Monday, December 31, 2012

AlunAlun Dance Circle empowers Boys' Town

Ligaya Amilbangsa, cultural researcher and conservationist par excellence, dancer and doubtless a living national treasure, found a good way to pass on her dance instruction method to a new generation through the AlunAlun Dance Circle's (AADC) Yuletide performance "Pangalay sa Boys' Town" in Parang, Marikina City.
Amilbangsa (left)
 Amilbangsa is behind the revival of the Mindanao dance form called pangalay (its literal meaning is "gift" or "offering"), a meditative dance that follows natural breathing and is reflective of the movements of waves. Since October up to December this year, her circle trained 29 children in Manila Boys’ Town.

Rosalie Matilac, AADC lead dancer and managing director, said, "The young people came from difficult circumstances: physical abuse, labor exploitation, child trafficking, troubled neighborhoods, homelessness and other dire situations."

 Since the 23-hectare complex in Marikina is also sanctuary to about 300 toddlers, boys, girls and elderly who were abused, exploited and/or abandoned, Matilac said the pangalay method was a way for the residents to "learn an effective way to transcend their circumstances and uplift their souls. Their stories are heart-breaking: children who were left in the streets by their parents, children whose young bodies were sold by their own relatives, old folk who nobody wanted anymore after their productive years were over."
Senior citizens carry the flag colors in "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa"
The classes were held five days a week. Matilac described the newbie dancers thus, "They're so good! This is the AlunAlun's and Ligaya's way of propagating the art form by imparting the dance to the oppressed and the marginalized. It is her way of coming full circle. The land where Boys' Town stands was donated to the city of Manila by Marikina at the time when Ligaya's father was Marikina mayor in the 1950s."

With financial aid from Harnessing Self-reliant Initiatives and Knowledge or HASIK, a non-governmental organization, the circle carried out Amilbangsa's vision of "making pangalay relevant to the younger generation and to the present-day audience," Matilac said, adding that the dance form "will vanish if we don't introduce a way of teaching it to others outside and within the community. Many traditional gestures and steps have been forgotten by the residents themselves of Tawi-Tawi [where pangalay began]."

Amilbangsa, 70, lived in Taw-Tawi for many years and is a tireless, hands-on teacher. For the Marikina recital, she applied makeup on the faces of the girl performers, a way of helping raise their self-esteem.

From the pangalay teachers, the boys, girls and senior citizens from the home called 
Luwalhati ng Maynila learned to dance together intuitively (pakiramdaman) and without touching one another. They mimed the movements of the waves, the wind and the flowers in gestures that are also found in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Cambodia.

Matilac recalled how the trainors from AADC would often ask the seniors during rehearsals, "Kaya pa ba ninyo (Can you still do it)?" The unanimous reply was always, "Kaya pa (Yes, we can)!"

She also said, "The elderly wards are so happy that a group of teachers spent time to teach them pangalay. The pain in their joints disappeared along with stiffening of their bones and other body parts. One old man asked them, 'Bakit niyo kami pinag-aaksayahan ng panahon e papalubog na ang buhay naming (Why do you bother to waste time on us when our lives are ending)?' They could all relate well with Ligaya when they learned that she's already 70."
Boys dancing to Yoyoy Villame's "Granada"
They danced, even jammed, with pangalay core dancers like Amilbangsa, Matilac, Mariel Francisco, Temay Padero, to the music of Mozart's Sonata in C Major, Andres Bonifacio's "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa" as sung by Inang Laya , even to the riotous music of Yoyoy Villame ("Granada" with two teenagers in shades and vests, looking like guns for hire,"Buchikik," "Tsismis," "Mag-Exercise Tayo" and "Nasaan ka Darling").

Girls move to Villame's "Buchikik"
Even when Villame's lyrics and upbeat tune were at their funniest, the dancers were required to wear expressionless faces. The old folk astonished the audience in their ability to still bend their knees, a gesture also required by pangalay.
Temay Padero and Mariel Francisco in "Bula'bula"
Francisco and Padero showed, through the number "Bula’bula," how a dance can be done without recorded music. They used bamboo clappers, symbolizing seashells, to provide the percussive beat. Matilac's and her co-dancer's interpretation of "Linggisan" mimicked the movements of birds. They wore the janggay or metalic fingers.

The children, especially the recitalists, gathered on the sides of the stage because for the first time, they saw their teachers dance in full costume.

 Capping the show was Sampaguita's rock hit "Bonggahan" with the Manila Boys' Town and AADC members dancing to it with a straight face.

