No Comments 30 April 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

After 40 years in the music business, the iconic Pinoy vocal trio APO Hiking Society has decided to call it a day. The shocking revelation came during a press conference last January, when members Jim Paredes, Buboy Garovillo and Danny Javier announced that they will have a series of “farewell concerts” that will culminate with their final live performance in May of this year.

“What I always believed about showbiz is knowing when to leave; not to overstay your welcome. Forty [years] I think is a very good time,” says Danny.

“Every person in showbiz has an end, sometimes you think things are forever. No, they’re really not,” adds Jim.

Buboy emphasizes that it wasn’t a rash decision to retire on their part. In fact, there had already been talks to end the group as early as last year. “Sa totoo lang, since last year pa namin napapagusapan ito, we decided to pursue individual interests also.”

Lest anyone think it has anything to do with internal friction among the band members, he attributes their decision to the fact that the group, with their differing priorities in life, have not been collaborating as much as they used to.

“Pahina nga nang pahina yung creative process. Sinasabi nga ni Jim, e, yung ginagawa namin together, pahina nang pahina. We are not writing songs together. We are not recording songs as much together,” Buboy said.

Through the years, parang little by little, pakonti ng pakonti ‘yong ginagawa naming creative process. That’s how APO was created 40 years ago; Sabi namin, ‘Saan tayo pupunta? Ano ba ang sinimulan ng APO noon?’ Ito nawawala nga ‘yong creative process.”

Jim also cites the uncertain climate of the contemporary music scene, with young acts and changing tastes and technologies making it difficult for an older group to find their niche.

“Showbiz caters to a very young market. Yung last albums namin, sinubukan talaga naming i-promote, ilagay sa radyo… hindi kami umabot dun. Hindi kilala ng maraming tao ang laman ng mga apat o limang album namin.  For me, that’s a clear indicator. Ayokong dumating ang panahon na wala nang nakakakilala sa iyo at hindi ka na kakawayan ng tao. Kailangan mo nang tuldukan habang sikat ka pa.”

They were also conscious of the fact that they did not want end up a mere nostalgia act, belting out decades-old hits, without creating anything new and fresh. “We still enjoy performing, kaya lang sabi namin kung uulit ulitin lang natin ito at wala naman tayong ginagawang bago, baka maburyong tayo sa sarili natin. Bago tayo maburyong sa sarili natin, let’s put a time table to it,” says Buboy.

The group agreed scheduling their final live performance in May to coincide with the upcoming elections. APO is a firm supporter of Noynoy Aquino’s candidacy.

Kasi if you want change, you look for somebody who represents change,” says Danny. “Ako, sa bawat araw na nagpoprogreso ang pagkakampanya, ang masasabi ko kay Noynoy, walang halong pambobola, walang kasinungalingan, hindi porma. Nilalait pa nga siya sa kakulangan ng porma. Para sa akin, yun ang kalakasan ng kanyang kampanya, kasi walang halong pag-iimbot sa katotohanan at, siyempre, walang dagdag na pagkukunwari.”

For their current series of concerts, Jim says that they’re performing at their peak level right now, so fans should not miss the opportunity to see them live. “If you want to catch the APO, this is the last stretch. We’re good till the end of May. So, any concert that’s there, panoorin niyo na. To our fans, our followers, everything else – panoorin niyo na.”

APO Hiking Society was formed in 1969 as a huge ensemble vocal group at the Ateneo de Manila University. Paredes, Garovillo, and Javier were the only members who pushed through with their musical career.

The group recorded 22 albums, spawning classic hits such as “Batang-Bata Ka Pa,” “Pumapatak Na Naman Ang Ulan,” “Nakapagtataka,” “Yakap sa Dilim” and “Doobidoo.”

They have also extended their name as able live showmen, with countless concerts at home and abroad. Locally, they made several acclaimed and popular television programs and specials, including the long-running, popular noontime variety show Sa Linggo nAPO Sila.

Internationally, they have performed all over the world, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia. They were the first Pinoy group to perform in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, as well as the first to perform in a public concert in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 2006 and 2007, many of the top contemporary bands of the country released the cover albums Kami nAPO Muna and Kami nAPO Muna Ulit, attesting to the group’s iconic status and lasting influence in Pinoy music.

