Thursday, March 30, 2017

Transforming and Transformative: Celebrating National Literature Month This April

Among other things, we are potently affected and eventually changed by some films we watch, a theatrical piece, or a painting. That is one power of art in its different forms. Also, art forms constantly evolve, and they are changed by us, over time, reflecting our thoughts and shaped by the prevailing modes and moods, but they remain universal, the old ones affecting us as much as the new ones. Literature is one of the most powerful arts that change us and the world, and it is constantly transforming. This power of the written word is highlighted in this year’s celebration of National Arts Month in April.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), and the National Book Development Board (NBDB) lead in the celebration of National Literature Month, aptly choosing the theme “Banyuhay,” the Filipino word for “metamorphosis.” The word was coined by Alejandro G. Abadilla, the father of modern Filipino poetry, in the 1950s, contracting the phrase “bagong anyo ng búhay,” new form of life. The theme emphasizes that literature, as a creative endeavor, is also a political and social institution as well as a force that shapes life and everyday living. It is a vital instrument that helps us evaluate and implement right and necessary changes.
            For the whole April, literary and cultural events are lined up to enable us to gain new perspective and insights, to discover something about us and the world, and to find ways to change ourselves and the world, as well as to take pleasure in the exquisite beauty of words, written, oral, performed or transformed into other forms.
Balagtas begins
            In the couple of years that the National Literature Month has been celebrated, the commemoration of the greatest Tagalog poet, Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar, has become an emerging tradition. Thus, the month will kick off with the Araw ni Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar on April 2.
On the 229th birth anniversary of Baltazar, KWF is monumentalizing his creative deeds as heroism with the theme “Balagtas: Bayani” (Balagtas: Hero). Indeed, his sacrifice in creating great literary works leads to the enrichment of us all.
The celebration will kick-off with the Pambansang Kampong Balagtas 2017, a literary camp that will gather 100 student-writers from all over the Philippines. It will be held from March 31 to April 2 at the Orion Elementary School in Orion, Bataan, where Baltazar spent a part of his life. On Balagtas Day, a wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the barangay of Wawa, where a monument was installed two years ago.
During the camp, outstanding writers will be honored on April 2 with the conferment of the Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas and Talaang Ginto: Makata ng Taon. The list of previous inductees in Gawad Dangal ni Balagtas, an award given by KWF that honors the lifetime achievement award for writing in Filipino, include esteemed poets Lamberto Antonio (2013), Teodoro “Teo” Antonio (2014), Rogelio Mangahas (2015), and Jose Maria “Pete” Lacaba (2016). Since 1963, Talaang Ginto has been giving the best Filipino poets their due credit. Belonging to the illustrious list of Poets of the Year (Mga Makata ng Taon) are Lamberto Antonio, Teo Antonio, Rogelio Mangahas, Mike Bigornia, Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo, National Artists Virgilio S. Almario, Cirilio Bautista and Bienvenido Lumbera, among others.

For the love of books
National Literature Month also presents and promotes the different aspects of the book publishing industry in a new light. This aspect will be brought to fore by NBDB, which will hold the second Pinoy Book Stop Tour, highlighting libraries and independent and campus-based bookstores within and south of Metro Manila on April 7 and 8. National Book Award winners will be featured through book talks, poetry readings and music performances together with visits to different bookstores.
On April 23, various book-related activities will be held in celebration of World Book and Copyright Day (WBCD). As declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 1995, WBCD aims to pay tribute to books and authors and to encourage more Filipinos to discover the pleasure of reading. This year, NBDB will spearhead another Book Fiesta where book lovers and copyright advocates will be treated to a whole day of festive gathering with a book market by Philippine publishers and activity/exhibit booths by different book clubs and writers’ groups.
As NBDB’s culminating activity for the National Literature Month, the 8th Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF) will be held on April 27 and 28.  Plenary sessions and parallel working group sessions will explore socially relevant issues in literature and the book industry. Coinciding with the festival is a book fair that will showcase the latest Filipino-authored titles.

