Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Centenary of Mars Ravelo

As a young kid, I played Darna, imagining myself to be the heroine with superpowers who appeared in Filipino komiks popular at that time.
On ordinary days, Darna is Narda, a simple girl with a disability. When she is needed, Narda swallows a magical stone to transform into Darna—a being strong enough to battle bad men, demons and monsters. Darna has been a big part of many childhoods, including mine. From her adventures, we learned to side with and cheer goodness and to oppose evil. We also learned what basically constitutes goodness and also evil. From komiks, Darna has been adapted to movies and television shows, becoming an icon of Philippine pop culture.
Darna is the creation of prolific komiks writer Mars Ravelo, who also created several other iconic characters such as Captain Barbell, Lastikman, Bondying and Dyesebel. Ravelo is revered for creating characters and stories that colored many a childhood memory. On the centenary of his birth last October 9, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) held a celebration. A three-tiered caked was cut in his honor. It was decorated with covers of his komiks and some of his characters. It was crowned, fittingly, with the face of Darna and a small typewriter of sugar icing.
The celebration was held at the Bulwagang Juan Luna or Main Gallery and the Pasilyo Guillermo Tolentino, the third-floor hallway gallery of the CCP, where the “Mars Ravelo Reinterpreted” exhibit, which opened on September 15, 2016, is on view until November 13, 2016.
Ravelo was born on October  9, 1916, in General Trias, Cavite, where he spent most of his childhood. He studied in Manila, but he cut classes to spend time in public libraries until he decided to leave high school during his sophomore year. He had already met Tony Velasquez, a well-known komiks illustrator, who influenced him to go into the genre. In 1939, he became the cartoonist for the comic series, “Bemboy,” but his career was cut short by the Second World War. After the war, Ravelo returned to komiks, coming up with original material, which was published in Bulaklak. On May 17, 1950, the first issue of “Darna” came out. Within the span of four decades, he produced more than 300 titles that included stories of superheroes, fantasy, comedy, science fiction, drama and romance, eventually becoming a household name. He died on September 12, 1988, leaving behind a legacy that influences many people until today.
The “Mars Ravelo Reinterpreted” exhibit kicked off the year-long celebration of Ravelo’s centenary. It gathered visual artists Kris Abrigo, Ang Gerilya, Virgilio Aviado, Mariano Ching, Ernest Concepcion, Maishadela Cruz, FaBo, Dex Fernandez, RM de Leon, Leeroy New, Jonas Roces, Jericho Vamenta and MM Yu, who created paintings, sculptures and installations inspired by Ravelo’s characters, challenging the perceived divide between fine art and comic art. It also subverts the statuses—comic art, which is usually perceived as low-brow and escapist, informing and inspiring the fine arts. The works range from the ones that comment on social issues using Ravelo characters to those that are simply homages.
Aside from the works of the featured artists, “Mars Ravelo Reinterpreted” has a section displaying memorabilia and works by Ravelo. There are volumes of komiks, as well as typewritten scripts. A small section displays works of thee of Ravelo’s eight children—Richard, Rita and Rex.
Rex’s work, a charcoal-on-paper painting called Tinapa Literature, depicts torn pages of comic books made into a little bag to hold smoked fish, a common practice then. It is described as “an interpretation of how his father would honestly want to educate Filipinos by passing on both moral values and Pinoy culture even only through repurposed komiks pages.”
Additionally, Rex emphasizes that one of the educational impacts of his father’s komiks stories is the popularization of the Filipino language. Komiks in Filipino were widely read, including in the Visayas and Mindanao, and as a result non-Tagalog speaking Filipinos learned Filipino.
For his part, Rex is keeping alive his father’s legacy, as well as trying to revitalize interest in comics. With partners and associates, he is currently building the Mars Ravelo Komiks Museum on a 2,000-square meter lot in Neogan, Tagaytay City, Cavite. Planned to open during the culmination of the centenary celebration next year, the museum, he says, will not only feature his father’s works, but it will be about Philippine comics as a whole, showing the impacts and influences of the popular art form on Filipino lives and culture. 

The exhibit area at the CCP

Darna at ang Babaeng Linta typewritten script

Sisid, Dyesebel, Sisid

An old Royal typewriter of the Ravelos

Ang Gerilya’s Tagapagligtas (flat latex on plywood, 2016)
Darna and Valentina Encounter by RM de Leon (acrylic on paper, 2009) 
History of the Halimaw by Kris Abrigo (acrylic on wood, 2016)

Leeroy New's Still Life with Two Flash Bombas (plastic toys) 

Plastickman, Plastikman 2  by Virgilio Aviado (mixed media on tarpaulin and found objects, 2016)
Kikay Okay
Portrait of Mars Ravelo by Richard Ravelo
Tinapa Literature by Rex Ravelo

Dex Fernandez
Dyesebel by Jonas Roces (brass on stainless steel stand, 2016)
Mariano Ching 
Mars Ravelo
Mars and Lucy Ravelo
Mars Ravelo, Amaya, Cavite

