Friday, December 14, 2012

Mix and March: Metro Manila Colored by Gay Pride

Drab Poblacion of Makati City, made more somber by a threat of downpour, got a splash of rainbow colors when about 1,500 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) with their heterosexual friends, families, supporters and allies gathered for the annual Metro Manila Gay Pride March on December 8, 2012. 
The march was preceded by a commitment ceremony for both lgbt and straight couples officiated by the United Universalists of Metro Manila in the morning at the Makati City Hall quadrangle. Couples affirmed their love with the support of families and friends even though legalizing gay marriage remains almost a taboo subject in the Philippines. Simultaneously, a small bazaar was opened, offering interesting products from food to fashion.
With the theme “Sari-Sali: Pride in Action,” the march called on the government to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, as well as on local governments to pass anti-discrimination ordinances in their towns and cities, especially Makati City, the country’s business district. In the country, only Quezon City in Metro Manila and Cebu City in the south have anti-discrimination ordinances.
The march also aimed to push for LGBT-friendly school policies from student organizations; obtain the support and affirmation of acceptance from families, friends and allies of LGBTs; and gather support from contingents and individuals for LGBT representation in the government through the Ladlad party-list organization and other LGBT-allied lawmakers and public servants. The contributions of LGBT to the society were also highlighted, but overall, the march promoted participation and inclusivity from all for gender equality.
Numerous and diverse groups participated and showed support including advocacy groups Amnesty International Philippines, Take Back the Tech Philippines and Gabriela National Alliance of Women in the Philippines; and political organizations Bayan Muna and Akbayan. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights was also represented.
Comprising the bulk were LGBT groups, including Boys Station Family Organization, Dangal National Network, Elite Circle of Men, Full Contact International, Galang Philippines, Gay Geeks, Home for the Golden Gays, Just us Kissing, Lesbian Activism Project, Lesbian Alliance Bagbag, Lesbian Alliance Movement: Lakas ng Kababaihan Para sa Karapatan, Men’s Locker Room, Metro Bi Out Society/Boys to Men’s Clan Circle of Bi, One Bacardi Organization Manila, Pink Rockers, Pinoy FTM, Pinoy g4m, Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (Progay Philippines), Proud Campaign Philippines, Proud To Be lgbt Campaign, Queer Archers’ Alliance, Rainbow Rights Project, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, Love Yourself, Metro Guyz Society, Transman Pilipinas, University of the Philippines (up) Babaylan, Up Spectrum, up Spectrum Manila and University of the Philippines Los Baños (uplb) Babaylan.
Non-LGBT supporters included the Rotaract Club of Makati Legaspi, Lunduyan ng Sining, Tarlac Bailas Organization, Tiklop Society of the Philippines, Kultura Riders Club and Filipino Freethinkers. The Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society (PATAS) was a very active supporter. At one side, there were also religious delegations the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manila, Ekklesia Tou Theou (Church of God) and the Philippine Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The office of the Makati City vice mayor Romulo Pena Jr. also showed support.
This year, the pride march saw increasing participation by the business sector led by Thomson Reuters, which has its admirable Pride at Work policy, promoting safe and equitable work environment for all employees regardless of gender; workplace diversity; and awareness programs. Also notable were the participation of JP Morgan Chase Company, Bayleaf Spa and Accenture.
The march started at the Makati City Hall quadrangle at three in the afternoon, accentuated by balloons, confetti, flowers, extravagant costumes, banners, placards and a giant rainbow flag. LGBT families brought their kids and babies along. Drag queens were in their resplendent gowns and costumes. Some gay men went sexy. Masseurs from Bayleaf Spa served as eye candies. Riders brought their motorbikes. Some offered free hugs. 
“It is time for the LGBT community to move out of its niche and gain mainstream acceptance,” said Jade Tamboon, owner of the Web site, the secretariat organization of this year’s Pride March.

