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w w w. a s i a n j o u r n a l . c o m The Collective Journal of the Filipino Success Story in America






w w w. a s i a n j o u r n a l . c o m





The Collective Journal of the Filipino Success Story in America

Publisher & CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD | Roger Lagmay Oriel President & EXECUTIVE EDITOR | Cora M. Oriel EditorIAL & DESIGN CONSULTANT | Lito Ocampo Cruz THE EditorIAL TEAM USA | Momar Visaya, Nickee de Leon, Joseph Peralta, Malou Liwanag-Bledsoe, Dymphna Calica La Putt, Miko Santos, Joseph Pimentel, Cynthia de Castro, Jherlyn Meneses THE EditorIAL TEAM PHILIPPINES | Louie Jon Agustin Sanchez, Rochelle C. Pangilinan, Billy dela Cruz, Julie Matienzo THE DESIGN TEAM USA | Dante Sambilay, Nickee de Leon, Kristine Rae Buendia, Marianne Quan THE DESIGN TEAM PHILIPPINES| Richard Erpilo, Valory Lim, Bienvenida Salazar, Kendrick Tan, Joyce Dianne Balansag THE PHOTOGRAPHy TEAM | Andy Tecson, Joe Cobilla, Robert Macabagdal, Ted Talag, Bert Jaurigue THE SALES & MARKETING TEAM USA | Belle M. Sison, Monette Adeva Maglaya, Ivy Manalang, Sharon Ann Z. Bathan, Robert Macabagdal, Kristine Rae Buendia, Rosita Pelaez THE SALES & MARKETING TEAM PHILIPPINES | Noel O. Godinez, Vince Samson, Stephanie Marie L. Kho DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT | Raphael John Oriel THE ACCOUNTING TEAM | Imelda Palacpac, Michael Nitro, Gemma Fabro, Ria Fabro, Amirah Limayo, Becky Yu, Daisy Fung THE LOGISTICS TEAM | Ed Ferrer, Arthur Sibulangcao, Karla Garcia

1 All in the Family: Cousins David Tupaz and Krista Ranillo’s

complementary careers by Elgin Zulueta

5 One Big Step, One Big Talent: Fil-Am Actress Catherine


by Momar G. Visaya

8 The Curious Case of ‘Poet Name Life’ DJ, Producer,

Songwriter and Remixer

12 The Imaginarium of Director Brillante ‘Dante’ Mendoza 18

Jose Antonio Vargas: The award-winning journalist makes connection through his works of various forms by Momar G. Visaya


Miguel Syjuco: ‘The shooting star of Filipino fiction’ makes an impact in the int’l scene by Momar G. Visaya


Brian Tenorio and Emi Jorge: Their dreams of style become astounding realities 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. All Rights Reserved 2011

Editorial & Advertising Offices USA Los Angeles: 1150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017-1904. Tel. (213) 250–9797 San Francisco: 841 San Bruno Avenue West, Ste.12-14 San Bruno, CA 94066 • Tel. (650) 583–6818 New York: 5 Penn Plaza, Ste. 1932, New York, NY 10001 Tel. (212) 655–5426 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 Editorial & Advertising Offices Philippines The Fort: 2/F Units D&E, Fort Palm Spring Condiminium, 30th St., 1st Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig Tel: (632) 8564921

29 Charice: Pop Princess on Top of the Charts 32 Santacruzan Turns 32 in Jersey City by Momar G. Visaya

35 112th Philippine Independence Day: Keeping the Spirit of

Filipino Nationalism Alive by Momar G. Visaya

38 Araw ng Kalayaan 2010: Celebrating Our Journey to


by RIchard M. Reyes

41 Rafe Bartholomew: Philippine Basketball Anthropologist by Momar G. Visaya


47 Lyna Larcia-Calvario’s ‘KasalNy’: Making fairytale

weddings come true by Momar G. Visaya

All in the family Cousins David Tupaz and Krista Ranillo’s complementary careers by Elgin Zulueta

/ AJPress

Photos by Mau Mauricio Hair and Make-up by Paula Mauricio

David and Krista: A shared success David Tupaz, America’s upcoming fashion designer; Krista Ranillo, Manila’s most sought after actress and endorser. What do they have in common aside from being Filipino and successful in their respective careers? They’re first cousins. And what do these cousins with their artistic backgrounds do to take their success to the next level? Unite their talents, melding their unique personas to give life to ‘Krista by David Tupaz’—a fashion line showcasing sophisticated designs that are exquisitely detailed, beautifully textured, and yet offers such ease of wear. At Woodland Hills sits David’s cozy fitting shop, lending an apt location for our interview and photo shoot. One would clearly see the close and easy working relationship David and Krista possess as jokes easily bounce back and forth during the length of the interview. With the laid back atmosphere, it felt more like friends hanging out, chatting, and enjoying each other’s

The white polo accented by a black flower brooch is the author’s favorite.

Krista by David Tupaz will also launch their own line of accessories like bags and hats used during the shoot.

company rather than an interview. America’s eye is currently focused on David as his creations have called the attention of the fashion world seeing his designs worn by Hollywood celebrities such as Cheryl Ladd, Mariel Hemmingway, Kelly LeBrock, Jane Wyatt, William Shatner, and Kris Jenner. While watching the shoot, having a closer look of the

creations, it is very evident how creative David is and how much importance he places on the ease of dressing at the same time giving the air of class and elegance. A favorite of mine is the white polo accented by a black flower brooch. It renders an air of mysterious allure. “Every Filipina needs to feel and look pretty. Remember the popular Filipino folktale Si Malakas at Si

Maganda (The Strong and the Beautiful)? It signifies how Filipinas should always look beautiful inside and out. When you look good you feel good, you become more productive. This is exactly how Krista and I think when we brainstorm for our fashion line.” says David. Having trained in New York haute couture fashion, the late Liz Tilberis of Harper’s Bazaar

David and Krista at the Magic Show

Photos by Paula Mauricio Hair and Make-up by Paula Mauricio

Conversations with David Tupaz (left), Elgin Zulueta and Krista Ranillo (right)

Magazine describes how amazingly David can mix tailored femininity and romanticism. Also, during the 1999 Academy Awards, People Magazine acknowledged his Orchid Purple peau de soie gown worn by winning Director Keiko Ibi. The other half of this accomplished duo is Krista Ranillo, successful actress and endorser in Manila. Having had an interest in fashion since she was young, she complements their clothing line with her energetic enthusiasm and spontaneity through her fun, fearless and feminine styles. “Her style is strong. She puts femininity with a masculine foundation. The cuts are very structured. I just collect everything and make her realize what the image is all about. It’s all about Krista. She is the brand.” says David. The different sides of her persona clearly show through her and David’s designs. “I was really happy when we got good feedbacks when we joined the Women’s Wear Daily Magic Show in Las Vegas. It’s a fashion tradeshow where all fashion buyers go. I was elated when my booth was in line with Jessica Simpson and Tommy Bahamas and still got orders!” she enthused. ‘Krista by David Tupaz’ is all about stirring an air of romance to your escapades with romantic dresses in black and white accents and luxurious fabrics of lace and satin. The combination of their personalities gives warmth to their designs, where the creation is never ambiguous. They know what a woman needs to feel beautiful, and that’s what ‘Krista by David Tupaz’ promises. David Tupaz and Krista Ranillo is a power combination, a shared success. They moved their feet in the direction that is most favorable in living up to their full creative potential. They had a good idea, acted on impulse, and did something about it. Krista by David Tupaz is born! Visit for orders. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 2, 2010.

David and Krista

Krista wearing a romantic dress in black and white accents.

One big step, one big talent Fil-Am actress Catherine Ricafort by Momar G. Visaya

/ AJPress

One Singular Sensation Fil-Am Actress Takes Centerstage in ‘A Chorus Line’ Tour It is not everyday that you get to meet a person so equally passionate with two divergent fields, say engineering and entertainment. One such person is Catherine Ricafort, originally from Thousand Oaks, California. She took up Industrial and Systems Engineering (with a minor in Musical Theatre) at the University of Southern California (USC) as a presidential scholar and graduated last May. It was through this degree that she realized the real value of discipline and the importance of academics. “Even if my passion was singing/dancing/acting, I’ve always believed in the value of a solid education.  My mom has been a teacher and is a college/career counselor, and my dad is an engineer,” Ricafort said. She is currently a part of the national touring production of the musical A Chorus Line, essaying the principal role of Connie. Had she not been sidetracked by her dream to pursue a musical career, she thinks she’d already be in the thick of getting her masters in engineering. “I’ve never performed this much before, but I am not complaining,” Ricafort told the Asian Journal in an interview a week before their shows in Connecticut. The touring crew does eight shows a week for more than 20 weeks and will be performing in various cities and states until May 30. Before her stint with A Chorus Line, Ricafort has been busy performing left and right, taking in roles of understudies and ensemble parts, in order to hone her career. Performing since the age of three, she has been involved in numerous musical theatre productions, including the role of Annie. She is also an avid dancer in jazz, tap, ballet & pointe, hip-hop, and lyrical, and she has danced principal roles with USC Repertory Dance Company and Pacific Festival Ballet Company. That is why she felt right at home doing A Chorus Line because the musical showcases her talents in singing, dancing and acting. A triple threat, indeed.  Critics say that this nine-time Tony

Award-winning musical is not for the faint of heart, mind or foot. The stage is stripped bare of amazing mechanical woodwork and the performers are not garbed in the most flamboyant of costumes. It’s all about talent. Since its opening in 1975, A Chorus Line has been captivating audiences with its realistic interpretation of just how grueling the audition process is for Broadway plays and musicals. It is, in a nutshell, a story of 17 cast members lining

the bare stage for the entirety of the musical, which is set for an audition in the “Great White Way.” By the time A Chorus Line finished its historic run at the Shubert Theatre in 1990, it was the longest-running Broadway show in history, with 6,137 performances. Cats, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera have since passed it.  The musical was revived on Broadway from 2006 to 2008, and the touring production began work immediately after the curtail fell.  At the end of the show, the audience is given

an idea on how casting calls and auditions are really done, with all the raw emotion of each character giving his/her best in order to land the coveted roles. With encouragement from family and friends, Ricafort moved to New York from California last September in order to pursue her dreams in the theater.  It has all been about auditions and casting calls since then.  “It was a big and scary decision for me—I had never lived very far from my family. I didn’t know anyone and would have to get in lines for auditions at 6am and wait all day long to get the chance to sing for 30 seconds or learn the dance routine, not knowing if I would even be seen or turned away at these auditions,” Ricafort reminisced.  It was difficult at first, especially since she did not have an agent nor an equity card, but she persevered.  Her hard work eventually paid off, and she landed one of the principal roles in the musical.  “This show is very special to me, because it’s my first big break. Good dancers are usually stuck in the chorus, but it’s such a blessing to be able to dance and show singing and acting talents as well in this musical,” she said.  When the tour ends next month, Ricafort is looking forward to going back to New York to get more auditions. She dreams of landing a role on Broadway and in the foreseeable future, a pop recording career. She also wishes for an opportunity to be able to perform in the Philippines someday. “I have a lot of goals, and I really look forward to realizing them one by one,” she said. During Ricafort’s junior year, her mom saw an audition notice for the Asia tour of Cinderella starring Lea Salonga. “It really interested me as I would have the chance to go back and perform in Manila!  However, it seemed like a long shot, and I didn’t want to miss school to fly out for an audition I wasn’t sure about, but I have always had

