Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rituals and Relations: The Fifth Tam-awan International Arts Festival

Group from Mountain Province performs the Bontoc ritual senga
At the Tam-awan Village in Baguio City, smoke mingled with mountain mist, rising up in the air and being punctured by the needles of pine trees that surrounded the area. Water was boiling in a large kawa over crackling wood fire. The ground was soaked in blood. A pig had been slaughtered and its innards were laid out on a table. A couple of men seemed to examine the liver. The others, most of them old men, were chanting. The pig was cut up, shared to the participants and cooked in the kawa. The men came from the Mountain Province, led by Daniel Dalislis and Bida Langao, to perform the senga, a ritual to ward off or appease spirits that cause illnesses. It is said to be also performed during weddings, reunions and other celebratory events as well as during death anniversaries, when acquiring a property and upon finishing a construction of a house.

Mountain Province group performing the Bontoc ritual senga
       Later in the day, Ibaloy youths performed the rituals of their ancestors at the art village’s performance area. One was called tayaw ni temmo. Their leader explained to those in attendance: “It is a ceremony performed to avoid or cure insanity. At the center is a carved head of a humanlike figure being cursed by the tayaw chanter believed to be the absorber of insanity. The head of a sacrificial animal—the dog—is held by the tayaw dancer. It is also believed to be the fighter of insanity because of its characteristics. The music is fast beating.” 
Ibaloy group before a performance

Ibaloy group performs a ritual dance

Benguet governor joins in

A few more indigenous rituals were performed from different parts of the Philippines. After highlighting faith, indigenous textile making, traditional as well as modern wine-making, and tattoo and other ornamentations, the Tam-awan International Arts Festival (TIAF) featured rituals in its fifth mounting from May 7 to 11, 2014, with the theme “Cordilleran Stories: Rituals and Beliefs.”
Aside from actual rituals, TIAF’s lineup of activities included performances, talks, exhibits and workshops, all held at the Tam-awan Village, an artists’ village, art space and tourist attraction in Pinsao Proper in Baguio City, the economic and educational hub of the Cordillera Region, which is also a major tourist destination with active artist communities. The festival is run by the Chanum Foundation, which manages the artists’ village, with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and other agencies.
TIAF has always been held with a cañao, the well-known Cordilleran ritual to ask for blessings, where a pig is butchered. This year, more rituals were performed. Aside from the tayaw ni temmo, the Ibaloy group presented the tayaw ni batbat, where, according to its leader, “the male dancer is holding a piece of wood used in the ceremony called posang while the female dancer is holding a karing, a brass bracelet. The two dancers are representing their ancestors through this dance.” They also performed the bindiyan, the most famous of Ibaloy dances. Different dances from different parts of the Cordillera were performed throughout the festival by Tam-awan’s in-house dance group.
The Visayas were represented by the Panay Bukidnon. Elsie Padernal, a teacher from Calinog, Iloilo, presented the panimo, performed before consuming newly harvested rice to avoid illness bestowed by dead family members and relatives, as well as delivered a talk on Panay Bukidnon rituals.
A sample of Mindanao ritual was performed by Datu Linggi Inhagdan Modesto Pocol, chieftain of Tulugan, Masicampo and Inanay in Bukidnon—the Higaonon panulakon, which asks for peace. Pocol also gave a talk on Higaonon beliefs concerning god, spirits, nature and man.
The rituals were selected for their nature—those fomenting positivity, and expressing thanksgiving and praise—as well as those allowed to be performed in public and to be recorded in film. While it is advisable that rituals must be performed and observed in situ and in proper context, there is also a necessity to bring some rituals to other places for people, especially those who cannot travel, to witness and understand, with the permission of the cultural communities to which the rituals belong. Padernal indicated that many cultural communities also have a desire to share this cultural aspect to other peoples.
According to NCCA legal counsel and heritage advocate Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles, “We found out the cultural communities themselves are so much willing to tell us who they are, what their traditions are, and to impart this knowledge to us. It isn’t actually consent; it’s actually a willingness in their part, in fact, a celebratory willingness to tell us who they are so that we can understand them.”
Talks mostly revolved around rituals as well as beliefs such as South African ambassador Agnes Nyamande-Pitso’s on her country’s rituals and beliefs. A returning guest, the ambassador underscored the similarities between South African and Philippine indigenous rituals, and she said she was surprised how there are more commonalities than differences. 

