Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Oriental Negros’ Gem: The Bleeding-Heart Dove

I was touring a broken-hearted young lady from Manila and I congratulated her for choosing this side of the island of Negros to be the healing sanctuary of her heart-in-pain. I told her that this part of the country is indeed the best place to forget her “user-friendly” boyfriend.
User-friendly is our label for anyone who takes advantage of a relationship for selfish gain. This Manila girl is a victim of a user-friendly doof. And she made the right choice of taking a trip away from the toxic human elements of Manila. The welcoming hearts of our island are evidently shown everywhere in the gateway called Dumaguete, Romantic Rizal’s City of Gentle People. The lady visitor’s smile kept flashing as she found it almost unbelievable that there still remains a Philippine city that made her feel so safe even beyond midnight. She laughed when I gave her an assurance, “ walang mangyayari sa ‘yo dito. Kung meron man, masarap!” The sarap part could mean the Dumaguete Express of Lab-as, the sizzling bulalo and chocodome cake at Royal Suite, the chicken adobo at Gabby’s, the lengua in Mamia, the vegetable kebab of Jutz’ Cafe, and more.... She agreed and gave the sarap points excellent marks.
Our morning tour had me leading her to one proof of the island’s healing powers as echoed by this distinctive mark of the plumage on the chest of our iconic bird, the Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove (Gallicolumba keayi/featured as logo of the 7th Philippine Bird Festival). We went to the Center for Tropical Conservation Studies (CENTROP) of Silliman University, home of the Philippines’ Bleeding-Heart doves. First, I introduced the dove from Luzon and she was amazed at the beauty of the bird with the “shotgun hit”-like burst of red feathers on its chest. Then, I asked her to compare the Luzon Bleeding-heart Dove with the one endemic to Negros Island. She was even more amazed at the “healing impression” of the line of red feathers on the chest of the more colorful Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove. I told her in a tula manner, “ ipinahiwatig sa mga kalapating ito na kapag ikaw ay nasugatan sa Luzon, maghihilom ang iyong sugat sa pagdating mo sa Negros....” She guffawed at the unexpected love message from nature. But there was more in store for my friend: upon learning that these birds are capable of only one lifetime partner, she began to fall in-love with the Bleeding-Heart doves. What a man could have done for loyalty, the bird could do it better.
What is sad these days, according to the island’s forest angel Apolinario Cariño, “the population of the adorable species are extremely small, severely fragmented and still facing a continuing decline due to the reduced forest cover....” Environmentalists like Pol are alarmed as these birds are still on CRITICALLY ENDANGERED status, and they are working hard to give the Philippine pigeons the world’s attention.
2011, the United Nations’ Year of the Forests, is ending yet surprisingly, the impact of this celebration was never echoed by the Department of Education to young students. Just last week, I visited a number of public schools around the Visayas and Mindanao, and when I asked students about the Year of the Forests celebration, they have zero-level awareness of the focus on the trees this year. The story of the Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove would have been a powerful classroom inspiration for young Filipinos to be totally concerned with.
I hope more teachers had ushered school kids to view exhibits in the 7th Philippine Bird Festival in Dumaguete on September 24 with the theme, “Langgam Paluparon, Lasang Palambuon.” All bird angels of our islands and from other countries were all there and kids had a great time with them. Our very own Bird Angel Atty. Val, son of the Philippine Bird Man Dr. Dioscoro Rabor, gave a lecture on his father’s lifetime achievement. There were many inspiring points of the festival that LGUs would have supported. I was happy that the Mag-Degamo work spirit of the Oriental Negros Governor’s men was felt from beginning to end. Silliman icon of environmentalism Dr. Angel C. Alcala and University President Dr. Ben S. Malayang III were there with their valuable presence.
The Negros Bleeding-Heart, a ground-dwelling pigeon, is with unique features. Aside from the blood-red patch on its breast, its elegant regal-green crown down to the Mahogany brown hue spreads gradually to its wingtips interrupted by waves of white bands. In its breathtaking completeness, the colors naturally make the Negros Bleeding-Heart’s presence a fruitful reward when on a trek around the Twin Lakes.
The dove is truly our pride and joy as it is endemic to the Philippines. And we really need to work hard that these terrestrial species will have their favorite home, a dense forest, be preserved and recreated at some areas around the island and beyond. We have to ensure that their nestings on epiphytic ferns be totally protected. I wish too that the Provincial Government will make its glory a symbol of the country’s remaining tropical paraiso.
Let us not be user-friendly beings of this planet. Be inspired by the endearing presence of this lovely dove we can call our very own.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Asian invasion in the 2011 beauty universe

I’m interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice. -Clint Eastwood

Extreme prejudice was evident in those times when Donald J. Trump, the billionaire co-owner of the Miss Universe pageant, fixed the selection of the top 15. Trump’s way of ensuring slots for the prettiest representatives would usually result to a “seductive” blonde-dominated line of beauties or all-Latina finalists. This was evident in 2009 when no Asian beauty and only one African made it to the Top 15.

When I reviewed the arrival videos of the Miss Universe 2011 pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I already predicted an unstoppable Asian invasion in this 60th edition of the world’s most popular beauty pageant. Beauties from Asia and Africa clearly made outstanding presence in all events of the month-long pageant.

Without the prevailing biases, three Asian beauties actually had the power to be part of the Top 5: most outstanding was Miss China Luo Zilin (5 ft 11 1⁄2 inches) who was the tallest among the 89 contestants, the best in promotional interview, Miss Malaysia Deborah Priya Henry (5 ft 10 1⁄2 inches), and Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup (5 ft 8 inches), the one with the most elegant everyday-presence. The other two top slots belonged to beauties who could easily be in Trump’s List: the all-natural blonde beauty Miss Australia Scherri-Lee Biggs (5 ft 9 inches), and the one who looked like the young Brook Shields, Miss Ukraine Olesya Stefanko (5 ft 9 1⁄2 inches) who ended as this year’s 1st runner-up. Miss Angola, Leila Lopes (5 ft 10 inches), was a popular candidate as she was the most stunning black beauty but her too-reserved projection and a-bit-weak ramp skills did not show the all-around-energy expected of a possible winner.

It was some kind of a miracle transition when the pageant ended with a “non-white” winner, Miss Angola. This should be the spirit of international beauty pageants – more accepting of all types of beauty.

The greatest Asian invasion was in 1988 when Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand was crowned Miss Universe, Chang Yoonjung of Korea was 1st runner-up, Mizuho Sakaguchi of Japan was 3rd runner-up and Pauline Yeung of Hong Kong was 4th runner-up. Mexico’s Amanda Olivares, 2nd runner up, was the only South American in the Top 5. The Oriental-dominated glory echoed the spirit of the year of the earth dragon.

There was still the favored-hometown-girl culture in this 2011 pageant. Miss Brazil Priscila Machado (5 ft 11 inches), the only South American beauty in the top 5, was certainly a product of a manipulated entrance. Her placement in the Top 15 should have been for Miss Malaysia but Miss Universe organizers would usually dropped contestants who have joined Miss World – seemed to be part of the war against the other global beauty contest.

