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Banned Books Week 

It's Banned Books Week this last week of September and I just remember back when I was still teaching literature in our conservative provincial town.  In my first year of teaching, right after I just graduated from a university known for activism and left-wing ideologies, there would be senior professors listening in while they unsuccessfully hide behind the walls and windows of my classroom. As I encouraged students to think critically about their gender roles, social equality, freedom of expression & religion, and introduce some age-appropriate concepts from Western philosophical views and pushed books that are on this 'Banned Book' list which have themes too big and far modern back then for our town and probably even now, I was aware of the career risks I was taking but somehow I endured.  Seven years in the academe, more than a decade ago. I wish I can go back in that classroom and do so much more ... And maybe invite those professors who hid behind the wall to my class 😁 Teacher forever 🤓 What is Banned Book Week? Why do we celebrate it. Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books and highlights persecuted individuals. Held during the last week of September since 1982, the United States campaign "stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them"and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions. ( Wikipedia) Here's some list and check what you have read.  American Library Association List Banned Books That Shaped America America's Most Surprising Banned Books And here's an article by Michael Tan in Philippine Daily Inquirer about banned books. Michael Tan article

Naragsak a baro nga tawen yo amen, Apo ken kakabsat!

The  early night before 2016, I was on the subway going uptown when this subway singer came in and started singing a familiar English song in Spanish. I was already  listening for a few seconds when the once elusive New Year spirit combined with my natural and ever present feelings of gratitude and love for my adapted home suddenly hit me! I am thankful to the people of the past year and looking forward to creating more wonderful moments in 2016. From the largest city in America and the most culturally and linguistically diverse city in the world where as many as 800 languages are spoken, I am shouting out "Naragsak a baro nga tawen, kakabsat!" and from this subway singer who proudly and joyfully sings in his own tongue, "Feliz Ano Nuevo!" Watch the video.  https://youtu.be/siNisVUw-Zg

Ilocano York joins the rest of the world in condemning terrorism and violence.

In these dark times of terrorism, let us celebrate the lives of those who showed their radiance.  Thank you, Adel Termos!    

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.

Downton Abbey Season 4 Preview with Cast and Creator Julianne Fellowes

20131213-004131.jpg TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwsRuTgVots 20131213-004148.jpg   TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwsRuTgVots     20131213-004158.jpg 20131213-004218.jpg I have always been fond of period drama in literature and film. So naturally, even if I'm not a TV fan I followed the entire 3 seasons of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime. After finding out that there was a Downton Abbey truck going around Manhattan with maids and butlers dressed in period costumes serving tea and biscuits to fans, I made it a point to look for it. Tonight the truck was parked in front of the Times Building on 41st St. between 7th and 8th avenues. The original plan was to be served tea and biscuits by costumed actors only but we got a nicer surprise! Already there ahead of us were Ted and Sheryl Reyes who found out that the entire cast was actually right where we were! We didn't have tickets to the event but in just 5 minutes of waiting we were eventually let in. By pure serendipitous luck, all four of us got in and enjoyed a pre-show cocktail and hors d'oeuvers with waitstaff wearing 1920s fashion. The first part was a showing of the maiden episode of Season 4 that was immediately followed by a Q & A. The characters present were Lord Grantham, Lady Edith, Branson, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs, Patmore, Branson and Thomas (my fave!). The writer and genius behind the show, Julian Fellowes, was also at the event. Great night! 20131213-004343.jpg 20131213-004334.jpg   TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwsRuTgVots     20131213-004309.jpg 20131213-004242.jpg 20131213-004547.jpg TO WATCH THE PANEL DISCUSSION FOLLOW THIS LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwsRuTgVots      

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.

Orient Beach Trail: A Different Kind of Hike

bug lighthouse

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.  

Penaverde Debut Exhibit in NYC

Manila artist Rem Penaverde, younger sister to New York- based Filipino tenor Rogelio Penaverde, holds her first art exhibit and auction in NYC. All artwork were sold out and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the activities and projects of San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir.

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Rizal in New York

Did you know that when Jose Rizal was in New York in 1888 he stayed at a hotel along 5th Avenue which was considered one of the best in the City at that time?

Where the hotel stood is now present-day Madison Square Park where Fil-Ams in the East Coast  celebrate the annual Philippine Independence Day.the Philippine National Hero,

To read more about Rizal in America, click here. This blog contains more links to Rizal's Anglo-American travels and experience.

It is New York City for Rizal before he headed to London via steamship. Follow Rizal in this interactive travel log by the GMA 7 team.      

Crucified Man Amongst Us

Brother Michael Lamantia's Golden Jubilee

The Brazilian, Italian and Filipino faithfuls of Our Lady of Pompei Church came together to honor Bro. Michael Lamantia on his 50th anniversary as a religious brother under the Scalabrini Fathers. Commendable is Bro. Michael's devotion to Pompei and Catholic faith that remain steadfast over the years. He renewed his vows of chastity, poverty and obedience on October 20, 2012. A walking 'crucified man' (someone who is ready to suffer as Christ did on the Cross) among us is indeed rare . Happy Anniversary, Bro. Michael! May more clergy serve as selflessly as you do to both Church and His community.