The prime of Ana Abad Santos

The prime of Ana Abad Santos
By Walter Ang
November 29, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

From Ana Abad Santos Facebook account
By all accounts, Ana Abad Santos had a fulfilling 2009. "It was a good year, I got to play very strong women characters in several productions with different directors. I learned a lot," she says. She got to direct theater productions and even acted in a film or two.

As soon as 2010 came around, things got even better.

Earlier this year, she was nominated twice in a single category for the 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay, the awards given out to productions and performers of Philstage member companies. Santos was nominated for the Best Actress in a Straight Play category for her turns as Candida Marasigan in Repertory Philippines's "A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino" and as Blanche Dubois in Tanghalang Pilipino's "A Streetcar named Desire."

The short film she acted in, "Out of Love," directed by Flora Lau, won best film at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

And, oh yes, she just won this year's Aliw Award for Best Actress in a Non-Musical Production for her portrayal of the title role in Dulaang UP's "Mary Stuart."

"It was pretty great!" she says of the recognition. "I loved being chosen by a respected group of people and being nominated with actresses that I respect."

Growing up
Abad Santos seemed destined for a life in theater. She grew up "sleeping in hotel ballrooms" as her mother, former supermodel and fashion show director Wanda Louwallien, would tag her along to rehearsals.

"I remember having fun at my mom's shows. I loved watching everything, paying attention to what was going on," Santos says. "I even modeled once for one of my mom's shows. I loved modeling but, unfortunately, I never grew any taller," she adds with a laugh.

A trip to New York City solidified her love affair with theater. "My mom took me to see a Broadway show and I loved it. It just hit me, theater was what I wanted to do," she says.

Upon her return, Abad Santos sought out theater but "I didn't really know where to go, there weren't a lot opportunities back then to learn the craft."

Abad Santos started taking summer acting workshops at Repertory Philippines and soon debuted professionally in one of the company's productions. "I was a tree or something like that in `King and I,'" she says with a laugh.

She's been at it ever since, becoming part of Rep's stable of actors with ensemble or lead roles from Shakespeare tragedies to contemporary comedies.

At a time when theater companies were not as open in allowing cross-over appearances of actors, Abad Santos bucked convention and proceeded to appear in productions with Actors Actors and Dramatis Personae. Eventually, she also performed with World Theater Project ("King Lear"), Atlantis Productions ("Dogeaters") and UP Playwrights Theater ("Fluid") and Dulaang UP (most recently in "Shock Value").

Learning
"I wanted to see what was out there," she says. "It's important to always keep learning. You need to learn, you need to go out there. I have such a hunger to learn. You have to work with other directors, with other actors, with people you respect, to hone your craft."

She credits her former teachers at Rep for being long-lasting influences in her career as a theater artist. "Bart Guingona and Jaime Del Mundo were two of my teachers at the Rep workshops," she says. "Bart taught me the importance of doing radical works and Jaime taught me the value of the foundation work of doing the classics."

Abad Santos has also taken a post graduate course in Classical Theater at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art and got a chance to apply what she'd learned, this time as a director, when she was tapped to helm Rep's critically-acclaimed "Hamlet" a few years ago.

She's also directed rock opera "Bare" for Ateneo Blue Repertory, the musical "Duets" for Rep and, most recently, Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical revue "A Grand Night for Singing," for Power Plant Mall.

Doing
From student to practitioner, Abad Santos also has "teacher" as part of her list of roles. She teaches at Rep's summer workshops and at Beacon Academy for its International Baccalaureate academic program's drama subjects.

Her "hunger to learn" is insatiable it seems. And her capacity to work knows no bounds.

Abad Santos is currently taking up an online course on "professional development on teaching theater." She's also already working on her first two productions for 2011. She's rehearsing as an actress for Repertory Philippines' February staging of Amy Tan's "Joy Luck Club," where she plays one of the daughters in the story of Chinese women who've immigrated to America, and she's rehearsing as the director for Rep's March staging of "The 39 Steps," a comedy based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie.

