Alben meng manyaman, boy!

December 28, 2008

Kamaru Year-end Report

2008 has been a very challenging yet fruitful year for Kalalangan Kamaru, which has spawned several Kapampangan works in the field of mass media. Even though composed only of a small number of young individuals, it did not let its pitiful size be an excuse for accomplishing big things for the Kapampangan homeland.

Before the year 2009 enters, allow me to make a review of 2008 by remembering the events Kalalangan Kamaru has been involved in.

RocKapampangan

February marked the launching of RocKapampangan, the first ever Kapampangan rock album in the history of Philippine music. Co-produced with Holy Angel University, the album featured 16 Kapampangan tracks by 16 Kapampangan bands from Pampanga and Tarlac. The project has been featured in GMA-7's "Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho" with its segment titled "Promdi Rock" and in several other local shows in Pampanga.

Ing Bangkeru

To contribute to the small number of Kapampangan films, Kamaru in cooperation with Holy Angel University, produced a 10-minute screen adaptation of the anonymous Kapampangan ballad titled "Ing Bangkeru." Starring Jim Paolo Salvador and Alexandre Tiotuico, the short digital film is available for free viewing on YouTube.

Frequency K

To promote modern Kapampangan music through radio, Kamaru approached GVFM 99.1 to propose the station's first ever Kapampangan FM musical talk show, hosted in the Kapampangan language. The management gave a free weekly one-hour slot to Kamaru, the title of the program being Frequency K: Kool Maging Kapampangan. For months now, it has been playing new Kapampangan songs, broadcasting news about Kapampangan culture, and featuring live acoustic Kapampangan performances from various Kapampangan musicians. The show is heard every Saturdays, 7 PM.

Kalam

Kamaru tied up with San Fernando-based cable station Infomax-8 to co-produce the first ever Kapampanganovela in Philippine broadcasting history. "Kalam" is a fantasy series in the Kapampangan language that explores Kapampangan folklore in an urban setting. Although the show is not yet running and wouldn't be running anytime soon, the project and the show altogether has astounded Kapampangans—from politicians to students, from cultural workers to linguists, and from non-Kapampangans to kabalens. The first public screening of the pilot episode was held at SM Pampanga in celebration of the first ever Aldo Ning Amanung Sisuan.

Kapampangan music videos

2008 has allowed Kamaru to spawn three official Kapampangan music videos: two from the Tarlac-based band Mernuts and one from Angeles City's 5 Against The Wall. "Oras" and "Alang Anggang Sugat" are the official theme songs of the Kapampanganovela "Kalam," while "Aliwa Kang Talaga" is Mernuts' contribution to the RocKapampangan album. Although the TV series soundtracks are regularly played via Infomax-8, "Oras" was also able to penetrate MTV Pilipinas in its morning OPM show "Tong Hits," making it the first ever Kapampangan music video to be aired regularly on the said channel.

EmoKapampangan

EmoKapampangan was a minor yet fairly-patronized project of Kamaru on the Internet. It is the first digital one-panel comic strip in Kapampangan which featured a young emo couple composed of Yubs and Clacla. They are often accompanied by the stray animals Karag and Damulag. Around 50 issues were released.

Kalam Campus Tour

Kamaru has rounded key schools in Pampanga such as Holy Angel University, Angeles University Foundation, Angeles City National High School Special Science Class, Holy Family Academy, Chevalier School, and UP Pampanga to not only screen the pilot episode of "Kalam" but also to discuss about the current state of Kapampangan culture and language and other related topics such as cultural diversity, regional media, and the global celebration of linguistic diversity. "Kalam" has also been screened twice in UP Diliman, first, in line with ACLE (Alternative Classroom Learning Experience) care of UP Aguman, and second, as invited by several organizations including a Linguistics organization and Stand UP. Kamaru is proud to say that the pilot episode has never failed to amaze every set of audience it encounters in different schools, may they be Kapampangan or non-Kapampangan.

Archipelago Music

Kamaru's first ever project that is not exclusively for the Kapampangans. Archipelago Music is a blog project that seeks to promote OPM from the regions, may they be in Cebuano, Ilocano, Waray Waray, Cuyonon, Ilonggo, Kapampangan, Maranao, Ifugao, etc. The project aims to make ethnolinguistic communities in the Philippines aware of the music scenes in several regions aside from Manila. Watch out for "hybrid regional songs" co-produced by Kamaru, such as an upcoming Hiligaynon-Kapampangan song.

Urban Kamaru

In the field of journalism, Kamaru has been granted a column on Central Luzon Daily under the Features section. Appearing every Monday and Wednesday, Urban Kamaru tackles Kapampangan, Filipino, and global issues regarding culture and language. The column is maintained by Jason Paul Laxamana, the head of Kamaru.

Kapampangan Environmental PSAs

To reconcile environmental and cultural awareness, Kamaru produced four Public Service Announcements for television, which tackled the importance of trees, planting as counter to global warming, water pollution, and air pollution. Astounded with the simple yet powerful PSAs, Councilor Jimmy Lazatin of the City of San Fernando acquired two of the PSAs for distribution in TV and cable stations within Central Luzon.

Sexmoan Adventures

Kamaru extends the use of the Kapampangan language to the field of documentary-making, as it produced "Sexmoan Adventures," a 22-minute light documentary exploring the attitude of Sasmuan residents toward the seemingly scandalous former spelling of their hometown: Sexmoan. The complete documentary is available on YouTube.

Balangingi

The year is wrapped up with another Kapampangan short film titled "Balangingi" (Nosebleed). Unlike the usual Kapampangan films that tackle the rural and poor life of the Kapampangans, "Balangingi" seeks to create a film featuring a fresh topic: the life of a Filipino intellectual immersed in a society of average-minded individuals. The film is currently in the phase of post-production.

These have been the major activities of Kamaru for the year 2008, aside from the participation of its members in other worthwhile events such as the mangrove-planting project of ADCL at Pampanga Bay, Kapampangan language and literature seminars in the Holy Angel University and UP Pampanga, and the filming of the Cannes Film Festival-finalist "Serbis" at the Family Theater of Angeles City.

2009

The members of Kamaru are praying for a more fruitful year of cultural service for 2009. These are the plans/activities (both tentative and set) of Kamaru for the coming year:

:: To wrap up the production of the first season of "Kalam" and have it aired regularly
:: The extension of "Frequency K" into either a two-hour radio program or a twice-a-week radio program
:: A production tie up with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) to produce a mini-series on the Aytas of Clark
:: Production of Ara Muna's music video for "O Jo, Ika Ing Buri Ku"
:: Participation in film festivals in Manila and abroad
:: Participation again in UP Diliman's ACLE this February
:: The release of a Hiligaynon-Kapampangan song (Bronze P and Raco Del Rosario)
:: The release of a Waray-Kapampangan song (Exoduce and Mernuts)
:: Kamaru's trip to Palawan to present a lecture on pop culture as tool for cultural and linguistic revitalization, to screen "Kalam" and other Kamaru productions, and to produce a music video in HD for one of the songs of Bulyaw Mariguen, a Cuyonon band.
:: Production of more Kapampangan documentaries, particularly the followup to Sexmoan Adventures: Manibaug Adventures and Darabulbul Adventures.
:: Production of a full-length independent Kapampangan horror digital film
:: Help in the organization of the first ever Kapampangan student short film festival as an additional offering for either Sinukwan Festival or Aldo Ning Amanung Sisuan
:: Help in the organization of an event in UP Diliman in celebration of the International Mother Language Day (February)
:: Dubbing of Filipino animated content into Kapampangan
:: Release of a second set of EmoKapampangan

And many more to come! Miluid ya sa ing Balen Kapampangan!

December 26, 2008

An Honest Review of ‘Dayo’

By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

One of the offerings of the Christmas season, along with New Year, is the annual screening of entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival, a long-running showcase of what Filipinos can offer in the field of mainstream cinema.

With the trailers I have viewed through the Internet and the synopses I have read here and there, I have finally been enticed to watch two—only two—entries to the film fest, which I both watched last December 25th. They’re the historical war love story ‘Baler’ starring Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis, and the animated fantasy film ‘Dayo: Sa Mundo Ng Elementalia,’ featuring the voice of Nash Aguas. The cinema featuring ‘Iskul Bukol’ had the most people lined up to watch though.

For this article, I would like to make a review of the Mark Quilao-directed ‘Dayo,’ which has received raves from various sources. In fact, the Cinema Evaluation Board, which was established “ to formulate and establish a set of standards and criteria and procedures for the Cinema Evaluation System, subject to the approval of the Council, primarily based on but not limited to the following: Direction, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Music Scoring, Sound, and Acting Performances...” has given it a Grade A rating, so I got really intrigued with this project that has made a battalion of nationalists prouder to be Pinoy.


Growth of Animation in RP

As people who have been used to watching imported cartoons both from the United States and Japan (with its plethora of animé), the thought of having animation with Pinoy content is truly revolutionary and another step toward what I would call “de-neo-colonization.”

The first time that I was truly impressed with animation was with the band Mojofly’s all-CGI 3D music video for its song ‘Tumatakbo,’ which told the cute story of friendship (that can turn into romance) between a circus-going hunchback (who was all along a winged man hiding his wings on his back like Alwina of ‘Mulawin’) and “The Amazing Luisa na Tumutulay sa Miswa.” The music video is actually the first of its kind in the local music video scene, and its quality, although basic compared to those of Pixar and Dreamworks, is what I would say “Puedi ne.”