Learning about and honing the craft
The Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (BNSCWC) of the De La Salle University will hold the second IWP Alumni Writers Workshop from April 6 to 8, and the 17th Iyas La Salle National Writers’ Workshop from April 24 and 26, 2017, both at the European Documentation Centre of the De La Salle University in Manila.
The IWP Alumni Writers Workshop is named after the Filipino writers who completed the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, some of whom will serve as panelists and lecturers. The panelists will include Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (who is also the workshop director), Susan Lara, Eros Atalia, Carlomar Arcangel Daoana, and Angelo “Sarge” Lacuesta. Lourd de Veyra will deliver the keynote address. The workshop will cover writing in English in four genres: poetry, non-fiction, fiction and screenplay. Ten fellowships will be given to Metro Manila-based young writers aged 18 to 35. Themes for the manuscripts should be on the environment and civic engagements (such as war, peace, human rights, women’s empowerment and indigenous peoples’ issues).
On the other hand, the 17th Iyas National Writers’ Workshop awards fellowships to 10 aspiring writers in English, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Tagalog or Filipino. The genres include poetry, fiction, and drama. Preferred themes for this year are ones dealing with humanity and environment. Poet Marjorie Evasco will serve as workshop director, and the panelists will include Ricardo de Ungria, Grace Monte de Ramos, John Iremil Teodoro and Em Mendez.
On the other hand, the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) will hold “For Love of the Word: Workshops on Teaching Philippine Literature in High School and College” from April 3 to 4 at the Northwest Samar State University in Calbayog City, Samar. The focus will be on 21st-century Philippine literature from the regions. The resource speakers will include Victor Sugbo, Dinah Roma and Harold Mercurio. As part of the program, a forum will feature writers based in Eastern Visayas who will read their works and talk about the topic “Writing to Sustain our Home, our Habitat.” The project head is Lito B. Zulueta, national secretary of Philippine PEN. The workshop is geared toward retooling and upgrading the skills of literature teachers in both secondary and tertiary levels.

Discussing creative writing
The Polytechnic University of the Philippines Center for Creative Writing (PUP-CCW) will spearheaded a lecture series. Three sub-genres of fiction will be discussed in the three day lecture series slated for April 19 to 21. Award-winning writer and Iowa Writers Workshop fellow Eros Atalia will talk about young adult fiction lecture. Joining Atalia will be Zeno, whose first novel Uberman won the Madrigal Gonzales First Book Award and recipient of the Cirilio Bautista Prize, and Lenin Carlos Mirasol, who was awarded the Southeast Asia Young Writer’s Prize for local language. Writer in Hiligaynon, Filipino and English Dr. Genevieve Ansejo will discuss erotic literature on April 20. Closing the series will be a lecture on children’s literature to be facilitated by Palanca awardees and professors Eugene Evasco of the University of the Philippines and Christine Belen of Ateneo de Manila University.

A gathering of writers
The Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL), or The Writers Union of the Philippines) will hold its National Writers Congress on April 29 at the Brother Andrew Gonzales Building of De La Salle University, along Taft Avenue in Manila.
The program will consist of a keynote address and writers fora. The awards ceremony of the annual Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Francisco Balagtas, Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, and Gawad Pedro Bucaneg will be held in the afternoon.
The overarching theme of the congress is “Ang Panitikan sa Panahon ng Tokhang (Literature During the Bloody War on Drugs)” featuring a keynote lecture by Dr. Jose “Butch” Dalisay, Jr., a multi-awarded writer.
The speakers for the writers’ forum, “Ang Papel ng Manunulat sa Panahonng Tokhang,” are Lourd de Veyra, Joel Salud, and Juana Change (Mae Paner) with Karina Bolasco serving as the moderator. The speakers for another forum, “Paglalakong Opinyon, Pagkabigong Gunita (Opinion Peddling, the Failure of Memory),” are Floy Quintos, Frank Cimatu, and Joyce Martin with Louie Jon Sanchez serving as as moderator.
The congress’ highlight will be the conferment of the three major awards given by UMPIL since 1988.  This year’s recipients of the Gawad Alagad ni Francisco Balagtas, a lifetime achievement award for literary writing, are Romulo Baquiran (poetry in Filipino), Luis Gatmaitan (children’s fiction in Filipino), Marne Kilates (poetry in English), Liza Magtoto (play in Filipino), Jameson Ong (poetry in Chinese), Carla Pacis (children’s story in English), Vicente Rafael (criticism in English), CriseldaYabes (essay and fiction in English), and Melchor Yburan (poetry in Cebuano). Receiving the Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, an award for achievement in literary education, are Alicia Magos, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo and the editor-translator of Panay Bukidnon epics published by the University of the Philippines Press. The Gawad Pedro Bucaneg, an award for outstanding literary organizations, will be given to Thousand Islands, an organization of Chinese-Filipino writers.
The closing ceremonies of the National Literature Month celebration will also be held during this congress

