Nutritious and low glycemic index sugar made from coconuts

Nutritious and low glycemic index sugar made from coconuts
By Walter Ang
June 29, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Natural alternatives to sugar are on the rise given rising costs and health consciousness. The newest kid on the block is sugar made from coconuts.

Coconut sap, if distilled, turns into wine. If fermented, it turns into vinegar. To derive sugar and syrup, the sap or sweet toddy is boiled in an open container, then allowed to cool and used as a syrup or allowed to solidify into granules. "It has a sweetness that brings to mind the fresh white flesh of a young coconut," says Jenery Lim, president of Benevelle, the company that manufactures Benevita Organic Cocosugar and Coconectar.

"You can use cocosugar or coconectar for your coffee, tea or juice. You can even use it for food preparation or baking. The fine brown granules of cocosugar have a sweet nutty flavor. Coconectar has a thick honey-like consistency and is perfect for baking and for breakfast meals like pancakes," he says.

The health benefits are the strongest selling points. "It is also rich in potassium which makes it good for the heart, and it has higher amounts of nutrients compared to refined white sugar and brown sugar," he adds. Cocosugar contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, chlorine, magnesium, and sulfur.

Cocosugar also has glutamic acid, the most common stimulating neorotransmitter in the nervous system. "It plays a role in the normal function of the prostate gland in men," Lim says.

Slow burn
Lim's quest to provide natural and organic food to the public was borne out of a personal reason. "Diabetes runs in my family. My grandfather died from the complications of diabetes. I know for a fact that there's a lot of people craving for healthier alternatives to the artificial sweeteners flooding the market," he says.

Diabetes is a disease caused by both hereditary and environmental conditions. It's characterized by high blood sugar levels that are not processed effectively or efficiently by the body.

"In preventing and treating diabetes, it is important to control the intake of sugar. The glycemic index is one way to do that," Lim points out. Glycemic index (GI) is a measurement of how much the blood glucose rises after a food is eaten. Foods that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; foods that break down slowly and release glucose gradually, have a low GI.

"GI of 55 or less is low, 56-69 is medium and 70 or more is high," he says. "Cane sugar has a GI of 63-73 and honey has 64. Cocosugar has has a low GI of 35, as tested by Food and Nutrition Research Institute, which makes it suitable for diabetics and the health-conscious alike."

He also notes that athletes and weight-watchers prefer to take foods with low GI as these types of foods fuel the body longer without a "sugar rush" and makes one feel full longer.

Good life
His company's name is inspired from the word "benevolence." "`Bene' means `good' and `velle' means `to wish.' That's our core value, to treat everyone with benevolence," he says. "Our cocosugar is under the brand "Benevita Organic Cocosugar." `Vita' means `life,' we want people who will use our coconut products to experience the good life in a healthy, all-natural way."

Lim's ethics extend to his farmers in General Santos City as well. "We practice fair trade and our partner farmers are compensated well. When people buy our products, they are helping improve the lives of communities in the countryside," he says.

Having observed the current practices in local production of coconut sugar and syrup, Lim insisted on the need for better production materials and equipment to ensure health and sanitation standards.

Bellevelle's processing plant uses all stainless steel equipment to prevent contamination and its partner farmers have to undergo training in organic farming and Good Manufacturing Practice principles before they are accredited.

Lim says he has done his homework so that he can proudly say, "Benevita coconut products are 100% natural, free from additives and artificial flavoring."

"We are BFAD-approved and we are certified organic by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines," he says. "This just proves that our product is of international quality ? something we Filipinos can be proud of."

For details, call 711-1884 or visit

Positive in, positive out: Philips health and wellness gadgets and appliances

Positive in, positive out: health and wellness gadgets and appliances
By Walter Ang
June 29, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In computer programming, there is the concept of "garbage in, garbage out." This means if you input incorrect data into a program, obviously, the results won't be any good. This is an appropriate analogy for our own bodies and lives as well.

Of course, the opposite holds true. Philips launched several products in Boracay, in an event dubbed "Wellness in Paradise," to show how its diverse line of health and wellness electronic products can help Filipinos put more positive elements into their lives.