Ravelo family



Sunday, July 31, 2016

No Other Way but One Way

Where Salcedo Street ends in Legazpi Village of Makati City, the country’s financial hub, it can get a tad quiet. Though still part of the business center, the area is off the shopping and dining hubs and is characterized by the back view of imposing buildings. There is a couple of residential condominiums and a few stores. A small art gallery just opened. And at the corner of Salcedo and Benavidez Street, behind the one-way sign, perhaps the most noticeable thing on the street is a restaurant named One Way.
The area is not known as a dining hub, but “we hope to pioneer a dining scene here,” said wine connoisseur and distributor Ronald Lim Joseph.
The director of the Philippine Wine Merchants co-owns the restaurant at the ground floor of the Concorde Building, which was first a wine bar called Nectar with a predominantly Greek menu, with his brother Ralph.
“Then a bunch of friends came in. We changed the concept and the whole menu,” Joseph related.
Seminal to that change is consul of Lebanon Joseph Assad, who tasted pizza with crust made from sourdough for the first time in 2012 at a restaurant called The Luggage Room in Pasadena, California. He recounted the experience in One Way’s Web site: “I was flabbergasted! It was the best pizza I ever had in my 60 years of pizzastromy! I was in Pizza Heaven! I was in love! It was a major revelation! It’s the toppings that normally make a great pizza but in this case it was not just the toppings it was the crust. The sourdough had that extra tangy bite to it that the normal plain white dough pizzas do not have. I truly fell in love with this sourdough pizza.”
When he got back to Manila, he told of his discovery to the Joseph brothers and began his search for sourdough bread and pizza, which led him to chef Harold Nilooban. A family lunch with Nilooban cooking made him decide to open a restaurant pulling in the Josephs, executive Nando Ortigas and “nightlife legend” Louie Ysmael. They transformed the Josephs’ wine bar into One Way Restaurant, which formally opened in March 2014.
One immediately notices, upon entering One Way, that the design motif is inspired by the iconic street sign—predominantly striped with black and white. Diners who come in in outfits that match the interiors need not fret; they get a surprise prize. Breaking the preponderance of black-and-white stripes are framed photographs riddled the walls, mostly of people, friends and visitors of the owners, enjoying the food and company.
The main dining area can accommodate about 120 persons, and there is a small deli and bakery for breakfast and sandwiches. Equipped with its own entrance is the Tasting Room, which can accommodate up to 18 persons and can be used for small conferences, meetings, get-togethers, etc.
Here, we sampled some of One Way’s bestsellers, prepared by its new Ukrainian chef Vitaliy Lavrenchuk, with wines (and wine education) courtesy of Ronald Joseph. 
“We don’t push it to be a fine-dining restaurant,” Joseph said of the restaurant. “It’s not fine dining, but you get fine dining food and experience without the fine dining prices.”
The menu is predominantly European with smattering of American. Most of the dishes are all-time favorites ? “comfort food,” they like to say currently.     
While lunch was being prepared, canap├ęs of shrimp cocktail on multigrain bread with balsamic and garlic butter allayed our hunger. A welcome drink of a slushie of lemon and generous helpings of basil and mint was a goblet of sunshine, perking one up.
Lunch started off with cream of wild mushroom soup (P290), served in a bowl of hallowed out bread, freshly baked and made from sourdough. Not cloyingly rich but hefty with ample pieces of mushrooms, the soup was thoroughly enjoyable, which made me scrape out the bottom and sides of the bread bowl, bread pieces dissolving into the soup that got thicker.
Lavrenchuk immediately rolled out their pizzas, the two bestselling kinds with thin sourdough crust. The Mediterranean pizza (P590) has toppings of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, fresh basil, capers and salami, while the Pamplona pizza (P580) has jamon Serrano, Spanish spicy chorizo, cherry tomato, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and lemon dressing.
Bright red and festive-looking, Pamplona was unanimously the favorite, with the salty and smoky flavors of the meats perfect for the light sourness of the dressing. Toppings complemented also the sourdough crust, which is chewy and more flavorful than the ordinary crust.
“We’re pushing for the sourdough,” Joseph said. Indeed, the pizza has become one of the popular items in One Way, which offers five kinds. You can even create your own pizza (for P680) with about 15 toppings to choose from.
Sourdough is used for their breads, which can be savored as Danish-style open-faced sandwiches and burgers (from P360 to 480).
Their pastas are also noteworthy. We tried the cream of aligue (crab fat) spaghetti (P370) which had baby prawns, crab paste, cognac and cream, and the red pesto (P360) linguine with Spanish-style sardines and sundried tomato. The sauces were blended well, with interesting flavors harmonizing like symphony.
The entrees employed much effort to prepare. The classic French dish coq au vin (chicken braised in white wine) with rice pilaf and green pea puree (P490) was tastier than I previously had, but the three-hour melot-braised lamb shank with pimiento risotto (P990 for single and P1,350 for size meant for sharing) was a delight, with the meat sliding off the bones, drenched in rich tangy sauce.
Capping the meal was one of their crepe flavors-the Mango Jubilee-prepared in a flamb‚ by the table.
As much as the dishes, the wines were also stars.
“Our wine selection is probably the most extensive in the whole country because we’re wine importers,” boasted Joseph.
He picked the wines that best go with the dish, not minding anymore the red wine-for-meat rule. He said that it is best to gauge body when pairing-light wine for light dishes. For the mushroom soup, he recommended Angas Brut, dry chardonnay from Australia, while the pizzas were accompanied by Valpolicella from Verona, Italy. It was Pirramimma from McLaren Vale, South Australia, for the pastas. The crepe was paired with the sweet Gancia Asti sparkling wine from Italy.
While they can whimsical with the design of the restaurant, One Way takes their foods and wines seriously, taking much effort to prepare them. And that’s the way dining should be-earnest in cooking, light-hearted in eating.

One Way Restaurant is at 206 Salcedo Street corner Benavidez Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila, with telephone number 869-8958 and mobile number 0906-5572588.

Black-and-white stripes is the dominant design  of the restaurant's interiors

Three-hour merlot lamb shank
Cream of aligue pasta
Cream of wild mushroom soup

Mango Jubilee
Mediterranean pizza

Pamplona Pizza
Red pesto pasta with sardines
Three-hour merlot lamb shank
Preparing the Mango Jubilee
The chef