More literary events
            Aside from these, there are more events and activities that will make your summer a fulfilling and transformative one. These include “Spoken Word Poetry: Performance Forum” at the
Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology in Iligan City on April 10 and 11; Sine Bughaw of Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILIP) of the Ateneo de Manila University; the 2017 Kausaban: Forum on Creative Writing at the Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City on April 15 and 16; Perigrinasyong Emilio Jacinto in Majayjay, Laguna, on April 16; the PUP literary caravan in different PUP campuses; Laji Singing Competition in Basco, Batanes, on April 22 and 23; Lakbay sa Pampanitikang Pangkampus of AILAP on April 19; Pambansang Reorientasyon sa Panitikan in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, from April 19 to 21; “Beyond Mainstream: A Martial Law Anthology and Seminar” by the Kingfisher Interim from April 18 to 22; UST Publishing House’s mega book launch on April 25; and “Brushes with  Words and Chords 2017” at the UST on April 26, among others.

This is the third year of celebrating National Literature Month remains robust with the support of National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario or Rio Alma. It is his efforts that Proclamation No. 968 was signed in 2015. The proclamation declares the month of April as Buwan ng Panitikan ng Filipinas or National Literature Month, stating that “Philippine literature, written in different Philippine languages, is associated with the history and cultural legacy of the State, and must be promoted among Filipinos,” and that “national literature plays an important role in preserving and inspiring the literature of today and in introducing to future generations the Filipino values that we have inherited from our ancestors.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Words Rendered Live: Cultural Center of the Philippines Holds Second Performatura: Performance Literature Festival

Traditional chants, a costume play or cosplay and spoken-word performances are some of the events included at the Performatura 2017: Performance Literature Festival, to be held from March 31 to April 2 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.
            A prelude to the celebration of National Literature Month in April, the festival celebrates the richness of Philippine literature, underscores the connectedness of the written and the performative, as well as entices more people to appreciate literature.
            Filipinos, generally, are not much of a reading people, but can be eager audience of shows, and performances are ways for them to know the works of Filipino writers. In the last couple of years, spoken-word performances became quite popular in the country. Poems and monologs on love, recited and acted out on stage, found avid audiences, most of them young, in theaters and bars.
            Literary performances are not recent development though. Many literatures in the Philippines started out being performed, and a prime example is the number of epics, which are chanted from memory. And throughout history, poetry readings and performances based on texts have been put up. The traditional performances, as well as the latest trends are featured in Performatura, which is organized by CCP Intertextual Division, formerly the CCP Literature Division.
            Performatura was first held on November 6, 7 and 8, 2015. It was called Performatura Festival: Performing Literatures, to celebrate National Reading Month. Its aim was to highlight Philippine literature and its interconnections with other forms of arts, as well as the connection of artists to their audiences, according to writer Herminio Beltran Jr., who was one of the brains behind the festival.
            The title was coined by the festival director Vim Nadera, a poet who is known for his performance art. It combines the words performance and oratura. Oratura was derived from orature, a term coined by Ugandan linguist Pio Zirimu, who wanted to raise oral literature to the level of written literature. In Performatura, the intersections of the written word and performance and intertextuality are emphasized.
            The three-day biennial this year will be filled with poetry readings, cultural performances, film showings, marathon readings, a book fair and forums with artists and writers all day long, from nine in the morning to nine in the evening. It will showcase numerous artists—writers, performers and writer-performers. While entrance to the festival will be practically free, the organizers will be requiring attendees to donate a book as admission ticket. Each donation will go to the CCP’s partner libraries.

