'N.O.A.H.' new musical by Jaime del Mundo

'NOAH' new musical by Jaime del Mundo
By Walter Ang
August 31, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Jaime Del Mundo once tried his hand at doing administrative work for a school. It was the same time that rehearsals were ongoing for a musical he had just co-written with Luna Inocian and composed by Lito Villareal. After theater company Trumpets premiered Jaime's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," he promptly resigned from what he called his "grown up job."

"When I saw how people were moved by the material, it took me aback. I realized I couldn't give up my life in theater. The potential of reaching people through the stage outweighed any desire out of the stability that a full time job could give," he says with a laugh.

Since then, he's penned several other musicals, such as "The Little Mermaid" and "The Young King" for Trumpets and "The Happy Prince," "Fisherman and His Wife," and "Good as Gold." This September, audiences will see his "N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)," a reworked version of his children's puppet musical "Mr. Noah's Big Boat," with additional songs and with actors this time around. For this musical, Jaime collaborated with first time composer Rony Fortich, current music director of Hong Kong Disneyland.

Arguably, Jaime has become one of the most prolific and produced Filipino librettists in English. His chamber musicals have been staged "from living rooms to basketball courts." His large-scale musicals like "Lion" has enjoyed several restagings throughout the years and "Mermaid" was performed as part of the festival of performing arts in Qatar and will be touring various Asian countries before the year ends. He humbly dismisses this notion, saying, "I like to think of myself as a director who just happens to write and act."

Jaime has been working professionally in the local theatre scene since he joined Repertory Philippines in 1978. He started from bit parts and graduated to lead roles in plays and musicals like "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum."

He eventually started directing in the late 80s, not just plays, but operas as well. "I never studied music formally and I didn't grow up in a musical family, but my mother took the trouble to make sure her children learned about classical music. I also loved to read," he says. Jaime's passion and interest for words, images, stories, and music evolved into a love for opera. "The combination of music and drama made sense to me," he adds.

Jaime was invited by the Singapore Lyric Opera and Lyric Opera Malaysia to direct "Tosca" in both countries. He went on to direct many operas abroad including "The Merry Widow," "Eugene Onegin," "Cosi Fan Tutte," "Macbeth," and "The Magic Fute." He helmed the U.S. tour of "Mayo, Bisperas ng Liwanag."

His love for and work in opera informs the way he crafts musicals. "I see the structure of writing and directing a musical in music terms. I'm more aware of the tempo, rhythm, and pacing of the material, of what an audience can grasp through the music and the lyrics, of how a line carries," he says.

Jaime recounts, though, that it was not so easy in the beginning. "I originally wanted `Lion' to be a sung-through musical. The first draft that my co-librettist and I came up with would have ended up seven hours on stage," he says with a laugh. "Even now, I don't usually get it right the first time. I write lyrics down or type them into my cellphone when I'm inspired. I do my research and collaborate with the composers and actors. We work though the material till we get it right. When we do get it right, however, it's really a miracle."

Jaime points out that "writing English musicals in a third-world country is a challenge," which is why it is a craft he handles with thought and care. For "N.O.A.H.," Jaime modernizes the re-telling of the Bible tale by incorporating an environmental angle. He has infused a garbage problem into the plot as a metaphor for "self-cleansing."

His characters will be brought to life by actors Carlo Orosa (Noah), Sheila Francisco (Mrs. Noah), and Sam Concepcion alternating with Fred Lo as the Narrator. Production design is by Mio Infante (who is tasked with creating an ark and life size animal puppets and costumes) and choreography by musical theater director and actor Audie Gemora, modern ballet danseur Gerald Mercado, tap expert Patricia Borromeo, and hip hop dancer Alfred Luason.

"Musical theater is a great opportunity to explore stories, to change perceptions, to allow audiences to take an emotional journey," he says. "Musical theater is a wonderful, fantastic, loveable, majestic, and magical place to share important messages."

"N.O.A.H. (No Ordinary Aquatic Habitat)" runs from Sept. 4 to 27, 2009 at Meralco Theater.
Call 631-7252, 0921-7263642, 0917-8842105 or email trumpetsinc@gmail.com. Tickets also available at Ticketworld 891-9999. 