The march went through F. Zobel, J.P. Rizal, Nicanor Garcia, Kalayaan, Pililla, Hormiga, Angono and Morong streets, proceeding without any major hitches. There was just a handful of moralists, surprisingly very young, hardly noticeable except for their judgmental and condemning placards that read “Sexual immorality, the road to AIDS and hell;” “Jesus can change you! LGBT;” “Warning! God will judge the sexually immoral! Hebrews 13:4;” “It’s not OK to be gay! It’s a sin!” and “Ang nilikha ng Diyos ay lalaki at babae, hindi bakla at tomboy, Genesis 1: 27 (God created man and woman, not gay and lesbian).” Fortunately, these were overwhelmed by messages of love, acceptance, support, understanding, peace, action and positivity.
After the parade, there was a program at the quadrangle where leaders delivered their messages. Gabriela promoted its campaign One Billion Rising Against Violence Against Women. There were also performances by Tao Aves, percussion group Brigada, Nyctinasty, the Shocking Details, Lougee and the Cherry Bums, the Cellar Doors and others.
The street market was open into the night with interesting finds such as artisanal ice cream by Sebastian’s with amusing flavor names, “unconventional” dolls from Oliver Makes Dolls, bags with witticism from Hirit Bags, art works and accessories from Blot Art Studio, etc.
The Metro Manila Gay Pride March has been held for 18 years now, making it the oldest in Asia. The first Philippine Gay Pride March was held on June 26, 1994, organized by ProGay Philippines and Metropolitan Community Church, in Quezon City. The next marches were mostly held in Malate, Manila, considered to be the country’s gay district, and in June, like in most of gay parades around the world, in commemoration of the historic Stonewall Riot. Since 1999, when Task Force Pride Philippines (TFP), a network of LGBT and LGBT-friendly groups and individuals, was established, it took on the responsibility of organizing the Metro Manila Gay Pride March. In 2003, the pride march was moved from June to the December to coincide with related human rights activities such as Human Rights Week, World AIDS Day (December 1), Philippine National Lesbian Day (December 8), and International Human Rights Day (December 10).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Celebrating the Birth Centennial of Carlos “Botong” Francisco

The commemorative stamp launching: (from left) Francisco’s grandson Carlos Francisco II, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Postal Corp. Cesar Sarino, NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr. and National Committee for Visual Arts head Nemesio “Nemi” Miranda.

 Commemorative stamp on National Artist for visual arts Carlos “Botong” Francisco was unveiled on November 9, 2012, launching the celebration of the birth centenary of one of the Philippines’ greatest painters.
President Benigno S. Aquino III singed Proclamation 284 declaring the period from November 4, 2012 to November 3, 2013 as the Centennial Year of National Artist for Painting Carlos “Botong” Francisco, whose works and achievements are said to be “reflective of this preeminent excellence and of the national genius that contributed to the national heritage of the Philippines and the world.” Also, in the House of Representatives, congressmen Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Neptali Gonzalez II, Edcel Lagman, Salvador Escudero III, and Ma. Jocelyn Bernos introduced House Joint Resolution 26 to commemorate the National Artist, who was born on November 4, 1912 and died on March 31, 1969.
The stamp launching, at the Leandro Locsin Auditorium of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in Intramuros, Manila, was led by NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr. and the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Postal Corp. Cesar Sarino. The event was graced by other National Artists — sculptor Napoleon Abueva, landscape architect Ildefonso Santos and filmmaker Eddie Romero. From the family of Francisco, his grandson, Carlos Francisco II, attended.
Together with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the NCCA, the government arm that mainly provides grants to projects, sets policies and promotes arts and culture in the country, leads the celebration. The two cultural agencies also administer the National Artist award, which is currently accepting nominations.
De Leon said that Francisco led one of the five schools of thought in Philippine visual arts. Among the painters, De Leon said the works of Francisco and Hernando Ocampo are distinctively Filipino—“hindi mo mapagkakamalan European o American.” (One cannot mistake them for being European or American) He also said the Francisco’s works are characterized by wavy patterns, thus full of rhythm. 
Francisco is considered the greatest Filipino muralist, invariably linked with “modernist” artists. He, Victorio C. Edades and Galo Ocampo were known in the local art circles as The Triumvirate. Francisco’s unerring eye for composition, the lush tropical colors and faith in folk values have become hallmarks in his artworks. His other major works include Portrait of Purita, The Invasion of Limahong, Serenade, Muslim Betrothal, Blood Compact, First Mass at Limasawa, The Martyrdom of Rizal, Bayanihan, Magpupukot, Fiesta, Bayanihan sa Bukid and Sandugo. In the city hall of Manila, one can see one of his recognizable murals. He was awarded the National Artist title on 1973, the second visual artist after Fernando Amorsolo. Francisco hailed from the town of Angono in Rizal, long regarded as a home to many artists and the “Art Capital of the Philippines.” 