support from my family members who are like my ‘fairy godmothers or godfathers’—my uncle bought me a plane ticket and with my parent’s encouraging, I flew to NYC, auditioned, and was offered to understudy Lea in the leading role! I was very tempted to do the show, but I decided to finish school,” she shared. She may not have gotten her chance to become Lea Salonga’s understudy and perform in Manila, but all her hard work and sacrifices in school paid off when she graduated cum laude last May. While she has been taking dancing lessons since she was a kid, Ricafort says that among the dances, her strongest suit is the ballet.  “There is more dancing than singing in this show, but it’s amazing to be able to tell a story out of dancing, acting and speaking. It’s a challenging physical, mental and emotional machine. It’s rare to be able to do all three at once,” she said, adding that her stint in the show was made more special because the actress who originated the role of Connie in 1975, Baayork Lee, is involved in the production’s choreography. Lee also handpicked Ricafort for the role.  Ricafort thanks her mom for instilling in her the love for things Broadway. The love for musical theater has always run in their family.  “Even when my mom was pregnant with me, she would listen to her favorite Broadway music, and my uncle Gines Tan is the composer of Magsimula Ka, which was an award-winning song in the Philippines and was eventually produced into a musical,” she shared.  Her foray into musicals began at a very, very young age and she hopes to be doing this for a long time as well.  This was the Philippine Montessori School production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  She enrolled halfway through the school year, and all the principal roles were already cast.  Two days before the show, at the parent-teacher conference, her teacher handed her parents a script of Goldilocks and told them that the girl cast as Baby Bear was sick and wouldn’t be able to do the show. “She said she could not think of anybody else who could step into the role but me!  For two days, we practiced at home with Pa as Papa Bear, Ma as Mama Bear.  From the moment I stepped onstage as Baby Bear, I was hooked in musical theatre,” she said.  Catherine Ricafort has gone a long way from being Baby Bear onstage to essaying the role of Connie on the national touring production of A Chorus Line. She set her goals high and with sheer talent (and a bit of luck), she has been achieving her dreams... one at a time. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 9, 2010.



Two-time Grammy Nominee POET NAME LIFE

An Artistic Flair One of the newest members of the Los Angeles’ music elite is a Filipino-American with the unusual name of Poet Name Life. Currently the official DJ for the Black Eyed Peas, he has two Grammy nominations proving his outstanding work as producer, songwriter and remixer. Poet recently held the #1 position in the Dance album charts on iTunes, Total Club Hits 4 (it currently sits at #50). A producer of the Listen Deep Music Group, he co-produced the Black Eyed Peas’ recent chart-topping hit Boom Boom Pow on their latest album, The E.N.D. Poet is also a co-writer for Rock That Body, another song on the same record. What’s the story behind the unusual name? Born Jaime Lim Munson in Echo Park, LA, California, he comes from a large Filipino family with ten brothers and sisters. “Ever since I was in elementary, I have been writing poems. So, some of my friends started calling me ‘Poet.’ Then, in high school, I painted a lot of murals, portraying life through art works which I titled ‘Life.’ As a result, some schoolmates called me ‘Life.’ So, I just combined the names friends called me—Poet Name Life,” explained Munson, who is now simply known as “Poet.” Poet says that his writing genes come from his mom, Rebecca, (“She’s always writing poems too!”), while his musical talent he got from his dad who played the guitar well. He started playing the piano as a young child but grew to learn many other musical instruments. “ Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to entertain and write. I wanted to be at the front, in the art scene. I wrote and made speeches. I was playing in the orchestra, drama, workshops. I was always in the auditorium, if not part of the cast, then as a stage crew,” recalls Poet. He attended elementary school in Downey and then went on to John Marshall High School. “That’s where the core of Black Eyed Peas met and the group started,” revealed Poet. Allan

Pineda Lindo (, William James Adams (, and Poet were all schoolmates at John Marshall High School. “We grew up together since high school. Since we were all into music and dancing, we liked hanging out together. I wrote songs and we said we will start a group someday,” said Poet. The three friends remained close, even as they graduated from John Marshall. Poet took up music courses at the Los Angeles City College, Pasadena City College and Santa Monica College. In 1995, The Black Eyed Peas was formed in Los Angeles. Poet preferred to stay in the background as their songwriter, producer and DJ. Since their third album Elephunk in 2003, the group’s hip hop/dance-oriented style has sold an

estimated 35 million albums worldwide and 41 million singles. They scored their first worldwide hit with Where Is the Love? in 2003, which topped over ten charts worldwide. Another single was the European hit Shut Up. Their next album Monkey Business was another worldwide hit, certified 3x Platinum in the US, spawning two hit singles My Humps and Don’t Phunk With My Heart. The group has won the Grammy six times and has been nominated more than a dozen times. In 2009, the group became one of only 11 artists to have ever held the number one and two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time with their singles Boom Boom Pow and I Gotta Feeling, from the album The E.N.D., and the singles also topped the chart for an unprecedented 26

consecutive weeks combined in 2009. Poet has been the official DJ of the Black Eyed Peas and has been going with the group in their tours. “Before, we even had a hard time filling out a small bar. Today, we fill out stadiums and arenas, as much as 20,000, around the world,” said Poet. Of the many countries they have toured, Poet has his favorites. “My favorite country in the world is Japan. It’s so cutting edge, so different, and the scenery is great. My other favorite country is of course the Philippines. The first time I was there was in 2005. We performed in CCP, which was filled to the rafters. I loved it! But, of course, there’s no place like home- which is LA. It’s the coolest. My family is here and I’m a family person. I like big families,” admitted Poet. “My friends are here too, and live within 5 minutes from me in Los Feliz,” he added. Asked about the secrets of their abiding friendship, Poet answered, “We were all raised pretty good. Family always comes first. We’re always there for each other. Plus, we are all passionate about music and technology.” Poet revealed that the “in thing” now in the music industry is working as a DJ. “I’m a veteran in the DJ game. I know every DJ in the world. You know, some DJs now get paid more than artists. For example, I get paid $5,000 for 45 minutes of DJ work. There are some who get paid as much as $100,000. It’s now the in thing.” Currently, Poet can be found touring with the Black Eyed Peas, acting as their DJ as they perform in support of The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies) album. He has previously toured with Ashlee Simpson on her nationwide intimate club tour promoting her upcoming album. He was also the DJ on will.i.Am’s tour in support of his solo album, Songs for Girls. Poet is the Co-Producer of Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow and’s It’s a New Day. His first full-length album, Calm Before The Storm,

features 5.1 surround sound tunes embodying a dynamic and futuristic musical collision between worlds of live instrumentation, free-form jazz, club-moving, head-bobbing, hip-hop, and loungy, tweaked out electronics. Poet innovatively combines spacey Moog riffs, stripped-down turntablistics, hard drumbeats, and the lush instrumentation of live musicians. Poet has also worked on Will and Fergie’s solo projects, including remixing Glamorous, which hit #1 on Billboard’s Dance charts, and All That I Got, the theme song for The Tyra Banks Show. His Viva Glamorous remix of Fergie’s Glamorous with exclusive guest vocals was featured as the soundtrack for M·A·C Cosmetics’ new ad campaign promoting their Viva Glam Lipstick and Lipglass. He made his initial mark on the music business as a producer for the company that launched the digital revolution, Atomic Pop, the first Internet label. As the producer of the CD/DVD Awaken, Poet won the 2001 Surround Sound Music Award for Best Surround Mix and Best DVD Graphics. His career continued to progress as a producer/composer/remixer, working with a wide variety of artists including Travis Barker, Justin Timberlake, Joe Hann of Linkin Park, Daniel Bedingfield, and the late J. Dilla. Poet’s climb up the charts with the lead song on Thrive Records’ Total Dance 2008 compilation CD further solidifies his position as a musical innovator. This #1 best-selling electronic album in the country features Poet’s exclusive Fergie vocal remix of Glamorous, and continues to fly off the shelves. Additionally, in 2009 Poet’s remix of Boom Boom Pow was featured in the GI Joe movie,


Rise of The Cobra, and has most recently remixed Meet Me Halfway, exclusively on iTunes. Future projects of Poet include the first album of his new group called Cry Babies, made up of a rapper from Washington, a singer from New York and Poet. “We do electro pop, hip hop, R&B,” said Poet who writes the group’s songs. On April 21, the Black Eyed Peas will be performing in American Idol. Poet has also started much work on Jeepney Music, which

is’s record album company that promotes Filipino musicians. Another project is DipDive, a social new media network, much like Facebook,started by Dipdive is the official site for Black Eyed Peas and for other artists. Inspired by’s passion to help his kababayans, Poet revealed that one of his dreams is to see Filipinos empowered even more and for there to be more Filipino artists recognized in the music world. “There are many ways to break down the barriers and walls. The world is becoming multi-cultural. Because of technology and the internet, everybody is mingling now,” observed Poet. One of the realizations of his dream of seeing more Filipinos being recognized in the world’s music stage is the emergence of the first Filipino American Symphony Orchestra in LA. Said Poet, “I love FASO. I love it that the Fil-Am community is coming together for music. I want to work with them if given the opportunity. And I’m so proud

that my younger brother, Edsel, is singing with them in their next concert on July 10. (The Golden Boy with the Golden Voice, Edsel Sotiangco, is Poet’s half-brother).” If Poet is extra happy and excited these days, he admits it’s because he is very much in love. Australian newspapers have published stories how their top model, Lucy Mcintosh, has been swept off her feet by Poet. Lucy is Australia’s first Fashion TV Diamond Model who was crowned in Melbourne a few months ago. One newspaper headline read –“Black Eyed Peas DJ has Lucy McIntosh in a spin.” Poet shared the story with the Asian Journal. “Last year, while on an Australian tour, Apl. de.ap dragged me out to a party. I wasn’t feeling well at that time. I have been single for a long time and I was feeling lonely. And there in the party, I saw Lucy. It was love at first sight- big time,” said Poet. With all the good things that have come his way, Poet shared that he now has a new passion for life. “ I feel like I just started. This is just the beginning of a great life,” Poet Name Life enthused. (AJPress) *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 16, 2010.