Balagtas. Boom!
            This year’s Performatura takes on the theme, “Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi” (In and outside my forlorn country), a line from Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar’s most famous metrical romance, Florante at Laura. While featuring works commenting and contemplating on the state of the country, the theme is really an homage to nineteenth-century poet Baltazar, widely considered the greatest of Filipino poets, and his immortal contributions to Philippine literature.
            Performatura wants to make Balagtas, Baltazar’s penname, and his works perennially hip, especially among millennials. Thus, it will be holding a cosplay or costume play based on his life and works called Franciscosplay. It is a contest where participants must dress up as characters from Florante at Laura and recite at least three stanzas of the character they are portraying. The cosplay event will happen in afternoon of April 2, the 229th birth anniversary of Balagtas, at the CCP’s Little Theater.
            Participants will be judged on characterization (how well the cosplayers act or embody the characters they’re playing), costume design, audience impact and delivery (how well the cosplayer delivered the lines they’ve chosen from Florante at Laura). Winners will receive cash prize (as much as P5,000) and gift certificates from Microtel Puerto Princesa and Santo Tomas, Batangas. The audience is also encouraged to be in costume, for they can bag a special prize for being the most creative.
            Aside from Franciscosplay, other Balagtas-related activities include marathon readings of his works at the CCP Promenade the whole afternoon. The series includes La India Elegante y el Negrito Amante on March 31 by the children from Dagdag Dunong Reading Center, a civil organization that promotes literacy; the komedya Orosman at Zafira on April 1 by members of the Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books Club; and of the Braille version of Florante at Laura on April 2 by the students of the Philippine National School for the Blind.
            In morning of Balagtas Day, April 2, National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, CCP officials and Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) director general Roberto Añonuevo will lay a wreath at his shrine in Pandacan, Manila, where the poet lived part of his life. The program will include performances by Pandacan-based Teatro Balagtas and the past winners of KWF’s Makata ng Taon, Christian Rey Pilares (2015), Louie Jon Sanchez (2006, 2009 and 2011) and Mark Anthony Angeles (2016). This will be followed by a short cultural tour of the district, called “Lakbay-Kamalaysayan,” led by Samahang Sining at Kultura ng Pilipinas.

The Opening
            Performatura Festival will open on March 31 at nine in the morning at the CCP Little Theater, where National Artist for literature Virgilio Almario, who is also the chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and KWF, will deliver a message. The opening program will also be graced by CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado and Beltran, and will have performances by Jean Ariane Flores, the winner of the seventh Maria Carpena Kundiman Song Festival; Anino Shadowplay Collective; and Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-Gapi), the ethnic music and dance ensemble of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Arts and Letters.
            The opening will also see the launch of Akdang Buhay, a project of the UP’s Institute of Creative Writing which will come out with biographies of National Artists for literature and other major Filipino writers. It will be led by writer and professor Dr. Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo.
            This will be followed by opening of the book fair of National Book Development Board (NBDB), Ex Libris: NBDB Book Fair, at the Little Theater Lobby, and will be open until six in the evening of the duration of the festival.
            The second day of the festival on April will also have an opening program in the morning called “Paghahasik” (the act of sowing) at the CCP Promenade to be graced by National Artist for literature F. Sionil Jose and highlighted by performances of Sanghabi, a group focused on the use of indigenous musical instruments, and the popularization of the Old Tagalog syllabary and Tausug dance pangalay; poet Nerisa Guevara; and Tupada Action and Media Arts (TAMA), known for “ambush” performances in public spaces.

            Festival attendees will also get a chance to hear artists talk on their crafts and interact with them in a series on Gawad CCP awardees, happening from two to three in the afternoon at the CCP’s MKP Hall for the three days. The first day will feature actress Nora Aunor, while writer Leoncio Deriada, who is a leading promoter of Western Visayan literature; and veteran screenwriter Ricardo Lee will be featured on April 1 and 2 respectively.

Learning About the Craft
            The festival also provides a venue to learn more about the different aspects of literature and performance with its “Literaturo” series, every ten-thirty in the morning until noon at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute. The sessions are “Poetry is Our Second Language” on March 31; “Bukanegan” on April 1; and “Sarsuwelang Sangang Nangabali” on April 2. Additionally, the forum “When Writing Contest has Hidden Agenda and Other Horror Stories for the Millenial Writers” and another on the rights of young writers will conducted at Silangan Hall, from nine in the morning until noon, on April 2.

Text to Screen
            At the Dream Theater, selected films will be shown at the section called “Peliteratura.” The opening day will showcase films by artists Sari Dalena—Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos (2 to 3:45 p.m.) and Komikero Chronicles (4 to 6 p.m.). Giancarlo Abrahan’s Dagitab will be shown on April 1 (2 to 4:30 p.m.) and Jim Libiran’s Tribu on April 2 (2 to 4:30 p.m.).