The group assures longtime fans that just because APO is retiring, doesn’t mean that the individual members of the group will stop making music. “Baka akala niyo kapag sinabing magre-retire ang APO, ‘yong mga tao na ng APO [magre-retire din]. Hindi. Ang pangalan ng APO ang magre-retire,” says Buboy.

He adds that although they don’t have plans to release a final record, there’s a strong possibility that their last concert in May will come out as a live commemorative album.

Jim, who had transplanted to Australia several years ago, says that he might write and collaborate with other singers. “I’m a creative person. So under any conditions whether there’s APO or whether there’s no APO; I’m old or whether I’m young, whether I’m sikat or not, my duty is to be creative, so continue pa rin ako.”

Buboy says he wants to continue with not only singing, but being an all-around entertainer. “I do TV shows, I do hosting jobs also, I do some soaps.”

Danny, on the other hand, wants to focus on continuing with his advocacies Mindanao. Recently, it was announced that the group, tapped by the government, will promote a “public dialogue” via TV ads and radio that will hopefully help broker a peace deal in the war-ravaged region.

He doesn’t want to make any definite music plans just yet. “Naniniwala ako sa isang kasabihan na life begins after you make your plans. So, hindi na ako nagpa-plano. I’ll just let it begin.”

Though APO is reaching the end, the three are still positive that the best is yet to come. “Life goes on. If you ask me have each of us done the best in our lives? I think I haven’t,” says Jim. “You have a lot more to hear from Buboy Garovillo, Danny Javier and Jim Paredes.”




No Comments 29 April 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

I laugh, so I do not cry, goes the saying. The Filipino is renowned for keeping a happy disposition in spite of adversity. This trait is perhaps most emblematic in the lower-class who, in spite of poverty and other difficulties, continue to maintain an optimistic outlook on life.

So it seemed only inevitable that a competition is created to designate “The Happiest Pinoy.” Sponsored by Cebuana Lhuiller Insurance Solutions (CLIS), the aim of the event was to “rekindle the values of optimism, resilience and hope in the Filipino nation.”

“We wanted to veer away from the traditional advocacy marketing concept and this is what we thought would be effective, inspiring, unique, and refreshing,” says CLIS General Manager Jonathan D. Batangan.

A nationwide search was conducted, with more than 218 nominations from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao received by the screening committee. The nominees were shortened down to 20, and then a final six were interviewed by the judges.

After deliberations, Winston Abella Maxino, 47, chief operating officer (COO) of Hooven Philippines, was given the award for “exhibiting an optimistic outlook on life, a cheerful disposition, the ability to rise above life’s challenges and having a positive impact on the life of others.”

In his acceptance speech, Maxino said that his most special prize was the gift of insight about happiness. “Happiness is rejoicing even in the reality that our lives are suffering. Happiness is rejoicing despite suffering.”

He, along with six finalists, attended the awarding ceremonies last February at the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati City. Maxino received a trophy and P200,000, while the finalists received P25,000 each.

The others on the shortlist included: Nona Andaya-Castillo, 47, a teacher; Rex Bernardo, 39, an academic; Gerardo Gamez, 44, a salesman; Celestino Habito, 90, a retired professor; Carolina Reyes, 78, a housewife and lecturer; and Maria Kathrina Lopez-Yarza, 26, an artist and entrepreneur.

Each of them have suffered severe personal hardships but continued to excel and lead fulfilling lives. One of the judges for the event, University of the Philippines president Dr. Emerlinda Roman, was very much impressed with all of the finalists’ stories of hope and perseverance.

“As we interviewed the nominees, we became aware that there are many different views of happiness,” Roman noted. “We were humbled by many of the finalists because of their inner strength which pulled them through, their optimism and their faith.”

Maxino was born and raised in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, the eighth of nine children. Despite growing up with asthma and allergy attacks, he became an exemplary overachiever – becoming a “Little City Mayor” in Dumaguete City at 11, and being elected the youngest Kagawad representing the youth sector of the city.

He credits his supportive family with helping him hurdle the difficulties of his childhood years. “Since I was small, I was almost bedridden because of severe asthma. But my family was there to push me all the way, their love has brought me optimism and I grew up to be very optimistic in life and I chose to be happy,”

He eventually graduated cum lade from Silliman University, with a degree in political science, carrying the distinction of being the only college student of Silliman who was the recipient of the “Most Outstanding Student of the Year” in each of his four years in college.

