Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Classics Return

ComforTech loafers
The classics, in art and literature, are the epitomes of excellence, original and groundbreaking during the time they came out, setting the standard for other works to follow and influencing many others. Despite being created many years ago, even hundreds of years before, they remain relevant. Their appeal is timeless, and their beauty endures.
In fashion, trends come and go, but the classic styles remain. They may be cast aside from time to time, but people return to them. There have been numerous style changes in men’s shoes over the years. The toe gets very pointy or stubby, for example. But the classic round toe is coming back, said Eric Leung.
The regional executive of Florsheim also said that the ones that are durable, comfortable and handsome in any season, with a mark of high quality, will always have a market and will always return. Usually, these are made by companies with a heritage of making shoes and innovation, such as Florsheim. 
Florsheim was founded in 1892 by Milton Florsheim with The Florsheim Shoe Company in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Over the years, it became an established brand as well as international name in footwear with presence in Europe, Central America, South America and Asia. 
In Asia, Florsheim stores can be found in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Philippines. It will soon open its first store in Nepal and is eyeing Bangladesh. Leuing flew to the Philippines to grace the opening of its tenth store in the country at the new mall Ayala Fairview Terraces in Fairview, Quezon City. 
Leung’s presence here highlighted the importance of the Philippine market.
“The Philippines is the third biggest market in Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “We see the relevance of our brand here and commit to continuously address the fashion requirements of every Filipino, male and female.” 
He mentioned that Hong Kong and mainland China remain the top two markets of Florsheim. Hong Kong has over a hundred Florsheim stores, selling an average of about 150 to 200 pairs of shoes a day.
The success of the brand in the Philippines is attributed to the strong partnership of its local distributor, the Retail Specialist Inc (RSI).
“We have been partners with RSI for over 22 years now. Through them, Florsheim is made available to the Philippine market, competitively priced, timely displayed of the latest collection and strategically located in prominent malls in Manila, Cebu and Davao,” Leung said.
Established in 1991, RSI also distributes the brands Naturalizer, Mayoral and Justice, and operates 26 specialty retail stores in 13 malls nationwide. The new Florsheim store will carry popular lines and products such as Royal Imperial, Imperial, Florsheim Regular, Comfortech and Sports and Casual, as all other stores do. 
With the opening of the new store, Leung pushed the local campaign of returning to the classics, highlighting the staples for men, such as the wingtips, made with calfskin and kidskin and having sewn soles; loafers, moccasins and other casual shows, all sewn by hands; and lace-ups, timed for the opening of the school year. This is geared towards the professionals since the bulk their clientele are professionals, 25 years old and up, who can afford the brand, which is priced higher than many others.
They are also promoting the Comfortech shows, which was introduced in the 1980s and having outsoles that are extra light and very flexible. 
According to Leung, among the casual shoes, the weave has become a popular style especially during summer. He sees through that men will be going for rounder toe shapes with neutral tones such as cognac and taupe.
Leung is also highlighting the women’s shoes as Florsheim is mostly known as a men’s brand. But he said that 50 percent of Florsheim’s shoes are men’s, while the women’s take the other half. Surprisingly, the women are their number-one customers rather than men. This is because, he said, women tend to buy more shoes and more often. Men usually buy shoes when the ones they have are worn out. 
He predicted the man shoe and ankle bootie to become popular, with the flats gradually coming back into fashion for the women’s footwear.
Florsheim has also developed shoes in brighter colors to keep abreast of the changing fashion and to attract new and younger customers. Colors to check out this season are classic blue, moss green, orange, lemon and pink, and beige, maroon and grey. 
But Leung said that consumers will also continue to look for comfort, flexibility and durability when buying quality, classic and fashionable shoes.
He said: “We have a rich heritage incomparable to others. Our focus remains on designing sophisticated, elegant and contemporary shoes that cater to all walks of life. We make our shoes using leading-edge technology and superior workmanship that results in exceptional quality, comfort and styling that people around the world have grown to love for the past more than 120 years.” 