The line-up of products began with Philips Go Gear MP3 players. "It's important to have some time to yourself, either when you're relaxing at home or while going to work or when you're in a crowded area, if you're listening to your favorite music, it can give you a bit of an escape" said Victor Caindec, senior business development manager of Philips Consumer Lifestyle Philippines.

The Go Gear players come with Philips In-Ear Headphones that has rubber tubular earpieces that cuts out a surprising amount of ambient noise, courtesy of an angled acoustic design based on the anatomy of the human ear. The speaker tubes conform to individual ear canal shapes to deliver sound directly to the ears while creating a snug seal to block out noise. For comfort, the ear caps are made from ultra-soft silicon and have interchangeable sizes.

Relaxation in
As more and more urbanites join weekend fun runs and sporting events, the Philips InfraCare infrared lamp can be a handy home-based salve for sores and aches. "It comes with a 300 watt infrared halogen lamp to provide deep penetrating warmth to relieve muscular pains and stiff joints," said Caindec.

The comfortable warmth created by infrared light penetrates deep into the skin allowing muscles to loosen up and relax. The warmth also increases blood circulation, sending oxygen-rich blood to stressed or aching muscles.

The Infracare's angle can be adjusted to treat areas such as the shoulder and neck, the lower back, a thigh or an arm. It also comes with a digital timer to set your own personal treatment time.

Nutrition in
"Nutrition is one of the most important elements in keeping healthy," said Caindec as he showcased the Philips Rice Cooker with Artificial Intelligence and the Philips Aluminum Collection Blender.

The rice cooker has automatic cooking programs to control the right cooking temperature to better preserve freshness and nutrition. The extra-thick non-stick inner pot ensures even results and prevents burned rice at the bottom. It comes with a timer for busy moms who can preset the rice to start cooking while they're on their way home from work.

Singles will appreciate the cooker's dedicated program for cooking small portions while parents whose children are leaving for college in a few weeks might want to think about giving them this cooker since it comes with preset programs for congees, stews, and, surprise, cakes!

The blender features a 750 watt motor, which can handle fruits and vegetables to ice, and a multi-speed function that allows users to blend, crush and cut to almost any consistency they want.

"It has a filter to separate seeds and pips and a special smoothie function for homemade smoothies. It's cheaper to buy your own fruits and other ingredients and you can control the amount of sugar or syrup you add into your concoctions," he says. "You can even add alcohol to your drinks occasionally," he adds with a laugh.

Inner and outer glow
Music for better disposition, relaxed muscles for fluid movement, and good food for better nutrition: a healthy body will radiate an outer glow. But it doesn't hurt to get a little help when it comes to personal grooming.

For the ladies, Philips has the Ladyshave Body Contour electric shaver that closely follows the curves of the body, "allowing you to shave and trim to perfection on even the most sensitive areas without running the risk of cuts and nicks." It has a bikini trim attachment and can be used dry or wet in the shower.

For gentlemen (and ladies who need gift ideas for the men in their lives), there is the Philips Arcitec electric shaver. It has three independently flexing heads that swivel to "ensure optimum skin contact in curved areas like the neck." This shaver can also be used dry and wet.

"We want Filipinos to know that Philips provides the best electronic products for your lifestyle and for your health and wellness," said Caindec. "It's all about bringing comfort, convenience and pleasure to the lives of our customers. We want to show how Philips can add to the enjoyment of one's life."

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Red candle launch supports anti-AIDS campaign

Red candle launch supports anti-AIDS campaign
By Walter Ang
June 25, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The simple act of buying a candle can let you help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Diptyque, known for its line of more than 50 scented candles, has teamed up with Product Red, a charity marketing movement that enables its partners to donate profits toward funds for stemming the spread of AIDs in Africa.

Rock musician Bono (who is also a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and a Knight of the British Empire) created Product Red together with Bobby Shriver, nephew of former US President John F. Kennedy and brother of California first lady Maria Shriver, in order to "make it easy for people in the shopping malls ? to get AIDS drugs to Africans who can't afford them."

