Expect dancing at LRT 2 on April 29, 2010 (Int'l Dance Day)

Expect dancing at LRT 2 on April 29
By Walter Ang
April 26, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Commuters using the Light Rail Transit 2 line will be in for a surprise (or shock) on April 29 when dancers dressed as regular passengers start dancing inside the trains and at certain stations throughout the afternoon.

On that day, the dancers will be celebrating International Dance Day with the passengers. Founded in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute of UNESCO and celebrated every April 29, the date commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a French dancer and balletmaster known as a great reformer of dance. In the Philippines, the last week of April is also National Dance Week.

Titled "Moving Dance @ The LRT Dance Express," more than 20 dancers will stage contemporary dance pieces beginning at the Legarda station, ride the train (and dancing inside) going to the Katipunan station where they will also perform. "They will then again ride and dance on a train, this time to the Cubao station, and perform for about half an hour," says Myra Beltran.

Beltran is the current vice chair of Contemporary Dance Network Philippines, the group that has partnered with the management of the LRT to stage this public performance. The group, chaired by Angel Lawenko-Baguilat, is composed of contemporary dance companies, artists, school-based organizations, critics and institutions, whose goal is to promote contemporary dance in the Philippines.

Participating groups in "Moving Dance" include Airdance, U.P. Dance Co., Lyceum Dance Theatre, Chameleon Dance, Benilde de Romancon Dance Co. and Myra Beltran's Dance Forum.

"This event is part of CDNP's Contemporary Dance Map series," she says. "We map alternative spaces for dance in a performance-tour of these spaces. The series started in 2005 and has since continued yearly and still remains the forum by which contemporary dance artists in urban Metro Manila renew and re-think their commitment to contemporary dance ? both in the creative aspect and in the training and nurturing of new talent."

The Contemporary Dance Map series has staged productions in spaces like the underpass in Quezon City Circle and art galleries like Mag:Net and Green Papaya Arts Projects.

This year, the exercise of "mapping" is layered with new meanings in relation to how people "move" from place to place. "The idea is that movement through time and space is inherent in dance, but dance itself will be moved across space and time by the LRT - hence, `moving dance,'" Beltran says.

Beltran points out that the Light Rail Transit has many similar things to dance, especially contemporary dance.

"Both move through space and time," she says. "And within that encompassing frame are individuals who meet or collide briefly, whose sense of space and time intersect for a brief period within a broader trajectory of movement. For a brief time, each moves according to the space given ? but each has a story to tell, and for brief periods, all meet in the same space, at the same time."

Using this as a jumping off point, she notes that the dancers will use deliberate movement. "Each dance contains a story," she says. "On each station is a story that typifies the stories of the many individuals who ride on the LRT. Stories of love, encounter, anxiety, exuberance, waiting, frustration ... these are all the worlds in an LRT station, and these are the worlds that can be told in dance."

Nonetheless, the dancers want the public to "not to expect a performance." The prepared dance pieces and expected dance improvisations to be performed will be "seemingly pedestrian" and site-specific." "We want to surprise the audience to the accessibility of dance," Beltran says. "Our concept is to blur the line between the normal and the everyday with the idea of 'performance.'"

She notes that the intention of International Dance Day is to "bring all dance together on this day, to celebrate this art form and revel in its universality, to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together in peace and friendship with a common language - dance."

"We want to let the public become aware of this annual celebration of and for dance," she adds. "Dance knows no class, no race, no boundary. Dance is for all."

"Moving Dance @ The LRT Dance Express" is from 1pm to 5pm. Call 0917-5760212 or 0917-5269724.

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Macau: From the Grand Prix race to Cirque du Soleil

Macau: From the Grand Prix race to Cirque du Soleil
By Walter Ang
April 25, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

While Macau is known more as a gambling destination, we discovered more to it: lots of man-made (with the help of machines) magic. We spent a weekend marveling at how man uses both mind and machine to maneuver great speeds and how machines can help man use his muscles to fly.

One of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China (the other being Hong Kong), Macau is about as big as Makati City and a sizeable portion of it lies on reclaimed land. To the west lies the Pearl River Delta, with Guangdong province to the north, and the South China Sea to the south.

