Friday, November 27, 2009

The National Artist Awards Controversy: Answering the Protests

Following is an executive brief on the issue of the National Artists awards controversy, from the Office of the Solitor General, in response to the issues raised by the protesters.

Experts and peers no matter how good, do not for a nation make. In a representative democracy, there are but a few times when the people directly express their sentiments as a nation – during elections, when they choose a leader; and in times of war, when they defend their country.

In times of peace and in a democracy, the nation’s views, hopes, ideals, and opinions are expressed through their leaders. The President carries with her the mandate of the Nation.

On the issue that there was grave abuse of discretion in disregarding the results of the NCCA-CCP deliberation and that the exercise of the President’s discretion cannot be exercised to defeat the recommendation of the CCP-NCCA board.

The President did NOT abuse her discretion and did not disregard the NCCA-CCP Boards’ vetting process which is only a preliminary phase of a two pronged process receiving and vetting nomination to recommend to the President. The third stage fully rests with the President for the determination of the proclamation of the award with an eventual formal conferment ceremony in Malacañan :

The award of the Order of National Artist is the exclusive prerogative of the President.

- To sustain petitioner’s argument that the president cannot grant the award to someone not recommended by the NCCA-CCP Boards is a patent contradiction to the Petitioners previous pronouncements pertaining to the Power of the President as the final arbiter with regard to the selection process of National Artists.

- In 1997, the NCCA-CCP Boards, in the minutes of their meetings dated November 6, 1997 and December 4, 1997 signed by now protesting national artists such as Virgilio Almario, Eddie Romero, Felipe de Leon, Jr., son of the late national artist, and some CCP officials, affirmed that the President could appoint those not recommended by the respective boards and could in fact ignore the list submitted by the NCCA-CCP Boards. To wit:

“c. The two Boards concluded that it is within the President’s prerogative to create new categories as well as declare awardees without the benefit of passing through a formal selection process” (November 6, 2007; NCCA Minutes of the Regular Commission Meeting, page 3)


“It was emphasized that the NCCA Commissioners and the CCP Trustees acknowledge the authority and prerogative of the President of the Philippines to create National Artist categories, to disapprove recommendations made to him by the NCCA and CCP, or to designate National Artists on his own initiative.” (last paragraph, page 2; December 4, 1997; NCCA Minutes of the Regular Commission Meeting)

- Clearly, from these meetings since 1997, there was a consensus and unanimity acknowledging Presidential authority and prerogative to select and proclaim National Artists.

- Granting that the two boards have expertise in matters pertaining to culture and the arts, the fact remains that their power is limited to what the law provides. And since, the limit of their legal mandate is to give advice, they cannot arrogate to themselves the power of the President to make the final authoritative decision in conferring the award.

- President Ramos awarded artists not recommended by the NCCA-CCP Boards while creating a new category: historical literature given to Carlos Quirino. Likewise, President Joseph Estrada awarded Andrea Veneracion and Ernani Cuenco who were not recommended by the NCCA-CCP Boards. Petitioners ADMIT these facts in Footnote 1 to Paragraph 5.1 of the Petition subsequently President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in exercise of her prerogative without recommendation from CCP-NCCA award-winning harmonist – short story writer proclaimed as National Artistt, Dr. Alejandro R. Roces and Abdulmari Asia Imao in 2006, in fact, the first Muslim sculptor to be so honored.

- The entire melodrama of protest which has brought us to the case at bar, was maliciously conjured up as a media magnet of hitting the President and unleashing a smear and vilification campaign against the persona of the 2009 National Artists.

- The issue asserted by the petitioners with respect to the President’s prerogative in the awarding of the Order of National Artist is Based on RA 7356 and EO 236, as well as EO 435, the NCCA-CCP boards ADVISE the President in the conferment of the award of the Order of National Artist. The power to give advice is persuasive in character but NOT binding upon the party to whom it is made. The case of Cojuangco vs. Palma (462 SCRA 310 (2005) is definitive as to what comprises the power to advise.

- Ultimately, the recommendation letter of the NCCA-CCP Boards is merely persuasive and NOT binding on the President, hence she had the legitimate and legal discretion to confer the award not only to those endorsed by the CCP-NCCA Board but also to those recommended by the Honors Committee, or even those artists brought to the attention by legitimate third parties to the President for her discernment. Therefore, the petitioner’s prayer should not be granted because they are estopped from further questioning the President’s proclamation of 2009 National Artists due to their previous acquiescence to the principle of Presidential prerogative. In July 29, this year the Proclamations of the National Artists have been officially announced by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in media and subsequently issued to the honorees. Their protest through their petition filed in August 19 is therefore must and acadme.

There is no CONFLICT OF INTEREST or any other legal impediment to award Private Respondent Cecile Guidote-Alvarez with the award.

- Private respondent Guidote Alvarez was proclaimed a National Artist by the President in exercise of her prerogative. Section 11 of RA 7356 (the act creating the NCCA) only prohibits NCCA Commissioners from receiving grants and awards from the NCCA. The Order of the National Artist is NOT a grant or financial aid from the NCCA, it is a presidential award, hence private respondent Guidote Alvarez is NOT barred from receiving the same. She has never applied for any private grant for herself.

- The issue asserted by petitioners with regard to the violation of the NCCA Law’s provision is a misinterpretation which should not be given credence or due course. In the case at hand, the National Artist Award is granted and conferred upon awardees by the Office of the President started in 1972. Hence, it is not an award created by the NCCA Board which started to exist only in 1992 to which the prohibition applies. NCCA and CCP have their own special awards. They have conceived and executed with their respective criteria such as the NCCA Haraya Award and the Gawad CCP Award among others.

- Neither can a legal impediment be gathered from the Guidelines for the National Artist Award promulgated by the NCCA-CCP Boards in Section 6.5 which states that “NCCA and CCP board members and consultants and NCCA and CCP Officers and staff are automatically disqualified from being nominated.”

These are merely internal guidelines issued by the NCCA-CCP boards themselves and is only limited to the internal deliberations of the NCCA and CCP boards. Consistent with this, the NCCA-CCP boards did not nominate or deliberate upon respondent Guidote-Alvarez.

Verily, the office of the Solicitor General explained the internal rule of the CCP-NCCA is unrelated or impertinent to the proclamation by the President of Cecile Guidote-Alvarez as a National Artist. She was not nominated during the CCP-NCCA process where she was involved as the head of the coordinating secretariat. She also did not participate in the Honors Committee deliberation where she was nominated by no less than Ramon Magsaysay awardee and Congressional Medal of Merit Awardee Fr. James B. Reuter, SJ, National Artist Dr. Alejandro Roces and Senator Edgardo Angara among others. Corollarily, the President’s proclamation of Alvarez is not unprecedented. The late Carlos P. Romulo was declared National Artist during his incumbency as Secretary of Foreign Affairs primus interpares in the cabinet by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Private respondent Guidote-Alvarez was nominated and vetted under the Committee on Honors’ evaluation process. Thus there was no violation of the guidelines.