Companies like Apple, Gap, Converse, Dell, Starbucks and Nike, among others, partner with Product Red to develop a specially co-branded product. A portion of the profits from these partner products are then donated to The Global Fund, an international financing institution that supports prevention, treatment and care programs against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Over five million people have already benefited from Red since it was founded in 2006.

The world is getting smaller everyday and shoppers in Manila can be part of the Red campaign. Rustan's, the exclusive distributor of Diptyque, launched the Diptyque Red special edition candle at the Ayala Musuem.

Ten percent of all sales of the special edition candle is donated to support The Global Fund's "Born HIV Free" campaign?with a single goal where no child is born with HIV by 2015. The campaign was originated by former model and current First Lady of France Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a Global Fund Ambassador.

Dina Tantoco, Rustan's Marketing Communications Head, addressed invited guests. "Rustan's cares ?[and] it is our hope that you will find it among your caring selves to join us and be with us for this noble cause as well," she said.

The launch was supported by The Peninsula Manila Hotel, Wine Story and the French Embassy, highlighted by an exclusive performance from the Eolipile French Contemporary Dance Company.

Guests included Silvana Fornari, wife of Italian Ambassador to the Philippines; Guillermo Luz, executive vice president of the Ayala Foundation; jewelry designer Roberto Coin, entrepreneur and socio-civic leader Lizzie Zobel, Michael Huang, assistant to the president of Rustan's; TV personality Kim Atienza and his wife Fely; and fashion designer Lulu Tan-Gan together with the founder and artistic director of Eolipile French Contemporary Dance Company Lin Yuan Shang.

Special edition
The special edition candle is made from rooibos and other vanilla varieties, all harvested through fair trade practices, and comes packaged in an African wax print design.

The rooibos provides "a fresh aroma with balanced notes of virginia tobacco, mate (a tea made from yerba mate leaves) and red fruits," while Indian vanilla adds "hints of grass and hay-like quality." Madagascar Vanilla rounds out the scent with "sensual undertones of wood and balsam."

Diptyque actually started out as a fabric store in France in 1961, but when three owners (painter Desmond Knox-Leet, set designer Yves Coueslant, and Christiane Gautrot, who worked in architecture at the time) started offering perfumed colored candles in 1963, it steered the brand towards another path. They launched their line of fragrances five years later.

Purchase of Diptyque Red special edition candles will fund grants that serve programs in Ghana, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia. Sixty seven percent of all people with HIV live in Africa yet the continent is home to just 10% of the world's population. The disease is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. The programs include interventions targeting women and children such as education, HIV testing, counseling, medication and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmissions.

Diptyque Red special edition candles are exclusively available at Rustan's Makati Grandmall, Alabang Town Center, Shangri-la Plaza.

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Wifibody Independent Contemporary Dance Festival returns to roots

Wifibody Independent Contemporary Dance Festival returns to roots
By Walter Ang
June 21, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

For this year's Wifibody Independent Contemporary Dance Festival, "it's back to basics, back to remembering, finding the ground once again after the numerous outward flights," says festival director Myra Beltran.

The Wifibody festival features dance shows in various venues as well as photo and video exhibitions, plenaries and workshops that all focus on dance or choreography. The name of the festival was borne out of a desire to engage the public, especially younger audiences weaned in a digital age. "Wifibody allows everyone to access contemporary dance," she says.

This year's theme is "Body and Memory." "It is when the body remembers that one proceeds to create. And when the body remembers, there is dance," notes Beltran. "This festival allows us to `remember' how we grew, how we got to where we are, and trace where we are going."

The festival has been has been organized annually since 2006 by Contemporary Dance Network Philippines. The group, currently 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.

"We go back to or `remember' the idea that contemporary dance was borne out of the struggle of undaunted spirits facing great odds, equipped only with the vision to make dance accessible to all," says Beltran.

"In this field, there have been innovations in aesthetics, training and producing work ? thus, contemporary dance not only thrives in the Philippines today, it is a sector that is dynamic and exciting!"

