Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pia on Porn

From the office of Sen. Pia Cayetano comes this statement regarding the whole brouhaha about sex, lies and videotapes:

Senator Cayetano appealed to the public to refrain from
downloading, watching, sharing or purchasing electronic files and CD
copies of the controversial sex videos of Dr. Hayden Kho with several
celebrities that are circulating on the Internet and mobile
phones, and sold openly or covertly in pirated video stores.

Instead of further fanning the controversy, Cayetano urged the
media to help focus public attention to proposed solutions seeking to
deter and outlaw video voyeurism, and help raise people’s awareness on
women’s rights and privacy issues.

She is the principal author of Senate Bill No. 3267, the proposed
Anti-Video Voyeurism Act of 2009.,

“By watching and spreading these materials to others, we are
not helping address the problem but are in fact contributing
to it,” Cayetano, who is chair of the Senate committee on
social justice, said

“Bear in mind that the women victims are violated all over every time these videos are played and made a spectacle in our computers and mobile phones, or in our homes and places of work,” she added. “Do your part, don’t watch these videos. Otherwise we, in effect, become victimizers ourselves like Dr. Kho and his ilk.”

She has refrained from watching the videos and has encouraged her staff and friends to do the same as a way of showing respect, not only to the victims, but for all women in general.

A prolific blogger, she posted an entry on her blog, tackling the basic rights of women in light of the controversy created by the sex scandal videos.

In her May 23 blog entry, Cayetano listed the various forms of violence and remedies available to victims under Republic Act 9262, also known as the Anti-violence against Women and Children Act of 2004.

“This scandal is ugly and unfortunate, but it also opens our eyes as to how some people would shamelessly go to extreme measures of humiliating a woman and violating her rights with the use of modern technology and the internet.”

“We should focus on the unlawful act and not the content of the video. We trivialize the damage done to those women by watching these videos.”

She advised those who have already downloaded the sex scandal videos from file sharing sites to voluntary delete the same from their hard disks and mobile phones.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Proceeds from a Long Laughing Break

Upon learning that I was spending half of summer in seething Manila, Cynthia Alberto Diaz, my ex-colleague at the now defunct Raya Media Services Inc., rounded up the usual suspects for a long overdue luncheon reunion yesterday at Pot and Noodle Restaurant on the fourth floor of SM Megamall. The others who confirmed attendance were our drinking mates at John Michael's, a restaurant at the original EDSA Central.

Few wanted to try out another ex-Raya officemate Joel Sarmenta's place on Morato Avenue, Quezon City, which they found too far (he is now in the marketing department of a food chain after a colorful career as history teacher at the Philippine High School for the Arts, University of Asia and the Pacific, St. Paul College, then onto more marketing duties for an insurance firm, a motorcycle manufacturer, among others).

It is not for anything that my life partner likes to call me and my friends put together "Baltic and Company."

My first stop once the glass doors of the mall opened at 10 a.m. was at the Pain and Rehab Care for my fifth physical therapy session to lessen the tenderness in my sprained left ankle and the shooting pains in my right knew joint (signs of wear and tear or degenerative conditions as I move ever farther from five-oh and closer to 60). As the therapist counted while I wrote the alphabet in the air with my pointed left toes, my cell phone pinged. Pablo Tariman announced that he was at the Chinese resto already, waiting. Give me a few minutes, I told him, to wind up my rehab session. He texted back: "In that case, I shall do my yoga."

I managed to walk with a cane to the fourth floor where Cynthia and painter Grace de Jesus Sievert, former Raya graphic artist, were already seated by a long table. Fellow freelancer Pablo was sipping hot tea, an image I still find incongruous to this minute, at a separate table. Apparently, they failed to recognize each other--that was how long they hadn't seen one another.

I ordered the jellyfish with century eggs and a bottle of San Mig Lite for Pablo and me. He didn't need to be persuaded to change his drink.

