Joem Bascon: Peanut butter boy is not creamy, he's hunky

Joem Bascon: Peanut butter boy is not creamy, he's hunky
By Walter Ang
January 19, 2010
Manila Bulletin

Being tagged as the "the Piolo Pascual and Sam Milby hybrid look-a-like," is what created buzz for Joem Bascon. It's probably the reason why he grew out his facial hair for his acting stints in I Love Betty and Bud Brothers, to establish a sense of identity that's separate from his co-actors.

Nonetheless, only in his 20s, Bascon is slowly developing a stronger foothold in the industry. What isn't usually talked about, however, is his athleticism. It isn't an exaggeration to say that Bascon's body is ripped; it's landed him in a magazine's hot body list. But unlike some actors who buff up but aren't really fit, this guy is actually healthy and strong, too.

Bascon was introduced to sports at an early age. He took up basketball in grade school and even played varsity in high school and college. "Sports or being active is really in my system, I always look for something physical to do," he says. "I actually have dreams of going professional in basketball."

When he broke into showbusiness, all that energy was channeled into weightlifting. "I used to lift weights every day," he says. A trainor at his old gym, Red Corner, introduced him to boxing a few years ago and he's taken to it ever since. The aerobic component of the sport and his reduction in weight training has visible results: his once bulky frame has a leaner, toned look now.

"It was also a conscious decision on my part to try to reduce my bulk to help my career since it can be difficult sometimes to be cast for certain roles if your body is too big. Anyway, it's easier to bulk up if you have a lean frame than to reduce it if you're big to begin with," he adds.

His upbringing in and exposure to the rigors and discipline of sports has carried over with his new love affair with boxing. He's even joined a celebrity match where he battled it out with Cesar Montano and is waiting for word if he'll be included in this year's line-up for the boxing show "Warriors," where he reached the semi-finals last year.

These days, Bascon trains at Tiger City Gym in Mandaluyong City. The gym caters to professional boxers where Bascon picks up techniques that are based on scientific principles. "We do the same kind of training that the actors for the movie `300' did. For example, I've had to throw sledgehammers to build strength and use ladders for footwork training," he says.

Bascon also engages in plyometrics, exercises designed to produce fast, powerful movements where muscles are contracted in rapid sequence to build strength and elasticity. "It has a lot of explosive movements, it's what basketball players use to develop more powerful jumps," he says.

Bascon does kettle bell training as well, a technique that has been gaining ground in the country where a metal ball (that looks like a cannon ball) with a handle is used to increase strength, endurance, agility and balance. "It's really all about developing your core muscles so that you have a strong foundation," he adds.

Given that most actors have irregular schedules, Bascon makes sure that he still gets exercise into his day. "I jog at least one to two hours a day and try to fit in two to three hours of boxing. On days when I don't have shows to shoot, I'm usually at the gym the whole day," he says.

For variety, Bascon tries out new sports once in a while. "I've tried wall climbing and sometimes I play volleyball. This year, I want to try bikram yoga (yoga done in a heated room)," he says.

Bascon, just like the rest of us, is human after all, and has lazy days as well. "Of course, sometimes I also don't feel like going to the gym or working out, but because my body is so used to physical activity and it needs to do something physical, I will jog or do push ups at the very least," he says.

The advice he gives to anyone interested in taking up boxing, or any exercise regimen for that matter, is to prepare ahead of time. "You can't just go into boxing if you've been leading a sedentary lifestyle," he says. "You can try to start jogging everyday or doing light exercises to condition and prime your body for something more strenuous."

When it comes to diet, food lovers will hate to take advice from Bascon. "I really watch what I eat. They used to call me `Peanut Butter Boy" because I would bring peanut-butter sandwiches as my baon for my meals," he says with a laugh. "They're quick and easy to prepare and is a good source of energy and protein and is low in fat." Supplements like multivitamins and fish oil are also a staple in his dietary schedule.

His meals center around brown rice and white meat while his snacks are usually bananans, boiled peanuts or camote. If these food items sound bland and boring to you, just take a look at Bascon's body and let's see if they don't start becoming appetizing.