Inquirer Lifestyle was invited to the Windsor Arch 56th Macau Grand Prix, which includes the FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup, the FIA World Touring Car Championship, and the Macau Motorcycle Grand Prix. While watching races like these on TV gives you the best views, nothing beats actually being ringside with the smell of gasoline in the air, the energy of the crowd pumping your adrenaline, and the rumble of engines roaring in your ears.

Every year
The races use the Guia Circuit, city streets transformed into a racetrack 3.8 miles long with "long, fast straights" and "sharply twisting corners." It's recognized as "one of the most demanding circuits in the world." You can only imagine the kind of mental agility and eye-hand coordination needed to be a racer, especially when "the gravity exerted here on the riders and drivers is similar to that experienced by fighter pilots."

Our group was able to cozy up to the car of French racer Jean-Karl Vernay. While all the media from other countries were in the Touring Car area, in typical Pinoy usisero mode, the Filipino cotingent snooped around till we ended up in the Formula 3 area. Yes, it's really him and it's really his car. You can only see his nose since his helmet covered up most of his head, but his name on the side of the car. And, yes, we admit it, we were his lucky charms, that's how he ended up winning second place.

The Macau Grand Prix race weekend is held in November. Though it's summer time now, you can still get your racing fix by visiting the Grand Prix Museum. And in any case, Macau hosts plenty of events to keep you busy throughout the year. Aside from racing, there are events and festivals that feature culture, religion, arts, music, sports and food.

We spent the remainder of our stay exploring the streets and sights. There's a multitude of museums, temples, gardens, and churches to visit. We began with the Macau Musuem, which gives an overview of the area's history. Its heritage as a seaport gateway for Western trades to enter China and as a colony of Portugal has allowed Macau to become a salad bowl of contrasting cultures existing side by side.

Of course, a trip to Macau is incomplete without a photo session at the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral, built in 1602 and destroyed by fire in 1835. From here, it's on to Senado Square, lined with stores and shops filled with all sorts of good buys, whether food, crafts, jewelry, clothing or otherwise.

Both the cathedral and square are part of the "Historic Centre of Macau," a World Heritage Site with streets and plazas that link a succession of over twenty monuments and structures. Here, buildings with "old" architectural styles are never destroyed, and instead, are conserved and used in bright, colorful new ways.

Adventurous travelers will love the opportunity to explore the streets on their own (since guidebooks and maps are available for free) but if you prefer a guide, the tourism office in Senado Square provides free tours.

Meat and muscle
Local cuisine should always be part of the travel agenda, so our group tried out Macanese specialties like caldo verde (soup made with kale), chouriço (Portugese sausage), and bacalhau (codfish). Serradura or cream with chocolate "sawdust" quickly became our favorite dessert during our three-day stay.

The group didn't have time to try out the Macau Tower's famous 233-meter sky-jump (like bungee jumping but you're tied from your back instead, so you fall with all extremities flapping in the air). Instead, we let the experts do the flying at Cirque Du Soleil's "Zaia," a 90-minute production featuring 75 performers from all over the world.

This is the only permanent Cirque show in Asia and has its own theater inside the vast Venetian Hotel. It features Filipina Krisbelle Paclibar-Mamangun, a former lead dancer of Ballet Philippines, as part of its cast.

The show's core presentation of agility, movement and aerial acrobatics is amplified by grand spectacle. Even before the show starts, the theater's interiors lead the eyes toward the (more than 80-feet high) ceiling, bracing the audience for how high the show's performers actually fly during the show.

If you can tear your eyes from all the somersaulting, balancing, and contorting happening on stage, taking in the immense technology that allow the performers to do what they do is also a show unto itself. Giant sets rise and fall from the stage floors, up and down from the rafters, and all around the entire audience area in precise and coordinated movements with music and lighting.

Try to crane your neck as far as it can go to see the huge crossbar and track above the audience area that moves humans and set pieces like a 25-feet diameter globe throughout the theater. Peeking at the back of the theater also reveals where (and how high) performers are perched before they fly into the audience. The rafters of the stage have trapdoors that go even higher for performers to exit from.

We started our trip with speed and ended it with flight. It was a heady, exciting and awe-inspiring way to end a quick visit to Macau.

