Page 1

The maiden issue

Vol. I No. 1 • March 2009

the filipino-american symphony orchestra

is back in

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out of the box features Love of Country 


What is this thing called “love of country”? W ith all its allusions to unrequited revolutions, bolos and tattered flags, or death by diaspora, we are still at a loss for words in finding its true meaning. By Rachel Rañosa

Biyaheng Quiapo: The Unguided Tour 


They all came in droves, sporting maroon, the signature color of the Nuestro Señor Jesus Nazareno. The writer walks with the pilgrims of the Quiapo festivities and marvels at their faith and culture. By Louie Jon Sanchez

A School for Excellence 


A respected Jesuit historian remembers the return of the Jesuits to Manila and the birth of the Ateneo de Manila 150 years ago. By Fr. Jose Arcilla, SJ

The Wowowee Factor 


There is perhaps no TV show in recent memory that is as notorious as Willie Revillame’s Wowowee. The show’s notoriety has propelled it in pushing the envelope in almost all aspects. By Louie Jon Sanchez

Is there Life After Noon? 


The writer remembers her love affair with Pinoy TV noontime shows. By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar

PX: Poetry by Expats 


Love of country is examined in the poetry of three expatriate writers.   By Mark Anthony Cayanan

Bahay at Lupang Hinirang 


Why is investing in Philippine real estate a patriot’s act? By Rachel Rañosa

Bukidnon: Be Moved by the Mountains 


In this exclusive story, an emerging scriptwriter shares her intimate experience with the Bukidnon outback while writing a box-office hit. By Jewel Castro

The Lush Resort 


For years, Laiya’s immaculate beach and natural wonders have been inaccessible. Today, its beauty beckons with hope and a prayer.   By Walter Villa.

Charice is the Word 


The heartbreak girl is indeed turning into America’s newest sweetheart. By Momar Visaya.

FASO: An Aural History in the Making 


The Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra prepares for its first gala performance at the legendary Wilshire Theater Beverly Hills this May.

“I would rather be right than be President 


In a new book, journalist Nelson Navarro remembers the life and times of former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez.   By Berry Pelaez-Marfori

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Publisher’s Note 



n Keeping a Journal: Our Tow

Editor’s Note 


at last. balikbayan is out the box,


de  Tourbuzz: A Walk on the Walled Si uros—one step at es the way we look at Intram rlos Celdran chang The Pied Piper of Manila Ca z a time. By Louie Jon Sanche

Runs Through It  Essence of Place: Bohol, A Reveriemories across Bohol.  e you to Go with the flow as we tak


a river of me

  62 Pastfood: Viajeng Cusinang Matua ren Ricardo Pampanga. By Althea Lau inary shrines of Old Take a pilgrimage to the cul

Salt & Paper: Got Milkfish? 


gupan bangus ends in a trip to a Da A love-hate affair with the Sanchez yes, bangus. By Louie Jon

and, restaurant, full of heritage

‘Ma?”  68 Business & Treasure: “Barako Bas. e in our coffee Have you noticed the chang natives are restles Something’s brewing. The Rachel Rañosa lately? There is hope. By

Market  70 Business & Treasure: A Cupturedcause of renewed is changing be Indeed, the coffee landscape n talks with ry. Over coffee, balikbaya efforts to support the indust -chair Chit Juan.   Philippine Coffee Board Co By Lynda Corpuz

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balikbayan Love of Country is Back in Style

the asian journal magazine

March 2009

ROGER L. ORIEL | Publisher & CEO CORA M. ORIEL | President & Co-Publisher LITO OCAMPO CRUZ | Editor in Chief | Executive Creative Director LOUIE JON A. SANCHEZ | Associate Editor Contributing Editors MALOU LIWANAG-AGUILAR JEWEL C. CASTRO MARK ANTHONY CAYANAN LYNDA C. CORPUZ ALTHEA LAUREN RICARDO MOMAR VISAYA Contributing Photographers TED MADAMBA MIKO SANTOS ANDY TECSON Walter Villa NOEL GODINEZ | Vice President for Advertising SHARON BATHAN | Vice President for Sales VINCE SAMSON | Account Manager HENRY SOLIS | Account Manager KRISTINE TAN | Production Manager LE GRANDE DEE PEDROCHE | Assistant Art Director RACHEL RAÑOSA | Editorial Assistant AJPress Writers BILLY DELA CRUZ ROCHELLE PANGILINAN Staff Artists EDWARD DY VALORY LIM NAPOLEON LAUREL HANNA DE CASTRO | Advertising Copywriter VINCE SAMSON | Circulation Manager ARTHUR SIBULANGCAO | Circulation Assistant RIA FABRO | Accountant

Advertising Office: Asian Journal Publications, Inc.

Los Angeles 1150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017-1904 • Tel. (213) 250–9797 New York 5 Penn Plaza, 23rd Floor New York, NY 10001 • Tel. (212) 655–5426 San Francisco 841 San Bruno Avenue West, Ste. 12-14 San Bruno, CA 94066 • Tel. (650) 583–6818 New Jersey 2500 Plaza Five, Harborside, Financial Center, Jersey City, NJ 07311 • Tel. (201) 484–7249 Las Vegas 3700 W. Desert Inn Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89102 • Tel. (702) 792–6678

balikbayan Magazine is published monthly by Asian Journal Publications, Inc.

Distributed in the Philippines by East West All Media Services, Inc. 1100 88 Corporate Center, Valero St., corner Sedeño St., Salcedo Village, Makati City, 1226 Philippines. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage of retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Publisher.

Asian Journal Publications, Inc. regrets that no responsibility can be accepted for unsolicited material, which will be returned only if stamped, addressed envelope is enclosed.

Send subscription inquiries to, and advertising queries at Printed in the Philippines and distributed in the Philippines and major cities in the United States of America.

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publisher’s note

have come full circle. My own personal journey began when I left my hometown, Binalonan, Pangasinan in the late 70s. I knew the world was waiting, and I had to go the distance. I decided to take my chances and move to California. But I left with a promise to myself: that wherever I go, I will carry with me all the joys and dreams that had been borne in the warmth of my family, in the town streets where I used to walk with my childhood friends in laughter, in the silence that followed whenever the old town church bell tolled. Binalonan until now is the one thing that kept me rooted all these years.

Our Town

Roger Lagmay Oriel, Publisher

keeping a journal

Every Filipino who leaves home almost always has that desire to go back. When I remember my roots at Binalonan, I can’t help but recall that before me, there was another man from our hometown who went to America to take his chances. His name is Carlos Bulosan, the revered Filipino expatriate novelist, who sought for the America in his heart, but had found instead what he ultimately looked for—his sense of being Filipino. Every time I drive around my hometown, I remember Bulosan, who is believed to have worked building the roads to our hometown. But he never found his way home again. I have never kept a journal myself until the Los Angeles Asian Journal came along. Since my wife Cora and I put up this paper, we had become faithful chroniclers of the Filipino story in America. Our mission of being the Filipino-American Community Newspaper has brought us places, from Southern California to Northern California to Las Vegas, and later on to New York. Like many Filipinos, we have taken the road less travelled. But somehow we made it to where we are now. With the magazine balikbayan, Cora and I are embarking on a new journey. This time, we are going back to where we all started. Join us. Our country is waiting.

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Contributors Jewel Castro is a scriptwriter for ABS-CBN’s

Meet the AJPress

Star Cinema. She has co-written the Sharon Cuneta movie “Caregiver,” and the recent Piolo Pascual-Angel Locsin starrer “Love Me Again (Land Down Under).” She is a faculty at the De La Salle University-Manila.

Ted Madamba is a professional photographer who has traveled extensively, taking beautiful pictures like the ones he has taken here from Bohol. A mentor of Bigfoot’s International Academy of Film and Television, Ted has also conducted photography seminar workshops and has staged exhibits in Cebu and Manila.

Althea Lauren Ricardo is a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature awardee in drama. She finished her BA in creative writing at the University of the Philippine Diliman, wrote features for the Philippine Star, and is pursuing an MFA in creative writing at De La Salle University-Manila.

Walter Villa, ace photographer, has covered lifestyle and business extensively. Walter was managing editor of Golf Magazine Asia and Mabuhay Magazine before he pursued freelance photography, that led him to do other magazine and corporate projects. He was a finalist at the Cebu Pacific Travel Photo Contest. He also contributes for Muse.

Momar Visaya is the editor in chief of the Asian Journal Publications and is celebrating his tenth year in the company. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and was on his way to his master’s degree in communication from the Ateneo de Manila University when he moved to the U.S. His career in the worlds of media and a nonprofit organization span 15 years. He was trained and honed by his experience as a freelance writer for the Manila Chronicle and Philippine Daily Inquirer, as well as ABS-CBN Foundation, the non-profit arm of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, where he helped launch the organization’s major projects such as educational children’s shows and Bantay Bata. He recently covered the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States and had an opportunity to bond and get to know more about Charice, the subject of his article this issue. Momar is currently based in New York.

Lynda Corpuz is the managing editor of MoneySense, a personal finance magazine. She is pursuing a master’s in media studies major in journalism at University of the PhilippinesDiliman.

Fr. Jose Arcilla, SJ, is the author of the book, The Ateneo Way: 150 Years (1859-2009) published by MuseBooks and released in the United States by Asian Journal Publications, Inc.

Mark Anthony Cayanan is a BA and MA in creative writing graduate of the University of the Philippines- Diliman. He teaches with the Ateneo de Manila University English Department. He writes poetry, and has won the Maningning Miclat Poetry Memorial Awards. He contributes for Metro Him.

Berry Pelaez-Marfori is the daughter of the late Vice Preisdent Emmanuel Pelaez. She is a freelance journalist. She wrote for the Manila Chronicle, among other publications.

Andy Tecson wears two hats: he is a seasoned photographer in Los Angeles. And he is also a violinist. He is a founding member of the first Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra (FASO). Miko Santos, a communication arts graduate of De La Salle University-Manila, is AJPress’ go-to guy. He gave his best shots for this issue.

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balikbayan, the magazine, is out of the box—and it is out of the box. And so are my vagabond shoes. As we traverse the landscape of our memories across the pages of this magazine, we will bask in the splendor of the written word and the unspoken beauty of a photograph. We will discover a country we thought we knew. We will see her from a new point of view, the country that never seems to leave us. The one that follows us like a postcard in every lonely planet in the world. We will never read a map or a guidebook in the same way again. balikbayan is who we are, wherever we are.

Lito Ocampo Cruz, editor in chief and creative director, majored in literature at the De La Salle University-Manila. He headed E! Entertainment Television Philippines. He also served as Executive Director of the Philippine International Film and Television Office under the Office of the President of the Philippines. He collaborated in the writing of the coffeetable book Boracay Lifestyle. He was co-publisher and executive editor of Muse magazine. He sits at the editorial board of the Asian Journal Publications.

We will find love again between the lines, the kind that endures—this thing called love of country.

Editor’s Note Lito Ocampo Cruz, Editor in Chief We hope this balikbayan sweeps you off your feet at first sight. Like the first time we were moved by the mountains of Bukidnon. Or the first time we were swept away by the essence of a place called Bohol. A reverie still runs through it. We will take you back via the scenic roots, passing through historic markers and churches, and even hysterical landmarks. We may get lost finding the meaning of the day, or a moment. But along the way, we’ll find our muse. We’ll get lost in the crowd at Quiapo and find ourselves transported to another time and space. We’ll take you on a pilgrimage to the culinary shrines of this past food nation. We will hear a different tune in FASO, the first Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra. We will be mesmerized by the harmony of a community. And if we need to hear some more, Charice is the word. We hope that balikbayan would serve as a compass to navigate our return.

Louie Jon Sanchez, associate editor, is one of the newest members of the Asian Journal Publications team. A Catholic Mass Media Award winner for fiction, Louie finished his AB in Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, and his MFA in creative writing at the De La Salle University-Manila, where he also pursued a PhD in Literature. He handled business development at Business Mirror and Philippine Graphic.

balikbayan will keep you closer to the country of your heart. We hope the magazine will be a place you will inhabit and return to again and again. Here’s our valentine to love of country.

Malou Liwanag-Aguilar has worked for a number of publications in the Philippines, including The Manila Bulletin and Manila Times. She has also worked on a number of coffeetable books about Southeast Asian art and culture with ArtPostAsia. A graduate of the Philippine Women’s University-Manila, she is now based in Daly City and is a reporter for Asian Journal Publications.

Rachel Rañoza, editorial assistant, is a journalism graduate at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She has trained under the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and teaches journalism in Bulacan during her free time. Le Grande Pedroche, a graduate of AMA Computer University is AJPress’ house techie. He helped design this maiden issue.

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What is this thing called

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Love of Country? By Rachel Rañosa | AJPress


 ith all its allusions to unrequited revolutions, bolos and tattered flags, or death by diaspora, we are still at a loss for words in finding its true meaning. Love of country perhaps begins with our sense of place. It reaches far beyond the coffeetable images of our town fiestas, the text messages of our digital journal, the textbook definitions of nationalism, and even way beyond the borders of this lonely planet called nostalgia. It is easy to get carried away by national symbols like flags, anthems, monuments and shrines as literal expressions of love of country. But is it red, white and true? Not to worry, fellow travelers, the muse is with us. Photo by Miko Santos | AJPress March 2009 | balikbayan    

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what is this thing called love of country? In the same romantic way that love goes beyond mere symbols of affection, so does love of country teach us to remember the meaning behind the symbols. Through the celebration of fiestas, the understanding of our past, the return to our scenic roots, we express love of country, recreating, reliving, reaffirming memories of home. To know what love of country is, and how we can embody it, we must take this long journey within. And going within is a cartography of desire, and desire is a fruit of love, and by extension, love of country. What is within all of us, within our collective consciousness, must be mapped out, because after all, it is primarily a country. It’s consequently, our selves we are conquering. Love of country is, to borrow from the expat critic Caroline Hau, “a necessary fiction,” a story we need to create in and from our depths. And this story is the nation itself. We struggle to love our country. We struggle to define who we are. It is crucial—not to mention heroic—that we write the narrative of the nation. Our heroes today need not shed blood or tear cedulas to write this nation’s story. There are certainly many ways to make sense of our love of country, as there are many ways to love our country. And all begin by retracing our way back home. Our desire to take root in the country, while in a foreign land, emerges from the knowledge and wisdom we have of our heartlands. Returning home is a testimony to this desire to understand our selves as a people rooted in the land. It is love of country to keep looking back to our roots. Carlos Bulosan found his great longing for the country he left while searching for America in his heart. In America too, Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, found home by writing that subject called the “Filipino”. As we rewrite the story of our nation, new heroes—those who represent our collective aspirations and achievements—are born.

Manny Pacquiao is a hero to all of us. The world stops every moment he brings down any one of his foes in the ring. He unifies us in a way that has never been done in history. But after each fight—symbolic of his own love of country—he never fails to come home. We also have a hero in Charice, the heartbreak kid slowly turning into America’s newest sweetheart. She sings to an international audience but always brings a Filipino soul to each performance. The Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra, too, will embark on its own heroic journey: that of bringing harmony in the community. It is the very first Filipino symphony orchestra organized in the United States. Love of country embodies all our ways of seeing, our ways of believing, our ways of locating ourselves in the world. Our country’s story is in our verses, in the vitality of the tunes of our reed flutes and our kulintangs. Our story is in the balikbayan coming home. And this return signals what Leonard Casper wrote in his introduction to Bienvenido Santos’ Scent of Apples: “a return of the Philippines to the man, whether or not a return to the Philippines is ever managed.” To speak of love of country in the contemporary world is to recognize the patriotism embodied by our Filipino expatriates. The heart is, after all, the cradle of memories, that wherever the Filipino expatriate finds himself or herself, the country remains nestled in the heart. To love our country is to remember the communities, the families, the hometowns. To love our country is to understand that through the symbols of our culture—the pasalubong, the kapeng barako, Original Pilipino Music, adobo—we express love for this community, and a longing for all things Filipino, all things that remind us of home.

In the end, there’s no one way of loving our country. g

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Biyaheng Quiapo

the unguided tour By Louie Jon Sanchez Photos by Miko Santos | AJPress


 hey all came in droves, sporting maroon, the signature color of the Nuestro Señor Jesus Nazareno. They came in from all sides of town. Dagat-dagatan. Tumana. San Jose. Pandacan. They had worn the names of their places of origin, and they had worn them with glee.

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| biyaheng quiapo | the unguided tour Some even brought their small children, carrying them along with their little Nazareno images or letting them walk barefoot the way all pilgrims do. It had been raining for long in Manila and the legendary Plaza Miranda, where disparities, political and otherwise had been fought (remember what they said about bills and if they could be defended in Plaza Miranda?), was all grubby and muddy. But the pilgrims, some of them participating in this annual vigil for years, do not mind anyway. Waiting for the Nazareno was holy devotion, something that others usually consider as blind and unnerving. Quiapo is virtually at the heart of Manila, and is one of the more important landmarks as you enter the city’s central district. Quiapo as we know it, is a district known for wares, its food from the past, the notorious that had inspired films set in her locale, and of course, this age-old statue which people flock to every Friday. The usual places to see in Quiapo, such as the hopia centers like the newly built Poland Hopia in Escolta, or even the Excellente Ham at Palanca, had to take a back seat and fuse naturally into the flurry of festivities. While the usual businesses like the optical shops and the audio and video centers did not close shop, all attention was set on the Nazareno, which was returning from its two-day stay at the Luneta. The day was still long. Good thing it was cold and windy.