Health problems continued to hound him as he attended law school at the Ateneo de Manila University. He even went so far as to keep oxygen tank in his dorm room for self-medication.

After law school, he joined government service, first as a legislative assistant to then Senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino, then as one of President Cory Aquino’s speech writers. He also occupied various positions in the Philippine Postal Corp. in the mid 1990s.

In 1996, he decided to switch to the private sector, gradually rising from the ranks of Hooven Philippines to become the COO of the aluminum manufacturing company.

In 2000, Maxino was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative and incurable bone disease which causes his spine to swell and cause his lower back pain. He spent several years in chemotherapy, taking oral steroids to lessen the pain. Doctors stopped the treatment, seeing that it was not alleviating the pain, and switched to opiates. He took the medicine gradually so as not to become addicted.

Though somewhat optimistic that there will be a cure in the future, Maxino happily accepts his life’s circumstances. “I am not less of a person because my body is broken. I do not dwell on what I do not have.”

Maxino plans to get involved in serious advocacy work to spread awareness about the disease. “It is a rare disease and there is not much number yet of patients suffering.”

He and wife Alina have three daughters. His second daughter, Brina Kei, has Down syndrome, needing speech, physical, and occupational therapy. Again, instead of becoming disheartened, he and his wife took inspiration from their daughter.

“She (Brina Kei) frequently declares, ‘I love my life and I love my future!’” he says. “I realize that she is right. Happiness is a choice. No matter what the circumstances of my life are and will be, with God’s grace, I choose and will continue to choose to be happy.”

Maxino joined the Down Syndrome Association of the Philippines and became its president. He and his group helped secure Presidential Proclamation No. 157, declaring February as “Down Syndrome Consciousness Month.” His other civic advocacy includes being General Manager of Green Earth Power and Energy Corporation.

He is also a Certified Balloon Artist (CBA), clown and magician, performing at children’s parties for free (he calls himself a “kidologist”).

“A positive outlook gets us through the most trying times,” he says. “Laughter is the best medicine. Laughter is free. Laughter does not require a doctor’s prescription. It is internally generated therefore it does not run out of stock.”

To Maxino, it is all about keeping a positive perspective no matter what happens. “I’m not saying my problems are more difficult than others. I don’t want to compare. I guess it’s not the gravity of the problem I am facing, but how I accept the problem and turn it into something positive,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It is this characteristic, he says, that he and the rest of the finalists for “The Happiest Pinoy” share. “What is common among the finalists is that we are suffering in a major way, in my case because of an incurable disease or physical disability. We rise above our physical pain and limitations to live full happy lives. Happiness is our daily therapy and positive outlook gets us through the most trying times.”




No Comments 27 April 2010

By Leandro Milan

Before the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in September 1972, there were only two dominant political parties that took turns at the helm of the state from the time the country gained independence, namely, the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party. Occasionally, a third force or independent candidate would challenge the stranglehold of the two giants but not one had succeeded in disturbing the two-party system in place.

Founded in 1907, Partido Nacionalista or Nacionalista Party (NP) is the oldest political party in the country. The Partido Liberal or Liberal Party (LP) was formed in 1946 by a breakaway group from the NP led by then Senate President Manuel Roxas. Nacionalista stalwarts who became presidents of the country were Manuel Quezon, Jose Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos Garcia and Ferdinand Marcos. Philippine presidents from the LP camp included Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and Diosdado Macapagal. Marcos was LP president from 1961 to 1964; he joined NP and became its standard bearer in the 1965 presidential election when then President Macapagal, father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, decided to run for a second term. Other notable LP leaders were former senators Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Gerardo Roxas, whose respective sons – incumbent senators Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Manuel “Mar” Araneta II – are now the party’s top bets in the May 10 election.

In the post-Marcos era, the multi-party system was introduced ostensibly to open up the electoral process to more groups and give the electorate a wider menu of choices. New political parties sprouted, and the LP and NP became inconsequential. In 1992, Fidel Ramos of the then newly-formed Lakas-NUCD party won over Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who ran under the fledgling People’s Reform Party. Another newcomer, Nationalist People’s Coalition, fielded businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, who came in third. In 1998, Joseph Estrada was swept into power through the combined effort of two small parties — his own Partido ng Masang Pilipino and his running mate Edgardo Angara’s Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). In 2004, President Arroyo ran under the Lakas-NUCD banner, defeating Fernando Poe Jr., the standard bearer of the umbrella group Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino.