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Confident, yes; arrogant, no: The John Robert Powers way

Confident, yes; arrogant, no: The John Robert Powers way
By Walter Ang
April 20, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"There is a huge difference between confidence and arrogance," Marivic Padilla says. "It all goes back to 'The Golden Rule.' That will never be passé." Padilla has been helping Filipinos find their own sense of self and style for the past 25 years as international director of the John Robert Powers school.

The school is popularly known for its "personality development" courses. Towards this end, there are classes in social graces, poise and carriage, grooming, communications and even modeling. Padilla notes that the school's mission is to "help individuals achieve their maximum potential through confidence building, communication proficiency, and image enhancement."

The school follows a core curriculum developed by John Robert Powers. Powers is credited for starting the professional modeling industry when he started training actors in New York City to pose for magazine advertisements in the 1920s. He founded a modeling agency and, eventually, his personality development school.

Powers has said that "there is no such thing as an unattractive person, just some people who do not know how to make the most of themselves." There are now more than 70 JRP schools worldwide.

The school's defining thrust is on building "the entire personality." "You can take workshops to learn how to speak English well, but you might not have good social graces. You can learn to model but not know how to speak well and that would affect your chances of getting modeling jobs. You can be very good at your job but maybe you always wear the wrong outfits, making people think you're not that good," she says.

"We help our students become well-rounded individuals. Our programs are tailor-fit for what a student needs. We conduct consultations first to guarantee the sessions we give you are relevant to your requirements."

This formula has worked for many of their alumni. American First Ladies Jackie Kennedy and Betty Ford and many celebrities attended Powers schools. For parents who might need an extra push in convincing their children to take classes, they can drop names like Katie Holmes and Ashton Kutcher as recent alumni.

"Teenagers come in here with their heads bowed, barely speaking a word. They go through our courses and really blossom. It's very fulfilling to see them change and to hear later on that they're doing better in school," she says.

As a testament to the usefulness of the programs and how much it can potentially change people, she shares, "One of our alumni recently came back to enroll her own kids."

Students, whether children, teenagers or adults, won't suffer through stuffy lectures. Classrooms are done in a plethora of colors for stimulation. There are rehearsal halls with wall-length mirrors and make-up rooms where students actually "walk the talk."

There are even dining rooms where students learn table manners. All classes have less than ten students to ensure the facilitators can monitor and encourage progress.

Professionals can avail of career-oriented programs to help them no matter what field they work in. "We have modules for people in corporate environments and even for the fashion or the performing arts industries," she notes. "Working on the skills that allow you to be comfortable and confident enough to let people get to know the real you can really help push your career and life to higher levels."

The corporate programs include topics like executive grooming as well as building proficiency in communications and English. There are also programs geared for adults who'd like to break into the performance industries that include components such as hosting, runway, photo posing, stage presence, audience appeal and theater work.

While the summer break usually allows younger students to attend classes, Padilla notes that classes are held throughout the year and there are several class schedules (e.g. night and weekend classes) to choose from for students who are already working.

To provide students easier access to these programs, there are JRP school branches in Makati, Quezon City and Alabang.

On top of overseeing the schools in Manila, Padilla also handles the Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East region. "In the Asia-Pacific region alone there are already 11 JRP schools in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. We're opening schools in China and Malaysia soon."

Going back to Padilla's reminder about following the Golden Rule, the school is "doing unto others" in a very big way. "It is in the Manila schools that most of the programs and materials are developed for the entire region."

Call 892-9511 (Makati), 927-0465 (Quezon City), and 659-0052 (Alabang).

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How to protect skin from the sun and prevent premature aging

How to protect skin from the sun and prevent premature aging
By Walter Ang
April 20, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Sunblocks or sunscreens don't prevent your skin from tanning," said Belinda Hooshmand, dispelling a common misconception about what sunblock can and cannot do for the skin. "What a good sunblock can and should do, however, is to protect the skin from burning and from premature ageing."

Hooshmand is the consumer healthcare business unit manager for Merck Sharp and Dohme, the pharmaceutical company that now owns the Coppertone brand of sunblock products. She has a nifty mnemonic device for remembering the effects of the two kinds of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun that we should avoid.

