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 reservations@campjohnhay.ph.; 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 sales@campjohnhay.ph.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Dayaw Festival Celebrates and Aims to Learn from Indigenous Cultures

Numerous indigenous peoples from all over the country are expected to participate in Dayaw 2012: The Indigenous Peoples’ Festival from November 27 to 29, 2012, in Malolos, Bulacan

Every year, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) leads in the celebration of National Indigenous Peoples' Month in October by gathering as many Philippine indigenous groups as possible to showcase their cultures to create awareness and foster appreciation. The NCCA is the government arm that mainly gives grants to projects, sets policies and promotes arts and culture in the country.
        With this year's theme "Katutubong Pamumuhay, Halawan ng Aral sa Buhay" (Traditional way of life, source of lessons in life), Dayaw 2012: Indigenous Peoples' Festival emphasizes the many things we can learn from traditional cultures. The festival will be held from November 27 to 29, 2012, in Malolos, Bulacan, and features an enriching array of activities including performances, rituals, forums, traditional cuisine demos, traditional games, arts and crafts exhibit and cultural tours. About 700 people from all over the country are expected to attend and participate.
"A smorgasbord, a buffet of traditional cultures," described NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon Jr., who himself has been championing indigenous cultures. He is instrumental in the establishment of Schools of Living Traditions though which traditional knowledge and crafts in danger of vanishing are transferred to younger generation, and the institutionalization of the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or National Living Treasures Award, the country's highest honor to folk artisans and craftsmen. 

People can have fun watching and joining in the traditional games and sports at the Dayaw 2012: The Indigenous Peoples’ Festival

Aside from giving us identity as Filipino, De Leon said traditional cultures are a rich source of knowledge that must be tapped. He cited the indigenous peoples' extensive knowledge of local medical plants and herbs. Joycie Dorado-Alegre, head of the NCCA's Subcommission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts (SCCTA), one of the organizers of the festival, agreed adding that even the food, many of which she said is organic, is beneficial to many people. She related that the Ati still gather honey in the wild, and this is a healthy alternative to many sugary food products. She said with the trend in healthy, organic eating, many people are looking into traditional cultures. Our indigenous cultures are our future, she said.  
Aside from highlighting the importance and richness of indigenous cultures and the issues indigenous peoples face today, Dayaw 2012 also aims to mine traditional knowledge as well as draw inspiration and insight from indigenous ways of life to find solutions for modern problems as well as to enrich other groups of people especially the Tagalog people and residents of Metro Manila, according to festival director Joseph "Sonny" Cristobal of the Tourism Office of the province of Bulacan, which co-organizes the event with the SCCTA and Inter-skills Development Foundation, Inc., a non-government organization.
Indigenous peoples expected to participate include the Gaddang, Isinay, Tinggian, Itneg, Ibanag, Yogad, Itawit, Malaweg, Ivatan, Bugkalot, Isnag, Kalinga, Ifugao, Ibaloi, Kankanaey, Balangao, Bontok, Applai, Ayta, Mangyan, Palawani, Molbog, Jama Mapun, Tagbanua, Pala'wan, Batak, Cuyunon, Agta, Ati, Panay Bukidnon, Waray, Abaknon, Yakan, Subanen, Manobo, Higaonon, Bagobo, Mandaya, Mansaka, B'laan, Sangir, Ata Manobo, T'boli, Teduray, Arumanen, Mamanwa, Maranao, Magindanao, Iranun and Tausug.
They will showcase their songs, dances and rituals during the three-day festival at the Bulacan Provincial Capitol Complex. Also, there will be Sining sa Hapag-Kainan, a food festival; Katutubong Laro, a demonstration of traditional games and sports; Kuwentuhan sa Sari-Sari Store, an informal forum; and Dayaw Tyange, an arts and crafts sale. 

People can buy interesting products at the arts and crafts tiangge of Dayaw 2012: The Indigenous Peoples’ Festival

The Seryosong Usapan formal forum at the PGB Gym, to be attended by members of the academe as well as indigenous leaders, will tackle community-based tourism program that seeks to provide employment to indigenous peoples; climate change issues; and Department of Education (DepEd) curriculum for indigenous peoples.
Select indigenous groups will tour Bulacan for performances particularly at SM City Baliwag, SM City Marilao and Robinsons Pulilan. There will also be screenings at the PGB Gym of Cinemalaya films dealing with indigenous peoples. Traditional musicians will also jam with contemporary musicians including Kenyo, White Sand Band and local bands. Participants will have a chance to watch a traditional sarsuwela of Bulacan, Kakarong, to be performed by the Barasoain Kalinangan Ensemble at the Provincial Youth, Sports, Employment, Art and Culture Office (PYSEACTO).

The NCCA has been annually celebrating the National Indigenous Peoples' Month in different parts of the country through Dayaw. The festival is in consonance with Presidential Proclamation 1906, signed on October 5, 2009, declaring October as National Indigenous Peoples' Month, expanding the celebration of indigenous cultures. 
The NCCA mounted Dayaw: Philippine Cultural Communities Arts Festival at the Rizal Park from December 3 to 9, 2000, featuring performers, craftsmen, scholars, artists and cultural practitioners from cultural communities of the country, and serving as precursor to the current grand celebration. In 2007, Kalimudan: Panaghi-usa sa Mindanao (Mindanao Indigenous Peoples' Gathering) was held in Davao City in November, featuring Mindanao's ethnic groups. The following year, Timpuyog: Indigenous Peoples' Month Celebration in Luzon was held in Santiago City, Isabela, focusing on Luzon ethnic groups and featuring performances, arts and crafts workshops, cultural awareness lectures, forums, tours, and a theme-park exhibition featuring the traditional houses, cultural resources, practices/rituals, chants, music, songs and dances, stories, traditional arts and crafts, indigenous games. In 2009, the Indigenous Peoples' Festival was held in the Visayas, particularly in Roxas City, Capiz, called Dungog, with similar activities and aims. In 2010, the festival was held in Metro Manila, and in 2011 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, adopting permanently the name Dayaw, which according to Alegre they have chosen because in has different meanings in different languages but all positive. She said dayaw in her mother tongue Waray means "praise." It also means "to take pride in" in Hiligaynon, and "respect" in Iluko. All these positive meanings are brought to fore for indigenous cultures. Most of all, Dayaw, she said, is a happy, celebratory gathering, which takes pride in the cultural richness of the country through its indigenous peoples. It is hoped that the festival will foster a deep appreciation of their contributions.

From left: Dayaw festival director Joseph “Sonny” Cristobal of the Tourism Office of the province of Bulacan; NCCA Subcommission on Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts head Joycie Dorado-Alegre; beauty queen Maria Venus Raj, endorser of Dayaw 2012; and NCCA chairman Felipe de Leon Jr.