Tuesday, December 12, 2017

‘Jazzy Little Christmas’ for non-traditional school in Baguio

Romero de Guia as Evita Peron in a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lissa Romero de Guia, vocal artiste, writer and mother, headlines “Jazzy Little Christmas,” a fund-raising dinner-concert to benefit the eight-year-old Balay Sofia, a Steiner-Waldorf school in Baguio City. The event is on Dec. 13 at Hill Station restaurant inside the historic Casa Vallejo on Upper Session Road.

De Guia, whose son Kalinaw also goes to the school, was a cast member of the original German productions of “Miss Saigon,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Rent.” She was the first Filipino actor to play the lead role of the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Dreamcoat.” She also served as the first understudy for the role of Gigi in the United Kingdom tour of “Miss Saigon.”

She understudied the role of Mimi for Atlantis Production’s Manila production of “Rent.” Now a freelance writer, she has been living in Baguio, her father’s hometown, for six years with her husband, the filmmaker Kidlat, and their two children.

Among the songs she will sing are: “A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square,” “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love,” “Hallelujah,” “Pasko Na, Sinta Ko,” “Lullaby in Birdland,” “My Favorite Things.”

She will also share the stage with pianist Jessica Cruz Ladines . Ladines is a voice and piano teacher at the Normita Pablico Music Studio, former choirmaster of the St. Louis University Glee Club, vocalist-pianist of Cortado Band and an arranger of choral and string ensembles. She and De Guia worked together in an Open Space Production concert version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” also in Baguio.

Romero de Guia with husband Kidlat and son Kalinaw

De Guia said she enrolled her son at Balay Sofia “because I wanted him to be in school that allowed him to be a child. I’m not attracted at all to schools that force early academics. I want him to enjoy.”

Steiner-Waldorf schools were first built after World War I in Stuttgart, Germany, to foster and guide a new generation to build a harmonious society. Balay Sofia started by offering classes in early childhood. Today, it has classes up until the fourth grade. It is expanding by adding more grade levels. The expansion means more classrooms and outdoor grounds are needed.

The fundraising committee, led by parent Michelle Tan-Dance, is looking for at least 3,000 square meters of land within a 30-minute drive from downtown Baguio. The new school is envisioned to house more students and grade levels.

Parents, teachers and students at Balay Sofia

With yearly visits from parent advocates from the Manila Waldorf and Acacia Waldorf Schools in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, as well as longtime Waldorf teacher David Simpson from New Zealand, the parents of Balay Sofia are guided into building the ideal school they want for their kids. “Jazzy Little Christmas” was organized for this purpose.

Restaurant owner Mitos Benitez is lending her space for this cause. She said, “I’m always happy to have Lissa perform here.” The last time De Guia performed at Hill Station was at the Baguio Writers Group’s pre-Valentine fundraiser in 2015. The house was full.

Benitez created a special menu for the event to include: Mrs. Claus Welcome Soup, Hill Station Green Garden Salad, a choice of three dishes for the main course (vegetarian pasta dish with mushroom and truffle oil, home-baked ham or white snapper fillet), as well as dessert and iced tea.

For tickets, contact 0917-511-6945 and (074) 424-2734. Or visit Hill Station.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New works

I've always called my paintings "paintings" or just plain "works," never "art." When I was a fine arts freshman at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in Diliman, our teacher Bob Feleo emphasized the use of the generic word "works" for the reason that it would be the public or another objective body that would baptize you with the title "artist."

Since 2004, I've followed Sir Bob's "command." I'm not doing art. I'm just painting my afternoons away every other week with my friend Toottee Chanco Pacis. Toottee is concentrating on making hand-painted, one-of-a-kind Christmas cards and postcards. I cannot paint on small paper. I need elbow space.

Here are my latest works done under the supervision of our tutor, Norman Chow. Forgive me if I fail to give the paintings' dimensions. Haven't gotten around to doing that. Just excited to share what came out of Toottee's greenhouse/studio. All used acrylic on canvas paper.