Walking Around As I walked down the street of Evangelista, there was music and all that noise. People walked around and waited for the Nazareno. As the crowd thickens, the string of masses at the church continue. At the side streets, pirated DVD stations abound, more than the usual agimat or herbal peddlers, which have been fixture at Quiapo’s side streets ever since. Today, they seem to have been side swept by the emergence of these sellers who just keep on coming and going despite strict law enforcement. Some people in red who went to wait for the Nazareno gathered around the DVDs, looking for the latest flicks they could buy at around P 35 or so apiece. The DVD sellers also make sure they get people to buy—they sample the DVDs on their own TV sets and players. Curiously, the police who just roam around do not mind. Evangelista, and nearby Raon, is a multimedia center of sorts. Walking around

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on fiesta day, one will see and hear, not only the sampling of the films in DVD, but the simultaneous playing of a lot of this country’s most favorite musical instrument—the videoke. A lot of the stores in Evangelista and Paterno, most of them, selling audio and video equipment, played the videokes on display. Some of the stores even had singers—the salesmen actually—showing how their units fare despite the bad singing. I was bracing myself for any untoward action when somebody tried that deadly song, “My Way,” which had already claimed a lot of lives in bars and beer houses. Good thing everyone seems to be in a good mood and in high spirits. As I continued to walk, several of the stores were being visited by a group doing the Dragon Dance, which the Chinese believe to drive away bad spirits. This added up to the noise of the place, which, for some bizarre reason, was becoming musical as the place grew in me. I turned to Paterno, which led

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to Carriedo and found myself in an all-new world. Stories kept on unraveling as I continued to walk with the pilgrims in red. At the far end of the street, a group of cross dressers was gyrating to the beat of drums played by their male companions. One of them was eating fire. I thought I was in some kind of mardi gras. Everything was all here, so mixed up, but quite beautifully. When I was younger, I met in Plaza Miranda the likes of Aling Teta, who helped people understand the future through card reading and if I remember her right, Josie, who sent her son to journalism school by selling herbs and pito-pito. I tried looking for their faces among the multitudes of people on the side streets of Paterno, and later on, back in Carriedo, where people carrying their own images of the Nazareno continued to arrive. In the news, the church announced that there would be around 200 replicas of the Nazareno arriving for the festivities. The Nazarenos, needless to say look alike, bearing the pain and sorrow as they all carried the sins of the world. Somehow the people here, the dwellers and peddlers looked all the same too. I

could not find Aling Teta, and Josie anymore, or even Mang Ruben, who sold agimats and Sto Niños with phalluses. I could only recall their stories as I tried looking for any familiar face in the crowd. At least, I could still hear their voices in my head. They are shadows, I suppose, of the mystical character of Quiapo, the Quiapo that I was used to seeing since I was young. Much has changed since then, and I feel for the likes of Aling Teta, Josie and Mang Ruben who had been dispersed, especially after the church did a clean up. While Quiapo changed for the better, I guess it had lost some of its magic when the vendors were placed at the side streets of the church. The vendors too have been prey to the MMDA clean up in the Metro, and this I suppose resulted in the dwindling of their number. I walked to Carriedo again and approached another Quiapo fixture, the candle stand ladies, who offered pilgrims seven bundled candles for P20. A lady, a very young one, was carrying a clear envelope with a sheet of bio-data inside. She was praying fervently. I got my own candles from the peddler, Linda, who said she was practically new to the place. Candle sales are up in Carriedo, of course, since candle lighting is not allowed in the church periphery, and had to be done outside. And I think there’s really no way to do just this. At the far end of Carriedo, at the arch that welcomes everybody to the church, there is just no space for any other form of religious fervor. I had to put up with people who were going out on the other direction. At one point, it looked like I would be trapped in this sea of

humanity starting to assemble into unstoppable waves that could lift up anybody at any given time and carry him elsewhere—that is if he doesn’t go under. Stampedes are not so new to Quiapo, and yearly, some pilgrims die after being run over by people. It was scary but amazing all at the same time. Not long after, the bottleneck at the side entrance just cleared up. The gripping experience, I suppose, is part of the sacrifice. The Image Returns The police had put the figures to around 6000 people as of late lunch. In Plaza Miranda, the pilgrims were in prayer, some of them listening intently to the endless sermons being delivered by the priests who say masses for the day of the feast. The old ones were especially stern, saying their rosaries or the prayers in their novena booklets. Others meanwhile wiped crucifixes or hand-carried images of Nazarenos with their red hankies or Good Morning towels. The hankies and towels are very important in the devotion, and so is the act of wiping images. Later on, as the image arrives, these hankies and towels would be lobbed in the air, some of them being tossed to the caroza carrying the Nazareno and the men that protect it. It is believed that blessings abound for the owner of the hanky or the towel. Some people do the wiping early on, perhaps, since getting a hanky to be wiped on the Nazareno would be way too challenging. Before one can get even near the caroza and throw a hanky, one would have to risk being crushed by other pilgrims who attempt getting a hold onto the rope that pulls it. By the time the Nazareno reaches back the church, the caroza would have already been enveloped by waves and waves of pilgrims, most of them males, who have the strength and stamina to carry on with the crawling procession. The procession used to parade just around Quiapo, until two years ago, when the parish celebrated the image’s 400th year in the Philippines. From then on, a translacion similar to that of the Ina of Penafrancia in Naga is done. They are very similar of course, since in both, men play the game of bringing back the images. A lot of violence too is done in both instances, but the Nazareno’s I think is a more well-managed one. The procession was peculiarly long this year, despite the fact that it only covered some six kilometers, starting from the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta. When news that the Nazareno was arriving, coming from a detour to Recto, Legarda, and then to Arlegui, which is already near Malacañang Palace, people started to move to Quezon Blvd. and Quezon Bridge. The party bringing the Nazareno did not make it to the deadline. It took the procession about 12 hours before it reached the church. It was already at 9 in the evening that excited pilgrims started the traditional tossing of the hankies and towels. It was, despite the long wait, an astounding arrival. Moving is something that could describe the experience of Quiapo and the wait, but that would be an understatement. As the caroza passed through Carlos Palanca and its handicrafts center, and the Maharlika Village and its Mosque, the mood shifted from sober to electrified. The long, long wait was over. The Nuestro Padre has returned. At around this time, the devotees were said to have reached about 20,000. The red banners carrying the names of the groups of the devotees marched with the caroza , as the church bells were tolled, and people shouted with glee.

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| biyaheng quiapo | the unguided tour Quiapo has been nothing but enigmatic to me since I was young. My uncle the seaman, who now resides in Honolulu, used to bring me as he fulfilled his Friday devotions to the Nazareno. His prayers had been answered and I just stopped seeing the Black Nazarene one day. Later on, when I got older, I took jeepney rides from the Pontifical University where I was studying to pray in the church. Until now, I haven’t really fathomed Quiapo, despite the fact that I have seen, felt, experienced, and even written about it many times. The recurrent question, I think, is this: why do people keep on coming back here? I would like to surmise that it is not only about the Nazareno. Quiapo is a world, a world of its own, and it does not convey itself so easily. The scenes of pilgrims walking around, and even walking on their knees, the scent of burning candle, or even the sweet hams, and the street sounds of the district, and the spiritual experience that borders on the mystical of this very place are parts of a realm that would always be deep and profound. We could never, in our lives, explain it. A lot of people do not understand why pilgrims take this yearly trouble of risking life and limb to fulfill the devotion. Some take it as fanaticism. But if we look deeply into the phenomenon of Quiapo in its fiesta, we will see that just being in the place is meditation enough on the ways we have been playing our lives as individuals and as a people. Quiapo is not merely devotion and sacrifice. It is an examination of our lives, our conscience, and our consciousness. I remember what Aling Teta told me years back as I sat down with her somewhere around the church. “Sa Quiapo, palakasan ng loob. Kapag mahina ka, kawawa ka,” (In Quiapo, you need to be strong. When you’re a weakling, it’s a pity). Quiapo then, is life, as we examine it. g

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a walk on the walled side

By Louie Jon Sanchez Photos by Miko Santos / AJPress

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aster tour guide Carlos Celdran walked giddily, Pied Piperlike and as if jumping out of a storybook, smiling and waving at every Intramuros dweller, young and old, who would recognize him. He greeted each one “kamusta” which sounded more like “como esta”.

Chocnuts, Joe? Celdran, offering “chocnuts,” the “national candy” to his walking tourists.

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The weather improved quite all of a sudden, showing the afternoon sun. The cobblestones glistened after the rains. Something he said stirred me more. “This tour is different, you’ll see. It is more theatrical than anything else.” I arrived earlier for the scheduled interview with this much talked about man, whose tours are very much like a period play. We agreed to meet at Casa Manila’s La Monja Loca, his quaint souvenir store at Plaza San Luis in front of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros. Kundimans—really sad kundimans relating pain and heartbreak—played in the background, while I first looked around. Some postcards, banigs, a few stacks of books on Imelda Marcos and the Noli Me Tangere, Iloko handwoven blankets, native figurines, are displayed. Somehow, the very scene that welcomed me set the afternoon’s nostalgic mood. Before he arrived I went up first to see what was upstairs, at the Casa Manila Museum, a reconstruction of an Old Manila house. True enough, in that initial walk through the cuartos, oficinas and the antesalas, nostalgia started to seep through me. I went down and back to La Monja, bringing with me the sight of the play of shadows and light in the halls, and the smell of centuries-old wood and stone. My old soul was really being called back by something I could not fathom. “The tour’s self-explanatory anyway,” Carlos told me, when he arrived at La Monja at 2 pm. “There will be a lot of things to pick up from there.” He promptly prepared for the tour, wearing his signature blue Barong Tagalog, his top hat, and what appeared to be an heirloom neckpiece that made him look like some ilustrado who had just leaped out of an old picture. “I’m just like anybody else who wanted to change the world,” Carlos said. “Our walks started that way, and we never had a business plan or whatever.” Carlos’ passion for the theatre and his love for the ever loyal and venerable city since he started his tours would indeed change the way people looked at the city, the life, and the spirit within the walls. He made sure of this every time he went on walking, announcing his presence by playing a kundiman or an American march on his cassette, his dependable cassette. “Just last week, a kid who joined the tour went to me and asked, ‘what is that?’”

Carlos related. “I didn’t know at first what she was talking about, but I found out later that she was referring to the cassette.” This gadget, I suppose, spoke of this man’s love for the old, and the classic. I feel for him, though, despite the fact that we all live in the era of MTV, MP3 and iPods. His arrival on the streets of Intramuros would not have been as dramatic if the marches were in surround sound or in high definition. Carlos walked as if he carried the whole Banda de Malabon with him. Carlos’ walking tours of Old Manila have been an important fixture in Intramuros. And I must say that the walks were all worth it. His tour brought one not to the sights, but to the stories behind the sites. The storytelling is done in a very unconventional way bringing all of us back to the old Manila in a theatrics that is not merely for the show. He really had something to say, something that Nick Joaquin was furiously writing about as he finished lots of cervesa. “A lot of us have no relationship with the city. We do not understand it,” he told me as we were walking at Beaterio Street, towards Manila Cathedral, where he usually starts his tours. “What’s so surprising is that those who are studying inside Intramuros, the ones from Mapua and the other schools, easily know which way to go, to Mall of Asia, for instance, than going around Intramuros.” At Kilometro Zero Carlos gathered up the walking tourists at the doors of the Manila Cathedral, where a wedding was about to start. Some of the tourists sat on the granite stairs while the welldressed entourage roamed around, perhaps waiting for the other guests. After doing some

necessary head counts, he led all of us to Plaza Mayor in front of the Cathedral, where the statue of the Spanish monarch Carlos IV stands, pointing to the direction of the church. Carlos stood on an elevated plant box and started what became an amazing lecture on Manila’s forgotten heritage. He treated history as if it was hot tsismis in that unholy hour of siestas. The monarch’s gesture, apparently, was a foreboding to Carlos’ discourses. Right on foot, Carlos led everyone back to the Cathedral’s steps. When we all settled down, he started transporting us back onto the drama of the Spanish conquest, and how the power structure in the Plaza Mayor mirrored the way Mother Spain handled the Philippine colony. Showing pictures from the sturdy clear book that he brought out from his black mailman’s bag, he stressed that the very presence of seven cathedrals in Manila showed the theocratic structure in colonial times. It was just ironic and hilarious that we were talking about friar abuse, Moro conquests and marginalization at the foot of Manila’s Rome, tongue in cheek. “Remember, the first rule of course, is to have a sense of humor,” Carlos reiterated, to the delight of his audience. “But really, the Philippines was made for the Vatican, not Madrid.” “We were a province of a colony, and we were simply too far. There’s just no point in going here but to save souls,” Carlos said. In the Cathedral, he also brought us to stand on what was the lost steeple of the Cathedral at the far right side, showing the church’s transformations through the years. Ending the Cathedral facade tour, he directed our attention to the cross atop the Cathedral, the center of everything in the world of the colonial period in the Philippines.

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“We are now in kilometer zero, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Everything emerges from here, from then on, until the American

were held. At the walls of the Baluarte, Carlos showed us where the Jesuits’ Church of San Ignacio

The Americans and World War II Carlos’ cassette played the Jack and Jill march, announcing his sojourn into the American period. All of us were brought to the San Agustin Church’s garden, tended by the Augustinian Recollect Manuel Blanco, the botanist in a habit who studied Philippine medicinal plants. At the garden, we were again asked to sit in a theatre-like arrangement. Carlos passed around a bowl of “chocnut,” which he introduced as one of the country’s “national candy.” He started his animated lecture on the American period, beginning with a very revealing photo of a Filipina, fetishized, wearing the American colors, and gazing provocatively. “The Philippines, was made in the image and

Celdran brings his participants to an animated trip to the American Colonial Period.

Carlos strongly recommends four sites he’s been visiting in his tours—Intramuros, Chinatown, Quiapo and Santa Cruz in Manila, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex in Pasay City. “From within its walls Manila springs forth,” says Carlos, referring to Intramuros. Aside from Casa Manila and San Agustin, the places of interest in Intramuros include Fort Santiago and the Jose Rizal Shrine of course, Bahay Tsinoy and the National Museum of the Filipino People across Intramuros at Luneta. Chinatown for him meanwhile is the core of Chinese culture and influence in Manila. Tours in this place according to him must

The Americans now entered the picture, and transformed Manila and the whole country into its own image. The tour moved along, with Carlos changing his hat into a cap bearing the American colors. He waved the US flag as he led us down from the Baluarte, at the stairs near Puerta de Santa Lucia.

start from Binondo Church, which has a converted pagoda belfry. From here, tourists may explore the streets of Paredes, Carvajal, Ongpin, Salazar, and Benavidez until they reach Santa Cruz Church in Escolta. “All along the way you shall find quaint shops, herbal drugstores, and some of downtown Manila’s best Chinese cuisine,” he adds. The Quiapo and Santa Cruz trips on the other hand offer impressive structures and timeless food. “From Jones Bridge, take a stroll down Escolta Street and admire an impressive collection of the city’s remaining pre-war

| tourbuzz | a walk on the walled side

Touring Manila

Period.” His story was not yet over. The Cathedral tour covered only the pre-colonial period of the lecture, which he ended by introducing the man that would change the course of history by, as he said, “writing novels”, Jose Rizal. Rizal We all walked passed the Commission on Elections entrance to General Luna, and later turned right to Postigo. A popular folkdance song—the one for Tinikling, if I remember it correctly—played on Carlos’ cassette as we approached the Intramuros walls. We climbed the stairs at the Baluartillo de San Juan, as he led the way, directing us to a mango tree at the Baluarte Plano Luneta de Santa Isabel, an elevated plaza where Intramuros programs

stood, and later pointed to the nearby Tourism Department’s Clamshell structure beside it, the site of the original Ateneo de Manila. Since the lecture was on Rizal, Carlos gave what was a one-minute, tongue-twisting Rizal 101 for the tourists who had no idea about our national hero’s life and works. Manila and Intramuros were very important in Rizal’s life, if we remember. He was a quintessential Intramuros boy, studying at the Ateneo, and the University of Santo Tomas, which used to stand near Pasig River. Rizal’s footsteps, his Via Dolorosa, if we recall, have also been marked, from his cell at Fort Santiago, to the sides of Intramuros, up to Luneta. His death later, Carlos emphasized, fired up the Revolution of 1898, which led to what really was our short-lived independence. If only the walls could talk, they would probably remember.

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| tourbuzz | a walk on the walled side likeness of America,” he said, as he covered the history of Manila in the American period, the glory of its beautiful architecture and culture, and its shift to the more protestant lifestyle. “Americans came up here surprised seeing the roads empty and the stores closed because we were taking our siesta. They turned what was an empty Escolta in the Spanish era into a bustling city of commerce and trade,” he added. Shortly, Carlos started another thread of his animated storytelling. He took out his RayBans and his pipe, imitating the grand old general who promised to return to our soil after its major devastation. “The Second World War is about to begin, please follow me,” he announced. We all stood up and after a recess, went to the San Agustin crypts, where some of the more affluent families now bring the remains of their dead. A marker stood right in the middle of the crypt. Some of the tourists sat on the marble steps of the marker, as Carlos encouraged all of us to feel at home. The remark solicited a few quiet giggles. Carlos lit two candles in the candle stand, and led the crowd to a prayer offered for souls, most

especially the ones who were killed in the chamber where we gathered. He later on dramatically pointed to the marker where some French women tourists were seated. “It was right there, on that same spot where you are all sitting,” he said, in his very serious tone, “that a pile of bodies had been found.” The bodies were those of the Augustinian Recollects and some others who have been captured and killed by the Japanese Imperial Army when they were about to lose the war. “Manila stunk of decaying corpse for almost five years. It is absolutely immeasurable what we lost in Manila,” he said, rather glumly. We were all astounded, all ears to the Pied Piper who seemed to utter his elegy for dear Manila, and the lives that were buried underneath it. The feeling went heavier, as he recalled the atrocities, not of the Japanese, but the Americans, whose very bombs, Carlos said, shattered much of Manila’s glory.