In line with honoring the past and its roots, a photo exhibit with video portraits celebrates ten choreographers who have been influential in the crafting and direction of the festival. "We celebrate this sense of history inherent to the festival. As artists, it's important we acknowledge the influences that helped us grow," she says.

Beltran points out that the festival is distinguished by its innovative use of traditional spaces and its exploration of non-traditional spaces. In this vein, this year's festival will be held in three different venues: Dance Forum Space in Quezon City, the Greenbelt Malls in Makati City, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.

The major components of the festival include IndepenDance, one of the major shows featuring new choreographic work. This year, some of the artists participating in IndepenDance include
Ava Maureen Villanueva and Rhosam Prudenciado Jr. of Airdance, Gerardo Francisco of Ballet Manila, Herbert Alvarez of U.P. Dance Company, and Christine Crame of Seven Contemporary Dance Company.

As part of the festival's thrust to be an incubator for fresh talent, there is the New Choreographers Competition, which allows up-and-coming regional choreographers and dancers who have not yet created any major full-length work to premiere solos or duets.

To reinforce the focus on choreography, no set pieces are allowed to enable audiences and judges to experience the emphasis on "the level of dance research in theme, aesthetics, process and its innovative application." The awards for this competition will be supported in part by the CCP and the Japan Foundation.

The Emerging Talent Showcase showcases young talents from various independent groups and school-based groups. This year, participating groups include Sofia Zobel Elizalde's Steps Dance Studio, Shirley Halili-Cruz's Quezon City Ballet, Teatro Baile de Cavite, Carmona Dance Group, Marikina Ballet, Sanhiyas Pangkat Mananayaw, UP Pep Squad and BP Kidz.

On site and online
This year's Uncensored Bodies Dance Video Competition invades cyberspace by allowing entries to be posted on and allowing online voting. The competition encourages the use of dance in film or the creation of film specifically for dance. "This competition is not about video documentation of live performances. It is consciously a venue for filmmakers or dancers who merge the use of video with or in dance and vice-versa," Beltran says.

"We wish to extend the language of dance in the manner that only the filmic language and image can achieve. We will put emphasis on the videos that most articulate the concerns of contemporary dance."

To allow broader appreciation for dance, the people who are and can be involved in it, and the spaces where dance can be experienced, the festival also features Dance-on-Site, a series of performances that are created for non-stage venues or areas. Usually held at the ramp or driveway in front of the CCP Main Theater lobby, Dance-on-Site normally concludes the festival with a free public dance party.

Wifibody Independent Contemporary Dance Festival 5 runs June 25-27 at Greenbelt Ayala Malls, June 26-27 at Dance Forum Space and culminates on July 2-4 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Festival passes, day passes and student/senior discounts available. For details, visit or call 0917-576-0212.

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Painting by numbers with Marlon Magbanua

Painting by numbers
By Walter Ang
June 21, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Marlon Magbanua will hold a painting exhibit with a video and sound installation at White Wall Gallery titled "Rooms" where he explores notions of how color, sound and movement can be quantified and then, turning the idea on its head, qualified into art.

The thirty-something artist almost sounds like a scientist or college professor when he explains the concept of his show. He has long held a theory wherein he believes "every color corresponds to a sound and vice-versa."

Magbanua points out that this idea is most apparent in computer software used to manipulate images and sounds. Musicians, DJs and recording engineers know there is math and numbers inherent in musical notes, pitch and octaves; they use numbers in mixing and editing sound. Advertising and publishing professionals are familiar with the number coding in control color hues and shades in computers and preparing colored inks for printing.

"Colors and sounds all have corresponding numbers. If you substitute a number value for every color and for every sound, you can find the equivalent sound for every color and vice-versa," he says.

This scheme came together for him when he stumbled across the works of Peter Meijer's work on "seeing with sounds." "Meijer created a program that helps blind people `see' what's in their environment using sound. His work inspired the concept of my show," says Magbanua.

