Monday, December 17, 2012

SEIJI SHIMODA’S SECOND COMING (First of three parts) (December 17, 2012)


Today, our students from the University of the Philippines troop again to120-A Narra Street, Barangay Amihan, Project 3, Quezon City. But this time, our visit to Lila Pilipina called Maligayang Pasko Po, Lola is more meaningful, if not the most meaningful, than our previous semestral sojourns for more than 15 years.

This year marks their 20th anniversary and last 1 October, as our way of celebrating the International Day of Older Persons, our students last semester organized Mano Po, Lola, a forum at the U.P. Faculty Center’s Pulungang Recto with the College of Arts and Letters’ dean Elena Mirano and College of Social Science and Philosophy’s history professor Ricardo Jose as special guests. After 10 days, it had a repeat when the Philippine High School for the Arts, through its Creative Writing teacher, Rae Rival, agreed to bring Lila Pilipina to the National Arts Center, the queendom of Mariang Makiling, highlighted by the kissing of lolas’ hand, after young art scholars entertained them through dance, music, and visual arts, among others.

Two years ago, we had the chance to help Lila Pilipina in their struggle to pressure the Japanese government: (1) to present a public apology regarding the crimes inflicted to the women; (2) to revise text books and other materials where these crimes were ommitted; and (3) to seek compensation for the victims.

Yes, it was during the Nippon International Performance Art Festival.

With war crime as our theme, we performed in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagano from 24 October to 5 November in 2010.

Seiji Shimoda, who founded the said oldest performance art festival in Asia in 1993, expressed his “disappointment” with us.

Did he forgive us for what we did on behalf of Lila Pilipina?

We never had the chance to talk earlier this year during his sidetrip to Manila when we welcomed him via Tupada Tuesdays at the Conspiracy Garden Café where we jammed with him last 25 August.

The other opportunity knocked once more during his second coming.

He came back to perform -- with Poland’s Peter Grzybowski, Singapore’s Jason Lee, South Korea’s Kim Kang, Israel’s Beni Kori, United States’ Eric Scott Nelson, India’s Dimple Sha, Switzerland’s Gilles Furtwängler and Anne Rochat, Myanmar’s Yadanar Win, and Philippines’ Luizi Alfonso, Rogger Basco, Roen Capule, Buddy Ching, Thom Daquiaog, Gilbey de Castro, Mael de Guzman, Boyet de Mesa, Martin de Mesa, Arvin Javier, Ian Lomongo, Noel Pama, Sam Penaso, Kaye O’Yek, Crecee Roldan, Joash Roxas, Jo-an Sarmogenes, Mannet Villariba, and Ugatlahi, to name a few.

It was for TAMA X, the 10th anniversary celebration of the Tupada Action and Media Art last 11 to 17 November.

Sadly, we were in Thailand for Asiatopia from 4 to 27 November.

But, with Mannet who videotaped our interview when we went to Thom’s cabin in Makati, we were able to speak with Seiji on cam.

Vim Nadera: Since you began it in 1993, how many artists have performed for the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF)?
Seiji Shimoda: More than 300 international artists from 45 countries around the world.

VN: You were born in 1953 in Nagano, Japan where NIPAF usually ends. How would describe your early years?
SS: In 1970, I was a poet. I joined high school student movement. When I dropped out of high school, I traveled in Japan by hitchhike. After five years, I started to focus on art, experimental theater, and performance art in Osaka City University.

VN: What was your exposure then?
SS: I was able to perform in Paris during my three-month stay in 1982. In 1987 I started my Western Europe tour. Then I was invited to more than 150 international art festivals in 37 countries like Western, Central Europe, Asia, North and Central America. I succeeded in promoting art exchanges and dialogues about performance art to the Americas, Europe, and Asia through NIPAF. I also began performance tours, workshops, and lectures at Musashino Art University in Tokyo.

VN: Do you have a particular style in performing?
SS: I should say that my distinct performance work always has action poetry, movement. I usually use my body. I love to utilize objects like table, chair, tape, chopstick or paper.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

LEVY’S STRATEGIES (Last part) (December 10, 2012)

Dr. Nathan Levy, endorsing his books exhibited during his successful Powerful Strategies To Enhance Learning workshop celebrating the National Week of the Gifted and Talented last 30 November

Vim Nadera: Is there such thing as The Nathan S. Levy Approach to giftedness? 
Nathan Levy: No, but there is an NL approach to teaching and learning. Engagement, challenge, relationships and knowledge of the subjects to be taught are all part of the “Nathan Levy approach.” This approach applies to the gifted as well. 

VN: What makes your method stand out? 
NL: I have no single method. I have a variety of strategies that have been successful. The combination of high standards and effective teaching are the keys. 

VN: Are creative people born or made? How can it be developed? 
NL: They are both born and made. Creativity can be taught through practice. Providing lessons with opportunities to think creatively and debrief that thinking is important. 

VN: What is the proper way to think? 
NL: Flexibly - when doing creative activities, and looking at points of view. Rigidly. When lock step thinking (i.e., turning on a computer) is required. 

VN: What is higher order thinking? 
NL: Being able to synthesize and create by looking at things from a variety of perspectives. It is more than having knowledge -- it is using knowledge in many ways. 

VN: Could you give us some tips on enhancing learning? 
NL: Engage learners by drawing on their experiences and giving them a base of knowledge. Both are needed. Provide thinking/problem solving opportunities, and helping learners to master basic knowledge as well. 

VN: Is there really a need for K-12 curriculum? Why? 
NL: Yes, to give all children equal opportunity by providing a common base for children from all areas. If one area of the country teaches its own curriculum, and the others are consistent the isolated group will have gaps and fall behind. 

VN: What advice can you give to parents, teachers, and students about excellence? 
NL: Model it; point it out, hold high standards. 

VN: Please tell us something about your books. 
NL: My books are the following: 

Stories With Holes (Volumes 1-20) are about creative logic stories to help participants think “outside the box”. 

Who Am I?/Whose Clues? (Volumes 1-6) help participants gain basic knowledge in a fun way. 

100 Intriguing Questions (Volumes 1-6) are open ended questions to stimulate writing and conversation. 

Nathan Levy’s Test Booklet of Basic Knowledge is all about America based test of cultural literacy. 

Not Just Schoolwork is on the best writing / critical thinking activity book in the world. 

There are Those is a poem defining “Gifted” from my perspective. 

Thinking and Writing Activities for the Brain (Volumes 1 &2) are about dynamic thought provoking quotes interwoven with activities that inspire children and adults to think broadly and creatively. 

Creativity Day by Day is full of daily activities to spur creative thinking, writing and/or conversation. Great for families and classrooms.

LEVY’S STRATEGIES (First of two parts) (December 03, 2012)

PCGE_Powerful Strategies to Enhance Learning

Fresh from the New Jersey shores, Dr. Nathan Levy will surely bring the proverbial light – like the Knicks burning the defending champion in Heat -- at the end of the Sandy-destroyed tunnel.

Well, he is used to it since he is educated in Storms (he got his Ph.D. in Administrative Supervision from the University of Connecticut) and Flushing (he earned his B.S., M.S., and Advanced Professional Certificate from Queens College)!

