Monday, January 31, 2011

TIPS holds Baro a Rubuatan Exhibit

A photography exhibit entitled Baro a Rubuatan was held by The Ilocandia Photographic Society (TIPS) at the Museo Iloco in Laoag City. This was held in time for the opening of the Museo’s art gallery designed by Architect Rex Hofilena. The photo exhibit ran from December 29, 2010 up to January 19, 2011.

Governor Imee Marcos invited the group to showcase their best photographs of the beautiful sights and scenes from the province of Ilocos Norte. It also included the culture and tradition of the Ilocanos. There were two photographs of mine featured on this exhibit. These are the Daklis and Indigenous Kids and were bought on the day of the opening by Mrs. Mimi Ranada of Ranada Hospital and Mayor Eric Bawingan of Adams municipality.

This was the very first time that the group exhibited on canvass. Guests at the opening of the exhibit were impressed with the featured photographs and all of the 17 photos featured were sold out. This exhibit was held back to back with a painting show of Dr. Jovencio Cuanang with his art collections from various artists.

Begnas Ylocos Festival in Galimuyod

Last December before I went up to Baguio for the dinner with the US Ambassador, I dropped by early in the morning at the town of Galimuyod in Ilocos Sur to witness for the second time the Begnas Ylocos Festival of the province. It is on its third year. This is a big gathering of the cultural communities or of the indigenous peoples of the province that include the Tingguian, Bago, Isneg, Kankanaey, Igorots and others. They come from various towns of Ilocos Sur.

This festival is the time for them to celebrate and give thanks for the blessings received every year. This celebration has the purpose also of promoting their identity, heritage, traditions and customs.

I was lucky that I was able to catch up the ceremony on top of the hill in Galimuyod town proper. Although they had butchered a pig before my arrival, I had seen the rituals and the prayers they offered before the fresh blood, the heart and other internal organs of the animal. Elderly men did the ceremony while Mayor Jessie Balingsat and Atty. Tudayan closely watched. They drank the basi or wine they offered.

Later, a tree planting activity was conducted at the surroundings led by Mayor Balingsat. The seedlings used were provided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. All the key personalities were even gifted with a basket of tree seedlings.

All the spectators and organizers went down to the plaza for a short program where another set of ritual dances were performed. Then they fed the entire delegation of participants and guests with the use of banana bark and bare hands.

Another set of program was prepared at the town’s amphitheater. A food fair was conducted. Some exotic foods were sampled here. All the contingents showcased their performances featuring their ritual dances. It was fascinating to see them in motion with their colorful traditional costumes. This is an exciting event that should be carried out annually.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Solsona celebrates 4th Gameng Festival

This year was my third time to attend and witness the Gameng Festival of Solsona, Ilocos Norte. It was my second time to be invited as member of the board of judges for the street pageantry together with DepEd Education Supervisor Lloyd Rosquita, MMSU Chief of Socio Cultural Affairs Perry Dafun, Jr and NCCA culture and arts officer Lane Matthew Utitco.

We were fetched from Laoag City. We paid a courtesy call to Mayor Joseph E. De Lara at his residence and hosted us breakfast. Then we rushed to the activity site. We have seen the various floats paraded around the town center. Most of them were made of indigenous materials showcasing their gameng or treasures. They were conscientiously prepared and very creatively done.

There were a total of 21 barangays who participated in the dance parade showcasing their abaludal dance steps. It is a folk dance taken from a fusion of the words aba as the root crop and daludal as the stem. This is a harvest crop in the locality. They portray the characteristics of a taro and depict the different stages of producing taro or gabi. Most of them were all wearing beautiful costumes incorporating the green and brown, the colors of taro. Each contingent has to stop and dance at the Solsona landmark for showcasing it to the judges. It used to be at the municipal hall.

Governor Imee R. Marcos was the guest speaker in the said event. She delivered speech expressing her joy over the holding of such festival. Afterwhich, the showdown had began.

The last part of the day’s activity was the showdown of occupational dances from Region I. The same number of groups had performed with equally stunning costumes and props such as the loom and boats.

We announced later the winners. Barangay Darasdas came out as the grandslam winner in all three categories; float competition, street pageantry showdown and occupational dance.