Photos courtesy of Vince Sandoval of IndioBravo


The Imaginarium of Director

Brillante ‘Dante’ Mendoza

The somber auteur turns sentimental with ‘Lola’ Dark horse or not, Brillante Mendoza has arrived. In the skirmish of last year’s auteurstudded Cannes Film Festival, Kinatay—Mendoza’s main competition entry and his second consecutive film at the Croisette after Serbis—was butchered by the critics with relish. Roger Ebert called it “the worst film ever in Cannes’ history,” a dubious honor he had previously bestowed on Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, with its indulgent prurience and navel-gazing. Recognition from the jury seemed less and less a possibility, especially when you’re up against an Ang Lee or a Tarantino or an Almodovar. And yet, on awards night, much to the critics’ chagrin, it was Mendoza who emerged as Best Director for his bold, unforgiving opus of a criminology student who, in the course of a seemingly interminable night, finds his sense of morality compromised. Mendoza’s Cannes win is a signal triumph in Philippine cinema. It is, in some respects, an indirect homage to the memory and social realist aesthetics of Lino Brocka, one giant whose shoulders he stands on. But look closer and you’ll see that the slum dwellers and corrupt politicians in Mendoza’s tableaux are lensed with an offhand, dispassionate eye. That some of his best work was shot documentary-style, including Berlin Film Festival winner Slingshot, Foster Child and the Venice Film Festival entry Lola, makes his nightmarish visions even more damning. In Kinatay, where most directors would have flinched or retreated, Mendoza zooms in. While Brocka wore his politics on his sleeve, Mendoza is fundamentally a chronicler, a brutally sharp one at that. As a result, those slum dwellers and corrupt

politicians pulsate with life—in all its pathos, humor and grotesquerie. The devil in Mendoza’s films is in the details. Literally. The production design (which he does himself) is meticulous, organically adding to the film’s verisimilitude, particularly in the crowd scenes of both Slingshot and Serbis. Production design was Mendoza’s field before stumbling into directing with his debut feature, The Masseur (2005). (“The director backed out and the producer asked if I was maybe interested in stepping in to direct it,” was

his recollection of how he made the transition.) In it, a young man supports his family by working as a masseur when his father dies. On paper, The Masseur looked exactly like what foreign festivals would be salivating over; a lot of independent Filipino features that play the fest circuit at that time were gay-themed romps posturing as social critiques. While it’s not without basis that Third World Cinema is sometimes branded as “poverty porn” in its unabashed depiction of the abject living conditions in underdeveloped nations (Slumdog Millionaire, for one, was not spared this accusation), the Filipino gay indies were quite a different animal: not quite poverty porn, but poverty AND porn. Politicized orgasms, let’s call them. The big surprise is the sensitivity and deep feeling Mendoza invests in The Masseur’s protagonist, played superbly by Coco Martin, the DiCaprio to his Scorsese. One scene that cuts between Martin kneading a client’s lusty body and him assisting a mortician with embalming his father’s corpse is quietly heartbreaking. The film went on to win the Best Picture award at the 58th Locarno International Film Festival. Fast forward to 2009, when Mendoza returned to Locarno (which he credits as having given him his big break as a director) this time as a jury member. This weekend, Mendoza’s new film Lola (Tagalog for “grandmother”), which debuted in last year’s Venice International Film Festival, will have its US premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s about two elderly women who bear the consequences of a crime involving their respective grandsons—


one is the victim, the other is the suspect. The unassuming director is here in New York to attend the screenings and gamely answered a few questions about the film.

How did you come up the story for Lola? The film was based on a real events like one grandson killing the other grandson. I situated this story during the rainy season not only to show how hard it is to live in that flooded part of Manila, but also because I wanted to have a more gloomy mood and atmosphere to complement the feelings of the struggling lead characters. Filipinos are basically survivors. They look at hardships as a part of life, but they remain hopeful. They tend to find solace and peace through prayer.

How did you go about casting the two grandmothers in the film? In Lola, both grandmothers are played by professional actresses. I already had both actresses in mind when the writer and I conceived the story two years ago. Anita Linda who plays Lola Sepa is 84 years old and Rustica Carpio who plays Lola Puring is 79 years old. It’s always a joy to work with professionals like them. They never complained during the shoot, despite the difficult logistics.

It looks from the poster like Lola was shot in a flooded community. The film was shot in Malabon, in the greater Manila area. It’s about 45 minutes away from downtown. That community is flooded all year round. The water goes up or down depending on

the downpour of the rain. The people who live in that community decided to stay in the flooded area because they don’t have any other home or place to reside in greater Manila. I decided to shoot in that area of Manila to show the living conditions of the people residing there and how they cope up with their daily existence and how they have adapted to such an environment. As shown in Lola, despite their living conditions, they still manage to survive and at the same time find solutions to the problems of their loved ones.

When did you shoot the film? I shot the film last June during the rainy season. I specifically wanted an overcast atmosphere to evoke the pain that the grandmothers are going through in the film. The rain and wind effects are all set up. We couldn’t depend on real rain because the camera and lighting equipment would get wet. It’s also too dangerous to have cables all over the place while it is raining. Water is also a symbol in Lola. Water is our source of life, but it can also be the source of stagnation and filth. We can also float along in water, but we can also drown in it.

One key scene in Lola is the funeral procession, and it’s hard not to notice your genius in production design. The funeral procession shown in Lola is typical for flooded areas. Similarly, there are famous fluvial parades in parts of the Philippines during celebrations for the rainy seasons. The person seen falling into the water at the beginning of the funeral procession scene was secretly set up by my assistant director and I. We wanted to surprise the extras. It turns out they all laughed at him and it broke the silence and solemnity of the scene. *** Vince Sandoval is the executive director of the IndioBravo Film Foundation and his short films have been exhibited in international film festivals, including France, United Kingdom, South Africa and Morocco. Next month, his film, Señorita will play at the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 23, 2010.




Twenty Mome One Magnific

Th e h e a d l i n e s . Th e d e a d l i n e s




As the Asian Journal approaches its 20th anniversary, we would like to pause, look back, count our blessings and remember the moments and the people who have made this journey possible.

It’s our way of thanking you for the trust and confidence you have shown us through the years, both in good and challenging times. Here’s looking forward to the next 20 years and beyond.

Please join us as we celebrate our new journey together.

Roger Lagmay Oriel Publisher

Our Turn To Tell Our We’ve Kept A Journal. We



entous Years cent Journal

s . Th e b y l i n e s . Th e Ti m e l i n e . The commemorative Magazine


r Story. Our History. e’ve Kept A Page for You.



The award-winning journalist makes connection through his works of various forms by Momar G. Visaya

Photos courtesy of Jose Antonio Vargas


/ AJPress

Pinoy Pulitzer winner reinvents himself In every city, there’s another city that people rarely ever see. That, in essence, is the message of the film The Other City, which is going to be screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, formerly with The Washington Post, wrote and co-produced the film, based on various stories that he reported for the newspaper. When Vargas moved to Washington, DC in the summer of 2003 as a reporting intern, it was all about the White House, the Capitol, the museums. Then there were the politicians, the lobbyists and the journalists. Vargas, then 22 years old, grew to know a whole other Washington by riding the bus across town or by mere walking around the various neighborhoods. “I grew to know a predominantly black city that does not have a vote in Congress. A city with a sizable gay population and a growing Latino community. A city with a high incarceration rate, with many residents thrown in and out of prison because of drugs,” Vargas shared. Growing up in the Philippines, Vargas said that he didn’t see any black people there so somehow, he got fascinated with black culture. He eventually realized that DC had a sizeable black population. That was just one of many realizations that Vargas had. “I discovered a disease that decade after decade—during the Reagan administration, through the Clinton and Bush years and now as the first African-American president resides in Washington—has kept on spreading, just a few miles from the White House,” Vargas added. It was actually in 1981 when the concept of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (or what has become more popularly referred to as AIDS) began to be a major health issue. It was the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that “five young men, all active homosexuals,” had shown up in Los Angeles hospitals with a rare infection. It was also the year when Vargas was born. At The Washington Post, Vargas did not set out to write stories about HIV/AIDS though the disease intrigued him to no end. He wanted to write about societal issues that plagued the community like homelessness, lack of access to healthcare, illiteracy, incarceration, drug abuse, homophobia, racism and class system. To write about AIDS back then was to write about the corollary issues as well. At least 3 percent of the capital city’s population is HIV-positive—far surpassing the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a “generalized and severe” epidemic, as determined by the

United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS and the US CDC. That translates into 2,984 residents per every 100,000 over the age of 12—or 15,120 —according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the District’s HIV/AIDS office. With these figures, Washington, DC has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the country, and other cities are seeing epidemic-like figures. In New York City, 1-in-8 injection drug users and 1-in-10 men who have sex with men are HIV-positive. Nationally, the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34 is AIDS,

according to the CDC. “When people think of AIDS in America, they think, ‘Oh, it’s not here. It’s in Africa, in Southeast Asia. It’s over there.’ They think, ‘Oh, it has nothing to do with me, it’s ‘the other people’ who get HIV anyway.’ But AIDS is right here, among us, in individual stories and struggles and hopes that interconnect,” Vargas said. Vargas has been a journalist since he was 17 and throughout his career, he has met people who made a mark in his life. He is thankful to The Washington Post for


the five years he stayed with them. In those five years, he was able to cover the presidential campaign for two years but more than that, he was happy to have covered AIDS in DC. “I was lucky to have gotten the time and resources to write these stories,” he said. Being a screenwriter wasn’t part of his career trajectory but then the opportunity presented itself. His stories on HIV/AIDS are the central subjects of a feature-length documentary, bearing witness to the lives of AIDS patients, activists and workers who live at the forefront of the capital city’s crisis. “I didn’t know how film worked. That was fascinating for me. I got to work with director Susan Koch, and she couldn’t have been more collaborative. It has been a totally exhilarating experience,” Vargas said of his film-writing debut. The Emmy- and Peabody-winning filmmaker was browsing through the Post’s archives when she came across Vargas’ writings on DC’s HIV/ AIDS epidemic. She admits she was intrigued by what Vargas has written but what resonated the most was the fact that DC had the highest rate of any city in the nation, even greater than some cities in Africa. Koch got in touch with Vargas in 2008 through e-mail to learn more about the issue. Vargas, who was then covering the presidential campaign, wrote her back. They met for a cup of coffee when Vargas had a day free of workrelated activities back in DC. By the end of that first conversation, they had decided to work together to tell the story of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a way of looking at “the other city.” Over the course of the next year, they documented the stories of individuals whose families have lived in DC for generations. “I came to understand how HIV/ AIDS intersects and reflects many of the injustices and inequities that plague our capital and our nation,” Koch said. This other city became the impetus for the


documentary. “The other Washington, the District of Columbia, a city within a city where health care access is a daily battle, where incarceration rate, drug addiction, poverty and illiteracy are high, a salad bowl of a city in which the majority of the African-American population, the growing Hispanic community and the sizable gay enclave sometimes publicly intermix,” Vargas said. In one of the articles that Vargas wrote for the Post in 2007, he mentioned about how there are two Washingtons when it comes to HIV/AIDS. The first is the Washington of “politicians, thinktanks and global health organizations” all addressing the illness as an international crisis that is anywhere but here. Then, there’s the Washington that Vargas knew for five years—the District of Columbia that has consistently battled a disease for the past two decades. “What makes it especially tragic and confounding is that more than 20 years ago, the District was one of the first cities in the country to create an AIDS office,” Vargas noted in his article. The documentary offers a raw, personal look at the “two Washingtons” —one that is affluent and powerful, the other that is overwhelmingly poor and powerless. It is told through intimate, character-driven stories, and with unprecedented access to those living on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic.  “In every city, there’s another city that many people often don’t know about or want to see. I hope this film will not only spark much needed dialogue about AIDS in America, but also make us aware of ‘the other city’ that is part of every city in America,” Koch said. The filmmakers are also hoping that The Other City will resonate with a worldwide audience and speak to the disparities and inequities that exist in cities all over the world. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 30, 2010.