All this learning, teaching and doing is inspired by her ten year old son, Tommy, and is driven by her desire to take an active role in developing theater for the country.

"Theater is alive here in the Philippines. It doesn't always have to be `serious.' Even if it's just to entertain or amuse, it's there," she says. "I attended a talk by playwright David Henry Hwang where he said people can find their culture and their identity in theater. I believe that. Being Filipino is tied to theater. I want people to be able to see themselves in theater. I want to bridge that gap."

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20101129-305841/The-prime-of-Ana-Abad-Santos

Aside from sports, Spain has fashion and shopping

Aside from sports, Spain has fashion and shopping
By Walter Ang
November 28, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"If you've been to Spain," said Angela Castaño, Director of National Tourist Office of Spain, "you'll understand why our new tagline is 'I need Spain.'"

"When you experience what Spain has to offer, you'll need its food and wine, need its arts and culture, need its passion and lifestyle, need your visit to last forever."

Castaño visited Manila to invite Filipinos to include Spain in their travel plans. She noted the historical relationship between the two countries and said, "Perhaps some Filipinos see Spain as a 'historical' place and therefore 'old' place. I'm here to let everyone know that, yes, we have historical sites for you to visit, but we are also very cosmopolitan and always exciting!"

Fashion and sports
Just this past year, Spain has been in the sports spotlight with Rafael Nadal winning at Wimbledon, La Roja winning the World Cup, Alberto Contador winning the Tour de France and Barcelona hosting the 2010 European Athletics Championships.

"But we also have fashion and shopping," she said smiling. "There are so many fashion brands that are from Spain such as Mango, Zara, Springfield, Trucco, Manolo Blahnik and many others. From apparel to accessories, from footwear to jewellery and perfumes."

She recommended spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) as the best times to visit because "the weather is nice and you can get better rates for accommodations. But those who want to catch our biggest sales of the year should go in January."

Madrid has a "golden mile" that is "home to the most prestigious Spanish brands alongside world names in luxury fashion" and the "Rastro," a street market in the city center. Barcelona has five kilometers' worth of fashion stores in its Ensanche and El Borne areas.

Castaño announced the Spain tourism office's partnership with Mango. "In the Glorietta and Rockwell branches, a P3,000 purchase will entitle you to a a raffle coupon to win a trip to Spain," she said. The promo runs until Nov 30 for a Dec 7 draw.

Culture and lifestyle
The two largest cities are the thriving capital, Madrid, and the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona.

"Madrid is exciting simply because it is Madrid. There is always something going on," she said. Madrid has the Royal Palace, the Prado Musuem, and Las Ventas, the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, among other tourist spots. The city is also known for its art galleries, shopping and nightlife.

Barcelona features the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, including the Sagrada Familia, recently consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and still undergoing construction since the 1882. This city also has the Picasso Museum and Joan Miro Foundation Gallery. Miro's surrealist work is recognizable as Spain's tourism logo for 25 years now.

But, of course, there are other cities to explore. And in these different cities there are all sorts of festivals year-round that celebrate everything "from wine to wild horses." Performing arts festivals and events cover the gamut: music, opera, jazz, dance, ballet, film, books and theater.

Commerce and industry
Emerging Filipino energy industrialists might want to visit and learn from the world's largest solar thermal energy plant, La Florida, in the northern state of Navarra.

Another interesting city is Bilbao, one of Spain's main industrial centers (shipbuilding and iron and steel production) featuring a 100-year-old transporter bridge. It's a fairly "new" popular tourist destination by virtue of it being the home of the Guggenheim Musuem.

Gastronomy
Spain has its origins in the Iberian, Celtiberian, Latin, Visigothic, Roman Catholic, and Islamic cultures and this is reflected in its arts, languages, and, of course, food. The country's different regions have respective signature cuisines.

Ferran Adria, head chef of the El Bulli restaurant in Roses, Costa Brava, is one of Spain's tourism ambassadors for 2011, together with six-time kitesurfing world champion Gisela Pulido, among others.