For this one-man show, his fifth, Magbanua will install a video camera "to capture all the elements of what's going on in the gallery and, in real time, a software program will translate movement into sound."

He adds, "The whole show is about the `experience' of being interpreted through sound and into my canvas." If the exhibit is beginning to sound like a technology showcase, don't be alarmed. Magbanua is all about the feelings intrinsic to his abstracts.

"My paintings are filled with emotions. I compare them to songs that were created and inspired by emotions," he says. It seems Magbanua has a lot of it going on right as he is working with canvasses that are bigger compared to his previous works.

"But size doesn't matter. What is important to me is the satisfaction after finishing each piece. It's like making love," he adds.

His own love affair with painting came about as a culmination of years of self exploration. He loved to draw as a child. In college, when he occasionally cut classes, he'd visit galleries or hang out in Luneta Park to people watch and sketch.

Iloilo-born and Cavite-based, he worked briefly as a graphic artist and as a musician in several bands. "But I couldn't see myself in these lines of work," he says. "I tried to figure out who I am and what I really wanted to do. I found it in painting. With painting I'm able to combine my passion for music and what I've learned in graphic design."

Now that he's found what he's been looking for, he proclaims, "I have no intention of doing paintings just only to please other people for them to buy my works. I do what I want to do. The best part is, I'm happy."

He enjoys the discovery process of threshing out his concepts into his paintings. "My work doesn't fall into any particular genre. Maybe you can call it sound art but it's beyond music. There's no exact definition of sound art anyway," he says.

Nonetheless, he does not overanalyze the process. In his abstractions using acrylic, acrytex and graphite, Magbanua notes that his colors, strokes and volume of layers are all the result of his moods. "It's like composing a song," he says. "Songs have colors, you just have to feel it."

There is no doubt that music plays an integral part in Magbanua's creative process. In most of his paintings, one notices a consistent motif that's almost a literal translation of sound in visual form: a parabola always seems to be present, a single arching black sound wave connecting swathes of colors. "The parabola is a visual sound. It pertains to a fast time signature of sound," he says.

It's a bit disarming to find out that he prefers to paint in silence. "I don't listen to music when I paint," he says. "I want it to be quiet because the music in my heart and mind is what I paint."

Given his varied passions and options for output, Magbanua feels that he might eventually explore multimedia art or new media art. "The discipline would be cross-disciplinary or multidisciplinary since I work with performance art, sound art and painting. I'm still searching for a software program that will give justice to my ideas," he says.

"For now, I enjoy painting. Maybe in time, when my concept is ripe and if I'm able to create art and combine it with a software program, I can make a breakthrough in science," he says with a wink. "I'll make a program that will decode a painting that actually contains a hidden password for a military operation."

"Rooms" opens on June 26. Whitewall Gallery is at 7467 Bagtikan Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City. Call 710-7439.

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Hamilo Coast protects "Amazon of the Seas"

Hamilo Coast protects "Amazon of the Seas"
By Walter Ang
June 30, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Last year, photographers Jürgen and Stella Freund embarked on an 18-month photojournalistic expedition throughout the Coral Triangle, six million square kilometers of ocean reputed to be the world's center of marine life, located from the Philippines through Malaysia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

The Coral Triangle is home to 600 out of 800 known corals and 2,700 types of fish, among other flora and fauna. The abundance of life is so high that the region has been called "the Amazon of the Seas."

Unfortunately, together with Indonesia, the Philippines hosts the world's most threatened coral reefs, with less than thirty percent in good condition. Overfishing, coral mining, sewage, chemical pollution, global warming and dynamite fishing continue to plague these marine ecosystems.

The Freunds took images with a variety of cameras from 35 mm to digital to "investigate the connectivity between the wildlife and peoples of the region, and the threats they face" and to document the conservation efforts of the organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), formerly known as World Wildlife Fund.

One of the areas they were able to visit was Nasugbu, Batangas, where Hamilo Coast is located. The Freunds arrived in Manila recently and their work was discussed at a presentation made by Hamilo Coast. The presentation focused on the steps this real estate development by SM Land has been taking to actively work with (instead of against) nature.

