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Spoliarium,an opera about Juan Luna debuts October 1 in NYC

Enough said about the patriot Heneral Luna.  Antonio Luna's brother, Juan Luna also has an interesting controversy that rocked the 19th century Europe and the Philippines, a focal story of an opera that will be shown at Tribeca Performing Arts Center on October 1, 2 and 3. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan who was flown in by the production just for this opera.  

A scene taken from the rehearsal of the opera, 'Spoliarium'. The opera, composed by Ryan Cayabyab with a libretto by Fides Cuyugan, is directed by Anton Juan. The show promises to be another celebration of Pinoy talent in New York.

  The opera revolves around the expat life and love of Ilocano patriot and painter Juan Luna. Born in Badoc, Ilocos Norte and educated in Manila, Juan was sent to Europe to further pursue art studies. He settled in France and was married to Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera, a beautiful Spanish and Portuguese Philippine-born woman whose status and wealth was of esteem. As a painter Juan won awards and much acclaim. As a reformist, he worked with other foremost Filipino expats such as Jose Rizal, his brother Antonio Luna, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Pedro Paterno, Isabelo depot Reyes, Felix Hidalgo and other notable propagandists. Known in the Philippines as the 'illustrados', they were an elite group of Filipino expatriates in Europe whose aim was to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony, Las Islas Filipinas. Juan was such a popular figure in Europe that even the King of Spain was among his friends. Yet despite his talent and social status, Juan was infamous for his violent temper like his general brother, Antonio. In a very publicized family drama in September 1984, Juan was in front pages of French newspapers for shooting his wife, mother and brother-in-laws in a fit of rage and jealousy. Only the brother-in-law and  a friend, Felix Pardo de Tavera, survived the tragic event. Everything was witnessed by his son, Andres.  

A Juan Luna painting, probably of his wife Maria de la Paz Pardo de Tavera

  Juan painted in the Renaissance tradition and his favorite subject and model was his slain wife. His most famous painting that won him awards is 'Spoliarium, an allegorical painting about injustices of the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines. This opera was named after this painting.   

Spoliarium, Juan Luna's masterpiece, currently hangs at the National Museum, Philippines.

  Notes About Production Director Anton Juan, started out in the University of the Philippines- Diliman and ultimately becoming its foremost theater professor whose mentorship produced numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed artists. Professor Juan has contributed significantly to and made an impact on the evolution of Philippine culture and drama. His influence and fame spans the world. Peter Holland writes: “Anton Juan is one of the most exhilarating directors in the world.” Juan’s moving poetic style has been seen and widely admired in the Philippines, in Asia, the USA, and Europe, not only as innovative and visually exciting, but also as merging inner space, movement, sound-sense, with the urgent cry for insularized, marginalized, and emergent cultures." Ryan Cayabyab is a prolific composer, musician, and conductor whose work include not just popular music of which he is wildly popular, but also spans full-length ballets, opera, theater musicals, choral pieces, and orchestral pieces, to commercial recordings of popular music, film scores and television specials. In the opera's gala night on October 3, production mentioned that Ryan Cayabyab will play as a guest musician. Fides Cuyugan Asencio, Spoliarium's librettist is an accomplished stage actress, opera star and then a long time voice mentor at the University of the Philippines College of Music. She stars as Sisa in the opera's Act 1. The show promises to be another showcase of Pinoy talent in New York. Tickets will be sold at the door or available online at SpoliariumNYC.com.  

photo by Troi Santos

  SOURCES and additional readings  Love That Kills, Ambeth Ocampo, http://opinion.inquirer.net/23057/love-that-kills. Anton Juan, Full Biography http://ftt.nd.edu/faculty-staff/faculty-staff-by-alpha/anthony-anton-m-juan-jr-ph-d/anton-juan---full-biography/ Ryan Cayabyab, Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Cayabyab Fides Cuyugan Asencio, a Grand Dame of the Philippine Stage, http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/112129/fides-cuyugan-asensio-grand-dame-of-the-philippine-stage.