- Evidently, private respondent Cecile Guidote-Alvarez was NOT nominated through the NCCA-CCP process, but through the Honors Committee as provided for in EO 236. Hence, there was no conflict of interest or other impediment on private respondent to be proclaimed by the President as a National Artist. At no time did private respondent sit on any board or panel to deliberate on her nomination by third parties to be recognized with the National Artist Award.

Private respondents extensive achievements qualify them to be National Artists

Private respondents have accomplished a number of far reaching achievements through the years that enhance the culture heritage of the Filipino people deserving recognition and acknowledgment of our government. They are renowned in their chosen fields. Bobby Manosa pioneered a distinctive Filipino Architecture through the use of Indigenous materials; Pitoy Moreno is dubbed as Asia’s Fashion Czar; Carlo J. Caparas is the King of Comics, known for his voluminous work of graphic novels and its characters that have been transformed into TV and film forming part of Filipino Modern Culture in his efforts to revive the comics industry; and Cecile Guidpte-Alvarez, is the youngest Filipina to have received the Ramon Magsaysay Outstanding Asian Award as PETA Founder linking Philippine Theatre to the international arena since 1972 and has been hailed as the 1st UNESCO Artist for Peace Awardee from our country in 2003 with a subsequent honors of a Congressional Medal of Merit. Even during her exile, 1973 to 1986 she merited the UN Human Rights Day Award for Theatrical innovation by the Fund of Free Expression while providing cultural services to Filipinos abroad. She received accolades for her production of a Third World Liturgy for the UN Year of the Child as a “masterwork of a master third world woman artist,” by the villagers receiving an Outstanding Political Theatre Award of Off-Broadway for her PETAL presentation at the world famous La MaMa Theatre. Her work on radio or TV Balintataw has been singled out by CNN as a “Soap Opera for Social Change.

The NCCA-CCP Boards themselves admitted the exclusive prerogative of the President to award the title of National Artist.

The letter of the NCCA-CCP Boards reveals that they did not intend to bind the president to their advice and that the same was merely recommendatory in nature. The letter states clearly that: “We are respectfully submitting a recommendation…”

THUS, The NCCA-CCP Boards conceded:

(a) the authority and prerogative of the President of the Philippines to create National Artist Categories;

(b) to disapprove recommendations made to him by the NCCA and CCP; and

(c) to designate National Artists on his own initiative.

Indubitably therefore, the President was well within her legal powers when she conferred the award of private respondents in recognizing their outstanding contribution to the enrichment of our nation’s cultural life.

The president took notice of the NCCA-CCP Boards’ recommendation in conjunction with that of the Honors Committee.

- The arguments presented by the petitioners are unavailing. The fact that of the 4 artists recommended by the NCCA-CCP Boards the President awarded 3 shows that the NCCA-CCP boards’ recommendation was duly considered by the President. The CCP-NCCA Board likewise failed to fill up or nominate artists for the following disciplines: architecture, fashion, theatre while comics was a new component discussed. The 4th candidate of CCP-NCCA board on music is still under validation because of other nominees that have entered into the President’s sphere of attention. It just happened that the Honors committee also made certain recommendations based on the nominations of various third parties, hence the inclusion of: Carlo Caparas (Comics – as a component of visual arts), Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (Theater), Francisco Manosa (Architecture), and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (Fashion Design).

- The Honors Committee is a valid second layer of the evaluation process established due to various nominations made directly to the Office of the President by virtue of EO 236 that had also rationalized all awards given by the government into an Honors Code. The selection process is not the exclusive province of the NCCA-CCP Boards to decide. It is a three-tier system which takes into account other nominations submitted directly to the Office of the President and vetted through the Honors Committee that can call on any expert or resource person for the validation process. The final 3rd stage is the President’s own judgment based on recommendations of the former two bodies. She signs the proclamation which she has already done. Only the formal conferment is held in abeyance until the Supreme Court responds to the protest.

A National Artist of the Philippines is a title bestowed upon a Filipino who has been given the highest recognition for having made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts. Such Filipinos are announced, by virtue of a Presidential Proclamation, as National Artist or in Filipino, Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining. They are then conferred membership in the Order of National Artists, the regalia of which is an ornate, gilden collar of honor. In addition to the collar, each newly proclaimed member of the Order is given a citation that is presented during the awardees' conferment ceremonies.

The National Artist Award (Gawad Pambansang Alagad ng Sining) was established under Proclamation No. 1001 dated April 27, 1972 to give appropriate recognition and prestige to Filipinos who have distinguished themselves and made outstanding contributions to Philippine arts and letters. The first award was conferred posthumously later that year on Fernando Amorsolo.

Proclamation No. 1144 dated May 15, 1973 named the CCP Board of Trustees as the National Artist Awards Committee and Presidential Decree No. 208 issued on June 7, 1973 reiterated the mandate of CCP to administer the National Artist Awards as well as the privileges and honors to National Artists.

The NCCA was organized under Republic Act No. 7356 dated April 2, 1992 and given broad responsibilities over the development and promotion of the Filipino national culture and the arts, including awards to persons who have significantly contributed to the development and promotion of Philippine culture and the arts.

Executive Order No. 236 dated September 19, 2003, otherwise known as the Honors Code of the Philippines, conferred additional prestige on the National Artist Award by raising it to the level of a Cultural Order, fourth in precedence among the orders and decorations that comprise the Honors of the Philippines, and equal in rank to the Order of National Scientists and the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan. The National Artist Award was thereby renamed the Order of National Artists (Orden ng mga Pambansang Alagad ng Sining).

E.O. 236 also established the Committee on Honors to aid the President in evaluating and assessing nominations for recipients of honors and presidential awards.

“ SECTION 9. Committee on Honors. There is hereby created a Committee on Honors (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) composed of the following:

Chairman : Executive Secretary
Vice Chairman : Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Members : Head, Presidential Management Staff
Presidential Assistant for Historical Affairs
Chief of Presidential Protocol
Chief of Protocol and State Visits, DFA

The Committee shall assist the President in evaluating nominations for recipients of honors hereunder, as well as Presidential Awards. For this purpose, the Committee may authorize relevant department or government agencies to maintain Honors and/or Awards Committees to process nominations for Honors and/or Presidential Awards.

The Committee shall meet quarterly or as often as it deems necessary to perform its functions.

The Chancellery shall provide the necessary technical and administrative support to the Committee. “

Executive Order 435 dated June 08, 2005 issued by the President set forth the procedural guidelines for the award of the Order of National Artists. Section 5, Part IV of EO 236 was amended to read: “The NCCA and CCP shall advise the President on the conferment of the Order of National Artists…” Notably, as early as 1997, the NCCA-CCP Board had affirmed that the President can ignore their advice and select awardees not stated in the list they submit.

On May 6, 2009, the NCCA-CCP Board forwarded a list of four names to the Office of the President. The list consisted of (a) Manuel P. Urbano (Film), (b) Ramon Santos (Music), (c) Lazaro Francisco (Literature), and (d) Federico Alcuaz (Visual Arts). The list was in turn submitted to the Honors Committee for evaluation. In the meantime, the Office of the President received nominations from various sectors, cultural groups, and individuals endorsing private respondents among others for the award of National Artist.