Art Deco architecture. After passing through Santa Cruz Church and gazing at the Carriedo fountain, check out all the mid-20th century architecture and discount stores of Rizal Avenue before capping the trip off with a visit to Quiapo Church,” he advises. In Quiapo, he also reminds us not to forget to drop by the handicrafts store underneath the Quezon Bridge. The CCP Complex on the other hand boasts of a well-planned complex of convention centers, exhibition halls, and art institutions designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin and commissioned by former First Lady, Imelda

Marcos. Carlos values visiting this place to sample honest to goodness “Imeldiffic” culture at its finest. “From the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum in the Central Bank Complex, cross Roxas Boulevard and enter the modernist masterpiece that is the interiors of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Don’t forget to tour the Coconut Palace next door to the Sofitel Hotel.”

Halo-halo Not all of Carlos’ stories were grim and gory though. He was, I think, at his best

performance in the World War II part of his tour. He however ended the afternoon’s walk by guiding us through some relevant cultural instruction. We went out of the San Agustin Museum to the doors of the church, where he led us, pilgrim-like, to another candle stand in a smaller side chapel of the church, which carried the image of the La Pieta. He initiated the first timers, particularly the foreigners, to a truly Filipino ritual of praying in the church, believing that each would be granted three wishes. After saying their prayers and lighting candles, the tourists went out of the church to receive from Carlos, an indispensible lesson on Philippine culture. He showed the peculiarities of the church, its similarity to the jeepney, and the Filipino obsession for what we used to call the borloloy. After the tour, we all grabbed our cups of

halo-halo that waited for us at his store in La Monja Loca at Casa Manila, Imelda Marcos’ recreation of a 19th century nobleman’s home. We all sat down to listen to his last few words. He proved to be not only a riveting storyteller but a sharp thinker too. In between spoonfulls of halo-halo, he summed up what Philippine culture was and has become, running through colonial history again, the resurgence of the new elites, the “Chinese-ness” of the powerful, and yes, the “mining” of Imelda (read: that’s mine, that’s also mine). In the end, he returned to the bottom line. “How can I blame people who believe that Manila has no soul?” he asked. What we all did exactly was a way to drive away the demons of forgetfulness. In one of his blog entries, he tried to create a history of Manila that is “accessible and light”. He echoed his very own words all throughout the tour: “I believe that Manila can be a reflection of your state of mind. Being a city of extreme contrasts it’s easy to see how it can become an intense personal experience.” This piece of insight, I think, is something for

the books, and something we really must bear in mind, whether or not we are still walking the face of Manila. Also, contradictions abound, yes, but I think these are more of paradoxes. When we ruminate about it, Manila mirrors our own search for our elusive identity, our very own worldview, our national character. Manila, through the years, has been a melting pot of cultures, a multicultural city of sorts, which according to Carlos spoke of our peculiarities as a nation. “Manila can be chaotic and spiritual, dirty and divine, gritty and gorgeous all at once,” Carlos says, in the posters he had scattered in some of Intramuros’ gracious walls. “If you don’t find beauty and poetry here, you will never find it anywhere.” g For more information on his tours, visit

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A School For Excellence

In commemoration of the Ateneo de Manila’s 150th anniversary, the remarkable story of the university as it unfurled over the intervening decades is delightfully told in words and more than 150 never-beforepublished photos in The Ateneo Way: 150 Years (1859 – 2009). The book was penned by Fr. Jose S. Arcilla, S.J., a member of the Department of History at the Ateneo de Manila University and who has authored and published numerous books. This beautiful hard-cover coffee table book features the university’s journey from its origin to the effervescent university that is still growing today. Here is an excerpt from the book’s first chapter. Above: The bridge over the Anda Street in Ateneo Municipal in Intramuros, connecting two sections of what was then an expanded school.

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The second division study hall in the Ateneo de Manila, Intramuros.


EN Jesuit missionaries, six priests and four coadjutor brothers, arrived aboard the frigate Luisita on 13 June 1859 — and immediately stirred up somnolent Manila. They were returning less than a hundred years after their expulsion from the country in 1768, upon repeated requests from the Philippines for priests to evangelize the mountain tribes of Mindanao and its adjacent islands. But the Manila burghers, frantic for a good primary school for their sons, saw their chance, grabbed it, and prevailed upon the government to detain the new arrivals, hoping they might inject new life into the moribund primary school in the city, the Escuela Pía . No one could have foreseen how the new teachers

better… combine clarity with depth… and enjoyable

would more than satisfy their fondest wishes. Just

explanations.” Over the years, the Jesuits succeeded in

a week after the Jesuits opened the new school,

transforming the Escuela into the now famous Ateneo

renamed Escuela Municipal, as the city government was

de Manila University.

subsidizing it as a public school, a newspaper editorial praised the Jesuit teaching methods that “cannot be

Fr. José Fernández Cuevas, the first Jesuit Rector of the school, insisted that true education must

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From Top to Bottom: The Muralla Playground, Ateneo de Manila - Intramuros; The Basketball team with Coach Pio Roa; A Grade School Classroom; and the Ateneo ROTC Cadets at breakfast after a field mass.

include the religious and moral formation of the child. Heartwarming words indeed for the parents! The brillantez of the early examinations at the Jesuit Escuela fully satisfied these requirements, and the Ayuntamiento asked, with official support from the Governor General, if the Jesuits would be willing to introduce a few slight changes to elevate the institution to a secondary school. This would spare the youth the trouble of traveling abroad to Singapore, Calcutta, or Europe to study. Yes, the Jesuits were willing. Anyway, some of the subjects in the primary school could be suppressed, and their teachers reassigned to the higher classes. This was in 1865, when Ateneo Municipal was born. The school was soon bursting at the seams. The Jesuits had to provide new classrooms, besides obtaining a government license to open a students’ dormitory, allowing non-Spaniards and mestizos to study at the school. One of them was an 11year-old Calambeño, José Rizal. Others would turn out to be equally significant figures in the peaceful, legal campaign for reforms in their country.

Reprinted from The Ateneo Way: 150 Years (1859 – 2009) by Fr. Jose S. Arcilla. S.J. with the consent of Media Wise Communications (c) 2009 by Media Wise Communications. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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The Wowowee Factor


 here is perhaps no TV show in recent memory that is as notorious as Willie Revillame’s Wowowee. With a host who is as controversial, and contests and stunts that are as zany, what we get every lunch hour, depending on the time zone, is a real killer show formula—literally and otherwise. The show’s notoriety has propelled it in pushing the envelope in almost all aspects.

and other hysterical landmarks

By Louie Jon Sanchez | AJPress Illustration by Freely Abrigo Most especially, it helped it remain endearing to a lot of us, not only for the entertainment it provides but also the sanity it paradoxically offers us in these times of economic turmoil and political uncertainties. When we all participate in Wowowee’s space—in ABS-CBN’s live studio, or even on TV—we are made to sit back, relax and leave everything behind, or even let our hair down and join the gyrating sexy dancers in the mean time. It is much like what the French critic Jean Baudrillard said, when he talked about being transported into another world, a world that is kinder and where all dreams come true, as one enters the wonderful world of Disney. In Wowowee, a simulation of a utopic world away from our punishing realities sends us to the dreamland where we can all just laugh at poverty and look at it straight in the eye. But no one seems to mind that the look is also myopic. Notorious, dramatic This myopia compelled me to study Wowowee for more than a year, reading its episodes and some other things said and written about it, as if they were some kind of text any scholar would devour. My own interest was fueled by the spectacle in its shows, and the number one factor that makes

it tick is its notoriety. Eat Bulaga is simply popular, a household name. Wowowee had to deal with a lot of brouhaha—the naughtiness of host Willie which sometimes caught the ire of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and even some women’s groups, the discredited contests, the ratings wars, and in 2006, the stampede in the show’s anniversary that claimed 70 lives at Ultra. Joey de Leon of the other show is naughty too, and at times, political and anti-establishment. But I must say he would never be able to equal Willie’s naughtiness. Willie has become establishment himself. He was built by all the things he had to go through with the show, while the other, older show depends much on its tradition and name recall. Willie and Wowowee are one. They built each other to endure. Wowowee is still up because of this, beating even what the other show had proven in its almost 30 years on the air. It was already an astounding feat to be still alive and kicking after being pitted against a TV institution like Eat Bulaga. And what is even more astounding is the fact that Wowowee still is very much around despite its many scandals and tragedies. When one is notorious, one is easily and very much remembered. It is its staying power.

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the wowowee factor

Looking into the Wowowee phenomenon more closely, another factor that comes to mind is the drama. The drama starts not inside the studio, but in the long queue of people that await the opening of the doors of the ABS-CBN studios day by day. The people, mostly from the urban poor and the impoverished of the countryside, carry with them the same stories of struggles and aspirations, despite coming from different backgrounds, customs and groups. They all come here to line up, ready to bear their souls naked on national television for any prize money or gestures of charity from the hands of Willie. And we all get entertained in the end. We laugh with the contestants as they make fun of themselves, or cry with them as they tell Willie and the whole world their sad, sad tales. We could trace this need to our cultural fondness for the soap opera, which the culture critics Patrick Flores and Ma. Cecilia de La Paz describe as “a form of representation” that recalls “themes that are close to the hearts and minds of the ones who patronize them.” The tradition of melodrama and the soap, both critics agree, cover “discussions on fate that relies on the belief in fortune which needs to be fought for at all times or stressed in the face of struggles to achieve what is being yearned for in life.” Also, we could see here in Wowowee, as well as in any soap opera, the existing contradictions in society, such as discourses on luck and oppression, showcasing what I called in my study as the spectacle of suffering, and what for Flores and De La Paz are “tensions in the field, not only of class, but also of gender, race, religion, tradition, and many others.” But I have extended this love for the drama with our very own colonial embracing of the Pasyon since the time of Gaspar Aquino de Belen. The Pasyon teaches us that suffering is a way to Christ. Blessed are those who suffer for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Being poor is something spectacular to Wowowee. Wowowee is this era’s new soap opera. The line from the ABS-CBN entrance transforms into a string of stories that weaves the very fabric of our collective stories as a nation in suffering. This factor also makes Wowowee a great piece of literature, with the small L, if we would believe the poststructuralist notions that everything now, even life, is a text. Reach “What is a dollar for a tear?” says diaspora studies expert and Mombugakoshu scholar Riza Mendoza, as I asked her what makes Wowowee popular among Filipino expatriates. More than anything,

Mendoza, a holder of a PhD in Educational Development from the University of Hiroshima, finds that the biggest factor to consider in understanding Wowowee is its reach. “Wowowee is seen worldwide, and it has been bringing back a lot of Filipinos scattered all over the globe. When we come to think of it, Wowowee helps them reconnect with the culture they have left back here,” she says. In her own studies on the Filipino diaspora, Mendoza has found out that the Filipino expatriate suffers an acute longing that keeps on seeping through the consciousness and to some extent makes the fragmentation caused by being uprooted from one’s own land even more unbearable. “Wowowee is a necessity for the Filipino in the diaspora,” she adds. “Instead of being a mere form of entertainment, it helps them heal the wounds of being away from home.” And indeed it does. When I looked into what the Filipino in the diaspora had been writing about Wowowee, at least in the Internet, I what Mendoza’s point. In the discussion threads of the different websites I surveyed, I have seen not only the fondness of the Filipino expatriate with the show, but their yearning to participate in the space of Wowowee, which for many years now had been occasionally brought to different cities abroad where Filipino communities abound, as if Wowowee and Willie were popular and miraculous pilgrim images. Take for instance this piece from a certain Starry, whose writing in a blog seems to echo the fictional characters Filemon Acayan and Antonio Bataller in Bienvenido Santos’ “The Day the Dancers Came”: “Does anybody know Wowowee’s e-mail address, or more importantly, does anybody know when Willie Revillame will be arriving in Chicago? I want to see him at the airport.” Just remembering that Fil and Tony’s story also happened in Chicago can give us goose bumps. “At some point, Wowowee is a miracle to many Filipinos who have gone away. It provides them a way to give back and be generous. Aside from that, Wowowee comes to them and they all participate and perform their Filipino-ness in a community that is theirs. Aside from that, the expats have more anyway. They all get to share their blessings here,” says Mendoza, touching somehow on some religious undertones in the program. After all, any longing is metaphysical and therefore is also religious. And this was probably what led De La Salle University Philippine Studies major Kenneth Paranada, in comparing the frenzy that is Wowowee to

the Roman Catholic Mass. In his structuralist study, he saw that the people who participate in Wowowee seem to also be performing as believers in “a Mass with Willie Revillame as the Christ offering the sacrifice.” Wowowee then becomes another mass where Filipinos in the diaspora get to profess their faith—and their sense of belongingness to a nation they have left—once more. Filipinos abroad who watch Wowowee do not only watch the show for mere entertainment. Mendoza believes that deep in their psyche, Wowowee is the answer to all their longings. ABS-CBN corporate communications executive Bong Osorio believes that Wowowee is a phenomenon because “everyday is a celebration, a party where everybody’s happy and everyone can even dance and sing along with its hosts and studio audience.” He says that despite the hard times, Filipinos, regardless of status and background and as a more tempered culture, love to laugh, even at themselves. This is also the reason why the show has also become endearing, even to foreigners. Royalties from Europe graced some of its episodes. Most recently, US Ambassador. Kristie Kenney herself visited the show, exchanging pleasantries with Willie and sharing with the fun of the audience. Awesome Above all, Wowowee the phenomenon has that certain awe which it grants to anybody who wishes to be in its space. The word “wow” in its name can be read ambivalently.

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the wowowee factor Considering this, Wowowee after all, aspires to wow. And it succeeds most of the time. The notoriety and how the show gets away from it, is something that already wows. Its inclusion as a “tourist destination” of the Department of Tourism, and Willie’s appointment as Ambassador of Tourism echo the state’s “Wow Philippines” campaign. Other things that make it awesome could be seen through the way it enjoins its audience to be part of the party. As if breaking the walls of the theatre again, Wowowee has also turned the tables to its audience, letting them become spectacles themselves in the set. There are no more boundaries between the show and the viewer. In the traditional sense, the viewers are just passive receivers to what the show is giving. In Wowowee, at least, the audience has become the focal point of the camera, with its stage returning to the amphitheatre structure. The hosts are now surrounded by the audience, which in turn gets to participate and share the limelight. The awe that used to be just a sight to behold by the audience —the lighting effects, the stage movements, the closeness of the hosts to the audience, Willie’s

warmth, etc.—have now become part of their own realm. This set up, I think, primarily makes the show appealing, even for Filipinos abroad. It recalls memories of fiestas and even family gatherings where stories and storytelling thrive. All things considered, the real Wowowee factor is none other than “Papi” Willie himself. Aside from the fact that he becomes a cultural surrogate for the people who have left town for greener pastures elsewhere, he embodies the very stories and struggles of the people. He has been to hell and back, carrying on, resurrecting himself like the heroes of the myths. Willie is the father, the “Papi” of everyone. He exemplifies the Filipino, the lively, hospitable Filipino who loves slapstick and easily empathizes with a neighbor’s misfortune. He is the secret behind all these, the moving force, the spirit. Whether we are here or abroad, Willie speaks to us unlike anybody before. He touches, he embraces, he makes you laugh— and a few pesos richer, after you have told him your story. He lends you the mic because, after all, as he says it everyday, “sa Wowowee, kayo ang bida!” (in Wowowee, you are the star!) g

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Is there life after noon? Pinoy noontime shows, a national pastime By Malou liWanag–aguilaR | aJPRess


WAS born in the 70s, when most parents would force their kids to stay in the house during afternoons for their siesta. I even remember my Yaya Lina locking the front gate to make sure that my siblings and I wouldn’t sneak out and go biking around the neighborhood. So we stayed inside and pretended to sleep. But Yaya Lina was a fan of Ate Guy, the Superstar Nora Aunor, so most of the time she’s watching television, hoping that she’d catch a glimpse of her idol appearing in the noontime shows. Most of the time, she’d let me stay and watch. Years later and a thousand miles away from the Philippines, I found myself doing the same thing I was doing with Yaya Lina – getting hooked on watching noontime shows – and realized I wasn’t alone. Noontime shows have become part of Pinoy pop culture. In a 2006 report, “The Religion of Noontime Shows,” Carmela Fonbuena of Newsbreak described what exactly it is. “The noontime show starts with a production number and then mix talent searches and game throughout the show,” Fonbuena wrote. “They are basically variety shows and you can trace their format to the vaudeville shows of pre-television age.” Different but the same If my memory serves me right, the first noontime I remember really watching was Student Canteen. It is, according to sources, the first and original, longest-running noontime show on Philippine television that ran for 30 years in different decades (the current longest-running variety noontime show in the country to date is Eat! Bulaga, which runs on the local channel GMA 7). As years passed, other variety noontime shows emerged – Kalatog Pinggan, Kwarta O Kahon, Lunch Date, ‘Sang Linggo nAPO Sila and MTB. Noontime shows have also been a vehicle for many undiscovered talents who are now big stars. Eat! Bulaga produced child celebrity

and now popular artist Aiza Seguerra, as well as Jericho Rosales, who is now a leading talent of ABS-CBN. Every show would like to think that they stand out from the rest of the competition with new segments, contests, promos and numbers, but as Fonbuena wrote, “the reality is that noontime shows in Philippine television are mere copies of each other.” Shows usually have their own versions of similarly themed contests and talent searches, as well as games that draw the masses to flock studios, in the hope of getting a piece of the prizes. However, the only change one will notice is the technology—with the affordability of TV sets. On a personal experience I know this to be true, because back home, our household had three to four TV sets, while my uncle next door had five. You’d even be surprised that even the family who earns way below the minimum wage can afford their own set. Just like being at home It’s funny to think that when I was still in the Philippines, there was a point when I stopped watching noontime shows because I had no time. Sometimes, when time permits, I would be able to catch a few minutes of it during the weekends. Yet, when I got transferred to the United States for work, I didn’t expect to see familiar faces on my mother’s TV screen. Yes, there it was, staring me in the face – Wowowee. Mom subscribes to The Filipino Channel, so it was basically an all-Filipino show festival day after day. She often also keeps the TV open even when she’s asleep.