The comeback kids

During the past few years, however, there has been a gradual tectonic shift in the political landscape. Through the rebuilding efforts of a new generation of leaders, the dominant parties of pre-martial law era have posted significant strides in regaining their old glory. Senator Mar Roxas has taken over from the party’s sole remaining Old Guard, the venerable Jovito Salonga. On the Nacionalista side, former Vice President Salvador Laurel passed the baton to Senator Manuel Villar, who used his vast personal wealth and political savvy to turn the NP into what is now acknowledged as the most organized political machinery in the country. The LP and NP are back in their old form and if the results of the most recent nationwide surveys of the country’s leading pollsters (Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia) are an indication, the 2010 presidential race has become a three-man race among Aquino, Villar and Estrada.

True, the political landscape is still littered with post-Marcos parties and alliances – Lakas-Kampi, NPC, PMP, LDP, PDP-Laban, KBL, Aksyon Demokratiko, Ang Kapatiran, PRP, UNO. The two pro-administration parties – Lakas and Kampi – got even bigger and stronger (at least on paper) when they coalesced a few months ago. But the impending end of President Arroyo’s term and her negative popularity ratings have struck fear and anxiety among party members. The ruling party is fast disintegrating and could fill up only five slots for the 12-man senatorial slate.

Lakas-Kampi disintegrates

Massive defections have rocked the ruling party in recent weeks and the biggest beneficiaries have been the LP and NP. The most notable Lakas defectors to the Liberal party are Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, who used to senior vice president of Lakas; Misamis Occidental Governor Loreto Ocampos, president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines and a member of the ruling party’s national executive committee; ex-senator Ralph Recto, who only a year ago was in the Arroyo Cabinet; and Akbay Gov. Joey Salceda, an economic adviser of President Arroyo. Recto was joined by his wife, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, who was heavily wooed by the administration to be the running mate of Teodoro. The more prominent NP recruits from Lakas-NUCD include former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, Camarines Gov. L-Ray Villafuerte, Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, Surigao del Norte Gov. Robert Ace Barbers and Cebu Congressmen Pablo Garcia and Eduardo Gullas. Many more congressmen, governors, mayors and councilors have formed a bee line to the camps of Aquino and Villar, the two leading presidential hopefuls.

The Nationalist People’s Coalition, the vehicle of Danding Cojuangco for his losing presidential bid in 1992, is also showing signs of collapse. Its brightest hope in 2010, Senator Francis Escudero, abruptly quit NPC last October, leaving the party in disarray and without a presidential candidate. Escudero has since abandoned his presidential ambitions in 2010. The presumed NPC bet for vice president, Senator Loren Legarda, was forced to eat her words and swallow her pride and partnered with erstwhile nemesis Villar. Earlier, of course, there was the defection of no less than Danding’s favorite nephew, Gibo Teodoro, to Lakas-Kampi. With Danding’s advancing age and reported failing health, the NPC faces a bleak future.

Estrada’s PMP has never been a strong political party. Even during Estrada’s abbreviated presidency, PMP did not gain a strong nationwide following. The party suffers from lack of credibility, for while it espouses a pro-poor agenda, its leader is living it up in the company of unsavory characters – from drinking buddies and women to gamblers and vested interests.


Like NPC and PMP, the other parties are nominal groups whose existence is co-terminus with the political future of their patrons because they are very much identified with personalities rather than an ideology. The names and faces of their patrons are indelibly etched on the parties: Danding on NPC, Estrada on PMP, Angara on LDP, Marcos on KBL, Santiago on PRP, Villanueva on Bangon Pilipinas. Only the Nacionalista and Liberal parties have endured the test of time. But just the same, all the different parties remain mainly personality-oriented; their platforms are all loaded with similar motherhood statements. This explains why party loyalty is a cheap commodity in the country. Politicians seamlessly and shamelessly switch parties largely on the basis of self interest.

In a recent column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, UP Professor Randy David offers an insightful and informed view of our political parties: “As it is, none of the leading presidential candidates can claim to stake their candidacies on the drawing power and record of their respective political parties. Their parties are nothing more than brand names that carry little weight, with no distinct political philosophy or ideology. This accounts for the ease with which politicians of varying, and often conflicting, persuasions and backgrounds are sworn into the same party. Nothing coherent binds them together. In truth, these so-called parties are nothing but coalitions of convenience, provisional alliances forged by practical considerations rather than by enduring principles.”