Then of course we have the now defunct Culture Crash Comics, which although just a comic book, reminds readers of animé, but with all-Pinoy original content—‘One Day, Isang Diwa,’ ‘Pasig,’ ‘Cat’s Trail,’ ‘Solstice Butterfly,’ and ‘Kubori Kikiam.’ The comic book was gaining a fan base, and I was actually dreaming of the stories being turned into real 2D animation, but alas, after more than 10 issues, the creators decided to stop.

Other small-time animations came and passed, including those of Tuldok Animation, until earlier this year, we had an animated movie about Pangasinan’s legendary princess. ‘Urduja’ was produced by APT Entertainment, Seventoon, and Imaginary Friends, featuring the voice of Regine Velasquez as the warrior princess.

And now, the latest, ‘Dayo,’ which featured impressive animation from Cutting Edge Productions and creative and entertaining renditions of Pinoy folklore characters such as the manananggal, tikbalang, kapre, nuno, sirena, and syokoy. We used to only see foreign culture in our TV and movie screens, but now, we get to see sorbeteros, sari-sari stores, capiz windows, bamboo foliages, billboards of local products, the Last Supper hung somewhere in the dining room, Catholic figures, mean trannies, and elementary school uniforms, Pinoy style.

However, I found something untrue—that the film will be enjoyed both by the young and the old. It turned out, when I watched the film, it was, for me, just bound to entertain the kids. For a story-conscious and film-critiquing person like me, I have found two areas of the film which I found, well, “not to be proud of”—story and direction.

The usual flaw

Before I proceed with my critique, I would like to make a disclaimer for fanatic nationalists who can’t distinguish critiquing from criticizing.

Don’t get me wrong: I am delighted with the gradual emergence of original Pinoy animation, but as a moviegoer, I have the right to comment about what I have seen. Before anyone brands me a perpetuator of crab mentality, know that I am allergic to crab and other seafood, causing my lips to swell upon gorging. By all means, I recommend Pinoys to watch ‘Dayo’ and be one with the rest of the country in rejoicing with the fact that we now have a growing animation industry, but then again, there’s still room for improvement, and allow me to be the first (?) media practitioner to be honest (with good intentions though).

‘Dayo’ suffers from one of the usual flaws of most mainstream Pinoy movies—poor story. Or could the story have been nice, but not the plot? Or could the plot have been pleasant, but not the script? Or is it in the direction?

I’ve read from one blog the comment of one person saying that ‘Dayo’ is at par with the Walt Disney cartoons that our generation grew up with. You know, ‘Pocahontas,’ ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Mulan,’ and ‘Aladdin,’ to name a few. The animation can keep up, yes, but story-wise, I would beg to disagree.

First of all, the main protagonist, Bubuy, is confused with his goal in the story (I’m using creative writing lingo here). Is it to fly? Is it to save his grandparents? In fact, the minds behind the film are not very decided on what message they would like to focus on—is it being brave for the people you love? Is it taking care of the environment? Is it being friendly even to those who are not like us, or as the title suggests, to ‘dayos’?
What I was also looking for as an adult moviegoer is the bigger picture of the story. Small picture is not evil, but the lack of a bigger picture and the missing problematic sketch of the society makes ‘Dayo’ fit for television, like High School Musical, but not for cinema.

Some might counter-argue that it’s for the kids; why should it be ‘deep’? Well, it needs not be deep. But it shouldn’t be shallow either, i.e., if non-kids are also being catered. Kids loved Walt Disney cartoons in spite of them having big topics like racism, war, political turmoil, and sexism, while not forgetting those that would make Christian Living teachers happy—friendship, the prevalence of good over evil, respect, bravery, and other virtues, which flicks like ‘Enteng Kabisote’ and ‘Exodus: Tales of the Enchanted Kingdom’ would also possess.

‘Pocahontas’ is set during the time when Englishmen set their foot in America. While the main focus of the story was the romance between a native American girl and a white-skinned soldier, it also tackled history, the perspective of native Americans versus those of whites (“you think you own whatever land you land on / the earth is just a dead thing you can claim / but I know every rock and tree and creature / has a life, has a spirit, has a name”), and the war between the two nations.

‘The Lion King’ on the other hand is about a lion prince named Simba deceived to abandon the pride after his uncle Scar, with the help of the hyenas, conspired against King Mufasa. After learning about the truth, Simba sought to dethrone his uncle and lead Pride Rock properly again like his father. The movie also offers classic African philosophies as embedded in the songs ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata,’ an actual Swahili song originating from Kenya.

No, I’m not a perpetuator of colonial mentality, but I know a good story when I see one. Not even nationalism can impair my judgment of a good story. ‘Dayo’ on the other hand suffered from a shallow story which chose to focus on a small picture when in fact, the big picture is already there, just unexplored—the humans’ destruction of Kalikasan. We only learned about this after past half of the movie, and the sole sequence that established this motivation of the giant antagonist, was when Bubuy performed a harmless ‘kaingin’ in the forest by bully force.

A lot of scenes don’t have momentum, too, like that ‘Lipad’ Lea Salonga song which just emerged out of the blue, when Bubuy was worrying about his missing grandparents.

Regional Content

As an advocate of additional regional presence in things perceived to be “national” or “Pinoy,” I am happy that the makers of ‘Dayo’ had a wee bit of regional consciousness, as manifested through that Tinguian song Salidummay (which turned Sexbomb Dancers-esque after Ana sneezes), provincial Tagalog accents, and the Binisaya-speaking kapre.
I was reminded of last year’s racial fiasco in the ‘Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo’ movie where Rafa was criticized for learning Binisaya from his yaya, which time and again, was made to be Bisaya. At least, in ‘Dayo,’ I saw no ethnic slur; just an abuse of unfunny Taglish lines by the manananggirl, in my opinion.

‘Dayo’ though could have used less invented folklore characters and adapted into screen folklore characters from other ethnolinguistic communities.

Conclusion

When it comes to story matters, it is not an excuse that we are a developing country, because coming up with a good story (and directing it properly) does not require huge loads of money, unlike technology.

With that said, I congratulate Cutting Edge Productions for contributing to the growing set of Pinoy animated content. My article may or may not reach them, but for those who will be able to read this, I’m not a big-time expert, but I beg you to avail of any teensy weensy wisdom that my writing may offer. Kudos to the animation, but not yet on the story. I believe it takes both to come up with a classic movie.

And, yes, the Filipino, indeed, can!

Please write me at sisig_man@yahoo.com.ph

December 24, 2008

Something to learn from the Koreans

It was in fourth year high school that Koreans began making its appearance in my consciousness. Today, I’m a fan of the Korean people and I dream of the day when the Philippines can mimic the framework of South Korea in its path toward global progress.

After the successful Taiwanese TV drama ‘Meteor Garden’ of ABS-CBN and the not-so-successful ‘My MVP Valentine’ of GMA-7, the latter network put the first Koreanovela (how Korean TV dramas are called in the Philippines) on primetime: ‘Lavender.’ From then on, Koreanovelas have penetrated Pinoy culture well—from ‘Jewel in the Palace’ to ‘Lovers in Paris,’ ‘from ‘Winter Sonata’ to ‘My Name is Kim Sam Soon.’

I was able to try Korean food when we went to the US in Summer 2005. We went there through Asiana Airlines, the stewardess of which served either Korean food or Western food for their meals. My mother and big brother would choose “itang balu da na,” while I, the hard-headed and adventurous Laxamana boy, insisted on trying what Koreans had to offer when it comes to dining. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to try Korean food. If it tastes awful, then charge it to experience. But fortunately, I loved it! Kimchi didn’t taste good at first but I have learned to love it, in spite of my mother wanting to puke at the smell of it.

Our stopover was in Incheon, South Korea, and we were to stay there for 10 hours. I liked the place. It was cold. It was clean. I couldn’t get over the idea that South Korea used to be poorer than the Philippines. It was hard conversing using English with the natives working at the airport, but they were friendly enough.

The airline company offered two choices for us to spend our 10 hours: take a short Korean tour, or take a rest at a Korean hotel. I wanted a tour, but my company wanted to rest. What a waste of opportunity! It’s not everyday that we get to stay for 10 hours in South Korea.

In college, I was introduced to Korean films in my Film 100 class, where the professor recounted how the film industry of South Korea developed, to the point of making a global wave in a decade’s span. I then grabbed hold of Korean war films like ‘Taegukci’ and romance films like ‘Il Mare,’ and I must say kudos. The unpretentious support of the government contributed highly to the development of Korean entertainment, so said my professor.

In one of my Broadcast Communication class, Music in Media, we had one Korean classmate. I already forgot his name, but I still remember our encounters with him. He was always bringing with him an electronic Korean-English dictionary which he would consult often when he couldn’t remember the appropriate English words to express his remarks. It was amusing, really. I had the chance to have him as a group mate, and his linguistic and cultural struggles didn’t make him less participative. He was indispensable in class. In fact, when deciding for the photo theme of our CD project inlay, he came up with this very artistic idea of fusing classical music flavor with stinking toilets, which to me was very fresh, but to my conservative professor was, well, stinking.

In my college life, more and more students were trying to enlist in Korean language subjects, learning how to write Hanggul and learning basic Korean sentences, phrases, and expressions. Angeles City nowadays also celebrate Choo-Seok festival for the people in that Korean avenue called Friendship, the Korean signboards of which, I think, outnumber the Kapampangan signboards present in the city. In Cebu, they have this Cebuanovela titled ‘Saranghe’ (‘Kaluguran Da Ka’ in Korean), which features a love triangle—two boys and a girl. One of the boys is Korean.

Evidently, Koreans, as well as other Asians, own this decade, and the future is teeming with grander Asian possibilities. I just wonder when the Philippines and other Austronesians will take part.