Friday, January 28, 2011

ABS-CBN Global features Around the Americas in 60 Days

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed by the staff of television network giant ABS-CBN Global - The Filipino Channel headed by Ms. Guia Abdulla regarding my book Around the Americas in 60 Days. We had the bookstore of Central Books at Phoenix Building in Quezon City as our venue.

This was a great experience considering that I will have the exposure on the boob tube and I will be able to promote my book on a global scale. This mini feature being aired on various parts of the world that includes North America, Europe, Middle East, Australia and Japan is really a big help in the book promotion. It is an interstitial that fills in the gap between regular programs.

The crew set up the microphone, the lightings and the camera while Ms Guia checks the settings. She started throwing questions and we were like just having a casual conversation. She asked several questions pertaining to the book.

I was so surprised to see the feature as I was tagged on the video on Facebook lately. I am so happy with this wonderful video. It is being seen on all ABS-CBN The Filipino Channel worldwide.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reopening of Malacanang of the North

On the very first day of 2011, the Malacanang of the North was reopened to the public after its management was turned over to the provincial government and underwent refurbishment.

Baro a Rubuatan was the title of the New Year’s celebration in the said landmark of Ilocos Norte. This was a huge fanfare where there was free dinner and followed afterwards by a great entertainment show by the Paoay Lake. There was a lighting up of a big bonfire, fire dancing, modeling show, rock concert and the finale of fireworks display.

Macanang ti Amianan is one of the rest houses of former President Ferdinand Marcos built during his 20 year rule. It’s actually former First Lady Imelda Marcos who spearheaded the construction of this building as a gift to her husband as he was turning 60 years old.

The construction began in 1975 and completed in 1977. This two-storey mansion sits on a 5-hectare property. The design of the house has both the mixture of Spanish and Ilocano influences. The ground and second floors have each grand living room where the guests are being entertained. The palace has two dining rooms. It has a beautiful grand staircase that compliments the grand living rooms.

As I took steps to the staircase going up to the second floor, I saw many improvements. There was even decoration of vegetables and fruits turned into centerpieces displayed on tables. It has a total of nine rooms with expansive verandas. I saw the room of Imelda with her new framed photos displayed. It is so romantic to check and laze around the veranda at second floor where you can take a sight of the magnificent Paoay Lake.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Samiweng Singers for Vietnam International Choir Competition

The Samiweng Singers is set to bid for the 1st Vietnam International Festival and Competition to be held on March 16-20, 2011 at Hoi An City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The group with their conductor Mr Sherberk Cabrales is intensively preparing for the said event and they are happy to represent the Philippines especially Ilocos Norte in this choir competition. I have seen this group of young singers during their concert in Laoag City entitled Gratias and they are exceptional.

They had a very good rendition of Choral Flourish. It is an energetic song of praise that combines traditional Latin with text. It is composed by Linda Spevacek. The song would literally mean:

"Applaud, applaud clap your hands
Sing, sing play your strings
Sing joyfully to God all the earth."

Participating countries in the said choir competition are China, Estonia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. There are nine choir groups coming from the Philippines.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Tupig Cook-off in Norte

One of the delicious native delicacies of Norte is the tupig. It is made of ground glutinous rice mixed with coconut gratins, sugar, and sesame seeds then wrapped in a wilted banana leaf. It is being cooked in a coal fire. They make use of small stones over a galvanized sheet to make the cooking even.

Last December, I was invited to judge the first ever tupig cook-off held in the town of Paoay sponsored by the Provincial Tourism Office. Entries came from each town of Ilocos Norte where they compete with each other. We thought that tupig tastes the same. We were surprised to learn that each town has its way of preparing tupig. Some use molasses instead of refined sugar. Some add in peanuts, milk, cheese and a big twist was the addition of gamet or the black seaweed from the town of Burgos. They cut the gamet into small pieces. That was innovative. I found the taste just fine. There was a balance of sweetness and saltiness.