IN PHOTO: LP standard bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III and running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II flash the Laban sign after filing their certificates of candidacy.


Current Affairs


No Comments 27 April 2010

By Perla Aragon-Choudhury

The May 10 elections are crucial for a variety of reasons.

Edna Estifania Co, Ph. D., professor of public administration at the University of the Philippines and lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University, explains why: “After a long time, after more than the usual presidential terms of six years, we will be electing a national leader, a change people have been waiting for.”

Relative to the Asian region, the 2010 polls are also crucial, she adds. “If we don’t change in, say, eight years, we’ll be very much left behind Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia where there is movement and some headway despite problems. We should move. Otherwise super, super mapag-iiwananan tayo.”

Dr. Co heads the Philippine Democracy Audit Team of the International Democratic Assessment (IDEA) which brought together in 2005 scholars to assess democracy indicators in the country.

“It is crucial that leaders change, crucial for poverty and the way we run our institutions,” explains Co, author of the Free and Fair Elections and the Democratic Role of Political Parties, and of the IDEA Managing Corruption.

Choosing the leaders

Just what kind of leaders can, in the words of Co, unleash a new life for the Philippines?

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz says their attributes depend on the situation in the country.

“The traits I recommend are one, integrity; two, competence and three, character,” says the now retired 75-year-old former bishop of Dagupan-Lingayen.

He elaborates: “Integrity, because there is a culture of graft and corruption from the national to the local level. After integrity, competence, because we vote for one who is an actor and rides a horse all the time but is a senator. We are still star-struck. Actors win because they are popular.

“Character, as shown by political will. I’ve been in the hearings on jueteng and am told by the witnesses that they fear for their safety. I for one would not trust the Witness Protection Program because it is run by those who know where the witnesses are hiding.”

Cruz asks: “And is there anyone who has my vote? Secret!”

Now that he is retired, the outspoken prelate says he is free to engage in socio-political work and to write.

“One tiny voice – and of course, nobody listens,” he chuckles as he chats with Planet Philippines.

Religion and politics

As has been the usual practice of politicians every election time, aspirants for various posts seek the support of every group, bloc or party. Among the most sought-after is the endorsement of religious sects, which are presumed to carry a sizable “command vote.”

History, however, shows that it is only the Iglesia Ni Cristo that is able to muster a solid vote for its preferred candidates. The other religious denominations have not been shown to deliver one single voting bloc in spite of the political posturing of their leaders. Just the same, many politicians continue to seek the blessings of religious leaders who claim they speak in His name, prompting Cruz to say that God must be having fun but is also probably confused.

“I am very happy I’m not God because if I were God, I would not know what to do,” Cruz said in a forum. “Here is the son of God endorsing this, and here is the leader endorsing this. I think God must be having fun.”

Among those being wooed are El Shaddai leader Bro. Mariano “Mike” Velarde; Davao-based Christian sect Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name Pastor Apollo Quiboloy; and the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Take two for JIL

For the second straight presidential election, JIL is fielding its head, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, for president in the May 10 polls. As for the other sects, so far it is only Velarde who has insinuated his presidential candidate. Without explicitly naming his choice, Velarde merely points to his favorite color, orange, which is the campaign color of Manny Villar. The INC and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ have yet to announce their endorsements.

Cruz adds: “The head of El Shaddai put up a big church,” he says of the sect’s leader, Mike Velarde. “And the big thing is, he has built an astrodome, an amphitheater, on his land. They hold events there, especially now that it’s rainy season. He has never built a church – a simbahan – and so he can say, `God told me I have served enough’, and he can just leave. Ang galing ng mamang ito – ganyan din ang gagawin ko, I have thought to myself.”

Separation of Church & State

Some sectors do not see the political endorsements of these sects in a favorable light. But Professor Co points out that the 1987 Constitution has no explicit provision on the separation of Church and State.

“But because of the influence of the Catholic Church, its leaders can say something and it can gain importance as when Cardinal Sin called for support for the group who broke away from Marcos. Also, they issue statements when they see something that is not moral and is against Church dogma.”

She believes that in People Power II, the Church did not have a role as big in People Power I.

“But its leaders still spoke out as part of their right to express their opinion, just like any other group in national society. And this is why it is difficult to totally separate the church from the state. The situation is fluid.”