If anything, this recital proved that an art form as ancient as the pangalay can still empower the weak, the poor, the deprived and the oppressed.--Elizabeth Lolarga

Photos by Cynthia Paz and Tony Lacaba
First published by Vera Files / Yahoo Philippines, Dec. 23, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

happy new you

Last year I more or less successfully adopted the disposition of Maxine. Although a cartoon character, she signifies for me THE woman with attitude. And as I slowly, surely move towards my 60s (barely three years to go), I've decided to shave off sweetness and in its place add more of the sour and the bitter for purposes of self-preservation. Such a revising of proportions for my imbalanced personality evens everything out. 

So as 2013 begins its own approach, I've resolved to adopt Aunty Acid until I discover another relative.
Adorable Maxine
Have your heard of my Aunty Social, too? Well, she has become a convenient relative whose unannounced presence is invoked whenever I get invited to socials, from exhibition openings to Christmas get-togethers, where feelings of perennial wallflower-ship are rekindled. Huwag na lang--my adolescence was hard enough as it was. I learned of Aunty Social's existence from a writer who has a disposition as close to mine. 

As for Aunty Acid, I got introduced to her by another friend on the day the world was supposed to end, Dec. 21, 2012. I asked her to stay and share bed space with me throughout 2013. Oh, yeah!

So expect a little more acid from this blogger, her way of coping with menopause and the vagaries of over-rated graceful aging:

Happy New Year to grumps, bitches, klutzes and, yes, sweeties (after all, I once was one).

A Singular Experience

There will be no wake
for Jerry Araos,
self-made sculptor
& landscape artist.
Flowers are forbidden
lest his funeral be
mistaken for some artificial
Cremation will be quick,
& ceremony brief.
He will not allow the living
to speechify on his absence.
Such is the solitary warrior
in him
who must have imagined
a long, long time ago
the kind of his passing
revolution was a true word
& betrayal
was never a big deal…

--Edel Garcellano in "The Warrior and Other Poems,"

5. Acceptance
Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression… The dignity and grace shown by our dying loved ones may well be their last gift to us.

Coping with loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing. --Julie Axelrod, "The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief",

how would i know, edel,

that the parting

between friends

& kin of spirit

would happen post-breakfast?


he took off for another round

of doctor's consultations

a dialysis session

with his wife following

carrying a full picnic basket

since jerry always wanted

to feed the nursing staff

that took care of him

& to tell them how he loved them


that morning i toddled off, too,

to pick up a new pair

of eyeglasses to see

the world through

proper lenses, the old pair

having caused

a lot of blurred

real images


how was i to know it would

be our last encounter

on that second week

of december

before i tumbled

half-heartedly into

the season's oft-times

mindless celebrating?


i left the books on

legacy writing,

on writing down the bones,

on leaving a trace

by a corner table

in his house

confident we would

resume conversing

after the holidays


yes, edel, he had begun

dictating, at random, 

all the hurts & garbage 

that had weakened 

a strong, generous heart,

hurts left by mortals

unworthy of him


the doctor in the house

said we must continue

these exercises because

they would help him

achieve a catharsis

& perhaps perhaps

complete the healing

as he forgives trespassers

& also forgives himself


he had told his wife & me

his dream the night before,

how rock edralin was

summoning him

to join him,

crying out,

here's a better place!


he looked a bit shaken

before he could sip his first

half cup of coffee that morn


i shushed him,

trying to appear

the expert reader of dreams

who had read & engaged with

jung & freud now & then


jerry, it was not rock herself

who was calling you,

that was an aspect

of you,

rock is you,

the rock in your dream

was a stand-in

so the question is,

what did rock mean to you?

what did

she represent

in this life to you?


he looked away as was his wont

when we were diving into

deeper water,

then  asked

for the platter of fruits 

to be passed


the conversation moved

to another subject

as conversations are wont to do

when one reaches that place,

oh, how he'd hate this pun,

between a rock & a hard place


but i had heard him

speak of rock

in another time

in those long ago years

before cancer feasted on her


he said

if he faced the enemy

in an attack

where his soldiers

were outnumbered,

he would still be

there leading

with his guns blazing


even if his soldiers

had been decimated,

he would keep on firing

at the enemy because

he knew rock

was beside him

standing tall & fierce

blasting away

not flinching at

nor dodging



before long

time quickly ran out

he took his bath

dressed in his branded

shirt & slacks & mocs

& waved me off

with his gruff

"bye babeth!

i love you!'


the conversation

has never really stopped


--Babeth Lolarga

Dec. 30, 2012

6:22 a.m.

Photo of Jerry Araos at Crucible Gallery taken by Babeth in November 2012