We judged the entries according to its taste primarily, the food appearance, and the orderliness and cleanliness of the cooking. After a taxing comparison of entries by the board of judges and the fed up of our palates because of several taste tests, we unanimously came up with the top three winners namely, Currimao, Banna and Paoay.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hudhud: An Intangible World Heritage

Hudhud is a chant, a tale of heroism by Aliguyod that originates from the province of Ifugao. It is a celebration of heroes, heroines, culture and wealth by the people of Ifugao. It’s a long tale sung during special occasions. These occasions are harvesting and weeding of rice, funeral wakes, and bone-washing (bogwa) rituals.

This epic chant is thought to have originated before 7th century comprised of more than 200 stories, divided each into 40 episodes. The chant is full of repetitions, metaphors, synonyms and figurative terms. It is usually led by munhaw-e, an elderly woman, with an introduction and then taken up by the mun’abbuy, a chorus of women. It takes several days to complete and recite a story. This is very difficult to transcribe so there are very few written expressions of this tradition.

The UNESCO has declared hudhud chants as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity originally on March 2001 but was inscribed in 2008. The remaining narrators are now very old thus a support is highly necessary in the efforts to transmit this knowledge and raise awareness among young people. It was good that a group of young people came to perform a short version of hudhud in Ilocos Norte during the Sunrise Festival.

Pagaddut : An Ifugao Tribal Dance

Ifugao is one of the best tourist destinations in the Philippines because of its world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces considered to be the Eight Wonder of the World. It is an ancient sprawling man-made structure declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is not only to nature where Ifugao is gifted with best attractions but also to its culture. The province boasts of the cultural community where unique musical instruments are played and they do wonderful dances.

An ethnic ensemble from Ifugao rendered a wonderful dance performance during the cultural night held in Laoag City in celebration of the Sunrise Festival. Young people from Lagawe composed the dance group and portrayed the pagaddut dance. The delegation was headed by Ms Roxan Ardessa.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Dinner with the US Ambassador

On December last year, I represented my company in the invitation made by the United States Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. for a holiday garden party held at the US Embassy Residence in Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

This was a rare opportunity and honor to meet in person the US Ambassador to the Philippines, the alter ego of the US President. Ambassador Thomas has served as Director General of the United States Foreign Service before his present appointment. His Excellency has also served as US Ambassador to Bangladesh in 2003-2005. He also served in the White House as the Director for South Asia at the National Security Council from 2001-2002. He has earlier postings that include service in the US Embassies in New Delhi, India, Harare Zimbabwe, Kaduna, Nigeria and Lima, Peru.

He was born on June 3, 1956 at Harlem, New York City and a graduate of College of Holy Cross and pursued further study at Columbia University.

The Ambassador’s Residence in Camp John Hay was the former High Commissioner’s Residence, the American authority during the Commonwealth interim period. The construction of the buildings in Baguio that included one in Manila had a budget of US$750,000. The Baguio summer residence was built on 78-acre parcel on a portion of Camp John Hay and was finished in 1940. This has been the site of some major historic events and visited by several famous Filipinos, American and other foreign dignitaries.

I took a taxi at Burnham Park to Camp John Hay. I alighted at the gate of the US Embassy and the security guards requested to present to them my personal invitation card. Later, I was requested to ride on a coaster parked at the gate as we waited for the go signal from the Ambassador. Some invitees also arrived. Then we went in. We were received by the staff members and registered later.

We were then led to the garden and it was starting to build up some fogs. Everyone was offered drinks. Then I started meeting some of the invitees. I met people from the church, the academe, NGOs, from politics, military, businessmen and many others from various sectors. Then the dinner buffet was opened. There was sumptuous food prepared on the table that includes meat, vegetables and bread. They had cakes, salads and fruits for desert. There was more wine being offered.

While the dinner was going on, I took the chance to talk to him and later presented my book, Around the Americas in 60 Days. He appreciated it and he even wrote an official letter for me. He's really a cool guy and very approachable person.

A short speech was later delivered by no less than the US Ambassador at the meeting room. He thanked everyone for coming and he mentioned how his family celebrates the holidays. One of which is dancing and the dance floor was opened. While some were busy dancing others had photo opportunity with the Ambassador. The party exactly started at 5pm and ended at 7pm. Then it was farewell time. We were given token at the door by the staff and bade each other goodbye.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Around the World on a Vintage Car

I had the opportunity to meet the family that travels around the world using a vintage car when my friend Alaric tipped me off that they are coming to Ilocos Norte to pay a courtesy call to Governor Imee Marcos. I chanced upon them at the lobby of the capitol and Tourism Officer Tina Tan introduced me to them. They arrived in Ilocos Norte on December and spent their Christmas in Pagudpud.