Press conference and "kapihan" on the first day of the festival

South African ambassador gives a talk on her country's rituals.

Lawyer Alfonso Aroco of Kabayan, Benguet, tackled Ibaloy oral tradition, particularly stories about Mount Pulag, a popular destination for climbers and tourists. For the old Ibaloy, the mountain, the third highest in the country, is sacred, home to ancestral spirits and gateway to the spirit world. On the other hand, former Benguet vice governor Wasing Sacla of Kibungan, Benguet, enlightened the audience on Kankana-ey belief system and home rituals, particularly the kinds and roles of spirits as well as the deities. Ventura Bitot of Mountain Province delivered “Traditional Prayers in Relation to Literature towards Performing Arts” and told the Bontoc legend of Lumawig through a video.
Other topics revolved around heritage, May being National Heritage Month—American heritage conservation projects in the Philippines by United States Embassy cultural affairs officer Kristin Kneedler; the saga of the mummy Apo Anno by chemical engineer and conservationist Orlando Abinion of the National Museum; and preservation of the Ifugao culture and heritage in the modern time by Ifugao congressman Teodoro Brawner Baguilat, Jr.
Tangible cultural heritage was further highlighted with the exhibit “Kisame: Visions of Heaven on Earth” of the Ayala Museum. It was first mounted in 2008 as part of the celebration of the National Heritage Month, and was brought to Tam-awan’s Village Gallery with curator Ken Esguerra and Fr. Harold Toralba. The exhibit was about the old ceiling paintings of the churches of Bohol, which have the finest church paintings in the country, most of them by Cebuano painters Raymundo Francia and Canuto Avila. Some reproductions were mounted on the ceiling to approximate the feeling of looking up at illustrated church ceilings. The exhibit also drew attention to the fact that many of these ceiling paintings were damaged during the earthquake of October 15, 2013, which severely affected many heritage churches in Bohol, and the efforts of salvaging what are left. Being toured around, it now also serves as a fundraising venture for the rehabilitation of the churches.
The "Kisame" exhibit
Rituals, art and heritage all have stories, and they were told here with the kindling of fire, the sound of gongs and the splashes of colors. All are vital in the formation of identity as a people.
The purposes of the festival were manifold as much as its activities, such as providing ways for people, particularly the youths, to appreciate the arts as well as indigenous cultures, and facilitating understanding and camaraderie among artists, international and local. It is also a venue to showcase Cordilleran artistry and cultures. Organizers estimated visitors to be about 2,500, including tourists; guest artists from Pampanga, Sarangani, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Batanes, Abra, Romblon, Laguna and Manila; and students and teachers from schools in the Cordilleras.
They were involved in an array of art and cultural activities such as workshops hosted by the Tam-awan Village artists on mask making, water color and coffee painting, mono print design, bamboo carving and solar drawing; a display of different Cordilleran flutes, which visitors were allowed to play; an exhibition and demonstration of the Kalinga nose flute; performances by groups from Cordilleran schools and guest artists; and an exhibit of heirloom pieces from Abra at the Bugnay Gallery.
A body painting session
Tam-awan Village added a new component this year, the outreach program, hoping to inspire budding artists and reach out to other parts of the country. The TIAF Art Caravan started in Corcuera, Romblon, in February, where the Tam-Awan Village Artists (TVA) had a series of workshops for the local artists and children. TVA president Jordan Mang-osan particularly taught a solar drawing, which he is known for. About a hundred elementary and high school students were also taught the importance of art and galleries. In Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, in April, the TVA artists shared a glimpse of how art can become a catalyst for change. TVA artist Edwin Macadaeg showed how to use sand as an art material, indicating that artistic expression need not be expensive. The caravan ended in Lazi, Siquijor, in the last week of May.
The TIAF in Baguio seemed to serve as culmination, where a shaft of sunlight pierced through the gossamer ribbons of smoke from a raging fire to cook a sacrificial pig and was caught by the magnifying glass of an artist, the burn marks carefully guided to make an image of Cordilleran in ritual dance on dry bamboo; where people appreciated contemporary artistic expressions and age-old traditions side by side, realizing how they both are vessels for cultural knowledge, sustenance for the soul, and light for the future.