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Now that it's 40 years old, remembering great moments at the CCP

Remembering great moments at CCP
By Walter Ang
January 18, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Illustration by Steph Bravo
The Cultural Center of the Philippines concluded its nine-month long 40th anniversary celebration in September 2009. With its theme centering on remembrance of its past 40 years, I was inspired to take a look back at the many shows and events I've seen and experienced there.

While I am not old enough to remember all 40 years of the CCP's past (my parents weren't even married and probably didn't even know each other yet when it was opened to the public in 1969), I am old enough to admit having seen a little more than a decade's (or two) worth of shows there.

When I was still in grade school, I had fleeting encounters with this huge edifice along Roxas Boulevard. I didn't know it was supposed to be an important national institution, all I knew was that I liked looking at the lit up fountain when we would pass by.

My family and I occasionally ended up inside the CCP's Main Theater for school foundation anniversary shows or recitals and variety shows staged by cultural troupes from abroad (contorting Chinese acrobats were always fun to watch).

The Folk Arts Theater, on the other hand, was where I saw magician David Copperfield perform his tricks. I'm sure I'd been there a few more times before the David Copperfield show when I was much younger, because I have memories of those rattan chairs that were still in vogue in the early 80s.

The early 90s had ushered in a sort of national interest in all things theater given the number of Filipinos who ended up in a little West End musical called "Miss Saigon." Maybe it was partly because of this milieu (no matter how indirectly) that, by the late 90s, I started developing a vigorous interest for watching plays and musicals. I saved up my allowance (and as the years passed, my salary) and would troop to the CCP, on what was soon to become a regular basis, to catch me some shows.

I remember the year 1998 because that was when I saw visiting Fil-Am theater group Ma-Yi Theater Company's staging of "Flipzoids." It was part of the CCP's line up of shows for the country's centennial celebration. It centered around three transplanted Filipinos in America across three generations and their conflicting notions of identity, home, and family.

The show made a deep impact on me with its story, message and staging. As a Chinese-Filipino myself in my early 20s, I related to the characters' sense of displacement and frustrating stabs at establishing their identities. Also, the script by Ralph Peña was just flat out hilarious.

I remember plays mostly by CCP resident theater company Tanghalang Pilipino. I saw works by Filipino playwrights and world classics in Filipino translations in all sorts of stagings in all three major theaters: the Main Theater (Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo), the Little Theater (Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino) and, my most favorite performance space to this day, the intimate basement Studio Theater (Tanghalang Huseng Batute).

I remember Malou Jacob's "Anatomiya ng Korupsyon," with Eric Cruz's hyper real government office set design, complete with worn out aircons and twisted venetian blinds, and actor RJ Leyran's nuanced characterization of an office messenger.

I remember "Ang Ulo ni Pancho Villa" directed by Nonon Padilla, with actor Joey Paras' (as the titular character/body part) disembodied head being flung about the stage (and him eating a cockroach).

I remember Herbert Go's staging of "R'meo luvs Dew-Lhiett," his brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers set in Tondo, using jologs kanto-speak intermixed with Rolando Tinio's translation.

I remember "Ligawang Ligaw," (Shakespeare's "Love's Labor's Lost") whose set designer Gino Gonzales filled the Little Theater stage with grass from apron (edge of the stage) to rafter.

I remember "Insiang," whose set designer Bobot Lota, transformed the Studio Theater into a real-life squatter's area, and whose females leads Malou De Guzman and Sheenly Gener, burned their souls into audiences' minds with their powerhouse confrontation scenes.

Other companies
Of course, TP was not the only company whose productions I watched.

I remember Zeneida Amador as Shakespeare's King Lear.

I remember "Larawan," the musical version of Nick Joaquin's "Portrait of an Artist as Filipino," with Celeste Legaspi and Rachel Alejandro as the two sisters singing onstage about wanting to catch rats.

I remember the hilarious play version of the cult-classic camp-fest movie "Temptation Island," featuring male actors doing the four female lead roles.

