Sunday, April 28, 2013

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (Last part) (April 29, 2013)

VN: What is your role in the history of art in Thailand?
CA: I am a Thai artist working in Thailand. I am proud of my role in Asiatopia and in the performance art movement in Thailand.

VN: Is there a Thai trademark when it comes to performance art? Or art in general?
CA: Thai politics may be. But, I think, we do not have enough a variety school of practices in order to have a trademark. But, it is like noticing that Filipinos walk differently than Thais or Singaporean, etcs. There is something in our culture that makes us eat the way we eat, talk the way we talk, etc.

VN: For you, who are the most important performance artists in the world?
CA: Boris Nieslony, Esther Ferrer, Richard Martel, Randy Gledhill, Seiji Shimoda, Terrence Houle, Shannon Cochrane, Paul Coulliard, Jurgen Fritz, Sinead O’Donnell, Alastaire McLennon, Lee Wen, Arahmaiani, Iwan Wijono, Yuan Mor’O, Mideo Cruz, Hong O Bong, etc… But I am also inspired by works of Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Marina Abramović, etc. I found all these people are very important in performance art development in the world. Both East and West. They inspired young people. They invented their own form of performance art. They organized performance art gatherings.

VN: What can you say about the performance art festivals in other countries?
CA: I don’t feel that I have seen enough better performances to say the bad ones.

VN: Do you use art to change society?
CA: I think art is about freedom of movement, creativity. It is about human rights. It is something we need besides TV, music, movies, dinner, etc… Art is good to go with good wine or good whiskey. It makes us think about freedom.

VN: What is Empower Foundation all about?
CA: Empower Foundation is a Non-Governmental Organization founded by my wife -- Noi Chantawipa Apisuk -- and it is for and by sex workers in Thailand. It views art in the context of freedom and humanity.

VN: How do your wife and daughter see you as an artist?
CA: My wife sees me as a husband, a lover, and a man who makes performances, I hope. My daughter used to say that she was surpised to know what I do was art. (Laughter.) But she gets used to it by now

VN: What about as a husband and as a father?
CA: I don’t feel much as a worried father now. My daughter is 34 years old. She is very much on her own. But I respect her for her works. She is a classical pianist.

As a husband, I am very proud of my wife. She is strong and independent. She is very strict with me many times. She is one of the most important woman activists in Thailand, and in the world, I think. She is a great thinker. She always has her new ideas about feminism. She is a great human rights fighter, on and off stage. And I think she is the best woman I’ve ever met.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (Third of four parts) (April 22, 2013)

Vim Nadera: Personally, what happened since you first performed in 1996?
Chumpon Apisuk: My popular international participation in performance was in Bali in 1986. However, I already did several action art with friends like Surapol and Kamol before that.

VN: What is you most memorable performance? Why?
CA: I have a few performances that I keep on repeating like Standing wherein I stood holding an umbrella with an empty chair and Hearts where I burst several heart-shaped balloons. I like them so much. Standing is good for outdoor action, and Hearts was good for indoor, especially a room with good resonance. I like simple action that makes good impressions to people. Most of my performances do not have much action. Not complicated. Most of the time it is the site that really inspires the piece.

I normally repeat my performance for a few times until I find it enough or satisfactory. I learn a few things or find a new piece from it. I never get bored of repeating Standing and Hearts. I will never get bored doing it. And because of its interactive nature, both pieces often inspire me to think of newer ideas.

VN: Newer ideas like Concrete House? Why did you put it up in 1993?
CA: In Bangkok, even before the early 90s, there were only a few commercial art galleries. No not-for-profit type of art centers. It was harder when The Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art went out of business in 1988. Artists who used to hang out at The Bhirasri had no place to go to where they can get together. We just trooped to our friends’ pubs. Organizing art exhibitions in pubs was not really a bad idea. However, the pubs at the time were not built as alternative spaces. So, this is where the Concrete House fit in. My wife and I bought a building for us to have our own space for work. The building was huge. So we began what we called ARTIVITIES which was good for such a big space.

We had Alwin Reamillo from the Philippines and Juliet Lea from Australia who were the first couple to be our artists-in-residence. Then the Yellow Man from Singapore, Lee Wen, came in and a few international artists including German Helmut Lemke, Singaporean Koh Nguan How, and Veronica whose surname I forgot since she later ended up in Hanoi for a long time. They jammed with our group composed of Vasan Sitthiket, Surapol Panyawacheera, Paisan Plienbangchang who all participated with other Thai artists.

VN: You have been curating ZOOM? What is it all about?
CA: I was invited by Jurgen Fritze, the organizer of ZOOM, to Hildeshiem, Germany. I was just then curating artists from South East Asia to his festival. It was great event in a small town. The performance space was an old church. The acoustic and natural daylight of the place were wonderful. There were a few Thai people living there and they came to make somtum or papaya salad for us everyday.

VN: What is your plan for Nan in particular and other cities in general like Bangkok or Korat or Chiangmai?
CA: When we first organized events like these, we always say that art is like a virus. It spreads through the air and it contaminates by touch. It is incurable. That’s what we are experiencing ever since. First, we do not want to control the art we organize. We would like to see it grow.

But we are not going to do everything that is out of our reach. The event in Korat and Chiangmai happened because of our friends who find an opportunity to do so. So, we support them and all the artists who join us each year. We hope someday they will be able to organize and curate events by themselves. Then we will work together. It is better than working alone or just in one area.