We weren't done knocking off our second bottle when the hooting and laughing began. Amadis Ma. Guerrero waltzed in, barely catching his breath to say, "I only have five hundred pesos in my wallet. Two hundred is my share for this lunch. Two hundred for the Aeta children. Leave me one hundred so I can have transportation money to collect my contributor's fee from Inquirer and go home." (A few days before the reunion, I had asked my friends to bring donations of old/unused children's clothes, old/new children's books, toiletries like shampoo, soap and toothpaste for 38 Aeta school kids in Dinalupihan, Bataan, where I am set to go to do outreach work with a friend and our daughters, but that's another story.) Forthwith, I fished out P100 from my wallet and handed it to Amadis. His P500 went to Jo Ladisla, the efficient executive assistant from our Raya days, who was appointed treasurer for that afternoon.

Then in came Bob Navarro, Joel and finally Rustie Otico. By this time the noise emanating from our table was making heads turn, especially when Pablo let out his signature laughter which we could only blame on natural exuberance.

Finally when the bill arrived after that long, lingering meal and drinking, there was enough change added to the common pot. Before I knew it, we managed to raise in one afternoon P1,460 for the Aeta children's cause.

Amadis quickly advised me to spend the money not on something "luxurious" like shampoo but on a basic staple like food...or maybe soap. He approved of the last item. And off to the supermarket I went late that afternoon for some serious shopping with the memory of friends having that long overdue "laughing break." This kind of break, I'm proud to say, I instituted at the old Raya office in Paranaque. Whenever I felt stressed out from pounding on my typewriter in the early 1980s, I'd go to the table of our circulation manager Jose "Ping" de la Paz, who'd cheer me up with one corny joke after another until a joke found its mark, and I'd be filled with an incredible lightness of being.

Next outreach is scheduled on June 12 . Please reach out to the children of Dinalupihan. Drop-off points for donations are these addresses: 3 Santa Clara Street, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City, or 47 Mahabagin Street, Teachers Village East, Quezon City.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Notes on a Cellist

Music writer (and lately memoirist of sorts) Pablo A. Tariman sends his friends regular updates on the goings-on in Filipino musicians' lives and careers. Cellist Victor Michael Coo recently got married apart from maintaining a busy concertizing schedule.

Just the other day, I found my notes on him and the article I submitted for a publication that went unused due to "space limitations," according to the editor. Well, such is the fate of freelance writers.

So this is my belated toast to Mr. Coo as he forges ahead with his life partner with Bach and Beethoven playing in the background.

And to think that the cello was almost an afterthought as his instrument of choice after he initially trained in the violin, piano and flute. A few months before he auditioned for a slot at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), his mother, his first piano teacher, convinced him to learn how to play the cello.

When he was accepted at the PHSA, he trained under family friend Amador Tamayo and Wilfredo Pasamba. After graduation Coo headed for Boca Raton, Florida, and spent two years under Johanne Perron. In 2002, he began studying with Evelyn Elsing at the University of Maryland. He describes her as gifted with “a musical imagination beyond the notes printed on the page.”

He won first prize in the 1997 National Music Competition for Young Artists. In the US, he has won three concerto competitions in Michigan, Florida and Indiana.

Coming from a family of musicians (sister Cecilia is a violinist and a soprano while elder brother Jonathan is a pianist and tenor), he believes that “music is a language that you don’t necessarily have to learn. It’s just like any first language. My mom had a lot of piano students so I heard music constantly. It was so much a part of my childhood that I didn't really feel that was something beyond the norm.”

He acknowledges Yo-Yo Ma for helping increase people’s knowledge about the cello, adding, “He has served as an inspiration not only for young people to take up the cello as an instrument but also to explore other languages within music using the cello. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a surge of classical musicians from Asia.” Coo does a lot of chamber music with Koreans at his school and thinks that their country is producing “a lot of wonderful players.”

During the school year, he spends his time rehearsing in chamber groups and with an orchestra. But when he wakes up, he likes to start the day with personal practice. He also uses up “a great deal of time listening to recordings for pure pleasure.” He ends his day with more personal practice.

Regarding the Philippine government’s lack of support for artists, Coo turns practical. “Well, a government has to worry about a lot of things and unfortunately, the arts program can only flourish when the economy is stable. Artists do need a great deal of support from the government. Talent can only go so far in a given situation. But that shouldn’t stop an artist from dreaming and doing his best within this situation.”