Korean Singers in the US

Three big Korean entertainers are attempting to conquer US after conquering much of Asia. They are none other than Rain, famous in the Philippines for the Koreanovela ‘Full House’ and that shampoo commercial with a popular line ‘My name is Rain’; Se7en, another Justin Timberlake-like South Korean RnB crooner who is not yet known in the Philippines but is celebrated throughout Asia; and BoA, a multitalented girl who can sing, dance, sing in many languages, and who has a beautiful face and body to flaunt.


BoA has already debuted in the US, but I haven’t heard whether she’s successful. Her debut US debut music video looked like the typical Britney Spears or Beyonce music videos, only with the English lyrics being sung with Asian accent.


Rain’s debut and a lot of concerts have been postponed due to trademark conflicts, while Se7en’s debut is, in my opinion, the most watched out for, as the production team of his US debut album consists of big people who contributed to the success of big US names like Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, Fergie, etc. His first single would be ‘Girls’ featuring Lil’ Kim. The song was produced by Darkchild.


In a newspaper article, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas opined that he sees no reason as to why Korean entertainers couldn’t make it big in the US. If American singers can make it big in other places, why not the other way around?

December 16, 2008

Kapampangans and Mindanao Cinema

December 14 marked the beginning of the 4th Mindanao Film Festival, the organization of which contributes to the sign that, as one blogger put it, “the Art and Culture movements in the regions are gaining momentum and covering more ground.”

The Mindanao Film Festival began five years ago. Originally, it featured short films made by Dabawenyo artists (from the Guerrilla Filmmaking Workshops). In its fourth year, not only shall it feature short films in competition, it will also exhibit full-length Mindanaon films such as ‘Concerto: Davao War Diary,’ which was screened on the opening day.


‘Concerto: Davao War Diary’ is a period digital film set during the time after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Davao was attacked by the Imperial Army of Japan. Due to the circumstances, one wealthy family leaves behind their properties and takes refuge in the forest where they befriend some Japanese while holding support for the guerrilla movement. Before the end of the war, they hold a special piano concert.


Charliebebs Gohetia, a colleague of mine in the UP College of Mass Communication and one of Brillante Mendoza’s trusted editors for his films, has his own contribution to Mindanao Cinema, too. His full-length debut, ‘The Thank You Girls,’ which failed to be a finalist twice in the Cinemalaya full-length category, but was independently produced nonetheless, is also part of the festival.

‘The Thank You Girls’ is a film in Bisaya with a gay lingo twist. The official synopsis reads: “Tired of losing in all the beauty competitions in Davao City, five dysfunctional gay beauty pageant veterans decide to travel north to Cagayan de Oro City, in the island of Mindanao. Their mission: to conquer the grandest competition of beauty, personality and brains in the whole province. They believe that being city dwellers, gays in the province will never stand a chance against them.”


Included in the festival as well is Cinema One Originals Best Picture ‘Ang Huling Balyan Ng Buhi’ (English title is ‘The Woven Stories of the Other,’ but the title literally translates to “the last priestess of life”) by Sherad Anthony Sanchez. Set in the forest village of Napalico in the Arakan Valley of North Cotabato, it mainly features a seemingly insane local priestess (balyan or tagbawian) named Manay who communes with the river, who one night performs her last miracle—a stigmata. NPA communist rebels, government soldiers, and children also take roles in the story.

War and peace situations in Mindanao is tackled in the advocacy film ‘Hunghong Sa Yuta’ (‘Earth’s Whisper’), directed by Arnel Mardoquio. The film is about deaf mute children in a community in the mountains. The children are a mixture of Christians, Muslims, and Lumads, and are introduced to the alphabets and numerals by a teacher from the city. “War between rebels and the military has devastated the community of Hinyok, its most telling casualty being children born without the ability to speak and hear whose fathers are now intent on training them to become fighters to defend their land. Vigo Cruz, artist and toy-maker, answers a posted notice about Hinyok’s need for a teacher, and his work with the children brings joy and hope to the young war victims and their mothers.”

An upcoming Chabacano-Bisaya film was also announced during the festival. It will be shot in Davao and Zamboanga next year.

Kapampangan Cinema

The emergence of Mindanao Cinema, as well as film scenes in other regions, especially the Visayan and Cordilleran region, is inspiring, and I keep on dreaming of the day when this idea called “Kapampangan Cinema” would take corporeal form in Central Luzon and in the long run, prove to be a powerful branch of Philippine cinema.

The production of several award-winning Kapampangan films such as 2008’s Most Outstanding Kapampangan for Mass Media Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Masahista,’ ‘Kaleldo,’ ‘Manoro,’ and ‘Serbis’ and Francis Xavier Pasion’s ‘Jay’ is a good sign, as their presence may cause a domino effect to other aspiring Kapampangan filmmakers.

The Mindanao Film Festival is a joint effort among the Mindanao Film and Television Development Foundation, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, the City Government and City Tourism Office of Davao, the Museo Dabawenyo, plus some admirable support from the private sector.

If not only for the chaos in the Pampanga Capitol, I believe the Tourism Office of Pampanga would have spearheaded the first ever Kapampangan interschool short film competition this Aldo Ning Kapampangan. Sadly, it did not push through.

Will 2009 mark the conception of Kapampangan Cinema and the introduction of its concept to universities in the Kapampangan region?

Student Filmmakers

Students (especially college ones) are often seen as the hope of emerging film scenes. A problem—a curable, minor one at that—with the students in the Kapampangan region is that they are still more or less ignorant of independent cinema.

Ask them to do a short film and you’d see that they’re trying to poorly mimic Hollywood and the stuff they see on free TV. Worse, the Kapampangan reality/experience is seldom or never featured in the stories.

Kapampangan student filmmakers studying in Manila, however, have made Kapampangan-themed works, and it makes me wonder—why do they arise in Manila? Perhaps it’s because when one studies in Manila, he/she is dipped in a ocean of diverse races. To project a unique identity in his/her film, who else to consult but the dear homeland? After all, only you know the stories of the Kapampangan region. Why waste time competing using Manila-themed films?

Thus, I take this opportunity to inform the Kapampangans about Kapampangan short films done in Manila.


First is Mark Dela Cruz’ ‘Misteryo Ng Hapis’ (‘The Sorrowful Mystery’) which bagged the Best Thesis title during its time at the UP Film Institute. It’s about a young gay who confronts his painful memories with his homophobic father during the wake of the latter. The film is like a rosary prayer narration.

Watch the whole film by searching ‘Misteryo Ng Hapis’ at Google Video.

Another is Jacqueline Nakpil’s ‘Lual Kulambu’ (‘Outside the Mosquito Net’), also from the UP Film Institute. It’s about a young boy from Bacolor who lives with his grandmother in the barrio. However, when his grandmother dies, he is forced to live in his uncle’s house in Manila. In there, he struggles to adapt to his new home.


Lastly is ‘Pupul’ (‘Harvest’) by Nicolette Henson, a Mutya Ning Kapampangan and a Kapampanganovela actor who currently takes up Mass Communication at St. Scholastica’s Academy Manila. In her AVP class, ‘Pupul’ was branded the best narrative. It tells the story of a single mother who tries to keep her son from seeing his real father in the farm due to personal reasons.

It will be uploaded soon through the Internet.

Shameless Plug

Allow me to plug our own contribution to this Kapampangan Cinema dream. Our group Kalalangan Kamaru, in cooperation with the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies, presents ‘Ing Bangkeru’ (‘The Boatman’), a 10-minute screen adaptation of the anonymous Kapampangan ballad of the same title. Shot in the Pampanga River, it tells an anecdote about an arrogant student from Manila intellectually challenging a young, lowly boatman about the philosophies the student had learned in his Spanish school.



We also have our very first Kapampangan documentary called ‘Sexmoan Adventures.’ Its synopsis: “A town in the Philippine province of Pampanga has for long been known as Sexmoan. One day, the municipal government decided to dump its scandalous spelling and replaced it with how residents traditionally call their homeland: Sasmuan.” The documentary lightly interviews residents of Sasmuan about their attitude toward Sexmoan and their current lifestyle.



Lastly, we are making a new digital short film titled ‘Balangingi’ (‘Nosebleed’ in English; ‘Balinguyngoy’ in Tagalog). It’s a Kapampangan romantic comedy about two discriminating intellectuals forced to attend a blind date. This short film gives a peek to that minority in Philippine society who are unlikely to survive socially by being themselves-- the Filipino intellectuals. Or as laymen would call them: Nerds! As parents call them: Pilosopo.



December 10, 2008

Kabalen Ash Castro: Fashion Photographer

Kabalen Ash Castro: Self-Taught Professional Fashion Photographer





Even though I am not a photographer, I have always been fond of photography. If not only for my busy schedule and unfinished commitments, I would save money for a high-end camera and try to develop whatever skill I have in photography, like what my now-US-based brother did post graduation. This sleeping interest is the reason that from time to time I surf the net and take a look at the works of local photographers, model or scenery.

With the thousands of photographers circulating their works in cyberspace, can one photographer’s work stand out from the rest? For me, one sure did, with his excellent style and signature identity. The best thing for me is that he is a Kapampangan like you and me, and, consciously or not, the stereotyped perfectionist and elegantly lavish attitude of our people manifests in his works. Gaining name in a short span of time, he has been featured several times in photography magazines and a lot of nice model pictures are scattered all over the Internet (to the point of some people grabbing his works and putting their names on them!) bearing his name as the mind behind.


Ash Castro is a 26 year old photographer from Arayat, Pampanga, but is doing his work in Manila, where models, agencies, and fashion-related events come in plethora. He graduated last 2005 at Holy Angel University with a degree in AB Communication Arts. To get to know this young, pleasant master of the camera more, I did a casual interview with him.