Up Close & Personal with Jose Antonio Vargas • He is a Filipino-American multimedia journalist. • He is currently the Technology & Innovations Editor at The Huffington Post, where he oversees the Technology and College sections, and was previously a feature writer and national political reporter for The Washington Post, where he covered technology culture, HIV/ AIDS in Washington, DC and the 2008 presidential campaign, among other topics. He won a Pulitzer Prize as a part of a team that covered the 2007 massacre at Virgina Tech. - The media’s evolution—and the breaking down of barriers between print and broadcast journalism—has guided his nearly 12-year reporting career. He has written for daily newspapers (Philadelphia Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle) and national magazines (New York and Rolling Stone). He has also appeared on several television broadcasts, including CNN, MSNBC, and PBS NewsHour. - He serves on the advisory board of the Knight Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, housed at American University in DC, and he’s a very proud graduate of Mountain View High School and San Francisco State University. - “To bear witness to the truth, as the writer James Baldwin calls it, is one of my missions as a journalist. To spark conversation, in this social media-driven era of blogging, Facebook and YouTube, is another. Nearly 30 years after we first heard of this virus, it’s time to re-start it,” he says. - Vargas hasn’t been back to the Philippines since he moved to the US at the age of 12. He vividly remembers though the people, the places and the distinct smell of the old country. - “It’s as if it was just yesterday. I remember eating a lot of halo-halo. I remember my extended family from Iba, Zambales. I remember coming from a really large family,” Vargas recalls with a laugh. He also remembers fondly growing up as a chubby kid in the Philippines and getting called lovingly by an aunt as a “biik” (piglet). - Jose Antonio Vargas has indeed evolved from an award-winning journalist to a promising screenwriter and film producer but if you were to ask him to choose which one he likes better, he’d say both, and maybe more.


‘The shooting star of Filipino fiction’ makes an impact in the int’l scene by Momar G. Visaya

/ AJPress


A Filipino writer on the Global Stage Even before it was considered as a highlyanticipated debut novel, Ilustrado’s manuscript has already wowed the literati in the Philippines. In 2008, it won the Palanca Award, touted as the top literary prize in the country. Shortly after, it was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and eventually won the top plum, with $10,000 to boot. All these, two years before the actual book was published. The life of Miguel Syjuco, the man behind Ilustrado, was never the same after that. “This is a dream come true,” Syjuco tells the Asian Journal as he imbibes the atmosphere. We are huddled inside the Idlewild Bookstore, an independent bookshop in midtown Manhattan. In a few minutes, more than a hundred people would crowd the small space to listen to what he had to say. This was his moment. Critics and fellow authors have been very generous in giving their praise to the newly minted author’s debut novel. Among the superlatives that have been heaped upon the book? “Dizzyingly energetic and inventive”, “brilliantly conceived and stylishly executed,” “ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy and effervescent with humour” and “astonishingly inventive and bold.” The accolades don’t stop there: Canada’s Globe and Mail calls him “The shooting star of Filipino fiction” and his book a “dazzling debut”, Publisher’s Weekly says “this imaginative first novel shows considerable ingenuity in binding its divergent threads into a satisfying, meaningful story,” and Library Journal finds “Syjuco has crafted a beautiful work of historical fiction that’s part mystery and part sociopolitical commentary.”

‘Ilustrado’ “Ilustrado is a book about the Filipinos, about our experience from my perspective, from my own limited slice of the Philippine experience. It feels wonderful to be able to tell our story to the rest of the world,” he says. The book examines the diaspora, the experience of living abroad and coming back and forth, coming home to the Philippines feeling


guilty for living abroad—all the different things that he thinks most expatriate Filipinos feel. The manuscript that won and the book that we have here now took about 18 months. He worked with an Eric Chinski, an editor from his publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux and writer John Evans, a good friend and a colleague of his from Columbia, who helped him revise the book into the form that it is now. Syjuco finished the final revisions in January.

greater sense of the word,” he says. As Albert Camus once famously said, “Fiction is the lie we tell to get to the truth.” “The people and events are all imaginary, but the truths they represent—the flawed humanity, the mistakes we make, the potential for good and bad, the celebration of who we are and can be —are all real,” Syjuco, the author, tells the fictional critic Marcel Avellaneda in an interview. The book follows Miguel Syjuco, who sets out to investigate the suspicious death of his mentor, Crispin Salvador, once a revered and famous literary figure in the Philippines who made New York his home after a series of not-so-fortunate events. The novel opens with Salvador’s body being fished dead out of the Hudson River. The protagonist returns to the Philippines to know more about Salvador’s life and in the process of doing so, he meets the author’s family and friends as he fulfills his quest to write his mentor’s biography and find his missing manuscript.


For him, it is still not finished. “But you know you have to publish it sometime,” he says with a laugh. The book is completely fictional, and it’s not a memoir. The protagonist’s name just happens to be Miguel Syjuco as well. The similarities end there, or so it seems. “I wanted to play with that idea of ‘Is Miguel Syjuco, the character, real?’ or ‘Is Crispin Salvador real?’ or ‘Are these things really happening in the Philippines’?’ I hope that the readers, when they get to the end, they realize, well, it doesn’t matter. It may not be real or factual but it is true in the

The book shuffles furiously between the points of view of the protagonist and his mentor that some readers may find mildly confusing. The inspiration to do this came one day, through a documentary he was watching. “I was watching a documentary called Dreamweavers about T’boli women who wove textiles, and I saw how they were developing each thread independently before weaving them into a fabric, into a pattern,” he tells of that day. Prior to that, he was writing the book in a very conventional, linear structure. “When I saw them weaving, I realized that ‘Boom! That’s the way I have to do it.’ I took the book apart and developed the narrative threads on their own and I wove them together to create the bigger story,” Syjuco shares.

Humor The book is spiced with enough Filipino humor that hopefully will not get lost in translation. “I like playing with absurd things because there are just too many absurd things in life, especially in the Philippines. We Filipinos love to

laugh at ourselves,” he shares. He thought it was important to put jokes into the book because humor is really a part of our culture. He admits though that he set out to be funny. “I didn’t know I was funny until people told me, so it’s reassuring,” he says with a laugh. During the launch, Syjuco had the audience in the palm of his hand as he discussed briefly the struggle he had to go through to be in the place where is now. To make ends meet, he had to go through a series of odd jobs. Just how odd? “I was a test subject to see whether or not a camera can help with erectile dysfunction. There was a camera pointed at me, wearing video goggles as I watched two nature videos, then a pornographic clip, then another nature video, and all the while I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Do I want to be a writer this badly?,’” he shares, with the audience laughing raucously. Aside from becoming a “medical guinea pig,” Syjuco has also been a B-movie extra, eBay power-seller of ladies’ handbags, and an assistant to a bookie at the horse races, on top of being a copy editor, freelancer and reviewer at major international publications.

The Man Asian Literary Prize

It is a little known fact that Syjuco briefly abandoned Ilustrado when the manuscript failed to make the long list of nominees for the first Man Asian Prize in 2007. He ripped the novel apart and rewrote in entirely. He submitted the new manuscript for the same prize in 2008. Then it got shortlisted. “Asian authors don’t have the opportunities that Western authors do. I was lucky that I was one of the few who were able to benefit from that. Mine was the only Cinderella story, so to speak. That’s very Filipino. We are able to somehow, against all odds, find our level,” he shares. Within a week after winning the prize, Syjuco had himself an agent. Days later, the book was sold.

Montreal Miguel and his girlfriend Edith Werbel have lived in Montreal for three years. Edith, born and raised in Australia, is half Filipino, halfGerman. The couple met in Boracay and they have been together for six years now. He also lived in New York for about three years while pursuing his masters in Creative Writing at Columbia, which he finished in 2004. They used to live in Australia and during her senior year there, Edith had an opportunity to go to McGill University in Montreal. “It is a relatively affordable city. I get a lot of work done in the winters. If I can afford it, and I can work, fine,” he explains. Syjuco left the Philippines to study, which led to more studies, and eventually work opportunities. “I never expected to be away from home for so long,” he relates.


Miguel poses with Consul General Cecilia Rebong and Purple Yam owner Amy Besa. Photo by Happy David

Living abroad has allowed him to look at the bigger picture from afar, aside from making him grow as a writer. His experiences as an expatriate Filipino made him appreciate more the challenges overseas Filipinos have to go through. Where is he now? “I’m exactly where I have always wanted to be, finally. I worked very hard to get here, years of taking odd jobs to make ends meet as a writer. But again, I am still an aspiring author, it represents all sorts of failures, dead-ends, fixes and solutions. It’s a study for what I hope will be the books that will come in the future,” he says. Syjuco is optimistic and hopeful that the book will do well. He also knows that some people will like it, some people won’t “but I hope that it will create a conversation about who we are as Filipinos and who we are as people.” “[Some] people think that we are just maids or Imelda Marcos, but we’re all that and more,” he says. Syjuco flew to Manila last month to attend his novel’s launch there. “I was worried a bit because this is a story of ourselves and it is also a very honest book. Sometimes people don’t want to be faced with


honesty but I’d like to think that people are open-minded. I was encouraged by the pride and enthusiasm there,” he shares. He is thankful to have found publishers who believe in his potential as a writer. He intends to keep on writing books the best way he thinks he can. “Coming from the Philippines, and knowing that there are so many rich stories at home, I think it is important that I use the opportunities I have to bring those to light, and add to the conversation,” he says. This early, Syjuco is being compared with more established mainstream authors such as Haruki Murakami and Junot Diaz. For him however, putting the Filipino stamp out there and being a Filipino writer on the global stage are just as important as the accolades. “With all the preconceptions and misconceptions about Filipinos, it is a challenge

to show the world what we are, but I’m glad that I am able to be a small part of that,” he adds. So, call it a hodgepodge, a mishmash or a motley assortment of ideas and concepts, just because Miguel Syjuco, the author, decided to forcibly fit Philippine history, jokes, anecdotes, a coming-of- age story, politics, religion, sex, drugs, murder, literature into one novel. The bigger picture, or better yet, the bottomline shows that Ilustrado is way more than just the sum of its parts. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York/New Jersey May 7, 2010.