Also published online:

Proctor and Gamble's Manila offfice promotes wellbeing at the workplace

Wellbeing at the workplace
By Walter Ang
August 17, 2009
Manila Bulletin

No matter what kind of work one does, whether it's deskbound or field work, there is sure to be some level of stress involved. "More and more people are getting stressed and burned out these days," says Christopher Breuleux, CEO of Medical Wellness Association, an international organization that promotes medical wellness education and programs. "Sometimes, work and other obligations in life make us feel like a rubber band stretched to its limits until it breaks," he adds.

Breuleux, who has a doctorate in corporate fitness and health enhancement from Ohio State University, was recently in Manila to give a talk to the employees of Procter and Gamble Philippines on wellness in the workplace. "It makes good business and people sense for companies to invest in wellness. There is a positive rate of return. When employees are healthy and happy, they perform better," he says.

He emphasizes that creating a work environment that is healthy and balanced is highly hinged on workplace leaders. "CEOs or managers need to be the first person in an organization to lead this kind of effort. Without the support of the leader, there will be no follow through," he says. "It really is in the best interest of a company or organization to keep its employees as healthy as possible, People are most productive when they are relaxed."

Breuleux has been working with P&G for several years now. He has helped designed wellness programs for its employees in different offices around the world. He has also helped design fitness centers in their offices and factories.

"You can't get rid of stress," he notes. "You just have to learn how to become more resilient to it, to choose how you respond to stress. Stress management is out, stress resiliency is in." He advocates a holistic approach which includes maintaining health and seeking balance between work and life.

In the Philippines, P&G offices have wellness programs and perks in place. "We have chair massages and foot spas on certain days of the week where any employee can get a quick treatment while in the office," says Brand PR Manager Anama Dimapilis. "Our offices follow an open lay-out and there are no closed offices, even for upper management, so sometimes, it can get a bit loud. We have quiet rooms where people can do their work in a more focused setting."

Its Makati office even has a sleep pod. "It's the first and only sleep pod in the country as far as we know. It even has noise-cancellation speakers. Anyone can use the pod to take a quick power nap if they feel the need to," she adds.

Breuleux understands and knows that not all companies can provide these kinds of perks. He suggests that business leaders do what they can with the resources that they have. "Even a small office can designate a small area for the purpose of `quiet time' for its employees," he says.

He encourages Filipinos to at least take advantage of any healthcare benefits usually provided in Philippine companies such as annual physical check-ups and dental check-ups. He points out, however, that wellness is "not just about getting massages and eating vegetables."

"Balance is an important part of being stress resilient. Resting well and being involved in personal interests like art or music, and maintaining social bonds and support groups are also important," he says.

To this end, P&G Philippines has "Wellness Circles" that are open to all its employees. The circles are interest-based groups for its employees that include athletics, with circles for runners and surfers, and art, with circles for photography and music. There is even one circle where members are able to attend parenting seminars.

The different circles have activities outside of the company premises. "Out of 405 runners in a recent marathon, 102 were P&G employees," said Dimapilis. Employees are also involved in the company's social responsibility efforts such as its "Protect 5" program that promotes handwashing with soap for children nationwide as a way to prevent five health threats: coughs, colds, pneumonia, diarrhea, and flu. The program was done in cooperation with the Philippine National Red Cross, the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists and Medical Wellness Association. It has been able to target 12,000 students has since expanded to work with NGOs.

Breuleux sees wellness at the workplace as something that will become more and more important as more business leaders become aware of its benefits, not just for the employees, but also for a company's bottom line. "After all, how can anyone be against wellness?" he concludes.

Also published online:

Sattvah Wellness promotes energy healing to complement modern medicine

Energy healing can complement modern medicine
By Walter Ang
August 11, 2009
Manila Bulletin

These days, not only do people have to deal with physical diseases such as cancer and pandemic scares like the AH1N1 virus, but there is also a high level of emotional and spiritual "dis-ease."

"Not discounting genetics, pollution, diet, drugs, and other physical factors, there are a lot of, what we call, 'toxic emotions,'" says David Montecillo.

"We have to deal with frustration, anger, low self-esteem, unforgiveness, a sense of feeling trapped, of feeling hopeless. There are valid emotional roots to these situations."

David and fellow healer Claudine Mangasing are the proponents of Sattvah Wellness Center, an intimate space along Xavierville Ave., near Katipunan, that advocates a kind of healing that doesn't deal with medicines.