Knowing Cultural Roots
            Performatura will also showcase traditional literatures and performances from selected indigenous ethnic groups of the Philippines in the series called Orature Overture, held every day from three to five in the afternoon at the CCP’s Tanghalang Huseng Batute. On March 31, the Visayan folk song called balitaw will be performed in Cebuano, while the next day, T’boli chants will be performed by chanters from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Orature Overture will move to the Silangan Hall on April 2 with performance of the rajji, the Itbayaten version of the Ivatan lyric song called laji, by performers from Itbayat, Batanes.

More Performances and Readings
            During the Performatura, poet, teacher and dancer Nerisa Guevara will debut her performance art piece, Elegy 5, at the CCP Aquarium on April 1, 3 to 7 p.m.
            On the other hand, the popular spoken-word trend will be presented in the Hugot Monologues series every afternoon (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.) at the Tanghalng Huseng Batute. The title refers to the “hugot,” from the Filipino expression “may pinaghuhugutan,” which refers to emotions drawn out or extracted from past experiences, something bottled up and then let loose. Spoken-word performances have become popular in the country mostly because they focus on “hugot” that often the two—the form or format and subject—are almost one and the same.
            The first day will showcase Jann Altea, also known as Binibining Beats, from Zamboanga City, while second day will showcase Ampalaya Monologues by Theatre in Alternative Platforms, a contemporary theatre company based in southern Metro Manila. Ampalaya Monologues is TAP’s popular play composed of a series of monologues, mostly on “hugot.”
            The last day will feature Juan Miguel Severo, who is credited for being one of those who popularized recent spoken-word performances, especially with his appearances in the popular television series On the Wings of Love in 2015.
            The Women Playwrights International will mount the Never Again Script Reading session or “readathon” at the Silangan Hall, 1:30 to 4 p.m., on March 31, featuring Duyan Ka ng Magiting and Princess Lili.
            Also at same time and venue the next day, there will be a storytelling session by Pinoy Storytellers Group and MAFIA (Mars and Friends in Action), a volunteer group of mountaineers and teachers promoting the love of reading.
            Every evening, from seven to nine, poetry reading and musical numbers in a bar setting will be put up at the Trellis, Figaro area, near the CCP Asean Park. The first session of Park Poetry@Sev’s Café is called “Between Our Legs,” hosted by Kankanaey writer Dumay Solinggay (Florenda Pedro). It will feature Alab, a volunteer group of artists and cultural workers; White Wall, a poetry and performance group; hip-hop artist and rapper Abra; and Words Anonymou, a spoken-word performance group.
            Folk and rock singer-songwriter Heber Bartolome will perform on Park Poetry @ Sev’s Cafe on April 2.Billed “From North to South” and hosted by the Batutes, this session will feature the Baguio Writers Guild; Bukambibig, a group who is into multilingual poetry performance; Gunglo dagiti Mannurat nga Ilokano iti Filipinas (Gumil Filipinas), the Ilocano writers group; Nagkahiusang Magsusulaat sa Cagayan de Oro (Nagmac); and members of The Little Boy Productions from Cebu.
The last session on April 2 is titled “Kay Ka Kiko,” hosted by Cheska Lauengco of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (Lira). It will showcase The Makatas; Happy Mondays; Kilometer 64 Writers' Collective; Voltes ViM; and Lira, the group of poets in Filipino.
        Each session will have an open-mike portion for audience to participate.
        Performatura prides itself for the eclectic nature of its featured artists—from the established to the emergent, from the refined to the radical, from the traditional to the avant-garde. All of them will be gathered to celebrate literature and art and connect to audiences.
        “Not everyone can say they have performed at the CCP. It’s a privilege that National Artists and our best crafts-persons share,” said Nadera. “Now, it is an honor we are giving to those who are practicing both new and ancient forms of performance literature in the margins. Filipinos may not have heard of them, but their work is just as important.”

For more details, check the CCP Intertextual Division Facebook page or contact Markus Aserit at e-mail, telephone number 551-5959 or mobile number 0919-3175708. 