Especially this week when speaks before psychologists, counselors teachers, students, and others.

Dr. Levy is known worldwide as the founder and president not just of his consulting company for educators and parents but of a school in New York. For the longest time, he has proven himself as a principal, school coordinator, supervisor, administrative intern, classroom, and teacher trainer who was an IDEA participant, Geraldine Dodge Foundation Outstanding Principal awardee, Nabisco Math Assessement grantee, National Endowment for the Humanities recipient, and American Schools in South America consultant.

But, to top it all, he has authored such books as Stories With Holes (Volumes 1-20), Who Am I? Whose Clues? (Volumes 1-6), 100 Intriguing Question (Volumes 1-6), Nathan Levy’s Test Booklet of Basic Knowledge, Not Just Schoolwork, There Are Those, Thinking and Writing Activities for the Brain (Volumes 1 and 2), and Creativity Day By Day.

Today, as we begin the National Week for the Gifted and Talented, we look forward to tomorrow as the Philippine Center for Gifted Education Inc. spearheads Araw ng Pagbasa. It is a story-telling activity wherein last year’s winners of the Mga Bagong Rizal: Pag-asa ng Bayan will be featured from 5 in the afternoon at the Fully Booked, The Fort. Then, guidance counselors will be treated to PCGE’s pride Dr. Leticia Peñano-Ho’s lecture on Identifying and Guiding the Gifted Students at the University of the Philippines’ College of Education Training Center in Diliman the whole day of 28 November.

Everything will resume from 30 November to 1 December, starting at 9 a.m., when Dr. Levy shares his powerful strategies that enhance learning at the La Breza Hotel along Mother Ignacia in Quezon City.

According to Dr. Peñano-Ho: “The workshop provides numerous strategies and significant different learning opportunities not only for the gifted and highly capable students but for every student in the country. Unique approaches and proven teaching strategies will be presented as well as innovative techniques to increase teaching options and enhance critical thinking. Practical ideas that can be implemented immediately without large amounts of time and planning will also be presented. The convention is intended for school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and parents especially in preparation for the K-12 program of the Department of Education.” Good enough to a registration fee of P 5000.00 that will cover attendance in two days workshop, handouts from Dr. Levy, a certificate of attendance and meals.

Early registration is encouraged since slots are limited so please call at once 544-0352 or email at or visit PCGE’s website for more information.

For the undecided or Doubting Thomases, hope this will help you make up your mind.

Vim Nadera: How would you define giftedness?
Nathan Levy: Formally, I do not. There are many acceptable definitions. Read my poem There Are Those to get a sense of my unscientific definition. However, the big debate at present focuses on Talent vs. General Giftedness, and Potential vs. Performance. I actually see positives on all sides of the debates. As long as children and adults are recognized for their strengths, and educated accordingly we should see progress happening.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Last part) (November 19, 2012)


Vim Nadera: You also received your Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management in 2007 from the University of Phoenix. Would you recommend online schools, especially, to artists? Why?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: Yes, I would recommend online schools to all working students who have families at the same time. It is fast, convenient and effective. You have classmates that you interact with online from all over the world so it’s actually like going to an international school. You are exposed to such diverse opinions and the courses are structured such that you can take on more load when you are “off-season” and less load when you are working full time so there is flexibility as well. I wouldn’t recommend it to people who are not self-motivated though. It takes a certain kind of discipline to study and excel online. 

VN: What were your projects as Vice-Chairman of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission? Or as a Commissioner of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women? Or as the directress of the Ballet Manila School?
LME: I am very proud of my most recent project as directress of the Ballet Manila School. We put up the full-length “Swan Lake” production with our 142 students and scholars. It was a first-class production and danced very, very well – the kids looked like a junior company. That was last May and the most ambitious project of the Ballet Manila School so far.

VN: What are your dream projects?
LME: Original Filipino ballets with full orchestra accompaniment, unlimited budget for sets, costumes, talent fees for the artists and choreographers and designers and long runs of each production to full houses with international performance tours as well. 

I fulfilled one dream project this year when we put up “The Legends and The Classics” and I got to work with both Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad with Gerard Salonga conducting the FilHarmonika. That was a dream project come true! 

VN: How would you see yourself ten or twenty years from now? A National Artist?
LME: I see myself retired from the stage, traveling with my husband and enjoying our mutual retirement together. I will continue to be active in the school teaching and supervising. I will continue to be artistic director of Ballet Manila. I will probably be very involved in conceptualizing new ballets. Maybe dabble in choreography. I want to keep active and creative. A National Artist? It was very flattering to be nominated by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and I have had many people contact me with their vote of support but I know that there is a process to go through and I respect that process. 

VN: What is your secret being the oldest, er… most senior, active prima ballerina today?
LME: I train everyday in the Russian Vaganova technique. I do class daily and continue to push myself. I also do additional training with yoga, stretching, swimming. I rehearse at least an hour a day. I keep on performing. I guess, I just keep on doing what I have been doing most of my life. I eat well. I have my vitamins and other supplements. I sleep early. I take care of my body. I avoid alcohol. I don’t smoke. I do take an anti-inflammatory when I need to especially after a performance. I get enough rest in between shows and rehearsals. I avoid injury by taping my ankles that have always been my weak spot. 

VN: Who would you like to play you if there will be a movie or a musical called Lisa Macuja-Elizalde? 
LME: Heart Evangelista. Because she has watched me perform many times in the past and has a beautiful expressive face and very delicate features. 

VN: What could be the most precious legacy of a Lisa Macuja-Elizalde?
LME: Ballet Manila — the school and the company. That is my legacy.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Sixth of seven parts) (November 12, 2012)

Vim Nadera: Is there a need for an international Philippine Dance Festival? Why?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: There is a need for audience development for live theater and the performing arts in this country. Whether this can be developed through an international Philippine dance festival or through local festivals, ballet competitions and music competitions such as NAMCYA, student matinees, lecture demonstrations, free performances in non-traditional venues – we just need to do it because the goal must be audience development through exposure to good performances.

VN: Do you do outreach programs? Please share your some of your inspiring stories.
LME: I have done outreach programs from the very first year I started working here in the Philippines, which is in 1986. As CCP Artist in Residence, I danced all over the country with Nonoy Froilan. That was my first exposure to dancing under unusual circumstances: brownouts in the middle of the show; cats, bats, frogs and other animals onstage and backstage with you; extremely hot weather; traveling by sea, air and land and then performing right away; even suffering from food poisoning and then having to perform! In Ballet Manila’s first years, we were a touring company. We performed in small towns in Mindanao such as Isulan and Polomolok. We performed also all the way up in northern Luzon and everywhere in between. The local and international tours are fun when you are young. I find that as you get older, you simply get tired more easily and have to plan tours so that they are more stretched out instead of jam-packed with activity.

The inspiration to go on and keep on dancing while on tour is really the audience. They are just so encouraging with their applause, cheers and attendance. You can see that this is the audience that values the artist because they get to see shows very rarely. Also, you make solid friendships with the sponsors and cultural workers that work so hard to bring the artists to these regions. These are very admirable people with generous hearts and the best of intentions.