"It's a mind-body-energy center, the first of its kind, that aims to help people deal with their problems," say David. While the pair receives clients who have physical conditions or disease, they mostly get people whose lives "seem to be going fine but they can't find a reason why they are not happy."

The thrust of Sattvah Wellness is energy healing. "Our bodies emit a natural bio-energy that traditional Asian therapies call chi. It's called by different names, such as in ki in Japanese and prana in Yoga traditions, but all the terms point to the same thing," he says.

"Chi is known to reflect and influence our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This is the basis of acupuncture, a number of massage therapies, and other traditional therapies."

The pair explain that there is health in mind and body when chi energy flows in the body but that stress, negative thoughts, and emotions can prevent the flow of chi in the body, resulting in physical sicknesses over time.

Conversely, happy, positive, and balanced thoughts and emotions create better chi flow for the person--influencing better health.

Sattvah Wellness does not advocate energy therapies as a substitute for conventional medicine. "Energy healing can be an excellent complement to modern medicine, psychotherapy, and counseling," says David.

"We use a mix of different energy healing methods like Brahma Satyah Reiki, and Qi Gong, among others, to glimpse who our clients are and help them find a sense of balance," says David.

The usual procedure is that the client shares a bit of what is going on in his or her life for the pair to better assess what particular chakras of the client may need healing or unblocking. The client is then made to lie down and the pair will start waving their hands over the client's body "where energy blockages are released to facilitate a sense of relaxation and inner calm." There is no massage nor pressure in the touches.

Clients report different sensations when they undergo an energy healing session. Some feel warm, some feel cold. Some feel "electric sensations running up and down" the body. Some clients start crying uncontrollably during the sessions while some feel very hungry or thirsty afterwards.

"We see ourselves as helping people's bodies and hearts 'jumpstart' their own healing. Letting go of accumulated negativity can be very cathartic and tiring," David says. Some of their past clients have willingly shared their testimonials at www.satvahwellness.com.

The methods they use have been taught to them by experts. David has trained with various masters and is now a meditation instructor under the Dudul Hung Nak Mebar Ling Tibetan Vajrayana Center founded by His Holiness Orgyen Kusum Lingpa of the Tibetan Nyingma tradition.

He is a level three reiki healer and teacher under the Brahma Satya Riddhi Healing System as taught by Guru Deepak Hardikar. David is also affiliated with the International Sheng Zhen Society as an instructor of chi gong, a system of exercise similar to tai chi, as taught by head teacher Master Li Jun Feng.

David's own life went through a turnaround of sorts when, despite "having no problems at home, a 'pretty okay' job in marketing and banking, and a 'normal' lifestyle," he had gone into "a downward spiral of non-contentment."

He says, "It was like the world just didn't offer the same old fascination anymore. It came to a point that the job I thoroughly enjoyed before became a struggle."

David was introduced to a meditation class that helped him greatly and led him towards a path where he wanted to share his experience with others.

In 2003, he became involved with Green Light Works, a company that conducts stress and wellness management seminars and workshops for companies and corporations. He started Sattvah Center in 2006.

"I wanted to give the public a chance to learn solutions for their particular needs. There is a wealth of long standing methods used for hundreds of years that people have become disconnected with, such as meditation, chi gong, and yoga.

These traditions hold information that western medicine practitioners may not know of yet because they haven't done much research on them yet," he says. "Actually, there is a bit of research already and they use terms like 'vibrations' and 'electrons' but basically, it's all really all just energy."

For details, visit www.sattvahwellness.com.

Also published online:

REVIEW: Wholesome and then some: Savyon Liebrecht's 'Apples from the Desert' and Frank Wedekind's 'Lulu'

Wholesome and then some
By Walter Ang
August 10, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Two productions opening in August approach women and notions of "love" and "family" in diametrically dissimilar ways, with one play written by a Jew and the other by a German.

Tanghalang Pilipino will stage "Apples from the Desert," a comedy written by Savyon Liebrecht, one of Israel's best-selling and acclaimed female writers. Actress, dancer and filmmaker Tess Jamias will direct. "The play is about a conservative family with an independent-minded teenage daughter who wants to find her way in the world as she discovers love and life beyond the confines of her highly-regimented life," she says. "The conflict erupts between the Jewish Orthodox father, who is controlling and unable to show affection, and the women surrounding him."