Thereafter, the Committee on Honors submitted to the President a memorandum recommending the following: (a) Manuel P. Urbano (Film), (b) Ramon Santos (Music), (c) Lazaro Francisco (Literature), (d) Federico Alcuaz (Visual Arts), (e) Carlo Caparas (Visual Arts and Film), Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (Theater), Francisco Manosa (Architecture), and Jose Moreno (Fashion Design).

Subsequently, the President issued the assailed Proclamation No. 1823 to 1829 declaring all those recommended by the Honors Committee as National Artists, holding in abeyance Rmon Santos since the comparative validation process has not been completed because of other nominees of equally outstanding achievement have been brought to the President’s attention.
As the award “National Artist” may be construed as the embodiment of the nation’s ideals – Artist for the Nation – it is understandable that while the President may entertain the recommendation of the arts and culture sector, ultimately and inevitably, her choice should not deviate from the will of the people, in whom sovereignty resides and from whom her mandate emanates.

For whom does an artist create? Perform? Does he do it for the satisfaction of his peers alone or for the acclaim of the sector to which he belongs? Or does he perfect and hone his craft for his country and its people?

The duty of the President is a difficult one, and only she can do it. To strike a balance between expert acclaim and public acceptance, peer recognition and national relevance. In the end, as the representative of the People, she alone defines what makes an artist truly worthy of the title National Artist – Artist for the Nation.

The exercise of Presidential prerogative is not a perversion of the selection process. In fact and in truth, it is precisely the exercise of Presidential Prerogative that perfects the process.

As a footnote it may interest the court that a similar award in the United States has this provision for its Nomination / Selection Process which underscore presidential prerogative.

“Recipients of the National Medal of Arts are selected by the President. Annually the National Endowment for the Arts initiates the selection process by soliciting nominations for the Medal from the public and various arts fields. Nominations are reviewed by the National Council on the Arts, composed of Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed individuals. The National Council’s list of nominees is forwarded to the President for consideration with candidates of the President’s own choosing.”

A number of people have been misled or deceived by the protesting national artists and CCP officials. If they insist that their nomination from the CCP-NCCA Board is exclusive and not advisory and part of a total process, the proper route is for them to go to Congress to amend the prevailing parameters of the Executive Order or ask for a New Law.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tapella and the Small Journeys into Flavors

My interest in Spanish cuisine was piqued by the television series Spain…On the Road Again, which had actress Gwyneth Paltrow and chef Mario Batali going around Spain, tasting the dishes, and thoroughly enjoying the journey and life in general. I always saw scenes of the two and their friends eating and having conversations. It sounds mundane, but it was actually engaging and quite intriguing. Food became not just something to take in for nourishment, but something romantic, gathering people together and enabling them to experience new sensations.

My own encounter with Spanish food has been haphazard and rare, surprising in a country with a long history of Spanish colonization. Usually, the “Spanish” food I ate had been modified, its spirit trickling into the Filipino dishes inundated with sauces and savored incognizant of its origins. The Philippine dining scene, which is not really vibrant, only offers a handful of Spanish restaurants. Señor Alba’s, Guernica and Casa Armas are among the more known.

As new and more sophisticated malls crop up in Metro Manila, strips of eating places also appear featuring new restaurants that can be exciting. An the Greenbelt mall complex in Makati City, new restaurants have opened around its magnificently manicured garden.

Opened just a few months ago, on May 29, Tapella Restaurant quickly began to attract attention as the best Spanish restaurant in the complex. Its reputation may owe to the fact that it is owned by Spanish-Filipino restaurateur Francisco Cacho Jr. and his chef wife Alexandra Cacho, who operate Gaudí, a much-acclaimed and awarded Spanish restaurant at Greenbelt 3 and Serendra.

While Gaudi is “formal” or fine-dining, Tapella is more casual. Casual can also describe the servings of the food: Relatively small portions that can be shared and without delineation between appetizer and entrée. This is the idea of the so-called “cocina en miniature.” Also the restaurant’s menu is designed for people on the go, who has no time to sit down for big meals.

It may seem that this is not good way to eat. But it is actually healthy — breaking meals into smaller portions and eating throughout the day, breaking the three-meals-a-day format. There is nothing hurried about the place either. The interior is elegant and simple, in colors of beige and white, accented by black-and-white photographs. Overlooking the Greenbelt garden, the restaurant can hold about 50 diners inside and outside where there is an outdoor bar.

Tapella’s food does not scrimp on quality and taste. Its name is an indication of its specialties — tapas, which are roughly “finger foods,” and paella. According to chef Cacho, Spanish food has changed over the years, as well as people’s eating habits. In Tapella, the chef who hails from the Basque region gathered dishes from different parts of Spain, merging the traditional and the modern, and serving them in consideration of the changing lifestyle of people. There is consciousness now on healthy eating, thus the dishes are less greasy. Also, good products are more accessible. But the core of what makes food and its eating great is still intact. The menu, in English and Spanish, shows Cacho’s gastronomic motto: “Start with a traditional base. Pour an infusion of unique contrasting flavors and a spoonful of intense passion, a dash of talent and a sprig of innovation. Finish off with disconcerting textures and illusion.”

In an afternoon before its opening, we got know what Cacho was talking about as she prepared for us delectable samplers starting with an Andalucian specialty, white garlic and almond soup, served in a shooter glass (P70). It can be taken in one gulp, but the flavors — tangy, creamy and rich — coat the tongue like a soft and heavy blanket, offset by bits of almost and hints fruitiness, grapes actually. It is a good complement for cocido meat on fluted bread (P210) and Camembert cheese with caramelized onion on fluted bread (P180), both surprisingly simple and delicious.

Other “soup shooters” worth trying are the cold tomato soup and beef tenderloin salpicao with white beans. The chewy fluted bread is also topped with Cantabrian anchovies; and chatka, mayo and lettuce. You can also have pork loin, pimiento and bacon; and roast beef with Dijon mustard on crusty bread.

Other tapas served were chorizo stewed in red wine (P245) and the octopus with paprika, salt and virgin olive oil (P280). Strong and salty, the chorizo can be eaten with bread or rice. The octopus dish is a curious one. White circles of sliced octopus tentacles were laid on slices of potatoes and sprinkled with salt and paprika. The octopus was surprisingly tender, not chewy at all, with a subtle flavor. The paprika provided the sting. The potato was a perfect base.

Other tapa selections include grilled items (pork, Moroccan chicken, scallop and shrimp skeweres), items with eggs (fried eggs scramble with potatoes and chistorra sausage; fried eggs scramble with fresh duck foie; and traditional Spanish omelet); potages and casseroles in earth pan or plate (tripe and chick pea stew; Asturian white bean, pork and chorizo stew; salted codfish with piquillo peppers and tomato; and certified Angus beef meatballs with almond sauce); traditional fried items in olive oil (cocido meat croquettes; Spanish salami croquettes; vegetable garden shoestring with fried egg; and Serrano ham and cheese bites in phyllo pastry) and miscellaneous items (Rioja style potatoes and chorizo; alioli potatoes; clams in fisherman’s style; marinated fresh anchovies; Iberian cold cuts platter; and Spanish cheese platter).