Q&Ash

Q: When did your interest in photography arise? Was it self-decided, or were you influenced/inspired by certain people?

ASH: My interest in photography started when I was just in college. I have been taking pictures of my friends using my point and shoot cam or camera phone and when bored at home, I was doing some digital manipulation. It was self-decided and I was inspired by friends I met along the way who are also photographers.

Q: Tell me about the initial stage of your learning photography. What pictures did you take? What frustrated you? Whom did you look up to, that person which you secretly said in your mind: “I have to be like him or surpass him.”

ASH: My early engagement in photography was very exciting. At first, when I wasn’t yet doing fashion photography, I’ve been shooting sceneries to expand my portfolio and learn the basics. I look up to Gaelle Morand and Chris Zwirner because their works are stunning and surreal.

Q: Did you take any special courses on photography? Were there any items you learned that caused you to think: “Aha! So that’s the secret!” or “Aha! So that’s how it’s done!” because formerly you didn’t know how to do that?

ASH: I did not take any photography classes. It was all self-taught. I learned some techniques in post processing photos through online tutorials. I also learned the value of good lighting to produce a quality output.

Q: When did you decide to pursue photography as a professional career? Who is the subject of your first professional shoot?

ASH: I have decided to pursue photography as my professional career just last July right after I celebrated my first year in photography. My first subjects during my professional shoot were Long Mejia and Brod Pete. I did the poster and publicity shots for their concert at Music Museum.

Q: Tell me about the evolution of your equipment. During the wee stages of your interest in photography, what camera did you use? As time went by, how did you come to acquire your own photography camera? Where did you buy it and why did you choose that? Do you have your own studio, lights, and editing PC?

ASH: I started shooting using a Sony point and shoot camera which was only 4 megapixels. The photos it produced already made me happy. Before I dabbled into photography, I used to work in a call center for more than three years. With my salary, I saved enough money for a DSLR, which I purchased in Singapore. Before I bought my camera, I read reviews through forums over the Internet so as to make sure that it was worth buying. Comments from other users were positive; thus, I decided to get it.

I don’t have my own studio but I already have my own strobe lights. I’m still enjoying outdoor shoots because I don’t want to be stuck in a studio. I also have my own PC which I use for editing. It is very important for photographers to have a good calibrated monitor in post processing to make sure that colors are correct when printed.

Q: How is the process of your art from conceptualization to the finished product? Before you go to the shoot, do you already have an idea in mind or do you figure out things on the spot? How do you motivate your models for you to get that emotion/expression you want? How intervening is photo enhancement via computer to you?

ASH: Before I go to the shoot, I make sure that I already have conceptualized. I talk to my makeup artist, designers, and models whom I will be working with ahead of time to make sure that the shoot on the date itself will be fast and smooth. It’s hard to shoot without any concept in mind as it is very time consuming. Computer enhancement could be of help in color and light adjustments, but facial expressions of models do not come out as good when just edited.

Q: A lot of your pictures are sexy—both from the male and female gender. How do you motivate a model for her to have a facial/bodily expression of sexiness?

ASH: Are they sexy? LOL. I make sure that I build rapport with the models I will work with. Sometimes, when I am assigned to shoot a model, I research a bit on his/her background so that on the day of the shoot, I’ll know how to ignite a conversation.

Being sexy on photos doesn’t require being nude. I coach my models what to do and how to stare in the camera. You see, I am such a perfectionist. I believe that even if the model’s pose is simple, it can be very sexy in the eye of the audience as long as the model made love with camera during the shoot.

Q: Some photographers merely take and take pictures, and if you look at their portfolios, they don’t have a binding signature factor that will tell people “these pictures were definitely taken by Mr. X.” Honestly, your pictures have an identity which when I encounter I at once know they were your photos. Are you aware of this? If yes, what is it in your pictures that you always make sure to be there? What is your “subtle pattern” in your pictures? What is your signature style?

ASH: Thank you. I am very happy when people somehow appreciate my humble works and when I hear them say, “Oh, that’s Ash Castro’s work” even if my name is not present. Colors have always been my signature. I also make sure that my work is clean and that the model looks good on photo, not sacrificing the make up and clothes in editing.

Q: At the beginning of your career, what did you have to do to be known by models/agencies? Currently, are you the one being sought for by models, or do you still “sell” yourself to them?

ASH: My photo from the recently held Rayban Rockstar was one of the five grand winners among the thousands of entries submitted. From then on, I gained more friends and networks from other modeling agencies. I have also met various people in fashion events I attended and built connection with them. Currently, I am the one being sought for by models. Aside from contributing to magazines and newspaper I also do model’s portfolios.

Q: Who/What is your dream subject? What is your dream project (e.g. 100 Naked Pictures of Celebrities; the Religions of the Philippines ; coffee table book on present heroes; etc.)?

ASH: I don’t have a dream subject but my I do have a dream project. I want to do a fashion shoot showcasing interesting places in the Philippines and have the pictures exhibited.

Q: If you were to do a project for Pampanga/Kapampangan as your contribution to its culture/history/identity, what would it be about?

ASH: Since I am fashion photographer, I will still add a touch of fashion on my work if ever I will contribute to Kapampangan. Maybe I would do an editorial shoot showcasing historical places and the talented people of Pampanga. I will collaborate with different Kapampangan artists for the whole production.

Q: Is it possible to have photography as one’s sole career? Are you able to sustain your living or even earn extra with your income in photography?

ASH: Yes, it’s possible. I never imagined myself having photography as my professional career. It isn’t easy though because when you’re in the office, money is much easier to earn. When doing photography as full-time work, you have to manage well your shooting schedules and make sure the clients you have are satisfied with your work to make them patronize you and refer you to their friends. Thank God I still manage to send money back home and pay my bills through my earnings while earning extra for my personal needs and wants.

Q: Your word with photography enthusiasts?

ASH: First, have a motivation factor. My priorities are my parents and my younger brother. We are nine in the family and all my siblings are married except for me and my younger brother who is still in high school. I work hard not just because I love my job but also because I need to earn, hahaha.

Second, do not burn bridges. It is very important to maintain good relationships with people. We meet them because of a certain purpose. They could be our future colleagues or future co-workers. Respect is always important.

And lastly, always believe in your potential. I admire and support young talents because I was also once a newbie in this industry. I have also experienced a lot of humiliation and have encountered criticisms when I was just starting. Believe in your style, but make sure to find time to improve it. Learning should not end. Also bear in mind that criticisms are made for us to do better next time.

Q: What is your personal definition of photography?

ASH: For me, photography is about beauty. It is about capturing beautiful moments, places, and faces. It’s also a worthy alternative for people engaging drugs, because it is just as addictive. (Right! —Laxamana). END

You may visit Ash Castro’s Multiply account and view his vast number of pictures (in color) by going to http://ashcastro.multiply.com.

November 25, 2008

Kapampanganovela returns to UP Diliman

Forum on language problems to be held
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

Last semester, a Kapampangan organization in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman called UP Aguman invited Kalalangan Kamaru and Infomax-8 to talk about regional broadcast media and screen the pilot episode of “Kalam,” the first Kapampanganovela. In spite of the heated debate between so-called nationalists and so-called regionalists, after the screening of “Kalam,” the audience unanimously found the project and the show itself worthy of praise.

This semester, four UP-based organizations—Saligan sa CSSP, UP Aguman, UP Samahang Linggwistika, and STAND UP—team up to hold a bigger forum entitled “Ing Kalam ning Amanung Sisuan” (The Blessing of the Mother Tongue). It will be held on December 9, 2008 from 1 PM to 4 PM at Palma Hall 400. Unlike before, the forum will also feature linguists, experts, and other concerned people to speak about the phenomenon of language shift, language death, and language revitalization

A Closer Look at Philippine Language Problems
(Original Tagalog text by Peter Sengson; English Translation by Laxamana)

At present, there are more than a hundred languages spoken in the Philippines. A number of these are in the brink of being wiped out and it is said that some of the languages of the country of the world are about to die without even being studied or documented. Just what are the conditions that cause language death?

In the Philippines, the Kapampangan language, which is one of the major languages of the archipelago, has been experiencing a decline in its number of speakers. Current speakers of the language are also gradually abandoning it and it is feared that death would be its fate. What are the internal problems that led to this situation? What is being done by the Kapampangans to salvage their mother tongue? What kind of Kapampangan are they trying to revitalize: purist or liberal?

According to some language advocacy groups, the appointment of Filipino as national language is a major cause in the hazard faced by other languages in the Philippines. How did the Filipino language affect the perception of Kapampangans in their own tongue? Is there really a conflict between Filipino and the languages of the regions? What is the possible future of the Philippine languages given the government's campaign for using English as medium of instruction?

These are the questions to be answered in this forum. It aims to introduce linguists, as well as scholars from other disciplines of social science, to the country’s language predicaments. Professors in the field of linguistics, Filipino, and Kapampangan will share their analyses in this issue. Resource speakers from groups attempting to revitalize Kapampangan will also be invited to share their experiences.

The highlight of the program is the screening of the first Kapampanganovela, “Kalam.” After the discussions, an open forum will follow. Linguistics students, especially those enlisted in Sociolinguistics, are expected to attend, as well as other students from the college, professors, and other organizations. The forum is open to everyone who is willing to take part.

Please send reactions to sisig_man@yahoo.com.ph

November 21, 2008

Sta Rita's Joseph Bitangcol strips and turns gay!

Joseph Bitangcol strips his clothes and turns homosexual
Career Overview of the Kapampangan teen star from Sta. Rita

On June 15, 1991, lahar buried a great deal of Central Luzon, especially Pampanga where the volcanic titan Mt. Pinatubo lies beside it, along with the rest of the Zambales mountain range. Lots of properties were destroyed, causing Kapampangan families to flee for their lives and make a choice between returning to their ash-slammed homeland after the catastrophe and finding residence somewhere else.