My sister, who lives on the second floor of the same building, on the other hand, tapes the show when she’s at work so she can watch the show when she gets back. Even my friend, Cheekee, who lives in Vallejo, swears that her parents and auntie makes it a point to watch Eat! Bulaga (they subscribe to GMA Pinoy TV), and says that it’s great entertainment for them. My mom agrees. The success of Wowowee in the US and other parts of the world where TFC is available, has earned host Willie “Papi” Revillame the distinction of being a celebrity envoy for tourism in connection with the Department of Tourism’s program. Filipinos abroad are now invited to visit the country and watch Wowowee live. Also, Filipinos seem to have a certain attraction to real-life drama, as most contestants in the shows’ game segments have their own sad story to tell. “Gusto ko pong makatulong sa mga magulang ko, (I want to be able to help my parents),” said one young girl when asked what she would do with her cash prize if she won. Playing up the emotions of viewers is part and parcel of the noontime shows’ ratings game, and competition is fierce. But for most of us who haven’t had the chance to visit home, Wowowee or Eat! Bulaga are the closest we can be to the Philippines. So it’s almost like being back home, I mused to myself. Well, almost – but at this point, the TV is on again – and Wowowee’s on. g

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And if the heart can not love death can not cure it nor sleep nor splendor of wound the heart has no sound Bloom has escaped it and birth the miraculous flower and music and speech leave it unbewitched God it can not spell nor sun nor lover the beautiful word and it has no sound no sound nor wound

Love and Longing in the Poems of Gamalinda, IGLORIA and Villa BY Mark Anthony Cayanan

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| px | poetry by expats

The relationship of Filipinos with the United States is necessarily complicated and multifaceted. On the one hand, America for many of us is still a land of promise; with its twin values of democracy and individual enterprise, it is in our minds the center of growth and of freedom. That we are, or know of, people who have had that promise fulfilled ensures that this perception remains valid for a prolonged period of time. On the other hand, the relocation a number of us have gone through in order to have that promise lived daily has allowed for feelings of alienation, isolation and dislocation to creep in. America may have made us be what we wish to become; nevertheless, the desire for roots and for what is most familiar refuses to go away, thus infusing with nostalgia the daily grind of the present.

The States has long been host to some of the best Filipino creative writers, with a number of them taking up permanent residence due to the greater artistic license, publishing opportunities, and personal and professional development that the diaspora has afforded them. In the case of their works, we see the paradoxes of past and present—and the future that precariously rises from the welding of the two—and of progress and memory made apparent as recurring concerns. In particular, in the love poetry of Eric Gamalinda, Luisa Igloria and José Garcia Villa, the intimacy and intensity accorded to a beloved become transposed to a kind of longing for something deeper, more expansive, something that may even suggest a longing—no matter how sublimated—for country. No other Filipino poet is perhaps more famous for choosing self-exile from his country than Villa. Leaving for the States in 1930 in the wake of the controversy surrounding the publication of his erotic poems Man Songs, Villa was able to find in his new environment conditions that fueled his evolution as a poet. In America, he found himself ensconced in a writing community that established him as one of the few noteworthy Asian poets of his time. He also found himself able to write the kind of poetry that differed highly from his Filipino contemporaries, that which was marked by a sense of playfulness and technical dexterity. Two of the most noteworthy poetic innovations he introduced were “reversed consonance,” an idiosyncratic rhyme scheme, and the profuse use of commas, a tactic that he claimed could “regulat[e] the poem’s verbal density and time movement.” Many of Villa’s poems read as experimental meditations that elicit both delight and wonder. His poems seem to privilege sonic and visual texture over emotive intensity, as most of his love poems make evident. For instance, in Poem 138 of “Lyrics” of Volume Two (1949), the persona lightly advises lovers to realize that

“Love’s , corners , be , but, two , but ,     Two , only , two. Love’s , corners ,     Be , but , two , but , they , will , “Do. But , two , but , all , for , you. The poem’s expert use of repetitious monosyllabic words lends to it a singsong-y rhythm that sits well with the relentlessness of commas. And even as the persona speaks of an age-old truth—that love is a connection, between two people, that is both exclusive but complete—the reader finds in it a childlike quality that affirms the playfulness of the poem. Despite the importance lavished upon form, some of Villa’s poems nevertheless still manage to strike an emotional chord. In Poem 19 of “Lyrics” from Have Come, Am Here (1942), the reader gets to feel plaintively the value of love, even as the poem paradoxically speaks of the aches and troubles caused by feeling it:

And if the heart can not love death can not cure it nor sleep nor splendor of wound the heart has no sound Bloom has escaped it and birth the miraculous flower and music and speech leave it unbewitched God it can not spell nor sun nor lover the beautiful word and it has no sound no sound nor wound

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| px | poetry by expats The sense of desolation the reader feels comes from the poem’s repeated use of negatives: to not experience love is to deprive the self not just of loss but also beauty, not only pain but also pleasure. A number of Villa’s poems may be said to be nearly a-historical: They are almost bereft of specific social context and function primarily as concentrated language utterances. However, despite the seeming resistance of the poems of Villa to a reading that is tied to one’s regard for milieu, they still participate in the universal experience of loving and losing, of wanting and withdrawing. It is this awareness of the paradoxical quandaries of love that connects the poetry of Villa with the works of both Igloria and Gamalinda. While the feeling of longing in the poetry of Villa functions like an apparition hovering in the periphery, it is precisely this which propels the works of Igloria. In the poems contained in her collection Blood Sacrifice (1997), there seems to be a conscious effort to articulate the desire of a particular self for an other: While Villa seems to maintain a kind of detachment from the subject, such that his love poems are an interesting mix of the childlike and the aphoristic, Igloria opts for a more personal, almost confessional kind of approach. Interestingly, a number of her poems deal with romantic intimacy as perceived through the conflict of distance:

You do not hear me, but still I ask it: if I left, would you follow my trail, would you collect the bones of stories they will tell about me and wear them as a pledge; and most of all, oh most of all—what would you give up, for that glimpse of me you will risk again and again to see: a figure under broken lamplight, the endpoints of my cape flying upward to the moon because finally nothing, not even the magnetism of emptiness, could withhold from us the ache, the promise of such music— In the concluding lines of “Ransom,” Igloria articulates most eloquently the pull of love that allows both beloved and lover to hurtle toward each other, despite the problems that confront each of them, despite the physical absence that threatens to transform possibly into memory. “Only on occasion can hunger be greater than fear,” the persona admits; however, the act of leaving— something that constantly informs the diasporic condition of the Filipino-American— is both “a wish for rescue as well as for abandonment.” Even more explicitly, in “Last Known Residence,” the longing one feels for the beloved becomes conflated with the longing for a country: “Keep me close in the country / of your heart, a place I am only just / beginning to inhabit,” the persona implores. In the poem, the persona acknowledges how affection seems to create an imagined milieu, in which the self finds herself both comforted and estranged.

In the poem, love, like the process of immigration, becomes something that can allow for fulfillment as much as it can amount to surrender and vulnerability. Or, as the poem says,

          In other words I have given you the power to hurl me back to the emptiness of beginnings. Having come so far, what remains to be broken but my hair, my teeth, the fine bones of the wrist and little fingers. Still, despite Igloria’s astute assessment that to submit oneself to the beloved is to invite harm, one cannot deny the possibility of happiness that becomes such an overwhelming enticement to surrender. It is this same sentiment that resonates in the pages of Eric Gamalinda’s collection Zero Gravity (1999). And similar to a number of other poems of Igloria, Gamalinda allows this knowledge to flow over into poems that deal with diaspora and relocation. But while Igloria’s poetry maintains a sense of suspended anticipation over the promise of fulfillment, Gamalinda’s works seem to deal with the need for escape, as informed by frustrations that have to be relinquished:

              I myself may have chosen to forget a face, a name, some cruel word uttered carelessly, but not, after all the harm is done, intending any pain. And many others may have chosen to forget me. It works both ways. My people say, nasa huli ang pagsisi: regret is the final emotion. It’s what you see when you look back. It’s what’s no longer there.

José Garcia Villa (center) among America’s finest writers of his time at a 1948 Gotham Book Mart reception in New York.

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| px | poetry by expats In Gamalinda’s “Factory of Souls,” the persona arrives at a kind of impasse that is the result of both wisdom and weariness: on occasions when the self can no longer bear it, there is a need to forget or depart, even though this departure never quite erases the longing for something that, because it has been left behind, will forever be absent. Moving through poem after poem in Gamalinda’s collection, the reader is presented with an almost-overwhelming nostalgia, a reflex that the poet considers from various standpoints. On the one hand, in “Enough,” the persona maintains some distance from it:

When my friends decide they’ve had enough of America they start longing for the odor of fish sauce, the silky texture of newly cooked rice, warmer weather, the privilege of cursing in their own tongue [...] Someday I will send everyone a card with nothing in it, only the calligraphy of a river, and in the back with invisible ink I will say: Forgive my happiness, I have betrayed you all. In the poem, the persona relishes the feeling of release and of novelty afforded by his new milieu, even as those who have gone through the same experiences as he has are beginning to pine for what has been left behind. On the other hand, in the poem interestingly titled “The Opposite of Nostalgia,” a kind of ironic yet affectionate examination of the emotion is tendered:

A man drives a stake through his own heart and afterwards the opposite of nostalgia begins to make sense: he stops raking the leaves and the leaves take over and again he has learned to let go. The opposite of nostalgia, the poem seems to insinuate, is to bask and be attentive to the present, even as the accumulations of it keep flinging you back to the past. The opposite of nostalgia, the poems seems to insinuate, is abandon, is the submission to what is and even what was, without the need to distinguish between the two. This treatment of nostalgia, which is a product of longing is, finally, what binds Villa, Igloria, Gamalinda, three of the finest poets the Philippines has ever produced who have chosen to, at some points in their lives, reside permanently in the States. Whether this longing be informed by a beloved once regarded or about to be gained, or by an absent origin or a country to be conquered, or by both, what remains constant is the deeper emotion that informs it, which is love. As Gamalinda puts it, love is what it is “because memory moves in orbits / of absence,” because what you wanted at one time becomes subsumed into what you are for all time. g

Eric Gamalinda

Luisa Igloria

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he has spent two decades building a life of comfort—all through her dedication and persistence. Las Vegas resident Zenaida Tamayo-Debien is living her American dream. But she is about to embark on another journey yet again: that of finding herself in the company of friends and family, as she returns to her home province of Bulacan. And on this return, she is making sure her hard work in the United States will come into fruition once again, when she finally purchases that bahay at lupa she had dreamed of for so long.

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Bahay at Lupang Hinirang By Rachel Ra単osa | AJPress Photos by Walter Villa

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“Land of the morning, child of the sun returning� From the 1934 English version of the Philippine National Anthem as translated by Camilo Osias and A.L. Lane

Photo by Walter Villa

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bahay at lupang hinirang She has a longing for that quintessential country house of her childhood—with its capiz windows, bamboo floors, earth-friendly banggera, and ventanilla. “Land of the morning, child of the sun returning” After 20 years of living in the land of milk and honey, she will now be investing in a property in the “land of the morning.” She will be coming home to the quaint town of Pulilan, Bulacan, where mangoes gloriously change from green to gold. And where the kalabaw, the faithful water buffalo, dons the colors of the fiesta, as it humbly kneels down and pays homage to the patron San Isidro Labrador for the season’s harvest. This is her home. And her decision to return this 2009 is an affirmation of her

in the minds of Filipinos born after the Commonwealth years, but they once opened the English version of the “Lupang Hinirang.” In this reading of the Philippine national anthem, the lyrics reveal a different sense of being Filipino—one that is illustrated in the story of Zenaida Debien, one that is relevant to us in the era of the Filipino diaspora. They speak of a homecoming and of a reconnection of the individual with his or her land. Patriotic investments Filipinos the world over experience this same connection with their place of origin the way Zenaida does with her hometown. Many expatriates are once more taking root in their heritage by investing in properties in the Philippines, as this crystallizes one’s affinity with the place and solidarity with the people.

the architectural symphony of buildings and thoroughfares in the metro. The aesthetics suit the cosmopolitan taste of the expat who has seen much of what the world has to offer. For years, the Filipinos’ dream was to own a house in the countryside, to live the idyllic life similarly found in the country estates of Connecticut, Montana, and New England. Today, the dream—or rather, the challenge—is simply for the Filipino to own a house in his or her country of origin, given the complexities of finding one’s roots in a borderless world. Owning that bahay at lupa, house and lot, we once aspired for, has now been transformed into a longing for that bahay sa lupang sinilangan. Deja view Scenes of the home they had left behind— the physical beauty of the provinces, of these mountains, hills, and beaches, and the symbolic meaning of being with friends and family—are embedded in the minds of Pinoy expats. Memories serve as cognitive landmarks, and Filipinos abroad are able to find their way back to their country of origin because of them. To come home after years of living abroad is to revisit one’s past, and to embrace it—because home, the land of the morning, reminds us of how we were then and who we have become now. Coming home is not merely about investing in real estate in the Philippines. It is about traversing the terrain of our culture. Those who have found their homes across foreign shores come back, not so much as to conquer the obstacles of geography, as it is to reaffirm the heritage of their culture.

“...hurry home. Your country is waiting.” identity, her love for the country she had left behind, her love for this land of the morning. The memories of her childhood in the country are again reanimated by her desire to live on a quiet farm, where the earth and sky meet, and the soil cradles its bounty—the sweet mangoes, juicy watermelons, and abundant rice. Zenaida Debien, both as an American citizen and as a Bulakenya born and bred, has a heart big enough to embrace the best of both worlds. She, like many Filipinos abroad who return home, is a “child of the sun returning.” “Land of the morning, child of the sun returning”: the words barely resonate

Thus, the Filipino expatriates’ purchase of land in the Philippines, after years of hard work, is deemed patriotic. This homecoming of the Pinoy expat has done much to boost the real estate sector. Urban development is no longer confined to the parameters of Metro Manila but is expanding well into the North and South of the Metro. The design of the contemporary Filipino dream house is also diversifying—from residential farm estates to condominiums at the heart of the city. With styles ranging from the rustic, with groves, mountains, hills, and beach fronts that evoke the charm of our old hometowns, to the contemporary, in

Finding one’s roots Indeed, there is nothing intrinsic to one’s being Filipino with regard to living in one’s home country or not. One can be Filipino while living in California or New York; one can be Filipino even as a citizen of another country. But in the long run, returning to one’s place of origin affords the Pinoy expatriate a return to one’s roots—our roots—as it is an homage to generations that came before us, who wrote our history and provided us the reference point—like a compass—with which we navigate our lives today. To the Pinoy expat who wants to embark on this journey, hurry home. Your country is waiting. g

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Bohol, a reverie runs through it


rinking had never been this lonesome. Not that I don’t enjoy drinking with Mom who, by the time I was writing this, had already finished two glasses of margarita. In this Panglao night, my glass of cabernet sauvignon is starting to fill me with reverie.

So I took my best friend, the laptop to write my story under these starry skies. Tomorrow, I would be back in the arms of Manila, my Manila. And the thought of it brings me feelings that are acute and painful Bohol is introverted like me, and amusingly very rural. No big, noisy parties, just tables for one, or two, or a few friends who would talk quietly. Is it the wine or the memory slowly unfolding? Time flies and I have to commit everything to memory. The place sounded so foreign already, at least literally with the presence of tourists and the only time I heard the lilt and verve of Boholano Cebuano was when we entered the mystical church of the

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essence of place

The Asian Journal Press Photos by Ted Madamba The River Loboc and its famous floating restaurants are major tourist attractions in Bohol.

Assumption at Dauin, almost a kilometer from Alona Beach. The mystique comes from the well right in front of the altar of Mary, assumed into the heavens. The lanky man who was praying with the manangs as my Mom and I were entering the church said that the waters coming from the threefeet deep well had been there even before the church was built. There was another story about the well, which told that it miraculously sprung right at the foot of the altar when the villagers, who sought shelter in the church because of pirate attacks, ran out of water. We didn’t find it at first, and I was surprised to see it on its spot, covered by plastic and wood, which carried the

words: “This is Not A Wishing Well, This is Mama Mary’s Well”. Mom filled the mineral water bottle she emptied before entering the church with the waters from the well. She had heard the fame of the church and had wanted to go there. She finished quite much, while I think I only did half of what had been given to me. I was unsure if it was clean or what. But I gulped anyway, out of faith perhaps, but still fully conscious of what I was drinking. I tried to sense any unpleasant taste or anything just in case. Nothing. Curiously, it was probably the best tasting water in the world. I felt refreshed after that Bohol tour our group

took immediately after we touched down in Tagbilaran. Early in the day, we found ourselves driving up the highways that led to Chocolate Hills in Carmen town. A quick turn from the road that connected Tagbilaran and Panglao was the Sanduguan shrine, which had an amazing view of the Maribojoc Bay and the Bohol Sea. Tourists flock this place to take their pictures while they touch or share in the holding of the mugs of the Abueva figures of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Rajah (or Datu in some accounts) Sikatuna, who in 1565 forged their alliance through the blood compact or Sanduguan.