Anino Shadowplay Collective
Dumay Solinggay
Jann Altea
Jean Ariane Flores
Nora Aunor
White Wall
Words Anonymous
Leoncio Deriada
Nerisa Guevara 
Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books
Theater in Alternative Platforms
Juan Miguel Severo

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Philippines-Inspired Ramen Dish Uses Aligi

The new aligi ramen of Uma Uma
The Japanese noodle soup, ramen, has become a popular item in Metro Manila dining landscape in recent years, catching the fancy of many Filipino food lovers. It paved a way for ramen restaurants, boasting to be authentic and having culinary heritage, to open branches in the Philippines. Ramen has actually been enjoyed in many parts of the world that it is now an international dish. Inevitably, it is going to have many versions, but still retaining the qualities of its Japanese roots and why it has become so well-loved. 
If ramen has a Philippine version, what will it be? For young Japanese chef Satoshi Nakamura, a Philippines-inspired ramen is flavored with aligi, which is well-loved by many Filipinos. Aligi particularly refers to the roe of the talangka or oceanic paddler crab (Varuna litterata) but many people now just call the “fat” and roe of any crab aligi.
Nakamura is now making aligi ramen for international ramen chain Uma Uma, which is one of the latest ramen restaurants to open a branch in the Philippines, indicating that the ramen has not died down yet. 
Uma-Uma itself is an international restaurant with Japanese roots. It traces its origin to Fukuoka, Japan. Wu Maru, a ramen shop, was established in 1953. The founder’s son Masahiko Teshima took over the business in 1994 and renamed it Uma Uma Ramen, a play on the original name of the restaurant as well as a pun on the Japanese word for “tasty.” The restaurant features dishes from old family recipes as well as dishes found in most izakayas in Japan. Singapore-based food-and-beverage company Iki Concepts became involved with Uma Uma, opening branches in the Philippines
Currently, Uma Uma has ten outlets spread across Asia: five in Japan, two in Singapore, one in Thailand and two in the Philippines. Uma Uma’s first Philippine branch opened in July 2015 at the S Maison at the Conrad Manila Hotel in Pasay City. When a second one opened at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City in December 2016, they introduced the aligi ramen with other new items.  
The original menu consists of six kinds of ramen—the signature Uma Uma Ramen (chasiu, spring onions, black fungus, spicy miso and egg); the dry Tan Tan Men (sesame base, minced pork, chilli oil, white onion and egg); spicy chasiu ramen (chasiu with spicy marinade, chilli oil, spring onions, black fungus and egg); tonkotsu ramen (chasiu bits, spring onion, sesame seeds and egg); garlic ramen (chasiu, garlic oil, white onion, bean sprouts, fried shallots and egg); and Mazesoba (spring onion, bamboo shoots, chilli oil, bean sprouts, sesame seeds and onsen egg). It also offers several side dishes or appetizers.
The noodles are said to be made according to the family recipe and complemented with a robust and aromatic tonkotsu stock.
“Our broth is made from a rich mixture of pork bones, slow cooked to achieve the umami rich and robust flavor Uma Uma has come to be known for. We’re also very proud of the fact our ramen is 100-percent MSG-free, with natural flavors and proper cooking methods being adhered to in order to ensure our customers enjoy the very best that can be offered,” said Russell Yu, director of Iki Concepts Singapore.
Yu revealed that they had to tweak the flavors of their dishes for the Filipinos who like them rich, in contrast to Singaporeans who want the flavors a little toned down. He also said that all ingredients are sourced locally.
The new aligi ramen is a dry ramen dish, sweet and having an unmistakable taste of the sea. It is topped with chopped spring onions, a couple of crab cakes, egg and fried battered prawn. 
“It was in our plans to release a ramen inspired by local flavors,” Yu explained. “We have been wanting to have a seafood-based ramen dish. Aligi was one of the ingredients that caught our chef’s attention. He first did a ramen broth flavored with aligi, which was pretty good but still did not convince him as a chef. He then experimented making it as a dry ramen—which turned out to be one of the best experiments that has come out of Uma Uma Philippines’ kitchen.”
Yu said that another Uma Uma original is the Mazesoba, which was created for the Singapore restaurants but is also offered in the Philippines. Actually, it was a such hit that it has been offered also in Japan.
Along with the aligi ramen, Uma Uma also introduced new side dishes or appetizers— gyoza chips (deep-fried gyoza wrapper) with two kinds of dips, wasabi and mentai (fish roe); buttered nori corn; takoyaki; and mentai cheese balls. The extended menu also includes yakitori, which has beef, chicken thigh, tsukune (chicken balls), butabara (pork belly), cherry tomatoes and shiitake mushroom.
The new branch at the second floor of Uptown Parade, a strip of restaurants, can seat about 60 people and exudes a casual ambiance. Actually, half of the restaurant is a bar, the Horse’s Mouth, harking back to ramen’s origin as an accompaniment to drinks. 