Years ago, I participated as one of the production assistants of the TV show ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya’. While Joross Gamboa was the lead actor of the episode, I was delighted to hear that a Kapampangan teen star was also in the cast: Joseph Bitangcol.

Ninu ya?


Joseph Mabalay Bitangcol is one of the top ten finalists of the ABS-CBN’s reality hit Star Circle Quest years ago. While many of the young Star Circle Questors freely admit that they entered the contest with the hope of eventually being able to help their families, compared to most, Bitangcol’s story stands out as one of the hardest struggles in the group.

Hailing from Sta. Rita, Pampanga, Joseph never really planned to enter show business, but the Mt. Pinatubo explosion changed his life forever. Fleeing from Pampanga and Pinatubo's wrath in a tricycle driven by their father, the Bitangcol family landed in Pasig with nothing but what they had in their tricycle.

While living his post-eruption life in the Metro, he joined in ABS-CBN's acting workshops, where he developed his performing skills and took further interest in acting. For a time, he became one of ABS-CBN's valued teen stars and was also linked with fellow Questor Sandara Park, who has abandoned the country and went to seek for stardom in her homeland Korea.

When I encountered Joseph face to face at the set of ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya,’ I waited for the right time to approach him and throw some questions. Both he and I were Kapampangan, and I was certain that that would be enough to establish some connection between the two of us. After shooting a certain scene which was sort of distant from the waiting area of actors, I was given the task by the Assistant Director of walking Joseph back to the waiting area.

While walking, I wasn't the one who started conversation. Probably to break the ice, he friendlily asked me what my business was in the production. After knowing that I was just there as an unpaid volunteer production assistant for the sake of practical learning, I segued into telling him my plans of devoting my filmmaking career to stuff with Kapampangan content. From then on, we began talking casually in our good old Amanung Sisuan, Kapampangan.

He speaks the language very well, in spite of not living anymore in Sta. Rita. He also was delighted to hear that I was making Kapampangan productions. By that, I hope he means he could be tapped one day to participate in our activities where his skill would be of definitely great use – being a fairly talented and good-looking actor (looks like an actor in one of those Chinovelas or J-Doramas), an above average hip hop dancer, and, most importantly, a fluent Kapampangan speaker.

Actually, he had this statement which made my eyebrows secretly raise. He told me that the Pinatubo eruption was like a blessing in disguise, for if it did not happen, he couldn't have been the star that he is now.

In my head, I was asking: “How could you consider something tragic – families blown away from their motherland, infrastructure and farms swallowed by lahar, and provincial economy restarted from scratch – a blessing?”

Yes, he became a star because of that, but should you think only of yourself? However, I understand his train of thought. If I became rich myself after the lahar, I would be considering the catastrophe an intervention of my personal fairy mother. But looking at the lives lost, I, too, would be thinking, “In return, I have to help them rise from the volcanic ashes.”

Joseph, judging from our short encounter in the set of a TV show, honestly seems to be a nice, humble guy. I'm sure if tapped by his kabalen to help out in a cause devoted to the re-fortification of his homeland, he would definitely say Wa, sige! (after making it through the manager, of course.)

Latest News

It seems like a pattern for Kapampangan teen stars who are products of reality searches. Film enthusiasts will remember the sexy debut of Tyron Perez, a Kapampangan teen star from Tarlac, through Mel Chionglo’s “Twilight Dancers.” More projects were seen to come to Perez after the film where he flaunted his flesh and performed a torrid kissing scene with William Martinez. Sadly, he disappeared from showbiz after that.


Joseph Bitangcol this time takes the same route. In the rising popularity of gay-themed films, both in the mainstream and indie category, Bitangcol was cast along with Polo Ravales in the film “Walang Kawala.” Bitangcol and Ravales fall in love with each other, kiss, make love, and all, and become victim of a bisexual sex slave syndicate. The film is Bitangcol’s sexy debut (and he had to be a homo), and is getting decent reviews from audiences. Directed by Joel Lamangan, the film also features a part of the story where Bitangcol resorted to being a macho dancer, kinda like Tyron.

Will Bitangcol suffer the same fate as Tyron Perez?

November 20, 2008

ASLAG Kapampangan 2008

The day right after the first of November, Artists Supporting Local Artists Guild or ASLAG Kapampangan held the Grand Finals of their second Kapampangan Pop Music Festival at Robinson’s San Fernando. This year, in contribution to environmental awareness campaigns, the theme was Indung Labuad a Santungan, Pakamalan Ya’t Lingapan (Value and Take Care of Mother Earth Sanctuary).

Songwriting Styles

The song, intentionally or not, aimed to produce Kapampangan songs that can stand as counterparts to popular Tagalog environmental songs such as Geneva Cruz’ “Anak Ng Pasig” and Asin’s “Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran.”

While songs don’t directly inspire people to act, especially if it’s about conservation of Mother Nature, they serve a function similar to that of national anthems, of wedding theme songs, of praise songs, of Alma Mater songs, of graduation songs, and of campaign jingles. What that function is, I can’t exactly pinpoint.

To make a song that can to some degree cause people to go out there and do environmental work is quite challenging and a test of a songwriter’s artistry. Of course, the music also aids greatly in the fulfillment of the goal.

A popular approach is playing the logic game where the songwriter assumes people to be for self-preservation. By establishing the connection between environment and the self and how one affects the other, the lyrics attempts to infiltrate the mind of the listeners by whispering: “If we do this or if we don’t stop doing that, this is what will happen, and it’s going to be really bad. You don’t want that.” This is the approach of the famous environmental song by Asin, as can be seen in the following sample lyrics:

Ang mga batang ngayon lang isinilang
May hangin pa kayang matitikman?
May mga puno pa kaya silang aakyatin
May mga ilog pa kayang lalanguyan?

Another approach is something close to ad misericordia, which even though categorized in communication books as a logical fallacy, works most of the time to a country that has bottomless affection toward everything melodramatic. The lyrics shouts: “Because of what you’re doing, this is what’s happening to me [or them]; have mercy on me/us/them!” This is exhibited well in “Anak Ng Pasig.”

Anak nang Pasig naman kayo
tapon doon, tapon dito
Di niyo alam ang tinatapon niyo
Ay bukas ko at ng buong mundo

Subject Picking

A first-time songwriter will usually write a song spontaneously—not necessarily a bad a bad thing—with no central, specific subject but the theme itself. If he is asked to write a song about the youth, he’ll write everything he can think of about the youth, not minding the organization of thoughts in his work.

One technique in choosing a subject is to pick an everyday experience which the masses can generally relate with, and upon listening to the song, they would to themselves say something like “Wa pin, ne!” This is the technique employed by young singer-songwriter Mark Jedh Yutuc, the winner of the recently concluded Kapampangan Pop Music Festival, with his entry “Balat Kendi.”

The message of “Balat Kendi,” performed by the songwriter himself together with K4ad member Jomar Dela Pena, is perfect for the busy people of Pampanga who have no interest or time to get involved in tree-planting activities and big waste management projects. The songs proposes that each average person can help in environmental concerns if altogether they cease throwing off candy wrappers anywhere they please.

Of course, waste management is more than that. But actually, if we did that, it would be nice. But let’s not limit ourselves to candy wrappers. I have seen a woman, who seems to be educated, who threw an empty tetrapack juice container while riding a jeepney in front of her child. Clearly a bad example. Last month, I scolded a friend who wanted to throw a plastic of garbage out of the van’s window while we were cruising down McArthur Hiway.

Why do Filipinos treat their surroundings a big trash can? We often talk about cultural preservation. If you ask me, this is certainly one aspect of Pinoy and Pampango culture which never in my wildest ambitions will I participate in conserving.

Congratulations


I’d like to applaud the other finalists of the tilt. “Uling Keka” (words by Nerian Miranda and Kenneth Macapugay, interpreted by Kate Ibanez), “Kanta Ning Indung Labuad” (words by Wilfredo Cunanan, interpreted by Anne Valerie Vital), “Berding Yatu” (words by Jun Gatbonton, interpreted by Lemuel Paras), “’Me Ko Keni, Tara Na” (words by Benny Guinto, interpreted by Bea Austria), “Misasanmetung” (words by Arnie Zablan, interpreted by Bin Bondoc), and “Pakamalan Ta Ya” (words by Ver Orquia, interpreted by Ana Nicolette Kho).

Except for “Uling Keka,” all songs were arranged by Aslag’s very own “Big Ben,” Mr. Ben Escasa. Fr. Ronnie Cao and Ms. Deng Escasa served as Kapampangan vocal dubbing supervisors.

K4ad is currently K3ad

A noticeable thing in the event is the K4ad’s temporary reduction to K3ad, as one of their members, Mark Jedh Yutuc, who happens to be the winner of the contest, can no longer participate due to, according to him, his busy schedule with other matters. Fr. Ronnie Cao told me they are currently in search for a replacement to Yutuc.

November 17, 2008

Archipelago Music Blog Project

Wikipedia provides us a pretty fair definition of what OPM is. “Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly termed Original Pinoy Music or Original Philippine Music, (frequently abbreviated to OPM) originally referred only to Filipino pop songs, especially those in the ballad form, such as songs popularized in the 1970s through the mid-1990s by major commercial Filipino pop artists like Ryan Cayabyab, Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Martin Nievera, Basil Valdez, Rey Valera, Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, Lani Misalucha, Lea Salonga, and APO Hiking Society.