"Blue and White," mistakenly dated 2014 when it was actually done this year

"Broken China"

"Dream Catcher"

"Lily of the Field"

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Tuscan afternoon

The invitation to lunch was irresistible--the hostess was going to prepare American roast ribs (the better to lick our fingers with) and was going to give my husband Rolly a bag of tulip bulbs for planting when the temperature drops lower in December or January next year.

When we got to Mother's Garden in Barangay Fairview, Quezon Hill, Baguio, our hearty appetites were there to flatter the cook and hostess, Therese Jison. The salad plates were brought out, followed by the star of the afternoon, the ribs. Words fail to describe the crisp top and juicy middle. I had two heaping servings and was rubbing my belly for the rest of the day.

Straight from the oven

Perfect pairing of salad and roast

Therese called ours a Tuscan lunch because in Tuscany, Sunday lunches go on and on until dusk. Which was what happened on this particular Sunday as talk ran the gamut of raising children, raising pets, the life of endurance that Baguio exacts of its residents, the culture of impunity that is keeping the country's progress at a standstill.

But then dessert came: peach melba and whatever negative pronouncements vanished in the clear air! Therese's partner, retired hotel executive Heiner Maulbecker, told of the dessert's history. How a restaurant owner paid tribute to a then famed opera singer, Nellie Melba. He named the dish after her. Heiner said, "Who remembers the opera singer? But we know peach melba." Forthwith, he dug into his bowl con gusto!

If this dessert could only sing, what would it say?

Photos by Kimi Fernandez


Monday, October 30, 2017

Where's Waldo?

Mid-October I joined as saling pusa the For Love of the Word workshop of the Philippine Center of International PEN at the University of the Philippine Baguio's Sarmiento Hall. The workshop aimed to equip high school and college literature teachers with skills in teaching The Word, particularly Philippine lit, made flesh. In this group photo, the panelists for the first day are seen on the first row, among them, short story writer Maria L.M. Fres-Felix or "Dada" to us, playwright Malou Jacob, essayist-poet Priscilla S. Macansantos. Behind them are Baguio's Rachel Pitlongay and Frank Cimatu. Playwright-actor-teacher Glenn Sevilla Mas is somewhere on the third row. Standing at left is Iluko lit scholar Junley Lazaga from whose camera this picture came from. Before the month ends and November claims my attention, I thought I'd commemorate that special learners' day with this photo entry.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Keeping 'La Traviata Exposed' real

Music and stage director Camille Lopez Molina

After a lull of three years, the Verdi opera La Traviata returns onstage on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ayala Museum in Makati City. The reason? "Basically because the right voices for it are there," said Camille Lopez Molina, music and stage director.

The story of Violetta, a courtesan, her ardent suitor Alfredo and his interfering father Giorgio may be a tale as old as time, but it has something to say in the 21st century with the rising incidence of HIV AIDS. The subject of a prostitute with a heart of gold may no longer be "as touchy as it was in Verdi’s time," Lopez Molina observed, "but certainly the issues that made it a sensitive subject still exist: prostitution, class discrimination, sexism."

Anna Migallos as Violetta


Nomher Nival as Alfredo


Asked how she tweaked the opera, which features soprano Anna Migallos, tenor Nomher Nival and bass baritone Noel Azcona with the Viva Voce Ensemble, and why the word "exposed" was added to the title, she answerd, "La Traviata Exposed is just refocusing attention from production aspects--costumes, sets, orchestra, personalities--back to the opera itself (music, text, voices). It serves a two-way purpose which resonates deeply with me. One, to give the singers, a chance to vocally, musically and emotionally connect with the opera--keep it real, so to speak--and two, by doing so, help the audience gain a deeper connection, a more truly ‘up close and personal’ experience of opera itself, not the spectacle of it. Give them a reason to want more of the music, not just the show. Granted, it is a theatrical art form, but the ‘theater’ aspect of it stems directly from the music and the text. Just because we don’t have a full production doesn’t mean we can’t have the full emotional experience of the opera."

