Friday, February 26, 2010

Pia on the Run

Whoever thought of the title for her annual fun run on March 13 at the SM Mall of Asia (do early birds or lumbering middle-aged women get a prize?) ought to get a medal for hitting two birds with a pebble (can’t anger the animal rights activists).

Sen. Pia Cayetano, a stunner at five feet eight inches (towering by typical Pinay standards) met with the core of the Tigil Yosi media group (women in media who were at a seminar on smoking hazards in Boracay in 2008), led by Anna Leah Sarabia and Rina Jimenez David, at Café M near the Ayala Museum in Makati City yesterday. Health-conscious, she selected a lunch menu of lots of greens, chicken, fish and a beef stew cooked Asian fusion style. And she concentrated on the salads.

In a few words, Pia is sincere. She’s genuinely interested with the concerns of women from various parts of the country and appreciated that people like lawyer Golly Ramos flew in from Cebu, I took the bus from Baguio the day before, a young Manila Bulletin reporter came from Davao.

She was moved to learn that the former mudslide evacuees of Santo Niño in Ambassador, Tublay, Benguet, have a passable but rough road leading to their barangay and were receiving not much help from the provincial government. The men are clearing 15 road cuts; the women prepare their meals. The local Department and Social Welfare and Development unit could only give them a sack of rice. The Department of Public Works and Highways is nowhere to be found because of the election ban on public works. It’s the women again who find ways and means.

Pia’s awareness of women’s issues stems from firsthand experience as a daughter, mother who lost an infant son, wife, legislator. When she goes on the Senate floor to talk about breastfeeding, she hears snickering from the gallery. Her august colleagues (male, of course) taunt her by saying, “Nag be-breastfeed din kami.”

If she didn’t have a brother in the Senate to update her, she’d be out of the loop because at post-sessions, the male senators regroup in lounges and bars while she, a mother of two, has to return home to oversee her daughters’ well-being and progress in school work.

So Run with Pia because you’ll also be running for causes close to her heart: breast and cervical cancer, women’s livelihood projects, violence against women. In everything, she said, a woman is in it. Whether it’s climate change or allocation of barangay funds, women are involved.

Follow Sen. Pia Cayetano at or visit her website at

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Conspiracy of Priests

Virginia R. Moreno’s Itim Asu (also known as The Onyx Wolf in English or La Loba Negra in Spanish) lends itself to collaborative work since it was first staged at Fort Santiago in the 1960s. In its latest reincarnation as a multi-media dance project of Myra Beltran’s Dance Forum, Itim Asu still has something to say to a 2010 audience although what is depicted is based on an assassination of a governor general in Manila in the Spanish colonial era and the aftermath of said murder where the assassin-priests go unpunished.

Historical archives are vague about this incident that was also the subject of a painting by the master Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. Since the friars/priests were the power clique of that period, they could make records vanish.

The murdered Governor General Bustamante was ordered by the king of Spain to look into the corruption that ate the galleon trade traveling from Mexico to the Philippines and back. He was an effective fiscalizer, to the chagrin of these priests whose pockets were lined by the system of “put here, put there.” This is nothing new. Even during the time of Henry VIII, a bishop or a cardinal was virtually running England while His Majesty spent his time engaged in sports and bedazzling the ladies. Royal sovereigns all over Europe greased the Pope’s hands to get their applications of annulment of their marriages approved.

Bustamante said, “Enough!” with a fatal consequence. His cold-blooded murder moves his Aztec-blooded wife to go underground and join the peasants. She turns into an avenging angel, killing priests in various towns in Laguna. One surmises these priests were connected to her husband’s murder.

Last Wednesday’s one-night staging of Itim Asu at the Carlos Romulo Auditorium of the Yuchengco Tower in Makati City takes off from this plot. Choreographer-dancer Beltran throws in an armada of 21st-century media to add a contemporary flavor to this historical piece whose veracity has even been questioned as the clergy made sure not a trace of Bustamante’s assassination was left in the Royal Audiencia’s archives in Manila. She and her collaborators put in snatches of film and stills in the backdrop, classical piano and guitar, dissonant modern music, audio footage from the surrender of the Japanese to the Americans in World War II and a host of dance styles that have a touch of the tango, folk, Martha Graham gestures—anything but leotards, tights, ballet slippers and frail, delicate tutus.

Ms. Moreno might be uncomfortable with the word “feminist”, but her classic Itim Asu is better than any hortatory feminist tract or a year’s reading of Ms. Magazine. Like her poetry, her heroine in this dance drama has tender and tensile strong qualities. At a pause during the ovation for the dancers, Beltran and Moreno, she pointed out the dualities present in Itim Asu like the double-faced masks she is fascinated with: sacred and profane, criminal and victim, etc.

If only Señora de Bustamante can dance on other stages north and south of the archipelago. Better than countless consciousness-raising sessions on women’s issues and how repression and poverty are caused by the Catholic patriarchy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Water Prevails in Season of Drought

Watercolors, acrylics, gouache, watercolor pencils, ink—any medium that requires interacting with water was acceptable at the recent plein air painting contest, “Pine and Bamboo, Bamboo and Pine,” at the beautiful Pinsao Ecological Sanctuary in Pinsao Proper, Baguio City. (Go to Tam-awan Arts Village and book a walking trip through giant bamboo and pine groves with an eco guide.)

Coming up is an exhibition of the prize-winning works together with the latest explorations of water media on paper by the hard-working, women-dominated Baguio Aquarelle Society.

The exhibition component of “Pine and Bamboo, Bamboo and Pine” opens on March 6 at the Baguio-Mountain Province Museum on Gov. Pack Road, Baguio City at 4 p.m.