It is similar to Nan. For me, it is favorable because it is my hometown. There are local organizations that are willing to see possibilities of having art festivals in the provinces. So, what we did this year with you was our first try. The result is positive and now we are ready to go ahead with a slightly bigger event next year. Someday, I hope, we will be ready for an International Art Festival in my hometown in Nan.

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (Second of four parts) (April 15, 2013)

Chumpon Apisuk during the Perfurbance Performance Art Festival in Jogjakarta, Indonesia in 2009

Vim Nadera: How did Asiatopia all begin?
Chumpon Apisuk: The performance artists in Thailand in the early 80s were working together, collectively organizing performances and events in Bangkok’s galleries. I used to have an art center called Concrete House, so the building automatically became a center where we all could meet. There were Surapol Panyawacheera, originally from Korat; Vasan Sitthiket, a versatile artist; Kamol Paosawasdi, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University; and my wife Noi. We were the main active members of the group at the time. Later Paisan Plienbangchang, Jittima Pholsawake, and Mongkol Plienbangchang came in during the beginning of Concrete House in 1993 or 1994. Nopawan Sirivejkul and Padungsak Kotchasumrong came in afterward. But they helped us do Live Art, a platform for performance artists in Thailand. There were artists and artist groups that did something which could be called performance art since early 70s. A group named Bangladesh Band made sound and action art in Korat Technical College in 1972. Some artists did serious campaign against capitalism by throwing real money, around 10,000 baht, into Chao Praya River around the same time. However, there was conscious, or continuous, movement. Things died out when the Civil War broke out between the military government and the communist party in mid-70s. In 1985 the political situation in Thailand got better, the government and the communist reached an agreement to stop fighting. Most intellectuals who joined the communists came back to the city. Thai students who went to study abroad came home. It was the time that we could get back together again. I was working for an art center called Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art, so the center became a hangout for artists, writers, and theatre people. I helped in coming up with an event called Wethi-Samai: Contemp-tre in 1986. It was a collective idea of Vasan Sitthiket, again, and Chatvichai Prommadhattawethi, a secretary of the board of Bangkok Art Centre; and Suvanich Virojanalak who passed away in 1998. Wethi-Samai attempted to introduce performative art form and to combine divided disciplines among the art-related activities. It was crucial in building a strong artist network today. I think the idea of performance art began in Thailand during that time. Around same time, I did a performance outside Thailand in an art festival in Indonesia. The news about my performance in Bali was louder than in Bangkok. Newspapers and magazines wrote about it. In 1987 I did a one-year solo action called Bangkok-Chiangmai. I caught newspaper pages again. Add to that, I was invited to participate in a regional artists’ exchange in Western Australia known as ARX 87 in 1987 and in 1989. So I became recognized as a performance artist by the press then. I have been busy with activities at Concrete House since it was founded. In 1996, I participated in the Nippon International Performance Art Festival. It became the idea of organizing a platform in Thailand.

VN: Is there a need for a performance art? Why?
CA: I was asked this question so many times. In return, I asked them: “Why do we need apples in the market? Why do we need strawberries? Why do we need peaches from China? Why do we need art?” So, if you can think of all that, then naturally the next question could be: “Why do we have to stick on the artforms that we usually have.”

VN: What about a performance art festival? Why?
CA: Festivity seems to be a better word and it does not sound so heavy. It is basically a platform for artists from different places to meet and work together in same situation and same site. In performance art in many countries or areas, artists do not have places to perform that often, or they have to work among themselves, so the festival was a kind of event wherein artists can come together and share what they do. At the same time, the viewers also have a chance to see art and be part of it.

VN: How was it received before? Did the reception change through the years?
CA: Art is not popular or easy for the market to chew. So it always has limited audience. Many art forms like conceptual art or performance art have lesser audience.

For me to organize a performance art event, I do not expect a large number of audience. But I was surprised and happy that each year we have younger and younger people who join our workshops. Especially in 2012, we have more than 50 young students taking part in performance workshops in Bangkok and Korat.

VN: Why did you have a performance art conference in Bangkok? Could you tell us more about it?
CA: The performance art conference organized regularly by an artists organization called the Art Service Association or ASA run by Boris Nieslony from Cologne, Germany. He organized the conference many times in many countries before. Rolf Hinterecker, another artist from Cologne, helped Boris organize the Bangkok Conference. At the time, Concrete House was the only artist-run center in Thailand. We used to be the only space for performance art. I think this is the connection. 

During the conference, artists can present their work by talking about them, showing video or perform, etc. And it was all for and about artists, not for public. There were a few hundred artists from all over the world who attended. It was great event. And I learned a lot and I enjoyed a lot.

ASIATOPIA’S CHUMPON APISUK (First of four parts) (April 08, 2013)

Asiatopia's Chumpon Apisuk (left) and his wife Noi Chantawipa Apisuk who founded Empower Foundation

Chumpon Apisuk invited us to the Sex Workers of ASEAN (SW-ASEAN)

Art Exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Thailand.

Last week we were supposed to take part not as a sex worker, of course, but as a performance artist – though the two are at times akin.

But we had to beg off because of the 52nd University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop in Baguio just to be with this year’s fellows in Charmaine Carreon, Thomas David Chavez, Ralph Semino Gálan, Richard Gappi, Anna Maria Harper, Gabriela Alejandra Lee, Jim Libiran, Chuckberry Pascual, Rommel Rodriguez, Beverly Siy, Emmanuel Velasco, and John Jack Wigley as well as panelists in Gemino Abad, National Artist Virgilio Almarion,Romulo Baquiran, Jr., Jose Dalisay, Jr., J. Neil Garcia, National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, Charlson Ong, Jun Cruz Reyes, and Rolando Tolentino!