"UVB ends with the letter `B' and causes burning while UVA ends with `A' and causes ageing," she said. UVB rays are more intense in summer months, at higher altitudes, and in areas closer to the equator like the Philippines. Aside from sunburns, UVB rays are the primary cause of the development of skin cancer.

UVA rays are more constant, year-round, and penetrate deeper into the skin's layers. Exposure to UVA does not show immediate signs of damage but over time, breaks down the skin's collagen, thereby resulting in spots, wrinkles and leathery skin.

Hooshmand listed several ways to avoid the harmful effects of the sun such as staying in the shade whenever possible; wearing dark-colored, tightly-woven clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses; and avoiding exposure to the sun when its rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

She also pointed out that aside from sand and water, sun rays also bounce off concrete, a reminder to weekend warriors who play sports or join fun runs in the city.

Of course, it's impossible to stay completely away from the sun, especially during summer when being under the sun is the whole point. That's when sunblocks come in as the skin's barrier by reflecting, scattering, or absorbing UV light.

"Through decades of changing lifestyles and sun intensities, Coppertone has remained a trusted brand in suncare for the skin," she said. "We're launching specialized products to suit specific needs of individuals. Starting this summer and for the rest of the year, we want you and your family to enjoy your time under the sun."

In Boracay, the Coppertone Sun Patrol went around the beach introducing the new variants which include Coppertone Sunscreen Very High 50+ SPF and Coppertone Sunscreen Kids Very High 50+ SPF, both of which have advanced UVA/UVB protection.

Both are fortified with vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants that helps skin defend against free radicals while nourishing its natural health. The Kids variant is waterproof, providing protection that lasts in and out of the water.

Those working on their tans can use Coppertone Tropical Blend Tanning Oil 4 SPF. It's specially formulated for "satin skin and a shimmering tan" and contains vitamin E and aloe vera to moisturize skin and prevent peeling and flaking.

To help keep facial skin hydrated and protected from sun damage, now there's Coppertone Anti-Ageing Face Cream with High 30 SPF. The face cream has a combination of sun-filters that works to improve the skin's elasticity so that it remains soft and silky to touch. It gives non-greasy texture and offers a comfortable after-feel on skin. It contains vitamin E and special olive leaf extract that supplies anti-oxidants and provitamin B5 that soothes and helps protect skin.

"Remember, we encounter UVA rays no matter what the season or time of day," Hooshmand said. "So this product is a must year-round." She also notes that all of these new products help hydrate and restore the skin's natural health. They are all dermatologist tested as well.

Hooshmand also explained how to use Coppertone's different levels of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) as a gauge to time how long you can stay under the sun. The SPF indicates how many times longer a person can stay under the sun with a sunscreen before getting a sunburn compared to no sunscreen at all.

This varies for everyone and depends on how fast one normally gets a sunburn. "Basically you multiply the SPF number to your `burning time.' For example, if you usually get a sunburn after ten minutes without a sunblock and you apply a sunblock with 4 SPF, that means you can now stay out for forty minutes before you get a sunburn," she said.

Most dermatologists recommend that people use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. It should be applied evenly and liberally before exposure to the sun and reapplied often. Reapplication is necessary after swimming, sustained vigorous activity, heavy perspiration and toweling off.

Hooshmand cautions not to overlook spots like the ears, neck, shoulders and the back of your neck. "Don't forget your scalp if you have thin or thinning hair or no hair," she adds.

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UPLB creates artists endowment fund

UPLB creates artists endowment fund
By Walter Ang
April 12, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As part of its centennial celebrations, University of the Philippines-Los Baños has created the Centennial Artists Endowment Fund "to sustain our efforts to uplift the Filipino culture and fire-up artistic talents among our young students and faculty," said university chancellor Luis Rey Velasco. "As the envisioned center for culture and the arts in the Southern Tagalog region, UPLB has been nurturing its artists?seeking to provide the enabling environment for their talents to bloom."

The fund is actually part of an umbrella fund, UPLB Centennial Fund, that "allows donors to become involved in creating a legacy of distinctive excellence in higher education," he said. "UPLB seeks to raise funds for and to undertake projects that will contribute to nation-building by producing high quality, well-rounded graduates; generating relevant and responsive technologies and knowledge products; and promoting Filipino culture and arts."