This partly explains why some sects endorse candidates who may adhere to the religious principles of these groups or who may grant these sects political favors in exchange for their endorsement.

Cruz, however, frowns on it. “What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right,” he says. This is not `Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ and this is not transactional politics.”

CBCP position

In an ironic twist, six Catholic bishops have come out in support of presidential hopeful John Carlos de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran party. The endorsement came as a total surprise in the face of the long-standing position Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against non-involvement in partisan politics.

Reacting to the bishops’ endorsement, CBCP president, Bishop Nereo Ochdimar, issued a circular to his subordinates in the Diocese of Tandag (Surigao del Sur) to avoid engaging in partisan politics.

“The Church must refrain from partisan politics, avoiding especially the use of the pulpit for particular purposes, to avoid division among the flock they shepherd,” he said. “In case, a member or leader of such association decides otherwise, and be a candidate or openly campaign for a candidate or party, he or she has to resign temporarily.”

The Church has been ambivalent about its position on partisan politics. It will be recalled that the CBCP has threatened to campaign against candidates who endorse any form of family planning, forcing presidential candidates Benigno Aquino III and Gilbert Teodor to backtrack from their support to the Reproductive Health Bill pending in Congress.




No Comments 23 April 2010

By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Friends Sid, Fr. Ed and Mackoy have a project in the northernmost Quezon town, Gen. Nakar, facing the Pacific Ocean and close to the boundary of Aurora, and I am invited to tag along as they are aware I am interested in the ecotourist components of the trip.

First, we pass through Laguna, along Laguna de Bay, largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and I renew my acquaintance with a succession of scenic Laguna towns along the foothills of the Sierra Madre: Lumban, Kalayaan, Paete, Pakil, Pangil, Siniloan and Famy.

This phase of the journey alone is a treat for the tourist as well as pilgrim.

Most if not all of these towns have old, interesting churches. In Paete, famous for its sculptures, Last Suppers and papier-mâché, is the parish of St. James the Apostle, known to Paeteños as Santiago de Apostol, first constructed in 1646 but destroyed and rebuilt several times during the centuries. It has five ornate altars.

The church tilted a bit during the earthquake in 1990, and suffered damage. While doing repairs, carpenters removed a large painting and discovered a fresco showing St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus on his shoulders.

The church in Pakil has a main altar with a pantheon of 14 saints and is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Our Lady of the Sorrows of Turumba). The church is famous for the boisterous Turumba Festival, with the image of the Virgin borne triumphantly along the streets of Pakil.

A famous native son of the town is visual artist Danilo Dalena, whose paintings capture the mass of humanity and the riot that is the Turumba Fiesta. The festival is celebrated twice a year — around Holy week (March-April) and in September.

Once past the lowlands, we ascended the mountains and we were surprised to find the road well-paved and smooth, leading to the first northern Quezon town, Real. The province itself was announced by a boundary marker: Sulong (Onward) Quezon! The checkpoint was manned by polite soldiers in camouflage uniforms asking where we were bound for.

They, no doubt, wanted to make sure we were not NPA rebels, Quezon known to be an NPA bailiwick. The tourist need not fear, however, for the rebels maintain a low profile and do not bother visitors (unless they are in a military convoy). There would be a few more checkpoints along the way.

The scenery was distracting. This part of the Sierra Madre range is well-maintained, or so it appeared to those passing through. There were trees of various species all around, cold spring waters, mini-falls, valleys, rivers, and glimpses of Lamon Bay and Polillo Strait. But there was a caveat: signs proclaiming Danger Falling Rocks.

To the east, beckoning to adventure tourists, was the Polillo Group of Islands.

It was cool and windy even in the afternoon. There were a few communities along the way, with shops displaying well-crafted, sturdy and attractive bamboo furniture which were not cheap.

After Real came Infanta, an area hard hit by torrential rains, floods and landslides a few years ago. We began to descend and finally reached Gen. Nakar, a town named after a World War II hero, General Guillermo Nakar, who hailed from Barangay Anoling of the town.

The municipal Hall is a new, modern and imposing building, with stained-glass art above the lobby. The town, which has lots of breathing space (you can buy a lot and retire here), recently celebrated its 60th foundating anniversary. In the distance you can see the mountains of Baler, Aurora, which are also part of the Sierra Madre.