Add to that, because of the annual Araw ni Balagtas celebration last 2 April: first, the early morning wreath-laying ceremonies the Balagtas Shrine in Pandacan with Manila mayor, Alfredo Lim, and his cultural attache, Gemma Cruz Araneta, collaborating with Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas’ Secretary General, Dr. Mike Coroza and Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo represented by R.R. Cagalingan, Kriscell Largo Labor, and Atty. J.C. Cuñada, among others, and, for the first time, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino whose new Chair is National Virgilio Almario volting in with dynamo Director General Roberto Añonuevo; second, the KWF’s commemoration of Balagtas’ 225th birth anniversary through the revitalized Talaang Ginto crowning Joselito De Los Reyes as the Makata ng Taon 2013 followed by other firsts in honor of the two Tungkung-Kalan pillars who with Rio Alma modernist in Filipino poetry in the 60s: Rogelio Mangahas who delivered the Panayam Balagtas and the Lamberto Antonio who was awarded with Dangal ni Balagtas!

Anyway, why did Chumpon choose us?

During our stay in his parents’ ancestral home which he named Mae Kumpaeng House in Nan, he learned about our research on the effect of Poetry Therapy on Persons with AIDS back in 1999 at the San Lazaro Hospital's Bahay Lingap in Manila.

Last year, we were able to talk about it when Tupada Action and Media Arts’ Rommel Espinosa sent us to represent the Philippines to the 14th Asiatopia Performance Art Festival which he founded.

Indeed, we are happy and honored to be the only Filipino to be accepted to its 1st South East Asia Artists Exchange when it opened in his hometown in Baan Namkrog Village where we shaved our head as a monk for our Kiping ritual.

From 5 to 25 November, we were in for twists and turns with a couple of couples such as Singaporean renaisance man Lee Wen and his Japanese wife Satoko Lee as well as the Thai terrific tandem in Paisan Plienbangchang and Jittima Pholsawake.

Completing this very diverse batch was Changmai’s pride, sculptor Boonsong Rodtap, who helped us like their entire “Dream Team” composed Mr. Yang, Xao, Pranee, and the DASTA (Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration) staff.

In Bangkok, he assisted us in our Cold War performance where we broke a big block of ice at the BACC. When we moved to Korat -- with Australian Adonis Yiorgos Zafiriou, Burmese ruby Zoncy Phyu, Singaporean rocker Arif Ayub, another Thai power partner Mongkol Plienbangchang and Aor Nopawan -- he was so consistent in being a Good Samaritan so we gave him our props and costumes we brought from Manila as a token of our appreciation. Same thing we did to generous trio of Toyting Chularat, Kun Permpooka, and Sittichai Petchtalay. They, too, were instrumental in extending their hands to young art students, who collaborated with us in collecting garbage and all, for our art project called baZOOra.

Eventually, this endeavor evolves into e-baZOOra after we -- representing Foundation AWIT (Advancing Wellness, Instruction, and Talents) presided by our lifetime partner Dinah Palmera Nadera -- collaborated with Integrated Recycling Industries’ Lee Salvatore Echiverri and Commission on Information and Communication Technology’s Toni Torres who has mobilized her i-school links with state universities and colleges in time for the International Mother Earth Day celebration on 22 April.

At the Technology Ratchamongkol University in Korat, as in Silpakorn University in Bangkok, these energetic “environmental artists” like Tungmay Chompoosee and her friends became our “classmates” during the workshops offered by the indefatigable Irish Sinead O’Donnell and the ageless Swiss mister and misses Ruedi Schill and Monika Gunther, who conducted workshops like the American action drawing master Morgan O’Hara whom we met in Osaka, Japan during the Nippon International Performance Art Festival two years ago.

Everything was made possible by Chumpon and his wife Noi Chantawipa, our newfound role models.

As born organizers, they are unstoppable as awesome twosome since last year’s Asiatopia or this year’sSW-ASEAN symposium at the BACC Auditorium.

Or, surely, in the upcoming 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok this November.

With or without their Empower Foundation, the Apisuks will always be remembered for their love.

Not only for the arts but for humanity.

Vim Nadera: What is Asiatopia?
Chumpon Apisuk
 Asiatopia is a performance art festival I started with friends and colleagues in Thailand way back in 1998.

RIO ALMA’S ON FIRE (Last part) (March 25, 2013)

Rio Alma in red with another National Artist, Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera (second from right), during a Francisco Balagtas Day celebration last April 2 at the Balagtas Shrine in Pandacan, Manila

Vim Nadera: Under you, Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa must be more eventful?
Virgilio Almario: Sa Agosto 19, 20, at 21 -- magkakaroon ang KWF ng Kongreso sa Wika. Gaya ng dati, magkakaroon ng Ulat ng Tagapangulo ng Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino ukol sa aking mga nagawang hakbang ng KWF sa nakaraang anim na buwan at iba pa. Siyempre, sa ika-31 ng Agosto, ang taunang kongreso ng Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas. Taon-taon, nagbibigay ang UMPIL ng Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez, at Gawad Pedro Bucaneg sa mga pinakamahusay na manunulat, guro, at samahang pampanitikan. Para sa 2013, ang ating paksa ay iikot kay Andres Bonifacio na magdiriwang ng ika-150 anibersaryo sa Nobyembre.