Why was Miss Brazil allowed in the first place? Everyone was wondering why was she was still considered even after her naked pictures were circulated all over the net, the day she won the Miss Brazil title. Miss Brazil’s second runner-up title should have belonged to Miss Philippines, the one who gave the best answer during the final Q & A.

Maybe it was Miss Philippines’ very “churchy” answer that brought her away from the crown. Shamcey was asked by the judge, actress Vivica A. Fox, if she would change her religious beliefs to marry the one she loves. The Filipina beauty, a born-again Christian, replied, “If I had to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love because the first person that I love is God who created me and I have my faith and my principles and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God, too.” She should have added a line to express respect for other religions. As a global goodwill ambassador like the Miss Universe, should always project a more welcoming spirit.

English-speaking Miss Philippines, just like Venus Raj of last year’s pageant which had the famous “major major” answer, got the toughest question in the question and answer portion of the competition. Shamcey was also the only one in the top five who did not use an interpreter. I wonder why Miss Angola, who is a student in United Kingdom, opted to use an interpreter?

Another unique twist in this pageant: the representatives from the countries with the greatest number of Miss Universe titleholders, USA (7) and Venezuela (6), failed to make it to the Top 10. Miss USA was too thin to shine in the swimwear portion and Miss Venezuala was a perfect body but with face framed with the crowning glory like an old autumn tree.

Miss Angola’s smile - the sweetest of them all and her effortless regal bearing, were clearly the factors that made her the choice of the judges. But in totally, the two Asian beauties Miss China and Miss Philippines were the queens of the universe that evening.

Beauties from the Philippines, Angola and China in the Top 3 positions could have been the ideal and could have been one of the most respectable results in the history of this pageant. Even with the clear injustice, we are still hoping for more unstoppable Asian invasions in the Trump universe.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The last Siquijor warrior

It is a curious thing…, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who… have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well. ~J.K. Rowling, “King’s Cross,” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

The Harry Potter phenomenon came so easily into the hearts of the Filipino film lovers, once cited by The Guinness World of Records as the ‘largest movie-going public in the world.’

Much of the witch culture points and artifacts presented in the book and film series were very familiar to us. Here in Oriental Negros, such culture “powers” would be always identified as all coming from the island of Siquijor.

Actually, the island dwellers are not so happy of the “black magic” identity and this could be the reason why there is a huge billboard at the port welcome area informing tourists that what the island has are herbalists and not magicians or sorcerers.

But such tourism packaging “clean-up” will not change the minds of the people as the folk stories have cascaded from generations to generations beyond Siquijor’s shores. I find it an effort-in-futility to erase what had been a one dimension that attracted tourists from all over the world.

The magic of Siquijor island has been experienced by many who have been there to have this “spiritual” emersion. Many of my artist friends are drawn to the island for they found it to be a real destination of the spirits beyond and of local folks who have the “third eye” for seeing what is beyond and for bringing in the powers from nature and the magic world.

The latest visitor on July 26, a national culture icon, confirms it and he is no ordinary visitor as he is a practitioner himself and he is not afraid to be labeled a witch.

His profile on the web states: “Tony Perez is a creative writer, playwright, poet, lyricist, painter, portraitist, fiber artist, trainer and psychic journalist.” He is known as literary artist but in the international circles for psychic healing and understanding, this true-blue Atenean and a magna cum laude graduate in Religious Studies is an in-demand resource person for knowledge in “Developing Psychic Abilities,” “Living the Tarot”, “Introduction to Shamanism” and other related topics. It was indeed an honor to be his usher to the magic island.

His main purpose for visiting was related to his day job at the Public Affairs section of the United States Embassy. But he was set with a “pure” intention to be diverted to his other world as it was his first time in Siquijor. There were reasons not to go, heavy rains and wild wild waves brought in by the Signal No. 1 warning of the stormy Bicol and the refusal of our earlier contacts from the island to bring us to the black magic man. But Tony insisted. He told me “they want me to be there.” I just assumed that “they” were those who sent the winds that gave us rain. My reading of the heavy rain was positive and so, I agreed and arranged for our trip.

When we got to Siquijor Island, we were lucky as my suki easy-ride driver Fredito “Noynoy” Tamala was available. He is husband to Grace, my schoolmate at Silliman who is now a public school principal. Noynoy is not just a driver as he is also a bankable tourguide. When I whispered to him our intention, he told me the sad news that the oldest medicine man of Siquijor, Juan "Daku" Ponce, died five days ago and that we arrived at the wrong time as it was the day of the funeral.

I asked him about Frank, the expert of the dancing paper dolls, and he said that this guro had given up the black magic career as it went contradictory to his being a healer.

I was worried that I would end up a failure as the point man for the curious white witch. I was wishing Ambrocia was still around, the renowned faith healer who died in 2002. I had a believe-it-or-not moment when local folks told me she was the last of the Siquijor wwhite witches. Her legend, as told, had its peak when then First Lady Imelda Marcos came to the island as she wanted the growth of scaly skin on her leg to be healed. It was Ambrocia who uncovered the root of the curse, an underwater being who was angered by the intrusion of the San Juanico Bridge, a Marcos project, into nature. It was said that Ambrocia’s oil healed the scaly skin as it vanished instantly with just one blow of the smoke coming from a heated concoction.

Tony noticed my frustration and he said we could just go directly to the main purpose of our visit. Then I told him about the death of Juan, the 99-year-old herbalist. His face suddenly was glowing and he instructed Nonoy to bring us to Juan’s home and he pushed us to hurry when he was told that the funeral was at 1 pm.

At Barangay San Antonio, Noynoy led us to a dirt road leading to the wooden house of Juan Ponce, Siquijor’s last warrior against any dark powers. Tony stopped as he noticed a white stone by the roadside, he got it and placed it inside his bag and said, “Someone told me to bring it home.” Juan’s last day gathered a good number of neighbors even with the heavy rain. I was told that after him, it would be hard to find one with such credibility and experience. He was the one who drew European tourists for healing as his oil, a special concoction from 300 herbs and cuts from various barks of exotic trees, was known to heal almost all kinds of ailments.

Out of the six sons of Juan, only Alejandro and his wife Anecita are seriously considering to continue his legacy of herbal healing.

Juan Ponce was born on June 24, 1912. He started as an herbalist at the age of 18. His career as an herbalist was marked with countless successes in the war against mambabarang (necromancy) who had sent severe misfortune to many innocent victims.

Tony asked Anecita to show him Juan’s anitos. These were made from wood that came from the tree believed to drive away bad spirits. These little white cuts were sculptured in shapes of the crucifix, the rose, the star and the long-haired man resembling The Savior. Tony managed to acquire them at P500 each. The amulets made of coconut shells which are said to be rare finds as these shells were totally smooth and don’t have “eyes.” Each was sold at P1,000.

Tony wanted one more thing from Juan’s career world, he asked for anything that the old man used everyday. Anecita brought in a shirt but Tony felt it was too much. I asked if the old man had a cane and Anecita smiled as she nodded but explained that it might be hard to find it. Tony’s excitement led Anecita to ask his sons to go and search for the wooden cane. The older son came back with the black wooden cane with a handle that was a natural curve of this branch of molave – truly a precious piece that reminded me of Harry Potter’s wand. I did not ask how much was paid for it. I knew that it was priceless for it came from Siquijor’s last warrior.