The heavier group in the menu includes soup and salad combinations, paellas and rice dishes, pasta, seafood and “mountain specials.”

For seafood, we had calamari with black ink batter “el Bulli” (P255) and garlic sautéed shrimp the modern way (P260). The squid was definitely an eye-catcher. Rings of squid were dipped in batter and its own black ink and then deep-fried. The result was a dish that looked like lumps of charcoal and a more flavorful calamari. The “el Bulli” in the name I presumed was the origin of this style of cooking — the famous haute-cuisine restaurant El Bulli in Catalonia.

Try also other seafood items such as batter-coated fried fish with roasted pimiento peppers, Malaga-style fried fish platter and sautéed eels and shrimps with crispy garlic bits.

Another interesting dish is the certified Angus beef prime rib (grilled according to the methods of Villagodio), a “mountain special.” Slices of the beef are grilled on a small hot plate sitting atop a burner, the size perfect for the table, invented by the chef herself. Other mountain specials are garlic chicken; pork ham and cheese roulade in white sauce; and grilled lamb chops with herbs.

Of course there were the paellas. We had three kinds: the picadillo paella (P650), the Greek paella (P485), and the Manchego cheese, chicken, shrimp and asparagus paella (P500).

The picadillo paella had different slices of meats. I saw a connection between it and the Filipino dish picadillo, a kind of stew of ground beef, tomato sauce and slices of white radish, potato or chayote. I haven’t found yet the connection with the word peccadillo, which means “little sins.” The Greek paella is yellowed with saffron and had salmon and white cheese. On the other hand, the Manchego cheese paella had the sheep’s milk cheese melting over rice, chicken, shrimp and asparagus. All paellas were a delight, symphonies of flavors. Other paellas on offer are creamy seafood paella, Alaskan king crab paella, vegetable paella with pesto sauce and black squid paella.

If you don’t want paella, Tapella has pasta: black fettucini with shrimps, three-flavor handkerchief pasta and vegetable cannelloni.

Tapella also has good selection of wines to further smoothen a venture into modern Spain in flavors. End this with dessert such tiramisu, Kahlua mousse, egg yolk custard, banana crepe and traditional arroz con leche, literally “rice with milk,” like champorado without the chocolate but with milk, and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla bean.

The arroz con leche can be a perfect ending, a comfort food that reminds of home. And we are made at home in Spain, if only in flavors.

Contact Information

For more information and reservations, visit Tapella, open 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., at the ground floor of Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati City or call 757-2710 to 11. Visit, or e-mail

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Heritage in Stitches: Celebrating Embroidery in Lumban

Many tourists and visitors going through Laguna, the province that hugs Laguna Lake south of the Philippine capital Manila, usually stop at Calamba or Los Baños, known for their hot springs, and Pagsanjan, which likes to call itself as the tourist capital of the province, popular for its attractive falls.
But less popular towns of Laguna have charms of their own—old churches, gastronomic specialties, traditional crafts, rustic scenes and friendly people. Further east is the small town of Lumban, which is stepping out of the shadow of Pagsanjan, once—together with the provincial capital Santa Cruz and the town of Cavinti—part of Lumban.
Normally tranquil, Lumban bursts with sounds and colors every third week of September for its Burdang Lumban Festival. Aside from the fiesta in January, which has been celebrated for centuries, the town has added a festival, which is on its eighth year this 2009. It has been a recent fashion in the Philippines to create festivals to attract tourism, provide citizens cause for merriment and honor and promote a unique product, industry or heritage. For Lumban, the festival promotes its centuries-old craft and industry of hand embroidery, burda in Tagalog.
Fashion designers, prominent personalities and people in the know go all the way to Lumban for its barong Tagalog, wedding gowns and embroidery, which flourished only in this town in Laguna. Lumban wants to strengthen and further its reputation for hand embroidery, and establish itself as the Embroidery Capital of the Philippines.
“Embroidery has been part of our culture it’s impossible not to showcase it,” said the mayor of Lumban, lawyer Wilfredo Paraiso, who has been supportive of the cottage industry, encouraging embroiderers and businessmen to form an association and spearheading the Burdang Lumban Festival.
“This day is important to us because we show that we are united in supporting our industry, which many of us benefit from,” Paraiso, who usually speaks in straight Filipino, once said. “We Lumbeños are proud we have an identity and that is in the industry of the barong Tagalog.”
According to town councilor Larry Butch de Leon, also one of the prime movers of the Burdang Lumban Festival, the festival has become more important now because the town is facing stiff competition from age-old and biggest rival Taal in Batangas and new rival Bulacan, and it is a way of boosting their industry’s repute.
Their efforts are paying off as the festival is enjoying support from the government’s Department of Tourism and has been awarded the Presidential Citation for Best Practices just last July. The citation recognizes the best in local government units’ practices and programs in small and medium enterprise promotion. Lumban was awarded for “providing access to market.”
It is estimated that 30 percent of the town’s 25,000 or so population is engaged in the embroidery industry. The mayor projected it is 60 percent, perhaps the 30 percent involved indirectly.
The industry mainly consists of small producers. Going around Laguna through the highway, one recognizes Lumban by the numerous boards advertising embroidery and formal wear, after the resorts in Calamba and signs of boatmen for hire in Pagsanjan. The town is studded with shops selling embroidered barong Tagalog and gowns.

The Enterprise of Embroidery

Very near the municipal hall, along Rizal Street, is the shop of forty-something businesswoman Ailyn del Moral. Unlike many women in Lumban, Del Moral doesn’t know how to embroider. She opted to go school in Metro Manila, graduating with a management degree from Siena College in Quezon City. Her involvement in the embroidery and garments business is accidental. Knowing the reputation of Del Moral’s hometown, a friend asked about the process and cost of having a wedding gown made there. This sparked an idea of setting up a business. Her home has been transformed into a shop, which is now two-decade old, with the garage as a work area and the foyer an office and showroom.
On the day of our visit, her garage was full of embroiders for us to see the process. As with most of the town, the embroiderers were mostly middle-aged and old women. Normally, they work in their own homes. Shops subcontract the embroidering as well as other aspects of making a complete dress.