I remember one recital of the Philippine High School for the Arts that featured "R.U.R." (Rossum's Universal Robots) and "Ang Unos," a sterling translation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" by Rody Vera featuring Skyzx Labastilla as Prospera (instead of a male Prospero).

I remember the very first Virgin Labfest in 2005, with Lou Veloso and his pitch-perfect comic timing in "Geegee at Waterina."

I tried exploring the world of dance and ballet, too.

I remember "Swan Lake" with Lisa Macuja as Odette/Odile. I remember being acutely aware of the realization that when the corps de ballet would leap on stage, they all landed with a thud?so very different from the snippets of seemingly "silent" ballet dancing I'd seen on TV or in the movies.

I remember Ballet Philippines' "Shoes++," featuring five different dances, with each piece featuring a different kind of shoe, from stilettos in the first piece to bakya in the last rousing number choreographed by Tony Fabella. My favorite was the piece featuring diving flippers choreographed by Alden Lugnasin and the hilarious saleslady who had monologues in between dances, played by Herbert Go in a uniform that looked suspiciously very familiar to the ones worn in SM.

I remember dropping my jaw in awe at opening movement of BP's "Carmina Burana," when the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra struck the first thunderous drumroll, the choir sang the first sonorous word, the lights went up on National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Bernal's dramatic multi-linear diagonal backdrop veiled in fog, and the dancers glided on to the stage ? all at the same time. It is one spine-tingling, goose-bump and gasp inducing moment I will never forget.

Not just shows
And yes, that famous musical "Miss Saigon" was staged in the Main Theater in 2001. Other performances by groups from abroad that I recall include the UK's Watermill Theater when they did Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" with an all-male cast.

I also remember another company from the UK that performed Shakespeare's "Macbeth," and that's when I confirmed that just because you come from the same country as Shakespeare, it doesn't mean you automatically can stage his works effectively.

More recently, Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Company performed at the Main Theater and filled up the stage with ankle-deep water!

Then there are the alternative performance spaces like the ballet rehearsal studio where I watched Dulaang Talyer's "Mga Kwento ni Gabriel Garcia Marquez." There are other rehearsal halls, multi-purpose halls, and the Silangan Hall (where, as it was explained to me, post-show cocktails used to be held), where staged readings, auditions, or lectures are usually done.

There is the Production Design Center, where I spent one summer in a set design workshop together with a host of other students in stage management, lighting design, and acting workshops.

There are the art galleries, where I once saw an art installation with a collection of golden donuts attached to golden dildos (now how's that for art?).

There is the dinky little "buffeteria," where I usually wolf down a meal before rushing to catch an evening show. There is the Tanghalang Manuel Conde, where I first saw Hayao Miyazake's "Tombstones for Fireflies." This year's Virgin Labfest even had its actors invading the bathrooms with their five-minute performances.

Obviously, this indulgent little inventory of memories is not nearly enough to cover the many productions, events, lectures, workshops, exhibits and whatnot (including dates, both successful and disastrous) that I have had the privilege and pleasure of experiencing at the CCP.

But the short trip down memory lane was fun and, hopefully, other visitors of the CCP, whether hardcore regulars or the fleetingly sporadic, will also be inspired to do some reminiscing of their own.

Happy 40th anniversary CCP and looking forward to what you have in store for 2010!

(Note: Submitted in September 2009 intended to coincide with the end of CCP's nine-month celebration of its 40th anniversary that month but was published in January 2010.)

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Nova Gallery provides art scholarships

New gallery provides art scholarships
By Walter Ang
January 18, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Carlos "Charlie" Cojuangco's Negros Occidental Visual Arts (Nova) Gallery recently ended a pre-inaugural exhibit for the benefit "Art On The Verge," a Fine Arts Scholarship Fund.

The former fourth district Representative of Negros Occidental and current head of the Negros Occidental Football Association has been collecting art for the past fourteen years, mainly paintings. He has a fondness for works by Charlie Co as well as artists from Negros Occidental. Some of his prized pieces are Antipas Delotavo's five-panel oil on canvas "Sandaan Taon" and Nona Garcia's award winning mixed media "See-Saw."