A former member of TP's Actors Company, Jamias has evolved from acting to directing. She's helmed plays that deal with relationships and women. "I directed Harold Pinter's `The Lover' last year. Early this year, I directed "Pamaypay, Kutsilyo at Yantok," a trilogy of one-act plays about the women of Noli Me Tangere." She was tasked by TP artistic director Josef "Tata" Nanding to direct "Apples."

"I like this play because even though it deals with a culture that is very different from our own, the relationships among the characters and the play's theme about individuals finding their own voice are things we can all relate to," she says. "Aside from reading the script several times, I researched the Jewish culture, their history, practices, dances, and music. I went to a synagogue, had a talk with the rabbi and the Israeli ambassador."

She taps her experiences in different fields for her direction. "Being a filmmaker helps me think in moving images, which, in turn, helps me visualize a scene. Being a dancer/choreographer helps me feel if a scene should be more adagio or allegro on the way to creating the whole symphony. Being an actress, I've been able to work with actors of all ages and I've experienced different directors' styles. I'm able to access a familiar language in dealing with my actors," she says.

Jamias joined the performing world via a workshop in her last year of high school. "I had the best time because my teachers were Betty Nae Piccio and Susan Ceniza, two great women actors," she says. Jamias now joins the ranks of a handful of women directors for the local theater scene such as the late Zeneida Amador, Baby Barredo, Ana Valdes-Lim, Ana Abad Santos-Bitong, and Jose Estrella. She feels it's sad that there are only a few women directors but feels "honored" to be counted among them. Jamias will be acting in TP's next production, a Filipino translation of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage."

"Apples from the Desert" will be performed in English and in a Filipino translation ("Mansanas ng Disyerto") by Liza Magtoto. It is part of TP's 23rd season focusing on "Women of Substance," the first of a three-year thematic arc that will highlight men for the 24th season, and children for the 25th season.

And then some
On the flip side, Dulaang UP offers Frank Wedekind's "Lulu," which centers on "a sexually-enticing young dancer who rises in society through her relationships with wealthy men, but later falls into poverty and prostitution" and the "the intricacies of transsexual seduction, passion, and wrath." The play is part of DUP's 34th season tribute to German playwrights. This production combines the originally separate "Lulu plays": Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box).

Tuxqs Rutaquio plays Lulu as a male-to-female transsexual in the Filipino translation by Joel Saracho. He alternates with Che Ramos (who plays Lulu as a woman) in the English version. "When director and choreographer Dexter Santos approached me to do the set design, I asked if I could also act. Luckily, he was actually thinking of casting me for the lead role in his all-male Filipino version," says Rutaquio. He will design the set for another Wedekind-inspired show later this year: Atlantis Productions' staging of Tony Award-winning rock musical "Spring Awakening."

Rutaquio first encountered the material in his Master of Theater Arts classes under Prof. Antonio Mabesa in University of the Philippines-Diliman. "I fell in love with the character of Lulu. To prepare for the role, I did a lot of research about the psychology of sexuality and the dynamics between men. Lulu is a complicated character, a misunderstood being whose desires cannot be equaled by the men that he encounters, that's why he searches for more, using his power as a beautiful transsexual, his rational thinking and carnal body as weapons," he says.

He has played the roles of Dina Espinola (female role) in "Temptation Island," and Ada (gay male role) in "Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah." "A homosexual or gender-bending role is just like any other role. In theater, it's not about gender or sexual preference or feminine/masculine mannerisms," he says. "It is about personality, objective, motivation, and development. I get attracted to roles that I can sink my teeth into, characters that I can take apart and explore, and some of these roles just happened to be not heterosexual."

His insights on gender and sexuality are not only informed by his vast theater experience, but also by scholarly practice. Rutaquio is a faculty associate and advocate of Miriam College's Women and Gender Institute (WAGI). He directed and designed "Amihan" last year as part of the launch of Miriam College's Institute for the Arts. "The main objective of the institute is to recognize and develop highly talented young women so that they may achieve the highest artistic standards, become leaders in their profession, and take an active role shaping the future of the arts," he says.

Tanghalang Pilipino's "Apples from the Desert" runs from Aug. 7 to Sept. 13 at the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Call 832-3661. Dulaang UP's "Lulu" runs from Aug. 5 to 23 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, University of the Philippines-Diliman. Call 433-7840. 