Thank you to our sponsors: Philex Mining, Benguet Electric Cooperative, Smart Telecom, Claudine M. Fernandez, Joseph Server, Des and Auring Bautista, Joy Buensalido, and Sizzling Plate’s Edna and Mike Anton.

My personal favorite among the entries is ex-schoolmate Kitzel Cotiw-an’s acrylic on canvas. Somehow I was reminded of Kandinsky before he turned fully abstract. There is music in those faces and bamboo halves.

Photo shows Kizel’s painting, which won the Aquarelle special prize. (Photo by LAARNI ILAGAN)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pink Valentine

“I’m always thinking about food ,” so said Julia Child channeled by Meryl Streep in the movie “Julie/Julia,” my flavorite of the year. Food has been foremost, too, in my life since a round of reunions with various friends started last month.

I remember a subtle aperitif served at the weekend getaway home of Rina and Pie David in Cavite: Rina Darling. It was a husband’s tribute to a foodie wife—folded pita bread with cheese, ham/salami, tomatoes and not-so-secret herbs. We know Rina to be a diabetic, but at that potluck lunch of our media women’s group advocating health, Pie came up to her quietly and served her a small slice of a Red Ribbon cake brought by one of the “gurlz.” Rina acknowledged him with barely a nod and continued her animated peroration about sex education for children and the youth.

Last Tuesday over supper at Happy Homes, Baguio, with another gal pal, Toottee Chanco Pacis, she told me of one instance when her husband Oscar, who leads our Saturday Bible fellowship, reprimanded her. He spotted her eating leche flan, a no-no for her, also a diabetic. He said, “You’re killing yourself, Babes!” She smiled at him, continued daintily bringing teaspoonfuls of the Philippine jello into her mouth and said, “Babes, I might be actually prolonging my life by eating this. Think of the pleasure it gives me, the joy of its taste.” He let her be.

Yesterday my three-day retreat ended with lunch with two ICM nuns. We shared a healthy meal of dinengdeng and steamed fish. An hour later, my partner picked me up. Back at his office, he asked me to edit a news feature, to trim it down by a thousand characters. After the task/favor was done, he told me he’d treat me to dinner—anywhere I liked. I said, “Mann Hann,” since it was close to the lunar New Year and I had a sudden craving for Chinese food. My wish was granted, including a request for a dessert of frozen yogurt. Fat-free but not entirely sugar-free.

Indulgent spouses—couldn’t dream of a better Valentine.

Photo of a butter flower plucked from Rina Jimenez David’s garden by ANNA LEAH SARABIA

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pine & Bamboo, Bamboo & Pine

The idea of a bonding activity for the members of the two-year-old Baguio Aquarelle Society came from our mentor Norman Chow. A picnic on the forested floor surrounding Baboo Mondonedo's residence was suggested to be followed by a plein air painting session. Before we knew it, the idea took a life of its own.

Thus we came up with "Pine & Bamboo, Bamboo & Pine," the first on-the-spot water media painting competition to mark the Ibaloi Centennial. Scheduled on Feb. 20, Saturday, starting as early as 8:30 and ending promptly at 4 p.m., the event at 308 Piraso Road, Tam-awan, Pinsao Proper, Baguio City, is sponsored by the Baguio Aquarelle Society and the Cordillera News Agency.

Our aim is to raise awareness of the Cordillera's precious natural heritage, trees and the indigenous people's culture being the most prominent. The title of the contest was inspired by a nature poem by Basho, a Japanese poet.

The contest is divided into two categories: professional (for those who have had at least one solo visual arts exhibition) and amateur (students, hobbyists and tourists). At stake are cash prizes (first, second and third for each category) and a chance to exhibit winning works at the Baguio-Mountain Province Museum on Gov. Pack Road in time for Earth Day.

Participants must register at the main house on the day of the contest so they can choose a spot where they can comfortably settle for the day in the forested area and garden. Bring your own materials (paints, paper, brushes, easel, rags, water container). We will provide some stools and tables apart from the picnic lunch.

The artist is encouraged to explore his/her best in presenting and conceptualizing his/her entry using any water-based media(watercolors, watercolor pencils, ink, acrylic). Through this contest, the organizers hope to see artists' vision and interpretation of Baguio's true resources.

The participant can choose any style: realistic, stylized (distorted figure), representational cubism, abstract, purely non-representational, no-recognizable figures and objects but suggestive of the theme.

The competition is open to all, Filipinos and foreign residents/visitors alike, age 12 years old (by Feb 20, 2010) and above. Participants can work on as many pieces as they can but can only submit one entry.

There is no registration fee.

Minimum size is 12" x 16", horizontal or vertical.

The media acceptable are acrylic on canvas, watercolor or other water media on paper. Entry using collage, decoupage, assemblage or use of non-pigment based materials like board, plastic, metal, etc. IS NOT allowed. The entry must hang on a wall to qualify. Appropriate support and/or equivalent devices should be provided to ensure the proper hanging of the artwork (ready for hanging). For watercolor entries, any watercolor paper is allowed, except illustration board.

The entry must have been painted on the spot and finished within the time allotted for the contest. We will go around the premises and see to the participants' needs. All entries must be in and must be signed at the back of the paper or canvas by 4 p.m. It must also be properly labeled at the back: Artist (name, address and contact numbers), Title of the work, Medium, Size, Year and Price.

All participants must be responsible for their entries. We will not pick up or transport any artwork to or from any point of origin.

What to Bring:

Photocopy of one valid ID (for age verification). The only acceptable IDs are: current school ID, PRC License, driver’s license, company ID, copy of passport, postal ID, SSS ID, GSIS-E-card, senior citizen’s ID, voter’s ID, NBI/police clearance.

STRICTLY NO SMOKING indoors or outdoors. Photo shows Baboo's still life with bamboo