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| essence of place | Bohol, a reverie runs through it Afterwards, the car went to Baclayon Church of the Immaculate Concepcion, which had been built by the Jesuits, and later on, by the Augustinian Recollects. The church, whose facade and externals have been built from corals, limestone and egg whites, according to the guides, houses religious artifacts belonging to the early friars, archives and pre-Vatican II vestments which transported all of us to the incense-filled Latin Masses of yesteryears. There were reliquaries too, which stood in a small retablo in the museum. Later on, I have read that the reliquaries were that of St. Ignatius of Loyola, my favorite saint. While the church reminded me of San Agustin in Manila, I was astonished while on my way out of the museum chambers–the wide capiz windows of the church convent where the museum provided a beautiful and scenic view of the Baclayon pier. The Bohol Sea still greeted me with its warm welcome as its winds touched my face. I went down to see the church and take some pictures. Baclayon’s church is a fascinating sacred space with its beautiful frescoes and retablos. I took pictures of the round side pulpit, colored sky-blue and gilded with golden leaves, and it seemed to have brought back the times when friars used to sermon about goodness, or even obedience to the native faithful. The church was altogether a transporting place where traces of history could be found in the play of darkness and

light, of the many colors of the church’s side windows, and the shadows that one would face, especially at the inside entrance of the church which has a dirty white choir loft supported by four strong columns. The church was also home to the newly refurbished Baclayon Organ, one of the oldest pipe organs in the country, also made by the venerable Augustinian Recollect Diego Cera, the creator of the famous Bamboo Organ in Las Piñas. A concert had been held here recently, celebrating its restoration. I went around the church, trying to feel the place some more. I sought the solace of the cold seats while listening to the guide talk about the history of the church and how the panaderos around the locale made big business while helping build the church through the egg whites they donated. Walking around, I saw the small side chapel of the church, which had, among others, a very, very interesting statue of St. Lazarus, just raised from the dead. I remembered that the Philippine Islands had been initially named after him, since the conquerors arrived on our soils during his feast day. He stood with that peculiar gaze–not of usual saintly awe and amazement, but of surprise and even question perhaps. He had been resting already, and he had been raised, in the narrative that we know. The cloth that had been put around his body is still intact, except on his face, which retells the story. Lazarus stood there, in his corner, seemingly asking

us why he still saw the light of the living. It was disturbing as it was beautiful. I walked out of the church seeing once again the calm seas, and the sturdy belfry of Baclayon, which probably served as a watchtower too in pirate-infested colonial Bohol. The sun was starting to show up, but giving us more sepia-toned surroundings. All of us guests looked like we were figures coming alive from a burnt old picture. We passed by the rice fields and hills of Albuquerque and Loay, before finally turning left to go up to Loboc, the home of the famous Loboc River and the highlyacclaimed Loboc Children’s Choir. Before this, we stopped by a roadside tarsier center to see some of these endemic creatures of the province. The shy guys were sleepy and must not be disturbed. I tried to take close pictures but most of them climbed higher in their trees. They’re just not in the mood. It was indeed sleeping time. We reached Loboc and it started to drizzle again. Passing by the river Loboc, I saw the belfry of the Loboc church on the other side. The church complex is much bigger than Baclayon’s. The convent is not on the side, but at the rear of the church. It is all made of wood, and from afar, I saw the sign “Museo de Loboc”. The group I joined in did not get into the church and its museum. We instead trooped the river terminal where some fully decorated barges waited. The trip promised to bring us to the heart of Bohol’s

The majestic Chocolate Hills numbering to almost 1,500.

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surrounded by farmland. We turned to the viewing complex where loads of buses and jeepneys gathered, apparently waiting for their passengers who have probably been enjoying the sights in the area. Our car went up as well, and I was instructed to take the ticket where our vehicle’s plate number was written. There were no parking areas up, and the car would have to be called through radio from down the hill instead. There were more or less 120 steps in that hill that led to that beautiful deck where I finally saw what I had just been seeing in postcards and textbooks. Carmen, which in Spanish pertains to the provincial, is really the price for running around Bohol. The steps provided a beautiful treasure, a breathtaking terrain, spanning thousands of years and showing the complexity of nature and its various evolutions and transformations. The geological landmark that is the Chocolate Hills of Carmen–despite the fact that it was not so chocolaty during my visit–was simply wonderful. I’m happy and proud I voted for it a few months ago to the new Seven Wonders of the World. I understood while looking around the view deck why the way that led to Carmen

were just following the chartered tour of our companions, we decided to move ahead. The trip, which reminded me of the arduous of the Amazing Race show, was really tiring. From landing we just rested for a few minutes, and then we were all on our way. There was not much excitement really, only with the anticipation of anything that comes. I never thought that the way to Chocolate Hills was the last of the Bohol tests. We arrived at Carmen seeing what looked like big, big mounds of green

seemed enchanted–we passed by winding roads enveloped by old and tall Molaves, and upon leaving the grove, it seemed that we were in an entirely different place. The greenery was just everywhere, it was moist and the clouds seemed to almost kiss the grounds. The sight of a hill spelled the difference. We were on new ground. The wanderer in me was silenced. I had to listen once again to the lore of this place by just being still as I am surrounded by these mounds known to have been created from the tears of a broken-hearted giant.

| essence of place | Bohol, a reverie runs through it

nature through the river. The river was brown because of the rains. Some say the waters were usually crystal clear. But however it looked at that precise moment, I took that seat at the barge beside the waters, to appreciate its exquisiteness. As we were leaving town and the woods that surrounded us became thicker, the air grew crisp and comfortingly colder. The barge is actually a floating restaurant that served us with a generous buffet of steamed fish, barbecue, Visayan pinakbet (not really salty but gingery, actually) callos, and fruits in season. The musicians aboard started to play for the guests, and while I leaned on the steel porch, I was reminded of that beautiful last chapter of Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, when the aged lovers Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza finally took the cruise of their much-awaited love. But deep in my thoughts, I was stirred by what I saw in between trees that we had been passing by. Apparently, the government had placed display street and halogen lamps to make the trip very dramatic. In the day, it looked like a city being overrun by the jungle, ala Aztecs and Incas. I told myself that I should visit the river again, soon, in the night, when the lights are on. The river started to widen, and we saw other barges passing us by. There was another barge that carried no one else, but a couple having lunch, perhaps having some intimate moments, and a musician playing his guitar. Garcia Marquez returned to me again. The barge moved faster and went ahead of us. Still at the background were the singers on board, who were by this time, singing a Tagalog kundiman, but with the Visayan lilt. Loboc is a musical town, and I was not surprised at all to see some river stations with choirs of children, ready to entertain the guests in the barges that would pay them a visit. Our barge stopped by one of them, at the mouth of the widening river, which led

apparently to the Loboc river rapids. As we went to park our barge took their bandurias and started to sing some Visayan songs, and to my understanding, a song probably composed by locals, thanking the turistas who pay homage to their little musical town. I do not speak Cebuano (and not even my native Ilocano), but I seem to have this gift of understanding language wherever I go, at least in this country. As we were approaching the Loboc town and the terminal again, one of our companions started to chant “The Love Boat” theme, and perhaps the singers somehow picked up from there. I did not come from the 70s, but I feel I was formed by it. My spirit leaped as words and song flew all around the boat, with my parents singing with the old timers: “Love won’t hurt anymore/it’s an open smile on a friendly shore….” It was wonderful and romantic. Our barge passed by the boat with the couple on a lunch date. They apparently stopped midway. They were having a sweet toast. Was everyone in the mood for love? I could not really say. Carmen meanwhile was about 30 minutes away from Loboc. Since my parents and I had our own vehicle and

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The church at Albuquerque, on the way to Carmen, Bohol is put together by a series of arches.

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| essence of place | Bohol, a reverie runs through it After the exhilarating trip, we went back to Panglao, in Alona Beach. Popular legend has it that this beach was the location of one of the films by 80s starlet Alona Alegre. Why was the beach named after her? Stories had been circulating that Alona ran naked on this same beach, probably for a scene she was shooting. I read somewhere that it was a film with the late Fernando Poe, Jr. It had been a running joke ever since among tour guides that people might as well follow Alona’s footsteps in the Bohol sand if they wanted to have a beach named after them. Alona Beach, being the most developed beach front in Panglao, is not only home to well-managed resorts and diving centers. It is also where a lot of the boats park, since quite understandably, it provides a calm refuge for the small vessels, which help tourists hop around islands. In our stay in Panglao, I never saw the sea violently hit the shores. Even if it was raining, the sea was surprisingly clear and sparkling. Outdoors, I stayed by the sea, walked around with my Mom, or just sat in one of the chairs under the coconut trees. I had one great quiet time listening to the calm gush of the waves. At night on the other hand, Alona does not transform into the wildness of her namesake. She remains peaceful, calm. Soft music played all day until the early evening, when some tourists flocked the resorts’ grill stations or bars. At Alona, I was once again shown the wisdom of the sea, which is a gift to the boatmen. These men, whom I have seen partake of the sea’s bounty in its raw freshness know how to communicate

with the sea. They know its movements, and its language. The hand gestures of the one leading the boat when we hopped islands spoke well on when to stop sailing, and on which side to go, in order to go with the flow. When I travel on sea, I always feel gifted by what it teaches–perception, acceptance and trust. In my trip to Bohol, the sea befriended me and brought me back to the sacredness of silence and thought. It kept spurting salt spray on my face as our boat from another tour glided on its wavy surface. It had our boat leap a couple of times, as if we were the dolphins I had failed to watch during our stay in Bohol. Perhaps I was again being taught about leaps and about life. In the solitude of the island, we all became Orpheus-like, calling on ourselves as we saw our reflections on water. After my reverie, I return once again on this spot of my table, typing away my last memories of the visit. I have said so much— words have kept flowing since I started telling my story. The spirit of the wine is gone. As I look up, I see the pale moonlight. The sea at Alona is calm and my Mom has put on her earphones to listen to her iPod. The glass of margarita reflected the moon, and for a moment, I looked at it, as if it was the last gaze I will ever offer. Not far away, apparently, there’s a small dance happening. An acoustic band is playing “If I Fell” by the Beatles. There is after all, a small party, I tell myself. Alona is bidding farewell. It also wanted to take my melancholy out the sea. I surrendered to the lure of the music. I danced with the memories almost leaving. I have fallen in love with Bohol as I sailed into the sunrise. g

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room with a viewpoint

The Eskaya is not the limit Eskaya means a lot when you go to Bohol. First, it is the only known indigenous group in the island of pristine white sand beaches, exquisite flora and fauna, and heritage towns and churches. The group is a culture, priding itself with a literature and a language, an organized social system, and a very rich history, which dates back to seventh century AD. The culture that is Eskaya embodies the whole Boholano culture itself, the whole world and worldview. When we recall this very world into our modern times, we not only go a nostalgic trip but reiterate its presence in a whole new way. Such we believe is Eskaya Beach Resort

winds greet you. You are on new ground. You drop your bag and walk the pathway leading to the crystal clear pool, which in your horizon seems to flow smoothly onto the sea. You dip your feet. The water is warm and calming. This is the prize at the end of the long road coming here. Eskaya was put up last year here in Panglao, a major growth hub in the region. The island’s burgeoning number of resorts

and Spa’s project in putting up this much talked about destination in the famous Panglao Island of Bohol. As you enter the premises, you immediately sense the unique touch of this resort’s concept: a vision of a destination that combines the natural feel of its surroundings, and the modern amenities. This would surely pamper any weary traveler who went to this island to witness the sights and be blown away by the beauty and mystique of the paradise. As you trek the charming tree-lined road, you will already feel transported. You will be spellbound as plush villas, sights of beach goers preparing for their dip, and the nice Bohol Sea

and tourist centers, and the soon-to-be constructed airport are clearly signs of this eventual boom. Eskaya sets itself apart from the rest as a luxury island resort that keeps the traveler safe because of its exclusivity, and delighted because of its sheer exquisite beauty. When we visited it during our recent Bohol trip, we were astounded. Eskaya is definitely a traveler’s destination for privacy and respite. There’s a certain allure in its villas in its amenities, and its beach of course, which is nestled in perhaps the best and most beautiful part of the island. Eskaya offers intimacy at its best—you can leave all your worries behind while you are in the resort, indulge in the

pampering at the spa, or enjoy the tours that Bohol offers. Well-landscaped and conceptualized, Eskaya boasts of with kubo-inspired villas, with pools and other modern facilities that would certainly make anybody’s stay as comfortable and luxurious. The villas are all sturdy and well built and give a more natural feel to vacations. The villas incorporate the natural surroundings with the quaint amenities and structure of the rooms. Your stay in the room is an endearing experience in itself. But there is still a lot to see outside. Of course, Bohol is meant to be explored, to be experienced; just staying in one’s room might not be a good idea at all. At least around Eskaya, there are still a lot of things to discover. The spa lover has so much indulgence when he or she steps into Eskaya soil. Promising maximum relaxation, spa treatments are available for the soul who just wishes great pampering. The great mix of treatments are done by a welltrained staff, who only provide the best massage and other services this side of town. The Eskaya is home to the Handuraw Spa, which sits atop a hill where one can experience invigorating treatments amidst an amazing view. This is a must-try, we must say. The food too is great, with the presence of Lantawan Restaurant, which faces the infinity pool and the sea. The best time to dine here is at night, al fresco, under the stars. An intimate night awaits the traveler who shares the table with a special one. The seaside decks are also available, and even the beachfront, where some guests during our visit set a bonfire and danced the night away. Whether you are a lover of indoor, “in-villa” dining, or whether you like the feel of the outdoors, good food awaits you at the Lantawan. g

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Lead stars Angel Locsin and Piolo Pascual and the “other� lead star of the film: the beautiful Bukidnon mountains. balikbayan vol1 no1 INSIDE.indd 55

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| Bukidnon | be moved by the mountains

enlen and I both have   dark brown skin and long unruly hair, and we both like to tame our manes into ponytails. We are also of the same age: 24. Unlike me, though, she can chase a calf twice her size, throw her arms around its warm neck, and wrestle it to the ground. She can throw a lasso on anything that moves. She can ride a horse bareback, relying only on her thighs to keep her from falling off the galloping beast. Lenlen is a cowgirl and a native of Bukidnon. The eldest of five children, she grew up on the Northern Mindanao plateau bounded by mountains draped in emerald blankets. When it is not rodeo season, she helps her mother plant corn in their one-hectare piece of land and tends to her father’s cows. I met Lenlen when I went, together with director Rory Quintos and associate producer Carmi Raymundo, to Bukidnon for our research immersion for our film that would later be called Love Me Again (Land Down Under). I was the scriptwriter, giddy about writing my first commissioned script. Starring Piolo Pascual

and Angel Locsin, it would be the first film of Star Cinema to have its first premiere night in the United States a month before it would be screened in local theaters. The project had been sparked by a story shared with us by scriptwriter, rancher and spiritual guide Maya Manulat. She told us that several young men who worked as cowboys in Bukidnon were going to Australia to work at a cattle station (Australian term for “ranch”) in the dry vastness of the Northern Territory. Before Maya told us about the Pinoy cowboys, we—the ignorant Manileños that we were—had never heard of real professional cowboys in the Philippines. We thought cowboys only continued to exist in American

Western films, and, lately, in Brokeback Mountain. Until I heard that story from Maya, I had thought Bukidnon was just one big pineapple plantation, thanks to the TV commercials of popular pineapple juice brands. What a gorgeous sight, we thought: strong dark-faced men riding horses, mounting bulls, wrangling cattle, staring beef in the face. But wait, there are cowgirls, too—sturdy, nimble young women who can handle beasts just as well as their male counterparts. The ranching world that Maya had described filled us with fantasies of a sweeping romance following the journey of a love that begins in the lush green pastures of the Bukidnon highlands and struggles to survive in the harsh landscape of the Australian Outback. A rancher fighting to keep his land and preserve his family’s glorious past falls in love with a cowgirl who decides to leave Bukidnon to give her family a better future. It is about the land they cannot own, the love they cannot have. A project was quickly set into motion, and before we knew it, we were on our way to Bukidnon. Meeting the Rodeo Kings When we went to the Impasugong Municipal Ranch to meet the Rodeo Kings of Bukidnon, it was a steep and bumpy 30-minute uphill drive before the van we were riding decided to give up on the rough terrain. While our driver tried to coax the vehicle back into life, we decided to walk the rest of the way up. Fortunately, we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains and hills, which from our vantage point seemed completely uninhabited.

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Ahoy! The cast puts down a calf.

every summer, is the rodeo, where cowboys from all over Visayas and Mindanao gather in Malaybalay City to compete in the various tournaments such as bull riding, lassoing, and calf wrestling. During that serendipitous Kaamulan some years ago, Tupe was invited by a cowboy team to substitute for a cowboy who had gotten sick. They said he could do it because he had a large built. Tupe went for it, and he ended up falling in love with being a cowboy. He abandoned his plans of teaching in the city and opted to work at the municipal ranch where he earns about P7,000 a month. Since then, Tupe has had his share of scars from working with cattle and joining rodeos, but none are nearly as bad as that of Mic, the silent one, who had impaled his forehead on one of the bull’s horns during a bull riding event. Though bloody-faced and dizzy, Mic managed to hold on to the bucking beast a second longer, and he emerged as the champion of that event. The Impasugong cowboys all hoped to be part of the next batch of men who would fly to Australia the following year to work at a big ranch there, where there are more cows than men, where it is so big that it’s bigger than Bukidnon.