Gourmet Magazine has dubbed Adria as "the Salvador Dali of the kitchen" and El Bulli has been named best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine. Adria has built a reputation as the father of modern Spanish cuisine and as an experimentalist who crafts unexpected flavors with unconventional ingredients.

Nature and spirituality
"The Philippines has Boracay beach, so I won't mention Spain's beaches anymore," Castaño said laughing. (Though it's worth mentioning that Spain is home to Ibiza, famous for its summer club parties and Café del Mar.)

Spain has more than 300 hectares worth of national parks featuring flora, fauna and vistas not usually seen in places with tropical climates (like the Philippines) such as high-altitude deserts and sub-alpine steppes.

She noted that the Spain tourism office can recommend itineraries that allow visitors to experience a combination of whatever it is that they are looking for, whether it be shopping, nightlife, culture, food or arts, in either urban or rural settings.

Spain boasts one of the greatest collections of historical and architectural monuments in the world. The country has the second highest number of Unesco World Heritage designations in the world.

For those who seek a more spiritual itinerary, there's the pilgrimage "Way of St. James" from the east of Spain to Santiago de Compostela in the west, where the tomb of St. James the Apostle is located. This destination is considered as the world's third biggest Christian pilgrimage site, next to Rome and Jerusalem.

In 2011, Madrid will host World Youth Day, a Catholic event done every two to three years featuring a public appearance by the Pope.

Visit www.spain.info. Thai Airways flies from Manila to Spain (Madrid) via Bangkok. For bookings, call 817-5442 or 812-4812.

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/sundaylifestyle/sundaylifestyle/view/20101128-305693/Aside-from-sports-Spain-has-fashion-and-shopping

Aquino Museum in Tarlac up for redesign

Aquino Museum in Tarlac up for redesign
By Walter Ang
November 22, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Architects, interior designers, conservators, and curators are invited to join "Reawakening Democracy: Aquino Museum Redesign Competition," a contest that aims to find the best design solution for the museum that will capture the impact of Benigno "Ninoy" and Corazon "Cory" Aquino on Philippine history.

The Aquino Musuem is housed in the Aquino Center located in Tarlac. It features the Aquino family's memorabilia and a chronological depiction of how the couple "re-awakened and regained the democracy that the Philippines lost during the martial law regime:" the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino in 1983 that led to the emergence of the People Power revolution in 1986 and the presidency of Cory Aquino.

Opportunity
Architect and University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture professor Dan Lichauco, nephew of Mrs. Aquino, developed the design concepts for the center in 2001. The Aquino Center was originally intended to be predominantly a museum but eventually included convention facilities that are rented out to generate income for the center's maintenance and upkeep.

"The center is nine years old, although ageing gracefully since it is well maintained, it's beginning to show its age," he said. "It's also become evident that spaces originally intended to be used as offices are under-utilized. The exhibit is no longer current in chronicling the lives of both Ninoy and Cory and how they continue to influence us as a nation and race."

"The Design Completion is intended to change this," he said. "In addition to the competition, we are also hoping to establish a curatorial team that will guide the museum in the future."

The competition will be an opportunity to develop a more comprehensive coverage of the life and legacy of the late President Aquino beyond her six-year term; and to re-package the entire museum exhibition to appeal to and resonate among visitors.

The competition requires participants to submit a "creative and cost-efficient design scheme that should deliver a coherent and compelling museum-going experience, including all aspects of exhibition design, content selection, installation scheme, atmospherics and path narrative."

Support
The competition is organized by Lafarge Cement Services Philippines with the endorsement of and for the benefit of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF), which runs the Aquino Center.

The foundation was formerly known as Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation. Mrs. Aquino worked through the foundation to engage non-governmental organizations and supported programs to strengthen cooperatives, human rights education among law enforcers, and microfinance institutions.

In 2008, the foundation launched the "iamninoy" campaign to make the former senator's values resonant among the youth. The foundation's name was changed last year after former President Aquino passed away.