There, to my surprise, I learned that there are many tourist attractions in Gen. Nakar, although far-flung, and this makes them attractive to adventure tourists: mountains and beaches, notably Catablingan; forests where indigenous peoples dwell, their culture intact; coastal cliffs and rock formations, Kidadayaig Falls, Depalyong Falls in Barangay Sablang, and Tulaog Cave in San Marcelino.

Barangay Pamplona and Catablingan have beach resorts with lodgings.

In the forests of Barangay Pagsanjan is found the Raffleasia, one of the world’s biggest flowers; while in Barangay Banglos the fisherfolk are known for their wood sculptures. From the forests have come herbs which are made into medicinal products by women’s groups.

The best-known tourist destination in Gen. Nakar, says Municipal Tourism Officer Kareen R. Leynes, is Tulaog Cave, which is near Tulaog Beach. It is actually a cluster of caves which is 1 ½ hours by boat from the town proper. The indigenous peoples (katutubo) from nearby towns go there simply by walking several kilometers, being a hardy race.

They converge there on August 4 every year for their Pasasalamat or thanksgiving to their deity, Makidyapat. They rest, cook, hold ceremonies, pray, and stay there for several days. Visitors who go there to watch or document the proceedings should respect the culture and religion of the katutubo, for tribal lore maintains that outsiders who go there with bad intentions never return to where they came from.

Exploiters, you have been warned.




No Comments 14 April 2010

By Joe Rivera

For Filipinos in the global diaspora, displacement came as an aftermath of the hardships brought about by the Second World War and worsening economic and political conditions in the country, particularly from the late 1960s to the present.

During the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, Filipinos started leaving in droves. The discovery of the usefulness of overseas workers to the local economy prompted the government and the economic elite to encourage sending them abroad to keep the rotten system afloat.

As globalization facilitated the mobility of goods, services, information and ideas, it also engendered the movement of people, which soon became our primary export to the rest of the world. It has been estimated that there are about 11 million Filipinos overseas scattered in every country in the world, or almost 12 percent of the total population of the Philippines. FULL STORY




No Comments 07 April 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

Pop Princess Sarah Geronimo continues to ascend the heights of stardom. Already established as one of the premier young singers in the country, the 21-year-old has also made a name for herself as a formidable box-office talent. Her last two movies, A Very Special Love and You Changed My Life, both romantic comedy-dramas pairing her with John Lloyd Cruz, were box-office hits. A Very Special Love won for her the title Box Office Queen for 2008, while its sequel, You Changed My Life, in 2009 became the highest-grossing Philippine movie of all time.

Will her winning streak continue? That’s the question as she shoots her latest movie, Hating Kapatid. This time Sarah is moving away from her romantic ingénue roles, playing sister to mega-talent Judy Ann Santos in the dramatic film.

To be working with the erstwhile Soap Queen is a dream come true for Sarah. “Blessing na naman from God na makatrabaho ko ang nag-iisang Judy Ann Santos,” she said.

In the film, the two play children of an OFW couple. Rica (Judy Ann) is forced to take care of her sister, Cecil (Sarah). Cecil gets into an accident early in their childhood, which Rica blames on herself, and who thus makes a stronger commitment to be there for her sister. As Cecil gets older, she strives to be more independent, which causes friction between the two. Complicating matters is when their parents return home and resume their roles, which leaves Rica unwanted.

The movie represents another big step in Sarah’s developing acting career.  “Medyo challenging ito bilang actress… Ay! Hindi pala medyo. Challenging talaga!”

Sarah and Judy Ann admit that they haven’t “bonded” yet on the set. Juday observes that Sarah is still shy when she is with her. “Ngayon nahihiya pa magsalita si bagets (referring to Sarah), siguro natatakot or something pero I make it a point naman na ‘pag magkasama kami kinakalma ko siya.

To be sure, Juday appreciates the effort of Sarah to give her respect. “In fairness kay Sarah may matinding effort siya na dumaan sa tent ko ‘pag dumadating siya, nagbibigay pugay sa akin. Hindi naman na kailangan kasi magkikita naman kami sa set, e. . . I mean if you are thinking na magagalit ako na hindi ka nagbibigay-pugay sa akin, hindi, no, okey lang sa akin yun, ipahinga mo na lang yan kasi mas kailangan mo yan at hindi naman ako isang artista na naghahanap ng atensyon, gusto ko lang na maging komportable siya sa akin.”