The embroiderers were mostly wives of fishers and farmers who want to augment the family income. Men usually do the washing of the finished products, but it is not unusual to see men doing embroidery. On off season, one can see swarthy and brawny fishermen creating flowers with needle and thread, an amusing sight. More amusing is the thought of upper-class women wearing gowns with fine details created by the calloused hands of a fisherman. In Del Moral’s shop, a teenaged boy joined the throng of women, deftly pulling his threaded needle. Embroiderers are usually paid Php15 an hour.
Although there are now machines for embroidery, which are used by some shops in Lumban back to back with hand embroidering, hand embroidery is still held in the highest esteem.
“We don’t neglect our tradition of hand embroidery unlike in other towns which use machines, although we also have them here. Plus we also do painting by hand or by airbrush,” said De Leon.
Hand embroidering seems a quiet and tedious work, requiring concentration and patience. Before embroidering, a design is “stamped” on the cloth. A design is transferred from paper to cloth by perforating the paper using a pen with washable ink. The design on the cloth is then traced with a pencil. The cloth is stretched taut as the skin of the drum using a tambor, two bamboo hoops the size of regular plates, and is ready for embroidering by hand using known traditional stitches. Lumban is said to be known for a particular design feature called the calado, which are holes rimmed with embroidery. Usual designs are floral and geometric.
After the embroidery, the men would stretch out the piece of cloth on the bastidor, a large rectangular bamboo frame; wash it with detergent and water; and let it dry in the sun.
Most of the embroidery knowledge and material are primarily for the making of the barong Tagalog, literally shirt or dress of the Tagalog people, which has become the official and national formal wear for men. The festival actually was first called Barong Tagalog Festival, held from April 29 to May 3 in 1996. It was soon renamed and moved to September to celebrate also the foundation day of the town, one of the oldest in the province, on September 22.
The embroiderers have regular design patterns. Popular is the pitchera, design forming into a U or two vertical rows on the front of the dress. Batok, literally “nape,” has embroidery concentrated on the upper portion of the dress, while Chinepa has it on the lower portion. Raya features the U pattern as well as stripes of embroidery. “Scattered” has embroidered designs scattered all over the dress, and a more concentrated version is called “All Over.”
The fabrics usually used for the barong Tagalog are the cheaper cotton and linen; the mid-range jusi, imported from Hong Kong and can be bought in the markets of Divisoria in Manila; and the expensive piña, made from pineapple fibers from the Visayan province of Aklan.
Del Moral said that it will take about three days to make a barong Tagalog. She said the cheapest barong Tagalog can be bought at P550. These are usually used as office uniforms. The most expensive is around Php5,000, made from piña. For gowns, an embroidered cloth sells for Php7,000 while a made gown is Php12,000. Wedding gowns fetch from Php40,000 and up.
Shops here, which according to Del Moral’s estimation numbered at least fifty, offer a variety of products and services. Aside from embroidery, they also offer painting on fabric using acrylic. Painters are usually paid Php250 a day. Many shops here have their own designers to create the designs for embroidery and painting. Customers can consult with the designers or bring in their own designs. They can also bring in their own cloth just to be embroidered on or just buy from the shops then have it embroidered. They can also have their dress made in the shops as they also have dressmakers. Some shops offer ready-to-wear barong Tagalog and gowns. But the made-to-order demand remains to make up the bulk of the Lumban’s production. Retail sales from walk-in customers amount to twenty percent of the town’s sales.
Lumban’s industry is a specialized one, said the mayor, unlike those in other towns in Laguna from which ordinary visitors can readily buy their products like slippers in Liliw or carved-wood knickknacks in Paete. Embroidery, barong Tagalog and gowns are heavier buys and often considered luxury items. But that doesn’t mean one cannot bring home a piece of Lumban heritage. Shops here offer items aside from gowns such as jewelry cases, cell phone pouches, fans, curtains, hankies, shawls, veils, tablecloths, table mats, napkins and table runners with little embroidered designs.
But still the stars of Lumban embroidery are the barong Tagalog and gowns, which usually come in terno with its distinctive puffed sleeves, made popular by former First Lady Imelda Marcos. Many prominent people visit Lumban for these. In Del Moral’s office and shop, pictures of famous personalities and celebrities hang on the walls. Del Moral counted former First Lady Amelita “Ming” Ramos, philanthropist and high-society figure Imelda “Tingting” Cojuangco, and former Philippine President Corazon Aquino as among her customers.

Stitching Up History
The reason why embroidery flourished only in Lumban in Laguna is partly explained by the fact that the town was the center of Spanish missionary activities in Laguna and Spanish nuns brought with them the art of embroidery and taught them to local girls. Spanish missionaries also brought embroidery to other parts of the Philippines. But some historians say that embroidery may had been practiced even before the Spaniards arrived because iron needles were being imported into the country from Chinese traders since the thirteenth century and some embroidery features bore aspects of Chinese and Indian artistic traditions. In Lumban, it can be declared that the embroidery industry traces its roots to the Spanish Franciscan nuns.
For Mayor Paraiso, embroidery is as much integral to the town’s history and identity as its economy. Perhaps, this is the reason that the foundation day and festival are celebrated simultaneously.
Local history says that the Spaniards, the Philippines’ first colonizer, arrived in the area in the early sixteenth century, crossing the Laguna Lake and building a military station and a church of grass and bamboo near the shore. They began Christianizing the locals, and one chief way is holding comedias, plays depicting Christian-Muslim conflict and upholding Christian values and eminence. A sitio in the barangay of Wawa is called Entablado, meaning “stage,” attesting to the practice. The Franciscan missionaries moved southward, away from the shore, and built another chapel in what is now Kristiya, a sitio in Wawa. They moved again, finally settling where the present stone church of Lumban stands. A church of wood and thatch was built. Juan de Plasencia, OFM, administered here in 1578. After the church burned down, a stone-made one with a convent was built, completing in 1600, the first stone church in Laguna. A Eucharistic procession was held on October 9, 1600, and the Blessed Sacrament was enthroned. From 1606 to 1616, the church maintained a rest house for sick Franciscan missionaries. In 1880, the church was damaged by an earthquake.
Lumban officially recognizes September 22, 1590, as its foundation date. Juan Tinauin was appointed as its first gobernadorcillo. Juan Tumbaga, gobernadorcillo from 1675 to 1750, established the different barangays of the town, though there had been barangays before the Spaniards. In the 16th century, Santa Cruz seceded to become a separate town. Pagsanjan also became a separate town in 1663, and then Cavinti. Lumban now is fourth-class municipality with an area of 96.8 square kilometers, the fourth largest in Laguna.
It is not known when exactly embroidery was first taught to by the nuns in the beaterio of Lumban. It is recorded though that in 1606 Rev. Juan de Santa Maria conducted a regional school where four-hundred boys were taught liturgical music and use of instruments. The first music academy in the country was established in the town. While the boys learned music, the girls were involved in embroidery. The music activity eventually died off while embroidery flourished, passed on from generation to generation. Lumban claims that at least one member of families here is engaged in embroidery, and every embroiderer traces her ancestry to a great-grandmother taught in the missionaries’ school.
Although it is said that embroidery had been practiced in the Philippines before the Spaniards, it is recognized that the Spaniards developed the activity and made it flourish. Embroidery was in the women’s school curriculum as early as the Spanish educational reform in 1863. Young school girls doing embroidery were a common sight and were esteemed by how well they do it.
In the nineteenth century, embroidery made in the Philippines became known and available in Europe. The Spaniards even made a bid to pit it against French and Belgian lace. Embroidered piña handkerchiefs were considered expensive in Europe. An embroidered gown made in the Philippines was given to Queen Victoria.
In mid-nineteenth century, Santa Ana, Mandaluyong, Sampaloc, San Miguel, Paco, Malate, Pasay, Las Piñas and Parañaque were noted embroidery centers in Metro Manila. Embroidery in Molo and Arevalo in Iloilo City in the Visayas, where nuns taught girls in orphanages, was notable. It is also being practiced in neighboring Bacolod City. Taal in Batangas and Lumban were also noted embroidery centers, highly regarded until now.
But Lumban claims to make the best embroidery with a refinement and attention to detail that cannot be found anywhere else. Both De Leon and Paraiso said that even Taal conceded to the superiority of Lumban’s craftsmanship. This is trumpeted by the Burdang Lumban Festival.
The festival also puts into the limelight other Lumban attractions and products. Readily accessible are the few heritage structures in the town, particularly the church.