"For the past many years, Republic Cement Corporation and Iligan Cement Corporation, both Lafarge companies, have made it a commitment to support landmarks of our Filipino identity," said Lafarge vice president of communications Cirilo M. Pestaño II.

"As we launch the redevelopment of the Aquino Museum, we continue our support for the preservation of the memories of two Filipino icons of democracy that have shaped Philippine history. We are extremely proud and deeply honored to take the lead in this project and keep their legacy alive for future generations."

Shared exhibit
Three finalists will be given funding to further develop their designs. The winning team will be awarded a design contract to implement its proposal.

The competition's board of judges is composed of NCAF chair Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, NCAF trustee Dan Lichauco, Lafarge Cement Services Philippines chair Rene Sunico, Ateneo professor Ricky Abad, film director Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Cultural Center of the Philippines chair Emily Abrera, former Metropolitan Musuem director Ino Manalo, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, and Ayala Foundation executive vice president and chief operating officer Guillermo Luz.

As the Aquino Center redesigns its galleries, the Ayala Musuem will host a year-round series of exhibits of selected items from the Aquino Musuem.

"We are pleased to make these exhibits more accessible to the public," said Ayala Foundation chair Jaime Zobel de Ayala. "It is our hope that by viewing these exhibits, we will all learn to be proud to be Filipinos and to continue to collectively work hard to bring more benefits to more people."

Thanks
Ma. Elena "Ballsy" Aquino-Cruz, eldest daughter of the Aquinos, thanked the organizers of the redesign competition and said, "Dad, the glib master politician, realized his true mission in the loneliness of a prison cell and emerged a far better and stronger human being. Mom, the self-effacing housewife, was thrust into a position of leadership that she could not spurn and emerged a source of inspiration for millions. Together, as destiny would have it, they changed the face of our nation.

"The museum's narrative comprehensively covers the colorful life of Ninoy Aquino. When Mom passed on last year, the tremendous outpouring of affection and respect for her made it clear that she had accomplished far more than just continuing Dad's unfinished work. She had earned her place in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

"It is only fitting, therefore, that the Aquino Center be re-designed and updated to reflect, as well, what it is about the person, life and legacy of Cory Aquino that inspires and animates so many. It is the interweaving of these two narratives that I hope the redesigned Museum would capture in a manner that would resonate even among those who never got to know Ninoy or Cory Aquino. We in the family continue to be overwhelmed and grateful for our fellow Filipinos' love for her to this day."

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20101122-304525/Aquino-Museum-in-Tarlac-up-for-redesign

Theater-in-a-backpack brings Orwell to the streets

Theater-in-a-backpack brings Orwell to the streets
By Walter Ang
November 22, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Imperio Animalia," despite sounding somewhat scary, is actually meant to be "an engaging and highly interactive children's play and installation art piece." It's the title of Sipat Lawin Ensemble's adaptation of George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

Orwell's allegory tells of barn animals that revolt against their human master to establish a utopia where "all animals are equal." The plot turns when the pigs start changing the rules and stealthily espouse, "but some animals are more equal than others."

SLE plans to stage its production in "nerve centers of the metro." So far, their line-up includes Market!Market! Mall (in collaboration with the "Arts in the City" program), Intramuros, UP Diliman and UP Los Banos.

In order for the group to achieve its goal of performing on the streets "for free and open to the public," SLE is seeking support, financial or otherwise, for its "theater-in-a-backpack" brand of artistry.

Backpack
The troupe was formed in 2007, though its members had been performing together in various productions since 1999 under the tutelage of Herbert Go, former artistic director of Tanghalang Pilipino and former faculty at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).

"He left the country in 2006 and we were left with nothing but ourselves and our desire to continue creating for the theatre," says SLE artistic director JK Anicoche. The group then staged a twinbill using their own resources. "Bring your own props. Bring your own costume. We mainly did it all for the love of theatre."