"Hamilo Coast encompasses more than ten natural coves and is envisioned as a network of communities with various types of living experiences, from exclusive residences to world-class resorts," said Tristan Dela Rosa, SM Land marketing and sales senior vice president. "It can be considered the first coastal residential community in the Philippines deliberately planned for ecological sustainability."

Resource regeneration
To wit, out of Hamilo Coast's total land area, only one-third or 1,800 hectares will be developed, leaving the rest of the property untouched and preserved.

SM Land worked with the local government to have three coves within Hamilo Coast declared as marine protected areas?legally managed and restricted for conservation purposes to reverse damage caused by illegal fishing methods and pollution.

"Pico de Loro Cove and Santelmo Cove are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles or pawikans such as the Olive Ridley Turtles, one of the smallest of its kind in the world. Etayo Cove is a prime diving site," said Dela Rosa.

Over a hundred True Giant Clams have been planted along the coast to help re-propagate marine life. "Evidence suggests that biodiversity levels are on the rise, as reflected in the increased catch-rates of local fishermen," he said.

It has also partnered with WWF to monitor the property's ecological footprint?the amount of resources used in daily operations offset by the land's capacity for regeneration. "Hamilo Coast will be able to manage its impact on the ecological balance of the property so that guests can enjoy the area's natural splendour without damaging it," he said.

It has also engaged the surrounding communities by supporting several cooperatives in the area with up to 400 local residents as members.

The Kaagapay ng Mamamayan para sa Kalikasan cooperative handles landscaping and beach maintenance. "They've helped restore the damaged mangroves by planting mangrove seedlings, about 20,000 to date," said Dela Rosa.

Another cooperative, Samahan ng mga Mamalakaya ng Papaya, patrols the vast waters of Hamilo Coast to catch illegal fishing activities. "Since they started in 2001, illegal fishing in the area has declined. They've convinced many of the small fishermen who engaged in dynamite fishing to join their group instead," he said. The group also does coastal clean-up operations.

The efforts at ecosustainability and regeneration will not only benefit Hamilo Coast's future residents, but also protect a vital portion of the Coral Triangle. Batangas is actually situated in the Verde Passage of the Coral Triangle, the area with the most number of fish species in the world.

"The Verde Passage has once been described as the 'center of the center of marine biodiversity' given the density and concentration of its coral and underwater life compared to the rest of the Coral Triangle," said Dela Rosa. "This is part of the development's appeal: an opportunity to live in an expansive natural setting across coves that have mountain ranges, unending views of the South China Sea, and teeming marine and terrestrial life."

Given this kind of environment, he notes that it's but natural for Hamilo Coast to promote the protection of and interaction with nature. "We want the residents to engage in leisure programs based on land and sea activities, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, mountain trekking. We want to be a sanctuary for both nature and the humans so dependent on its riches."

For details on the Freund expedition, visit For details on Hamilo Coast, call 858-0333 or 819-1673 or visit

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Ten years of imaging instruction with Philippine Center for Creative Imaging

Ten years of imaging instruction
By Walter Ang
June 14, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Digital technology has become so integrated into photography, videography and graphic design that it's difficult to imagine working with these mediums without the use of computers and gadgets. But beyond the availability of powerful hardware and the intricate software that make these machines or gadgets run, the knowledge or ability to use these tools is actually the key to unlocking results.

The Philippine Center for Creative Imaging has been teaching Pinoys and foreigners alike how to use creative applications for print, web and multimedia to further personal hobbies and professional careers for the past ten years.

PCCI tags itself as "the country's premier digital arts training center," but there is no hubris here. After all, it's run by industry-recognized practitioners, has a complement of 50 available courses taught by a pool of more than 20 industry-certified instructors, and boasts of being the authorized training center of several global image and video manipulation software companies.

The training center was borne out of Mariano "Jun" Miranda's passion for digital arts. He's been the president, creative director and resident photographer of PixelMagic, a digital imaging studi, since 1996. That was the same year he founded the International Designers Network Club-Philippines with other digital artists, layout artists, graphic artists, and photographers.