Florsheim stores in the Philippines are located at TriNoma Mall, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Glorietta 4, SM Mall of Asia, Festival Mall Alabang, Alabang Town Center, Ayala Fairview Terraces, Ayala Center Cebu, Abreeza Mall Davao and SM City Davao. For more information, follow them through Facebook (Florsheim Philippines), Twitter and Instagram (@FlorsheimPH), or log on

Wingtips from the Imperial line
Wedges for the ladies

 Loafers in bright colors

The weave is becoming popular especially during summer

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Fight on the Island

Many were disappointed when Pacquiao lost
By nine in the morning of May 3, people were starting to trickle in and in a short time almost filled the cavernous sports complex, actually a large court with a stage and a roof of iron sheets, in the town of Santa Fe.
They were watching a boxing match, but this was not any boxing match. It was a Manny Pacquiao bout. In the Philippines, a match involving the widely considered greatest Filipino boxer and one of the world’s greats nearly becomes a holiday, especially in Metro Manila, where work almost comes to a halt and many people are in their homes glued to the television. Even crimes take a noticeable dip. The May 3 event was not any Pacquiao fight. The eight-division world champion would be competing against prominent American boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., the undefeated, five-division world champion, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The duel, aptly called “Battle for Greatness” or “The Fight of the Century,” was much anticipated for years.
In generally sleepy Bantayan Island in the Central Visayas, the most recent fight became a fanfare. Local government officials and their guests trooped to the complex. Several foreign tourists even joined the more the 2,000 attendees, donning the red cloth head band with the words Go Manny. The bulk of the audience was made of ordinary people—fishers, farmers, vendors, etc. Many of them brought their children, their parents, their families. Pacquiao is a hero to many, having risen from poverty and obscurity in General Santos City in way down south in Mindanao to the global limelight, the epitome of many Filipinos’ dreams. He has been hailed for bringing honor to the country. Over time, many things have been latched to his back. Some thanked him for unifying the country, some for bringing their families together through his matches.
For Pru Life UK, Pacquiao would serve as inspiration for the Bantayan people, who have been severely affected by supertyphoon Haiyan, the most devastating in recent times. The British life insurance company, which once had Pacquiao as one of its endorsers, brought the match live and free for public viewing to Santa Fe as well as to the two other towns of Bantayan Island—Bantayan, the largest municipality in the central part, and Madridejos, the island’s agricultural and livestock center in the northern part. It also sponsored live public viewing in other parts of the country—10 communities in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Albay, Aklan, Cebu and Northern Samar—which drew about 27,800 people.
“We want to lift the spirits of those fighting to recover from typhoon Yolanda. We are excited about the fight, but more than that we are inspired by every Filipino fighter from all walks of life. We saw the opportunity to bring the fight to those who do not have access to it, and we are overjoyed to be able to connect them to the rest of the world as we cheer on the ‘People’s Champ,’” said Antonio Manuel de Rosas, president and CEO of Pru Life UK, before the match. “Seeing the Cebuanos in Bantayan Island get back on their feet has been a truly a remarkable experience for our staff and volunteers. Helping them rebuild their homes is just the first step. We hope that watching this fight live gives them the opportunity to set aside their daily struggles as they join in this national celebration.”
Bantayan Island lies at the northwest tip of the island of Cebu, about 130 kilometers from the provincial capital Cebu City and surrounded by the Visayan Sea. To many, the island is known for its picturesque beaches. Many visitors, mostly from the main island of Cebu, are drawn by the long stretches of white-sand beaches, mostly concentrated in Sante Fe, where its port receives regular ferries from the main island. Tourists from Metro Manila and other parts of the country as well as foreigners had been increasing in recent years. Tourism was emerging to be a productive industry in the island whose leading industries are fishing and poultry and egg production.
When typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, arrived in the country in early November 2013, Bantayan lies directly on its path. The island was almost flattened. While casualties were much lower compared to other parts of the country, the typhoon damaged or completely destroyed much of the homes and wiped out livelihoods. Fortunately, relief efforts had been quick with several aid agencies coming in, including Prudence Foundation. Pru Life UK’s charitable arm has helped rebuild houses and has provided new motorized fishing boats and pedicabs with nearly 250 staff and agent volunteers from 10 countries across Asia and the United Kingdom. It promised a long-term effort in rebuilding, and still continues providing livelihood and rehabilitation to the people of Bantayan Island. Almost 90 percent of the population benefited, the foundation stated.
The public viewing was one of its rehabilitation efforts, where people packed to the gymnasium. Despite the summer heat, they patiently waited for the main event. For most of them, it was their first time to watch a Pacquiao fight live. Across the complex in the poblacion, the municipal hall was almost unrecognizable with its tattered eaves. Nearby, the Catholic church, the Santo Niño Church, was being completely rebuilt, larger and shinier. Vendors of snacks had gathered by the entrance as people continuous arrived.
When the match finally started near noon, the audiences were all eyes, loudly cheering whenever Pacquiao managed to pull a punch. But in the end, the judges unanimously declared Mayweather the champion. There was silence in the gym and most of the watchers quickly trooped out.
It was a painful to see our cock (meaning “bet,” an allusion to cockfighting) lost, expressed a group of fisher women. They said they went all the way from their home barangay in Bantayan to the gym on foot to watch the fight. They complained of being hungry and having no money for the fare home. They lingered around for a while as if waiting for something.
Some men were still in disbelief. Pacquiao was cheated of the title, one said, echoing the opinion of most people in the audience and of the whole country. It is a typical, almost automatic, Filipino reaction in the face of loss, especially during elections. Accusations of chicanery are a way of showing the non-acceptance of defeat. Another is taking on a favorable perspective: Pacquiao may have lost but he is still the champion for the people. We see what we want to see.
“Manny may not have won, but the resilient Pinoy spirit lives on!” Pru Life UK says. The company remains unruffled by the defeat and rallies the people to support Pacquiao ever more. The Filipinos will, of course, and they will continue to face their daily battles in life outside the gym.