Thus was born the idea of making theatre readily available. "We want to put up shows where all we need to do so should fit in a backpack. This includes costumes, props, sounds and lights," he says.

All over the place
These PHSA alumni (Theater Arts majors) took the name of their school's more than 30 year old resident theatre company, Dulaang Sipat Lawin, and evolved it into Sipat Lawin Ensemble.

"We became a non-stock, non-profit organization geared towards promoting culture and the arts by involving the audience through site-specific, open space, public theatre performances," he says.

The group's works have been staged in bars, galleries, gift shops, living rooms, and, yes, public comfort rooms. "These are our playgrounds, our battlefields, in line with our vision and mission of developing an urban theatre community experience," he says. "We want to engage larger audiences in different places and make theatre relevant to the lives of more Filipinos."

Works
Recent works include a collaboration with Australian playwright David Finnigan in "To Heat You Up and Cool You Down," a national tour under Tanghalang Pilipino of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose's "Progress," and a work that mixed elements of theater, opera, film, contemporary dance and music titled "Strange Pilgrims."

There are plans to stage their version of the cult Japanese movie "Battle Royale" (where a classroom of students are stranded in an island and forced to exterminate each other) next year involving 12 university theater groups. SLE has also been holding "Theater-in-a-Backpack" workshops, teaching theater throughout the country.

Meanwhile, as a progression of "Haring Tubu-l," its adaptation of Alfred Jarry's absurdist play "Ubu Roi," staged earlier this year as a commentary on the mid-year elections, SLE chose to adapt "Animal Farm" to "investigate the promises and foundation of democracy amidst post-elections Philippines."

Disguising Orwell's story as a fairy tale is deliberate. "People can relate to fairy tales," he says. "When, at first look, they see magic and spectacle, they'd be engaged to watch. Then they'd want to find out what the performance is about and what it wants to say."

Assistance needed
The group has much to say and they're saying it in a unique way. Unlike most Tagalog translations/adaptations, "Imperio Animalia" has no single translator. The troupe employs a collaborative process where all actors have inputs in the development of the text and staging devices?a method they used with success for "Haring Tubu-l."

"It's a challenge to bring theatre to middle-class and grassroots audiences who don't usually step into theaters," he says. "We create works that aren't usually supported by corporate sponsors. We want to bring our work to more people, for free if possible, but still addressing the financial needs of the production and our actors.

"We're asking if you could pledge to spare some cab fare and take the jeepney or bus instead, just for a day, or maybe miss one venti-size coffee and drink a 3-in-1 sachet for breakfast, or save on extra rice. Perhaps you can share your little extras for us to be able to bring this work into the streets. Simple gestures, little risks, and small contributions can amount to a big impact in changing people's consciousness."

"We really feel that we have an important story to tell, ideas to share, images to show. As artists, we play an important role in today's society, in creating our new history," he says. "Now we have to change the way how we create theatre."

To donate in cash or kind to Sipat Lawin Ensemble, contact 0917-500-8753. Imperio Animalia aims to run from November 2010 to January 2011. 

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20101122-304528/Theater-in-a-backpack-brings-Orwell-to-the-streets

'Little Women' is Rep's 2010 holiday musical

'Little Women' is Rep's holiday musical
By Walter Ang
November 18, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A hundred eighty degree turn from the material it staged last year for its annual big musical, Repertory Philippines has gone from a suspense-thriller about people eating pies made from people (a sold-out run of "Sweeny Todd") to a decidedly more genteel, light comedy romance about the lives and loves of four sisters: Little Women.

This family musical, with music by Jason Howard, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein and book by Allan Knee, is based on the novel by American author Louisa May Alcott.

"This is a wonderful story that's appropriate for the holiday season," says director Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. Yulo won the 2009 Philstage Gawad Buhay for Female Lead Perfomance in a Musical for her turn as Mrs. Lovett in Rep's "Sweeny Todd." Her most recent directing credit was for the musical "West Side Story."