He is motivated to go on because no matter where he has been, “where there are music lovers, there’s a great appreciation for what we musicians do.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bato-bato sa Langit

Poet Edel Garcellano never fails to astonish me. His words, arranged into tight, compact verses, unfailingly find their target, traveling fast like an assassin's bullet. We, the lesser gifted, just blog.

His latest posting shows how some people are blinded by titles like National Artist/National Intellectual. They forget that artists (I use the generic term to include visual, literary and performing artists) have a history of being the conscience of society. And now this NA the poet is referring to has a security guard to protect a little perk like parking space?

There is one NA I shan't forget. How many times have I come across Nick Joaquin walking like any pedestrian on the shaded path of the original EDSA Central? Leo Benesa also wrote a short poem about seeing Joaquin alighting from or getting on board a public jeepney at Gabby's in Mandaluyong City. Wish Nick would haunt this other car-riding NA.


The guard
was courteous but firm:
please park elsewhere–
slot is for a National Artist
whose credentials include
keynoting progressive causes,
serving the people.
The state generously allows
balding dignitaries
who have been honored
as creative treasure
space for their
genteel habitude.
But what gross entitlement
is this
for dissenters
against neo-fascist rule?
The ploy is real,
disarming radical discourse.
For blind he is
to the irony
consequent of his NCCA
Down with injustice!
& earn a seat
on the platform
rising over a crowd
in hysterics
over radical agendum?
In Russia,
have their dacha
& state sinecure.
Do we repeat
the reign
of Stalinist repertoire?
--Edel Garcellano,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Moment with Aklay

He has become a byword in the town of Sagada, Mountain Province, this European baptized Philippe who now goes by his adopted name Aklay.

Every Friday morning, he bakes. By noon an array of warm bread is ready on his open shelves (no sanitary glass cases here). You can have your pick of multi-grain, caraway, chocolate bread and even loaves studded with almond nuts. Put five of his oatmeal cookies in a brown bag, and the bag’s bottom gets torn. That’s how heavy and packed each cookie is.

What’s nice about the man is you can drown in his Aidan Quinn eyes. And on Fridays he does smell yummy from all that kneading and baking.

His town mates find him a bit of a conundrum. ’Tis said that he owns a map of Sagada like no other, that he has uncovered old trails, that his visa may have expired and needs renewal. When I ask him if these speculations about him are true, he points to a long, detailed, hand-printed map the size of a huge Chinese scroll. Not intimidated by tall wild grasses, he hacks his way through not-so-frequented areas to discover more of Sagada and its unknown but fabulous views.

On this map, a work in progress, he has painted some birds slowly becoming extinct in this part of the Cordillera like the peregrine falcon. This big bird is the last in the food chain: the earthworms eat leaves heavily sprayed with pesticides, the smaller birds eat the worms, the falcon hunts and eats the smaller birds. Aklay blames all that pesticide for killing off these birds of prey.

As for his being wanted by the immigration authorities, he shrugs and requests that I take photos, using teacher Fara Manuel’s camera, of all parts of his house, but I must leave him out of each picture.

A striking thing hanging from one of his kitchen hooks is an old pasiking (backpack). Its twin is safely housed at the Bontoc Museum.

Drop in on a Friday. And if the baker is in the mood, you can watch him toss a tray here, lay loaves of bread gently as though they’re fragile infants on a spot there, all to the beat of French cabaret music.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’: On Baguio’s Veteran Pine Tree

The first time I laid eyes on the Veteran Tree, looking upward and downward, the feelings that overcame me were of dismay and mild disgust. “Mild” because this was not the first time that city authorities did something to further the uglification of our beloved but already benighted and blighted Baguio.

The Veteran Pine, as it is called, is nothing more than the Benguet pine (pinus insularis), but what sets it apart from the thousands upon thousands of pine trees still standing in different parts of Baguio and outlying Cordillera is its age of over 100 years, its having survived the carpet bombing of the city during World War II or, as the landmark beside it states, “defying time, fire and the elements.”

And yet by the unthinking—the more appropriate word is stupid—act of cementing the base of the tree, its survival is put in jeopardy. For how can the roots of the tree absorb the moisture and the rain that feed the tree? Elementary, Watson, we feel like telling the insensitive city officials. What is the Bureau of Forest Development for if it cannot care correctly for a historical tree?