Uma Uma Ramen’s new branch is at the second floor of Uptown Parade, 8th Avenue corner 38th Street, Bonifacio Global City. It is open from 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. from Sunday to Thursday, and 11 A.M. to 2 A.M. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit You can also visit Uma Uma Ramen (@umaumaph) on Facebook and Instagram.

The newly-opened Uma Uma Ramen branch at the Uptown Parade of BGC

Uma Uma Ramen's new side dishes
Gyoza chips and buttered nori corn
Gyoza chips with wasabi and mentai dips
Uma Uma Ramen's Tan Tan Men
The signature Uma Uma Ramen

Uma Uma Ramen's chef Satoshi Nakamura and Russell Yu, director of Iki Concepts Singapore

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Worn Identities

Second skin, I remember one fashion designer described fashion and clothing. And like skin, clothing or attire serves a very practical purpose—as protection against the elements and the everyday assaults of the environment, as comfort from weather when it gets unpleasant, as a form of hygiene. But unlike skin, attire is changeable to suit situations, needs and even whims of the wearers. But attire is also an extension of the self and the society, reflecting culture, aesthetics and tastes, and thus in one way also an extension of the soul. Attire is one of the ways to express identity and to show identification with a group.
Aside from its practical uses, attire, especially the traditional ones, has been one of the most important means of artistic expressions among ethnic groups in the Philippines. Aside from indicating social status, gender and religion in a community, attire also makes manifest the native aesthetics, reflecting sensibility to colors and patterns, penchant for certain designs, and interpretations of everyday life as well as spiritual beliefs.
With more than eighty indigenous groups, there are as much traditional attires, resplendent in their colors, determined by the groups’ preference or their environments, and rich with embellishments, signifying the innate desire to make things beautiful as well as meaningful.
Traditional attire, like the cultures they belong to, is constantly evolving, adopting from other cultures as well as adapting to the times, but often these adopted elements are altered according to the native sense of beauty.  
Attire has become a mark of ethnic identity, and perhaps the most obvious and attractive one. With traditional attire, one declares his/her oneness with his/her own people, taking pride in the artistry and heritage that the attire so much holds.
Get a glimpse of different Philippine traditional attires from three indigenous groups—the Kalinga from Luzon, the Panay-Bukidnon from the Visayas, and the Blaan from Mindanao.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Native Mindanao Textiles Add Colors to Cotabato City's Shariff Kabunsuan Festival