The veteran actress hopes that Sarah will eventually look up to her as a trusted friend and confidant, even after the film ends shooting. “Gusto ko rin malaman niya na hindi ito hanggang pelikula lang, pwede kaming maging magkaibigan hanggang pagkatapos nito. Pwede naman niya ako tawagan sa mga oras na kailangan niya ng kausap.

Juday adds: “Hindi naman mahirap maging kaibigan si Sarah, napakabuti ng puso, napakabuting tao, wala kang paglalagyan ng masamang salita kasi kapag ginawa ko ‘yun ako ang lalabas na masamang tao kasi alam ng lahat ng tao kung gaano siya kabuti.”

Sarah is more comfortable with another of her co-stars in the movie, Luis Manzano. The two have been friends for sometime as co-talents on the weekly variety show ASAP. Masayahing tao, contagious talaga kasi yung pagiging kalog niya at makulit, e,” she said of Luis.

Asked if there was any attraction or kilig moments between her and Luis, she said: “Yung kilig ko naging kinikilabutan sa sobrang kilig. Kinikilig ako sa kanya kapag nagte-take na kami siguro yung kulitan namin, pareho kasi kaming makulit, tinginan pa lang nakakatuwa na, pangit naman yung walang kilig na inaarte mo lang, so masaya na rin ako sa ganun.”

The 28-year-old actor-TV host shares the same sentiment. “Kami ni Sarah kasi we have established our friendship, our bond, our kulitan and she’s one of the people I trust in this industry,” he said.

He hopes that their off-screen conviviality translates to on-screen chemistry as well. “Kapag may scene kami na nagpapakilig kami eh kami din natatawa sa isa’t-isa. Hopefully naman, it will translate something good in the movie.”

Already there are reports of a possible team-up between Sarah and no less than one of Philippine entertainment’s greatest icons, Nora Aunor. The legendary talent is returning home this month for a showbiz comeback after a prolonged stay in the United States.

Like most in the showbiz circle, Sarah is excited about Nora’s comeback. “Siyempre, I am looking forward to her comeback. Lahat excited na talaga sa pagbabalik ng superstar Nora Aunor at kung ano pa ang maibibigay niya sa mga fans niya at viewers.”

Sarah says that one of her favorite films is the 1995 Nora-starrer The Flor Contemplacion Story. Asked if she’d be open to reprising Nora’s role if there was a remake, Sarah was humble enough to downplay the possibility. “Tama na yon, si Ms. Nora lang yon. Ang hirap-hirap gumawa ng remake. Pass muna ako diyan since hindi naman ako kaexperience na actress, so huwag muna sa akin.”

Sarah looks forward to seeing again a talent of Nora’s stature. “Unang una sa lahat, siya ang superstar, tinitingala ng lahat si Ms. Nora Aunor sa kanyang galing sa pag-arte, exceptional talent niya po talaga. Na-miss natin lahat yan, at lahat talaga nasasabik na makita siya ulit.”

Though her busy schedule does not allow time for romance, the singer-actress nevertheless is constantly hounded by the media about her love life. Last year, there were rumors that a number of suitors were pursuing her, among them singer Mark Bautista and young actor Rayver Cruz.

Sarah admits that Mark is still courting her, but remains undecided on whether to submit to his advances. “Consistent at persistent siya sa kung anumang good intentions na meron siya para sa akin kasi nakikita ko ‘yung respeto niya sa mga magulang ko at sa akin. Baka naman in the end, kami ang magkatuluyan.”
She has said many times that she is firmly focused on her career and that she is still too young to be involved in a romantic relationship. Even her social life has suffered somewhat as a result of her heavy workload. “Honestly po kasi ever since puro trabaho lang [ako] tapos uwi ng bahay. Ganun. Parang I never got the chance na maka-mingle sa mga katrabaho ko.”

Though she looks forward to having an independent life in the future, she wants to remain close to her family, no matter the circumstances. “Kasi very attached ako sa family ko. Even sa pagtulog talagang gusto ko katabi ko ‘yung iba sa mga kapatid ko, ganun kami sa isa’t isa.”

She’s also keenly aware of her image and would not want to indulge in any behavior that might tarnish it. “Naiintindihan ko naman lahat ng ito e. Alam ko na marami akong responsibilities [like]yun nga as a model sa mga kabataan.”


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