In the passage of time as well as the development of many diverse and alternative musical styles in the Philippines, however, the term OPM now refers to any type of Original Philippine Music created in the Philippines or composed by individuals of Philippine extraction, regardless of location at the time when composed. The lyrics, in fact, may be in any language or dialect.

Although most of it are written either in Filipino/Tagalog, English or Taglish, OPMs written in foreign languages (eg. in Japanese), though handful, do exist.”

Monstrosity of Radio

I once asked a senior DJ from a renowned and Golden Dove Award-winning FM radio station in Manila if they are open to playing OPM (Original Pilipino Music) sung in neither Tagalog nor English. With cold honesty, he told me a two-letter but painful word: NO.

“Even if they’re really good?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” he replied.

Trying to prick his conscience, I questioned, “Isn’t that a form of racial discrimination? Aren’t songs sung in other languages like Kapampangan, Waray-Waray, and Bisaya also Filipino, and thus, should be welcomed in your Original PILIPINO Music segments?”

“Sorry, dude, but that’s just how the business is,” he answered with finality. “It’s nothing personal.”

MTV Pilipinas

MTV Pilipinas is more mature and racially sensitive. Proud of our work on the music video of “Oras” by Mernuts and “Alang Anggang Sugat” by 5 Against The Wall, we contacted MTV Pilipinas and asked them if they are willing to incorporate in their OPM playlists our Kapampangan music videos, “since we’re Pilipino din naman.”

Surprisingly, they said yes and claimed that they are supportive of OPM regardless of the language being used. They even said they’re happy that movements to develop OPM in regional languages are occurring, citing the Visayan music scene, led by Bisrock or Bisaya Rock, as a good example.

The catch, however—which to me is just fair—is that the music videos should be at par with other music videos we see on TV. We had no problems with that, as we made sure that our music videos were in one way or another worth the attention.

And, thus, the first Kapampangan music video to air on MTV Pilipinas (in its OPM show called “Tong Hits”), “Oras” by Mernuts.

MYX on the other hand is an unfinished story, and we are still working on it.

Music of the Archipelago

Although there are some groups like MTV Pilipinas that support OPM from the regions, majority of the mass media still marginalize non-Tagalog and non-English OPM. It is for this reason that our group decided to attempt to make a change by creating our newest blog project: Archipelago Music: Philippine Music Without Borders.


Launched recently, it is a blog that will serve to promote new Philippine music (OPM) from the regions. It attempts to empower regional music, especially those sung in the various regional languages of the archipelago like Ilokano, Bikol, Kapampangan, Waray-Waray, Meranaw, etc., amidst the dominance of Tagalog and Pinoy English songs and music videos in the world of OPM.

This is one of the advocacy projects of Kalalangan Kamaru, a multidisciplinary team of Kapampangan youth seeking to develop and propagate Kapampangan pride, culture, and language to the Kapampangan youth. This time, it extends its ideologies to the other ethnolinguistic groups to empower the regions more and make the Philippines a truly multicultural yet unified nation, submitting proof to the infamous query: How can you love others [regions] if you don’t first love yourself [Kapampangan]?

The issue of a Tagalog- and English-centric OPM was first raised in GMA-7's “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” in their segment “Promdi Rock.” It was Kalalangan Kamaru actually who fed them the idea of making a feature on that topic, including another segment that featured TV dramas from the regions.

We believe that if regions unite, Manila the capital will open its doors to regional OPM and thus, elevating regional OPM into national status, and thereby inspiring some sense of healthy competitiveness among the OPM artists from the regions, instead of aspiring for nothing beyond “Puwede na.”

Sample Artists

The blog in its November launching has already featured three artists. First is Bronze P, the son of Ilonggo undergroup hiphop. Bronze P of La Paz, Iloilo City is an independent Ilonggo artist under his own production label, Bronze Beats, who makes urban beats and tunes in the Hiligaynon language.

Next is a Bisaya duo that has already received a national award, albeit in the regional category—the 2006 Awit Awards Best Regional Recording. As their homepage says, “Out of everyday-life ghettos and the ever changing urbanity, from what Dabawenyos call home hails a tandem that will conquer your senses and ravish you to your seats. Brandishing their acts to the hip hop and RnB groove, they're breaking into your audio waves to bring you their message that rightfully speaks of their collective name: Thavawenyoz.”

Also featured is the first Cuyonon band to make rock songs in the Cuyonon language, Bulyaw Mariguen. Hailing from the little island of Cuyo, Palawan, Bulyaw Mariguen are planning to launch an independent Cuyonon album this December.

More OPM artists, songs, and music videos from the regions will be featured in the future! A diverse music playlist of songs from different Philippine languages is also available in the blog. Archipelago Music will also post some essays and industry assessments that will certainly aid regional artists in their quest for empowerment.

In the words of an Ilokano blogger, “Adtoy pay ti maysa nga barbaro a website a natakuatak. Ti Archipelago Music ket mangipakpakita ken mangipadpadengngeg kadagiti kankanta nga naggapu kadagiti rehiyones ti Pilipinas. Adda man nangngegko idiay nga rap version ti Manang Biday! Mayat met! Agtultuloy koma dagiti kastoy a proyekto. Nagbayagen a Tagalog ti kankanayon a mangmangngeg kadagiti FM stations iti pagiliantayo. Rumbeng met ita nga selebrarantayo ti nadumaduma a kultura ti Filipino!”

Come and visit http://archipelago-music.blogspot.com

November 15, 2008

Ing Sakondu

The Unknown Kapampangan Laman Labuad

Writing about Apung Monang or Simeona “Monang” Calma-Matsdairo—the zarzuela-acting sister of my maternal grandfather and she who got married with a Japanese man (an actual heir to a Japanese royalty of the Matsdairo clan) at the age of 14 during the Japanese occupation—in my previous article about Teatru Ima at Arti, I was reminded that she’s to some degree psychic, so said my Ima.

Apung Monang as a lady demonstrated her psychic skills by casually addressing creatures of otherworldly dimensions. She would point to fairies and elves in a very relaxed manner, as if just pointing at ants lined on the wall. Of course, she would freak out people around her, including Ima, whose fear of the unknown is amplified by her typical Catholic senses—anything paranormal should be diabolic in nature.

My Limited Memory

Apung Monang and her little brother, Apung Marcial (Marciano Lansang Calma), who is my maternal grandfather and a former soldier during the American-Japanese War, slept in the same room when they grew up, along with my grandmother, Apung Ines (Ines Lagman-Calma). We were already living in Angeles then and by the time I was growing up as a toddler, Apung Monang and Apung Marcial were already somewhat senile.

Apung Marcial often rested beneath our thorny anahaw plant in the middle of our garden. Wounds would line up on his skin and he wouldn’t care, thanks to his senility. Having attachment to his hometown Porac where he became tinyente in one of the barangays, he occasionally walked out from the house without warning and kept on proclaiming he wanted to return to Porac. As a mischievous kid, I would offer him a medium-sized block of Lego and tell him it’s bread. He would try to eat it only to discern it’s as hard as rock. I then would laugh at his conclusion: “E la tinape reni, kendi la.”

Apung Monang was more of the silent type, as even though she was already senile, she just laid still in her bedroom. In fact, I have no special memory of her; all the tales about her, including her marriage with an heir to some royal Japanese family, are all thanks to Ima’s storytelling.

When Apung Marcial died, the family didn’t want to tell Apung Monang at once because she might grieve a great deal, and it could be jeopardous to her health. But when my aunt came to visit her—surprise!—she was already grieving because she already knew what occurred. How? According to Apung Monang, a certain white figure—an angel or something—approached her and delivered the report. My aunt’s hair raised.

The Sakondu

One of the laman labuad (elementals) that Apung Monang used to claim to be seeing is an elemental she and a lot of my Poraqueño relatives call the sakondu. How it looks like, I still have no idea. I consulted several sources, including Kapampangan historians, folklorists, and other authorities of so-called Kapampangan culture, but none of them could shed light on what a sakondu is.

In one of my recent visits to the spiritists of Jalung, Porac, I asked a relative, Apung Asing, about the sakondu. She knew that it was an elemental, but she couldn’t characterize it for me. All she knew was that, like the popular kapri, duendi, and magkukutud, the sakondu was also used by folk elders to scare children to submission. “Oyan na ing sakondo!” elders would threat.

Out of curiosity, I tried to play researcher for a bit. Sakondu actually sounds like a Spanish word. I searched its possible origin—sacondo or secondo—through the Internet and it (secondo) appears to actually be an Italian word, and it has a very interesting meaning.

Indigenized

According to a short definition from Wikipedia, secondo is a term of Italian origin used in the German speaking areas of Switzerland to denote someone who is the child of immigrants. Because of conservative Swiss citizenship law, these children are often unable to become citizens and may feel marginalized.

In an article by N. D. Schäfer at www.italianrap.com, he reports that people of foreign descent born in Switzerland don’t automatically get a Swiss passport; they are still seen as different from the Swiss natives. The author further explains, “There’s even a term for them: secondo (for females: seconda), a term used only in the German-speaking part of Switzerland even though clearly Italian. The sons and daughters of secondos and secondas are called terceros and terceras (from Spanish).”

I am reminded of the theory about the origin of the term kapri, a more popular local folklore character. Some say that it could have been from kaffir, a word brought by the Europeans in our archipelago which they use to address black southern Africans. From the Arabic word kafir, it originally means heathen, infidel, or non-believer. To further demonize the concept, the Spaniards could have propagated a more monstrous image of a kaffir, and hence, our paranormal fear of the kapri, which physically speaking resembles the general physique of a tall African man, only ornamented with frightening features like inflicting harm or sickness on people, tobacco-smoking, tree-dwelling, and others.