VN: What can you say about the dance programs in schools here and abroad?
LME: There are just so many dance schools, both here and abroad. I just wish that there is a way of monitoring the qualifications of the teachers and creating more awareness in parents and students when they are choosing the schools and dance programs that they go to. There are different methods of teaching ballet. There’s the English Royal Academy of Dancing syllabus, the Russian Vaganova Method, the American school (Balanchine style), the Danish school, the Italian Checetti method, the Australian syllabus, and even a Philippine syllabus created by Felicitas Radaic together with the late Noordin Jumalon. 

The key in learning to dance well with any ballet syllabus is good demonstration on the part of the teacher and getting a teacher who has had at least 3 to 4 years of professional dancing experience. Daily training is a must. You simply cannot train just once or twice a week. And, results are not immediate. Expect years of training to go by before you see results. It is a long process to become a good dancer. There are no “cut and paste” solutions. You just have to put in the time and the effort in your classes and rehearsals. It’s the same formula in any dance program both here and abroad. You have one-week, two-week, three-week, two month summer program and so on, but these programs basically expose you to different techniques and teachers but if you want real results, you stick to one method, one good teacher and invest years of daily training in order to become a good classical ballet dancer. 

VN: What would you propose to the Department of Education Secretary regarding the Special Program in the Arts, in general, or ballet, in particular?
LME: I would ask for a bigger budget to support training our future artists and supporting the various artistic projects of the different cultural institutions. Again, I would emphasize audience development. Once you have a large audience for your craft, you will never go hungry again. I am talking about an audience that goes to the theater, or museum, or concert, and pays for their ticket and gets entertainment and nice evening in return for their money. I would also ask the Department of Education to sponsor all student matinees so that students in all levels can watch performances and learn to appreciate the arts at a young age.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Fifth of seven parts) (November 05, 2012)

NOW-Lisa soars high in Don Quixote in Swan Song Series 2012

Vim Nadera: How would compare Russian dancers to us?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: Russian dancers have a longer history and tradition of classical ballet and exposure to the arts that would have started when they were children. So they have this advantage of growing up in an environment that nurtures one to strive for excellence in this demanding art form. They grow up with more than 300 years of tradition. Even just walking around the city of St. Petersburg, you are already immersed in the arts. As dancers, they are not as emotional as Filipinos when it comes to performing. Filipino performers are very passionate and emotional onstage. They give their all like it was the last performance of their lives. With Russian artists, they are a bit more reserved and calculated with their technique and attack.

VN: What about with artists from, for instance, Lithuania, Latvia,Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, the United States, Cuba, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand, among others?
LME: It is surprising that artists from all over the world share a lot in common – and you tend to understand each other no matter what language you speak. You understand the demands of the art form, the discipline, the need to keep in shape, to calm your nerves before a show… the need of positive support backstage. For example, last June we had the “World Stars of Ballet” and nine star dancers from all over the world all did class with Ballet Manila’s 50 dancers on the Aliw Theater stage. And we all had a great time! We understood each other, applauded each other’s achievements and had fun onstage dancing and expressing ourselves in the universal language of dance. It is a fantastic feeling that we all share in common. A love for dance and the joy we experience doing what we love onstage as a way of life.

VN: What made you decide to establish in 1995 your own ballet company?
LME: It was the right time to move on and establish my own company. My contract with my former ballet company was not renewed. I was at the crossroads. I was left with the choice of either leaving the country and continuing to dance abroad, or staying and establishing my own company and school. When 11 other dancers decided to join me led by Osias Barroso (my longtime dance partner), together with Eric V. Cruz, my former artistic director from the other company, I decided that to stay and that we would form Ballet Manila.

VN: What is Ballet Manila’s identity? What sets you apart from others?
LME: Ballet Manila’s mission statement is “to bring world-class classical ballet to the Filipino and foreign audiences by training Filipino dancers in the Russian Vaganova method and employing these highly skilled dancers in a professional atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration in order to achieve excellence of the artistic performance in both traditional and non-traditional venues.” What sets us apart from the others? Our training is Russian Vaganova, in the same strict tradition that it is taught at the Vaganova Choreographic School in Russia where I studied. We bring in teachers from Russia every year to do master classes and restage classical work. Our standards and goals in training in classical ballet are different. We are stricter about achieving a 180-degree turnout, for example. There’s also the number of performances we do in a year or in a season -- sometimes, we reach as many as 300 performances in a year. That’s a lot more compared to the other companies. We have two resident theaters – Star and Aliw Theaters. We have three ballet studios that are devoted to just Ballet Manila and our school. Our artists earn per performance. It’s a different payment scheme. The more you dance, the more you earn – so you always strive to become a better dancer so you get casted and used more by choreographers creating new works for the company. We are also the youngest professional ballet company in the country and are only on our 17th season.

VN: Do you consider your style a Filipinized Vaganova? Or is there a Macuja Method?
LME: I guess you could say I have a compressed form of Vaganova because the number of levels of Vaganova is eight – with one year of training in each level. I have five levels in my school. But since the kids don’t do training everyday like in the Vaganova School, I need to accelerate some programs and promote some students accordingly. We also do not have our examinations yet. We just have assessments by the teachers.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Fourth of seven parts) (October 29, 2012)

Lisa Macuja (left) in Leningrad in 1982

Vim Nadera: How supportive was your family? What makes you excel in school and in other endeavors?
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde: My family had always been very supportive of everything I did. As kids, all of us siblings were encouraged to pursue our dreams. Of course, when I first announced to my Dad that I wanted to become a professional ballerina, he and my grandparents had reservations. They wanted me to go to college after high school and become an accountant – or at least get a degree leading to a more “stable” career. Excelling in school and in whatever we put ourselves into was a given. My parents were very strict about always doing our best and getting good grades. All of us were achievers in school and extra-curricular activities. We were rewarded for good grades and achievement with trips to the bookstore, money for spending on ourselves or for saving in the bank, and a lot of praise. My parents would attend my dance recitals and were always there for me. I think it was the overall positive reinforcement and family dinners when we would sit down for a meal and be able to share all our thoughts and ideas. I am very fortunate that I continue to have that kind of support up to today. My parents are actively helping me run Ballet Manila and the Ballet Manila School. My mom is treasurer and over-all “mother” to all the artists and staff. My dad is the president of the BM Foundation and is a “father figure” to all the artists and staff as well. And my Dad has all my archives and records. He knows how many “Swan Lakes” I’ve performed, with whom and where, even better than I do!

VN: Who are your idols and influences?
LME: Yoko Morishita and Maniya Barredo have both become my idols when I was a teen. It was after watching them dance live that I decided I wanted to become a professional classical ballerina also – just like them. Two major influences would be Felicitas Radaic, my first ballet teacher and school director in the St. Theresa’s College School of Dance, and Tatiana Udalenkova, who is like a second mother to me and was my classical ballet teacher in the Russian Ballet Academy for two years. I also lived with Tatiana and her family as sort of like an “adopted daughter” in a Russian family for two more years. But I will have to say that my parents Cesar and Susan Macuja are the strongest driving forces behind me — the way they brought me up and the way they continue to support and guide me throughout my entire professional and personal life. They are my pillars of strength and guidance!