Handful of Attractions
At the town heart is the church, notable for being first stone church in the province, the first Franciscan stone structure in the country and the venue of the first music academy in the country. It is a relative small, august structure flanked by the belfry and the convent, facing a plaza with a few lumbang trees, after which the town is named.
Its short history given by the municipal government said that the tree was brought by Chinese traders who bartered wares from the ninth to the twelfth century. It is also called Otaheite walnut (Aleurites trisperma), a relative of the tung tree and the candlenut, which is used in cooking and extracting oil.
Oil extracted from the kernels of the fruits of the lumbang tree and the candlenut is used for the preparation of paints, varnishes and linoleum; for making soaps; as fuel for lighting; and for wood preservation.
The patron of the saint and town is Saint Sebastian the Martyr, whose famous image is that of being riddled with arrows. Old folks tell that an image of the saint was fished out of the river, becoming the town’s patron saint, and that very now and then it goes back to the river. Lumban honors its patron saint with fiesta on January 20, during which townspeople hold the Paligong Poon, a fluvial procession on the Lumban River. Devotees ride on kaskitos, platforms held afloat and maneuvered by boats, the largest carrying the statue of Saint Sebastian.
Beside the church is the municipal hall, an old one looking like a little mansion with stone first floor and a wooden upper floor. Built on September 19, 1918, the structure still shows some old architectural details.

In the southeastern upland part of Lumban, more modern tourist attractions are located around the manmade lakes of Caliraya and Lumot, which stretch to the towns of Kalayaan and Cavinti. In 1937, American Army engineer Major General Hugh Casey flooded the area, building a reservoir to supply water to General Electric’s hydroelectric power plant, said to be the first in the country. During World War II, the Americans destroyed the plant upon the arrival of the Japanese troops. The Japanese rebuilt it and then sabotaged it near the end of their defeat. Now the area is managed by the National Power Corporation.
Nestled among the Sierra Madre mountain range, 1,200 feet above sea level, Caliraya Lake is scenic with pine trees growing around it. The Americans put largemouth black bass into the water for fishing. Since it was built, people see the lake’s potential for recreation. In the 1970s, wealthy Manilans were lured by the lake, building vacation homes around it. Development and tourism halted in the 1980s with news of communist rebel group New People’s Army occupying the area. But in the mid-1980s, development restarted. Now, there are resorts around the lake offering activities such as large fishing, wind surfing, jet skiing, water skiing, boating, golf, camping, and other sporting and outdoor activities.
The resorts and recreational facilities here now include the Caliraya Re-Creation Center and Resort in the barangay of Lewin; Lake Caliraya Country Club, also in Lewin; CaliRana Resort in the barangay of East Talaungan in Cavinti; Caliraya Hilltop in the barangay of Caliraya in Lumban; Lagos del Sol in the barangay of Kanluran Talaongan in Cavinti; and Caliraya Springs, also in East Talaungan.
One of the largest and more known is the Caliraya Re-Creation Center and Resort, having 7.6 hectares of land area and a hotel of 72 rooms and a spacious mess-hall type restaurant. Managed by Saint Francis Group of Companies, which is into real estate development, retail, resort and condotels, mall management and education, it can accommodate 800 to 1,500 persons and is a popular venue for a company’s outing, seminar and group bonding. Its sloping ground features many recreational facilities like pools and an obstacle course. Horseback riding, rappelling and wall climbing are offered aside from a host of water activities. The management is religiously Christian, thus smoking and drinking are not allowed; rooms are a tad austere; and there is a Bible study session if one wishes.
But these tourist facilities can only hold momentary attention. The town center still remains fascinating, with its folks, rural living and some gastronomic delights. Kesong puti, espasol, buko candy and ginataang hipon are Lumban’s native food items.
Kesong puti, literally “white cheese,” is like cottage cheese, made from carabao’s milk. Made at home, the milk is simmered, a pasteurization process, and added a cow’s inner stomach lining, which contains rennet, the enzyme responsible for turning milk into cheese. With a dash of salt, the coagulated milk is then pressed to squeeze out excess liquid; cut into squares; and wrapped in banana leaves. Some find its way to Manila restaurants or being sold by men, tied together in a pole. Early morning on Gil Puyat Street in Makati City, near the terminals of buses going to Laguna, one can find these men selling kesong puti.
The town of Santa Cruz has appropriated the kesong puti as its banner product with a festival to with it. It must be remembered that Santa Cruz was once part of Lumban. In present-day Lumban, two families are still making traditional kesong puti, De Lunas and the Del Valles in the barangay of Maracta.
The espasol is the tube-shaped sweet made of toasted ground rice, coconut milk and strips of coconut meat. The sticky delicacy is dusted with toasted rice flour. Espasol is also prepared in many towns in Laguna such as Alaminos, Nagcarlan and Pagsanjan. Some say Los Baños makes the best kind.
But Lumban folks are particularly proud of their ginataang hipon.