Aside from an allocation for artists, the fund also has allocations for faculty development; scholarships and student welfare; sports; and modernization projects; among others.

Related activities have been ongoing since last year to commemorate the centenary of UPLB's College of Agriculture, its founding unit, "hence, marking the university's centennial," said Velasco. "2010 marks the 100th year of UPLB's College of Forestry and Natural Resources and marks a century of Mt. Makiling's service as UP's and the country's first outdoor natural resources laboratory."

Mt. Makiling is one of the focal points in the university's efforts to generate seed money for the artists endowment fund. In their fundraising play of "Teginef," a Tagalog adaptation of August Strindberg's "A Dream Play," "the story is set in Makiling's cloudscapes, down to Laguna de Bay and back again to Makiling," said director Dennis Gupa. In Emmanuel Dumlao's translation, a central character in Strindberg's play is now Maria Makiling, who "journeys to Earth ? and learns first-hand how hard it is to live without hurting oneself and others."

Dumlao and Gupa collaborated in last year's twinbill production of John Millington Synge's "Riders to the Sea" and its Tagalog translation set in Alabat, Quezon, "Sa Sinapupunan ng Laot." The production was selected to be showcased in the recently concluded "Tanghal!," the fourth national university and college theater festival organized by the National Commission of the Culture and Arts.

"Teginef is appropriate for UPLB's Centennial celebration as the university examines and explores what it can be in its next century as a national university," said Gupa. "Teginef is the Teruray word for dreams. Dreams, dreaming, and dream work gives us the freedom to go beyond limitations in imagining the many and complex possibilities of the future. In the world of a dream, anything is possible."

Teginef was part of a series of productions under UPLB's Special Centennial Performances Committee, which has been staging shows under a "cyclical" theme based on agriculture: seed, planting, growth, and harvest. "Teginef is the `replanting' part of the cycle; it concludes this cycle and starts a new one," said Gupa. "It signifies a `replanting' of seeds for the university's future as it looks forward to bigger and better harvests."

Cross-pollination is also a theme Gupa incorporated into the production, not just in staging methods, but also in human resources. "Faculty members, students, and staff of the university's different colleges and offices have been part of these performances, making this series of productions a way to create and build a community that understands and appreciates each other's uniqueness through the arts," he said.

Teginef featured student organizations UPLB Thespian Circle (celebrating its 20th anniversary), Harmonya: The String Ensemble of UPLB, and UPLB Filipiniana Dance Troupe. It also included exchange students from different Asian countries.

Angel Dayao handled music composition and orchestration. Collaborators included theater artists from University of the Philippines-Diliman such as Ice Idanan, video designer; Jeremy Dela Cruz, choreographer; Carlo Pagunaling, costume designer; and Meliton Roxas, lights designer. Dulaang UP alum and Greece-based Ohm David designed the set.

With the help of his collaborators, Gupa envisioned a "mutlilingual, mutlicultural, and mutlimedia" production that incorporates "Filipino myths, traditional Asian dances and ethnic sounds."

"The text threshes out various contemporary issues like food security, poverty, and environmental degradation, among others," he said. "The play doesn't attempt to capture reality as we know it, nor does it offer solutions to our real-life problems. What it offers are possibilities of life and of looking at things from a different perspective. Its coherence takes place in the minds and hearts of the audience."

To support the Centennial Artists Endowment Fund, call +6349-536-2567 or +6349-536-0844 or email fundcampaign@uplb.edu.ph. Donations from the USA can be coursed through maechanis@yahoo.com.

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Volume by volume: collecting the works of Tony Perez

Volume by volume: collecting the works of Tony Perez
By Walter Ang
April 12, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Poetry, fiction, plays and essays are all utilized in the arsenal of Tony Perez when he crafts his works. Though he is a prolific playwright and has written a slew of books in English and Filipino that deal with various topics, Perez is more popularly known for his output on esoterica and the paranormal.

He has a series of books, which includes "Mga Panibagong Kulam," that teaches readers how to cast spells. Another series chronicles the experiences of the Spirit Questors, a group of psychics that communicate with paranormal entities, which he formed in 1996.