VN: From being a young Dance Theater Philippines’ soloist, you became the Kirov Ballet’s principal dancer? How did you adjust at a very young age?
LME: I just stuck to a routine. I would take class, rehearse and perform. I would try to calm my nerves. And basically, whether it was a performance in Russia or a performance in the open-air stage in Rizal Park, I would just do my best and give it my best shot. I didn’t really adjust because ballet class, rehearsals and performances onstage, touring all of this was part of my life since I was a teenager.

VN: How did you survive Russia — personally and professionally?
LME: The hardest year of my entire life was my first year in Russia. This was in the early Eighties during the Cold War. I was living in a dormitory with 16 other girls. I was homesick. I had to learn a new language, to adapt to a new culture then at the same time attend my Russian language and ballet technique classes from 9am to 9pm. I also had to rehearse. In between, I took care of my personal chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and on top of it all, try to make my allowance last the month. I was constantly cold because of the freezing climate of St. Petersburg. And the ballet training was very intense and completely new in technique and style than what I was used to back home. I would wait every Sunday for a call from home or call my parents from the post office at 4 roubles per minute. I would write long letters by snail mail and wait to receive letters from home. It was tough. I got sick at one point and had to be confined in a Russian hospital. I also got injured and wasn’t able to do my final exams. Whenever I remember that first year in Russia up to now, I shudder. But, admittedly, it was the year when I decided that I wanted to stick it out and make the most of that wonderful opportunity.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Third of seven parts) (October 22, 2012)

Young LIsa Macuja training under Tatiana Udalenkova

Vim Nadera: Why should a prima ballerina end up as a broadcast journalist? Or is it part of your plan to popularize art? Or your art?
Lisa Macuja Elizalde: It was definitely not my intention to become a broadcast journalist. Up to now, it isn’t. I think I am first a foremost a ballerina and intend to dance for as long as I can. Everything else I do, such as write, host Art 2 Art, endorse, choreograph, coach, teach etc… comes secondary to dancing.

VN: As Ballerina ng Bayan, why and how do you bring ballet closer to the so-called “masang Filipino”?
LM: I was dubbed “Ballerina ng Bayan” when Art 2 Art started. I have always been tagged as “Ballerina for the People,” “Ballerina of the People,” and “Ballerina of the Masses” when I started to perform all over the place – on television, in basketball courts, in the street and basically in non-traditional venues for ballet because that move was exposing ballet to new audiences. The key really is exposure. I simply try to dance as much as possible, in as many venues as possible, to as big an audience as possible. Once I started doing this, I became known for my outreach of bringing “ballet to the people and people to the ballet”. I have also helped reach a mass-based audience by conceptualizing shows and ballets that the mass audience can relate to. Such as Ballet & Ballads where we work with a singer and dance to OPM music. Circus D’Ballet where you have ballet dancers performing with circus acrobats and fire-eaters. I also go all over the place, especially to schools with our lecture demonstrations where I speak first on how to appreciate classical ballet and then do an actual performance. I have also done collaborations that create a more mass-based appeal for ballet such as our Tatlong Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang trilogy, Alamat: Si Sibol at Si Gunaw which is our ecological/environmental ballet, and other concert pieces that deal with Filipino themes, traditions, music that attract the audience because they understand them. One thing that definitely has developed the audience for ballet are our free shows every weekend in Star City. Then, there’s a 30-minute show called Maynila Ni Juan. Ballet Manila averages 300 performances a year. That’s a lot of exposure.

VN: Are you a born dancer? Who discovered you? Who nurtured you?
LME: I was born with a very flexible body. I got this from my Mom. My mom took up ballet when she was a child until the ballet ban in the 1950’s made her stop ballet. So, I could say my Mom brought me to ballet class as a kid and I tried to copy her. I was nurtured by several Filipino teachers such as Felicitas Radaic of the St. Theresa’s School of Dance, Basilio Esteban Villaruz, William Morgan, Irene Sabas. However, you could say that the one person I consider my mentor is my Russian teacher Tatiana Udalenkova under whose tutelage I graduated with honors from the Russian Ballet Academy in 1984. In the Kirov Ballet, I was under the ballet coaches Galina Kekisheva and Gabriella Komleyeva. Now, I am nurtured by many friends and colleagues – mainly my co-artistic director and dance partner of 16 years Osias Barroso. I also love working with different choreographers. The learning and the growing never really stops.

VN: What are your requirements for a Lisa Macuja wanna-be? How can someone from the urban or rural areas from become like you? How do you help them? Do you offer, say, a Macuja-Elizalde Scholarship?
LME: Requirements would be a facility for classical ballet. Flexibility, musicality, coordination, nice body proportions – in other words, you have to be born with a certain amount of talent. Then, you need the really good training in classical ballet which takes up around 4 to 6 years of daily practice. I have a scholarship program in my Ballet Manila School called Project Ballet Futures. I have always made it a practice to train scholars in ballet dancing – but not all my scholars end up as professional dancers. You have to stick to it. There’s a lot of sacrifice, pain and hard work involved in training to become a ballet dancer. Not everyone who takes up ballet at the start, no matter how physically endowed they may be, succeed.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (Second of seven parts) (October 15, 2012)

VN: How would you describe yourself as a mother? As a wife?
LME: As a mother, I would say that I am a pretty cool mom. Albeit a very busy one. I am not that strict. I don’t think so. I kind of tend to spoil my kids with material things because that’s what working moms normally do – you know – try to make up for less time spent with your kids with cool gadgets and toys and clothes and shoes and their favorite foods… but I always make sure that these are rewards that they earn, or deserve. It’s not just “Ask and you shall receive with me and my kids. I use a reward system for good grades or good behavior so that they feel that they have earned their treats.

When my kids were younger, I would spend more time with them. I would read to them. I would play with them more like a playmate than a mom. I am lucky that I don’t have to spend a lot of my energy doing household chores so I can really devote my full attention and enthusiasm to the passions of my kids when I am not working. Now that my kids are in Middle School, they more or less decide on their own how they want to spend their time. I often feel I’ve lost a lot of this time to the Internet and their computers. I make it a point to be able to attend school activities and of course, with Missy dancing in Ballet Manila, I spend a lot of time with my daughter at work. One thing I can tell you though is that now their math homework is Greek to me. And whenever I try to teach Missy ballet, we end up arguing so it is not a very pleasant experience for both of us. She prefers a different teacher than her mom. As a wife, I am what you would call a geisha wife. I even put the slippers on my husband’s feet! I really take care of him – kind of like my bunso. And he loves it! J I am also a take-charge wife. OIC. I am sort of like his secretary, executive assistant, dresser, groomer, schedule planner, organizer etc. etc… Mrs. All Around. Yes, I spoil him too, just like my kids. But, I also know when to draw the line. He spoils me too so I guess it’s fair. Ha ha ha I don’t cook. I don’t do the laundry. I haven’t even re-decorated our house that we have spent the last 15 years of our lives together in. I am not really a homemaker sort of wife. I don’t have the talent for it. If you come into our house, you will see a “creative clutter” that seems to work for us.