A dying way of life The sprawling Zubiri estate in Bukidnon is planted with sugarcane, fruit trees and other food crops. At the back of the house, there is a patio with a charming view of gently sloping hills, a white paddock with a lone brown horse, and a swimming pool. This was where we interviewed Rep. Jose “Joey” Zubiri III, son of Bukidnon governor Jose Ma. Zubiri and older brother of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. Rep. Zubiri belongs to the fourth generation of sugarcane hacienderos who originated from Bacolod. He says his father was adventurous; he was one of the first who brought sugarcane farming to Bukidnon and then began to establish a ranch. Because of the scarcity of land, according to Rep. Zubiri, ranching in Bukidnon is now a dying industry. Raising cattle requires a lot of land, about one hectare per cow. Also, the cost of production has increased significantly because of the rise in maintenance costs, primarily because ranchers have to spend more on building fences and hiring guards to keep “squatters” off their lands. With the passing of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, Rep. Zubiri says, more native farmers have begun to assert ownership of what they believe to be their ancestral lands.

| Bukidnon | be moved by the mountains

After a 10-minute walk, we found on the other side of the hill, a bamboo paddock with a wooden shed, a gazebo overlooking the pasture, and an outhouse for the cowboys. Watching as the cattle were herded into the paddock, I could not help but notice how skinny the cows were, with their grey-white skins clinging to their bones. Surprisingly, the air did not smell of manure like it does when you are in the proximity of a poultry or hog farm. Instead, the breeze carried the scent of eucalyptus leaves from the tall trees surrounding the ranch. We settled first at the gazebo, where our cowboy hosts, all dressed in checkered shirts tucked into maong pants with big-buckled belts and wide-rimmed cowboy hats, served us freshly boiled cobs of sweet corn which offered some comforting steamy warmth in the midst of the chilly weather. In between bites of corn, I had a chance to chat with Tupe, the head cowboy. I was surprised to know that he had already earned a BS degree in Education before fate led him to becoming a cowboy. It happened during one Kaamulan Festival. “Kaamulan” is a native Bukidnon word, which literally means “gathering.” The highlight of the colorful Kaamulan, which takes place

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| Bukidnon | be moved by the mountains

Like the African-Americans of the American West and the aborigine stockmen of the Australian Outback, many Bukidnon Lumad have served for many years as cowboys in mestizo-owned ranches. “They say French cows are luckier than most men,” Rep. Zubiri chuckled. In France, according to him, each head of cattle has an allowance of about two euros a day. I laughed, my gaze fixed on the lone brown horse grazing on the greenest grass in his white paddock. Indeed, they are fortunate. Entering the arena When I was told I would be writing the script for the project, whose working title was then Land Down Under, I couldn’t be happier. I had only been in Star Cinema for barely two years, and I was already getting my big break as a scriptwriter. It was going to be an “event movie,” one my mother would surely brag about to her officemates, and it was going to be directed by Direk Rory, the filmmaker behind box-office hits Dubai and Anak. Also, I couldn’t be more terrified. The burden of faithfully capturing an experience I knew almost nothing about, as well as

the need to prove myself worthy of the confidence of my veteran director, weighed heavily on me. Is it anything like how a cowgirl feels during a rodeo, I wondered, before the cattle are released into the golden sawdust-covered arena? Nothing, Lenlen tells me, she feels nothing, not even fear, when she is in a tournament. You just do it, she said, without thinking. I realized then that perhaps it is not fearlessness but instinct, the animal urge to survive, which becomes salvation inside the arena. There is no time to hesitate, no choice but to fight. Lenlen has won several tournaments in Bukidnon and Masbate. She saves her prize money, which usually amounts to about P1,000, and gives it to her mother, who would use it to buy rice for the family. Like the cowboys, Lenlen, too, dreams of going abroad, like her cousins who work at the Killarney Station in the Land Down Under. She has an Australian suitor, introduced to her by her cowboy cousins, and he calls her by cell phone every night. Lenlen’s brother describes the Northern

Territory as a dry and hot place, a lonely place, unlike Bukidnon, but for a brave girl like Lenlen, it might just as well be another arena she has to conquer. Back at the municipal ranch, I shivered as I stood just outside the fence of the paddock where Rami, a cowboy in his late 30s, gave us a demonstration of a rodeo event called casting. The aim was to cast the robust oneyear old weaner down and tie its four limbs together. I shrieked as the young bull, threatened, drove its short-horned head into Rami’s stomach, sending the man somersaulting into the mud. Laughter erupted among the other boys: anything life-threatening is worth a good roar. Cursing in native Bukidnon, the rodeo king scrambled quickly back onto his feet, shaking off the shock before finally seizing the beast and bringing it down. Standing on the other side of the fence, I tried to fathom this cowboy/cowgirl way of life. Standing outside the arena, outside Bukidnon and its culture, I hoped to God I would have what it took to enter this arena, this experience—if only through my writing, I could enter. g

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Viajeng Cusinang Matua

traveling through the old kitchens of Pampanga Text and Photos by Althea Lauren Ricardo


It was the promise of a whole day’s treat of travel and good food—after weeks and weeks of sitting in my cold cubicle, staring at my computer screen and dreaming of various elsewheres—that got me. So here I am, racing the sunrise through the South Luzon Expressway straight from an all-nighter at work, rushing to make it to the 5:45 am Makati pick-up. I haven’t really seen the sunrise since God knows when and my body is just about ready to melt into anything that remotely resembles a bed. But I stifle a yawn, put on my sunglasses, and energize myself with one powerful thought: a breakfast of tasty, juicy, sweet tocino. I am, after all, headed for Pampanga. On a culinary tour, at that. The email invitation Tracey Santiago of Alquimista Trails sent the day before was straightforward enough. It detailed the itinerary for her Viajeng Cusinang Matua, but it also read like a menu. I scanned the page; read Mexico, Sta. Rita and San Fernando jumbled with words like tocino, sisig and halo-halo; made a mental note to skip dinner; and signed up at the last minute. I make the Makati pick-up just in time and with enough self-control to forego a fast food pre-breakfast bite. An hour and a Quezon City pick-up later, we are traversing the North Luzon Expressway in a red rented van. There are 15 of us, including Tracey Luscious tamales.

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Lillian Borromeo (third from right) lectures on traditional Pampanga cuisine. Beside her is Alquimista Trails’ Tracey Santiago.

out that she is also an engaging storyteller and a doting grandmother. There is a warmth about her that almost makes you wish she were your—and, of course, that you could wake up to her comfort cooking every single day. She serves us a mouth-watering buffet of sinangag, dinuguan, puto, kutsinta, galantina and her very own homemade tocino capped with a mug of native tsokolate. I watch, entranced, as her helper whisks the tsokolate in an old copper pitcher into a frothy consistency with a wooden batirol. While we eat, Borromeo tells us her family history (some of the branches of which are represented in different bilaos); of a friendly, handsome ghost of a man who sometimes appears along the stairs of her old house; and the history of her family’s famous San Nicolas cookies. I tell one of my tour companions that I’ve never tried San Nicolas cookies before, and he tells me they’re like uraro, which, to me, is like a cross between a butter cookie and polvoron. Borromeo tells us of how the cookies were introduced by the Spanish friars around 1600 making them, perhaps, the oldest cookies in the country and she gives us the ingredients: eggs, arrowroot flour, cornstarch, sugar, oil, coconut milk and lime. She demonstrates how the cookies are made and gives us a chance to mold some leaf-shaped cookies ourselves, for this is what makes her San Nicolas cookies special: she still uses hand-carved wooden molds dating back to the 18th century and no two molds are alike.

| pastfood | viajeng cusinang matua

and the driver, and there is small talk about whether anybody has already had a bite to eat. In anticipation of the day ahead, most of us have only had coffee. “Nobody is going to go home hungry,” Tracey promises us, “In fact, the challenge is to be able to accommodate everything that’s going to be prepared for us today.” With us are four lady friends in their 50s. They are foodies, they say, and, like many of us, their interest was piqued by Tracey’s itineraryslash-menu email invitation. They are looking forward to the frog and crickets, I’m all about the tocino and sisig, and we’re all hoping to be digesting something more than food at the end of the day. There is an auspicious occurrence: after a bathroom break at a gas station in Mexico, Pampanga, one of the ladies bump into an old friend from elementary school. They barely recognize each other, so they have to give out their complete maiden names. The old friend used to work for the United Nations and was based in New York for 25 years. She is retired now and has moved back to the country to rediscover her roots. In fact, she is also on a road trip with her husband. We have an 8 am breakfast in the courtyard of Lillian Borromeo’s ancestral home in Mexico. Tracey tells us that Borromeo, who is a cooking show host, is a recognized expert of traditional Kapampangan cuisine and also a respected food historian. Over breakfast and during the tour of her old kitchen afterwards, I find

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| pastfood | viajeng cusinang matua We have such a wonderful time chatting with Borromeo that we arrive a bit late at the Alviz Farm in Sta. Rita. “Late” is at around 10 am, which is still early in my book, but not in these parts. It is planting season, and there was an early morning feast, complete with music, for anybody who came to plant the first stalks of rice, and we have missed it. There are still some farmers working in the field, and some of our companions decide to give planting rice a try. They are given straw hats and advised to roll up their jeans. They come back a quarter of an hour later, bearing the happy conclusion that planting rice, indeed, is never fun. “You learn to

yet. I take a deep, relaxing breath, promise myself a farm when I grow up, and help myself to another serving of pandan iced tea. Within the farm grounds, there is a rest house, called Bale Nang Juan. It is a simple, sturdy, spacious house made mostly of wood salvaged from old, torn-down houses. Colorful windows and antique accents give it an artistic touch. It stands, both bare and grand, opening itself to its environs, rather than closing down on itself. I see in it Alviz’s passion to make Sta. Rita and, in effect, other such hometowns come to life again in the hearts and imaginations of not just the Kapampangans, but all Filipinos.

volcanic soil. Named after the patron saint of the impossible, Sta. Rita is a small, pretty town. After lunch, we walk to the next block to a store bearing no sign, but is known for being the best place to buy pasalubong. If you happen to be in Sta. Rita and you want to buy some native goodies, just walk past the church (you will pass by a big skull-bearing statue of the saint), look for the door protected by a green and white striped tarpaulin, and knock. That’s Ocampo Lansang Delicacies, and you can buy anything from San Nicolas biscuits to sugary pastries to sinful, meaty chicharon. We have some time

value each grain of rice,” one of them tells me. Our host, farm owner, artist and passionate Kapampangan culture promoter Andy Alviz offers us a morning merienda of tamales wrapped in banana leaves, pan de sal, and refreshing pandan iced tea. We eat inside an open hut, away from the heat of the sun, but in the cool embrace of the breeze. It is my first time to try tamales, and I bite into it expecting a sweet rice cake, so I am surprised to discover it is salty and topped with meat. It is flavorful, melts in the mouth, and heavy on the belly. The tamales, I surmise, is yet another link we have to Spain-via-Mexico. In Mexico the country this time, and not the Pampanga town, they have their own tamales, which are made of corn dough, have a sweet or savory filling, and are usually wrapped in cornhusks. I suspect the Kapampangan tamales is a product of a substitution of ingredients and the Filipino tendency to make something foreign uniquely our own: from corn dough to rice flour, corn husks to banana leaves. Alviz, who has worked as a choreographer on musicals like Urinetown and Miss Saigon, tells us that he is first and foremost a farmer and expresses how much good it would do if we all went back to farming. I look at what he has around his cozy hut: it is a scene straight out of an Amorsolo painting and it isn’t even sunset

We are told that the house, with its several patios and wide doors, was designed to be decorated by the sunset. If I can have my way, I want to see what it looks like when the retreating rays of the sun are reflected on the rice paddies, but lunch awaits, and we have to leave, still with stomachs full. Lunch is at what looks like a roadside restaurant called Guido’s, served by restaurateur and general food lover Kong Willie Carpio, who is already based in the United States, but is in the country for a short vacation. He invites us inside his kitchen, where he is still preparing the food, prepping the bright yellow squash flowers for the sinigang na bangus sa bayabas, letting the humba simmer, and waiting for the ripe bananas to arrive because that’s how they eat humba in Pampanga. Somehow, my stomach rearranges it contents and makes room for another hefty meal. I lose count of how many times I go back for rice and humba and sisig, and I enjoy the meal immensely because Kong Willie regales us with stories of what it was like when the lahar came to Sta. Rita. His stories are both funny and sad, and they all embody the Filipino spirit of survival. One sees this in the yard outside the restaurant, the ground still looks sandy and grayish, but the leaves on the plants are a happy bright green, fed, apparently, by the healthy

to kill and a really serious amount of digesting to do so we walk around the block and find ourselves in the churchyard. Tracey points out to us the old house that was used as the setting for the ancestral home of the family in the movie Tanging Yaman. I fish out my camera for a souvenir of this tiny showbiz tidbit, but thick electric lines (which I did not see then in the film) mar my shot. Before the tour winds down to its last culinary destinations for afternoon merienda and dinner, we make two more scheduled stops in Betis, Pampanga. Our first stop is at the Parish Church of Saint James the Great, which is more commonly known as the Betis Church. It is a showcase of fine Kapampangan craftsmanship. It is a church that bears a facade, which has been described in the book Great Churches of the Philippines as “draw(ing) inspiration from disparate sources and bring(ing) them together without any trace of disharmony.” It is also, presently, the venue of a wedding, and the people by the door tell us not to take pictures like the tourists that we were to avoid disrupting the ceremony. I don’t mind at all, even if it means not being able to take a photograph of the church’s grand doors. In fact, I take it as a good sign, as I left Sta. Rita, home of the patron saint of the impossible, with a wish for love.

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In the churchyard, I entertain myself by taking pictures of colorful trimmings left over from a recent fiesta and of a relatively new and rather disturbing cement structure depicting the great saint slaughtering some Moors. Saint James the Moor-Killer is the patron saint of Spain. Tracey owes him—and Spain’s conquering friars—her surname. I find it a little funny yet sad that this means little to us now. We wonder how to write his name correctly: Is it proper to write Santiago? Or is it, in Filipino, San Tiago? I make a mental note to look it up when I get home. Tracey stresses that a trip to Betis is not

complete without checking out what this small Pampanga town has to offer: worldclass craftsmanship captured in the form of world-class furniture. We drop by the showroom of Betis Crafts and lounge in the most opulent of living rooms. There are intricately carved bureaus and side tables—all for much, much less than retail price. I come across an elegant chair upholstered in a shock of pink tassels and feel like I’m in a little “Pampanga Wonderland” that furnishes the rest of the drab, unimaginative world. We head for Razon’s in San Fernando before one is tempted to buy anything, but I pick up a calling card, just in case St. Rita comes through. Razon’s already has several branches in Manila, so it is nothing new to me. This is not to say, of course, that I was not up for its famous minimalist, waistline-friendlier halo-halo. Tracey explains that in another

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version of the same tour, she lets the group try Kabigting’s halo-halo, a tasty halo-halo from Arayat. “People usually pass through the San Fernando and Guagua area,” she explains, “and that’s why they’re more familiar with Razon’s Halo-halo.” I make another mental note to try this next time. The highlight of the trip—which many of us have been counting down to even as we enjoyed most of our stops is dinner at Everybody’s Café, which has been around for half a century, along San Fernando’s MacArthur Highway. We order mostly exotic items, with bulalo soup being the most familiar. There is fern salad with a topping of salted egg. There is mouth-watering morcon, which you are supposed to lace with its own drippings. There is adobong camaru or mole crickets. And there is betute, or fried stuffed frogs. It takes a while before I convince myself to eat either cricket or frog, but I figure, when in Pampanga, do as the Kapampangans do. I am pleased to discover that the crickets, while they are as squishy as I imagined them to be, are quite good with their tangy flavor. It’s like I am eating fried garlic with the skin on it, like those cloves left in the pot after all the adobo is consumed. I mean that in a good way. The frog looks like, well, a frog, so it takes a little more convincing for me to eat it. I am both happy and disappointed to find out that it tastes like chicken meatballs. “What were you expecting?” a friend asks me. I don’t know. The trip home is silent. Most of us are sleepy, which is to be expected after a whole day of eating, talking and traipsing all over Pampanga. Rice fields give way to gas stations and trees to buildings. Tracey says that compared to the indigenous cultures of the Philippines, the Kapampangans fused colonial heritage into their own, without losing their identity. “You will see a lot of Spanish influences in their culture,” she says, “but the local ingenuity and creativity is still very Filipino.” Corn dough to rice flour, cornhusks to banana leaves. Crickets like garlic, frogs that taste like chicken meatballs. The story of the Philippines is a tempting plate of Pampanga’s best tocino. g

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’ve really never loved bangus, despite the fact that I learned how to cook it—sinigang, daing, sinigang, uhm, what else is there to do with bangus? Daing again? For some reason, I find it too rancid for my taste, and yes, of course, too bony too. I just don’t have the patience, I guess. I suspect that I got this while learning how to de-bone fresh bangus from my Lolo who owned a fish stall in Olongapo. De-boning was traumatic. The smell just stays in the hands for so long. That was before I met a Dagupeña.