Their dreams of style become astounding realities



Filipino specimens on Fifth Avenue

An exhibition of Filipino designer shoes and bags by Brian Tenorio and Emi Jorge Filipino designers Brian Tenorio and Emi Jorge celebrate quintessential beauty and exoticism in their Fifth Avenue shoes and accessories exhibition, Tenorio/Jorge: Filipino Specimens on Fifth Avenue. Each half—Jorge’s artisan-crafted purses and Tenorio’s exquisite footwear—redefines Filipiniana as a contemporary form in the world’s art and fashion capital. Together, the designers embody the male and female archetypes of Filipino ingenuity, beauty and design-intelligence. Tehran-born Filipino-American Brian Tenorio is the most widely publicized shoe designer from

the Philippines. Tenorio’s Dreams collection is his first foray into the New York subconscious—a subversively beautiful and horrifying blend of the magical and macabre, of East and West, of real and imaginary. From the Eight Leather Monster to Tenorio’s masculine version of duckbills —Hammerheads, to his past loves (the Dudu), to family ties (A&A and Ms. T named after his sister), Tenorio’s Dreams Collection enlightens us on the workings of the mind and emotions of one of the Philippines’ most popular sapateros and New York’s newly adopted designing son. Emi Jorge is one of the Philippines’ foremost

women’s shoe and accessories designers. On her 10th year of retail success, she debuts her eponymous brand with the poetry of nature. 14 exquisitely handcrafted minaudieres give form to stories from home: the graceful curve of the carabao’s horn in a vessel of wood and metal; the ruby red of fireflies in semi-precious stone; and the azure sea mirrored in blue-tinted seashells. Jorge’s collection is a sculptural homage to her nomadic travels to Banaue, Donsol, and Bohol, and other places of rediscovery. From Conquistador to Carabao and Ani, from Rice Terraces to Symphony No. 9, the pieces epitomize natural forms and

TEHRAN-born Filipino-American Brian Tenorio is one of the most widely-publicized designers in the Philippines. Tenorio is currently a New York-based design manager and communications consultant. Recently receiving his Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Design Management degree from Pratt Institute, he has just presented his research on National Design Policy formation frameworks for developing countries. Currently, he is in a graduate-level internship with the Language and Communications Program of the United Nations in New York. His design company, Tenorio Manila (, won the Battle of the Business Plans competition in the country, and was a semi-finalist in the Harvard Business School 2005 Entrepreneurial Idol in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a winner of the 2007 Dutch-sponsored Philippine Bid Challenge (a satellite search of the International Business in Development Network Foundation) and also the Philippine Junior Chamber International’s Creative Young Entrepreneur for 2007. Tenorio’s designs have been shown in art exhibitions in New York and in Manila and were also included in the book 50 Must-Buys from Manila launched December 2008. Before designing shoes and accessories, Tenorio was a graphic designer and communications consultant for personalities like Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Lita Puyat, multi-nationals, design firms, and corporations in the Philippines, Europe, and the United States. He has won design awards in Asia, including the Asian Printing Press Awards in Singapore and the Philippine National Book Awards (2008 Best Designer). He also worked as an international correspondent for United Colors of Benetton’s COLORS Magazine, and as a contributor to major newspapers in the Philippines, on topics about Philippine and international Design. In November 2009, Tenorio launched the first designer line of luxury caskets and urns in the Philippines—Lux Mortem ( Brian finished the Managing the Arts Program at the Asian Institute of Management (2002), after graduating a few years prior at the Ateneo de Manila University (2000). After teaching design at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Communications Department, he was the first to teach shoe design and aesthetics in the Philippines at the School of Fashion and the Arts in Manila. Brian Tenorio is a member of the Design Management Institute, Asia Society (New York), and NetImpact (USA). (Brian Tenorio’s portfolio site is


patinas, and the current bold global sensibilities in fashion. Tenorio/Jorge: Filipino Specimens was especially selected by the Philippine Consulate General in New York for its “The Best of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue” Project which features Filipino artists and artisans who have received global acclaim for the excellence of their craft. Tenorio and Jorge’s designs will be on public view at a window display on Fifth Avenue from 29 April to 22 May, 2010. Their actual (indoor) design exhibition will be at the main hall of the Philippine Center from May 10 to 23, 2010. As a backdrop to Tenorio and Jorge’s designs are two of the most-photographed faces in the Philippines, Piolo Pascual and Angel Aquino—both excellent specimens of quintessential Filipino beauty. Styled by Peps Silvestre and Eileen Ramos, photographed by acclaimed Filipino photographer Juan Caguicla (whose work was recently auctioned off at Sotheby’s), rendered with radial references to

traditional Filipino patterns and scallop-styles are by multi-awarded fine artist Christina Dy, and curated by Isa Lorenzo of the Silverlens Gallery, the backdrop discusses a contemporary perspective of Filipino beauty, contrasting

cold and harsh urban reality with elegant old-world fire. The Filipino Entrepreneurs & Resources Network, Inc. (FERN, Inc.), maker of FERN-C: the leading brand of Vitamin C in the Philippines, supports the exhibition launch of designers Emi

Jorge and Brian Tenorio in New York and shares their aspiration of capturing global markets. FERN, Inc.’s vision of tapping the entrepreneur in every Filipino is manifested in the entrepreneurial spirit of Jorge and Tenorio as they bring world-class Philippine-made products to this global fashion capital. Marking its 6th year of marketing excellence and growth, FERN, Inc. is also truly a specimen of Filipino ingenuity and drive. With special support from the Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines and the Philippine Consulate General New York, Tenorio/Jorge: Filipino Specimens opens with a pre-launch party in Manhattan on Saturday, 15 May 2010. The Exhibition Gala Night is on 21 May 2010, 6 to 9PM, at the Philippine Center, 556 Fifth Avenue, New York. For more information about the collections and event, please visit www. filipinodesigner. com. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey April 30, 2010.

Tilapia Tilapia, a fish species from the Philippines, is the inspiration for this scaled-style. Box-leather lace-ups with overlapping leather scales. Sheepskin leather lining, hand-buffed leather sole.

Napoleon’s Home: Aquamarine inlay of Abalone shells with metal casted Coral detail, trimmed in Ebony Makassar



WHAT is the story of creation? Nomadic discoveries, quiet observations and isolated remembrances transfigured into tactile memories. Emi Jorge takes us on a journey through the senses by recreating life as wearable modern art. Creation begins with the ritual of unfolding memory. The mind gathers myth and dream with history, suspending transient moments in time: a thousand fireflies red-hot against the night sky, their reflections like fire dancing on water; the carabao, beast of burden, marked by a majestic crescent horn; the rice terraces, viridescent staircases extending towards the heavens. Exploring landscapes within and beyond herself, Emi courses her visions and emotions through her eyes, lips, and ears; finally, they assume the breadth and weight of living objects in her hands. Emi celebrates the natural forces of storytelling to fashion art out of wood, stone, metal, and shell. For the past 20 years, she has conceived and designed women’s shoes and accessories with a strong mastery of the feminine mystique; serenity exuded in her creative choices; and purity of expression and craftsmanship. The duality of her creative process—disciplined, yet organic—reveals the inner workings of her designs. Her eponymous collection of modern artisan handbags is a fine product of dramatic transmutations of ideas filtered straight through her hands. From one-dimensional sketches to technical drawings, clay figures, paper sculptures, and fabric pieces to the carefully selected sustainable raw materials, Emi builds from skeletal cohesions of her organic themes. This season, coral, shell, wood, and bone usher in memories of exotic faraway places, or in this case, the artist’s home, the Philippines. The collection gains its inspiration from Emi’s nomadic travels to Banaue, Donsol, and Bohol, and other places of rediscovery. Each piece emerges with layered texture and meaning, bound together by modern reinvention. Emi Jorge completed a two-year degree in Shoe Technology and Design from the Clothing and Footwear Institute of London, following a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She launched Solea in 1997, recently celebrating over a decade of retail success. Emi’s work has been exhibited in Ayala (2007), the School of Fashion and the Arts (2007), and the SLAB Gallery (2009). In 2009, her art pieces were included in Portraits de Chaussures Histoires de Pieds (Portraits of Shoes, Stories of Feet), an exhibition at the Yuchengco Museum curated by Yves Sabourin. In September of the same year, she held a solo exhibition of shoes, Battlegear and Armour modeled by muses and fashion celebrities. Throughout her career, Emi has collaborated with preeminent fashion designers by the likes of Rajo Laurel and Puey Quinones, and has been commissioned by Swarovski Crystal to create pieces for the Crystallized Cosmos Exhibition in Hong Kong. She has been nominated Best Accessory Designer by the MEGA Magazine Fashion Awards. Emi opened the boutique, Bonne Bouche, in 2008 with fashion designer Michi Calica Sotto and jeweler Elena Bautista. She launched Emi Jorge, her eponymous brand, in 2010. (Emi Jorge’s portfolio site:

Angel Aquino photographed by Juan Caguicla with radial art by Christina Dy (curated/produced by Isa Lorenzo of the Silverlens Gallery)


Brian Tenorio’s Eight Leather Monster II boots on display at the Schafler Gallery of Pratt Institute in New York

Piolo Pascual photographed by Juan Caguicla with radial art by Christina Dy (curated/produced by Isa Lorenzo of the Silverlens Gallery)

Charice pop princess on top of the charts



Charice’s ‘Pyramid’ is Pop wonder in Billboard chart, YouTube

Photo by George Holz


Few people ever get the rare chance of launching an international album on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But then Charice is a rare artist gifted with an unbelievable voice. Last May 11, a day after her birthday, Charice debuted her first self-titled international album at Oprah’s show. Performing the Billboard charttopping dance single Pyramid with singer/rapper Iyaz and the legendary David Foster on piano, Charice’s command of the stage and her stunning delivery shows that she has turned into one of the music industry’s outstanding performers. As proof, more than 3 million fans have watched her videos on You Tube and her single Pyramid and album Charice are quickly taking the world by storm. Just three years ago, the petite Filipina was a struggling teen-aged girl in Manila, joining one singing competition after another to help bring food on the table for her single mom Raquel and younger brother, Karl. After she was discovered in the Internet and then guested at the shows of Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey, life has dramatically changed for Charice and her family. Recently, she gifted her mom with a house and a car. The legendary David Foster has taken her under his wing and she’s good friends with Oprah which she calls “an honor. I always get to hug her– that’s my favorite! I have learned to have her same attitude and to never stop dreaming.” Some of the words of Pyramid, written by Swedish songwriter David Jassy, aptly describes Charice’s struggle to the top. “We took it from the bottom up And even in a desert storm Sturdy as a rock we hold Wishing every moment froze Now I just wanna let you know Pyramid, we built this on a solid rock It feels just like it’s heaven’s touch Together at the top, like a pyramid And even when the wind is blowing We’ll never fall just keep on going Forever we will stay, like a pyramid” The R&B love song, Pyramid, is Charice’s second international single; the first being Note to God. “I’m really, really excited because this is actually my first ever Pop/R&B album because I’d been singing, you know, Whitney Houston’s songs and Celine Dion’s songs… And now, I can’t believe that these are my own songs,” she told Oprah. Foster, who was seated with the audience that