From personal interest, his passion has grown into enterprise, and now, philanthropy. In 2007, he opened a gallery in Bacolod. "I needed a space to house my collection and it was a way to pay for my hobby!" he says with a laugh. "It was a natural progression. In the long run, it's become something that gives back to the arts and artists."

"From my travels abroad, I can see that there's a lack of art appreciation here. We're behind. We're still at the developing stage," he says. To push the development of the art scene, Cojuangco has created the Carlos Oppen Cojuangco Foundation to support cultural and artistic endeavors.

"I see promise in young artists today but they should balance their passions with the realities of day-to-day living. While honing and showing their craft, they should find ways to support themselves through endeavors not necessarily dependent on their art making. It's a realistic way of nurturing one's thinking and relationship to society," he adds.

Through his foundation, Cojuangco donated the use of his gallery space, which has now transferred to Makati City along Pasong Tamo, to support the "Art On The Verge" scholarship fund.

Titled "Conquistador," the fundraising solo exhibit curated by Patrick Flores featured mixed media works by contemporary visual artist Anton del Castillo. Del Castillo won first place, oil category, Metrobank Young Painters' Annual 2003; and was a finalist at the 2006 Ateneo Art Gallery and Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards. He's participated in solo and group exhibitions in Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, and Manila.

It is fitting that Del Castillo is the artist who jumpstarted the fundraising for this scholarship given his own commitment to education and higher studies. He holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in Painting from the University of the Philippines and teaches art subjects at UP Integrated School.

Conquistador's iconized imagery of war machines, toy soldiers and world maps is the result of concepts and techniques that Del Castillo learned while on scholarship abroad. He studied Byzantine art in New York City as a fellow of the Asian Cultural Council and Sovereign Foundation Hong Kong for the International Studio and Curatorial Program; and he studied the estofado technique (painting over metallic leaf) in Spain as a scholar of Cooperacion Espanola.

The "Art On The Verge" scholarship was conceived by Art Cabinet Philippines and Rogue Media. "This scholarship is the first of its kind in the Philippines that assists emerging visual artists in the completion of advanced studies in the fine arts, providing them an opportunity for informed critique and artistic discovery within an academic setting," says Dindin Araneta, director of Art Cabinet Philippines, an artist management group that supports emerging visual artists through its projects and exhibits.

"It's a way of deepening our commitment to the arts and young artists. We want to support brave new works because sometimes these are the kind of works that do not enjoy commercial success immediately," she adds.

The scholarship's first recipient is 22 year old Brendale Tadeo, who had to drop out of college due to financial difficulties. Tadeo hails from Zambales and has taken workshops and exhibited at Casa San Miguel.

"He's the perfect person to receive this grant. Even though he hasn't been able to finish college, he's worked hard to learn painting and has even been included in some exhibits. He's also involved in the Anino Shadow Play Collective. You can see that he really wants to become a visual artist and his desire is there," Araneta says.

Katrina Tuason, managing director of Rogue Media, says, "This scholarship is something that we have been wanting to do for a long time. We finally got together and pushed for it. Aside from tuition, it will also have materials grants and assist our scholars with their careers after they graduate.

Tuason explains that each grantee will eventually mount a fundraising exhibit for the next grantee. "Anton's exhibit is funding Brendale's scholarship; Brendale has already started preparing for his exhibit next year that will fund the next grantee. We are starting off the scholarship with visual arts, but `Art on the Verge' will grow to support other art forms like music, literature, film, performance art, etc. We're really excited."

Nova Gallery Manila is at Warehouse 10A, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Don Chino Roces Ave. (formerly Pasong Tamo), Makati City. Call 09285504816, 8124354 or 7297747.

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International green architecture experts in 2010 symposium

International green architecture experts in symposium 
By Walter Ang
January 11, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Two international authorities in environmental urban design will speak at a national architecture symposium at the University of Santo Tomas, tackling the topic "Asian Green Cities: Visions of the Modern World."