Come for the bangus, stay for the nostalgia and ‘Dagupeña’ By louie Jon sanchez | aJPRess I was mistaken, of course. Pangasinan’s pride, the bangus is no ordinary bangus. It is Bunoan bangus, the milky one when you eat it, as they say, with that belly short and arching, and with fine and shiny body scales. It may have a short tail and a small head, but every bite of the tender Bunoan is juicy since its fat is well spread in its body, and not just on its belly. Bred in Dagupan’s Bunoan district, this authentic bangus has gone far and wide, reaching our very

on Bunoan bangus in Dagupan. Its BunoanTondaligan district alone prides itself of a growing enterprise of seafood restaurants, serving Dagupan bangus in all its forms—inihaw, sinigang, kilawin and the well-loved daing. But this time we went somewhere legendary to sample the bangus. I was surprised that I had to make a lot of room for my own belly. When we reached Calasiao, the culinary

own supermarket freezers in the familiar airtight packaging. I realized too that nothing beats pigging out

destination (it moved out of Dagupan apparently), after 15 minutes of driving around Dagupan, our table at the legendary restaurant,

Dagupeña, was all set. The dishes were mostly bangus, yes, but with a lot of spunk and attitude. Dagupeña in Dagupan The Dagupeña restaurant is the offshoot of the small eatery put up by Ignacia Bernal or “Bai Inacia” in 1928 to augment the growing needs of her family. Upon sitting on the classy chair of the restaurant, I read the menu to find out what they offered. Aside from bangus dishes, which were, needless to say, bountiful, the menu included an informative restaurant history that read like a trip to the yesteryears. Bai Inacia’s restaurant, known by Dagupan old-timers as Carinderia de Dagupan, offers a variety of dishes that are the pride of the region. True enough, Dagupeña is a big part of the lives of so many generations of Dagupeños. After going through their history, and with the many fragments of stories shared about life in Dagupan, this easily dawned on me. It was a gem they all shared, even after leaving town. Coming from the North myself, I know for a fact that cooking here has a tradition of frugality. People here have a history of diaspora. Many of our people, especially in this side of Luzon, came down from the northern highlands, from Ilocos or Cordillera, fleeing from the greedy and unforgiving Spanish colonizers and searching for new lands. That’s why their cooking, somehow, followed their stress, just the bare essentials—they boiled or sautéed the saluyot in the backyard, they cooked their various bahay kubo vegetables with sumptuous alamang into

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salt & paper pinakbet. Ilocanos and Pangasinenses are good cooks in the strictest sense— they are good at improvisations, but they also plan their meals well. That I can say, being around folks from the North who peopled the kitchen. Bai Inacia was known in her family as a very good and meticulous cook. She wanted only the freshest ingredients for her sinigang na bangus, daing na bangus, inasin na pait (salted bangus innards), egado and pinakbet. She learned her trade from an uncle who ran a carinderia. Already in Manila, she started her business selling food to college students from a state university. After that time, she and her husband, a waiter and a barber on the side, decided to return to Dagupan to start the business. It was a risk they surely had to take. The small eatery grew to become the landmark culinary destination it is now. It soon occupied a space in the three-story house on the property of Juan Quesada, a rebel leader and the first military governor of Pangasinan. “She taught me how to select fresh produce from the market, everything,” recalled Emma Bernal-Castro, Bai Inacia’s daughter. “My mother had simple principles. Maski mahal, bilhin mo (You have to get it even if it’s expensive). And the food must be very clean; that’s very important for her.” Today, the quality of Dagupeña’s own bangus products starts in its processing plant in Binmaley. For her sincerity and commitment in the restaurant business, she was able to gain the patronage of Pangasinan’s most prominent citizens. After 78 years, Dagupeña now finds itself headed toward a new direction. With Emma and the new generation of Bernals at the helm, the restaurant recently embarked on a very promising project. Dagupeña transferred from its downtown location to a better and more spacious family lot in the nearby town of Calasiao. It also added more specialties prepared for their loyal clientele. And everything, it seems, is paying off. The classy and Filipiñana-inspired red brick restaurant is still well received despite modern changes. Bangus Attack Our group sampled the popular dishes of the restaurant, such as the Dagupeña sinigang, which combines fish and shrimp in a sumptuous sour broth. What I like about this dish is its gingery scent that kept me filling up my soup cup. The sinigang warmed our bellies and had superbly primed us for the dishes that were being served hot and fresh from the kitchen. Our cups were full, not only of the kangkong, but also of delightful servings of fresh fish (I think it was plapla) and juicy sugpo. I could not help but use my hands to eat. After the sinigang, came the homegrown boneless bangus served in sizzling plates. An alltime favorite at the restaurant, the boneless bangus whose recipe, according to Emma, was especially

made and perfected by her mother, immediately vanished from the plates. The bangus belly was such a magnet that all I ever saw, as the sizzling plates were placed on the table, were hands and arms criss-crossing. There was a little commotion, and a few subdued giggles. I guess we were just so hungry. We laughed endlessly. The boneless bangus is a blessing for people like me who abhor picking the bones out. There was also a boneless bangus served with pesto sauce, a reinvention, I suppose, of the bangus, putting with it a more contemporaneous Italian taste, reminding us of our passion for pasta. While I still like the bangus in its simplicity (simplicity is tastefulness in this case), the bangus with pesto was a surprisingly delectable dish. I guess my love for pesto, with its nutty texture and its pleasant herbal aftertaste made this bangus food tripping a little different. To cap it all, we were also served Dagupeña’s crispy pata, which is, to say the least, very tempting for who avoids such occasions of culinary sin. Dios mio. Of course, the treat would not have been complete without the original pinakbet and egado, staple dishes of the North. With such a delightful, not to mention heavy, lunch and as an afternoon treat, we were served cups of rich chocolate e and churros. After all this pigging out, I must say, I have fallen in love with the bangus. Thanks to Dagupan and Dagupeña. Today, Dagupeña offers other bangus reinventions that would definitely tickle anyone’s culinary fancy. The Dagupeña Sunburst Casserole, a treat of potatoes, tomatoes and parsley combines well with the specially prepared bangus belly in mustard sauce. The buttery taste explodes in every bite. Steaks too, have been conquered in bangus land as Dagupeña serves (and sells of course) a steak pack that is great for another homemade Dagupeña recipe, the Fish Steak Taco. The restaurant also includes a treat priding itself of a Bicol connection through its Dagupeña Bangus Bicol Express, a twist on one of our more popular spicy dishes. It also has very interesting dishes like the Dagupeña Bangus Mechado, and the bangus chorizo, which is ideal for breakfast. We left Dagupan with glorious memories swimming in our heads. The palate always remembers. g

Owner Emma Bernal-Castro with a daughter (middle) and a visitor.

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cross the Philippines, temperatures continued to plunge to all-time lows, everyone basked—and at times, shivered—in this post-holiday season cold, and I, for the nth time, struggled to get myself out of bed. When I finally made my way to the kitchen this morning, I saw my mom at the breakfast nook sipping her coffee—the heady smell filled the room. “This weather,” she began, “reminds me of Los Angeles.” I could only agree. The coldest days here in the Philippines can only slightly resemble the warmest in sunny Southern California, and apparently, this wintery-wonderland weather makes for good news in this tropical country. So on days like these when everyone else shivers, my mom quietly enjoys the cold with a cup of coffee in her grip. This morning, however, was a tad bit different. It was—and I made a mental note of it—that distinct smell that enveloped our surroundings. My mom, who, in my opinion, had the innate talent of making instant coffee taste rich, was basking in the cold this time with a strong brew of Kapeng Barako. “They now have that at the supermarket?” My ignorance was unforgivable. Of course, freshly ground coffee is a staple even in the dreariest supermarkets but what surprised me was how the Kapeng Barako, which I had always associated with the quiet charm of the country, became just another commodity in the mainstream. These coffee beans are after all a symbol of our cultural vigor, our flavor as Filipinos—sweet and potent—and of our dedicated coffee farmers’ affinity with the very soil they till. “Barako,” loosely translated, means “virile,” referring to the sheer strength of the male physique. The “barako” in Kapeng Barako, however, takes the meaning to another level. Shedding off the term’s androcentric etymology, and with a more universal tone, the kapeng “barako” captures that intensity, that jolt of caffeine tempered by that bittersweet taste and that pungent aroma very much prized in the coffee drinking culture. And with everyone’s fascination with all things instant, the Kapeng

Barako offers us a stark contrast: a cup is an invitation, in and of itself, to step out of everyday insanities and to take one’s time. While the Kapeng Barako can literally rejuvenate one’s senses, it can more importantly reawaken one’s sense: of direction, of belonging, and of being Filipino. In a market dominated by varieties like the Robusta and Arabica and by multinational brands, the Kapeng Barako, the liberica, sets itself apart with a boldness that isn’t lost in a myriad of other flavors. In that way, it embodies the distinct character of the Filipino who, without losing touch of the affinity with home, leaves his or her mark on the world. Others may sell us the idea of the cosmopolitan lifestyle, with all the cultural meanings attached to the brands, to the idea of sitting around in a posh ambience, and to the coffee shop’s complicated array of the Ethiopia Sidamo, of the French roast and of the Bella Vista Blend. Our current coffee experience is created and re-created on every street corner in every city in the world. The ubiquity of the popular coffee shops and the monotony of the experience, takes away the uniqueness— the singularity of experience—of drinking coffee right at the heart of the local community, and cradled in the culture, that produced it. Against this highly consumerist backdrop, the Kapeng Barako retains a character entrenched in tradition and symbolic of the industry found in rustic Philippines. Enjoying the earthiness of the Kapeng Barako takes the coffee drinker on a journey home—the coffee drinker, like the quintessential Balikbayan, longing—and ultimately satiating that longing—for the flavors of one’s place of origin. The cold may have reminded my mom of Los Angeles, when the California sunshine and the nippy air were meld on somber mornings. But it was that peculiar brew—invigorating, inviting—that reminded her she was home. Tomorrow, pun intended, I’ll ask my mom,

“baraKO ba ‘ma?” By Rachel Rañosa | AJPress

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 he Philippine population of 80 plus million is said to consume a per capita of 50 cups annually, way less than the specialty coffee market growth of 400 percent in early 2000. But thanks to the growing coffee culture, there is renewed hope, and concerted efforts are reviving the Philippine coffee industry. Consumption has continuously increased at a rate of two percent annually, from 104.6 million bags in 2000 to 128 million bags in 2008. However, this rate is not evenly distributed, as growth is more vigorous in emerging markets, such as the Russian Federation and Ukraine, and in producing countries, like Brazil. Our country only consumed 989,000 bags or a per capita consumption of 0.67 kg. in 2007. Demand by coffee type is also changing, the London-based International Coffee Organization (ICO) reports. Robustas and Brazilian Naturals in the global trade increased from 54 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2008, at the expense of the participation of Washed Arabicas, which was reduced from 46 percent to 37 percent for the same period. Despite growing steadily in the Middle East market and regaining its niche locally, there is still a need to plant about 100,000 Barako trees for this rare coffee variety of ours to survive. “In the Philippines, we drink so much coffee,” said Chit Juan, Founder of Figaro Coffee Systems Inc., one of the major local players in the coffee shop industry, as balikbayan had coffee with her. We asked about her thoughts on the Barako, and the coffee industry at

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business & treasure

a cuptured market Saving the ‘Barako’ and the industry over cups of coffee By Lynda C. Corpuz large, and her work at the Philippine Coffee Board (PCB), where she is co-chair. While discussing the board’s promotion of the development of Filipino coffee, she stresses the need to balance off the demand for coffee in the Filipino market. “We consume around 65,000 metric tons and we only produce around 30,000.” Global market research firm Euromonitor International cites though that the new generation of coffee and tea drinkers has begun to see coffee and teashops as a place to taste premium (or pricey) hot or cold coffee blends in the company of friends. The firm sees such trend to continue as more foreign players expand in Southeast Asia. The success of current coffee chains in the Philippines is said to entice more players. Established in 2002, PCB is tasked to develop and promote the Philippine coffee industry through technical assistance and credit programs for coffee farms, and marketing and promotions of coffee for domestic and export markets. PCB is also in partnership with the Cavite State University, Department of Trade and Industry-International Coffee Organization Certifying Agency and Quedan & Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation. PCB, composed of members from the growers, millers, roasters, retailers, local governments, and agriculture credit sectors, also holds several programs a year, including coffee farming courses, coffee shop seminars, trade shows, farm tours, and its annual Coffee Break festival. In our interview at the PCB’s cooperative cum coffee shop Kape Isla at The Fort’s Serendra, Juan expresses her high hopes in the coffee industry, which she says is continuously standing tall despite the many challenges.  The store itself, which only sells and serves native Filipino coffee supplied by members of the cooperative program, is a testament to how the board is extending its support in moving for the development of our very own kape.  The market too, has continued growing, she says, since the promotion of the Philippine coffee is reaching more Filipino coffee drinkers.  The certified coffee lovers are also doing their part in nurturing the Philippine coffee industry.  Amadeo, for instance, has an Adopt-AFarm program, attracting a growing number of highly stressed, citybased executives, professionals, or entrepreneurs, to play farmer for the weekend. The contract is for five years, subject to renewal, on the condition that coffee must be planted. Amadeo also promotes its coffee and its by-products through the annual Pahimis Festival. While we sampled on a very luscious iced caffe mocha drink, Juan expressed her delight in how the market has been drinking more from the Filipino coffee cup.  “Philippine coffee is good.  Dati, they would usually ask kung imported ba yang kape.  But now, there’s already a big change in attitude.  People are more aware now na masarap pala ang local coffee.  And we are definitely at par with the world’s best.”  But there were a lot of hurdles before these things were accomplished.  The need to increase the production of Barako, perhaps the most popular Filipino coffee variety, is just one of them.

“There was a time when Barako production could not cope with the demand. The Barako was iconic and almost represented nationalism.  But planting coffee per se takes a lot of time,” Juan adds.  “Most farmers shifted to traditional farming.  Before the board’s campaigns have been put in place, the farmers didn’t know a lot of new developments.  They wanted to know more about developments in the industry and that was what we exactly gave them.”  In the long run, Juan says, the farmers started to return to coffee farming.  The Kape Isla, which is not just a coffee place in that high-end mall, is at the forefront of educating the farmers through the various programs and workshops it gives on coffee and coffee farming.  “ We are happy that the farmers are now farming Barako to address the shortage.” Kape Isla is a branding program commendable in its attempts to make our own coffee comparable with such brands as Columbia coffee, Indonesian Java, Hawaiian Kona, Guatemalan Antigua, or Jamaican Blue Mountain. Through PCB, Kape Isla, which started in 2007, has also been giving entrepreneurship lectures, not just coffee information and education.  One of its recent lectures included interesting 101 courses on being a barista and on coffee.  It also had a seminar on how to put up a coffee shop, which Juan handles herself.  Among others things, Kape Isla also showcases the PCB’s 20 member merchants from Aparri to Jolo.  The Philippines, she says, has 22 coffee growing provinces, and the beans grown in these areas could be sampled and purchased through the café. “A lot of people have been looking for our very own coffees.  After the many years of campaigning and educating people through mass coffee servings, especially during the Coffee Month in October, people have realized that our coffee is great.”  And Kape Isla prides itself of introducing coffee in a more personalized manner.  “We had coffee sold in the supermarkets, but no one was there to explain things.  These coffee varieties have been available ever since, but people just don’t know what to choose.  At least here in Kape Isla, they can ask our people and they would be entertained.”  Educating coffee drinkers really start from home.  In the end, Juan stresses that they would continue their programs to uplift the Philippine coffee industry, and make it at par with global coffee producers.  “We just want Filipinos to be proud of our coffee.  It is really something that we could be proud of.” Meanwhile, there are developments in coffee, which would definitely excite the Filipino expat.  Kape Isla and PCB, Juan notes, introduced the Philippine Coffee Pods, a circular “tea bag”  podded in a 45-millimeter biodegradable casing.  Packed freshly roasted, these pods contain fresher ground coffee, which would otherwise deteriorate in ordinary packaging.  “This is the way I want Pinoy expats to buy and enjoy our coffee,” said Juan, as she opened a pod for us to try.  The coffee was just right and tasted so fresh and well. g The pods are available at and www. March 2009 | balikbayan    71

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The Lush Resort

For years, Laiya’s immaculate beach and natural wonders have been inaccessible. Today, its beauty beckons with hope and a prayer.

Text and Photos by Walter Villa

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the lush resort


t’s hard to imagine how a kilometric immaculate beach with clear waters and lush mountainous backdrop only two-and-half hours away from Manila remained veiled for so long.

For years Laiya, a seven-kilometer stretch beach community at the foot of Mt. Daguldol in San Juan, Batangas, has only been accessible to truck drivers, horseback riders, and adventurous hikers. The scenario changes all too quickly with images of concrete roads, however partially built they are, from five years before. Island Appeal Beach resorts—from the rustic RobinsonCrusoe shack to the mid-end bucolic chic treehouse to the high-end modern tropical vacation home—have sprouted with the consequent campers, weekenders, corporate delegates, and even retirees. Through the years you see them trooping to Laiya exponentially during weekends and peaking in the ber and summer months. Time stops a little in Laiya and it’s easy to get engulfed in the illusion that it’s an island with a laidback, devil-may-care lifestyle. Sunrise is a revelation; an early morning walk will give you

more than a glimpse of the inherent local color intertwining with shades of Boracay—empty beer bottles on the sand, congregating pearl jewelry hawkers, the taho (sweet soya drink) vendor, the ubiquitous fake RayBan agent, photos and artworks of henna tattoo samples, early risers with heavy hung-over heads, morning nymphs in bikinis. There are intermittent fishing villages that break the merry continuity of chic (and a few garish) beach resorts numbering more than 20. These are the perfect stops to meet the friendly local people: sari-sari store attendants, videoke operators, and fishermen who work as part-time island-hopping guides. You may find yourself frequenting the village more often for cigarettes, cell phone load, bags of peanuts, or cheap, ice-cold bottles of beer, or the spectacle of impromptu sabong (cockfight) scrimmages. And don’t fret if you see men with bolos strapped on their waists—it’s a standard farm implement to complement their bull ride.