time, turned a little emotional as well when Oprah asked him about Charice, where he also revealed that he’d agreed to be her godfather. Later, the smile on Foster’s face when Charice hit her big note on Pyramid just reflected pure pride. It is interesting that Charice bested Beyonce in an Italian Popularity Poll. Her first single was the dramatic Note to God which was premiered on the Oprah show last year and was voted the “Best Performance of the Year.” The blogs and comments from fans all over the world are all magnanimous with praise. 1. The stars are definitely aligned for Charice. Mentored by no less than 15-time Grammy award winner David Foster, sky is the limit for this lil’ diva in the making! And it’s about time that the world actually supports a true, bonafide talent that can actually sing! She truly has the voice, the charisma and the intangibles to make it in this industry. Please support this girl. She is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent that deserves to be heard! - Streetcred 2. Whoa! this young lady named CHARICE is AWESOME! -cyberman00005 3. I think she will be the next supertar,like Celine and Whitney. - George Martinez 4. Charice is a once in a generation voice,she is the best live singer right now - Camo 5. CHARICE is a rare talent indeed, coming from a humble beginning. She is one of the most gifted talents we have today, with a pure heart and adoring personality. -by DFOZ 6. Sky is the limit for this very talented girl. Charice can sing any song, any genre. She sang Adagio LIVE in Italy which she learned & memorized in just 2 days!I love this song PYRAMID, very catchy and radio-friendly. - by freezepudding 7. CHARICE is far far better than any other singing artists and she can even outdo the originals. - by elrem 8. I bet this diva is gonna be big! -by Alfred 9. Charice’s voice is in a completely different league. She will astound the world for years to come with her vocal skills. -by bld9696 10. Charice is a very talented singer. Pyramid rocks! I highly recommend downloading the song Pyramid. It’s worth every penny! At the top baby! - by Anthony 11.Charice is indeed “The most talented girl in the World”. –by Stephen Brady 12. Charice’s Pyramid clearly defines what Charice’s voice is capable of transcending to infinite possibilities. I’m blown away at the hurricane-like force of this song which fuels positive energies in me. 13. Charice, here she comes! Be ready to be

Charice’s first internationally-released studio album. The self-titled album was released May 11, 2010.

blown away. The world has to watch out for this breakthrough “one in a million” talent. Just bought all remixes and totally amazing. Her talent undoubtedly, will remain unshaken for a very long a pyramid. Even through all international acclaim, Charice still remains humble. “It’s really hard to go international, so that’s why I’m not expecting it right now. I love the record, but I don’t know if it will go far,” a humble Charice told the New York Daily News. Prior to her American performances, it was reported that Charice never received any formal training apart from informal voice lessons from her mother. And yet, masters in the industry such as David Foster are enthralled by her voice. In an ABC News interview, David Foster mentioned that Charice has the ability to mimic other people’s voices, which, according to him, is a characteristic of good singers. The New York Post once called her a vocal prodigy for being able to sing ‘big songs’ even in her tender age. Her vocal quality has been compared with those of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Asked if she was dating anyone, Charice said, “No, but I do have a crush on Josh Groban. I was shaking when we met.” Groban, on the other hand, once said in an interview that Charice’s voice is one of the most beautiful voices he has heard in a long time. This Saturday, May 22, Charice will have her formal church baptism and confirmation at the Pasig Cathedral in Manila. One of her godfathers is David Foster, who was so touched at being chosen

Charice during her early years

by Charice. The famed record producer-composer said during the Oprah May 11 show. “Probably the most extraordinary thing that’s happened to Charice and I, is, today, I got a letter from her asking me to be her godfather.” Yes, Charice has truly come a long way from her past hurts and struggles. But, now she’s here to stay, like a pyramid. “And every step you took we’ve grown Look how fast our time has flown It feels just like it’s heaven’s touch Together at the top, like a pyramid And even when the wind is blowing We’ll never fall just keep on going Forever we will stay, like a pyramid.” Kababayans, let us support our very own pop princess, and bring her album to the top of the charts. Here’s where you can purchase the album: Target, Best Buy, Borders, Barnes and Noble, I Tunes, Walmart and Hastings. Also available online at (AJPress) *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey May 21, 2010.




Santacruzan turns 32 in Jersey City by Momar G. Visaya

Bringing a distinct Filipino tradition to the United States is one thing. Staging it successfully for the past three decades is another. This year, the Catholic Action of Mary (CAM) continues the tradition and will hold the annual 32nd Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo in Jersey City.  Every year, Jersey City becomes witness to the color, sound and spirit of the Filipino faith, and it is something that the organizers intend to continue doing. “I feel really blessed to have settled in a community where our most precious and rich Filipino traditions are celebrated and not forgotten,” said Ledy Almadin, CAM’s

/ AJPress

executive vice president. The first Santacruzan was held at what was then St. Mary’s Parish in 1979 and it was a joint effort between the Filipiniana Society and the Catholic Action of Mary. Subsequent years saw CAM partnering with other organizations like the United Filipino American Associations. Eventually, the Santacruzan became a sole project of CAM, the Filipino lay organization in the Parish of the Resurrection. This parish came into being in 1997 to unite the five neighboring churches of St. Boniface, St. Bridget, St. Mary, St. Michael and St. Peter into one community of faith. Today,

this event is the largest and longest-running Santacruzan in the Northeast. CAM combined the celebrations of Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo, two of the many traditions that are celebrated throughout the Philippines, and became one of the most awaited events in the community. During the month of May, different parts of the country focus on the Santacruzan, which honors the Blessed Mother and the Holy Cross. Others concentrate on Flores de Mayo, or flowers of May, which also honors the Virgin Mary by gathering all the flowers in the community. People then go to the church to offer these


flowers. Afterwards, they visit the house of the hermano or hermana mayor, who feed all the guests. There is also a procession of sagalas, the prinsesas and the reynas. Essentially, Santacruzan is a religious commemoration of the finding of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Reyna Elena), mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine (Constantino). The Santacruzan is not exclusively Filipino though, as they have embraced other members of the community. “We are now joined by our brothers and sisters from various ethnic groups within the parish and they carry during the Santacruzan procession the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that is venerated in their own countries and which are enshrined at St. Mary’s Church,” said Deacon Cesar Sarmiento, CAM’s president. This means it’s not just the Virgin of the Barangay, Our Lady of Penafrancia, Our Lady of La Naval, Our Lady of Grace and the Immaculate Conception that are part of the procession but also Our Lady of Lavang from Vietnam, Our Lady of Providence from Puerto Rico, Our Lady of Caacupe from Paraguay, Our Lady of Copacabana from Bolivia, Our Lady of Altagracia from the Dominican Republic, Our Lady of Knock from Ireland and Our Lady of Guadalupe


from Mexico. Indeed, what started as a Filipino celebration has become a parish-wide activity. Santacruzan—some call it religious, others call it secular; it is referred to as a procession and a pageant; some see it as a solemn activity, others call it festive. For the organizers of the events, Santacruzan is all that, and more. The event in general is a celebration of the Filipino heritage and identity, and it is a legacy that they will

entrust to their children and to the next generation. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York/ New Jersey May 28, 2010.


Keeping the Spirit of Filipino Nationalism Alive by Momar G. Visaya

/ AJPress

Cover photos by Ernie Pe単a / Diwa ng Kalayaan photos by Butch Gata

Armi Piamonte, Mutya ng Silangan

Christine Soriano, Ms. Diwa ng Kalayaan

Justin Ommilig, Ms. Filipino-American


All Systems Go for the 112th Commemoration of Philippine Independence It is June again, and for Filipinos in the East Coast, it only means one thing: the much-awaited Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York City. This Sunday, June 6, thousands of Filipino and Filipino-American revelers will descend upon Madison Avenue to celebrate the declaration of Philippine Independence through a trio of events: the all-day Independence Day Street Fair; the Cultural Festival; and the 2010 Philippine Independence Day Parade led by Grand Marshals Benjamin H. and Dr. Zenaida E. Santos.

New York’s annual commemoration has grown by leaps and bounds from its inception in 1990, and for more than the last 15 years it is now proudly hailed by Filipinos around the world as the largest celebration of Philippine Independence outside of the Philippines.  “This year’s parade will be as wholesome, historic and spectacular as the previous years, if not better.   Every year, leaders and volunteers of PIDCI aspire to provide a parade and celebrations better than the previous years. This year’s members of the Board of Directors and

Officers and staff of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations (top photo) and Filipino Arts & Music Ensemble (bottom photo) join last year’s parade and celebrations.


numerous volunteers have been turning nights into days to make sure that we are able to give our kababayans the best display of Filipino cooperation and talents,” said Dr. Bernie Dela Merced, president of the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) when asked about what parade and festival participants can expect from the day-long festivities. The day’s celebration opens with a 9:00 a.m. flag-raising ceremony at the Philippine Center (at 556 Fifth Avenue, between 45th and 46th Street in Manhattan), followed by an Independence Day Mass.  While this is happening, hectic preparations are going on a stretch of Madison Avenue from 23rd Street to 39th Street.   The Street Fair opens at 10am on Madison Avenue from 24th to 26th streets with Filipino food galore at the corporate and merchants’ booths.  The Independence Day Parade opens with brief ceremonies on Madison Avenue directly above 38th Street, and at 1pm starts to wind down until the marchers, marching bands, floats, etc. pass a Reviewing Stand on the East Side of the Avenue between 30th and 29th Streets before turning off onto 27th Street for dispersal.    In the meantime, at about 2 pm, the Cultural Festival opens on an open-air stage set up in the middle of the Avenue just north of 23rd Street.  “I believe that the PIDCI parade and celebrations should serve as the venue and medium to showcase the best in the Filipino.  Thus, we are showcasing Filipino achievers in the performing arts such as Sarah Geronimo, Christian Bautista, and Carlo Orosa. Filipino achievers in communications and media such as TV hosts Hazel Sanchez of CBS 2 News and Katherine Creag of Fox 5 News will participate.  And if his hectic schedule permits, Filipino Boxing Legend, now also Congressman-elect, Manny Pacquiao, will grace this year’s parade,” Dela Merced added.  Dela Merced also reiterated his call for unity in the community, adding that the June 6th parade along Madison Avenue in New York City and the Philippine Independence Ball on June 12 at the New York Hilton are celebrations meant for everyone to enjoy.  “I have said it many times before, and I am saying it again: Let us all embrace each other in the name of Cooperation and Unity. After all, we are all Filipinos, no matter what. And that we need to be ONE in commemorating the Declaration of the Independence of our country of birth and the land of our forefathers,” he said.  New York City—a real melting pot of immigrants from all over the world—is a city of parades and festivals, and it has wholly embraced this Filipino event.  “Parades like these remind us that we are different in many aspects and yet we can live and co-exist together in harmony in one great country.  Parades like these remind us of the

aspirations of our forefathers and what they did to lead us to where we are. Parades like these make understanding possible and intolerance obsolete. The Philippine Independence Day Parade serves as a means for our community to educate us and other cultural groups in the United States about our own culture and traditions,” said Dela Merced.  Leading the parade, along with other important guests are Guests of Honor Ambassador to the US Willy C. Gaa, who was the Overall Chair of the Centennial Commemoration in 1998 and the Grand Marshal for that year, Loida Nicolas-Lewis.  Performers Sarah Geronimo, Christian Bautista and Carlo Orosa will be riding on a float during the parade and later will be featured at the Independence Day Cultural Festival.  Bringing up the rear of the Parade, on two floats, are this year’s Diwa ng Kalayaan beauties, led by the titleholder, 18-year-old Christine C. Soriano of New Jersey, the 2010 Diwa ng Kalayaan (Spirit of Independence).  She will be joined by first runner-up Miss Filipino-American Justine Omilig of Brooklyn, New York; second runner-up Mutya ng Silangan  (Muse of the East) Armi Piamonte, also of Brooklyn; and third runner-up Hiyas ng Pilipinas (Jewel of the Philippines) Nia Murielle Rodriguez of Jackson, New Jersey.   The others are:  Bituin ng Luzon (Star of Luzon) Denisegail Rendor of Nutley, New Jersey; Bituin ng Visayas (Star of the Visayas) Alyssa Roldan of Freehold, New Jersey; Bituin ng Mindanao (Star of Mindanao) Maria Camille Cezar of White Plains, New York; Miss Manila Chelsea Evangelista of Howell, New Jersey; Binibining Sampaguita (Miss Sampaguita) Jessica Dawn Bolandrina of Boston, Massachusetts; Binibining Jasmine (Miss Jasmine) Janine Ashley Jacob of the Bronx, New York; and Binibining Ylang Ylang (Miss Ylang Ylang) Ina Toribio of Yonkers, New York. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey June 4, 2010.