The Tam-awan Village

An Ifugao hut in Tam-awan Village

Pine trees at one of higher points in Tam-awan Village

One of the sculptures and installations in Tam-awan Village

Cordillera musical instruments

Tam-awan Village Cafe

Tam-awan Village's in-house dance group

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Grand Fiesta in Quezon City

             In recent years, the Maginhawa Street area in Quezon City has been the toast of foodies. Quaint cafes and restaurants with interesting concepts as well as good food and intriguing offerings have sprouted along the two-kilometer street, which stretches from UP Village and Teachers Village to Sikatuna Village in the district of Diliman, and its environs, drawing not only students and teachers from nearby universities such as the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Ateneo de Manila University but also food enthusiasts all over Metro Manila. 
            It was just a quiet neighborhood that you pass through going to UP or to Commonwealth Avenue, recalled Marge Santos-Roa, executive director of the staff of Speaker of the House of Representatives Feliciano Sonny Belmonte Jr., a mayor of Quezon City from 2001 to 2010, and a Krus na Ligas resident who frequently passed by the area.
            About six decades ago, the area was an empty tract of land, remembered amateur historian and former councilor of the city Alberto Galarpe. Presently head of the Liquor Licensing and Regulatory Board of the Quezon City government, he made a short report on the history of the area: One big project of the Philippine government to honor and benefit the teachers of government schools was the conversion of a vast tract of land bounded by East Avenue, Elliptical Road and Kamias Road as the Teachers Village in Diliman. It was developed by the Peoples Homesite and Housing Corporation in 1954. All roads in the village were named after the virtues and moral values of teachers such as Maaralin, Mapang-akit, Mahinhin, Malumanay, Masikap, Madasalin, Marunong, Maginhawa, etc. The national government through the PHHC developed the place as a housing project for teachers. However, it only awarded lots to teachers and government employees interested in the project. The Teachers Village is now considered a prime and fully developed community near the city hall with hospitals, schools, government and private offices, hotels and restaurants existing in a commercial area.
            Santos-Roa remembered Nanettes Snack Haus, which was known for its version of the burrito, being the first eatery to open along Maginhawa Street. She said that in 2009 or 2010, the food scene began to blossom. Now, there are numerous eateries operating in the area, most which are endemic, including Pino, Breakfast and Pies, Cool Beans Café, The Snack Shack, Burger Hub, Stuff Over Burger Café, Friuli Trattoria, Cocina Juan, Crazy Katsu, Gayuma ni Maria, Van Gogh is Bipolar, Don Day Korean Restaurant, Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace, The Breakfast Table, Leona Art Restaurant, Nuezca Café, Roberta Flavors of Asia, Sancho Churreria Manila, The Sweet Spot, The Iscreamist, Allys All-Day Breakfast, and Frosted Desserts.
            The city government of Quezon City has been planning to make the Maginhawa food strip a tourist destination, and it may well start with the food festival happening on October 11, 2014. Santos-Roa is heading the event, which is one of the highlights of the diverse line-up of activities and events for the 75th anniversary of Quezon Citys cityhood on October 12. According to her, the whole Maginhawa Street will be closed off to traffic, and people will be encouraged to walk the whole stretch. They are hoping to gather all of the restaurants in area, which will offer free samples, and the feel will be a veritable Filipino fiesta. Other activities will be mounted such as cooking demonstrations and live entertainment so that people will not be bored or get daunted walking the stretch of the street. Additionally, Quezon City Food Festival commemorative plates will be given to visitors.
            Joining the festival is another Quezon City district, long popular for a certain kind of food La Loma, which has several restaurants and stores selling the popular spit-roasted pig, the lechon. It will mount a boodle fight on Dona Manuela Street featuring 75 lechons for everyone to partake.
            The Quezon City Food Festival on Maginhawa Street is also an attempt to project Quezon City as a food hub of Metro Manila. The city actually has two milestones in recent Philippine culinary history. Jollibee, the countrys most successful fast-food chain, opened its first restaurant, an ice cream parlor then, in Cubao. Also, the popular Maxs Restaurant originates in Quezon City, on Roces Avenue in Kamuning. Named after owner Maximiano Jimenez, the first restaurant opened in 1946, serving fried chicken to the United States Army Liberation Forces encamped there.
            Any of the Maginahawa restaurants has the potential to be a well-loved and well-established dining haven. One day, we tried five Hillcrest Wellness Café, Roasterrific!, Jeks Ku-bo, RBys Steak and Shake, and Snow Crème which will be participating at the Quezon City Food Festival.