VN: Good thing, you have the support of your Lupon ng mga Komisyoner?
VA: Oo. Unang-una, sa unang pagkakataon, ngayon lang nagkaroon ang KWF ng Lupon ng mga Komisyonder na nominado ng iba’t ibang organisasyong pangwika at pampanitikan. Aktibo ang mga Komisyoner, lahat may kani-kaniyang proyektong dapat alagaan sa kanilang mga rehiyon. Kaya ngayon palalakasin namin ang mga sentrong pangrehiyon ng KWF. Ang tinatawag na Sentro ng Komisyon ay hindi lang dapat sentro ng wika kundi sentro ng kultura.

VN: By the way, what ever happened to the UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino published during your term as the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino director?
VA: Basta ang plano ko ay maglabas ng ikatlong edisyon sa susunod na taon.

VN: How would you call it?
VA: Diksiyonaryo Almario?

VN: Any other publication?
VA: Balak ko ring maglabas ng serye ng publikasyon na tatawagin kong Aklatan ng Bayan. Dito ko ilalathala ang huling limbag ng mga aklat sa wika at panitikan na wala na sa sirkulasyon. Gayundin ang mga bagong pag-aaral at ehemplo ng mahusay na panitikan na puwedeng gamitin ng mga bata sa paaralan. Nasa pipeline, halimbawa, ang isang koleksiyon ng mga alamat na Maranao. Nakahanda na rin ang isang panitikang-bayan ng Cordillera. Gusto ko ring magkaroon ng pagpili at pagsasalin sa Filipino ng mahuhusay na panitikan sa loob at labas ng Filipinas.

VN: You have been launching at least a book every year. Could you tell us more about Ang Romansa ng Pagsagip sa Osong Marso that you launched last 8 March, the day before your birthday, at the UP Vargas Museum?
VA: Ang Romansa ng Pagsagip sa Osong Marso ay ang aking eksperimento na maaaring ang kauna-unahang speculative poetry kung hindi man dito ay sa buong daigdig. Lahat ng bagay sa aklat ay naganap sa “Third Universe” matapos magunaw ang unang dalawa. Ang paniwala ko lang naman ang lahat ng sci-fi, gaya ng Star Wars or Star Trek, ay mga panitikang alegorikal. Kahit pang-hinaharap, nandoon pa rin ang mga problema sa kasalukuyan. Ganoon din ang sa akin. Sa kaso ng libro ko, ang suliranin ay espirituwal.

VN: Are you saying that Rio Alma is getting spiritual?
VA: Para sa akin, ang pagiging maka-tao, ang pagiging maka-kalikasan ay hindi problemang materyal. Problema iyon ng espiritu ng tao. Hindi ito mauunawan kung wala kang pagbabagong espirituwal. Kaya, iyon ang ginawa ko, sasakupin nila ang isang planeta, miminahin nila, uubusin nila lahat ng kayamanan, at saka dudurugin hanggang sa mawala sa uniberso. Kung noon ay maraming kuwento sa namamatay na araw, ngayon wala akong ginawa kundi magtanong: Ito kayang araw na ito ay magkakaroon ng resureksiyon? 

VN: What is your dream project?
VA: May dalawa talaga akong malalaking pangarap. Una, ang pagsasalin ay mabigyan ng pagpapahalaga. Kung maaari ay ma-professionalize ito ng aking administrasyon. Sana nga, magkaroon tayo ng isang Kawanihan sa Pagsasalin. Ito ay upang mapaunlad ang pagsasalin at mabigyan ng lisensiya ang mga tagasalin. Ikalawa, ibig kong makapagpatayo ng isang gusali para sa KWF. Sa ngayon, para kaming sardinas sa aming tanggapin. Palagay ko, ito ay sintomas ng pagtrato ng pamahalaan sa wikang Filipino.

VN: How do you manage to be always one step ahead?
VA: Marami kasing dapat gawin. Napansin ko sa pag-aaral ko ng panitikang Filipino na ang daming nasayang na panahon sa Siglo 20. Ang ating talino tuloy hindi nakasabay sa pangangailangan ng panahon. Ang babaw ng nalikhang panitikan sa Filipinas. Ang ginagawa ko lang ngayon ay ulitin ang mga posibilidad na hindi nangyari noon. Noong una, inulit ko na ang mga ginawa nila. Kininis ko. Ngayon, ang ginagawa ko na ang mga bagay na hindi nila ginawa, nakalimutan nilang gawin, o kaya wala talaga sa kanilang kamalayan. O ayaw nila. Halimbawa, ang isa ko pang ilalabas na libro ay Libog at Lunggati. Ito ang unang libro ng panulaang erotiko sa Filipino. Siguro, ilalabas ko ito dalawang buwan mula ngayon. Masusundan pa ito ng pagpapaliwanag ko ng Bagong Formalismo na may pamagat na Ang Tungkulin ng Kritisismo sa Panitikan ng Filipinas. Hunyo ang target ko para dito.

VN: Wow. All in one year?
VA: Alam mo, naplano ko na ang buhay ko limang taon na ang nakakaraan. Kaya, ang lahat ng iyan, ang nasimulan na noong pang 2008. Kaya, kung ano ang unang matapos, inilalabas ko lang. Mayroon pa akong nakahanda na 10 pa! Malapit nang mabuo ang Orasyonal. May tinatapos din akong nobela. May koleksiyon ako ng maikling kuwentong fantastiko.