VN: How is it being married to the president and CEO of the Manila Broadcasting Company, the largest radio network in the Philippines and in Asia, with DZRH being the the oldest radio station in the archipelago?
LME: Well, I have my own radio show! Ha ha ha. Okay, seriously, except as a “radio host” of Art 2 Art (which is five years old already and has reaped a whole slew of awards so justified naman di ba?) I don’t really meddle into my husband’s businesses and affairs. He has so many people working for him already, I would rather not mess that up with my presence. We definitely compliment each other with joint projects such as Ballet & Ballads with MBC and Circus D’Ballet and the weekend and Christmas free shows in Star City. Not many ballerinas can truthfully say that for two consecutive birthdays in a row, her husband gave her two theaters – first Star Theater in 2001 and Aliw Theater in 2002. Fred is Ballet Manila’s patron and for all his support, we are forever grateful.

VN: Could you tell us more about your award-winning radio show Art 2 Art? Is it also televised?
LME: Yes, it is also televised now on Cable TV. It’s in a teleradyo format. 30 minutes every Sunday at 3:30 to 4pm on DZRH and RHTV. We normally tape four episodes for the month on a Monday (which is my official day-off from dancing). I interview artists of various disciplines. We pay tribute to our National Artists every last Sunday of the month. We have run out of National Artists to pay tribute to because we have been on every Sunday since March 2007 and have taped and aired more than 265 episodes! I learn so much from the interviews and so many artistic collaborations have sprung forth from the ideas shared on Art 2 Art. We are proud to have been awarded 2 CMMA’s as Best Eductional Radio Program and 2 Gawad Tanglaws for the same category. I even received a Best Radio Anchor from Gawad Tanglaw 2 years ago! I have a great team! Anjie Ureta has been my best friend for more than 20 years already and she is the writer of Art 2 Art. Susan De Guzman is our researcher and she is also a great friend. So, I really have a good time taping Art 2 Art, it doesn’t feel like work at all. Kind of like my dancing in Ballet Manila which also doesn’t feel like a job at all.

LISA MACUJA-ELIZALDE: BALLERINA NG BAYAN (First of seven parts) (October 05, 2012)


Based on the high approval rating of our kids Psalma, Wika and Sulat who were silent witnesses to the loud crowd enjoying Edgardo Maranan’s Alamat: Si Sibol at si Gunaw at the Aliw Theater last 2 September, Lisa Macuja-Elizalde lived up to everybody’s expectation.

But, for her age, hello?

Prima ballerina Lisa Teresita Pacheco Macuja-Elizalde just turned 48.

Last Wednesday, 3 October, while celebrating her birthday, she was busy rehearsing for her Don Quijoteshows last week as part of her Swan Song Series 2012. It will continue on 19 and 21 October with Giselle at the Aliw Theater and on 26 and 27 October with Carmen at the Star Theater -- all under Ballet Manila which she helped create in 1995.

Mind you, she is not just its Artistic Director but also the Directress and faculty member of the Ballet Manila School.

Aside from hosting Art2Art , she too sits as the founding board member as well as treasurer of the Artists Welfare Project, Inc.

Before, she used to find time serving as the Vice Chair of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission and as the Commissioner of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women.

What could be the secret formula of this first Philippine-based prima ballerina and first foreign soloist who ever joined the Kirov Ballet?

Could it be the Vaganova method?

Or simply the Macuja-Elizalde style?

She wakes up early. Usually around 6am on a school day so that she brings her kids to school before 7:30am. Her mornings are spent on her porch with her laptop to check emails and do some office work and when she feels the need for it, she does some yoga and stretching to help her body along. She eats brunch with her husband Fred and then it’s off to her ballet studio from 1:30pm until around 5 or 6pm. After her dancing is done for the day, she devotes the rest of her evening to her family. They sometimes have homework, movie nights.

For herself, she has her own “massage nights” and “long baths nights”. She is normally in bed by 9:30pm and asleep by 10pm.

What will tomorrow bring to the spirit behind Project Ballet Futures, a dance training in partnership with local public schools and non-government organizations in Pasay City and Manila?

Fervently we wish that she will never stop bringing ballet closer to the hearts of the Filipino masses. Well, she won’t be the world-clas Ballerina ng Bayan for nothing.

Vim Nadera: Are your kids aware of how great their mom is?
Lisa Macuja-Elizalde: My kids grew up immersed in the arts. From the visual arts of their father and our resident French artist Henri Eteve, to the ballet studio and the two theaters Star and Aliw theater which they would consider an extension of their playground. I make it a point to bring them to plays and musicals and all sorts of shows. They grew up watching me perform so I think they are used to it. I remember when we were in Bohol one time and a fan asked me for a photo. My son, in a very loud voice complained, “I thought this was a family vacation Mama!” That’s when I realized that they do consider the fame part of the “working mom” package.

VN: Would you allow your kids to follow your footstep? Why and why not?
LME: Missy, age 13, already is my little ballerina. She is a company scholar in Ballet Manila and has already clocked a number of roles – one she even inherited from me! (The role of The Narrator in Tatlong Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang). I have mixed feelings about her becoming a ballerina. A side of me wants to protect her from the physical pain and discomfort, stress and heartache that come with the profession. Then, a greater part of me is so proud and happy that she and I can share something that is so close to my own heart and expertise. When I see her working so hard in the studio, she reminds me of myself. She has talent and the willpower. She also has access to the best training for ballet in the Philippines. So, we shall see where all of this will go. She did have a start – stop in ballet before, when she was 6 years old. But then, she turned 11 and decided to give ballet another go and has been quite determined ever since. My son Manuel has not expressed any interest whatsoever in learning to dance ballet. If he did, I would probably react the same way I have with Missy. I would support his wishes and encourage him with everything in my power – but still have the tendency to protect him from the pain and sacrifice that the art requires.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Marika Constantino and her works

Vim Nadera: What is the rationale behind ReCollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Main Gallery and Guillermo Tolentino Hallway? 
Marika Constantino: ReCollection 1081 was the brainchild of CANVAS’ Executive Director Gigo Alampay. September 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law and he thought of mounting a show. According to him this was to be able to “generate some long overdue discussion on what those times were really all about.”

He further shared that “As a teacher (part-time) in UP, as well as a father to three children, I am sometimes bothered that the memory of martial law is not being passed to the next generation. Or worse, that some of the young actually are beginning to believe an alternative version of history that says that that we might have been better off with Marcos, and that what we may need now is a return to some form of “benevolent dictatorship.” Essentially, this project is about remembering; not solely or merely to denounce or be critical of the Marcos years, but to recall what those moments were in the eyes of the artists during that time.

VN: What was the first thing that you did as its curator? And then?
MC: I read and re-read a number of books and articles to refresh my memory on certain things. Most useful was my interview with Randy and Karina David. They gave me a personal account of how it was like then. They contextualized the events and how certain personalities did what they did. They gave me a vivid picture of the political, social and economic milieu of the country during that time. The content of that three hour discussion was very significant for me. In addition, Ruel Caasi, co-curator of the exhibit, and I conducted some studio visits. It was a chance for us to talk to the artists and get their views about the show, the times and their practice. We also included excerpts from our email interviews with some of the other participating artists. This also helped in humanizing the whole project and making the situation back then more understandable for the younger generation. Their inputs were very valuable and are part and parcel of the concept of ReCollection 1081, which is to trigger reminiscences.