The head of the NCCA’s National Committee for Visual Arts (NCVA), painter Nemesio “Nemi” Miranda, is also from Angono. He remembers accompanying Francisco in his hikes when he was a child and is proud that he is included in one of his paintings on Angono scenes. Francisco loved to hike and explore the countryside. He is said to be responsible for the discovery of the now famous Angono Petroglyphs in 1965, a result maybe of one of his hikes.
The NCVA and the Angono Ateliers Association have a big project to celebrate Francsico’s birth centennial. To be held in the last two months of 2012 and the early part of January 2013, the “Sentenaryo ni Botong” is a cultural event that includes a competition, a conference, parades, a mural interaction and an exhibition that will travel all over the country. The national competition will be open to all. A jury will select 24 artists based on their recent works and will be given P 5,000 production grant each to portray scenes from Francisco’s life and works based on a list of 30 themes about Francisco. 

The 40-painting traveling exhibit, aside from Francisco, is also in honor of Lucio San Pedro, National Artist for music, who was also from Angono and whose birth centenary will be celebrated on February 11, 2013.
Aside from the NCCA, the Museum Foundation held a lecture called “Sabado sa Museo at si Botong Francisco” last November 10 at the National Art Gallery with art scholar Patrick Flores and Carlos “Totong” Francisco. This is part of a year-long series of events of the Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco Centennial Consortium, which includes the Angono Artists Association, Ayala Museum, Blanco Family Museum, Botong Francisco family, CCP, Far Eastern University, Freeway, National Artists Collectors Series, Lopez Museum, municipality of Angono, Museo ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Philippine Art Awards, SM malls, University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines Vargas Museum and Yuchengco Museum.
Fashion brand Freeway also joined the celebration by offering the Botong Francisco collection in its National Artist Collectors’ Series — dresses with prints of Botong’s works as well as gift items such accessories, watches and even tech accessories.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Forest Lodge: Aiming for Growth in Baguio

The Forest Lodge nestles among the stately pine trees of Camp John Hay

The Forest Lodge facade

Although there are newer destinations emerging in the Philippines, poised to capture the imaginations of tourists, Baguio City remains to be a “classic” destination. The educational and commercial city in the Cordillera region in northern Luzon was tagged as the Summer Capital of the Philippines and it remains so for many people. There is a kind of romanticism to the city that no other places in the country can conjure or foment. Despite urbanization, calamities and neglect, Baguio still draws tourists, first-timers as well as frequenters who consider the city memorable, and many tourism stakeholders in the city are hopeful it can attract more.
One good reason for them to go to Baguio is Forest Lodge, a new hotel launched in early September inside Camp John Hay.
“It is in the works for 10 years, and despite problems we were able to open it because we are committed to bringing tourism, committed to bringing in people to Baguio to experience not just the environment but also the culture,” Robert John Sobrepeña, chairman of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco), who targets to open a thousand rooms in the former United States military recreational camp turned into a tourism and recreational zone.
It was hinted that Forest Lodge’s opening was delayed partly due to frictions between the hotel’s developer and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).      
“Now that we are in this stage, we hope that we will be able to iron out whatever differences we have,” Baguio City mayor Mauricio Domogan said. “Let us work together because as we all know it is only when we are united that we can accomplish a lot.”
“We’re committed to bringing in more people to Baguio City to celebrate, not just the environment but also the culture of Baguio City,” Sobrepeña further said. “We believe that it presents a very unique attraction to tourists, not just Philippine tourists but foreign tourists as well.”
Heiner Maulbecker, managing director of CJHDevco’s The Manor, and board director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB), said they see an increase in domestic tourism and that Baguio is still a preferred destination for conferences and seminars. He further said that Forest Lodge will cater to the growing Filipino market and is cheaper.
“The burgeoning Filipino domestic market, that’s our market,” said Tito Avanceña, president of Club Leisure Resorts, Inc., which manages The Manor and Forest Lodge, and defined this market as “the trendier market, the younger market, the new Filipino market.”
            To cater for this market and to attract more tourists, they made the rates of Forest Lodge a lot cheaper than other hotels of its kind. They tout it as the “best deal in Baguio.” The rates are indeed friendly—P2,900 for a superior room, P3,300 for a deluxe room, and P5,400 for a one-bedroom suite on a triple-sharing arrangement. These with amenities that are almost five-star.
            Because of this, Avanceña exclaimed: “I don’t know what to call it. Does this look like a budget hotel?”