Zabb Elee, an Authentic Thai with a Michelin Star in Jackson Heights

Michelin stars doesn't always mean breaking the bank and a long wait to get a table in a well managed space in mostly posh locations in Manhattan. The 2014's 1-star Michelin list includes four Queens restaurants with one of them located just blocks away from the 'Little Manila' strip along Roosevelt Avenue. Zabb Elee, features Isan or Northeastern Thai cuisine that doesn't prominently feature the typical Thai menu items that are popular in the West. If one has an aversion to incredibly spicy foods, then this is not the place to eat. I ordered some items that reminded me of street foods I enjoyed back in the Philippines such as grilled chicken gizzard, liver and hearts. It was presented in sticks and came with a combination of spicy, sour, sweet and salty that was a perfect dip for the smoky and full taste of the chicken entrails. The price was a surprise for it was comparably cheaper than the Filipino restaurant's bbq sticks! The grilled pork came out intricately yet at the same time mildly flavored. The sticky rice was served in an unpretentious see-through plastic used in Philippine markets and carinderia that is quite unexpected of a Michelin-starred restaurant. IMG_5236.JPG IMG_5238.JPG IMG_5240.JPG IMG_5242.JPG IMG_5245.JPG IMG_5247.JPG IMG_5251.JPG IMG_5249.JPG

Philippine Independence Day Celebration

Mabuhay ang mamayang Pilipino mapasaang lupalop man sila ng mundo! June 1, 2014
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To walk the streets of a city so great while proudly holding your home nation's flag is a social, political & cultural feat that we enjoy now because of people who willingly gave up their lives so we could enjoy ours.

Peanut Butter Happy

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I just officially turned my back from Lily's and Skippy peanut butter brands. From among the four flavors I tried tonight my favorite is Dark Chocolate Dreams! I have Smooth Operator, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, and Bee's Knees. Next time I will try these 2 other flavors from Peanut Butter Company: White Choco Wonderful and The Heat Is On. To me the PLUSses are: creative flavors, pairing suggestions in jar, no excessive oil, consistently smooth texture, just the right sweetness and that they have a small-town feel restaurant near Madison Square Park. Now how cools is that? A peanut butter so good it has to have its own restaurant in the City. Peanut Butter Company has a store and restaurant in West Village, NYC.

Graffiti Art: Banksy & 5 Pointz

October 20, 2013. Today, my friend Nina and Cath went graffiti hunting in 3 boroughs of NYC to visit well-known graffiti sites. First stop: 5 Pointz, Long Island City in Queens. Considered the graffiti mecca, this site is facing demolition soon to give way to two apartment complex. Here are pictures from our visit: 20131021-185127.jpg 20131021-185154.jpg

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Next Stop: BANKSY!

It is a very exciting for Banksy admirers this month. The anonymous British graffiti artist is going around town and leaving the brand of artwork he is known for, plus more!

At Highline, 2 Banksy paintings have been in exhibit since Thursday last week. Today (October 20) is also the last day  of the art installation under the Highline Park at 24th Street and 10th Avenue. This is unusual because the artwork is guarded 24/7 and studio-made, so unlike Banksy's most popular works.

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Then at a dead end street in Bushwick, Brooklyn, his celebrated '2 geishas crossing a bridge' graffiti has been covered in plexi-glass and enclosed in a gate by the owner after realizing the value of the graffiti.

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BEFORE and AFTER of the 2 geishas crossing the bridge

At a roundabout road in Woodside, Queens his work has been defaced barely a week after it was done. This is close to Krystal's, a popular Filipino restaurant on 69th Street.

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This one is at the corner of Delancey and Bowery streets in Lower East Side, Manhattan. Banksy's works are also political and social commentaries so when I was looking at this graffiti I was trying to understand what Banksy was showing. I didn't understand what it meant until my friend Nina read in an article that this graffiti is a snide remark on the quality of musicals in NYC.

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We also visited old Banksy favorites from years ago and found out that the works are no longer there. Here's the site of the 'girl skipping rope' in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (2007?).  I looked closely, and I saw the fading green rope under the wooden seats. The building is now an entrance to a private art gallery.

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Here's another Banksy in Willimsburg, Brooklyn that has been painted over. This picture was taken in 2010.

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Banksy is not done yet. He will be in NYC for the next 9 days. So watch out for more Banksy treasures coming next to your neighborhood! It might even be in your building. You never know!

(All pictures are all taken using an Iphone 5.)

ABS-CBN 2013 Christmas Station ID Shoot in NYC (the story behind the scenes)

When I was invited by a friend (Ms. Luchie DR) I didn't hesitate. We knew it was not a paid gig but the experience of working side-by-side (literally!) with THE Lea Salonga was priceless!