VN: It seems that you have written all the literary genres. What about scriptwriting?
VA: Ayaw ko namang subukan iyon. Dula na lang. May opera ako. Ang titulo nito ay San Andres B. Nilapatan ito ng musika ni Chino Toledo. Ididirihe ni Floy Quintos. Itatanghal ito sa Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater sa tulong ng National Commission for Culture and the Arts at National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Kaya abangan ninyo ito sa ika-30 ng Nobyembre ngayong taong ito – ang seski-sentenaryo ni Bonifacio!

RIO ALMA’S ON FIRE (Third of four parts) (March 18, 2013)

Tagapangulong Virgilio S. Almario, wearing his trademark fedora hat, and the new Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino's Kalupunan ng mga Komisyoner. Standing from left: Com. John Barrios, Com. Orlando Magno, Com. Jimmy Fong, Com. Jerry Gracio, Com. Abdon Balde. Seated, from left: Com. Ma. Crisanta Flores, Com. Lucena Samson, Com. Lorna Flores,  Com. Purificacion de Lima, and Com. Noriam Ladjagais. (Photo by Kriscell Largo Labor)

Vim Nadera: Sir, what’s in store for May?
Virgilio Almario: Sa Mayo, kung saka-sakali, ipagdiriwang namin ang pagkamatay ni Vicento Sotto dahil sa buwang iyon siya yumao. Kaya magkakaroon tayo ng forum sa ngalan ni Vicente Sotto para sa peryodismo o pamamahayag. Si Sotto kasi ay isang peryodista pero siya rin ang itinuturing na Ama ng Panitikang Bisaya. Hindi lamang siya ang tagapagsulong ng Panitikang Sebuwano kundi siya rin ang kauna-unahang kinatawang Bisaya sa noo’y Surian ng Wikang Pambansa. Ito ay pagpapatunay lamang sa aking pagdakila sa mga katutubong wika sa Filipinas. Hindi ako pro-Tagalog. Napakaraming bagay ang matutuhan natin sa mga panitikan at kultura mula sa iba-ibang katutubong wika natin sa Filipinas. Kaya dapat natin silang makilala at mapag-aralan lahat.

VN: Any more language heroes you want to honor?
VA: Sa aking talumpati para sa Ambagan 2009 sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, maaalala mong pinamagatan ko itongMga Unang Bayani Ng Wikang Pambansa. Ilan sa mga una kong binanggit ay sina Felipe Jose, Wenceslao Vinzons, Tomas Confesor, Hermenegildo Villanueva, at Norberto Romualdez. Sino nga ba sila? Sila ang mga delegado sa 1934 Kumbensiyong Konstitusyonal. Doon kasi opisyal na ipinanganak ang Wikang Pambansa -- batay sa isang wikang katutubo ng Filipinas at ang mga pangalang inilista ko ay lima lámang sa mga bayaning nagpanukala, nagtanggol, at nagtrabaho alang-alang sa mithiing ito. May iba pa, at mababanggit ko sa aking talakay, ngunit nais kong mag-umpisa sa lima. Sa pamamagitan nilá lilinaw kung bakit ganito ang Seksiyong 3, Artikulo XIII sa 1935 Konstitusyon. Dahil dito, aming bubuksan sa Hunyo ang Publikong Talakayan sa ngalan naman ni Norberto Romualdez hinggil sa Araling Pangkultura. Lingid sa kaalaman ng marami, siya kasi ang gumawa ng batas na lumikha ng Surian ng Wikang Pambansa. Kung si Pangulong Manuel Luis Quezon, na isang Tagalog, ang Ama ng Wikang Pambansa, si Romualdez, na isang Waray, ang maituturing na Arkitekto ng Wikang Filipino! Sino nga ba siRomualdez? Siya ay isang dating mahistrado sa Korte Suprema, miyembro ng National Assembly, iginagálang na pilolohista. Siya ang bumuo sa batas upang isagawa ang tadhana ng 1935 Konstitusyon. Nasa likod siya ng National Assembly ng 1936 kung kailan nagkaroon ng Commonwelt Act No. 184. Mas kilala ito bilang National Language Law na bumuo ng National Language Institute (NLI) at ng Wikang Pambansa. Ang totoo, siya rin ang nakipag-usap kay Jaime C. de Veyra -- ang kaniyang kaibigan at kapuwa Waray -- upang maging unang tagapangulo ng NLI nang buksan ito noong 1937. Wala pang isang taon, inirekomenda ng NLI ang Tagalog bilang batayan ng Wikang Pambansa. Noong 1937 din, pinirmahan ni Quezon ang Executive Order No. 134 na nagpoproklama sa “isang wikang pambansa batay sa diyalektong Tagalog bilang wikang pambansa ng Filipinas.” Hanga ako sa sipag ni Romualdez sa pagsusulong ng Commonwealth Act No.184 sa kongreso. Pati kay de Veyra na nakaupô noong tagapangulo ng kagawaran sa Espanyol sa UP. Magkasáma rin kasi sila sa samahang Waray. Gayunman, tulad ni Romualdez, pinilì ni de Veyra na maglingkod para sa Wikang Pambansa. Hindi naging sagwil ang interes sa Waray upang kilalanin ang Tagalog bilang higit na karapat-dapat na batayan ng Wikang Pambansa.

