children, Yap was sent to live and study in Manila with his siblings in the late 70s because of the raging muslim secessiojnist conflict at the time. He took up political science in De La Salle University-Manila and law in Ateneo De Manila University.

"When my father became mayor in 1992, I was 'forced' into becoming one of the first set of elected board members in the provincial legislative body. I had just finished my law studies and all I wanted to do was drive around Manila and party with my friends, but many people asked that I help out," he recalls.

"I never envisioned that I would win, but when I did, I had to face the music. I was the youngest member, educated in Manila and had a law degree, so the expectations were high."

When Yap's father passed away, he had an epiphany and decided to continue what his father started. Though he'd spent time away from Glan, his heart had always been for the improvement of his hometown.

"I had no funds for a campaign. I couldn't even afford to have posters with a photo of my face printed. I filed my mayoral candidacy with only P100 in my pocket. My wife asked me if I was really up for running for mayor," he says.

But become mayor he did in 2001 and promptly introduced many changes to Glan.

"The first thing I did was to remove all the illegal activities like games and fishing. People were shocked. It's a 180-degree type of governance. That's why I always joke that U.S. President Obama's platform of 'change' was copied from me," he says.

After cleaning up, next on the agenda was moving forward.

With Glan's 31 barangays and population of 100,000, Yap wanted to ensure the youth received proper education. "I grew up playing with children of poor families who all wanted to go to school," he says.

"I feel very strongly that poverty should not be a reason for a child to be denied an education." To this end, he helped set up Sultan Kudarat State Polytechnic College and Glan School of Science and Technology.

For all of his achievements, one of the legacies Yap is most proud of is his spearheading of an economic cluster comprised of Glan and its two neighboring municipalities Sarangani and Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur called JAGS-CT (Jose Abad Santos-Glan-Sarangani Cooperation Triangle).

The cluster was formed in 2004 to foster relations within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). By 2006, a sisterhood agreement with Sangihe Regency of Indonesia was forged to promote better partnership and cooperation.

"The Indonesian port of Tahuna is a mere seven hours away from Glan, it makes sense to do business with Indonesia since it's nearer to us than Manila," he says.

"We spent P18 million to repair, rehabilitate and upgrade the Glan International Port into a modern, international-standard port to bolster the livelihood and economic activities in JAGS-CT."

When asked how he spends his leisure time, he replies, "I am on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's hard to find time for even a nap. Public service is a sacrifice. If you want to be a good public servant, it's not going to be too good for raising a family."

His family may not totally agree with his statement, given that public service seems to be something they do well together. Yap's wife, Ami Abundo, is a councilor of Glan while his daughter, Miquee Louise, was a board member of the youth sector for five years.

Although Yap is no longer eligible to run for mayor, he jokes that he would consider running for vice-mayor if only to continue the efforts and initiatives he has started.

"Glan used to be a dead-end municipality, but now it's on its way to becoming a trading and economic hub for South and Western Mindanao. We also have around six beaches and numerous resorts, so we're working towards becoming the aqua-marine and tourism center of Socsargen (South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City). I'm really in love with my community," he says.

The success he's found as a public servant has served as poignant turning point for his spirituality as well. "For a time back in the 80s, I didn't believe in God anymore," he says.

"I had asked for change for Glan and I didn't get to see that right away. Now I realize I was given the chance to make the change that I asked for."