VN: How did you succeed in collecting all those iconic artworks from the 70s? Please tell us your most memorable experiences, say, in locating the artists.
MC: CANVAS was instrumental in organizing a number of tasks and logistical requirements. Credit also goes to our partners in the project, namely, Norma Liongoren of Liongoren Gallery and Boots Herrera of the Cultural center of the Philippines (CCP) in helping us borrow the art pieces. We are also thankful to Alice Guillermo; her books served as frameworks in selecting the art pieces. Various institutions (Ateneo Art Gallery, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Bantayog ng mga Bayani, The Museum of the De La Salle University, National Museum of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines, Main Library), galleries (Galleria Duemila, Inc. and Tin-Aw Gallery) and private collectors believed in what we wanted to accomplish and readily lent us the works we requested from their respective collections for the exhibit. We are also immensely grateful to the artists who shared their works, time, experiences and inputs. 

Their participation and support were vital to the outcome of ReCollection 1081.

Regarding the second question, what comes to mind are three specific experiences. 

First, would probably be my face to face encounters with the actual works like: Antipas Delotavo’s Itak sa Puso ni Mang Juan, Al Manrique’s Bunong Balikat and Jaime De Guzman’s Sabbath of the Witches. I have only seen these as tiny black and white reproductions in Alice Guillermo’s book. Seeing these up close created a very strong impact. Both the imagery and content have a lingering effect. Second, would be when
we visited Jose Tence Ruiz’ studio. We selected some editorial cartoons to be part of the show. Interestingly, the pieces we selected reflect the very same issues that continue to hound us today: mis-education, nuclear power, cronyism, coco-levy fund, etc. Sadly, after forty years we have not resolved anything. Through Ruiz’ personal collection, we were also able to see how things were published before; when computers were non-existent. Marks and notations with regard to the instructions, pasting and magnification can still be seen at the sides or at the back. Lastly, my meeting with Edicio dela Torre was also quite memorable. He explained to me how it was like creating art when he was incarcerated. He relayed his art process, context and experiences.

VN: During the mounting of such major exhibition, what were the problems that you encountered? How did you solve them?
MC: In hindsight, the main problem could have been the time frame. We really did not have enough time to locate and secure more works. But as I wrote in our curatorial notes, “The collection is by no means a complete or thorough representation of the times. But it is a both an inception and a challenge to bring forth a more exhaustive effort of remembrance. We owe this not only to ourselves or to those who sacrificed but also for the discernment of future Filipinos.” We do hope that something more concrete and permanent would result from this effort. 

VN: What are your plans with ReCollection 1081 now that it ended yesterday? Will you make a book out of it?
MC: Definitely CANVAS and its co-organizers Liongoren Gallery and CCP will be coming out with a catalogue of ReCollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule). I am hopeful that other endeavors will arise from this.

MARIKA CONSTANTINO: MORE THAN JUST A MARTIAL LAW BABY (First of two parts) (September 24, 2012)

Last 21 September was 40th of Martial Law in the country.

But, as early as 14 July, we were already being reminded of our past mistakes. The Center for Art, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS) and

Liongoren Gallery did it via visual arts. Called Recollection 1081: Clear and Present Danger (Visual Dissent on Martial Rule), this grand exhibit of artworks from the Martial Law days opened, ironically, at one of the proofs of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’ edifice complex -- Cultural Center of the Philippines!

Its curator – Marika -- happens to be a Constantino. Her lolo, Renato, was in the arrest order list when the Presidential Decree1081 was declared. However, her father RC was picked up by the military because they had the same name, being a junior. Fondly she recalled: “When the officials realized their mistake, they remedied it by releasing my father days after and by putting my grandfather in house arrest for a number of years. This was an anecdote that was narrated by my mother and grandmother to us. From another perspective, the exhibit was also a way to gain a better understanding of what transpired, to find a connection with that era through the artworks and the artists and more importantly, to somehow pay tribute to those who unselfishly fought for liberation and espoused nationalism.”

As always, she views her curatorial projects are additional avenues for learning: “To be quite candid, my familiarity with the topic is culled from second-hand information. These were from the books and articles I have read and the stories, atrocities, violations, circumstances and situations that were relayed to me by family, friends, friend of friends, etc.”

And, we can sum up the whole point of ReCollection 1081 in one word: review. Or re-view?

As her curatorial notes put it: “We must recall with clarity so that it will not happen again. We must reminisce with pride from being part of something bigger than ourselves. We must retain the lessons from our history in order to learn from it.”

Fortunately, you still have until Sunday, 30 September, to catch it.

Vim Nadera: What is Martial Law to you – being a Constantino -- personally and professionally?
Marika Constantino: As a Filipino, it is imperative that I value our history. Its lessons should be part of our critical understanding of our present which should then be of use in laying the groundwork for our nation’s future. This should be carried on in our personal and professional lives, with no distinction or disconnect. 

VN: You finished architecture from the University of the Philippines. Why did you take up Fine Arts afterwards?
MC: I was inspired by previous trips where I got exposed to various works of art. When I came back I wanted to learn more about it. My initial goal was to become a teacher that was why I pursued a second degree in UPCFA majoring in Art History. I felt that my architectural studies will not go to waste if I grounded myself in that field. Interestingly, despite the course being part of the Theory Department, the first two years was mostly studio work. Here, I was exposed to different materials, processes and techniques. This eventually led me to my artistic practice.

VN: Could you share your thoughts about your recent exhibits here like reFLEXions, too at the Galerie Astra in Makati and abroad like Balancing Paradoxes and Paradigms at Roma Arts in Bandung?
MC: In general, the central premise of my art is based on self-referential themes. It is reflective of the feminist notion that “the personal is political.” It revolves around the consciousness or awareness with regard to roles and relationships. As such, by laying it out in the open, it tries to provoke dialogues. Hopefully, these could prompt realizations that would lead to a source of empowerment. Hence, my works commonly deal with our maze of experiences. Each part, though unstructured and unidentifiable by itself, is a perfect fit to the other pieces of instances or coincidences that shape one’s life. At any given moment, the conglomeration of the puzzle is the sum of who we are at that definitive moment. In my most recent solo exhibit Drawn Entanglements at the Art Informal, group shows like Curved House at the Blanc Compound and reFLEXions, too at the Galerie Astra and Balancing Paradoxes and Paradigms with Roma Arts in Bandung, Indonesia… I have tried to further explore and examine these patterns. For me, these also serve as metaphors for occurrences and circumstances, actions and non-actions, dreams and challenges. I make use of various textures and materials to represent contemplation, lamentation or jubilation. 