The Santa Fe Sports Complex
A mother brought her children and their grandmother
The crowd got rambunctious
Even foreign guests and tourists joined the locals in watching the much-anticipated fight, donning the red head band
Hundreds of Bantayan locals trooped to the Santa Fe Sports Complex to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao match live, cheering enthusiastically at each punch

A group of fishers' wives who came on foot

Isidoro, a retired employee, was still in disbelief and believes that Pacquiao was cheated.
Grandfather and grandson lingered after the match
Sugar Beach is a popular destination in Santa Fe
 Bantayan Island in Cebu is knwon for its picturesque beaches. It was directly hit by the super typhoon Haiyan, wiping out livelihoods


Friday, May 01, 2015

Oneness and Diversity at the 2015 Panaad sa Negros Festival

La Carlota’s Pasalamat Festival performance during the festivals showcase on April 13 2015
When the vice governor of Negros Oriental, Edward Mark Macias headed a delegation to go to Negros Occidental and met its officials, headed by governor Alfredo Marañon, Jr., to discuss mutual cooperation between the two provinces that occupy the Philippines’ fourth largest island, he was surprised to learn that both delegations share the same sentiment about a deeper relationship.
It’s a mutual dream, said Macias to a large crowd gathered for the first day of Negros Occidental’s biggest local festivity, the Panaad sa Negros Festival. That dream is to join the two provinces—“long lost sisters separated at birth,” he described—into one separate region.
Currently, Negros Oriental belongs to the largely Cebuano-speaking Central Visayas region while Occidental to the largely Hiligaynon-speaking Western Visayas region. The division of Negros Island into the two provinces was implemented in 1890. It was not just political and arbitrary. A range of mountains also divide the island, and the provinces belong to two separate ethnic groups with their own unique histories and cultures as well as shared features.
            The idea for the single-island region dates back to the late 1980s just after the Marcos administration. Resolutions have been drafted on the Negros Island Region over the years, and the movement has recently acquired renewed energy. It is believed that making Negros Island a single and separate region will speed up development. The Panaad sa Negros Festival 2015 highlighted this with the theme “Negros: One Island, One Dream.”
While the theme furthered the movement in unifying the two provinces, the festival also featured the diversity and unique qualities of the towns and cities, which make Negros Occidental distinct. This was very much evident in the festival booths, which were made permanent structures in accordance to the initial plan of a one-stop shop for all things Negros Occidental, as well as the festival dances.
The annual Panaad sa Negros Festival is meant to showcase the history, cultures, heritage, industries and tourism of the province and be an occasion to gather Negrenses together as well as entice visitors. Panaad means “vow” or “fulfilment of a vow,” or “panata” in Filipino. The first festival was held in 1993, timed also to celebrate Negros Occidental’s becoming a separate province on April 30, 1901. From being a three-day event, Panaad sa Negros has become a one-week affair. This year, it was held from April 13 to 19.
            The festival began with a mass and the ringing of a bell, announcing the start of festivities and activities, one the early morning of April 13. The week was jam-packed with events and activities, almost all held at the 25-hectare Panaad Park and Stadium in the barangay of Mansilingan in the capital Bacolod City. The sports complex, constructed for the Palarong Pambansa in 1998 and planted with eucalyptus trees, has become home to the festival after being held at the provincial capitol and at the BREDCO Port during the early years.