Shrimps in Coconut Milk

Perly Palay operates a makeshift store at the front garage of her nondescript house along Bonifacio Street in the barangay of Primera Parang. Really, a table was set up by the door laden with her famous specialty, the ginataang hipon or freshwater shrimps in coconut milk. A tarpaulin banner that reads “Perly’s Ginataang Hipon and Atchara” loosely hung by the grill gate.
Lumban hails the ginataang hipon as its unique dish, and Palay is considered by many as one of the best makers of ginataang hipon in town. Balikbayans regularly order from her when they are to return to other countries, a delectable reminder of home.
A large talyasi or wok nearby is where she cooks the dish. If one is early, one may catch her preparing it. A fisherman delivers the shrimps, fresh and jumping, caught from Laguna Lake or the river. Each is about an inch or so. A kilo of the small and slippery crustaceans requires milk, the purest as possible, extracted from ten coconuts.
The coconut milk is let to boil while constantly being stirred. Salt and a one-eight cup of sugar are thrown into white and fragrant liquid, still being stirred. Upon boiling, the shrimps go in, their jumping more furious but short-lived. Their grim death amuses the customers. There is more stirring, and the mixture will be done in an hour and a half, when it turns rusty brown in color and oily.
The dish, not really attractive, is sold for Php250 per kilogram. But what it lacks in appearance, it makes up for taste—sweet and rich. The texture can be a challenge—grainy, crunchy and chewy— with the shrimps cooked and eaten whole, shells, heads and all. Chew well. A dash of calamansi juice gives tang to the dish. Lumbeños prefer eating it with bahao, cold leftover rice.
Palay’s enterprise was inspired by her mother, who sold already prepared dishes, which were well patronized. She started with merienda fare and later decided to specialize in atsara or pickled green papaya and ginataang hipon, her version taking three years to perfect taking cue from customer comments.
One of her techniques is the use of kakang gata, the purest coconut milk possible, and the constant stirring. The old way was to let the dish cook without stirring. Because of her use of kakang gata, her ginataang hipon doesn’t spoil easily, lasting even for a week without refrigeration.
The mother of four has been selling ginataang hipon for 17 years now, earning her about Php1,000 to Php4,000 a day. Her success inspired others to sell the dish in the same area. A block away, Elsa Abadines sells ginataang hipon in her sari-sari store along Tabia Street. Hers has a gooey consistency, perhaps cooked the old way.
Palay’s delicious and long-lasting version earned the attention of the trade and science agencies of the government, which suggested marketing it in bottles. While Palay is still confounded by the idea and the techniques that go with it, one of her daughters, who is her frequent helper, has a clearer idea. It appears she will continue the ginataang hipon venture.
Also eaten as ordinary meal, the ginataang hipon is proudly served during special occasions or when visitors come.

Badge of Pride
Aside from these, there are another couple of things that Lumban is known for. For seekers, Lumban is known for its manghuhula or fortunetellers in the Calabarzon area. Destiny and lost objects are subjects for these manghuhulas. For archeologists, Lumban may be known as the place where the Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found. Found in 1989, the plate was dated to 900 CE and inscribed with an ancient script, containing words in Sanskrit, old Javanese, old Malay and old Tagalog. A document that tells about a person’s release from debt, it is an important artifact that tells of the Philippines’ ancient connections to the other kingdoms.
But embroidery remains to be the queen attraction of Lumban. And this was shown in the festival, whose highlight is the street dancing competition, in which school children dance in bright and colorful costumes inspired by the barong Tagalog and embellished with known embroidery designs. They started at the multi-purpose covered hall in front of the municipal building, marched in front of the church, through the narrow streets, and ended at the entrance of the barangay of Wawa with a showdown. Larger-than-life tambors and bastidors served as props. It was an amusing watch. Their zest and choreography led them to win a prize at the Anilag Festival, Laguna’s “festival of festivals,” last year.

The Burdang Lumban Festival featured the usual components—a trade fair and exhibit; contests in sports, dance, singing, cooking, beauty; socials and parties; and recognitions. Activities related to embroidery included hand and machine embroidery and barong Tagalog painting contests; and a fashion show by the Lumban Embroidery Association. Noted fashion designers, such as Renee Salud, regularly contribute to the show featuring Lumban embroidery.
Aside from augmenting reputation, the festival also hopes revive interest in embroidery. Officials and businessmen here believe while the number of shops increased through the years, embroiderers are decreasing.
The youth are interested in other things, said Del Moral.
Fearing the craft may vanish in the future, Paraiso suggested to the Department of Education to include embroidery in its home economic classes. He said he went to Iloilo and observed the nearly vanishing tradition of hand-weaving in Panay. He fears the same for his town.
Embroiderers here have no formal training in the craft. Passed on from one generation to another, they learn from observing and instruction by their mothers.
“It is as if it is their instinct (to embroider),” Del Moral marvels at the young embroiders’ ability to embroider without formal training as if it is ingrained in their genes.

To give them pride in what they do, Paraiso always exhorts embroiders that embroidery is not a relic of the past but is actually part of making history, that they are part in the making of history.
Alam po ninyo ‘pag ka po sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan nagbabalagtas ng batas ang kanilang suot ay barong Tagalog na burdang Lumban. Ganoon din po ang punong lalawigan lagi siyang naka-barong sa kanyang tanggapan,” (You know, in the provincial council, when they pass laws, they wear barong Tagalog with Lumban embroidery. Also the governor, he wears barong Tagalog in his office) he once said. “Ang mga kongresista po at mga senador sa Kongreso ng Pilipinas, sila po ay naka-barong ‘pag nagbabalangkas ng batas. Ganoon din ang mga pari kapag sila po ay nagmimisa bagama’t sila’y naka-toga, sila po ay naka-barong katulad po ng mga abogado. Ang ibig ko pong sabihin tayong taga-Lumban ay bahagi sa lumilikha ng kasaysayan dahil kasuotan ng mga matataas na tao sa pagtupad nila ng kanilang tungkulin ay barong Tagalog na burdang Lumban. Kaya mapalad po tayo; bahagi tayo sa paglikha ng kasaysayan. Kaya po sa aking kababayan, aking pong pinakiki-usap paghusayan po natin, pagyamanin po natin ang pinamana sa atin na burdang Lumban.” (Congressmen and senators in the Philippine Congress wear barong Tagalog when they make laws. Even the priests, even if they wear vestments, they are in barong Tagalog underneath like those worn by lawyers. What I want to say is that we Lumban people are part of making history because the prominent people in fulfilling their duties wear barong Tagalog with Lumban embroidery. We are fortunate; we are part of history making. That’s why I ask you to do your best and enrich our legacy of embroidery.)

Contact Information
Perly’s Ginataang Hipon and Atchara is at 172 Bonifacio St., Primera Parang, Lumban, Laguna, with telephone number (049) 501-2587 and mobile phone number 0928-32550116.
Ailyn Del Moral’s shop is at 15 Rizal St., barangay of Santo Niño, Lumban, Laguna, with telephone number (63-49) 822-0129 and e-mail
Caliraya Re-Creation Center and Resort is at Lewin, Lumban. Its Metro Manila office is at fourth floor, St. Francis Square, Julia Vargas Avenue corner Bank Drive, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. For reservations, call 638-0515 or 632-1010 locals 421, 423, 284, 586 and 427. Telefax numbers are 637-7027 and 632-1010 local 558. E-mails are and Log on to or
The municipal hall of Lumban is at Rizal Street, barangay of Santo Niño, Lumban, Laguna, with telephone number (63-49) 501-4252. Visit

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Going to the Singapore Sun Festival 2009

I'll be returning to the Singapore Sun Festival to cover the events, interviewing artists, tasting signature dishes, watching performances and imbibing beautiful Singapore once again. I had an enriching time last year when I attended the festival for the first time and got enamored with the city state.

The Singapore Sun Festival will happen from October 3 to 12, 2009, and celebrates the "art of living well." It is a premium festival, the Asian version of the Tuscan Sun Festival and the Napa Valley Sun Festival with events involving wine and cuisine, film, literature, music, visual arts and wellness.

You may read my article on the 2008 Singapore Sun Festival in this blog.