Dagdag pa rito, si Romualdez ay maraming saliksik tungkol sa katutubong musika, instrumento, at iba pang kung tawagin ngayon ay Cultural Studies. Kaya, angkop lamang na dakilain siya sa Hunyo sa pagkakaroon sa KWF ng kauna-unahang Norberto Romualdez Publikong Talakayan sa Araling Kultura sa Filipinas.

VN: What about July?
VA: Ang Sawikaan: Mga Salita ng Taon ay isinilang sa isang pulong natin sa FIT, o Filipinas Institute of Translation, noong Pebrero 2004. Iminungkahi noon ang pagtataguyod ng isang proyekto para piliin ang pinakamahahalagang salita ng taon. Ito ay inspirado ng proyektong Word of the Year ng American Dialect Society (ADS). “Wang-wang" noong 2012 ang napadagdag sa ating mga napiling Salita ng Taon kasama ng “huweteng" noong 2005, “lowbat" noong 2006, “miskol" noong 2007, at “jejemon" noong 2010. Sa taong ito, magpapahinga muna tayo. Pero, muli, makikipagtutulungan tayong taga-FIT sa Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) at sa Kagawaran ng Filipino ng Paaralan ng Humanidades ng Ateneo de Manila University. Kaya, gaya ng dati, ang mga iskolar, guro, at masusugid na tagapagtaguyod ng wika ay pinagpása natin ng abstrak para sa gaganaping Ambagan 2013: Kumperensiya sa Paglikom ng iba’t ibang Salita mula sa mga Wika sa Filipinas sa ika-25, 26, at 27 ng Hulyo 2013 sa Ateneo. Ito ay ginagawa tuwing ikalawang taon. Una itong ginanap noong 2009 na kinatampukan ng mga panayam ng mga eksperto hinggil sa mga salita mula sa mga wikang Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Ifugao, Kinaray-a, Magindanaw, Maranao, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, Tausug, at Waray. Alinsunod ito sa probisyong pangwika sa Artikulo XIV, Seksiyon 6 ng Konstitusyon ng Filipinas na nagsasabing “Ang wikang pambansa ng Pilipinas ay Filipino. Samantalang nalilinang, ito ay dapat payabungin at pagyamanin pa salig sa umiiral na mga wika ng Pilipinas at sa iba pang mga wika.” Kaya, ito ay nag bunga ng isang estratehiya sa pagpapayaman ng wikang Filipino. Kaya tayo humahalaw mula sa kaban ng bokabularyo ng iba’t ibang wika sa Filipinas upang ilahok sa korpus ng wikang pambansa. Noong 15 Pebrero ang takdang panahon para sa pagpapása ng abstrak na hindi lalabis sa 300 salita. Dapat kasing maghanay ang mananaliksik ng mga salitang may natatanging kahulugan sa kultura at kasaysayan ng pinagmumulang etnolingguwistikong pangkat. Dapat maipaliwanag ang metodong gagamitin sa pangangalap, pagpapakahulugan, at pagbibigay ng halimbawang gamit sa pangungusap o karaniwang pag-uusap. Dapat ding mapangatwiranan kung bakit mahalagang maging bahagi ng korpus ng Pambansang Wika ang mga salitang ito. Para sa reserbasyon, maaaring tumawag sa # 547-1860. Hanapin sina Dr. Michael M. Coroza, Direktor ng Kumperensiya, Prof. Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Pangulo ng FIT, at Ms. Eilene G. Narvaez, pangkalahatang koordineytor ng mga gawain. O bisitahin ang website ng FIT na at/o magpadala ng mensahe

RIO ALMA’S ON FIRE (Second of four parts) (March 11, 2013)

National Artist Virgilio Almario, with his trademark fedora hat, and the new Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino board of commissioners

Vim Nadera: Sir, what is your master plan for the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino?
Virgilio Almario: Marami. Kung tutuusin ang KWF ay quasi-constitutional. Nasa Saligang Batas ng 1987 na kailangang magtayo ang Kongreso ng isang Commission on Filipino Language. Ito ang dapat mangasiwa sa isa pang probisyon na dapat palaganapin ang isang wikang pambansa, na ang tawag ay Filipino, sa pamamagitan ng pagpapayaman at pagpapaunlad nito sa tulong ng iba’t ibang wika sa Filipinas.

VN: Known before as Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (SWP), KWF boasts of its former directors – such as Jaime C. de Veyra, Lope K. Santos, Julian Cruz Balmaceda, Cirio H. Panganiban, Cecilio Lopez, Jose Villa Panganiban, and Ponciano B.P. Pineda. What ever happened to KWF before you took over?
VA: Mayroon ngang Implementing Rules and Regulation ang KWF pero ito ay depektibo. Wala itong naging plano man lamang sa loob ng 12 taon. Kaya sa loob ng dalawang linggo, wala akong ginawa kundi ayusin ang IRR. Pagkaraan, nagpa-workshop ako para gumawa ng isang medium-term plan para sa anim o pitong taon. Kaya nga lang nahuli na ito dahil nagsimula na ang administrasyon ni Pangulong Benigno Aquino III. Kaya tuloy sa ginawang pagbabalangkas ng pamahalaan, walang banggit kung paano palalaganapin ang wika, paano ito payayamanin, paano ito magiging isang modernong wika, paano magiging opisyal na komunikasyon, at paano ito magiging wikang panturo. Katunayan, noong panahon ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, inihabla natin siya. Kinuwestiyon namin ang Korte Suprema tungkol sa E.O. 210 at iba pang regulasyong tulad ng Dep­Ed Order 36 S 2006. Pinapawalang-bisa din natin ito dahil ang EO 210 at DepEd Order 36 paglabag sa Saligang Batas. Kakampi natin dito, bukod sa mga anak mo, sina Dr. Patricia Licuanan, noon ay Presidente pa ng Miriam College; Pambansang Alagad ng Sining na si Bienvenido Lumbera; balae kong sosyologong si Randolf David; ang dating Presidente ng WIKA Inc. na si Isagani R. Cruz; at Efren Abueg, ang writer-in-residence ng De La Salle University. Si Atty. Pacifico A. Agabin, dating dekano ng College of Law ng University of the Philippines, ang ating abogado noon. Natatandaan ko pa nang kausapin ko noon ang dating Punong Komisyoner ng KWF, ang sabi pa nga niya ay tama raw si GMA.