Hillcrest Wellness Café
            Located at the ground level of a small building at 48 Malingap Street, one of the side streets of Maginhawa Street, Hillcrest Wellness Café basically offers coffees, shakes, sandwiches, pastas, crepes and desserts, all declared to healthy. One of the owners, Baptist pastor Reuel Tica, said the café is about wellness both of the body and spirit.
            For the body because everything on the menu is healthy shakes, chicken, teas, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables. All the sweeteners are made from coconuts rather than white refined sugar, explained Tim Kennedy, the American senior director of corporate social responsibility of Hillcrest Wellness Cafe and a missionary at the Hillcrest Family Life Baptist Church, the café’s partner whose headquarter is across the street. Wellness of the mind is seen in the atmosphere. Deep and beautiful art hangs on the walls to fill your eyes; gentle music fills your ears; over 150 quotes from around the world to fill your mind. The staff here is more than friendly; they will love you and listen to you.
            Kennedy came to the Philippines for missionary work but stayed behind after falling in love with the country, though there are several things that he cant get used to like the temperature. The opening of Hillcrest Wellness Café came as a blessing.
            I love the Philippines, however, it sure is nice to have a cafe just like home right around the corner, he said. The air is set to 28 Celsius from 7 A.M., when they open, to 1 A.M., when they close. They offer a strong Wi-Fi connection for free, great for UP students to kick back, chill out and study. Honestly, I find myself spending more and more time here. So if you see an American sitting at the Hillcrest Café, stop and say, hi.’”
            Like he said, Hillcrest Wellness Café is cozy. Artworks decorate the walls. Evangelical books line the shelves by the entrance, including Pat Robertsons, which can be uncomfortable and off-putting, remembering how he broadcast hateful and misinformed statements about the LGTBQ people. It may be better to concentrate on the food.
            Coffee is sourced from the Cordillera region, which they make into concoctions such as Coco Macchiato (P140 to P150) with coconut syrup and Moringaccino (P120 to P130), cappuccino with malunggay (moringa). Wellness shakes include the refreshing Berzinger (P130 to P160), which is a blend of green apple, cucumber and ginger, and the Moringanana (P145 to P165), which is a fusion of malunggay and banana. For a meal, try the pasta dishes herb pesto (P190), chicken pesto (P220), beef and tomato (P180) and tuna aglio olio (P200) or the sandwiches tuna tortillia (P160), chicken sandwich (P165) and foccasiadilla (P145). For dessert, their crepes, priced at P185, pair two ingredients/flavors: banana mango, strawberry banana and apple cinnamon.
            To cover the wellness aspect on all sides, Tica said the dishes are prepared with love and even prayed over. Also, part of the café’s proceeds goes to charities and ministries, which means you are helping out by eating here.

Hillcrest Wellness Cafe on Malingap Street

Beef tomato pasta
Chicken pesto pasta
        From the heavenly, heres something definitely sinful! But Valerie Chow contends that their lechon is healthy. She and her brother Jeff own and manage Roasterrific! on 152 Maginhawa Street in Sikatuna Village, and their most popular item is the Roasted Heb-a-licious Lechon.
        Valerie said the recipe was passed down from her grandmother, who used to cook the whole pig in a pugon, a brick or stone oven. Now, they use the modern oven, which is healthier. Also, the lechon is healthier because it is not fried but cooked in its own oil.
        The twice-roasted lechon is described to be a combination of the Cebu lechon and Ilocos bagnet, served chopped, sprinkled with herbs including minced lemongrass, and with rice and an addicting, homemade sweetish brown sauce, which has a spicy version. If the sauce becomes cloying, you can dip the pork in vinegar, which refreshes the palate. Perfectly roasted, it is one of the best pork dishes I have tasted!
        With a passion for food, Valerie started out and still participates in food markets and bazaars such as the Mezza Norte at the Trinoma Mall, where she sells roasted chicken, roasted liempo and Japanese lobster balls. Aside from the lechon, Roasterrific! also serves Peking-style roasted chicken, grilled liempo, pancit canton, chopseuy with lechon, daing na bangus (smoked milkfish), pork and fish sisig, hickory pork rib fingers and pork barbecue.
        Roasterrific! will soon open a stall at the food court of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. For orders and inquiries, call 881-6088 or 0923-7009716, or email at
Roasted Herb-a-licious Lechon!