After I excitedly told my mom that I'll be part of a small group of background artists for the ABS-CBN station ID filming at Times Square, her first response was, " ... But you can't carry a tune." And she's right.

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SIDE NOTE. Thanks, ABS-CBN US correspondent Don Tagala.

In yet another facetime session with my mom that happened after the filming of the station ID, I jested, "See I told you, I get to sing with Lea. I performed a song and dance in Broadway district so you already have a daughter who is a Broadway performer." Always the bluntly honest one she answered without malice, "With all the ABS-CBN stars your face might not even be included in the final cut." Hahaha ... True!

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But what the heck, Lea Salonga is Lea Salonga! It was the experience and the thrill of doing things so unique and so New York. Memorizing the lines was challenging and singing was humbling...  Pretending to sing was very difficult acting!  Although we knew only the images will be used we were told that they might use the actual sound recording for the news.

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Let me write about Lea. That day she was the only one wearing red as we were given explicit instructions to wear bright holiday colors and never black, brown, red and earth colors. A lot of us had to shop for candy-colored outfits because in New York it is the norm to dress in muted colors. She arrived at 7:45am, just after daybreak and found us already rehearsed for our call time was at 6:00 am. Leah arrived with her 2 assistants, a stylist and her sister, from her apartment at West 54th Street. Like us she was worried she might forget her singing lines.

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This experience goes to my alkansya of special memories!

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Above picture was taken in 2011 at the after party of the Fil-Am Broadway Stars Concert at Lincoln Center in 2011. Below is a picture taken at the 2013 ABS-CBN Christmas Station ID.

Word for the Day: Nasam-it

Nasam-it (adj) Nasam-it iti cake dijay Molly's cupcakes. The cake at Molly's Cupcake are sweet. Sweet, English Matamis, Tagalog

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Peruvian Jalea

The Peruvian 'jalea' is a bed of deep fried and lightly battered sea food mix. The usual mix includes squid, lobsters, fish fillet, clam, oysters, crabs, snails, and barnacles topped with a generous layer of fresh red onions, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. With a spritz of lemon and dash of black pepper, this is one heck of an appetizer!

This jalea version is served at Rikko, a tiny Peruvian restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens. The seafood is mixed with deed fried yuka or cassava root that serves as an effective palate cleanser from the tasty and flavorful jalea. Compared to its Manhattan counterparts the menu selections at Rikko are varied and the prices much more reasonable. Take 7 train, stop at Bliss Station.

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Hot Choco on a Stick

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Creamy and frothy hot chocolate. The chocolate melts in 3-5 minutes with constant stirring.

Pop Bar, an ice cream shop in Greenwich Village, gets ready to make a sell this winter by offering a hot drink addition in its usual 'handcrafted gelato on a stick' menu.

The store serves hot chocolate drink on a stick for less than $5 each. The idea is to melt a bar of chocolate, which is given separately, in a frothy and steaming cup of milk. The options are regular, dark and white chocolates.

I ordered the dark variety and once melted, the drink is just the right sweetness and very creamy! Recommended for those looking for something more than the usual hot choco drink. Definitely a no-no for dieters.

Pop Bar website

Orient Beach Trail: A Different Kind of Hike

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Posing in front of the Big Lighthouse, a fully operational state-facility with a vast history starting from the late 1800s.

 

The place is one of a kind! In the middle of the long narrow beach are alternating marshlands filled with contrasting live green and withered gray pine trees that create an eerie yet enchanting feel. On the left side is Gardiner Bay and a great view of famous Shelter Island. Where there is no marshland are patches of cactus and other desert plants. On its right are several natural salt ponds that are teeming with life: sea gulls, ospreys, edible seaweeds (gurgurmot) and different varieties of shell fishes such as hermits, horseshoe crabs, clams, alimango, alimasag, etc ... There are also small ponds and swamps. This is a strip of land that can't decide what it wants to be. Parang Baguio na La Union, Pangasinan, Batangas at Ilocos all in one.

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Nature-polished stones cover the entire beach. The island is so narrow that one can walk it for ten minutes from west to east. It is so long that it took us 5 hours to walk its entire length from trailhead to the tip and then back.

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Gallery Photos by Henry Medrano, Yolly Guese and Myrna Chua From Orient Beach, Suffolk Country in Long Island, NY.