Rooms have complete amenities

The Twist by Chef Billy King offers very affordable Japanese, Indian and Korean cuisines

The 19th T can accommodate wedding receptions and conferences

The Boardroom is suitable for small meetings and seminars

The lobby features a fireplace where guests can lounge in relative warmth

            The Forest Lodge is a not entirely a new hotel. The 208-room structure was built more than 10 years ago and was opened as The Suites at Camp John Hay, a sister hotel of the nearby and posh The Manor, one of best accommodations in Baguio City.
“We rebranded it because there’s a need to meet this market we’re targeting,” said Avanceña.
            At the launching, 55 rooms (43 superior rooms, seven family rooms and five one-bedroom suites) are open for occupancy at the Forest Lodge. Avanceña revealed that they hope to increase the rooms to 70 to 100 by the end of the year. The capacity of the building is over 300 rooms.
Those who stay at the Forest Lodge do not only enjoy the fine amenities and services of the hotel but also the amenities and facilities of Camp John Hay, which includes the Camp John Hay Golf Club, the picnic grounds with its stately pine trees, the Filling Station row of food outlets, the Commissary, an eco-trail, the butterfly sanctuary, the Tree Top Adventure, the CAP-John Hay Trade and Cultural Center and the Bell Amphitheater.
            Forest Lodge itself has many features including a spacious lobby with a fireplace, a lobby shop, the Boardroom for small business meeting, and the 19th T for wedding receptions and conferences.
            An interest to many is its casual dining outlet at the lobby, The Twist by Chef Billy King, which offers very affordable Asian cuisines particularly Japanese, Indian and Korean. Its simple menu has miso soup with chicken and udon noodles (P120); wheat noodle soup with pork balls (P120); tuna tataki with ponzu (P240); tuna sashimi (P240); salmon sashimi (P210); assorted maki and sushi rolls (P150); prawn tempura (P240 for four pieces); seafood cake with Asian coleslaw (P160); chicken tikka masala with biryani rice (P165); crispy pork belly with honey chilli garlic with steamed rice (P190); breaded pork with tonkatsu sauce with steamed rice (P160); vegetable chap chae (P140); beef chap chae (P190); beef bulgogi with steamed rice (P210); and Mongolian barbecue, stir-fried from wok, with a choice of rice or noodle and a choice of chicken (P160), beef (P200) and seafood (P200). King is the famed chef who runs the restaurant of The Manor, Le Chef.
            With the opening of the Forest Lodge, people will now have more affordable options to enjoy the beauty of Baguio City more.

At the grand inaugural launch held recently were (from left) Alfredo “Boysie” Yniguez, chief operating officer, CJH Hotels Corporation; Robert John “Bob” Sobrepeña,  chairman of Camp John Hay Hotels Corporation; congressman Bernardo Vergara, district representative; Mauricio Domogan, Baguio City mayor; and Ramon C.  Cabrera, general manager of The Manor at Camp John Hay and The Forest Lodge.

For reservations and inquiries, call the Baguio office (Camp John Hay, Loakan Road, Baguio City) through tel. nos. (63 74) 424-0931 to 47 or 50 to 53; toll-free nos. (63 2) 584-4911 or 584-4892; facsimile no. (63 74) 424-0960 to 61; email address; or its Manila sale and marketing office (Unit 1107-A, 11th floor, West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Building, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City) through tel. nos. 687-6524 and 687-6710; facsimile no. 687-6607; or email address