"We became the first Filipino organization of digital artists who aim to promote the use of computers and different software as a new medium for visual art," he says. To fund its activities, the club would hold seminars with Miranda and other members like award-winning artist and Cocoon Magazine Art Director Guillermo "Ige" Ramos as speakers. Participants clamored for more and sparked an idea in Miranda.

"I'd been going to the US to study digital imaging and how to use software like Adobe Photoshop," says Miranda. "I fell in love with the concept and convinced the club's board members to open a computer training center in the Philippines." The club incorporated the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging with Miranda as the president and program director.

"From day one, I knew that for PCCI to succeed, it had to establish credibility in the market. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can teach Photoshop but are they recognized by Adobe?" he says. He promptly returned to the US to become the first Adobe Certified Expert and Adobe Certified Instructor in Photoshop and Lightroom in Asia. He also became a Certified Technical Trainer for the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction and for the Computing Technology Industry Association.

Industry recognized
"Now we're celebrating not only our 10th anniversary as a computer training center but also as an Adobe Certified Training Center. We are the first ACTC in Southeast Asia," he says. PCCI has gone on to pass the requirements of other companies to become their certified training partner in the country. In 2003, PCCI became the first and only Apple Authorized Training Center in the country. In 2005, it also became the first and only Corel Training Partner in the Philippines. It's also the Epson Digital Learning Center. Canon has appointed PCCI to be its training partner for its cameras, printers, and scanners, as has Wacom for its tablets.

Miranda discerned that post-graduate training for professionals would have to be handled differently from college classrooms. Unlike college students, professionals bring their knowledge and experience to the classroom, which become the foundation for further learning. "Professionals relate and strengthen what they already know with new information. We use this instructor-led, participant-centered method of instruction at PCCI," he says.

"We tap practicing digital artists to become our instructors. Participants benefit from the instructors' real-world experience," he adds. PCCI's roster of instructors include filmmaker Adolfo Alix, Jr. and photographers Raymund Isaac and Patrick Uy. 3D animation instructor AJ Siytangco works for Industrial Light and Magic-Singapore; After Effects instructor Robert Quilao directed Dayo, the first Philippine all-digital full-length animated film; and Corel instructor Sonny Leon is recognized as one of the country's top Corel artists. "We also have Ed Yap, Managing Director of iMag magazine; Stanley Coloma, a multi-awarded multimedia designer; and Dopy Doplon, an award-winning book designer in our pool," he says.

Students have included the World Health Organization, ABS-CBN, GMA 7, Sykes, Aboitiz, 3M Philippines, Hallmark, Central Bank of the Philippines, Accenture, Supreme Court of the Philippines, the US and Australian embassies, Ayala Foundation, Bayantel and Bayer Philippines, among others.

From its initial offering of ten courses, PCCI eventually added the entire offering of Adobe, to include video editing, animation and video effects, and web design. It has also added videography, cinematography, editing and 3D animation classes.

"Now our most popular courses are the photography courses. We are the only training center in the Philippines that offer 24 courses on photography," he says. "This includes food, jewelry, product, wedding, commercial studio, architectural, fashion, and even nude photography." It has even given a workshop on "techniques of creating art-like images that touch the heart and soul of others."

Miranda foresees the popularity of digital photography to continue for the rest of 21st century. He also dispels the notion that animation is a popular choice. "Contrary to initial expectations, the demand for animation courses have not picked up. Maybe because of the price of the software. The course itself is expensive. Plus, video editors earn more than animators."

In this vein and riding on the current interest in independent films, he predicts that "video-production and video editing will become popular since the new digital cameras are also equipped with HD video capability." "We plan to strengthen our video courses to offer `indie'courses and we're adding more courses that are not software-specific," he says.

As part of PCCI's 10th anniversary, the center plans to offer scholarships to four deserving individuals. "Our scholars will take all photography and Photoshop classes for free," he says. Miranda is still working on the components of the scholarship (like trying to wrangle free cameras for the scholars) and will announce the mechanics at a later date.