He also has five books set in Cubao, where he has lived since 1955. Perez was born in Pampanga in 1951 but relocated as a young child. "My father was a colonel and set down roots in this area (near Camp Crame) that was allotted for military officers who served in Korea," he says.

Perez started writing in grade school, encouraged by his teachers. "They told me I should be a writer when I grow up. As a young child, it sort of stuck to my mind. I did end up as a writer," he says. "That's why I always tell parents to encourage their children to be creative."

Many interests
Perez notes that his own interest in esoteric activities such as magic, shamanism, psychic powers and dreamwork stems from the fact that Filipinos have a natural affinity for the mystical. A rich heritage of folklore and mythologies, and a deep connection with religion, he observes, provides a breeding ground for Filipinos to connect with the paranormal.

His passion for spiritual matters led him to pursue a Masters in Religious Studies which he completed in 2004. His thesis "Pagsubok sa Ilang: Ikaapat na Mukha ni Satanas," an analysis of how Satan is portrayed by theologians, won the 2005 National Book Award for Theology and Religion.

Aside from writing, Perez is also involved in the visual arts. He's worked as a graphic designer, illustrator, art therapist, and fabric artist (by way of knitting). He also paints and has worked with different media from watercolor to craypas. He was named as one of the Thirteen Artists of the Philippines by the Cultural Center of the Philippines back in 1972.

All these years, he'd been doing all of his writing, esoteric work, and painting while working at his day job at the Public Affairs section of the United States Embassy. "I have to pay the bills," he says matter of factly. In addition, he used to teach in several universities while pursuing a (yet to be completed) Masters in Clinical Psychology.

"Mondays to Fridays, I would work in the embassy and teach classes in the evening. On Saturdays, I would still be teaching the whole day," he says. The extremely heavy workload took its toll and he suffered a mild stroke in 2005.

Collected works
Perez no longer teaches. "I had to give something up!" he says emphatically. He now spends his free time organizing his files towards the completion of a 40-volume set of his collected works.

Volumes 1, 3, 4 and 5 have already been published. "The volumes won't come out in chronological order because I'm not a good archivist," he says.

Lovers of theater and drama will be pleased to know that the volumes that are already out contain his plays. Volume 1 "Pagkamulat Sa Kastilyo: Tatlong Dulang Pambata" includes Tolda, Kwentong Baboy, and Tagbituin, while Volume 3 "Hibik Ni Amang-Hari: Mga Unang Dula" includes Hoy Boyet, Gabun, and Anak ng Araw.

In 2008, he won the National Book Award for Drama for Volume 4 "Tatlong Paglalakbay: Tatlong Mahabang Dula ," which includes the trilogy Bombita, Biyaheng Timog, and Sa North Diversion Road.

Volume 5 "Limos na Tinapay" contains psychological case studies and some early prose.

Offering advice to aspiring playwrights, Perez says, "Many playwrights today start out writing plays with the ultimate objective of becoming a screenwriter and you just cannot do it that way. The theater is a very special medium and you can't write for it when you eventually want to write for another medium."

He mourns the lack of material dealing with adult themes. "My adult plays are for audiences 30 years old and above. They understand my subject matter because they've gone through intense love, death, separation, giving compassion, poverty, hunger, getting married, giving birth, burying someone," he says. "Most playwrights now write for elementary or high school audiences because that's where the market is."

"Don't be limited by the notion that to be nationalistic, you have to write only in Filipino," he says. "The Filipino now is a global person with a global audience. Young writers should write in English for their voices to be heard."

Perez encourages young playwrights to widen their scope. "They only think of single plays. They don't develop plays in the magnitude of trilogies or even writing in series," he says. "We Filipinos should think big."

Volume 2 "Pagbabaguntao Sa Berbanya: Limang Usap-usapan" (Alex Antiporda; Sierra Lakes; Biyernes, 4:00 N.H.; Sacraments of The Dead; The Wayside Café) 
Volume 9 "Huling Tanawin Sa Bundok Ng Tabor: Three Journey Plays" (Bombita; Trip to The South; On The North Diversion Road) of The Collected Works of Tony Perez 
recently launched by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. 
Call 731-3101 Loc. 8252/ 8278.