At nang magkaroon nga ng K-12 ang Departamento ng Edukasyon, wala man lang papel na ginampanan ang KWF sa pagbuo ng kurikulum. Dahil dito, hindi nabigyan ng diin ang gagampanan ng Filipino sa pagkakaroon ng bagong basic education program.

VN: So what was your initial reaction?
VA: Sinulatan ko agad si Bro. Armin Luistro ng Dep Ed at si Dr. Patricia Licuanan ng Commission on Higher Education para sabihin sa kanila na ako na ang bagong Punong Komisyoner ng KWF. At, kasabay nito, sinabi ko ring ibig kong makipulong sa kanila. Para malaman ko ang kanilang pagtingin at patakaran tungkol sa paggamit ng Filipino. At kung may maiitulong ang KWF tungkol sa mga bagay na ito.

VN: How did they respond?
VA: Noong Pebrero 27 nagpasabi na ang CHEd na sila ay handang makipag-usap. At nitong Pebrero 28, nang aksidenteng magkita kami ni Sec. Luistro, hindi pa raw niya nababasa ang sulat ko. Kaya sinabi ko na sa kaniya na gusto ko sana na lahat ng bagay na may kinalaman sa Filipino, sana ay isangguni muna sa KWF, para mas mapag-aralan pa bago ito isagawa. At nasa batas ‘yon. Hindi lamang ito tungkulin ng KWF kundi isang kapangyarihan. Kapangyarihan ng KWF ang lahat ng bagay na tulad nito sa lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno. Ito ang nakasaad sa Republic Act 7104. Ang KWF ay may tungkuling tiyakin at itaguyod ang ebolusyon, pagpapaunlad at pagpapayaman pa ng Filipino na wikang pambansa ng Pilipinas, batay sa umiiral na mga wika ng Pilipinas at iba pang wika.

VN: And your next step is…
VA: Kaya ngayong Marso magkakaroon ng National Consultative Forum on Filipino Orthography. Ito ay gaganapin ngayon, Mar.11, hanggang Mar.13, mulang 8 n.u. hanggang 5 n.h. sa Benitez Auditorium, College of Education ng UP Diliman. Ito ay para mapag-usapan na at mabigyan na ng sagot ang lahat ng isyu, o anomalya, tungkol sa ispeling. Lahat na. Magkaisa na. Ngayon, pagkaraan nito, kapag di kayo sumunod dito, di kayo kasali. Ipaiiral namin ito sa lahat, mula sa gobyerno hanggang sa paaralan. May mga inanyayahan kaming mga resource person. Pero bukas ang talakayan sa publiko. Ibig sabihin, kung sino man ang may interes tungkol sa isyu na ito ay puwedeng pumunta at lumahok sa talakayan. Inaasahang magsalita ang bagong Lupon ng KWF na sina Jerry B. Gracio (Samar-Leyte), Purificacion Delima (Iluko), Abdon M. Balde Jr. (Bikol), Noriam H. Ladjagais (Mga wika sa Muslim Mindanao), John E. Barrios (Hiligaynon), Orlando B. Magno (Sebwano), Jimmy B. Fong (Mga wika sa pamayanang pangkultural sa Hilaga), Lucena P. Samson (Kapampangan), Ma. Crisanta N. Flores (Pangasinan), at Lorna E. Flores (Mga wika sa pamayanang pangkultura ng Timog). Pamumunuan ito ng batikang iskolar na si Dr. Galileo S. Zafra, ang direktor ng proyektong Gabay sa Editing sa Wikang Filipino, na galing pa sa Japan. Dadaluhan ng mga manunulat, editor, brodkaster, negosyante, at iba pang propesyonal – kaya puwedeng pumunta ang sino mang ibig makisangkot sa ganitong talakayan.

VN: What about next month?
VA: Ang Abril ay nakalaan sa panitikan -- dahil Araw ni Balagtas ito. Unang-una, ibabalik namin ang prestihiyo ng Talaang Ginto. Makakaasa kayong hihigpitan namin ngayon ang pananalo. Ibabalik namin ang dating pangalan nito. At gagawin naming isang buong araw ang pagdiriwang. Magsisimula ito sa umaga sa pag-aalay ng bulaklak sa Bantayog ni Francisco Balagtas sa Pandacan, Maynila sa tulong ng tanggapan nina Alkalde Alfredo Lim at Gemma Cruz-Araneta. Tradisyon na rin ito para sa Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas at Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo . Tapos magkakaroon nga ng paggagawad ng Talaang Ginto. At ibabalik namin ang Panayam Balagtas. Taon-taon may pipiliin kaming eksperto na magsasalita hinggil sa ano mang aspekto ng panitikan.