"Audiences will see how the March sisters depend on each other as a family and how they cope as their father is away serving the American Civil War," she says. "They're a fun bunch: brash aspiring writer Jo, romantic Meg, pretentious Amy, and kind-hearted Beth. Audiences will surely be able to relate to these four little women."

Design
To further help audiences relate to the material, Yulo is collaborating with New York-based set designer Joey Mendoza to craft an acting space that "visually bridges the material's setting with the sensibilities of today's audiences."

Mendoza was a teenage Rep workshop attendee in the 1980s. He graduated into backstage work and acting roles for Rep. "My first bit in design was for a staging of the musical `You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown' in Dumaguete. I was terrible," he says with a laugh.

Mendoza moved to New York City in the early 90s and "immediately got involved with former Rep member Jorge Ortoll's spanking new theater group, Ma-Yi Theatre Company." It was here that Mendoza was able to learn from and work closely with multi-awarded set designer Loy Arcenas.

While he did other theatrical endeavors like producing the "Stage" series of albums (compilations of musical theater love songs sung by men) and the premiere cast recordings of "Heading East" (featuring Paolo Montalban) and "Bed, Boys & Beyond," designing for the theater has never left his heart.

"I belong to a family of architects/designers/artists so it's no surprise I have reverted back to my first love, the theater," he says. "Little Women's setting and period fascinates me."

Modern aesthetic
The story is set in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1860s. "While it is a period piece, we wanted something very modern about the design. I think it's essential to have a contemporary interpretation to suit the times," he says.

No one can accuse Yulo and Mendoza of being copycats. "The first thing we wanted to do was stay clear of the look of the original Broadway staging," he says.

"We wanted to magnify the story, making it as intimate as possible. I discarded anything that wasn't absolutely necessary that might clutter or distract. The set is a study in minimalism, which is ideal for the era's austere architecture and a stark contrast to the warm, cozy yet strong March family.

"When the March sisters are playing make-believe, we have a center platform to anchor the scenes but all conventional rules of space and movement are thrown out. The audience is encouraged to participate in an imaginative way. There are just enough pieces of very well appointed furniture and props that will allow them to make that leap.

Mendoza will also use silhouettes ("A very Victorian effect," he says.) to create shapes such as trees and dunes, and to imbue the necessary atmosphere.

"The script is very episodic and the best way to achieve fluid transitions is to have only essential pieces that will define the space, so that shifting to the next scenes won't be tedious or cumbersome (our theaters are not equipped with multi-million dollar hydraulics of yet). I prefer this more organic method. While spectacle is entertaining, there's something more magical about simple stage techniques.

"Ironically, this back-to-basics concept seems very modern to me. There is an elegance in this minimalism that is very modern to me."

Movement
The actors who'll be using Mendoza's set are Caisa Borromeo (Jo), Lora Nicolas (Meg), Kelly Lati (Amy) and Cara Barredo (Beth).

Multi-awarded performer Pinky Marquez will play the sisters' mother (Marmee). Marquez was last seen onstage for Rep in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof" and the children's musical "Sleeping Beauty." She has played major roles in productions such as "Magnificat," "The Vagina Monologues," "Flower Drum Song," "The Sound of Music," "Rama at Sita," and "Beauty and the Beast," among many others.

Gerard Salonga conducts the FILharmoniKA orchestra. Tuxqs Rutaquio does costume design and John Batalla does lighting design. Rem Zamora is assistant director.

The musical will be staged at Onstage Theater at the second floor of Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. "We're at a convenient location for families or friends. There are many things they can do before or after watching our shows, like shopping, dining out, visiting the nearby Ayala Musuem or even simply enjoying the outdoor garden spaces as we embrace the holiday season," Yulo says.

"Little Women" runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 12, 2010, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM with matinees at 3:30PM on Saturdays and Sundays at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. 

Call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926, 571-4941 or email info@repertory-philippines.com. Tickets also available at Ticketworld at 891-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20101108-302023/Little-Women-is-Reps-holiday-musical

Dance Forum marks 15th year with "Re-performing"

Dance Forum marks 15th year with "Re-performing"
By Walter Ang
November 15, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of Dance Forum, a collaborative group of contemporary dance artists headed by Myra Beltran, a dance concert titled "Re-performing" will feature excerpts of selected choreography from her earlier works.