If the tree has feelings, we know these would consist of a sense of loneliness, “missing the contemporary neighbor pines felled long ago by the ruthless axe man,” according to the landmark. Yet who is being ruthless by cementing the base of the tree and covering up its roots? Hello, Garci, can you assure us of one million votes from the city’s residents and visitors to clamor for the removal of the offending cement base?

What incensed me was how a sense of what is aesthetically pleasing and pleasurable has continued to elude our government officials, particularly the ones in Baguio. Where were they when they were taking their undergraduate humanities classes when the topic was striking a balance between people’s needs and enhancing, not destroying, the environment? We only have to be at the veranda of SM City Baguio to see a panoramic view of a city that looks like a monumental cemetery with occasional, I’m tempted to say, token trees to break the monotony of houses and buildings.

There is one real estate developer in the city known for bulldozing pine trees and other trees that are in the way so home and commercial lots can be apportioned. The rationale is the people who buy these lots will plant trees anyway to make up for the felled ones. The logic is ill logic. In other places like Bali in Indonesia, structures are built around trees even if it means that the house is not a perfect cube or rectangle. Truly our officials have a lot to learn in terms of nature conservation, and the learning must be accompanied by action or else we throw away our natural patrimony.

What should be done is for developers to take a meditative stroll in the remaining groves in Ambuklao and Camp John Hay, the veritable lungs of the city. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, a naturalist and author of the classic Walden Pond, “Strange that so few come to the woods to see how the pine lives and grows and spires, lifting its evergreen arms to the light—to see its perfect success.”

Baguio City is approaching its centennial in September this year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the activities to commemorate the event is a celebration of the long-living pine trees around us with picnics under their shade followed by enthusiastic tree-planting by every hundredth man, woman and child?

If the Baguio Country Club could start a 10,000-tree planting as part of its observance of its own centennial and to make those who complain about the fading scent of pine eat their words, why can’t City Hall find the political will to save the Veteran Tree from imminent rot and collapse, and let a hundred pines bloom?

Mabuti pa si Kermit the Frog. He sings an anthem to the color green: “But green is the color of spring / And green can be cool and friendly-like / And green can be big as an ocean / Or important as a mountain / Or tall as a tree.”
Photo of view from SM City Baguio mall by KIMI L. FERNANDEZ

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ceciboom as Performer, Private Person

Take it from Romy Comoda, who has been tuning Cecile Licad’s piano whenever she has a concert in her home country, “Maski na yung walang hilig sa classical music, pagnarinig siyang tumugtog, magugustuhan.” His duties used to take him to distant cities and towns, especially when music writer-retired impresario Pablo Tariman organized provincial tours for her.

The year 2003 was personally significant to me. Pablo gave me access to her, and she let me act out my fantasy of being her groupie. I had been following her rise since I saw her as a chubby, bespectacled child of 11 perform as a soloist with the University of the Philippines Orchestra under the baton of Regalado Jose in June 1973. The occasion was our freshman orientation program. Then UP President Salvador Lopez led the standing ovation.

I watched nearly all of Cecile’s performances in ’03 at Philamlife Auditorium in Manila, the Carabao Center auditorium at the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, at neurosurgeon Joven Cuanang’s residence in Antipolo and at St. Paul University in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. (When Irene Marcos-Araneta heard this, she said, “If one must be a groupie, might as well be a classical music groupie, di ba?”)

There were only two similar words for Cecile’s performances everywhere: electric and electrifying.

I listened to her rehearse and give technical instructions. She was worried that the gray carpet on the CLSU auditorium stage would muffle the sound of the piano and deprive people at the back of the hall of their listening pleasure. She politely requested that it be removed.

Earlier, Muñoz Mayor Nestor Alvarez laid out a breakfast buffet for her party that included her son Otavio. Hizzoner had his cook prepare white cheese, fried eggs sunny side up and easy over, longganisa, daing na bangus, eggplant omelette, corned beef, chopped tomatoes, mangoes, rambutan and bananas. And rice, of course. Cecile went back to the buffet table twice, each time piling her plate high with rice and various viands she was homesick for.

“I eat a lot of rice,” she said unapologetically in her husky smoker’s voice. Naturally she has to because she plays the piano “athletically so I burn off all that carbo.”