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Filipina artist Nikki Luna's work to be auctioned off at Sotheby's

Filipina artist's work to be auctioned off at Sotheby's
By Walter Ang
April 5, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Nikki Luna was already into her third year of political science course when she decided to quit and turn to fine arts. "I'd always loved to draw and you reach a point where, at the end of the day, you just want to do what you lust for. It was really art that I longed to do," she says.

She'd already had a taste of being exhibited as a polsci major when she did an installation for a group exhibit but after she shifted to fine arts, Luna has been exhibiting regularly since the early 2000s.

In 2008, Luna was accepted to a summer residency in Cooper Union, New York. She was the first Filipino to be accepted into the residency and only one of 19 chosen from over 210 applicants.

There she exhibited "This Side Facing You" ("wherein her experiences as a female individual determine her products") and began work on pieces for "The Heartless Insistence of Domestic Absence" ("littered with ironic, biting statements about a woman's role in the home") that eventually exhibited in Manila.

Her work has been described as "unfettered female sexuality navigating present constricting social structures."

"I like to voice out my thoughts on being a woman," she says. While she credits her education and mentors at the University of the Philippines for having "molded a lot of things in me," she quickly volunteers that it is her parents that have and continue to "define many things that I am."

She fondly recalls her thesis exhibit "Milk and Diapers" where the anchor piece was a series of breasts cast originally from her own and then from each other in succession, her statement on how every person is the same yet different from their mother.

"I love my mother like nothing else!" she says, a mother of three herself. "She's a `traditional' classic Pinoy homemaker mom. She always made sure the children were well fed and happy."

As Luna saw one way to be a woman from her mother, her father provided another viewpoint. "When I was growing up, he was the one who told me that I didn't need anything from anybody and that I didn't need a man to make me feel happy or successful."

The two seemingly disparate schools of thought live simultaneously and symbiotically in Luna, though she rejects any form of labeling on who she is and the work that she does. "Women should be confident as individuals, free of guilt and fulfilled. That being said, I'm not a feminist. I love being treated like a girl," she says with a laugh.

She makes no deliberate effort to conform nor to contradict stereotypes. While her works may be viewed as serious and important meditations on the issues of and surrounding women, this doesn't mean she is beyond joining pop art group exhibits like the launch of a commercial denim line.

"I do what I want. I have never cared for what other people think," she says. Nonetheless, one will notice Luna's use of repetition as an execution element in several of her works (multiple casts, looped videos, numerous photocopies, etc.), perhaps to underscore that what she has to say through her art is so important that she has to repeat it over and over just to make sure viewers get it.

When she creates art, she point out, it is always based on the personal. "I just try to make it universal. I want to bring out whatever I'm feeling or thinking about, like family or home or relationships, so that other people can experience it, too," she says.

While Luna views her themes as springing from the self, she is not oblivious to the role that art plays for others. "Art isn't just something you do to make pretty things," she says. "Art is an important tool for giving back to society."

Lithe and fashionable, Luna can easily be mistaken for a vapid socialite. Not many people know that while still in school, she founded StartART Project, a non- profit organization that gives free art lessons to sexually abused girls and women.

In the wake of the massacare in Maguindanao last year, she joined the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines in a short stint to give art lessons to the children in that area. She's also recently joined Women's Resistance of Impunity and Tyranny (Writ), a group composed of sociologists, psychiatrists, social workers, among others, that will be conducting more rehabilitation and counseling sessions in Maguindanao.

"I felt very privileged to be there, to help in some way with the women and children," she says of her trip. "I felt so small. The children there would never care for installations or fancy exhibits, they don't even know if they'll get to eat or if their parents are dead or not. Even if for just a few hours every week, art can be a way for them to release their pent up emotions and feelings."

Luna's "Unmentionables" will be auctioned at Sotheby's Hong Kong.

Also published online: 

Sam Milby: Wild at heart

Sam Milby: Wild at heart
By Walter Ang
April-May 2010 issue
Garage Magazine

The heat is intense on the day Sam Milby's photo shoot is scheduled. The photographer decides to take advantage of the weather and formulates several poses for Milby that will take place under the sun. When Milby arrives, a nimbus cloud promptly appears and stubbornly blocks the light.