            The Panaad sa Negros events are the kind that has been de-rigueur in Philippine festivals and fiestas such as the Lin-ay sang Negros beauty pageant, a fun run and other athletic tournaments, agricultural trade fairs, motorcades, etc. Local culture was cultivated in activities such as the Kultura Negrosanon: Paindis-indis sa Binalaybay, a poetry contest; and a rondalla contest. They have a contest on composo, the Hiligaynon ballad, before. The Panaad Bulang, a cock-fighting derby, showed that the culture of cock-fighting is very much alive and entrenched in Negros Occidental communities it is difficult to eradicate. The trade in fighting cocks s considered a top industry here but remaining undocumented.
In recent years, the organic farming movement has been strong and receiving local government support, becoming a prominent part of the Panaad Sa Negros Festival. The Organik Village at the Panaad Park has become one of the attractions during the festival with its own set of activities such as a market of fresh produce, food stalls offering inventive items, seminars, quizzes, all promoting organic farming. This is one of the ways that show that province has already diversified its agriculture and industry. Negros Occidental is still known as the sugar producing capital of the country. In the past, vast tracts of land were dedicated to only one crop—sugar cane—making the province vulnerable to the fickleness of the sugar market. With food security as one of the thrusts of the local government, Negros Occidental is also focusing on vegetables and fruits cultivation, livestock and fisheries. There was a sizable livestock fair that can be very interesting
            But the most interesting attraction was the Panaad Tourism and Agri-Trade Fair and Exhibits, composed of the themed pavilions of the 19 municipalities and 13 cities of Negros Occidental. This fair is one of the best in the country. The towns and cities have their own spaces on which they build their pavilions. It is a combination of a weekend market, a theme park, exhibition spaces, information centers and a tiangge. Here, they showcase agricultural produce, tourism exhibitions, cultural products, local cuisines through makeshift eateries, handicrafts through souvenir shops, etc.
The pavilions can get creative. Calatrava’s is in the shape of cave while Moises Padilla’s is in the shape of a carabao. Toboso’s is the shape of a fish, while Cauayan’s is in shape of a bamboo tune.
The Silay City pavilion is a replica of an old ancestral house, which the city is known for. Inside, it presented an exhibit on the old lifestyles and homes of the prominent families.
The Negros Occidental pavilion, called Balay Kalamay, featured a small exhibit, “Camarin: The Story of the Negros Occidental Sugar Industry” about sugar and the sugar industry, curated by leading tour guide, Raymond Alunan Bayot. The exhibit featured old photographs, equipments, the story on the National Federation of Sugar Planters, the processes of making sugar, etc. It even recreated, on a small scale, the interiors of a home of the so-called sugar barons, complete with authentic pieces of furniture and appliances. There was a fully functioning turntable that can play vinyl records, the oldest if which dates back to the war years, from the collection of the tour guide.
The most popular attraction of the provincial pavilion was an authentic steam locomotive, used to transport sugar cane harvests, donated by the Central Azucarera de la Carlota.
The Bago City pavilion was also impressive. There was a heritage trail that guides visitors through the attractions. One attraction was a fortune teller. The city is said to be also known for manghuhulas, besides from the ancient priest called babaylan, highlighted every year with a festival. A replica of the Kipot Falls proved to be a highlight.
The pavilion of Murcia this year caught the eye with its whimsy and bright colors. Giant pinwheels and candies adorned its yards. They called their exhibit “Enchanting Murcia” enumerating why the town is captivating.
            Crowds of thousands went through the pavilions, feasting on grilled seafood of the coastal towns and cities, checking out the root crops of the upland towns, buying Guimaras mangoes at the Valladolid pavilion, etc.