PCCI will hold its 10th Anniversary celebration on June 19, 5-7 p.m. at the 15th Graphic Expo and the Photo Video Expo at SMX Convention Center. Call 759-3087 or email

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Audie Gemora-all set for "Equus"

Audie Gemora-all set for "Equus"
By Walter Ang
May 31, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The play "Equus" re-entered the public's awareness when it was revived on London's West End, and later on Broadway, a few years back with Daniel Radcliffe (otherwise known as The-actor-who-plays-Harry-Potter) as the lead character Alan Strang.

Also in the news was the fact that Radcliffe had to spend quite a bit of time onstage fully naked, as required by the role.

These are two major considerations that Audie Gemora is contending with as he prepares to direct this play for Repertory Philippines. He reckons that there will be people in Manila who will watch the show because of the Hollywood connection and of the nudity in it "but that's not what the play is about," he says.

The play, written by Peter Schaffer, is about a psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, who attempts to treat a young man, Strang, who has a pathological fascination with horses replete with religious and sexual overtones.

It premiered in 1973 in London and moved to Broadway, winning the Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Foreign Play, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play and the Tony Award for Best Play.

Despite the material's sensitive topics, the staging it behooves, the unpredictability of how Manila audiences might react, and the challenge of finding an actor who's willing to accept the role of Strang, Gemora is calm and confident. He throws his shoulders back and says, "It's going to be easy."

Rep staged Equus in the late 70s with Leo Martinez as Strang and Jose Mari Avellana as Dysart. "Part of the decision to restage it this year was because of the awareness that the Radcliffe production had created," he says. "People are excited to see what the play is all about."

Rep artistic director Baby Barredo had invited Gemora to be part of the company's Arts Council, the group that selects the plays and musicals that are included in their season line-ups. "We threw around some ideas and this play came up, although I didn't even think they would seriously choose it."

At a casual get together earlier this year, not only did Barredo inform Gemora that the play was already in the line-up, she also assigned him to helm it. "At first I really didn't want to do it because the play is serious and heavy and I'm known more for directing musicals. But I didn't buckle."

Actors' director
He's read the text and points out that all the play needs to get off the ground is "good acting." "I consider myself an actors' director," notes this recipient of 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay for Outstanding Male Lead Performance in a Musical (for Sweeny Todd).

Gemora has appeared in numerous productions, such as A Chorus Line, Evita, West Side Story, Amadeus, and Les Miserables for Repertory Philippines; Florante at Laura, El Filibusterismo, and Noli Me Tangere for Tanghalang Pilipino; and Joseph the Dreamer, and First Name for Trumpets.

Aside from being an actor and director for the stage, Gemora also does work for television (he's a judge on a TV talent show), is a recording artist, dancer, choreographer, host, and voice talent for commercials.

This interview was conducted after the auditions and Gemora is currently selecting the cast. He plans to cast a young actor close to the age of Strang to provide audiences with a fresh perspective. "I want the actor to work on instinct versus relying on a mannered approach to the role," he says. "I want someone without too much theater training so he will not `act' so much."

Beyond the intention to cast strong actors to support the lead, Gemora plans to spend "hours and hours" with the cast to dissect the underyling truths and emotions of the text and contextualizing the psychiatric modes used in the story.

"This play is set a few years after the 60s, when there was a school of thought premised on the acceptability of insanity. People were asking `what is normal exactly?'" he says.

"In this day and age when we have children killing more than thirty people in their schools in one go, what Strang does in the play seems to pale in comparison. Audiences will wonder what the big deal is all about. So it's not about the case nor the boy per se."

Gemora points out that "contrary to what people think, the play is actually about the psychiatrist and how he sees all that's missing from his life when he encounters Strang's passion for his, albeit in a very weird form, `religion.'" "And that," he says "is as deep as it gets."

"Equus" runs July 9 to 25 at Onstage, Greenbelt 1, Ayala Mall. Call 887-0711, 887-0737 or 887-0742.

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