Also published online:

Study shows Olay is most effective anti-ageing cream

Study shows Olay is most effective anti-ageing cream
By Walter Ang
August 3, 2009
Manila Bulletin

Via daphneosena.livejournal.com
An investigative study that evaluated the efficacy of seven popular anti-ageing creams and their ingredients revealed that Olay Total Effects had the best composite score at restoring, enhancing, and protecting skin.

Seven commercially available products such as creams with beech extract, with idebenone, with retinol, with beta-hydroxy acid, with folic acid, and with vitamin C and E were included in the study.

Conducted by Olay manufacturer Proctor and Gamble (P&G) in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to test its own product against others, the study used three key technical measurements to assess the creams' effectiveness: strengthening of the skin's moisture barrier, increased rate of skin exfoliation, and protection from free radicals. A third-party survey conducted at the 21st World Congress of Dermatology showed that 9 out of 10 dermatologists concur with these standards.

Repairing the skin's moisture barrier is one key way to fight skin ageing. As people grow older, the skin's natural moisture is reduced, making skin drier and more prone to wrinkles. Moisturized skin maintains an even tone and appears more radiant, while lines and wrinkles are minimized.

Increasing exfoliation is another way to help make skin appear younger-looking. As people age, the rate at which their skin cells are produced and shed slows down, resulting in dull complexion. Increasing the exfoliation rate of skin cells allows new skin to brighten the skin tone.

Finally, protection from damaging free radicals is the third benefit an anti-ageing cream should provide. Exposure to UV rays, smoke and pollution damage the skin, causing spots and wrinkles to appear over time.

Testing methods
To test whether a product restores the skin's moisture barrier function, the study measured the rate of the skin's water loss over a 30-day period. Products that help restore the skin's moisture barrier should reduce the rate of water loss in the skin.

To evaluate whether a product enhances the skin's appearance via exfoliation, the rate of surface cell turnover was measured. A product that helps increase the exfoliation rate should result in a higher cell turnover rate.

Finally, to assess whether a product protects skin from free radicals, the study measured the amount of lipid peroxides on the skin. Lipid peroxides are created when UV rays and free radicals attack the skin. Effective products should cause a reduction in the amount of lipid peroxides in the skin.

Olay Total Effects performed better on all three criteria compared to the other creams. "We're very pleased that Olay Total Effects scored well in the study. It means we were able to achieve our goal of creating a balanced product that addresses the multiple signs of ageing that women worldwide are concerned about," said P&G skin care scientist David Khoo. "We were very relieved by the results!" he added with a laugh.

The cream with beech extract and the cream with folic acid, came in second and third, respectively. Both creams scored relatively well on all three factors. However some creams, like the one with retinol, were good at providing only one or two benefits instead of all three. "Retinoids may deliver anti-wrinkle effects but those effects may come with irritation and redness," said Khoo.

According to Khoo, Olay Total Effects scored highest because of its unique VitaNiacin Complex. "We took into consideration the different causes of skin ageing, both internal factors and external, and that's how we were able to come up with a product that simultaneously targets multiple changes that occur during the ageing process," he said.

To restore the skin's moisture barrier, it has niacinamide (vitamin B3) and pro-vitamin B5 that help skin retain its natural moisture.

Niacinamide also works with panthenol and vitamin E to provide a host of benefits, such as reduction of hyperpigmented spots and oil secretion, and reduction of wrinkles through stimulation of collagen synthesis.

To protect skin from free radicals, it contains an effective combination of broad spectrum sunscreen and anti-oxidants Vitamin C and E.

Broadcast journalist Daphne Oseña-Paez has been using Olay Total Effects for several years now. "It's really part of my job not to take things at face value so when I'm surrounded by all these new creams, I do my research before buying into it," said Daphne. "I have very sensitive skin and I like Olay Total Effects because it really works for me. This new study is proof that I've made the right choice."

She was made an Olay Ambassador because of her trust in the product. She is joined by seasoned actress Angel Aquino as the newest Olay Ambassador. Both women will host the Olay Total Effects Swap on August 29, from 2pm - 3pm, at the Activity Center of SM Megamall Building A.

"We invite all women to bring their current anti-ageing cream and we will swap it for a free bottle of Olay Total Effects. It's a really great chance to discover the best anti-ageing cream for yourself, so don't miss it!" said Angel.