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the lush resort

Natural Draw Laiya’s bane is also its boon—since the place has been isolated for so long its marine and terrestrial flora and fauna are relatively intact. A few-minute boat ride away is a natural submarine garden that’s great for snorkeling. In fact, you don’t even have to dive or snorkel there to see the multi-colored fishes: just tear pieces of bread, throw them into the water and they will all come to you—an exhilarating experience more often seen in remote Palawan resorts. There are also dolphin, pawikan (sea turtle), and whale shark sightings, which are quite visible even from the beach, as the World Wildlife Fund attests. A quick look at the map explains it all: Laiya sits on the coast of Sigayan Bay and the renowned Verde Island passage, which, according to the Global Marine Species Assessment of the World Conservation Union, has the highest concentration of marine

life in the world. This prompted President Arroyo to declare Verde Island passage a marine sanctuary and national protected area. However—unlike Anilao, another marine sanctuary in Batangas—Laiya’s beach is pretty swimmable as the clear blue waters are free of undertow and the seabed near the coast is free of sharp corals. Laiya’s natural attractions aren’t just relegated in its waters. The 705-meter high Mt. Daguldol, Laiya’s picturesque backdrop, is home to several hiking destinations such as Naambon Falls and Mainit Pulang Bato. A trained mountain guide from the local mountaineering club can take you to the summit and back, a good eight-hour foot journey, for the average Joes. Just ask the resort where you stay in about the guided treks. Another one of Laiya’s potential draw, reminiscent of Subic’s, is the giant fruit bats (Pteropus Vampyrus) seen on the trees at

Parang Sili Dao, in the four-kilometer trek through farmlands and tropical forest. Another route goes through the river whose sandy riverbed is reportedly a nesting ground for turtles. Cool Nests Resort accommodations are aplenty and there is one to suit the needs of even the jaded traveler. The most Spartan, of course, are the wooden shanties put up lovingly by folks in the fishing villages. Bamboo tables double up as beds, and entertainment is dished out through a P5 drop in their videoke slot machine available through request. One of the most popular resorts is La Luz (, which, for three decades, was a prominent clan’s private getaway. It has a well-tended beach and coral mound (think Willy’s Rock in Boracay) that yields a sweeping view of the whole Laiya stretch and the adjacent mountainside Palm

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The king of the hill remains Laiya Coco Grove Beach Resort and Picnic Area (www. and if you read between the lines, you would know this resort encompasses an extensive land. Its beach area is divided naturally into two by a river. The west side, the one with a nature park, campsite, and a three-hectare natural lagoon, is reputed as the best part of the whole Laiya stretch. The happening area remains the east side with the quaint tree houses, the pavilion, the coconut grove where tuba (fresh coconut juice) is harvested daily, the beachfront pool, the golf driving range, the basketball/tennis court, the park with trail and flying fox ride, the mangrove trail park. Water sports are a featured activity and there are mono-hull dinghies and Hobie cats for rent for sailing aficionados. Ocean kayaks and pedal boats are also available if you feel the itch to check out Laiya’s shoreline or fish

at Coco Grove’s lagoon. Protecting the Beauty As early as now, resort owners of Laiya have banded together to protect Laiya’s natural attractions. Recent efforts have put a stop to the blatant dumping of a piggery farm’s stinking waste in the river leading to the sea. They are also dissuading local residents from turning and trading charcoal out of the mangrove forests by employing them as guides or resort staff. They conduct periodic coastal cleanups and plan on banning the use of plastic bags in Laiya. And to promote a better appreciation of Laiya’s natural wonders, they are in the process of mapping out bike and ecological trails. From the looks of it, Laiya is on the right track to sustainable tourism. Otherwise, a place like Laiya would be better off hidden forever. g

the lush resort

Beach cove. Taramindu Beach Garden Inn (www., the newest kid on the block, has a boutique hotel feel with a modern tropical sensibility. The tamarind trees, which play a clever part in its design, also provide charming shade on the building’s rooftop bar and viewing deck. Taramindu has an excellent cook who can prepare various cuisines even those not found in the menu. This justifies the required consumable food and beverage fee, a strange quirk in most upscale Laiya resorts. That’s why big families who are fond of bringing their refrigerator’s contents on their holiday will appreciate Sabangan Beach Resort ( It has big native bungalows each with a respective kitchenette equipped with an electric stove, a rice cooker, cookware, dining utensils, a five-gallon water dispenser, and a refrigerator.

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Investing Wisely C

ondominiums have been booming in the last few years. Often, buyers consider four important things: location, lifestyle, luxury and value. Balikbayans who are thinking of retiring soon, or going back to the country, or simply investing on a property here are faced with a lot of choices. Going around the area of the developing Bonifacio Global City in Taguig would lead one to a prime spot where urban and comfortable living are combined to provide a perfect dwelling place for anyone. The condominium F1 City Center is located right at the heart of Bonifacio Global City, five minutes away from the Makati Central Business District and 15 minutes away from the international and domestic airports. The condominium boasts of a well thought modern architecture and facilities that are both functional and unique. It also has a tropical lagoon swimming pool, an outdoor entertainment area, a lap pool, a jogging trail, a meditation garden and a fully equipped gym, spa and sauna. It also provides owners five high-speed elevators, an emergency back-up generator, comprehensive 24-hour security and an on-site professional condominium management. You can enjoy the high life at Bonifacio High Street, The Fort Strip and Market! Market! Also nearby is the world-class St Luke’s Hospital. Education too would not be a problem as F1 City Center is near premier educational institutions like the International School, British International, Japanese International School, Chinese International School, and the Makati Gospel School. Value for money, prime location But for all this, F1 City Center’s value for money is guaranteed, with the innovative “Build Your Own” (BYO) Method, saving investors up to 40% off the usual condo unit cost. The program helps cut costs by up to 40%, involves no middleman, and secures payments through its partner Banco de Oro. Through this plan, owners may expect their units to be delivered within two to three years. This very successful set up has prompted F1 to work round the clock to catch up with the demands. One of the earliest investors, Shirley Valenzuela, a Filipino-American working in Coldwell Banker in San Francisco, believes that the investment is worth it: “I recognized the prime location of Fort Palm Spring and the outstanding value for money. The BYO Method helped me acquire my units at 40% less. I was so taken by this project that I immediately signed up to present the project to investors in San Francisco.” Another investor, Choco Cuaso, says he was convinced to invest because of the prime location. “It is in the middle of everything,” Cuaso shares. Right now, Cuaso is extremely excited to make the big move to F1 City Center. He says he can’t wait to move in. Interested parties may get in touch with F1 City Center through its display offices at MC Home Depot, CS 282-290 32nd Street corner Bonifacio Blvd., Global City, Bonifacio, Taguig City. Call (632) 815-1010 / 815-8080 or fax at (632) 815-7070. Log in too, at or email at g

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By Momar G. Visaya | AJPress

er story inspired millions of Filipinos across the globe. Her talent is something that cannot be denied. Her perseverance finally paid off after years of hard work. Her name is Charice, and in 2008, she was making waves in the Philippine music scene. She has done, in such a short span of time, what no other Filipino performer has achieved. Last year, Charice traveled around the world to share her talent, not only with fellow Filipinos but with anyone and everyone who appreciates good music. Her piercing crystal voice plus her emotional rendition make for one enchanted performance. Her life has become an open book, thanks partly to her home network’s Maalaala Mo Kaya program, and her introductory guestings at Ellen and later at Oprah, where she and her loving mother Raquel revealed snippets of their private lives and the struggles both mother and daughter had to go through. By now, everyone knows how Charice got to where she is now. She used to join singing competitions back in the Philippines to help put food on the table. From barangay fiesta contests to national talent searches, Charice has done it all. She did not win in every competition she joined but this did

is the word

Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her husband Konrad were visibly impressed with Charice’s rendition of “God Bless America” at the Pearl Gala that the couple hugged her after the show-stopping performance. Photo by Bing Branigin for AJPress

not deter her from aiming higher. On the sidelines was a fan who calls himself False Voice. He uploaded videos of Charice singing on YouTube and after a while, thousands upon thousands from around the world were viewing the videos and getting hooked in the process. This was when her international career took off, and it began with the Korean show called Star King. In the meantime, videos of her appearance in this show hit YouTube once more and viewers just grew exponentially. Before Charice even knew that her videos were hitting it big in the internet, Ellen de Generes made an on-air appeal, requesting her to guest in her self-titled NBC show. Ed Shapiro, Ellen’s lawyer, found Charice’s website. Shapiro got in touch with Michael Gurfinkel who rushed the processing of Charice and her mom’s US visa. Mother and daughter arrived in the US in the nick of time. Charice flew to Los Angeles and performed a couple of songs: “I Will Always Love You” and “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going.)” Grammy-award winning producer David Foster

saw the guesting and sought her. Her whirlwind trip brought her to Las Vegas, via Foster’s private jet no less, to watch Celine Dion’s show at the Caesar’s Palace. Charice was in awe. Never did it cross her mind that less than a year later, she would be sharing the stage with her idol Celine Dion at the Madison Square Garden. Then Oprah happened. It was an episode where 10 fantastic kids were showcased. Charice performed a song, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston and blew Oprah and the audience away. “She hugged me before the interview,” Charice told us in Manila a day before the episode was aired. “Natulala ako! Siyempre, kasi si Oprah siya, eh! Hindi ako makapaniwala.” (I was stunned. Of course, she was Oprah. I just couldn’t believe it.) In between Ellen and Oprah, Charice crossed the Atlantic to perform at The Paul O’Grady Show in London where she sang the same two songs (requested by O’Grady himself).

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Musician David Foster and Charice. AJPress file photo

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Charice is the word

Charice with classical singing sensation Josh Groban.

In May, Charice joined a star-studded cast at the David Foster and Friends show at the Mandalay Bay, together with Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Michael Buble and others. Foster’s special arrangement of the three songs that Charice sang in the concert showed his special ear for music and brought the best out of Charice. That night, Charice had two standing ovations. Charice shuttled to and from the United States and Canada to perform in various shows and concerts. She also had the enviable status to be invited again on Oprah, where she had the opportunity to talk with one of her idols of all time, Celine Dion. Her ascent to fame continued with her unprecedented duet with Celine, at the Madison Square Garden in New York, no less. “I’m very thankful to God for all these blessings,” she quipped moments after she realized she just performed in a duet with Celine Dion. Indeed, her blessings continued. Charice was invited to perform at the

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, alongside America’s teen idols Miley Cyrus and American Idol runner-up David Archuleta. She also performed in the morning show Good Morning America to promote David Foster’s “Hitman” album, for which she is a major part of. She has sang at Andre Agassi’s fund-raiser for children in Las Vegas, where she met yet another idol, Mariah Carey. The year 2009 promises to be another banner year for this diminutive Pinay. Last January, she was invited to sing at two pre-inaugural parties for President Obama in Washington, DC. Once again, she proved her mettle by singing her way through “God Bless America” and “One Moment in Time” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Realizing the Dream” awards gala; the Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala and the Philippine Embassy. Reception where comments were unanimous: she is indeed, a wonder. From Martin Luther King III to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s son Ted; from Obama’s

AJPress file photos

sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her husband Konrad to Ambassador Willy Gaa to the various the leaders in the Filipino American community – everyone was just smitten with the powerful voice that Charice showcased. “That beautiful and powerful rendition, which came from this small package, is capable to shatter the biggest apathy in this world,” Soetoro-Ng told the audience as she hugged Charice at the Pearl Gala, where more than 1,500 Asian-American leaders gathered to celebrate the inauguration of the first black president of the United States. On top of all these, she is also scheduled to record her first international album. Her debut album and the “Hitman” recording of David Foster previously released in the Philippines have both turned gold. There are a lot of things in store for this exceptionally talented girl, and her fans, and the millions of Filipinos around the globe who continue to look at her as an inspiration, are all waiting in anticipation. g

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  ho The Filipino–American Symphony Orchestra would have thought that a trailblazing project would be born at a backporch in Los Angeles? The backporch had transformed into a figurative backstage entry for a history in the making. The orchestra about to come in, the Master conductor Bob Schroder in one of the orchestra’s rehearsals. Filipino-American “Love of music has brought all of this Schroder. Symphony vision together,” says Asian Journal Publisher CEO Roger Oriel. He fondly recalls the The conductor Orchestra (FASO), and backporch story with his friend Lito Ocampo Rehearsing for about six times already, Cruz. “When Lito asked me if there was any FASO according to Roger had found a is now much Filipino-Symphony Orchestra around, I said great maestro in the person of Schroder, was none. I immediately asked him if the founding conductor of the Boyle Heights talked about since there he wanted to put up one. That’s where it all Youth Symphony and a very respected started.” musician that side of town. A freelance it had opened The Asian Journal, being a patron of the musician and member of the Local 47, the arts, spearheaded this project. With the help American Federation of Musicians, he plays its doors to of Andy Tecson, an uncle of Roger and his to a mixed audience for special events, but wife Cora, the groundworks had been set. loves, of course, to perform for Filipinotalents, started Tecson, a professional photographer and a American communities. Back in the country, violinist himself, called up another musician, he has won the Grand Prize in the National its rehearsals, Bob Schroder. The call for auditions ensued. Music Competition for Young Artists in 1982, Cora was very much excited about this and became the principal flutist of the Manila and just recently, “aural” history in the making. Symphony Orchestra, the oldest symphony “There are a lot of things music can do in Asia. announced a gala for us, especially for Filipinos in America. orchestra Schroder also taught flute and chamber We certainly hope that FASO would bring music in the University of the Philippinesnight slated on all of us together,” Roger says. “Music is the Diliman and did recordings for pop music and universal language, and it touches our souls. the Filipino movie industry. He immigrated in May 16, 2009 Just imagine how its timelessness could gather 1991 and first stayed in San Diego where his generations amidst differences.” parents lived. He has handled musical shows at the legendary The organizers are at the thick of by Filipino artists like Joey Albert and Asia’s preparations. FASO on the other hand is Queen of Song Pilita Corales. He brings with Wilshire Theater training well under its very talented conductor him his talent, expertise and experience in Beverly Hills. 84    balikbayan | March 2009 balikbayan vol1 no1 INSIDE.indd 84

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An Aural History in the Making

Photo by Andy Tecson / AJPress

conducting the symphony. “Filipino orchestra musicians here in Southern California have long dreamed of founding a Filipino symphony orchestra not only for the Filipino community but for everybody who appreciates music. Wala pang ganito so Filipino musicians have joined orchestras of other races,” shares Schroder, a native of Kawit, Cavite, in an earlier interview with the Asian Journal. “We don’t have any lack for Filipino talents here; we can form a 55-120 man orchestra with strings—violin, cello, double bass—and wind—flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombones.” Well, now, mukhang matutuloy na ang aming pangarap na ito.(It seems that we will realize this dream now).” Aware too of the presence of Filipinos in orchestras formed by other nationalities residing in the United States, FASO too has opened its doors to nonFilipinos. “So long as we have a core group of Filipinos, we can get musician of other races,” he says. “We welcome everyone— even non-Filipinos, high school and college students—to join. For as long as they can play a musical instrument well, they can be a part of our group. Our goal at FASO is to form two groups—a junior and a senior

group. I can say that we’ve made very good progress.” Schroder adds. Under Schroder’s baton, FASO is envisioned to be a very dynamic orchestra. “Of course, the core of our music is classical,” says Schroder. “But we are more than that, we want to play more classical Filipino music like the kundiman, for instance. The orchestra is a showcase basically of our culture and our people, and we have to be true to our name.” The conductor also adds that the symphony would also include pop and contemporary pieces in its repertoire-in-progress Wilshire Theater and Production FASO will be performing this May in one of America’s important performance halls, the Wilshire Theater Beverly Hills. Wilshire Theater would remind old timers of Manila’s very own Art Deco landmark, the Metropolitan Theater. Designed by architect Charles Lee, the theater was named after Fox Wilshire, and has been a prime movie house, hosting various premiere nights and special events. When it was renovated in 1981, it became a popular venue for shows and stage productions. Some of the more bankable

names and groups that graced its stage were Billy Idol, Laurie Anderson, Mijares, Richard Pryor, Spandau Ballet, Kavert/ Poogy, and The National Ballet of Spain. FASO would soon join the ranks of these performers who have paid homage to the theater’s long history and heritage. “It is a very historic place, the Wilshire Theatre Beverly Hills, and it is very auspicious that we launch our very first symphony orchestra there,” says Jackie Regala, who is in charge of production of the gala night. Aside from presenting FASO big time to the general audience, The organizers are facinated by the glamor and nostalgia that the theater brings. “FASO in our way is our way of reliving our culture away from home. When we were planning, things just fell into place,” relates Regala. Aside from Regala, very much involved in organizing the gala are Cha Carrera, who handles marketing and Tecson, who had been with the project since its inception. Cruz will be directing the show. “We are overwhelmed by the support we are receiving, even from patrons in the arts in Manila. This is really a worthwhile endeavor,” Roger says. g

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“I would rather be right than be President.” Pelaez biography covers relevant themes today By Berry Pelaez–Marfori


s integrity the most important quality of a government official? Should a government official remain honest even if doing so may mean impending crisis? These are the themes explored by Nelson A. Navarro in a biography on Emmanuel Pelaez, former vice president during the administration of Diosdado Macapagal, senator and congressman for several terms and Philippine ambassador to the US from 1986 to 1992. What’s Happening to Our Country? The Life and Times of Emmanuel Pelaez is the first publication of the Emmanuel Pelaez Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting innovative programs that focus on good governance, the environment and poverty alleviation.

For inquiries, please call Naomi at (632) 631-1531 or (63918) 906-8142 or e-mail at

Written by journalist and political commentator Navarro, the epic provides an intimate account not only of the statesman whose political career spanned the Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos and Aquino eras but also of the key personalities of those periods. What’s Happening to Our Country provides an interesting glimpse of the pre-Marcos era when “for one brief shining moment, (Emmanuel Pelaez) stood as the nation’s one great hope against the coming Marcosian darkness.” In the months prior to the Nacionalista convention where political upstart Ferdinand Marcos wrested the presidential nomination, Pelaez was the “acknowledged frontrunner, way ahead in the delegate count,” recalls Navarro. Pelaez’s fatal mistake was that he had entered into a gentleman’s agreement with Marcos not to resort to fraud or buying the votes of the Nacionalista Party delegates. Pelaez kept his word despite Marcos’ mockery of that agreement. Even as the vice-president’s aides urged him to make use of the contributions that had poured in from backers bent on seeing Marcos defeated at all costs, he wouldn’t budge. As recounted in the book where history is retold as passionate narrative, Pelaez’s unwavering answer to frantic campaign advisers and financiers was: “I would rather be right than be President.” Throughout the rest of Pelaez’s career as congressman and senator in the 60s and 70s, as an assemblyman from 1978 to 1984, as fierce crusader against the controversial coconut levy, and as President Aquino’s man in Washington during those tumultuous years, Pelaez would often recall the convention and other defining moments in his life when he paid a stiff price for defending his political integrity. The Navarro volume finds relevance today when the integrity of the Philippines’ highest officials has time and again been questioned and has become cause for persistent political destabilization. In the early 1982 at the height of Marcos’ rule, Pelaez’s integrity once more caught public attention when he denounced the injustice of the coconut levy and the coconut trading monopoly, which left many farmers destitute. Soon after, he suffered an assassination attempt. As he was being wheeled into the operating room, Pelaez said the now famous statement: “What is happening to our country?” The phrase became an indictment against the Marcos administration. In honor of the statesman, the Emmanuel Pelaez Foundation is also involved in projects on environmental awareness and preservation such as reforestation and regeneration of the coral reefs; a housing program in partnership with Gawad Kalinga; and training facilities for the fishermen in Medina, Misamis Oriental. Proceeds from the book will be earmarked for these programs. g

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Balikbayan Magazine March 2009  

The Asian Journal Travel and Lifestyle Magazine