VN: What is keeping you busy these days?
MC: There are a number of things that take up my time. I am primarily a visual artist. However, I also write. I teach at Kalayaan College. I’m a member of TutoK and Filipino Visual Arts and Design Rights Organization (FILVADRO) and currently involved with other curatorial projects. I am also part of 98B Art COLLABORATORY, an artist-run alternative art space located at the Mezzanine Floor of the First United Building in Escolta. It seeks to establish a convergence with artists, designers, curators, writers, musicians, film makers, activists, educators, researchers, cultural workers, performers, architects and students together with the general public. It was established in January 2012 as a response to the need for alternative venues in Manila. Deemed as a site for creative sharing, discussion and collaboration, 98B is a community + network + kitchen + shop. The idea is to have a setting where artists and creative individuals from other disciplines can interact and work together while presenting art in different ways; be it a talk, a bazaar, a publication, a meal or a simple gathering.

IT’S MORE FUN BEING RAMON JIMENEZ JR. (Last part) (September 17, 2012)


VN: Is there a need for a Department of Culture?
RJJ: Quite possibly, yes. Whatever we can do to strengthen and preserve Filipino culture, we must. I think we should study whether a Department of Culture can be made viable.

VN: What comes to your mind when you hear the following:

(a) Jollibee = great food
(b) Selecta = great ice cream
(c) Safeguard = great soap
(d) San Miguel Beer = best beer in the world
(e) Cebu Pacific = great travel
(f) Ivory = purity
(g) Ninoy = a great role model
(h) Cory = just as great role model
(i) PNoy = a great and emerging role model

VN:Could you tell us more about your book Generations: In Search of Family? What is the salient character or characteristic of your clan?
RJJ: Next to liking great food, I think it is the fact that we have a tremendous sense of family and that is meant very deeply. A tremendous sense of the idea that what keeps us connected is our common concern, and we do that by gathering not just for happy occasions, but also sad ones - being together through thick and thin.

VN: What did you learn from your lawyer dad? What did you teach your designer daughter?
RJJ: From my lawyer dad, I’ve always learned to be the best at what you do. That’s the only way you’re going to enjoy your career. What did I teach my designer daughter? Exactly the same thing my dad taught me.

VN: How do you value family?
RJJ: I value it enough to make it central to the whole idea of FUN in the Philippines. That’s what FUN in the Philippines is about. It’s about reconnecting with things that matter, and family is definitely one of the things that matter.

VN: How did your University of the Philippines education help you?
RJJ: For one thing, education is help in itself. Having a stronger sense of how the world works and the possibilities about what it can and what it should be are probably the greatest benefits coming out of the University of the Philippines.

VN: How successful are you in making tourism the people’s business and in selling our country like Chickenjoy?
RJJ: Well not quite as successful as I would hope to be about four years from now. We shall see.

VN: What made you say that “The Philippines is its people. And its people are the Philippines”?
RJJ: When you think about it, it is true. A nation is a nation because of its people, not because of its islands or geography. The Philippines is its people because we are what differentiate us from the rest of the world. We are a distinct and gloriously talented people.

IT’S MORE FUN BEING RAMON JIMENEZ JR. (Second of three parts) (September 10, 2012)


Vim Nadera: How did you come up with the classic line “It’s More Fun In The Philippines”?
Ramon Jimenez Jr.: The Department of Tourism (DOT) set the direction and guidance for all those who are working on the new campaign to provide a simple answer to the basic question of every traveler: Why should I travel to the Philippines? And we found the right campaign because it was the simplest, most direct answer to this fundamental question. Additionally, we told the participating agencies to include the Filipinos in their creative proposals. BBDO Guerrero/ Proximity Philippines was selected as the winning creative agency because their proposal was able to capture the warmth and vitality of the Filipinos which we wanted to highlight, and encapsulate it into one motivating and exciting campaign. It’s more fun in the Philippines is a response and an invitation - a response to the country’s need for a tagline that is competitive, differentiated, and easily understood; it is an invitation for everyone to see what makes the Philippines different.

The new expression is actually not just something we, Filipinos, would say about ourselves. It is what a lot of foreigners who have been here say about us. It is a powerful, compelling idea that draws strength from the fact that it is a fundamental truth about the Philippines—the Philippines is not just a place to see, it is a place to be.

The main challenge to tourism growth for the Philippines is the plain and simple lack of awareness. Through this campaign, the DOT hopes to build enough energy around tourism, boost awareness for the superiority of the Philippines in key markets, and invite more people across the globe to visit the country. With the viral success of the campaign and astounding domestic and international response so far, a new catchphrase or come-on is not necessary. We intend to maximize this campaign and bring FUN to the world for as long as possible.

VN: As a visual communications graduate, how would you assess the state of Philippine arts? How can you promote Filipino artists?
RJJ: I think Filipino art is very dynamic, and in a certain context very highly developed in the Philippines. However, it does need a certain amount of support. For art to flourish, it needs a lot of support from the country for which it springs. We propose at the DOT to promote Filipino artists by helping them gain regional and international recognition. We have very limited funds, but to whatever extent we are able to help artists participate in these regional and international competitions, we will do so. Another way to help is to nurture the culture and the customs that breed indigenous Filipino art in our villages, towns, and cities. A lot of what the DOT does is actually meant to do exactly this.

VN: What about our literature?
RJJ: The same thing with Philippine arts. Just the other day at Palanca Awards, I mentioned to the organizers that I would like very much to carry examples of Philippine literature that we can either give away or even sell at international exhibitions and symposia that the DOT and the government in general are part of – hundreds of these every year in almost all parts of the world. If we are able to share our literature, then people learn not just about our country, more importantly they get a strong feel for the Filipinos’ soul.

VN: Can you share with us your trade secret as a prominent advertising executive?
RJJ: No I can’t. That’s why it’s a secret. 



The Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature welcomed the –ber months with a bang and a pun: “It’s more pen in the Philippines!”

Proving its point, the Carlos Palanca Foundation and the members of the Palanca Family decided to invite the wind beneath the wings of that tourists’ trope!

At the Manila Pen, the Guest of Honor and Speaker is one of the pillars of advertising.

In fact, during the 62nd Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature last 1 September, he witnessed how Filipino writers were honored for over six decades.

And, yes, Sec. Ramon Jimenez Jr. of the Department of Tourism was not excluded.

Being more than just a penpusher, the former Joint Chief Executive Officer and Senior Consultant at WOO Consultants was given the Gawad Dangal ng Lahi.

It is awarded to honor those who have prominently excelled in their field of expertise and have aptly become role models for the Filipino citizenry.

And netizenry!

Well, as a marketing communications expert for 35 years, he has all the reason in the world to live up to everyone’s expectations in the same league as all of the 58 Palanca winners in the poetry, short story, essay, and play categories in such languages as English, Filipino, Cebuano, Iluko, and Hiligaynon.

Aside from his experience as a Journalism and Marketing Communications instructor, he is a lecturer for San Miguel Corporation, the Jollibee Group, among others.

When he formally accepted his role as our Tourism Secretary, on 1 September 2011, he vowed to rally behind the DOT staff, the team, tourism practitioners, the government bureaucracy, and the general public around his philosophy: “Tourism is the people’s business.Ang turismo po ay negosyo ng taongbayan. As such its ultimate goal is not merely to improve statistics on tourist arrivals. Its real goal is to generate fulfilling and profitable income and employment for our people.”

Like the public servant and statesman in the late Sec. Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government, it is promise fulfilled.