“This is an incredible journey!” was Tony’s word as we moved out from the house. I reminded him to pay respect to the old man. He went to see the coffin and offered prayers. He knelt down and brought out his own amulet, an amethyst, the violet queen of the quartzes framed by four gold lightnings. He placed this gemstone, believed to stop the coming of the storm, on top of Juan’s wooden coffin as he continued to pray. The women who were there for the prayer for the dead, seemed not disturbed by Tony’s theatrical homage as they continued with the repeated lines of “…Hail Mary, full of Grace….”

With Tony’s harvest from the household of the warrior, will there be hope for Juan’s legacy of power to continue? Maybe. I witnessed this: before we walked back to Nonoy’s leading, Anecita had asked for Tony to empower her and Tony said, “I already did.”

Out of the magical journey, we went to make the walk through at Coco Grove – his assignment from the US Embassy. The owner Mike Butler was so kind to have the lunch we ordered as part of his welcome for us. I told Mike about the death of Juan Ponce and he confirmed his fame as a good number of Coco Grove’s guests had come to seek Juan’s healing and this included a cancer patient from Germany.

Tony was indeed so lucky to have inherited the precious artifacts. We had to cut short our stay at paraiso Coco Grove, the best resort in Siquijor and the island’s No. 1 food destination, to catch the 3 pm trip back to Dumaguete.

We went inside the old church as we waited for the fastcraft. Tony was again kneeling in prayer in this old sanctuary. I went out to pick an ancient-looking coral stone and I gave it to him as souvenir. He told me, “I will take it as this stone is asking to be brought home.”

As we moved out from the Church, he raised Juan Ponce’s cane to direction of the gloomy sky. The heaven seemed to welcome Juan with the pouring of the rain.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Double treat from Paul and Paul

Our very own Paul Pfeiffer was on another fruitful homecoming in June. In this visit to Dumaguete, I tried to usher him to the fun side but there was just no time for a full enjoyment of the City’s night life. The passion for his art led him to just completely embrace the main reason for this homecoming: work, work, work.

This Dumaguete son is known to the world by an honor he got from Newsweek‘s spread on “America’s Artist of Tomorrow.” This was after he won Whitney Museum’s 2000 Bucksbaum Award, the highest award for Visual Arts.

Paul Pfeiffer had chosen to depart from traditional art media, and had been showing to the world possibilities of the video screen by capturing images from popular culture. He had them all: NBA stars, Tom Cruise, enduring scenes from films by Steven Spielberg, deep forest camping, ancient cathedrals floor plans made out of sex scandal echoes….

Five years ago, Michael Jackson was the subject of a speech choir at our very own cultural center, the Luce Auditorium. The production, a collaboration with the Speech & Theater Department of Silliman, was directed by Hawaii-based educator Eva Rose Repollo-Washburn, and captured a juxtaposition of the King of Pop’s painful global media exposure to address the child-molestation issue, and of our very own speech choir students presenting an unusual piece: Michael’s defense.
Paul Pfeiffer’s fully- realized vision called “Live from Neverland,” got world attention. One art critic described the 2003 work on Michael Jackson as the essence of “the interdependent relationship between leader and crowd.” Actually, I saw much of the Filipino human nature in it as the speech choir sounded like one entire barangay in a chika-hilira-sa-ating-hagdanang-kawayan. I was smiling reading one web review which took the Luce production as an ancient Greek chorus when it was really totally Pinoy local color.

In this 2011 homecoming, Paul Pfeiffer was in a mission again: saving the art of speech choir which is no longer in existence in many parts of the world.
People were recently again at the Luce to watch the speech choir performances expecting the usual, as it remains an annual event at Silliman.
But this one turned out to be another double-treat from Paul Pfeiffer. Unfolded on stage was the building of another solid juxtaposition: the many choral versions of the victory press statement of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, and the star quality in Manny.

The show was again directed by Paul’s Hawaii connection Eva Rose, and was staged in collaboration with the SU College of Performing & Visual Arts.
We still have to see the end product but there is great promise in it: the whole world will see the cool presence of the people of the happiest nation in Asia, with Pacman as the entry point.

The audience at the Luce had fun with the Pinoy sense of humor captured. Paul Pfeiffer’s magic will have the scenes cascaded globally with his distinctive video art of glory.

July 22, the Cultural Affairs Committee of Silliman University formally opened the 2011 culture season with the performance of Ballet Philippines.
The country’s leading dance company is on tour to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the birth of our national hero Jose Rizal with the ballet Crisostomo Ibarra. The dance concert is inspired by the protagonist in Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere. I love this ballet by Paul Alexander Morales. The choreography went beyond just narrating the story as its characters, particularly the touching emotional twist in Sisa, never lets go of the audience from the opening movements, and much of this can be attributed to the dance artists’ successful embodiment of the icons in the pages history using the intense body poetry of contemporary ballet.
Sisa was brought to the stage with the complex play of Filipina grace and the pain from the fire of cruelty by principal dancer Carissa Adea.
Paul Morales called my attention on Sisa in two of our promotional events and indeed, he was successful in the harvest of love-for-the-motherland in Sisa.
Paul of Ballet Philippines’ visit to Dumaguete was actually a double-treat, too. I have known Paul only as a dance artist as he was still a teenager in his first performance at the Luce in Agnes Locsin’s Engkantada.
He came back twice with his own artistic direction for Ballet Philippines. The growth from dancer to director has been an amazing transition to witness.
In this visit, Paul Morales generously gave us a new glory in his being a total artist: as a film director.
I did not realize that the acclaimed director Paul Alexander Morales of Cinemalaya’s Concerto, an indie film featured in festivals all over the world, is actually Ballet Philippines’ power Paul Morales.
And he just made history in Silliman as his Concerto was the first film feature in the new CAC series to honor a Silliman icon in film, National Artist Eddie Romero.
In Concerto,we are told a story about a family surviving the ravages of World War II with the gift of music. It took Meryll Soriano, who played Nina, the strong-willed daughter, all of a minute of total silence to have me sympathizing with her longing to play the piano again – to enjoy freedom.
Actually, all actors made a perfect ensemble as they were all emotionally connected as a family even in moments of muted presence. Each of them had vividly brought me back to my mother’s rocking chair of war stories.
In these months June and July, Dumaguete had two valuable gifts of inspiration from Paul Pfeiffer and Paul Alexander Morales – both we dearly want to refer to as our very own.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gifts of Gratitude, Goodwill

The theme of the 110th Founders Day of Silliman University, A Mighty Fortress is our God was perfectly echoed in the recent faith journey of the SU Gratitude & Goodwill Ambassadors (SUGGA), a group of performing artists directed by Dr. Elizabeth Susan Vista-Suarez who travelled to Alaska for Tipon 2011.

The idea of this unique gift came from the dynamic president of Silliman University Dr. Ben S. Malayang III.

Everyone who attended the Tipon realized it was not just “another expense” to send 26 performing artists all the way to Alaska because their value measures beyond the money actually spent. When it was finally unfolded, it was revealed that Silliman’s “gift” to the alumni in North America was priceless as it became a “gift of faith”.

Even the process of totally approving such gift was stressful for some people behind the leadership as it was clouded with doubts. For one, the short span of time to process their visas became a daunting test, and the inevitable Doubting Thomases began to grow in everyone’s hearts.

It was this skepticism that made the process very painful to Susan who had nothing within her heart but the enlightenment for the value of obedience in the journey of faith.

With her obedience, she was misunderstood. To many, the planned journey was more of pride, and a selfish will, but what many failed to see was the constant communication with God which led them to more difficult challenges.

SUGGA was an intricate group to handle, with old voices that had been with Susan’s tutelage for many years, and with new voices, many of them needing not just voice training but most importantly, a refinement of character and discipline as goodwill ambassadors.

Too much emotions had prevailed as the director had to deal with what seemed like an orchestra of differing emotions within the group – which would painstakingly include some overbearing parents.

And there was more. The Philippine passports of majority of the members had not been processed within the required period which painfully resulted in two members failing to acquire their own passports on time.

Visa processing also seemed ill-timed when the US Embassy had changed its computer system which did not allow for group processing.

It was a miracle though that the care factor in Sanda Fuentes of Orientwinds Travel & Tours led the rest of the group to different schedules for their visa interviews on June 7, 8, and 9. Four of the choir members did not make it during the interview; two had pending petitions from their US-based relatives, and two were found to have inconsistencies in their passports.

But faith persisted, and the group came out of the ordeal (which included being soaked in the heavy rain while queueing for their visas – the same rain which saved the June 8th batch as the Embassy officials decided to give them just one priority number for all, so as to be sheltered from the storm) though not in total jubilation as their hearts where in sympathy for those who failed to get their visas approved.

Finally, they were ready to fly out of the country on June 17.

SUGGA has become a family of survivors who went through a long dark tunnel, together discovering a light of hope beaming through. The final 27 included Susan and Institutional Advancement Officer Jose Mari Jonathan “Jojo” Antonio, head of the delegation.

It was also unimaginable how Macrina Fuentes was able to book them all on the same flight from Manila–Narita–Seattle–Fairbanks even during this peak travel season.

God was indeed the artist of this journey. The pains that went with every step had humbled all of them and cleansed their hearts.

Susan’s mother, former dean of the College of Performing Arts Prof. Isabel Dimaya Vista, reminded them that only with pure hearts could they go on to become genuine goodwill ambassadors.

And Susan realized this, after all the beaming miracles they experienced while they were still in that dark tunnel, “that I have to forget that I’m Susan and everyone in SUGGA had to be humbled to become pure” and with all humility, they have allowed the gift of obedience from the “Mighty Fortress” to prevail.

With total obedience, they went on with the journey and there were still moments of testing again: Jose Mari Jonathan Antonio had to be rechecked at the Narita immigration as his name sounded like that of a Mexican druglord; funny guy Ian Caballes also had to face a bit of questioning. The two took quite a long time to be allowed entry into US soil.

And when they were celebrating being one family again, US-based alumnus Mister Silliman Spirit himself Gideon “Kuya Box” Alegado joined them as he was on the same flight. They serenaded him and he, as well as some people at the airport who gathered to listen to the singers, said they were touched by the sound of the angels. Kuya Box was in tears of joy and gave them a hundred dollar bill as gift.

The flight was delayed for four hours. The welcoming alumni group in Seattle led by Martin Ancheta were becoming anxious as they could not find the SUGGA whom they were hosting for the 14-hour stopover. Some members of the welcome party decided to just go back home but the Ancheta family and the rest of the alumni volunteers never stopped looking until they found the singers in a coffee shop.

Fellowshipping led to another Silliman Spirit day in Seattle, which included Hong Kong-based Silliman icon Dr. Betty Cernol- McCann who also was on her way to Fairbanks to represent the United Board for Christian Higher Education.

The Anchetas and friends were another reason to be thankful to the “Mighty Fortress.” They saved the SUGGA from being “sleepless in Seattle”.

Finally, out of the tunnel! In Fairbanks, daylight never left them as the sun would be up beyond everyone’s body clock.

SUGGA, with a name which means “where light meets light” in the Visayan language, started to find more wisdom in this journey.

The Tipon, a gathering of Sillimanians and friends from all over the world, were all with welcoming hearts for the SUGGA. Perpetual angel to Silliman performing artists Virginia Cacho-Almiron, wife of Tipon prime mover, Dr. Sylvester Almiron Jr. who was chair of the SU Alumni Council of North America (SUACONA). She expressed the clincher that on the celebration of this 10th year of SUACONA, “It would give a sense of completeness to have the music of SUGGA, a choir directed by Susan, as it was also Susan’s choir that gave the first Tipon in Chicago a unifying spirit.”

June 19 was the day of the SUGGA concert. It would have been a technical disaster as there was no time for sound check, no real stage to perform in the hall for the choreography to be viewed at one angle, and no complete sound facility to amplify the choral performance. But still in the spirit of the gift of obedience, they gave their best.

J. Rutter’s Magnificat shone to become a touching worship in the gospel opening, and the voices were loud and beautifully unified, touching everyone’s heart. Everyone was awed at the quality of every voice that was in the choir. Thunderous applause came after every song. The duet Sa Kabukiran in the Philippine Air of the repertoire was a display of the vocal magnificence of two sopranos, Ma. Elcon Cabasag and Katrina Saga. The piece successfully brought everyone into one sense of national pride that the applause was with fiesta glee.

The peaks of the concert were like running through a mountain range, bringing the Silliman family into heights of joys of homecoming, especially felt with the Mahal Kong Bayan which earned a standing ovation for these angels from home.

SUGGA came with music that touches, to give the generations of Sillimanians a moment of pure joy from the sense of pride of belonging to a culture of excellence, revisit into the inner soul stemming from the seed of faith in the Via Veritas Vita, the healing of the kindred spirit that had much of life challenges, and the realization that Silliman is a family worthy of a homecoming, with a legacy of faith within it expressed in gifts of gratitude and goodwill.

Truly, a Sillimananian in this journey of faith believes, “a Mighty Fortress is Our God”.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

In Memory of a Poet PEARL GAMBOA DOROMAL 1923–2011

“Each person is an enigma ultimately unknowable, not only so by nature, but also because he is self-masked….” – Edith Lopez Tiempo
Masked or unmasked, the poet Pearl Gamboa Doromal, was beautiful inside-out.
When her husband Dr. Quintin Salas Doromal was president of Silliman University, he always made it a point to introduce “the woman behind the man” in all occasions that called for his presence. All Sillimanians, with much pride, would welcome the lovely presence, applauding – echoing the same pride. There is also much anticipation for the moment when their beloved First Lady would stand with all humility and still emanate that outstanding verve. PEARL GAMBOA DOROMAL was The Silliman Woman who epitomized the ideal of elegance.

With her as First Lady, The President’s Home – a campus landmark now called The University House – was a busy center of hospitality. The greatest number of Ambassadors from different embassies that visited Silliman was during the time of the Doromals. Convocation time was always at the Luce every Tuesday with a particular country in feature and an Ambassador of the country as resource speaker. Hosting visitors with high protocol requirements was never a problem as there was always the First Lady in Pearl, herself a daughter of the Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Dr. Melquiades J. Gamboa. She had her childhood in Oxford, England.