For tickets, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or the Cultural Arts Events Organizer at tel. nos. 782-7164, 0918-3473027 and 0920-9540053. Tickets at Php 1,000, Php 700 (for senior citizens), Php 500 and Php 300 (for students).

Photos from the Facebook accounts of Lopez Molina, Migallos and Nival

Monday, August 7, 2017

Victory in Vienna

The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra at the Brahms Hall of the Musikverein where they had their warm-up before entering the Golden Hall for the competition

The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) capped its first-time visit to Europe by winning the second prize “With Outstanding Success” at the 11th Summa Cum Laude (SCL)Youth Music Festival held July 8 in Vienna, Austria. Thirty-four MSJO members, led by conductor Jeffrey Solares, performed before a jury and an audience that broke into non-stop applause after they finished the competition piece, Mozart’s “Divertimento No. 1 in D major, K. 136,” at the Musikverein’s Golden Hall.

Solares said there were six contestants in the strings category: two from Australia, two from Taiwan, one from Denmark, plus MSJO. The first prize went to Chin Ai String Orchestra whose members are from an indigenous group from a small village in Taiwan.

The MSJO went on to fulfill five concert commitments after the contest. The first was held July 9 at the Muth concert hall; followed by July 10 at the Kolpinhaus Wien-Leopoldstadt; July11 at the Winner's Gala Concert at the famous Konzerthaus after which there was an awarding ceremony at the Vienna City Hall. On July 13, they performed at the Rudolfinum Theatre in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Final concert was at Munch Festsall on July 15.

Interviewed online while in Vienna, Sara Maria Gonzales, violin/viola coach of the three-year-old MSJO and associate concertmaster of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, recalled the excitement of the day before the performance: “The entire morning happened so fast. We left the hotel at around 8:30 a.m. and went straight to Musikverein. We had little time to bring out the instruments and tune them. We went to the Golden Hall and waited outside for 15 minutes before we could go to the Brahms Hall to do a 20-minute warm-up. There were not enough music stands for everybody, but we managed to rehearse because the kids already memorized most of the pieces.”

Before their rehearsal, the MSJO was led to the Golden Hall to watch the Thai Youth Orchestra. Gonzales rated them as “very good. They played a piece that their late King wrote. All groups watch the performance of the previous orchestra and the orchestra after us.”

When the MSJO was called in, she said, “Everything happened so fast. We didn’t feel nervous. I played with the viola section. Most of the kids were excited to play at the Musikverein. I guess we were already very much prepared. We’ve played our repertoire on many concert occasions already before coming here.”

The jurors like Saul Zaks also expressed happiness, singling out the MSJO soloists who took turns in playing the solo parts for the Bartok’s “Rumanian Folk Dances”: Micah Pecson (orchestra concertmaster), Emanuel Villarin and Luigi Torres.

It is not the first time a Filipino group joined the SCL Festival. In the past, the Musikito String Orchestra from Malabon participated in the fest in 2010, but Gonzales said, “What is more appropriate to say is that this is the first time that a young Filipino string orchestra bagged a major prize at the prestigious SCL Festival.”

The MSJO at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna

She described a peculiarity of the announcement of winners. “The announcement of results did not happen publicly at the Golden Hall. It was by a private phone call to the artistic director of the SCL, Mr. Jürgen Partaj. We were instructed to call him at 9 p.m. Our competition was at 10:55 a.m. After we performed, one of the jurors spoke to our group to welcome us and give comments. He waited for some time because the applause of the people was prolonged. He thanked us for performing and noted that the entire jury appreciates us coming all the way from the Philippines and having prepared well for the competition. They also gave a special commendation to the soloists of our orchestra.”

The festival also features events involving choirs and bands apart from orchestras.

To prepare for the SCL Festival, the MSJO had a two-day workshop with European conductor Thanos Adamopolous, a frequent Manila visitor. He was impressed with the group. Gonzales said, “That is why I felt that we were ready for the competition. I did not have expectations because I did not know the level of our competitors. So when I learned that we are in second place, I was happy. We asked our tour manager to make the call. The kids were so happy they ran up to the hotel rooms and informed everyone. They were screaming and crying with joy. They were hugging everybody. Even the parents were happy. We are a big group--69 all in all, 37 musicians. The receptionist had to go up to tell us to be quiet.”