Roasterrific! owner Valerie Chow

Jeks Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo
        Maginhawa residents coming home from work too tired or too lazy to cook pass by Jeks Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo on 77 Maginhawa Street in UP Village and take home a meal. Jeks Ku-bo is also popular with students who want good home-cooked food in a turo-turo place.
        Like many restaurants in the area, Jeks Ku-bo is a home converted into a dining place. The bungalow can accommodate about 50 diners. The front porch is converted into an alfresco dining area. When there are many customers, they can be accommodated in the garage.
        The restaurant is named after the owner, Jessica Frayco, popularly called Jek, a barangay councilor who is a resident since 1967, and Kuya Boy, Jeks brother who helped her start the business, which opened on May 12, 2012.
        The home-cooked dishes are laid out in a glass counter, where diners can point out the dishes they want. Menu changes every day, said Frayco, but there are mainstays, the favorites of diners, which include the bulalo (P150), the sinigang na ulo ng salmon (P130), salpicao (P95), adobo flakes (P80), Vigan longganisa (P80), tapa (P80) and daing na bangus (P80). On some days, they serve kare-kare, Bicol Express, dinuguan, pork binagoongan, chicken curry, callos, pork sisig, fried tawilis, fried catfish and dishes of vegetables in season.
        For orders and inquiries, call 434-7362.
Jek's Ku-bo Bulalo at Ulo-ulo

Pork binagoongan
Owner Jessica Frayco with son Miguel
Fried tawilis
Sinigang na ulo ng salmon

RBys Steak and Shake
        Wedged between small restaurants which were apartment units, RBys Steak and Shake is owned by sisters Rowena Zapata-Vera and Bernadette Zapata-Acuña, thus the name. Zapata-Vera has stayed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and decided to bring here its iconic regional fast food, the Philadelphia cheesesteak or the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. They use grilled sirloin beef in seven-inch Italian roll and garnished with caramelized onion and cheese. The classic variety, which uses cheese spread, goes for P160, while the hoagie (with American cheese, lettuce and tomato) sells for P190, relatively cheaper that other restaurants, apt for their clientele composed mostly of students.
        Decidedly American fast-food in concept and offerings, RBys Steak and Shake also sells burgers, hotdogs and milkshakes. The steak burgers, with seven varieties, are made with 100 percent lean ground beef. A favorite is the KnockOut Steak Burger (P195), a quarter pounder with bacon, fried onions, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato. RBys take pride in their specialty shakes (P165), which has 12 flavorsbanoffee, choco hazelnut, Rockin Rocky Road, Oreo cookies and cream, choco peppermint, salted caramel pretzel, tiramisu, strawberry cheesecake, choco mallows, strawberry-banana, nutty caramel, and choco Chips Ahoy.
        RBys is at 152-A Maginhawa Street. Call 0917-3159481 or 966-2798, or visit Web site
RBy's Steak and Shake
KnockOut Steak Burger

Pink lemonade

Snow Creme
            In a building with mostly food joints at the corner of Maginhawa Street and Makadios Street, Snow Crème offers Taiwan desserts, drinks and light snacks. The restaurant is owned by architect Bryan Kho and Michelle, who are newlyweds. A trip to Taiwan inspired Snow Crème, whose main offerings are flavored and milk teas and smoothies in myriad flavors. An interesting item is the shaved ice dessert, smooth and delicious, which is topped with different ingredients such as grass jelly, chewy taro, sweetened beans, diced fruits, sweet potato balls, mocha balls, rainbow crystals and coffee jelly, and drizzled with purees and syrups, reminiscent of halo-halo. The shaved ice, which is light as feather, is the best alternative from the heavy desserts like cakes and pies.
Snow Crème is at Unit 2A, 189 Maginhawa Street corner Makadios Street. E-mail at