Since Sec. Jimenez took his oath “to contribute in terms of bringing strategic discipline to the challenge of promoting and developing the Philippines as one of the world’s most exciting destination brands,” the next thing we learned was his slogan was no slow gun.

In a matter of minutes, It’s more fun in the Philippines went viral.

Why? Because he let us to do it ourselves.

How? By allowing us visit, upload our photo, add our caption, download the Harabara font, edit our meme by using image editors and by making that tagline online.

Reminding us of the 56.17% of this year’s 1,077 Palanca entries were received by email.

Sec. Jimenez empowered us, including the majority of the Palanca winners who fall within the 20-40 age bracket, to take part to be his partners in this dimension called dotcom.

Or, is it DOTcom?

Thus, we felt the need to be needed in telling the world that we are selling the Philippines.

Through fun approach.

Now, does this cabinet member really deserve the said recognition for individuals who share with writers the common thread of manifesting belief in the capabilities of the Filipino and expressing their pride in the heritage of the Philippines?

Ask Eric Garayblas, the game developer who immortalized the It’s more fun in the Philippines via his Streetfood Tycoon!

Vim Nadera: Sir, right after you were appointed by Pres. Benigno Aquino III, you promised to “galvanize the DoT [Department of Tourism] into an honest to goodness selling unit whose “ultimate goal” would be “not only to improve statistics but also ensure that the endeavor would be fulfilling and profitable for Filipinos.” How is it so far?
Ramon Jimenez Jr.: The DOT continues to take “FUN” to a deeper level to mean good governance and competitive offerings that practice good business, proper management, and sustainable development. “FUN” means easy, convenient, and hassle-free which should be evident across the tourism value chain. Our tourism campaign has become a unifying platform for cross-promotion, convergence initiatives, and public-private partnership. At present, government agencies are united to provide the enabling environment for tourism growth and development. Major programs will address key issues in the following areas: infrastructure, transportation, product development, travel & investment facilitation, connectivity, and institutional tourism concerns. As a matter of fact for the year 2011, the tourism industry employed a total of 3.8 million people equivalent to a 10.28% share to national employment – that is 1 job created for every 1 tourist arrival. Tourism also contributed 6% to the country’s total GDP for 2011. With proper management and safeguarding, tourism certainly has the capacity to make a significant contribution to the poverty reduction goals of the Philippine Government.

VN: What is your long-term plan for our tourism industry?
RJJ: Tourism is the people’s business. Our overall vision is for tourism to become a national business - a key driver towards achieving rapid, inclusive, and sustained socio-economic growth for the country. And for us to realize this vision, we want to elicit the continued support of the entire department, tourism stakeholders, government agencies, and the general public. We, Filipinos, have to come and act together as a single unit.



Vim Nadera: What are your most unforgettable experiences in doing the following celebrities:
Willie Nepomuceno: Maybe I should only cite the more memorable ones:

(1) SAMMY DAVIS, JR. - I finally met with my idol when he had a gala show at the Manila Hotel and two more at the Folk Arts Theater. I watched all three. I was formally dressed for the Gala and the audience were observing my reactions since I practically do what he does -- impressions of singers. I had with me one of his earlier albums titled Impressions and half deciding whether I should seek for an autograph of a fellow entertainer, never mind if it's embarrassing considering my stature then. I listened to my heart. He has always been my inspiration so I ran towards him when he got down and had my album signed. That was one gem that stood out in my music room for years... until Ondoy swept it away.

(2) DOLPHY: When it comes to self-deprecating humor, Dolphy is tops and that was what has kept him as the King of Comedy. In one gag, he was supposed to drench my face with a glass of wine but I refused because I still have other gags to shoot and it will ruin my prosthetic make up and wig. He readily volunteered to take my place since we were doing a double mirror gag. I was, of course, reluctant to do it but he insisted. He told me it's been done to him innumerable times and worst because the water had even been gargled before it was spat on his face. Whenever I do impressions of him in my shows, I can feel the overwhelming love of the audience for him, that's why I always savor being the Comedy King... even for a brief moment.

(3) JOSEPH “ERAP” ESTRADA: We started on the wrong foot as early as when he was the Mayor of San Juan. A month or so after I did an FPJ-Erap act, he bumped into me at the rest room of the Manila Hotel and reprimanded me, politely though, that I embarrassed him before his friends in the industry who watched my performance. Since then he would always ignore me even in formal gatherings. At one time, I thought he could no longer ignore me and I was looking forward to the opportunity of reconciling with him anyway, since I was seated with his fellow Senators when he arrived. I couldn't believe he would skip my hand even when I was seated in between the two Senators. Eventually though, we reconciled at the intercession of his PR man when he became Vice President and since then we would hug each other when we cross paths. Now he even sends me lechon on my birthdays. He's such a charismatic man, you simply can't afford to get mad at him.

(4) PANFILO “PING” LACSON: First I got a call from his staff early in the morning telling me they learned I was doing an impression of their boss in my show and they would want me to announce some sort of a disclaimer before the show begins. I said I don't do that and ask if it was a threat. He said no, they just referred the matter to their lawyers and they're requesting for a disclaimer. I asked again, Is this a veiled threat? No, we just want you to read a letter from the Senator. I told them I have high respect for Senator Ping and I was worried their request would boomerang instead. They insisted , so I read the letter. The audience laughed so hard and I haven't started the show yet. It was a disclaimer on the Senator's much rumored gender preference. Personally, I don't think Ping Lacson would go down to that level. May mga eager beaver lang siguro na nagpapalakas. In the first place, there were no such insinuations in the show.

(5) FERDINAND MARCOS: I do him with much passion because I have a cause that goes with it. I was an activist and that time was my baptism of fire in politics even before he declared Martial Law. It was the military though who would come to watch my shows and request me to stop my impressions of their boss "because he's our President." Naturally I would agree because they're high-ranking officials but if I have a gig the next day, I'd still ignore the request.There were other instances where public speculations of me standing in for his absence filled the grapevine especially when he supposedly had a medical operation and made himself scarce even to media people. When the Dovie Beams love tape was played over DZUP, during the Diliman Commune, Malacanang Palace defenders were quick to say it was only me faking the supposed scandalous tape. The last one happened during the tailend of Edsa 1 when only his voice was answering media questions as to his whereabouts. He practically lost his credibility denying it was me instead of him making the pronouncements. And when he was put on live television he had to say “as you can see, I am not Willie Nepomuceno.” That was the funniest punchline I ever heard.

(6) FIDEL V. RAMOS: I've done him previously immediately after the Edsa Revolt but I had to think twice when he became President. He was perceived to be a psy war expert and a "pikon." However the "social commentator in me prevailed that this a job I had to do, so I did. After all, if I survived the much feared Dictator why can't I survive his mild-mannered cousin. That day when I met him face to face like a mirror I said to myself I'd simply shake his hand after my act and no longer sit beside him for the media photo op. Much to my surprise, instead of shaking my hand, he whispered "high five tayo." The following day all front pages of national dailies carried our twin photo. Mas ma-gimmick pa pala sa akin.

VN: What are the chances of an impersonator becoming a National Artist?
WN: That'll be the day. I'm optimistic though that the way things are in the industry, I'll finally get The National Arthritis Award.