I will be there from October 5 to 8, and my itinerary just arrived via e-mail:

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11.30AM – 12.00NN

12.00NN – 12.15PM

12.15PM – 1.30PM

1.30PM – 3.00PM

3.00PM – 4.30PM


6.00PM – 7.00PM

7.30PM – 9.30PM

7.30PM – 9.30PM





7.00PM – 9.00PM








(Recommendations by STB, personal time for media)















Flight: Phil Airlines 511

Venue: Fullerton Hotel


Venue: Gunther’s or Garibaldi

Venue: Fullerton Hotel

Venue: True Blue Cuisine @ Armenian Street

Venue : Esplanade Concert Hall,

1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore

Venue: SIA Theatre @ Lasalle College of the


Venue : Sun Tent, Esplanade Park

Connaught Drive


Venue: The Straits Room @ Fullerton Hotel

Venue : Sun Tent, Esplanade Park

Connaught Drive





09.30 AM

10.00AM – 12.00NN


2.00PM – 2.45PM

2.45PM – 5.30PM


6.00PM – 7.00PM

7.00 PM

7.30 PM

10:00 PM

11:00 PM





(Recommendations by STB, personal time for media)







Venue : Coriander Leaf

3A Merchant Court, River Valley

Road #02-03 Clarke Quay,

Venue : Space @ My Humble House

Venue : Esplanade Concert Hall,

1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore

Venue : Sun Tent, Esplanade Park

Connaught Drive





11:30 AM

12.00NN –1.30PM

1.30 PM

1.30 PM – 2.30PM


3.00PM – 3.30PM

3.30PM – 5.30PM


5.45PM – 7.00PM


7.30PM – 10.00PM

10:00 PM

11:00 PM







(Recommendations by STB, personal time for media)







Venue: 53 @ 53 Armenian Street

Venue: Peranakan Museum

Venue: Otto@Red Dot Museum

Venue : Esplanade Concert Hall,

1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore

Venue : Sun Tent, Esplanade Park

Connaught Drive





10.00AM – 5.00PM

5.00PM – 5.30PM


(Recommendations by STB, personal time for media)



Flight: Phil Airline 512

Here's the press release:

Highly-Anticipated ‘Firsts’ in Singapore Sun Festival 2009

Asia’s premium lifestyle festival ups the ante to feature never-been-seen performances over the 10-day event

The Singapore Sun Festival returns on the 3 to 12 October 2009 to celebrate the art of living well. Featuring over 190 international artists and celebrities in more than 90 events, the Festival, which is held at some of Singapore’s leading venues, will also be presenting new elements and several “first experiences” this year.

Kicking off with a gala performance at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Saturday, 3 October, audiences will be treated to a stunning world premiere ballet performance as part of the Opening Celebrations. Starring principal dancers of the renowned Bolshoi Theatre and Mariinsky Theatre, they will be sharing the stage for the first time in this unique collaboration under the artistic direction of Maxim Beloserkovsky and Irina Dvorovenko from the American Ballet Theatre.

Classical music highlights include concerts by one of the world’s finest radio orchestras Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra – visiting Singapore with its chief conductor and artistic director, Jaap van Zweden. The Orchestra will perform with glamorous soloists like Sir James Galway (8 October); 14 year-old prodigy, Conrad Tao and Russian Cellist, Nina Kotova (9 October); and a Singapore premiere performance by opera superstar Angela Gheorghiu (10 October) with tenor Marius Manea.

Another "first" is the indoor film screenings with multi-talented and highly-respected film star and director, Joan Chen. As film curator for the Singapore Sun Festival, she will select eight unique films that depict the art of living well for screening. In addition, Joan will also be conducting an on-stage interview facilitated by film writer Ben Slater at the Singapore Airlines Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts a brand new programming element that’s included in this year’s festival.

Other "first" celebrity appearances at the Festival include prolific author and spiritual advisor, Deepak Chopra, who will enlighten Festival-goers on physical and mental wellbeing; whilst Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, will expand the horizons of literary aficionados and playwrights as he shares his insights on writing for the stage; singer-songwriter, Elvis Costello, will be rocking Singapore at the Esplanade Concert Hall with his greatest hits at his one-night-only Singapore premiere concert!

The enigmatic secrets of flavorsome spices will also unravel as a new Indian cuisine component has been added to the festival for 2009. Experimental chef Floyd Cardoz, executive chef of groundbreaking New York restaurant Tabla, will be serving a myriad of sensational flavours that will leave guests hungry for more during the exclusive signature dinner and cooking class.

“The genius of modern French cuisine,” Thierry Marx will be using the finest produce to express his avant-garde cuisine in Singapore! The two Michelin star chef will prepare gastronomic treats that perfectly match the finest Bordeaux wines, ensuring a unique and sumptuous experience for his diners at the Fullerton Hotel.

Visual arts will be exciting in 2009, with newly-added interactive and themed workshops. Painting workshops will be conducted by contemporary painter Diana Francis at the Singapore Art Museum and budding artists and painters will get to learn techniques and tips on producing vibrant oil paintings.

A unique “singing art” event will be hosted at the Asian Civilisations Museum by jazz artist, Claressa Monteiro, opening up a new perspective of art appreciation when music and the visual arts combines in this audio visual special event.

The festival also celebrates Singapore’s rich Peranakan heritage offering interactive guided charity tours at the NUS Baba House. Festival-goers can also enjoy a showcase of over 300 pieces of intricately crafted Peranakan jewellery at the Peranakan Museum.

Jeff Fuhrman, global chief operating officer of IMG Artists, said, “In keeping with our aim to deliver premium international music and lifestyle events that are exclusive and fresh, we are proud to offer festival audiences a series of “firsts” in the festival’s third year. The program for the Singapore Sun Festival 2009 will have a spectacular line-up, featuring world-renowned celebrities and artists, boosting Singapore’s position as a truly global entertainment and lifestyle destination.”

Furthermore, in an effort to bring added enjoyment and magnificent experiences of fine living to festival-goers, ticket prices to various events have also been reduced from the previous year and more free events have been included.

Mindy Coppin, senior vice president, director of IMG Artists (Asia Pacific) and executive producer of the Singapore Sun Festival said, “We believe that living well can be experienced without an expensive price tag as we’re all about advocating a high quality holistic and balanced way of life at any price.”

Tickets for the Singapore Sun Festival are on sale and can be booked directly with Sistic at; Sistic hotline (65) 6348 5555; and all Sistic authorized agents.

The Singapore Sun Festival also works with a group of selected travel agents around the region to offer special packages which include hotel accommodation and festival tickets. Details of participating travel agents can be found on

Join the Singapore Sun Festival online community on Facebook and Twitter.

The Singapore Sun Festival is the third and only Asian chapter of a global lifestyle brand owned by the international arts management group, IMG Artists. The Sun Festival is also celebrated annually in Cortona, Tuscany (Italy) and the Napa Valley, California (USA).

The Singapore Sun Festival is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.

For latest updates, visit and sign up for mailing list.