The concert marks Beltran's 21 years of independent contemporary dance practice. "It's also my birthday celebration," she says with a laugh.

Since Beltran's choreographic career started in 1989, she has been a moving force in shaping current contemporary dance practice in the Philippines. Notable is her push for the solo form.

She founded Dance Forum in 1995 and proceeded to pursue collaborations with artists of different disciplines such as musician Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata, Ramon Bolipata and Dr. Ramon Santos, filmmaker Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, theater director Anton Juan, visual artists Benedicto "Bencab" Cabrera, Roberto Feleo and Karen Flores, among others.

"We had to break away from the regular conceptions and conventions of `formal' dance, that is, classical ballet, not that this is not valid but it was necessary to re-consider what its assumptions were. In the process, one could evolve what could be `contemporary,'" she says.

"Independent dance practice in the Philippines necessarily had to be contemporary in approach and aesthetic and it bravely challenged some previously `untouched' premises such as where dance should be produced, the process it should take, the hierarchy inherent in how it was being produced?these things were under examination."

To further advocate contemporary dance, she converted her backyard into a studio-theater, Dance Forum Space, as an alternative venue. It has hosted works by Paul Morales, Dwight Rodrigazo, Denisa Reyes, Christine Maranan, Jojo Lucila, Enrico Labayen, and many other choreographers who are now making their mark in Philippine contemporary dance.

Enjoining others
Dance writer Joelle Jacinto has said of Beltran, "Myra is not the first to attempt a career as a dance artist putting on regular performances without the benefit of a dance company or a regular institutional sponsor, but she is definitely the only one who really persevered and has ? active years of performances to show for it."

Last year, Beltran staged "Itim Asu 1719-2009," her deconstruction of Virginia Moreno's play "The Onyx Wolf."

Beltran is also founding director and current vice chair of Contemporary Dance Network Philippines (CNDP), a group that promotes contemporary dance in the Philippines composed of
dance companies, artists, school-based organizations, critics and institutions.

CDNP hosts the annual Wifi Body Independent Contemporary Dance Festival and Contemporary Dance Map series. Earlier this year, the Contemporary Dance Map series staged "Moving Dance @ The LRT Dance Express," where over 20 dancers danced inside LRT2 trains and stations.

Body of work
The concert "Re-performing" serves as a meditation on these past accomplishments filtered by and through new choreographers and dancers.

"In a world of constant updates such as in Facebook, how would it feel to go back to an earlier work?" she says. "Works that were the first pitch in the shaping of independent contemporary dance in the Philippines. Works that were `alone' in the dance landscape. Can we understand their breakthroughs? Was it due to something that can be re-created or is it more intangible and specific to the time?"

"The works I've done over the years seem to be mostly characterized by silence. I wanted to hear myself, and I think the audience wanted the same as well. So today, we want to find out if silence is still the most radical thing in a world of constant `status updates.'"

Participating choreographers who will work with Beltran for the concert include Ava Maureen Villanueva, Herbert Alvarez, Rhosam Prudenciado Jr. Dancers will come from Airdance and U.P. Dance Company.

"Re-performing" runs on Nov. 17 8pm and Nov. 20 8pm at Dance Forum Studio, 36E West Ave., Quezon City (near Mister Kabab restaurant). Call 0917-526-9724 or 373-2947.

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20101115-303254/Dance-Forum-marks-15th-year-with-Re-performing

The thrill of the (cheap) hunt: Marc Ablaza collects watches

The Thrill of the (cheap) hunt
By Walter Ang
November-December 2010 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine


Pawnshop scion Marc Ablaza collects watches but doesn't have to dig deep into his wallet. He tells Walter Ang it's all about 
The thrill of the (cheap) hunt

When people find out that Marc Ablaza has a collection of Seiko, Citizen and Casio G-Shock wristwatches, the first question they always ask is "Why not Swiss watches?"