In Antipolo, her mother Rosario Buencamino Licad confirmed that “if Cecile eats well, she plays well.” She added that her daughter’s house in New York was full of culinary books and magazines.

Mrs. Licad repeatedly tells Cecile: “Never forget who helped you in your career because it wasn’t just one person responsible for you.”

Fred Mendoza, a family friend and once the producer of “Concert at the Park,” boasted of his complete collection of Cecile’s recordings that he built up since she was nine. He said whenever she arrives for a scheduled performance in the Philippines, her very first question is: “Meron ba tayong piano?”

Almost miraculously, a quality piano always turns up—at Philamlife it was a Steinway worth P7 million; for the outreach, there was a Yamaha.

Mendoza said those who could afford to give scholarships should do so. “Without scholarships,” he said, “there would be no Doctor Cuanang, no Cecile Licad. Many young Filipinos are forced to work because of abject poverty when they should be in school.”

Sr. Angela Barrios, SPC, echoed his views. In faraway Cagayan, she was on a mission to “make art and culture important in people’s lives. Talent shared by the likes of Cecile can make life meaningful.” It was Cecile’s second time to perform in her university, and the nun described her guest as possessing “audacious musical instincts” that reflect her “fabulous training.”

And after giving her all at those music halls, what happened to Cecile and her small party (son Otavio, film director Marilou Diaz-Abaya, who’s like an older sis to the pianist, Pablo, painter Alain Llaguno and me) in Banawe, Ifugao? We were almost trapped by a mudslide.

Gamely, we rolled up our pants and waded through the brown slush. Cecile knew her priority. Assured that Otavio could cross what was left of the road without falling into a ravine, she held on tightly to her music sheets and made it to the van of Mayor Alvarez waiting for us on the safe side of the highway.

Upon reading my published account of what happened, a male admirer of Cecile working at UP Baguio sent this text message: ”I read Licad stories. If I were you, those would have been tales of chivalry. Sa bawat yapak ni Cecile sa putik, pupunasan ko ang kanyang hita at binti, at siguro habang ginagawa ko yun ay binabasbasan niya naman ako ng sagradong usok ng kanyang sigarilyo!”

Pablo may have retired as impresario, but I still dream of the day when he can bring her back to Baguio and fill up another auditorium to the rafters.

Meanwhile, it's time to save up again for Cecile's concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Sept. 15 and 16.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Walk the Talk

Teacher-photographer Fara Manuel caught me huffing and puffing up the pathway behind St. Mary's School in Sagada, Mountain Province, one early morning last week. It's the road less taken, and the rewards are endless: grounds covered with pine needles, a commanding view of the poblacion, quiet and stillness everywhere, not to forget a healthier heart from that uphill climb. We were there for UP Baguio’s summer extension work (Fara handled acrylic painting for kids and one adult, I had seven kids whose ages ranged from nine to 12 for a creative writing workshop). Our wish is to connect with more Cordillerans through the continuation of this program.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Art Chuwariwa at the Hottest Museum in Town

The Baguio Writers Group (BWG) and the Bencab Art Foundation will hold an art writing workshop May 23-24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Museum’s Larawan Hall, Km. 6, Asin Road, Tuba, Benguet.

Travel time to the museum is 15 minutes by car from Baguio City’s central business district and about half an hour by jeep.
The workshop aims to equip local writers, art enthusiasts and other interested individuals with analytical tools with which they can think and write about art and literature.

Resource persons are: Yason Banal, Philippine Star columnist and teacher at the UP Diliman Film Institute; Lito Zulueta, sub-editor for arts and books of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Lifestyle section; and Francis Macansantos, BWG vice president, literary critic and multi-awarded poet.

The workshop will include lectures and writing exercises designed by the resource persons. Twenty participants will be accepted. Two fellowships will be given to young, deserving writers of Cordilleran roots who can submit a two-page art review or a profile of an artist addressed to BWG president Padma Perez on or before May 15 at the Café by the Ruins, Chuntug st., Baguio City.

For reservations, email, or text or call our number 0908-361-2844. Photo of sculpture by Junyee found at Bencab Museum by EV ESPIRITU