The group earlier made a pilgrimage to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. Gonzales said, “Being in these places is like seeing what the great composers saw during their time here. It gives us a stronger connection and understanding of classical music and how it came to be. Europe is a beautiful place. The composers have so much inspiration to draw from in here. Yesterday we attended a Mozart Misa Brevis at the St Stephen Cathedral. There was a live orchestra and choir. Just being inside that church is an emotional experience for me and hearing the beautiful music of Mozart during mass is heavenly. It makes me think of great things, great plans, ideas. I am inspired from all of this. The Philippines is far from the culture they have here. Experiencing their culture definitely will influence my understanding of classical music.”

The MSJO returned to the Philippines July 17. Solares and Gonzales proceeded to Paris to join five of their students participating at the Copain Du Monde Camp. A victory concert is being organized.

The MSJO at Nussdorf am Attersee, near Salzburg, during their first concert in Europe. Conductor Jeffrey Solares stands at right.
Photos from the Facebook page of the MSJO

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Three cheers and kisses for the cook

Weeks before today dawned, there was talk around the dining table on where we'll celebrate someone's turning a new leaf or another year older. No consensus was reached despite lobbying on one side for Japanese food, pizza and pasta on the other.

The impasse was broken when I declared, "Let's just stay home and enjoy a home-cooked meal by Tatay." I requested that we have grilled fish and a salad. If there was anymore leftover fish, let it be cooked into a sour paksiw. Kimi volunteered to prepare the long-life pasta dish.

Tatay Rolly was assigned marketing and cooking chores, and he rose to the challenge. At 5 a.m. today, just as my phone pinged to announce the first text of the day, Rolly bent over me to pinch my cheek by way of greeting me. It was still dark and my eyes were reluctant to open, but I could hear him getting dressed to leave for the market. Before he did, I managed to utter a word: "Champorado!"

So he cooked the family's favorite breakfast fare before heading out to catch a fish or two. Sweet!

Not steak, not lechon manok either. It's grilled yellowfin tuna. Comes with a dipping sauce of soy, vinegar and small red chilies.

Salad of pomelo (too much of it, in my opinion) and wansoy

He didn't forget the cake, walking from the Baguio public market to his office to put down the market basket, then another walk to Vizco's on Session Road for its famed strawberry shortcake before heading home.

Our food and family portrait photographer, Kimi, catches us right before we dig in.

Kai made me a rainbow necklace from her blocks, but I found it too heavy to wear so she did. By the way, it's also Pride Month so here's to our LGBT friends and relatives!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Canto y Carmen

You can't miss the new home of Canto on Kisad Road, Baguio City. The large windows look out to stands of pine trees that surround the city library. Since the restaurant reopened this month, the queues have been long, a lesson on patience that gets more than adequately rewarded when a table becomes available. Behind the structure is more parking space plus a couple of swings for the children who can't stand queuing up.

Speaking for myself, I love the refreshing aftertaste of the lychee and almond slush served in a Mason jar. I always begin my Canto meals with this. My daughter Kimi has taken a liking to it, too. Kai took a sip once and made a face. Maybe after a couple of visits, the Not So Little One will have adjusted her taste buds.

Kimi's fave are the tacos richly topped with grated cheese which Kai adores. If you have this for starters, it's hard to move on to a main course. But you must try the famed, fall-off-the-bones Lomo Ribs, Rolly's favorite paired with mashed potatoes.

The Carmen's Best line of ice cream is agreeably pure indulgence, but I cannot say "No" to Kai who loves it and can finish a cup. No sharing, please. Proudly Philippine made.

Kai can't finish the Marshmallow Fluff and needs our assisting appetite. If you dig and eat through the marshmallow and vanilla ice cream in the first two layers, you'll hit gold mine at the bottom of the glass--a chunk of brownie.

Photos by Kimi Fernandez