The Zapps is the family that travels the world on a vintage 1928 Graham-paige sedan car. American Herman and Argentinian wife Candelaria embarked on a journey in 2000 from Argentina to Alaska with only the two of them. It is a wild wish of the couple to go on a travel around the world that turned into a reality. Along their journey they sired four children namely Pampa, Tehue, Paloma, and Wallaby who were born in different countries. They will stop traveling when their eldest child turns ten years old for them to send their children to formal school.

Their enthusiasm is so inspiring for everyone. They have documented their travel through a book Spark your Dream which they sell to finance their trips. According to Cande, they have visited around 35 countries in ten years. They transport their car on a ship to bring it to another place and they have 18 countries to visit in Asia. As a token of appreciation of their inspiring story, I thought of sharing to them my book Around the Americas in 60 Days from which they could also read the foreword of my friend Tatsu Sakamoto who traveled the world on a bike. They were so delighted to receive it. It’s a book for them to read along their journey.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Highlights of 2010

Another great year had passed. Year 2010 was such a wonderful year of travel and full of great moments. The blessings poured in by the Lord are overwhelming that I am compelled to enumerate and recapitulate those good times.

In this year I was able to travel to ten countries in the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia. I visited United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. I was so lucky to get promotional fares from various budget carriers. All of these travels were purely leisure backpacking except for China where I was invited to document the exchange program of the local students from Laoag City. I was asked if which of these countries is the most beautiful. I would tell them each country has its unique beauty.

I saw two of the Seven Wonders of the World namely, Petra in Jordan and Taj Mahal in India. It was so incredible feeling to have been to these two places in a year. Unforgettable is my visit to Petra because we have to rush and get away from a flashflood that happened after the rain on my initial visit. That was exciting and not everyone can experience it. These are so majestic monuments that no one should miss this in this lifetime.

I also made local travels that included Bacolod, Iloilo, Biliran, Leyte, Cebu, Bukidnon, Iligan and Cagayan De Oro. I joined my group Laoag Mountaineers Club in trekking the 2nd and 4th highest mountains in the Philippines Mount Dulang-dulang and Mount Kitanglad respectively. It was awesome to reach these peaks and be able to commune with nature. We went to conquer also the highest peak in Ilocos Norte that is Mount Sicapoo located in the town of Solsona.

In line with photography, together with The Ilocandia Photographic Society (TIPS), we were able to stage several photo exhibitions. Glamour on a colonial setting was our theme during the Libnos exhibit in Vigan City. I organized another exhibit of the same theme entitled Kadaanan during the Nakem International Conference in Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. Another exciting and a level up initiative was the nude photography exhibit in Currimao We had one during the Sunrise Festival in Laoag entitled Saringit. A special photo exhibition was Baro A Rubuatan depicting Ilocos Norte because we were invited by Gov. Imee Marcos and that we had canvass prints. Two of my participating photographs were immediately sold at the opening. I was so happy about that.

I was able to exhibit in the various schools in Guangxi China and the students and people were amazed to see the photos of beautiful sights of Ilocos Norte.

Also this year I started and launched the Kids Project Photography to orphanage centers Tahanang Carmela d’ Amore in Laoag and at Asrama Darul Falah Perkim (ASDAF) in Kuala Lumpur. This project primarily aims to introduce to children the love of art and photography.

Something very significant that happened to me was that I authored and published my very first book entitled Around the Americas in 60 Days. It was a product of my writing in this blog. I launched it on August and the book participated in The Manila International Book Fair at Mall of Asia. I even had the opportunity to present it to US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. during a dinner hosted by him in Baguio City.

Thanks to the highlights of 2010 and now turning another page. Thank you to all readers for following this blog. Its flattering to meet some of you who recognize me somewhere somehow so I am looking forward to a more exciting 2011.