From December 15 to 19, 2016, Cotabato City in the province of Maguindanao celebrated the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival, which the city in southwestern Mindanao has held for over a decade now. Although less grand than several festivals in the Philippines, the celebration had all the components considered de-rigueur in Philippine festivals, such as a fair, a street-dancing parade and shows, even fashion events.
        Despite its name, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival is, in most parts, a secular event. It also has been consciously imbued with Mindanaoan cultures with nods to Muslim culture, being in a region of the Philippines where Muslims a have higher concentration than the rest of the country.  
The festival is named for Shariff Kabunsuan, or Shariff Muhammed Kabungsuwan or Muhammad Kebungsuwan, widely considered as the one who introduced Islam to mainland Mindanao, which is now the faith of about eleven percent of Filipinos, mostly in the Mindanao area. He is said to arrive in late sixteenth century, an Arab-Malay missionary from Johore, and land on the banks of the Masla Pulangi, now known as Rio Grande de Mindanao. According to local accounts, Shariff Kabunsuan established himself as a sultan in Malabang in what is now Lanao del Sur and married Maguindanao princess Paramisuli of Dulawan.
One of the highlights of the festival is the regular re-enactment of his landing on the banks of Rio Grande de Mindanao, which snakes across the city. This year, a grand parade on December 19 ushered in the re-enactment, which saw gaily decorated boats traversing the river in a fluvial parade. It culminated in a grand pagana or communal feasting.
The city also held a contest on the making of small guinakits, the local term for “boat,” and the entries, eye-catching and with flags like bright colorful spews fluttering in the wind, adorned the city hall grounds in the duration of the festival.
A bazaar was put up as well as a cooking competition and a sports event but the night shows at the city plaza were more interesting. Traditional musics and dances were performed by several ethnic groups of Mindanao such as the Teduray, Meranaw, Maguindanao, Tausug and Yakan.
The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition was held on December 18 where two groups competed, showing the cultures of the peoples of Maguindanao. The group of students from North Upi in Maguindanao was declared champion.
What made the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival more interesting that year was the Bangala Fashion Fair, an international fashion and textile event organized by the Department of Tourism Region 12 and the local government unit of Cotabato City, in collaboration with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, Mindanao Development Authority and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It showcased a culture that is more ancient than the arrival of Shariff Kabunsuan.
The Bangala, which is a Maguindanao term for “attire” or “dress,” had several events a fashion show, an exhibit, a photo competition, and a heritage forum. It is part of the promotion of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asean Growth Areas), and thus saw some participation from the involved countries.
In the past, the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival had a fashion and textile event such as the Inaul Fashion Showcase, which was mounted for several years. It featured the hand-woven textile of the Maguindanao. The fashion and textile event last year was wider in scope.
The Bangala Fashion Show on December 15 was held at the newly-opened City Mall Cotabato City and featured Muslim fashion, particularly the hijab. They invited hijab-wearing women who have become on social networking site Instagram. The hijabis were Dian Pelangi and Indah Nadah Puspita from Indonesia, Shea Rasol and Dayah Bakar from Malaysia and Ammarah Dumama from Cotabato City, and they were dubbed as the hijab ambassadress. The hijabis brought their collections to be showcased in the fashion show.
        Less showy but more intriguing was Bangala Fashion Fair exhibit at Al-Nor Activity Center.
Curated by Leonard Rey Carino, the exhibit featured the traditional hand-woven textiles of several Mindanao ethnic groups. This was complemented by a forum discussing Mindanao textile-making traditions.
The exhibit was beautifully crafted with sections made to look like portions of bamboo-made traditional houses on stilts. Lovely hand-woven textiles were draped all-over the place. Hand-woven fabrics of the Mandaya, Bagobo Manobo and Subanen were on display. At the each section, there were actual weavers going through the weaving process in their traditional attires, some of them respected masters. 
The Yakan weavers from Lamitan, Basilan, were Nur-aiza Atalan, Kijong Atalan, Vilma Ausalin and Ambalang Ausalin, who is known as the best weaver of Yakan cloth. They brought with them the intricate and colorful seputangan, a head covering for women, and the pis, head covering for men.
Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato, demonstrated the making of the mabal tabih of the Blaan, a textile of abaca fibers dyed in the ikat technique. Tboli weavers Sima Mensun Bantal and Barbara Mensun Ofong from Lamdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, showcased their t’nalak, also of abaca fibers and using the ikat technique.
Saida Abdurrahman Taher, Sambai Macaraya and Noraya Usman from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, represented the Meranaw weavers, known for the brightly-colored tubular skirt landap. Sittie Dumacil of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, showed how to weave the Maguindanao inaul.

For a few days, at a quiet part of a mall, these weavers kept alive dying crafts, fashioning age-old patterns of colors and designs of their peoples with their patient hands.

"Colors of Cotabato" show at the city plaza

The Kuyog Street Dancing Competition

The "Bangala" exhibit at the Al-Nor Acitivity Center
Different Mindanao textiles -- Maguindanao and Meranaw
Blaan, Bagobo Manobo, Suban-on, Tboli and Mandaya textiles

Yakan weaver Ambalang Ausalin from Lamitan, Basilan
Inabal of the Bagobo Manobo
Mabal tabih of the Blaan of South Cotabato and Sarangani

Blaan weavers Lamina D. Gulili and Myrna M. Sarino from Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato

Maguindanao weaver Sittie Dumacil from the town of Sultan Kudarat 
A Mandaya dagmay 

Meranaw landap
A Meranaw weaver from Marawi City
A Suban-on textile
A Tboli weaver from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato