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 CafĂ© 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.