The University House was all welcoming spaces from the doorstep to Meg’s garden swing. Each corner felt like a home of royalty from the silver teapot on the wooden dining table to the blue china of orange African daisies under lampshades made of capiz shells. There was only one theme in this home: elegance.
One enduring sweet memory with Ma’am Pearl was the visit of the late Zeneida Amador, the director of Repertory Philippines, and the actors of “Gingerbread Lady,” to be staged at the Luce, which included Joy Virata, wife of the Prime Minister. I was called to join them at the President’s Home as they wanted to see the works of visual artists under the Order of the Golden Palette (OGPA). I was handling the PR of this group of local artists. Ma’am Pearl with the Maestro Albert Faurot was helping me in the presentation of the paintings. She was very generous with the endorsement which elevated the works of the amateur artists’ market value. Two paintings were sold to Amador instantly. Maestro Albert was all smiles, proud that the works of his OGPA sons went to the hands of a prime mover of mainstream culture, thanks to Ma’am Pearl who organized the artists’ rendezvous.
She was always with this constant concern for Filipino artists. Her support to Repertory Philippines included strengthening the Dumaguete outreach program.
During the launching of “The Artist: Hand and Breath,” her book of poetry in 1995, she signed a copy for me. Her book contains very educational commentaries by the National Artist Edith Lopez Tiempo, her mentor in Creative Writing. The subtle impact of the book led me to write my own haikus as it truly was inspiring. Reading the pages of this book gave me two mentors—Mom Edith and Ma’am Pearl, her literary daughter and co-actress in campus plays.
I love Ma’am Pearl’s poems – describes Mom Edith, as having a “delicate touch, almost fragile, with which Pearl depicts the bright green world of creation – even while simultaneously, by using the devices of poetic art, she transforms this gossamer touch into a vehicle of expressing life’s weighty and inescapable truths.”
Even with degrees in Arts from George Washington University and from Wilson College in Chambersburg, she pursued a graduate degree in Creative Writing from Silliman University. With the stature of First Lady, she humbly immersed into student life by becoming editor-in-chief of the Sands and Coral and the Portal, the yearbook. I have been reading her works published in the Sands and Coral.
By the end of my immersion into Ma’am Pearls’ poetry, I figured out some points of human nature. I love the human quality she gave to a Waling-waling, “…don’t’ you know tomorrow will bring/Poor vestiges of your reign?” The beauty of it gives me the urge to help honor those who have responded to the need for Silliman to rally back from the brink of death in the country’s Culture excellence. Ma’am Pearl’s love for Literature, Theater and the Visual Arts expressed in concrete steps is a legacy that will be a driving force to turn around in many good ways the years of mediocre tendencies.
There is just too many points to recall of that golden time at Silliman with that lovely presence of the First Lady. My memory of her is here to stay, like her acacias on campus:

Towering acacias
Waving leafy branches:

The everlasting arms.

Teogenes V. Magdamo: Builder of the peace spirit of home

By Moses Joshua Atega • Sun, Jun 26, 2011

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. 
-John F. Kennedy

This wisdom of a leader who believes in the value of peace as a working force in building foundations of enduring legacies became the world’s greatest inspiration.

It is the same inspiration that was totally echoed in the life of Silliman University’s hardworking leader Teogenes “Tatay Tony” Villanueva Magdamo.

The testimonies of Sillimanians from all over the world when Tatay Tony passed away on Father’s Day in 2010 recalled the many endearing ways he helped build peoples ‘lives. All tributes gave a portrait of a working peace- builder.

This SU College of Engineering dean had been hailed as the “builder of the peace spirit of home”.

His ways were of sure calculated steps but always with humility. When he assumed as dean after his graduate studies in Syracuse University, Tony Magdamo established a reform agenda.

He believed in a doable goal “to engage in the intellectual and spiritual formation of rational, sentient human beings who can use the great reservoir and genius of scientific analysis and technology in bringing about a world where man can truly be at home….”

He encouraged everyone to work for excellence and achieve a golden era in the history of the College of Engineering (now College of Engineering & Design). He gave his best in the teaching of Hydraulics and Strength of Materials.

Under his leadership, Silliman enjoyed excellent years of Engineering education. All three programs -- Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical -- consistently obtained a 100 percent passing rate in board examinations with a good number of topnotchers.

Dean Magdamo was noted to be a strict disciplinarian but sensitive to the welfare of the faculty, staff and students.

At one point, he recommended for promotion as faculty member one talented shop assistant/staff, the decision of which gave the worker greater opportunities for progress.

There was one school year when some foreign students tried to force Dean Magdamo to delete the requirement for study of the Bible in the Engineering curriculum. But the Dean stood strong in protecting the ideals of a Christian University.

Even a dear relative attempted to use “family relations/connections with Tatay Tony” to fix a son’s poor academic performance at the College. But the Dean in Tatay Tony persevered; he stood strong in abiding by University rules.

Dean Magdamo was determined in laying down the necessary foundations that have actually enabled Silliman to produce graduates who were above the usual cut of Engineers.

He built linkages with institutions in Australia and Japan, that gave the University wider horizons for technology advancement.

Graduates of the SU College of Engineering who passed through the strict training of Dean Magdamo were known for their ability to resolve conflicts, make instant solutions, and to express themselves clearly with excellent communication skills; and for their leadership potential, distinctively characterized by their creativity in setting directions amidst challenging times.

The University alumni tracer study shows that Engineering graduates of the 1980s are currently occupying leadership positions in their respective fields.

Indeed, they have become living profiles of Dean Magdamo’s definition of the Engineering profession: “to create processes and structures within our physical and spatial world that would advance man’s control of his environment, and thereby, realize his greatest potentials as a human being.”

One successful alumnus, Benjo Camins, affirmed Dean Magdamo’s leadership style: “He led…so magnificently… the Silliman College of Engineering is what it is today not by accident but by design, and its designer practiced what he preached.”

Dr. Levi Oracion also concluded that Dean Magdamo “…lifted his college to high levels of excellence.”

Beyond his Engineering College, there were students in campus like me who were only too lucky to have Dean Magdamo as our Tatay.

He was always a loving and caring mentor to us who families were in far-away Luzon or Mindanao. We were friends of his daughters, and co-builders of campus events.

Every now and then, we would run to the Magdamo home when we needed comfort and comforting, as we were confident and secure that Tatay Tony and Nanay Nilda would, as always, treat us like their own children.

I personally became close with Tatay Tony and his family as I was Meda’s classmate, a co-officer at Silliman Church, and in our Psychology Society. I was also working with Tatay Tony as I was one of the student representatives in leadership crisis meetings. Then I was able to work with Tatay Tony again at Silliman Church where he was an Elder and chair of the Pastoral Call committee.

More of his builder wisdom was evident in the discussions they would make as Elders of Silliman Church. I witnessed how the views of Tatay Tony were always well-respected, and how his influence affected many important decisions. His was the generous sharing of a builder’s wisdom so valuable in a period of crisis, and in mentoring youth leaders.

Inspite of the very demanding role as dean, and at one point, part of the three-man force as University officers-in-charge during a leadership crisis at Silliman, Dean Magdamo remained the bankable family man.