Dr. Bernie dela Merced, PIDCI President

Benjamin H and Zenaida E. Santos, Grand Marshall



Celebrating our Journey to Freedom Text and Photos by RIchard M. Reyes


Photos by Richard M. Reyes


The 112th Philippine Independence Day Celebration in NYC This year, New York-based Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI), in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General in New York, celebrated the 112th commemoration of Philippine Independence. PIDCI, which is concurrently celebrating its 20th year, started the morning with a flag-raising ceremony in front of the Philippine Center along Fifth Avenue. It was followed by a mass celebrated at Kalayaan Hall and a ribbon cutting event that kicked off a parade along Madison Avenue.   The Independence Day Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Oscar Aquino and the vocals were provided by the De La Salle Chorale who traveled from Europe for the festivities. At the end of the mass, Consul General Cecilia B. Rebong was recognized and applauded for her six years of service in New York.  Parade mascot “Haw-haw D Carabao” was one of the highlights of the parade that featured 113 participating groups. Grand Marshals Benjamin and Dr. Zenaida Santos, joined the parade atop a motorized “kalabaw” made from a temporarily converted mini cooper.  The parade also featured a mobile “bahay kubo,” carried by four men. A large Philippine flag was carried by a 12-person team and encapsulated the idea of “bayanihan.”  Rain and wind did not dampen the mood of the crowd who eagerly waited for the performances of Christian Bautista, Sarah Geronimo, and Carlos Orosa. Atty. Michael Gurfinkel facilitated the travel visas for these


ABS-CBN stars. The states represented by visitors and participants, included New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, California, with some people coming from Manila. 2010 PIDCI President Dr. Bernie dela Merced was pleased with the turn-out of the largest Philippine Independence Day celebration outside the Philippines. “It is a wonderful celebration because it is held right after Memorial Day (known in the US as the official start of summer), and it reminds Filipinos and Americans alike that Filipinos are not the “invisible” minority that we once were. It is also a small celebration of Filipino-Americans in the United States recognizing that we are productive citizens with a rich heritage,” he said. The Philippine Independence Day Celebration will continue its celebration with the Philippine Independence Gala Ball.  This year, PIDCI’s dela Merced brought back the Independence Ball to New York City.  It will be held on Saturday, June 12, at the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton in New York. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey June 11, 2010.   


The 112th Philippine Independence Day: Recognizing the significance of our freedom by Malou Liwanag-Bledsoe

/ AJPress

Every June 12, Filipinos in the Philippines and all over the world commemorate the Philippine Independence Day, commemorating our country’s declaration of independence from Spain. By history, before the formal conclusion of the Spanish-American War, Filipino revolutionary forces under the command of General Emilio Aguinaldo, proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of Philippines from Spain on June 12, 1898. However, this declaration was neither recognized by the United States or Spain, as well as by other nations. The Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets loss. It was on July 4, 1946 when the United States granted independence to the Philippines in the Treaty of Manila. Historians have pointed out that the independence in 1946 came with strings attached with the United States in the form of military bases, economic and trade conditions that placed the Philippines in a difficult position. The Philippine government had little choice but to accept the terms as the US Congress was threatening to withhold post-World War II rebuilding funds. From 1946 to 1961, July 4 was observed by Filipinos as Independence Day. Then on May 17, 1962, to the surprise of many, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28 directing Congress to enact a measure statutorily declaring June 12 as Independence Day. Two years later, on August 4, 1964, he signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12 as the country’s Independence Day. Previously, June 12 had been observed as Flag Day. July 4 is now recognized as Philippine American Friendship Day. Many Filipinos had difficulty accepting the change. From 1946 to 1962, they were used to celebrating Independence Day in July 4. Finally, the stars and stripes were lowered at the Luneta Park in Manila. Historians contend that the Philippine Revolution would have won over the Spain if not for the short-lived Spanish-American War. After the Americans won, they purchased our archipelago for $20 million and colonized it. Somewhere along these events, the Philippine-American War followed after American troops impeded an indigenous independence movement, leading to the loss of almost half a million Filipinos. Filipinos have always embraced June 12, 1898 as the date of our independence. Some may have argued that in spite of the end of wars, our country and people continues to fight. Still, we believe that for a nation that reveres the significance of being independent, being truly free is not an impossible feat.

Rafe Bartholomew:

Philippine Basketball Anthropologist Author launches book that traces the Filipinos’ love affair with basketball


Honorary Filipino

Basketball fanatic finds his second home in the Philippines Text and Photos by Momar G. Visaya

His real name is Raphael Bartholomew but he is also called Rafe. His Filipino friends tease and call him Paeng Bartolome. He even has a jersey from a local basketball tournament in Boracay to prove that. Here in New York, Rafe has become a celebrity in the Filipino community for a variety of reasons —but mostly because he is the author of Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin’ in Flip-Flops and the Philippines’ Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball, a book on Philippine basketball. With his frequent visits to Café 81 in the East Village to satiate his craving for Filipino food, he became friends with some of the restaurant’s other regulars. You may have read some of his articles, among the more famous ones is his 2007 The New York Times piece on the storied Ateneo-La Salle rivalry. He also broke the news about former New York Knicks player Nate Robinson having Filipino blood, which Rafe found out when he interviewed Robinson’s mom for a feature he wrote for Seattle Weekly. In a nutshell, Rafe Bartholomew is a basketball fanatic armed with a Fulbright grant who flew thousands of miles away across the globe to study the fierce fanaticism of Filipinos with the sport. His three-year immersion in Manila has made him more Filipino than some second- or third-generation FilipinoAmericans, especially in the way he speaks the language, and that makes him all the more endearing. His efforts in speaking Filipino in conversations doesn’t look pa-cute, nor is it forced, because you can sense the sincerity in him wanting to learn more. Rafe was 23 years old when he first arrived in Manila to pursue a year of studies there. He was able to convince the Fulbright board that the country’s fascination with basketball deserved to be scrutinized in a scholarly manner.


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He arrived in Manila knowing only one person, PBA commentator Sev Sarmenta, whom he approached via e-mail to be his adviser for this year-long project. We sat down with Rafe, who now works as an assistant editor at Harper’s, at

The Gershwin Hotel in midtown Manhattan for coffee to discuss his book and how this memorable trip to the Philippines changed his life. Asked what the most important lessons he learned in the three years he lived in Manila, the self-proclaimed hoops savant smiled and gave a ready response.

“Marami, there’s so many. I was young when I went there. I feel like I really grew up there because I spent the formative years of my adulthood there. I was truly on my own. I really felt like I found myself there,” Rafe said, comfortably switching between English and Filipino. The Fulbright grant was just for a year but he got so enamored with the country and its culture that he decided to stay for two more years. Because he was only given a visa that was valid for one year at a time, or in his words, “One year lang ang visa, kailangang bumalik ng dayuhan,” he flew to New York once a year to see his dad and earn money by working at McSorley’s that he would spend in the Philippines upon his return. At first, Rafe didn’t know what to expect. He read up on just about anything he could get his hands on and brushed up on bits and pieces of information about the Philippines. “Mayroon akong kamalayan, I had an idea on what I was going to see there. To receive the Fulbright grant, kailangan kong mag-aral nang mabuti. I had a good beginner’s knowledge of Philippine history, a decent knowledge of the current events. That was 2005, so people were still talking about ‘Hello Garci,’” Rafe recalled with a smile. Rafe’s fascination towards basketball started at a young age. “Nag-umpisa akong magbasketball mga walong taong gulang pa lang ako. I fell in love with the sport easily. There was this book called The Last Shot by Darcy Frey, it was about New York basketball. It was such a powerful book about these kids’ lives, sad but really meaningful. It introduced me to the idea that basketball is not just something I’d play for fun but also something I had cared about,” he shared. Growing up, Rafe said that he dreamt of becoming a pro player until he was around 14 or 15. “Tagahanga ako ng Fab Five, sina Chris Webber and Jalen Rose. I love Michigan. Pangarap ko dati

makapasok sa team at maging Wolverine. Pangarap ko ring maging 6’8” eh 6’4” lang ako. I knew that I was good, but not that good,” Rafe said. “I kept playing because I loved the game.” When he was in high school and pretty much didn’t know what he really wanted to become, Rafe entertained the idea of his alternate dreams, one of which was to become a comedy writer. He would talk for hours with a cousin from Massachusetts to come up with elaborate scripts for sketch comedy. He was also fascinated with The Simpsons, and wanted to be a part of its team of writers. “I used to write about being a teenager, medyo bastos, sophomoric humor. It was a mixed bag,” he said with a laugh. Rafe then went to Northwestern University and took up journalism. He was introduced to Fulbright when a writer came to his dorm one day during his freshman year to talk about career opportunities in his chosen field. After finishing school, she said she applied to Fulbright. “She made it sound that it was easy. When I went to the Fulbright office the following year, they explained what I had to do, that I had to come up with a full year’s worth of study and all that. Natakot ako, ayoko na lang. It was too much for me back then. I was overwhelmed,” he said. Rafe sat on it for a year and waited for the proverbial inspiration. That’s when he found the book which changed the course of his life. That book was Big Game, Small World by Alexander Wolff. In it, there’s one particular chapter on basketball in the Philippines and that was what inspired him and made him start learning more about the Philippines to help him prepare his proposal. Immediately after college, Rafe began his masters and by June 2005, he was done. Four months later, he embarked on a journey of a lifetime, his first trip to the Philippines.