Ken Yeang, urban planner and director of London-based firm Llewelyn Davies Yeang, and Darko Radovic, academic scholar from Keio University and Tokyo University in Japan and University of Melbourne in Australia, will discuss global concerns and practices related to sustainability and eco- masterplanning and how these can be applied in an Asian context.

The conference is organized by Architecture Network (Archinet), the UST College of Architecture's student organization, and will be held at the university's Medicine Auditorium.

"Asia is poised to host a generation of green cities that will correct the mistakes of industrial-era planning," says John Nicholas Ramos, head of Ramos Architecture Studio and faculty adviser of Archinet. "Our Asian neighbors are already embracing sustainable features in their design process. However, the Philippines still espouses design and planning principles influenced by the old ways of the western world that are now considered obsolete."

Relevance The symposium will address issues and challenges that face a developing nation like the Philippines in light of the current state of the global environment; and how architects, designers and planners play crucial roles in offering solutions to these problems facing the nation.

"In the aftermath of the recent typhoon disasters, the debate and discussion on the need for sound urban planning and environmental architecture takes on a new spark," says John Joseph Fernandez, college dean and chairman of the Council of Deans and Heads of Architecture Schools in the Philippines.

"This one-day symposium aims to go further than merely generating awareness. Our goal is to think together, develop a good comprehension of what constitutes sustainable practice today, and come up with concrete actions that are not only globally relevant but also locally applicable."

Dan Lichauco, managing partner of Archion Architects and one of the college's associate professors, says, "There are many professors who teach as well as practice green architecture in UST. Green architecture for the country is possible and is making strong inroads. Archion Architects is designing the third LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System)-registered building in the country.

"Although a US rating system, it adds credibility to the idea of green architecture. Eco-masterplanning is possible but it has to be worked together with other things like population control, mass transit systems and decentralization of the primary cities, namely Manila, Cebu and Davao, in order to be fully exploited as a movement and design philosophy."

Yeang will share insights from his state-of-the-art approach to masterplanning based on environmental principles. He will also present research studies and examples of his projects in Asia and other parts of the world that highlight green design.

Yeang is regarded as one of the foremost designers and noted authorities on ecologically-responsive architecture and planning. He has pioneered the passive low-energy design of tall buildings that he terms "bioclimatic skyscrapers."

Radovic argues that neither the path of ecological nor that of cultural sustainability can be undertaken separately and that there is no viable future without their harmonious synthesis. His theory of eco-urbanity is based on his investigations on concepts of urbanity and sustainable development.

Radovic will discuss examples of best planning and design practices from various parts of the world. He will also give a background of research projects that promote environmentally and culturally responsible urban futures.

Both Yeang and Radovic have doctorates in their fields of expertise, have held faculty positions in universities all over the world, authored numerous books, and are multi-awarded for their designs.

"We want this event to serve as a catalyst to jumpstart future academic collaborations and linkages with leading institutions in Asia as the College of Architecture marks its 80th foundation and as the University of Santo Tomas celebrates its quadricentennial," says fourth year student Mark Marcelino, president of Archinet.

This symposium follows through on a similar conference pioneered by Archinet last year featuring Chicago-based architect Lira Luis. Inviting and coordinating with the speakers was initiated and done completely by the students through email.

"We invited both speakers as early as 2008," says Marcelino. "We weren't very hopeful since we're just students and we didn't expect them to take us seriously. We were surprised when they agreed but their schedules didn't clear up until this year. Both graciously waived their speaker's fee and honorarium while Sofitel Hotel agreed to provide accommodations. We only need to shoulder their travel expenses, thus the seminar fee."

He adds, "The student participants will be able to share their critical appraisal and their own ideas in an open forum about the future of urban sustainability which, hopefully, will be pitched to the decision makers and the prime movers and shakers in the industry."

"Asian Green Cities: Visions of the Modern World" is on January 30, 2010. For details, email or call 0915-443-12-02 or 0917-918-18-07.

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