He was always inward-looking when faced with matters affecting the home.Coming from a traditional Protestant family orientation, with parents as pillars in the United Chuch of Christ in the Philippines in Digos, Davao del Sur, both his parents were naturally Sillimanians also -- allowing Tatay Tony to bring this spirit of home to build peace within and beyond his household.

The Silliman job was never financially-rewarding, but Tatay Tony found ways to always be a good provider, and brought the family’s financial stature a bit beyond what was just sufficient.

This he did by his natural acumen in real estate investments. With some properties acquired, Tatay Tony made sure that land disputes would never be a source of discontent in the Magdamo household. He made concrete steps so that every member of the family had a share to bank on.

Opportunities to develop a property were well-explored, and new discoveries were generously shared with everyone who needed it.

Every wisdom that worked at home was borrowed by friends, and some projects included borrowing Tatay Tony’s direct supervision.

The sharing was always with willingness that stemmed from the heart, as it was Tatay Tony’s passion to see properties acquired, and homes built -- becoming shelters of peace and progress.

The Moving Variations, one of the most successful dance groups in Dumaguete in the 1980s had Tatay Tony to be thankful for. That’s aside from the fact that it was his daughter Mae who was the gelling factor that kept the group solid in all challenges.

The Magdamo home at the Silliman campus became the emotional shelter for the dance artists. With or without engagements, the Magdamos were always there to ensure that all things needed were made available. Beyond the long dance career, the Magdamo home was always the enduring rendezvous even when the family moved on to a subdivision out of the campus.

The new home in Bantayan became Tatay Tony’s pride and joy, and he shared the spirit of a peaceful home with everyone. The Bantayan Barangay Council in fact, recognized this with a Model Family award for the Magdamos.

Tatay Tony was always willing to be there for us from the airport to any point of the home he built. I have called it my own peace shelter.

In fact, when I had to make a major decision to work at Silliman after getting my degree, it was the simplicity of the Magdamo home that became my inspiration.

Thinking of this spirit of home at Silliman gave me a sense of security, and made me see the things that really mattered.

Meda tells me she is forever thankful to her father who became the anchor of her marriage to withstand all challenges.

Tatay Tony was the faithful and loving grandfather to Joshua and Isaiah, standing in as the kids’ loving parent when Meda and husband Gino had work far away from home.

I remember one day when Tatay Tony asked me to join him in taking my godson Isaiah to school, and I was amazed how every little expression of intelligence from the child made him very happy.

It is also very easy for Joshua to become emotional when asked to talk about his grandfather -- who was always there for him. Joshua promised never to forget his Lolo’s legacy of love and faithfulness.

This overflowing love, however, always came with a sense of discipline, as Tatay Tony had a unique way of telling straight-to-the-point without hurting. Even with his own daughters, a reprimand was always muted in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Nanay Nilda was always the one precious gem in Tatay Tony’s life. He was so fond of asking artists to paint portraits of his lovely wife.

When asked why of all the men, she chose this humble man who loved basketball, Nanay Nilda just smiled and proudly expressed, “Tony was the perfect gentleman.”

Looking back, one would realize that the “home” was not just the wooden swing, or Mae’s room, or the kitchen table always laden with food that it became everyone’s favorite part of the house.

Home was Silliman distinctly defined by the welcoming heart of Tatay Tony anytime of the day, and any season of the year. There were a lot of memories in that Silliman home that he built – sweet memories of peace that we can easily embrace even beyond Tatay Tony’s lifetime.

Monday, June 06, 2011

31st of May in Siargao

I had to call my dear friend Lee Carlos of Malasag House in Cagayan de Oro whom I have introduced in this column as the “king of adventure in Northern Mindanao.” He had suggested that I should celebrate my birthday in Daku, one of the big islands in Siargao. Friends like Lee knew about the promise I made to myself, “never to celebrate my birthday on the same island in this country with more than 7,000….” It has always been this way, island-hopping on the 31st of May with an average of three islands in one day. It’s very doable: you may start with something I did on a Saturday in 2008. My 31st of May morning that year begun with the best breakfast in Dumaguete’s Café Filomena, I went via Sibulan for my next stop: the best lunch at-that-time was at Bodos Bamboo in Argao, Cebu and I took the Taloot roro to Loon, Bohol and proceeded to Panglao and had the best dinner at Bee Farm in Bohol – only the best for a special day. A day filled with sweet memories is the best birthday gift for the self.

This year, I agreed to the rescue of Lee for I had a commitment in Surigao City: I emceed the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Bing and Neneng Yuipco, among the city’s most successful entrepreneurs. The Yuipcos’ RSY was my home in this gateway city to Siargao islands. After the big event in the city, Lee’s leading in my birthday journey started. On Sunday morning, we took the Dapa Express at 10am from the city to Siargao’s business center, the town of Dapa. Then, we took a pedicab to be in Lee Carlos’ paradise corner in Siargao Island in the fishing village called Guiwanon in Barangay Union. This beautiful muted-yellow home is sandwiched by the seashore and a hillslope. Being inside this home felt like I was in a casa rico in Cancun. Everything in this seaside home, from furniture to windows, has a minimalist dream setting for the villa glory to simply be the frame of the nature angles all around it.

Just before sunset, I enjoyed dipping into the crystal-clear coolness beyond the spread of white sand and mangroves that framed the house. I was rewarded with two graceful flights above the blue waters to fish, the site of a the Red-backed Sea-eagle in a live action as it outdid a kingfisher in an ocean-fresh harvest was pure joy. Then, came the drama of the sunset behind the islands. Golden hues spread all over and every wave glistened with them. The enduring visual gifts of nature unfolded were truly priceless!

Lee has to drive 18-kilometer away from his Guiwanon corner to General Luna to welcome me to the night beat of the surfers’ paradise. At Cloud 9 Boardwalk, we had an instant party with surfers from Canada. Lee called my attention to the Japanese-looking guy who was smiling and who called me “Kuya Moe.” It wasn’t surprising at all as I always get this: The Silliman Spirit rendezvous is all over this planet. All my life I knew that Sillimanians can be everywhere. Bacolod’s green island prince Dadsie Ledesma Coscolluela, with the title he deserves as it’s his mission to preserve Dajugan Island trough the marine camps, was with his fellow camp counselor, the handsome young chef-on-the-go Gringo Benedicto. They were on their first Siargao island-hopping and they were with a definite surfing goal which Lee interrupted by extending to his fellow Sillimanian the invitation to join us in our 3-island tour the following day.

Everyone had fun hopping from one bar to another in General Luna. The haba-habal was the only means of transport from one party place to another. Lee and I ended up at GenLuna boulevard for he wanted me to try Arlene’s burger - a pleasant offering in this humble videoke place. I brought home one more perfectly brown burger as it was indeed delicious!

Conversations went crazy as the Canadians were discovering the power of Red Horse. Cris from Ontario was already enumerating his long Irish lineage, Simon was proud of his tattooed arms and he was serious in discussing with me the red arrow that leads to a tree which will be the manner he wants to be buried when he’ll die, a tree to be planted on his grave and the tree will become him. Kat, the only brunette in a dozen of blondes, was busy seducing her Pinoy surfing mentor. A lot more of interesting characters in this surfing paraiso and they all added colors to my birthday journey.