Now, could it be possible that the idea of the sakondu came from the Europeans’ secondo as well? That the concept was flavored with horror in our lands for them to institutionalize in our virgin minds this ethnic slur toward what they consider “second-class citizens” or secondos in their part of the world?

It could be. Devout Kapampangan researchers may look into this theory more.

A meaningful All Souls’ Day to everyone!

November 12, 2008

Pampanga the Prostitute, Manila the Customer

Pampanga the Prostitute, Manila the Customer
A Review of Brillante Mendoza's 'Masahista'


The first time I heard about the Kapampangan digital film Masahista by Brillante Mendoza, I quickly searched for a DVD copy of it. Yes, even a pirated copy, just to be able to watch it. Thank Ápung Sinukuan, I got an original copy at SM.

My thesis proposal during my stay in the Broadcast Communication Department of the UP College of Mass Communication was about halting the deterioration of the Kapampangan language in Angeles City through the use of broadcast media, particularly TV, by giving people media content (soap operas, talk shows, teen-oriented shows, etc.) in the Kapampangan language.

But that topic was a trimmed down version of what I originally would like to make a study of. I wanted to cover all forms of mass media: print, film, radio, and even theater.

In the area of film, with 100% confidence, I hail Brillante “Dante” Mendoza the father of Kapampangan films. While there is no evident Kapampangan film industry yet, ever since his series of films, young Kapampangan filmmakers have been inspired to write screenplays using their Ámanung Sisuan. If I know, other non-Tagalog filmmakers have been influenced by Mendoza’s films, which I love to describe as “culturally detailed” and “colorfully realistic.”

Although not entirely Kapampangan when it comes to the language used, they offer a great deal of Kapampangan stuff, like festivals, traditions, superstitions, and comic relief only Kapampangans (by land of birth and language spoken) would be able to relate and give significance to.


Transition

Mendoza is a renowned production designer in many films. Famous in his lineup is the 1986 film ‘Private Show’ by Chito Roño, where he bagged an award; ‘Takaw Tukso’ by William Pascual; and 1985’s ‘Virgin Forest’ by Peque Gallaga, where he became Art Director.

Then one day, he decided to make his own film, thanks for being acquainted with Angeles City’s Ferdie Lapuz, a known international film distributor who has brought several Filipino films like Maryo Delos Reyes’ ‘Magnifico’ and Francis Xavier Pasion’s ‘Jay’ outside the country.

Who knew that in spite of Mendoza’s fame in Production Design, he would get greater honor as a Director, since his debut directorial film ‘Masahista’ (The Masseur) won the Golden Leopard Award in the video competition of the 58th Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, which brought artistic pride to both the Filipino and Kapampangan community.

‘Masahista’

Center Stage Productions. Starring Coco Martin, Jaclyn Jose, Katherine Luna, and Alan Paule. Synopsis: Iliac is a young masseur who went home to Pampanga to find out that his bedridden father is dead. Iliac assists in the preparation of his father's burial including dressing his dead father up inside the morgue (Source: Wikipedia).

It’s not entirely a Kapampangan film (the Internet Movie Database even states that the language of the film is just Tagalog), because the story takes place both in Manila and Pampanga. In Pampanga, the characters speak Kapampangan. When Iliac goes to Manila, he speaks Tagalog, because his customer Marina Hidalgo (Alan Paule) was Caviteño and his raunchy girlfriend (Katherine Luna) was Tagalog-speaking. Some of his co-masseurs are Kapampangan though and they speak the language even though working in Manila.

In Mendoza’s visit to the Holy Angel University where we both delivered workshops to young film aspirants, he stated that his main goal in filmmaking is to show truth. Hence, the cultural detail, the scenes that would raise the eyebrows of censors and conservative families, and his unpopularity among the masses, who always go for the mainstream, escapist movies.


Truthful Cinema

A line I can never forget from the Hollywood film ‘V For Vendetta’ goes something like this: “Politicians use lies to hide the truth while artists use lies to tell the truth.” Mendoza is an illustration of this statement as even though his films appear to be fictitious, they are largely based on reality.

There is really no beginning-climax-end to look out for in ‘Masahista.’ A lot of critics say the story is flat; I couldn’t agree more. However, such sincerity is what makes me like most of Mendoza’s films. They are the show-don’t-tell type. Plus the culture and realistic happenings foster a sense of reality and sophistication. Of course, Mendoza can’t expect to be patronized by the average Filipino, since it takes some high level of art appreciation and intellect to enjoy his works.

The Kapampangan Experience

Culture, which manifests materially (through crafts, shelters, clothes, language, physical activities) and immaterially (beliefs, values, judgments, norms, laws), is presented in detail in ‘Masahista.’ Since a lot of scenes are in Pampanga, present Kapampangan culture enjoys much highlighting.

In ‘Masahista,’ Coco Martin (who is of Kapampangan descent himself) plays the role of a Kapampangan masseur. Asked why Mendoza (and Lapuz) chose the masseur to be Kapampangan, they said it’s because a lot of Kapampangan boys really work as masseurs in Manila, which they attribute to the average Kapampangan male’s tendency to be lazy and wanting of quick money.

The opening scene of the movie was enough to make me relate it to my life as a Kapampangan who used to study in Quezon City going home every weekend to Pampanga: the view of the plains and rice fields along the North Luzon Expressway under the vast firmament.
Then we are taken to sites and objects such as the kalésa (horse-driven carriage), pedicabs (public transport tricycles that house no motors), and the parul (giant lantern)—all of which would be more familiar to a Fernandino, since the setting of the film is specifically in the City of San Fernando.

I live in Angeles City and don’t go beyond the Intersection to the center of San Fernando so those objects didn’t really ring a bell. However, when I, for the first time, paid a visit to the City Hall of San Fernando to deliver a lecture on the state of the Kapampangan language for the city’s Heritage Week, I was given familiarity to the stuff I saw in ‘Masahista.’ I even rode a kalésa and a pedicab for the first time in Pampanga!

Cultural Detail

More cultural detail involves masseurs speaking their native tongues (Kapampangan, Bisaya), Iliac washing his feet the way Pinoys usually do, the continuous operation of prostitution houses, the palengki-like tawaran between prostitutes and customers, the forbidding of sweeping after the death of one person, the Kapampangan’s habit of criticizing people who accidentally trip (“Mulala!”), the feast-like funeral activities of people like playing cards, gossiping, and indulging on food, making a big deal out of a power failure, and many more.

Then, of course, the wonderful giant lanterns only Kapampangan craftsmen can erect beautifully. They are made for the annual Liglígan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival). The behind-the-scenes footages of the DVD show the technical side of the giant lantern and how the lights are controlled.

Beautiful Obscurity

I’m not really sure if the director/writer is trying to say something about life being like the magnificence of the giant lanterns and how people marvel at their beauty, but you are free to associate Iliac’s life with them. Mendoza’s films have the tendency to be unclear, but that is what makes artsy people intrigued; is the director trying to say something deep? Hence, the birth of the viewer’s thinking. Hence, Mendoza’s films can make you exercise your mind.

An interpretation I made, being a federalist and an Imperial Manila decentralist, involves the masseurs being provincianos and the customers and pimps Manila Tagalogs. I won’t discuss it in detail, since it will take a new set of pages to elaborate, but people familiar with the “Imperial Manila” discourse will get what I mean.

A Balid Film

Speaking of a sense of reality, on the bad side, it is obvious that the lead actors who have a number of Kapampangan lines are not Kapampangan-proficient, and the fact that they are not reeks in the way they deliver their Kapampangan lines.

Coco Martin is obvious in trying to adopt the sort of singsong accent of Kapampangan. Foreign and non-Kapampangan viewers have the slightest probability to detect such flaw, but for a Kapampangan like me, I can only cringe or laugh at the mispronunciations the actors make, the same way I roll in laughter at the trying-hard English of some Manila starlets.

Worse, in some lines, Coco mixed Tagalog grammar/words and Kapampangan. For instance, in an apparently fake accent, he said, “Sori pu, na-lowbatt ako nabengi.” (Sorry, my cell phone ran out of battery last night. / Sorry po, na-lowbatt ako kagabi.)

A native would find the line funny, because it should have been “Sóri pû, mé-lowbatt ku nabéngi.” Kapampangan verb tenses don’t sport the use of na- and the word ako is basically Tagalog.

Jaclyn Jose, who played Natty, the tocino-making mother of Iliac, was good. Almost. In some scenes, I was convinced that she indeed spoke the language. But it’s no surprise, as Jaclyn Jose is an Angeleño from Brgy. Sto Rosario. In the shooting of the controversial Pinoy film that made it to the main competition of the Cannes Film Festival ‘Serbis’ (where I worked as local coordinator and script continuity supervisor), we spoke to Jaclyn in Kapampangan, and even though she is balid, one can speak to her in Kapampangan and expect her to understand fully.

All of the extras in the Pampanga scenes, plus the siblings of Iliac (Lakan ning San Fernando 2008 Aaron Rivera and his younger sister) and one or two of the masseurs, are genuine Kapampangans. I can tell by the way they speak. Also, seeing their minor characters behave the way I perceive Kapampangans to behave in some occasions—such as the brutal gossiping behind people’s backs, silent criticizing upon another’s misfortune, and overreaction to actually-no-big-deal stimuli—makes the film closer to home.

It’s a great, even though simple and plain, film. In fact, it has earned a spot in my ‘Favorite Movies’ section in my Friendster profile. What taints it is the broken Kapampangan of the lead actors.

I’d like to believe that film is audio-visual and it is its innate goal to give the audience a sense of reality, not make them pretend to believe. With linguistic imperfections, reaching the goal is about 25% hindered. Sadly, even in Mendoza’s follow-up film ‘Káleldo’ (‘Summer Heat’), the lead actors speak Kapampangan as if with twisted tongues.