Rafe reads an excerpt from his book at the launch in Barnes & Noble

Rafe’s book on display


Rafe wows the local kids  Photos courtesy of Mr. Bartholomew

Rafe shows how it’s done


He would find out eventually that basketball has been the dominant team game in the Philippines since the 1930s and somewhere along the line, Filipinos developed a strong emotional bond. From day one, it was obvious to Rafe that the Filipino fanaticism for the sport was deeply ingrained. As a basketball anthropologist, Rafe faced a couple of hurdles along the way. One was the lack of, or non-availability of scholarly articles written about the sport which he realized as he scoured the libraries of the top universities in Manila. Despite this, he went on to do his job: to learn more about basketball and its connection to Philippine culture. He knew that basketball was more popular, rather than academic but he hopes that with this book, more scholars will be inspired to study basketball in the country. Another hurdle, though quite minor, was financial-related. Because he stretched a stipend meant for one year into three, it meant that he had to find ways earn money. He took on odd jobs, from teaching at the Ateneo for a semester to coaching jobs to playing as an import in a few provincial leagues, to a stint in a teleserye called Bakekang. Asked what the biggest challenge he faced when it came to the book, Rafe paused and said, “Napakalaki ng paksa ng basketball sa Pilipinas. Kahit saan ka pumunta doon, no matter where I look, basketball is there—arts, entertainment, politics. It’s still a thick book. It was hard to narrow it down.” Rafe remembered meeting regularly with sports broadcaster Bill Velasco at Seattle’s Best in Katipunan and he would always get teased, ‘How thick is the book now? 2000 pages?’ because he kept writing down notes and asked all these questions every time they met. The book wasn’t even an idea when he applied for the grant. All he knew was that there was this country that loved basketball as much as he did. “When I applied sa Fulbright, hindi pa ako sigurado na puwedeng gumawa ng libro pero nag-isip na ako na baka may chance na maging libro. It was something new and was never done before. I didn’t know for sure until I actually experienced it. Within a week, I knew my answer. Basketball in the Philippines was everywhere,” he shared. Eventually, he realized that basketball in the Philippines was more than just a sport. It was a way of life. It was intrinsic that basketball worked its way into people’s hearts throughout history.  Nevermind if the average height of a Filipino man is five foot five, short in more ways than one in this height-obsessed sport. Nevermind if the players played on earthen courts, or halfcourts by a garage or on the streets. Nevermind if they wore flip-flops instead of expensive rubber shoes. The sport is a cultural force, it is a passion

that Rafe found out as he played on the streets of Manila or in basketball courts of more affluent villages. Basketball cut across the different economic levels in the society. “Masuwerte ako kasi nakapunta ako sa Pilipinas and I found something amazing. It was almost a book that could write itself there,” he said. It has been almost five years since Rafe first stepped on Philippine soil, and he is amazed at how life has changed. He now considers the Philippines as a second home and he can’t wait to learn more about it. “Halos lahat ng isip ko, pag hindi ako nasa trabaho,

lahat ng free thoughts ko tungkol sa Pilipinas. It has become my life,” Rafe shared. To cure his thirst for things Philippine-related, it has become his ritual to read Filipino newspapers online. He has also subscribed to TFC to catch up with the current events. “Living there, I saw a million things that I could write about,” he added. This avid basketball aficionado has indeed found his second home, and he can’t wait to return. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York/New Jersey June 18, 2010.

F irst P erson

New York, City or New York, Cubao by Rafe Bartholomew

When I left New York for the Philippines in October 2005, I had almost no clue what I was getting myself into. I had read a couple history books and surfed the web to read some PBA scores, but I was actually afraid that I’d arrive in the country and find out the the basketball heaven I heard about was an exaggeration. It didn’t take long to realize that I would never have to worry about overstating Filipinos’ affection for hoops. Everywhere I looked, I saw basketball; when a friend emailed me a picture she took on SLEX of a tanker truck with Michael Jordan’s larger-than-life silhouette painted on the back, I knew I was witnessing something special. It probably sounds crazy to get worked up over a hoops-decorated truck, but to me it felt spiritual. Basketball had been a passion of mine for as long as I could remember, and in the Philippines I found a country where almost everyone shared my love for the game. In that way, moving there from New York felt like coming to a second home I never knew I had. Of course, not everything felt like home. I had never eaten rice with breakfast before, never washed with a tabo, never drank soda out of a plastic bag. But wherever I went, I met people who were happy to share their culture with me and teach me what I didn’t know. As one year turned into two turned into three, I started to wonder if I felt closer to New York City or New York, Cubao. The answer is both. I have two homes, two cultures, two countries I love.

Rafe with Consul General Cecilia Rebong (middle) and Consul Elena Maningat.



Males fairytale weddings come true by Momar G. Visaya

SharonAnn Ann Bathan Sharon Bathan Asian Journal’s next bride


/ AJPress

Lyna Larcia-Calvario:

The Pinay Wedding Planner

FOR Lyna Larcia-Calvario, it was passion that drove her to where she is right now: owner of KasalNY, one of the most successful Filipinoowned businesses in the community. And it all began as a hobby. “It was just that back in 2002, a hobby. Our family loves to throw parties. Everytime there was a party, I would volunteer and slave for hours to do party favors to give them a personal flavor. I always think that it more special if you spend time on doing things,” Lyna shared. The parties she helped organize were all successful, thanks to Lyna’s meticulous eye on details. Friends asked her, “Why don’t you do it as a business?” It was a question that lingered, and after yet another successful event (her own wedding in 2005, no less), Lyna and her husband Kirby decided to give it a try. She took up a course to be certified at Penn Foster University. Before the conclusion of her course, they were required to do an actual wedding. She contacted Sarah Lusardi from the Style Network’s Whose Wedding is it Anyway? and asked her for guidance. “She was so nice, despite the fact that I was a total stranger. I went to Tarrytown to see a wedding that she was overseeing. We clicked right away,” Lyna fondly remembers. The rest was history, or in this case, herstory.  “If being succesful simply can be defined as ‘Hey, I dreamed it-now I’m doing it’ then I guess I can call myself one. KasalNY was just a simple idea I coined over teriyaki dinner with some of our closest friends,” she shared. “Kasal” is the Filipino word for wedding and since they were in New York, they just mixed Kasal and NY to come up with KasalNY. Interestingly enough, when you mix the letters up, you get ‘Ask Lyna.’  Lyna is acknowledged by the Association of Bridal Consultants and this year, KasalNY was voted one of New York’s Best Wedding Planners by readers of The Knot, the bible of the bridal industry. They bested more established wedding planners, that’s why Lyna was ecstatic when she found out. “I’m the only Filipina in that list and that makes it more special,” she quipped. Lyna began doing Italian, Greek and American

“We are actually making someone’s life happy. It is a bit stressful, my hair is thinning out but at the end of each event, you see the happy faces of the couples and families who trusted you enough to run this momentous event in their lives,“ Lyna says.


weddings. Recently, she began getting a slice of the Filipino market. She has also done Indian, Jamaican and Haitian weddings. Lyna loves cultural weddings because she gets to learn a lot about the couple and their family, and most of all, she gets to be friends with all of them. Wedding planners are sometimes stereotyped as difficult, opposite of what Lyna really is. In fact, her friends tell her that she is so nice, so nice in fact, to the point that some people have already accused her of being so nice that she’s fake. “It’s part of who I am. I didn’t grow up having all the luxury in life. Ang ipinamana lang sa akin ng tatay ko ay yung pakikisama. This is all I have to offer. That’s what sets me apart. I get my way through being nice. The vendors give me discounts because I am nice and I am able to pass that off to my brides,” Lyna shared. She works well together with other people, even the stereotypical vendors who feel that she’s out to steal their thunder. “I tell them that the event is not about me or about them, it is about our clients.” Lyna also works extremely well with her husband. “We work really well as a team. Initially, Kirby took only background shots during wedding preparations but because of him shooting from a different point of view, his pictures captured more of the raw emotions.

Lyna poses with colleagues from KASALNY


Because of this, some of his photos made it to the final albums of the weddings they planned,” Lyna said. Now, Kirby acts as the official photographer of the various events that they do. The past five years as business-owners have been very good for Lyna and Kirby. “Things have been great. We have 23 major events this year, aside from the smaller ones on the side. We have a good mix of brides, and we have more Filipinos now than any other year,” she said.

That is the good news. Despite talk of the recession hitting all industries in the past couple of years, the wedding industry seems to be recession-proof. “The thing with weddings is that couples and families spend based on emotion,” Lyna shared, “It doesn’t matter if the world’s going to end or if there’s a recession or something. They are in love and their parents are very happy for them that they are willing to splurge. They don’t

Photos courtesy of KasalNY

care, especially New York brides because they know what they want and they’ll stick to it.” Initial budget starts at $50,000 but those with bigger budgets can easily go beyond $100,000, according to Lyna. The higher the budget, the better and the grander the event becomes because they get more staff and stuff and more upscale locations. The biggest wedding Lyna has ever planned cost $135,000. As a wedding planner, Lyna’s days revolves around meeting brides and vendors. Ideally, she thinks six months to a year is necessary to prepare a well-planned wedding. She has also done a wedding with only four months to prepare but they were able to pull it off. As a conduit, Lyna connects her brides and their families to all the vendors that she has worked with in the past. In essence, brides are saving money when they use planners because they already know their way around weddings big or small. The planners guide the couples to budget their time and money accordingly to avoid overspending, or spending unnecessarily. More than anything else, Lyna gets her fulfillment from seeing her radiant brides during their special day. “We are actually making someone’s life happy. It is a bit stressful, my hair is thinning out but at the end of each event, you see the happy faces of the couples and families who trusted you enough to run this momentous event in their lives. I don’t think any other job would be able to give that satisfaction to me,” she said.

Lyna and her family first moved to the US in 1991, when she was 12 years old. It was in the height of the recession then and her parents couldn’t afford to send them to school here. They want back to the Philippines and studied there. Lyna returned to the US in 1999, after finishing her communication arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). A proud daughter of Marinduque, Lyna relishes her memories growing up in the small, sleepy and idyllic town of Mogpog. “It’s a very nice town. I am visiting again next month and we are going to this new resort in the province called Bella Roca to check it out because I want to promote it as a honeymoon destination,” she says proudly. Business life, however, is not always a bed of roses, something that Lyna discovered early on. “I get those questioning looks when people see me because being a woman of color, being a Filipina in this industry is rare around here. I get occasional raised eyebrows and belittling remarks from old school vendors but that’s fine, I don’t mind being the underdog,” Lyna admitted. The judgmental eyes don’t bother her a bit. In fact, she likes it when people give her that underestimating look when they size her up. “I get to over-deliver to make them realize that I know what I am doing. They eventually end up apologizing to me. We’re here to please, and that’s our nature as Filipinos,” she added. *** Published in the Asian Journal New York /New Jersey June 25, 2010.

Photos used in this article are of events organized by KasalNY



USAsian Journal 2Q of 2010  

USAsian Journal 2Q of 2010

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