The morning after the crazy night with blondes and tanned multiculturalism: Lee led me to unpleasant discoveries in this paraiso. He showed me the pawikan (sea turtle) rescued from the hands of the butcher. He had to give 500 pesos to this fisherman/turtle slaughterer just for this marvelous creature to be free. Sensing that they would find the young “living fossil” again, Lee decided to create a pond and ask the kids around to take care of the poor victim. I’ve talked to the turtle slaughterer as he tried to convince me to try the turtle meat which the local people consider the best they have. He recalled that as kids, they would see hundreds of baby turtles crawling towards the ocean. They would harvest them as pets and the big ones butchered for food. I asked if his own kids are enjoying the same fun-frolic-with-turtles nowadays. He told me that he could no longer find a sandbar where turtles are freely making it part of their kingdom for hatchery. Lee told him that time will come when his own grandchildren could only see a carapace but with no smart living creature in it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Career Lessons from American Idol 10

"Slap that baby on the ass and call me Christmas!” Steven Tyler got the audience applause on this line he made after Scotty McCreery’s deep-passion interpretation of Josh Turner’s Your Man.

My excitement and anticipation involved in watching American Idol week after week came from the punches that could only come from new judge Steven Tyler.

Tyler proves to be a total entertainer with his wit and line flips. I also love his sensitivity and care for every artist who went on stage. He led me to an analysis of what was right and what went wrong with every performance.

When I went hopping from one island to another in our beloved Philippines to give career orientation to high students and their parents, my weekly AI delight became the mold for my talk. I would tell my audience that choosing a career is like singing for American Idol. You have to have the right song. A song that pleases the judges -- the possible employers.

At the same time, it must be the song that you love -- passion is essential for a good performance. It should be the song that blends with the outward packaging; look and perform like the one they need, just like how Lauren Alaina shines with her prom-queen blue gown. We may have hated it, but America loves it like that.

It should be the song and style blend that will outshine all “generic” tendencies of a performer: trying to look like a diva even with the ‘upbeat music’ requirement, which resulted in the elimination of Pia Toscano and Jacob Lusk -- too sweet even when the role calls for a more mature presence. That was the reason why Filipina Thia Megia’s American dream had to end; and too wild beyond the moments that required a more dignified and respectable manicure: Naima Adedapo did not have the voice range to sustain the image, and James Durbin failed to dwell in silence when he had a back-to-back song variation opportunity; instead, he chose to scream on both performnaces. My favorite Casey Abrams, my lady bet Haley Reinhart,my fashion icon Paul McDonald, and my sistahs' crush Stefano Langone were all victims of wrong song choices.

The 10th season of American Idol revived the world’s love for country music. The two artists in the 2011 final week battle, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, were both born to be country music stars. Their home circles -- McCreery hails from North Carolina, and Alaina from Georgia -- defined their natural style and voice technique; there was raw talent in them, and days with American Idol elevated what- they’ve-got to an enduring star power.

Honesty towards the innate capacity was essential in defining the direction to make. The other hopefuls crumbled as they failed to have a consistent direction. And the others failed to harvest the votes as they were too selfish to give back to the audience – the ultimate judge. The ultimate idol Scotty McCreery got all the love for he grew week after week with the humble heart of a learner and a drive of a dreamer.

Tyler’s feels-like-Christmas moment can easily be given when we are sensitive to what the world needs.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Philline, my summer earth angel

Our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it’s a challenge to the moral imagination. - Al Gore

VALENCIA, ORIENTAL NEGROS -- I did not have to be in an international conference to listen to the wisdom of Al Gore. All I had to do was go to the Writers Village in Camp Look-Out here, and discover an Al Gore-trained environmentalist Philline Marie Paye Dongga, one of the fellows in the 50th Silliman University National Writers Workshop.

This writer from Cagayan de Oro came to the workshop expressing her fear of not being worthy to be with the country’s best in the literary world. It is this sense of humility that made her presence heartwarming. But it turned out, her works in creative non-fiction successfully brought us to the soul of her passion. She is writing from the heart - the makings of a true artist. She made a promise to lead us more to good reading and towards a sense of mission: Go Green!

Philline, a TV journalist and event organizer, lives a life totally inspired by her training under the former US Vice President Al Gore at The Climate Project – Asia Pacific Summit (A-P Summit) in Jakarta with participants from 21 different countries from the Asia-Pacific region.

In a press release on her successful participation, she expressed: “I have always educated myself about the ideas of carbon emissions, carbon footprint and its relation to climate change but what I learned from the Summit, specifically the climate science update from scientists like Dr. Henry Pollack of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made clear how urgent the situation is…. It is frightening when you consider the 2010 average annual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone way beyond the upper safety limit which is 350 parts per million…. This means more extreme weather events like super typhoons and heavy flooding, which we have been seeing much of in the Philippines.”

During the lecture of Dr. Rowena Tiempo-Torrevillas to celebrate the golden anniversary of the writers workshop on May 10, Dumaguete’s tree angel Leo Mamicpic made a wish that young writers will make use of their gifts in poetry and fiction to make one important call: save the environment!

Dr. Torrevillas responded by introducing Philline to the audience. Philline expressed her willingness to extend her stay in Dumaguete to speak to groups who will need a concrete background on environmentalism. Leo's co-earth angels Cecilia Hoffman and Esther Windler right away got Philline’s contact for possibilities.

It’s awesome to know that someone from an urban center in Mindanao is living a life of an earth angel. I remember the weekend when we went to Siquijor, everyone rushed to buy bottled water, and Philline was quick to share with me that she has her own permanent water bottle so as not to add more plastic waste into the environment.

And I can’t help but follow her example as it is definitely one everyday habit that can be twisted to be a tool to send a green call of the people around me. Her bottle became a conversation piece and opened many more points of discussion. Each point came with much passion from my summer earth angel.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Welcome to DUMAGUETE, the Summer Workshop Capital of the Philippines!

It’s summer! Time to bring the family to Dumaguete, the Summer Workshop Capital of the Philippines!

While Mom and Dad will be in a romantic hop from one waterfalls to another, their talented young son is sitting down as a fellow at the oldest creative writing workshop in Asia – this legacy of National Artist Edith Lopez Tiempo and her late husband Doc Ed which is turning 50 years old this May. Or their daughter can be in Guy Hall taking piano lessons, or maybe at Aquacenter for swimming. And while the youngest daughter is learning the basics in ballet, Grandma can keep herself busy with her own painting lessons under an internationally recognized visual artist Kitty Taniguchi.

Come witness Philippine ethnomusicology pioneer and Asia’s first Certified McClosky Voice Technician Priscilla Magdamo Abraham together with prolific Music Education author Dr. Elizabeth Susan Dimaya Vista Suarez as they mount again pioneering programs in Voice and Choral Music Education.

Flash those DSLRs at the best Photography workshop under the busiest king of images Greg Morales as he leads you to iconic subjects to be captured and the beautiful landscapes all over will be the harvest in your every frame. Or go beyond multimedia workshop under the multi-talented Hersley-Ven Casero of Foundation University.

Write the green spirit in your child’s heart with lessons in biodiversity and garbage recycling within a butterfly garden in St. Paul University. Bring the entire local government force and get the green wisdom directly from Dr. Angel C. Alcala, the world’s father in Coastal Resources Management.