But then again, I understand. There aren’t many Kapampangan-speaking actors. I just hope that in the future, this language thing would be fixed in Mendoza’s (and every Kapampangan filmmaker’s) films. I believe we’re on our way there.

Please email reactions to sisig_man@yahoo.com.ph. Photo of Mendoza by Laura Irvine.

November 9, 2008

The Rebellion of the Age 50+

Photo by Ruston Banal, Jr.

The Rise of Teatru Ima at Arti
By Jason Paul Laxamana
Urban Kamaru
Central Luzon Daily

“Your Apung Monang used to be a zarzuela actress,” Ima would recount, referring to Simeona “Monang” Calma-Matsdairo, the sister of my maternal grandfather who got married with a Japanese man at the age of 14 during the Japanese occupation. Ima told me that in reaction to ArtiSta. Rita’s “Siwala the Musical” at St. Scholastica’s Academy which she and I watched together.

Apung Monang was young, active, and vibrant then. They would travel to different places within and outside Porac to perform various Kapampangan musicals, which most memorable to my Mom is a play called “Bunga Ning Dewakan.” She seemed to be so good and popular in her thespian career, in that one time two years ago, when Ima was buying some fruits and vegetables at the kabalenan of Angeles, a certain vendor whom we didn’t know asked her about Apung Monang; the vendor was actually a fan of hers.

Nakbag, Angat

Zarzuelas were halted for several reasons. Ima guessed that it could be because of the introduction of movies and, later on, television. Then, when the Mt. Pinatubo erupted, it seemed almost impossible to revive zarzuelas. Then came ArtiSta. Rita a decade after.

ArtiSta. Rita swept the “culturally ailing” and “theater-ignorant” province with their well-attended Kapampangan musicals and albums. It introduced several youths who showed what the Kapampangans can offer in the field of performance, and I personally cite Edward Bernabe, one of the lead male singers of the group, to be very promising.

ArtiSta. Rita is one of the groups that fuse career with the socialization of the talented Kapampangan youth on their ethnicity and heritage, including language. While everyone else is busy tapping young ones to participate in the industry of Kapampangan empowerment, Mr. Andy Alviz, Artistic Director of ArtiSta. Rita, found an often-ignored bracket of people and decided to tap their energy to play part in the emerging Kapampangan bandwagon—women with ages 50 and above, willing to develop and share their thespian skills to a seemingly ageist society. Altogether, the group came to be known as MaArti, or Teatru Ima at Arti.

Photo by Ruston Banal, Jr.

Rebellion Against Ageism

Ageism is relatively a new concept in the Philippines. It is loosely defined as discrimination or marginalization based on one’s age, and the frequent victims of this are the youth (ageism against the youth or adultism) and the elders (ageism against the elders).

I first heard the term in Prof. Albina Peczon Fernandez’ Gender in Literature class when I was studying in UP Diliman, where we tackled the popular fate of female elders in modern Philippine society—they become stuck at home, become unpaid accomplishers of household chores and yayas to the grandchildren, and sometimes, even reprimanded—shouted at—for their fading memory power, right within the perimeters of the home they used to energetically build.

The performing arts, including theater and show business are breeding pools of ageism, the kind that would tend to discriminate the aged. Star searches on television want innocent teenagers the image of whom they can mold to their liking. The same goes for shows that search for the next local idol in singing. Theater, while less discriminating to the elderly compared to showbiz when it comes to performing, is still dominated by the young. And for female elders who are most probably stuck at home fulfilling the dictations of family tradition, they should be having lesser chances of being included in theater.

The members of MaArti are lucky, for their group is the first of its kind in the country, where elders take the limelight. It sure is a liberating experience for aged women to experience the spotlight in spite of the age (which a lot of women tend to conceal), the side effects of aging, the household responsibilities, and the ageist society.

As for a watcher like me, I actually find old people, especially old Kapampangan women, beautiful. And I don’t mean just physically beautiful, but beautiful in every sense of it. They seem to be very experienced, full of wisdom, and naturally funny. The Kapampangan woman is said to be a powerful member of the society, as well reflected in Brillante Mendoza’s films. In fact, in an interview with Mendoza for the film “Serbis,” he described Filipino society as “ruled by the women but it is the men who are in the forefront.”



Kebaitan Da Ring Ketuan

Rita Alarcon recounts how the group began. “Andy first brought up the idea two years ago but nothing came out of that plan. When the idea came out again in one of our conversations in the gym, he asked us if we were interested. When he saw the enthusiasm, he immediately told us to recruit people who may be interested in theater. Because of technology, we were able to gather a group of about 20 persons and by August 19 we had our first meeting.”

“We continued to recruit more through friends and had our first workshop after a week. The rest is history. Barely a month we had our script and after a month we had our launching and MaArti was born.”

Childhood or Current Dream?

It couldn’t have been a childhood dream of theirs to perform in front of people, but during their younger years, they had varying degrees of being inclined to performing.

“I do not recall if it was my dream to be a stage performer since childhood, but when I was in the States, I wanted to enroll and take up Theater Arts,” recalls Roxanne Gorospe. “Since I was a little girl, my elders would put me on top of the table and make me sing and dance. I come from a musically-oriented family and I guess that easily explains what I do now.”

As a student, Gorospe was often involved in events that required singing, dancing, acting, and choreography. She taught choirs of different age brackets at a young age and when college came, she took and finished a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education, Major in Voice at the University of the Philippines College of Music. Behold: she also became a member of the prominent Philippine Madrigal Singers, and even became a vocal coach to Aiza Seguerra.

Her involvement in the Kapampangan industry is highlighted by her participation in the recording of Juan Crisostomo Soto’s “Alang Dios” along with Alviz himself.

For Dita Patawaran, on the other hand, she secretly wished to land on lead female roles in school dramas, but she often got in small roles. “In one of our school plays, the only role I was given was a bride with no single line to say,” recounts Patawaran. “I just had to walk down the aisle and that’s it.”

But who could have foretold that during their launching at ArtiSta. Rita’s “Pamanuli” Concert at the Holy Angel University, she would act the role of a supladang palengkera?

Alarcon actually never dreamt of taking performing as her chosen career path despite of being a regular participant in school plays. “But when the opportunity to have workshops with no less than Andy Alviz,” she said, “we grabbed the opportunity.”

Bayung Experience

In theater, youngbloods are often the ones sought for. But Alviz thought that the age group of MaArti members are “untapped resources.” Alviz expounds, “They are actually the most perfect artists in terms of experiences, maturity, confidence and depth.”

Asked about the difference between handling young thespians and the older, Alviz claims it’s basically the same. “No difference at all,” he declares. “These women can do anything. They are not old women, not aged; they are ripe, mature, and perfect for the harvest.”

Working most of the time with young actors age 40 and below, Alviz finds working with MaArti members a learning experience for him. “These women have so much passion discipline and love for what they are doing.”

True enough, as in spite of the side-products of aging, these women still find time and effort to attend their twice-a-week workshops with their director. Aging is “embellished” with various features my own mother would often make saingsing about—rheumatism, arthritis, depreciated stamina, blood pressure, memory gaps, etc.

Source of Strength

Surprisingly though, the idea of MaArti is claimed to be, as Alarcon would say, “a therapeutic source of physical and psychological strength.”

Patawaran testifies on this. “In one of our rehearsals,” she reports, “I heard someone say, Ba’t kaya patye Lunis at Webis, ala kung panamdamang másakit, lalu na istung miblas na ku para munta kening workshop tamo?”

“In a great big way, these women are very healthy, exciting, riotously ready to do anything Andy would tell them,” Gorospe asserts. “The things you mentioned (arthritis and all) are present in some but no worries. I myself am experiencing the challenges of being pre-menopausal.” She further humorously elaborates, “I have ovarian cysts, oneng sabi na pin Andy: Sus, nowadays if you don't have ovarian cysts, ali ka ‘in.’ I think by this time mengalaglag no reni king kaka-ayli!”

Corito Tayag of Angeles City shares a different story though. In spite of age, she claims to be a healthy woman. She does Tai Chi about four to five times a week and dances a lot, which she considers as exercise. A disclaimer though from her: “I guess the biggest problem would be the senior moments: the memory gap!”

In spite of everything, these women want to keep on doing what they’re doing as long as their health permits it, as long as there is clamor for the group, and as Gorospe puts it, as long as “e ya susuku i Andy kekami.”

And the Family Says…

MaArti members are most probably mothers and homemakers. How do their better halves and children react to their joining a theater group?

Gorospe, Alarcon, and Tayag can say in unison that their husbands and children have no apprehensions on their MaArti participation. “My husband is very supportive and proud that I can dance and perform on stage,” Tayag says. Alarcon narrates that her daughter and husband even came to watch her during the “Pamanuli” concert.

Patawaran has a different story to tell. “As of now, they frown at me,” she laments. “Maybe they could not imagine I can do it because I don’t even have the art of cooking. At times they even complain why I am nowadays always out of the office. I even jokingly said in one of our interviews that I was already fired so I have no choice but to take my early retirement.”

But when these women become fully and successfully transformed—after the CDs, commercial endorsements, radio and TV exposures, national, US and world tour that Alviz is envisioning for them the way he did for ArtiSta. Rita—will Patawaran’s family and other people skeptical of the potential of the group still frown? Patawaran tells us to “watch out and see.”

If Alviz and the group indeed materialize their plans—which I am praying for—then MaArti will go down in history and become a source of Kapampangan pride, and perhaps even Filipino pride, for the future generations to come, regardless of age.