While he doesn't dismiss the pleasure most collectors derive from owning classic Swiss timepieces, he also points out that these are the pieces that most collectors deal with, and most of them are just in it for the resale value. "I want to be different," he says. "I'm in it for the fun of it!"

Like a kid with his stacks of gaming cards, Ablaza has an earnest gleam in his eye when he talks about his collection. Scion to the Ablaza chain of pawnshops, Marc grew up surrounded by plastic bags filled with Rolexes and an assortment of other well-known brands. He had, however, no particular attachment or fascination for them.

His first watch was given to him when he was four so he could learn to tell time. He'd occasionally be given a new watch or two while he was growing up, but the only appeal was perhaps some playground bragging rights since "it wasn't too often that you'd see a grade school student wearing a wristwatch." In high school, Ablaza discovered diving and had to acquire a chronograph wristwatch.

Of course, these days, he sings a different tune. His collection is young by most measures. In the mid-90s, he went to Hong Kong and scored a Seiko chronograph at "a fantastic value." That was the beginning of a new relationship with the brand he'd grown up with.

First off, he realized that he enjoyed Seiko's mechanical precision. He also notes the brand's "underdog" quality. "The Japanese took technology from the Swiss then made it even better," he says.

Also, he finds the historical perspective fascinating. "We were the second largest market for Japanese wristwatches for quite a while, so there are pieces out there that aren't commonly found anywhere else in the world," he says.

Unfortunately, there were quite a number of shrewd buyers who would purchase Seiko pieces in the country at cheaper prices and sell them off abroad for profit. So part of the adventure in collecting this brand is chasing down the pieces.

However, Ablaza doesn't have suspenseful stories of going down dingy side streets, or meeting suspicious men in overcoats in dark alleys to acquire new pieces. "I get all of my stuff from eBay!" he announces.

He usually starts off by shortlisting dial designs that he likes, and bids on them. If the bid goes beyond what he's willing to pay for it, he has no problem letting a piece go. "I'm attracted to parts of a wristwatch that have interesting elements," he says, listing features such as dials with unusual colors, multiple hands, and crowns and pushbuttons that are positioned in places other than the usual right side of the bezel.

Sometimes, in the course of his search, he will end up with just the dial or just the bracelet of a piece. Hunting down the corresponding part adds to the thrill. Otherwise, he'll simply match two parts that weren't originally meant for each other, or he takes a trip to his favorite craftsman to have a bracelet fashioned.

Purists needn't bother trying to get acquainted with Ablaza, since his tinkering has evolved into occasionally customizing his pieces. He'll have a dial in a non Seiko-issued color made from scratch or come up with a bracelet design just because.

Beyond surface aesthetics, Ablaza also usually has the watches' casebacks opened so he can determine the condition and type of the machine or "watch caliber," as it's called amongst watch enthusiasts. "The machine is the heart and soul of the watch," he says. "For example, chronograph seikos are complications because of the many functions the machine can do. The machines or modules on the quartz watches are a different matter altogether. The more functions a quartz watch has, the more complicated the modules."

Ablaza's collection is always anchored on two things. "I get designs that I like, since I wear all the pieces I acquire," he says, noting that some collectors never wear any of their pieces. "What's the point of that?" he wonders out loud, shaking his head.

"Importantly, they have to be cheap," he says. The low price of his watches helps keep the process fun. "I don't want to have to think or worry about where I have to source the funds to acquire a piece I like."

The choice of collecting Seiko watches isn't really about being different, but about being true to himself. "I'm not one to get a fancy expensive Omega watch that looks nice, because it's simply not me," he says.

For someone who collects watches, Ablaza confesses to not being too conscious of where he swings or places his arms. "And you know how it is, the more fancy or expensive your watch is, the faster it gets scratched as soon as you start wearing it," he says with a laugh. "So I get cheap ones. If I bang them up, it's all right."