Before your trip abroad, hit the gentle Dumaguete road with driving lessons and other skills training doable in short term arrangements at Negros Oriental State University.

Meet Ate Ely, Kuya Jar with Ate Shawee, Ate Edna and the rest of the big brothers and big sisters at Oriental Hall who are the best facilitators in town for team building and other corporate human resource development programs. For an inner journey and peace of mind, there is always the listening power of Dr. Margret Helen Udarbe Alvarez, Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan and Dr. Noel Yasi.

Then, back to Guy Hall for more of the amazing Visual Arts explorations with two of Dumaguete’s most prolific art educators Yvette Malahay Kim and Jutze Pamate. Art-talk with Jutze and be overwhelmed by his almost never-ending stories and go home a walking almanac of the journey to the golden age of Renaissance and beyond.

Take a break from your computer game and check out the College of Mass Communication and the College of Computer Studies of Silliman University now opening new windows for young talents to learn the basics in journalism, broadcasting and computer graphic design.

Theater world in Dumaguete is another rewarding workshop as the stage queen Dessa Quezada Palm makes it a tool to make young talents become fully aware of their potential as community builders. Anticipate the actor in you come out of the workshop with a sensitivity to the call of the times.

The list is endless with all the workshop weeks to conquer and the nature trips to keep the family and guardians busy in waiting games.
But then something seems not in sync with the knowledge revolution, and it pains me that Summer in Dumaguete will be capped with this mediocre production called Kabulakan. What with all of those celluloid blooms and paper roses in May compared to Baguio’s Panagbenga and Davao’s Kadayawan? No wonder we hear tourists getting frustrated of the promise of a “Mayflower” experience vaguely realized under the heat of a summer sun. I can’t blame them — Dumaguete’s Kabulakan’s historical dimension and cultural value are without strong foundations.
Don’t get me wrong, I have much respect for the organizers and am one with them in giving tribute to the late Manolit Teves, Dumaguete’s Renaissance man, whose ideas and presence were the moving force in this festival. But I believe that the best way to honor the man is to move on and make his idea a kind of point of departure. A workshop on festival management is a must to develop what really belongs to Dumaguete and this University Town is so rich with resource persons on history and creative production. I really think that Kabulakan will have a better version if mounted in Valencia, Oriental Negros, the capital of blooms. Dumaguete’s “dagit” origin can be explored and I am confident that the brainstorm will have a fruitful harvest that we all can celebrate.

As of now, let’s just join hands in letting the whole world know that this University Town is the Summer Workshop Capital of the country. Family tours will then be flooding and our business community will be in their own productive workshops of food, fun jams, fares and flares!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Summer starts in Northern Mindanao….

So there’s my dear friend Lee Carlos of Malasag House in Cagayan de Oro whom I fondly call as the “king of adventure in Northern Mindanao” – he’s led a few European stars to discover Mindanao, has worked with the local government to help develop tourism potentials he uncovered, he’s the man of the Malasag house and the breath-taking beachfront in Siargao, just to name a few – and he’s invited those friends closest to his heart to join him in his birthday. It’s always like that: on his birthday, he’s up for a new adventure — hunting for some undiscovered, pristine destinations you wouldn’t see in the pages of a travel guide. Of course this is the one call every year that was hard to resist for someone as free-spirited like me, but I had to say no this time because of an important job. And then he decides to postpone the party to wait for me, and that was that.

The evening dinner had a German flavor blending into home favorites — spaghetti, humba, a different twist of Bicol Express and a lot more with the centerpiece of Filipino dining, lechong baboy, putting smiles on everyone’s faces including Max and La Rissa, our German friends. Max had on the table this wet arrangement of sausages and balls called Sauerkraut while La Rissa capped the evening with her version of Black Forest — hers had these midget fruit sliced toppings, so you can just imagine what a colorful Black Forest it is. Then as a prelude to the King’s adventure, we belted Filipino and English songs while our German friends did theirs.
Saturday morning in Malasag House, a bed and breakfast haven, Ied me to Lee’s herb garden. At the deck overlooking the entire expanse of Cagayan de Oro’s bayview, I snatched a few minutes to read a few pages of Morgan Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: Spiritual Growth in an Age of Anxiety and performed the five steps of the Tibetan exercises I learned from this lady guru who lives in Camiguin Island. This spot in Malasag House became my corner of tranquility. The experience of a cool dawn in an herb garden is simply spiritual.
The call for breakfast came and the adventure king was already busy giving instructions of what to bring for our weekend discovery. Rhea, a Malasag princess, with a room in the house named after her was with me in thinking more of what to wear than what to bring. The fashionista in Rhea was in total expression as Max, the boy with the golden hair, was very much like the sunrise splendor that awakened all of us in this mountain slope rendezvous. I was in high spirits as well as Lee announced that the room I shared with Max will be named Mojo, my nickname since 2001. I would know friends’ time zone with me by the nickname they will use to call me: Mong for friends from the 1980s, Moe or Josh for friends from the 1990s and now it’s Mojo.

On the road to our weekend discovery, Rhea, and La Rissa joined me at the back of this pick-up adventure. Max had set a date with a lady he discovered on Facebook and he decided to just stay home as he did not want to miss what had been keeping him excited in this Philippine trip. Lee was driving and his lifetime partner Guus joined him by taking the leg-room in the frontseat. I started singing John Denver’s Country Road while beside me La Rissa was busy taking pictures of people and signs of Philippine countryside. I took the camera from her as she was lovely with the wind-blown hair and I became the camera man for this beautiful subject.
The road to Kahulugan Falls in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental was filled with scenic curves along rockwalls and river banks. I noticed the huge population of domestic goats and it was such a delight to see one brown-spotted family on a huge rock. I had my harvest of Marigold blooms and I helped Lee in his harvest of giant lilies. As we continued our upward journey, Lee shouted to announce that we were nearing the waterfalls and we started hearing the rushing sound of this glory in the sky. We stopped to park in this corner which was like in the middle of the rainforest and I ran to be on top of a rock and had my Tarzan moment with giant vines hanging from trees. It was time to make our final ascend and we had to cross the old hanging bridge. It was scary since it’s totally rusty, the wooden steps looked like each block is already decaying and too weak to hold us but the gleeful leading of Lee made us forget the fear of a possible fall. We danced with him as the swinging of the bridge was in perfect rhythm with the sounds of running water everywhere. Just a few more huge rocks to conquer and there it was: Kahulugan Falls – the ultimate reward. So high was the wide-rocky curved glory that framed Kahulugan and the entire expanse also framed the blue sky with the drama of cloud formation. It was indeed surreal that a dreamlike corner of the earth can just be found at the edge of a plateau in the highlands of Jasaan.

Back in Malasag House, I made this shout on my Facebook wall: “Northern Mindanao's KING of Adventure LEE CARLOS of Malasag House led us to discover Kahulugan Falls in Jasaan last weekend. Definitely in my Top 10 list of the country's most beautiful waterfalls. I hope the LGU can do something with the awful architecture of the totally neglected concrete development. Every Filipino MUST google and understand ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE, let's stop mediocrity please....”

And that’s how this summer has started for me.