            By late afternoon, the stadium, which can accommodate about 25,000 poeple in its main grandstand and open bleachers, hosted the showdown of festival dances of the province’s towns and cities. A performance from Bacolod City’s popular Masskara Festival introduced the spectacle of 20 participating local government units that proved to be the highlight of the Panaad sa Negros opening day.
            La Carlota’s Pasalamat Festival, a thanksgiving event for harvest and tribute for workers, presented an exuberant dance with attractive pineapple-inspired costumes to the original beat of the samba. San Carlos City’s Pintaflores Festival dance was a kinetic display of painted bodies and flowers, as the name implies. The Kabankalan City’s Udyakan Festival dance was inspired by the five folk dances of the city. Bago City’s Babaylan Festival emphasized the role and powers of the ancient shamans. Sagay City’s Sinigayan Festival’s dance advocated for environmental protection.
Cadiz City’s Dinagsa Festival, a Santo Nino festival, shared features from other famous Santo Nino festivals including dancers mimicking the Ati. On the other hand, San Enrique’s Bulang-Bulang Festival highlighted its cockfighting with dancers, beautifully dressed like fighting cocks, demonstrated the five movements of the fighting cock—dalagan, tuka, lupad, arigay and bulang.
La Castellana’s Bailes de Luces Festival performance used lights in imaginative ways. With dancers clad in all gold, Sipalay City’s Pasaway Festival performance told about the saway, a piece of copper found in riverbeds and hills, believed to cure ailments and fashioned into amulets to guard against aswangs. Talisay City’s Minuluan Festival celebrated how the early villagers, led by Kapitan Sabi, warded off the attack of sword-wielding pirates from Jolo with only rattan canes.
In Cauayan’s Lubay-Lubay Festival dance, the bamboo was prominently used, while Candoni’s Dinagyaw sa Tablas Festival performance told the town’s history.
Valladolid’s Pasundayag Festival used the steps of its folk dances pasiguin, pamulad isda and salate mais in a dance that celebrated the town’s bounty and patroness Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The dancers of Ilog’s Kisi-Kisi Festival imitated the movements of crabs, fish and shrimps to highlight the province’s longest river.
            History and local culture got enthralling dance-drama interpretations from the rest of the partipants—Manapla’s Manang Pula Festival, Silay City’s Hugyaw Kansilay!, Victorias City’s Kadalag-an Festival, Hinobaan’s Pag-Banaag Festival, and Murcia’s Tinabuay Festival.
            The “festival of festivals” show ended with the Magayon Festival dance of Moises Padilla, considered as the province’s livestock center, depicting the colors and noises of the tabu or weekly market day, encapsulating partly what Panaad sa Negros is—a marketplace but on a yearly basis. But is also a venue for gatherings, celebrating the produce and bounty of the earth that nourish lives and cultures. With an assortment of things, the people are one.   

The lechon, or spit-roasted pig, is a fixture in Philippine festivities. About a hundred lechons were paraded and feasted on during the Panaad sa Negros opening day.

The Livestock and Dairy Fair
The Bago City pavilion
Replica of Kipot Falls at the Bago City pavilion
Fortune teller at the Bago City pavilion
The Negros Occidental pavilion
Exhibit on the sugar industry at the Negros Occidental pavilion

Tour guide Raymond Alunan Bayot curated the exhibit at the Negros Occidental pavilion

A real steam locomotive at the Negros Occidental pavilion

Guimaras mangoes at the Valladolid pavilion

Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Maranon Jr.

Bacolod City's Masskara Festival


Cadiz City's Dinagsa Festival

Cauayan City's Lubay-Lubay Festival
La Carlota's Pasalamat Festival

San Enrique's Bulang-Bulang Festival

Sipalay City's Pasaway Festival

Talisay City's Minuluan Festival

All photos by Roel Hoang Manipon