As a testament to Milby's professionalism, he stands by for the sun to reappear just like the rest of the crew. The stylists adjust his clothes. The make-up artist wipes his face with tissue paper. He is polite all throughout. No complaints. In order not to waste time, he answers this interview with all of these things going on.

When told he is one of Garage Magazine's picks as a sexy man for this issue, he stares blankly for a split second and the beginnings of a blush ever so slightly creep into his cheeks. You can almost see this thought balloon: "Who? Me? Sexy?"

The girls at the shoot nod silently with gusto. Obviously, someone who is sexy and doesn't even think he is automatically becomes sexier. This appeal is amplified by the way Milby's quiet, steady drive matches the heat that day: there is silent intensity behind those eyes that can be disarming for anyone who first meets him.

It's that same drive that has carried him through from a struggling newcomer to the showbiz industry, taking the bus everyday from Bulacan where he stayed with relatives to Manila for auditions, to his status now as an established celebrity with movies, TV shows and music records to his credit and audiences swooning over him. (By now, small crowds have formed near the photo shoot and occasionally hoot out "I love you Sam!").

Success can be sexy, of course. Milby's schedule is packed. He was actually already in the building where we are at that morning, but had to rush back to the TV studios for a live guesting before coming back again. He's just recently wrapped filming the movie "Babe I Love You" (which should be out in theaters by the time you read this) starring opposite Anne Curtis.

He plays a "straightlaced architecture teacher who is strict with his students and who knows exactly what he wants." As usually is the case with romantic features, along will come the character of Curtis who isn't what the man wants and will throw everything Milby's character knows into a blender and make him fall in love with her.

What does Milby find sexy in a woman? "I like women's bodies!" he grins like a schoolboy. "I look at women's eyes and lips. I like a woman's body the way it is. Showing some skin is fine, but I don't like it when they wear very revealing clothes. I like to think that my woman is for my eyes only. I'm not so much into seeing tattoos on a woman. I mean, it may look good when they're young, but imagine a tattoo on a 50 or 60 year old woman."

He admits, however, that for a while, he really liked seeing body piercings on women. He eventually outgrew it. "A lot of people equate sexiness with the body or with clothes or adornments like tattoos or body piercings," he muses. "And of course, who wouldn't like a nice body to look at? I think it's sexy when a woman can dress up for certain occasions or be in jeans and a shirt for other things and still look great. But beyond the physical, I think sexiness is really in how one carries oneself."

So how does he pull off a sexy look for himself? Again the self-deprecating aw-shucks demeanor kicks in. "I have no idea how to dress myself. I'd rather be in jeans and shirts all the time!" he laughs.

He reiterates that confidence is one of the key points in achieving the status known as sexy. "You don't have to be maporma. I mean, look at someone like Johnny Depp, he wouldn't be considered as someone who is a very glamorous or sexy dresser, but I'm sure men and women alike will agree that he's sexy."

In order to carry clothes or yourself well, you need, at the very least, a fit body to work with. Milby has been working out. Anyone who passes along EDSA has already seen his billboard wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. "But because of my schedule lately, I haven't been able to," he laments. "Otherwise, I usually work out for an hour twice a week."

He doesn't have a diet but tries to watch what he eats. Try being the operative word. "I like to eat. There's always a lot of food where I work and fans usually give food as gifts and I eat their gifts out of courtesy," he says, trying to his big guilty smirk.

All that talk about food triggers a discussion about scents. "Vanilla," he says. "I like the smell of vanilla on a woman." For himself, he prefers Clinique Happy, Curve and Giorgio Armani.

For a rush, however, Milby confesses to a love for motorbiking. "I like the thrill, the danger. There aren't a lot of places here where I can motorbike so I recently sold off my Yamaha R6 Cross Rocket and exchanged it for a Nissan 350Z convertible that I'm going to paint either black or silver," he says.

The sun's come out and signals are given to start the photo shoot. "So speed is sexy?" someone asks Milby as he starts posing for the camera. He winks and nods, "I like women who drive fast."