RIO ALMA’S ON FIRE (First of four parts) (March 04, 2013)

Rio Alma's latest book Ang Romansa ng Pagsagip ng Osong Marso to be launched on Mar.8, the day before his birthday, by the UST Publishing House at UP Vargas Museum

Rio Alma, the multi-genre literary artist, cultural manager, and teacher

Virgilio Senadren Almario’s nom de plume, is born during the Fire Prevention Month.

This explains why he is the most prolific figure in Philippine literature.

This guru’s on fire!

In fact, literally and literarily, the word “rest” is missing in his vocabulary.

Even after he was given the Orden ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining 10 years ago, he continued to harvest for his hard work. Urban legend has it that he has this unbreakable daily habit of placing blank bondpaper on his typewriter to write whatever that comes into his mind!

Did this Rio Alma Ritual change when he began encoding on his first computer?


Since 2001, he had been unstoppable, as in coming out with books, as author or editor or translator – annually, yes, annually -- for 11 years with more than 40 titles and counting: Mutyang Dilim (Talingdao Publishing, 2001); UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino (Anvil Publishing, 2001); Supot ni Hudas (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2002); Florante at Laura (Institute for Public Policy, 2002); Bulacan: Bayan ng Bayani’t Bulaklak (Bulacan Heritage Foundation, 2002); JB, Filipino translation of Archibald McLeish’s JB (Dulaang UP, 2002); Barlaan at Josaphat (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003); Ikatlong Bagting (UST Press, 2003); Pacto de Sangre: Spanish Legacy in Filipinas (Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Committee, 2003); Textanaga (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2003); Dalitext (NCCA, 2003); Dionatext (NCCA, 2004); Ang Hayop na Ito(Anvil Publishing, 2004); Sentimental (Anvil Publishing, 2004); Sari-Sari (Anvil Publishing, 2004); Estremelenggoles(Anvil Publishing, 2004); Pablo Neruda: Mga Piling Tula (University of the Philippines Press, 2004); Memo Mulang Gimokudan (UP Press, 2005); Dust Devils (Aklat Peskador, 2005); Sonetos Postumos, UP Press (2006);Sansiglong Mahigit ng Makabagong Tula sa Filipinas (Anvil Publishing, 2006); Pag-unawa sa Ating Pagtula(Anvil Publishing, 2006); Tatlong Pasyon sa Ating Panahon (UST Press, 2006); 101 Icons (Adarna House, 2007);Bakit Kailangan ang Himala (UP Press, 2007); Isang Sariling Panahon (NCCA, 2008); Likhaan 2: Journal of Philippine Contemporary Literature (UP Institute of Creative Writing, 2008); UP Centennial Edition of Balagtas’ Florante at Laura (Office of the Chancellor, UP Diliman, 2008); Romanza (Tahanan Books, 2008); Mga Biyahe, Mga Estasyon (Anvil Publishing Inc., 2008); Si Rizal: Nobelista (UP Press, 2008); Buwan, Buwan Bulawan (Adarna House, 2009); Pitik-Bulag (Government Service Insurance System, 2009); More 101 Icons (Adarna House, 2009);Huling Hudhud ng Sanlibong Paglimot at Pagbabalik sa Filipinas Kong Mahal (C&E Publishing, 2009); Unang Siglo ng Nobela sa Filipinas (Anvil Publishing, 2009); Filipino ng mga Filipino (Anvil Publishing, 2009); Pitong Bundok ng Haraya (UST Publishing, 2010); Panitikang Pambata sa Filipinas (Anvil Publishing, 2010); UP Diksiyonaryong Filipino (UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino-Diliman/Anvil Publishing, 2010); Muling-Pagkatha sa Ating Bansa (UP Press, 2010); Rizal: Makata (Anvil Publishing, 2011); Jacintina, Hiyas ng Panulat ni Emilio Jacinto(Aklat Peskador, 2011); Ang Maikling Kuwento ng Filipinas: 1896-1949 (Anvil Publishing, 2012), Komedia de Baler (Sen. Edgardo Angara/National Historical Commission of the Philippines, 2012), and Ang Pag-ibig sa Bayan ni Andres Bonifacio (UST Publishing House, 2012).

On Friday, 8 March, the day before his birthday, he and the UST Publishing House will be launching at the UP Vargas Museum his latest book yet first of its kind. Entitled Ang Romansa ng Pagsagip sa Osong Marso, it is considered the only speculative poetry collection in the country, if not the world.

He is turning 69, which is why is hotter!

Hotter even when he became a National Artist in 2003?

Well, that very same year, he garnered Saiko Eiyosho, highest honorary award from Soka Gakkai University, and two Gawad Chanselor from UP Diliman: as Pinakamahusay na Mananaliksik and as Pinakamahusay na Nilathalang Pananaliksik. Since then, he had been been on a roll: from Best Book of Poetry from the National Book Development Board (2006) to U.P. Centennial Professorial Chair (2008) to University of the Philippines Centennial Award (2008) to U.P. Artist 3 (2010), and U.P. Professor Emeritus (2010).

Only belatedly, he received the highest honor for being an outstanding citizen: Manila’s Gawad Diwa ng Lahi(2010), Bulacan’s Tanging Dangal ng Lipi Award (2008), and Quezon City’s Most Outstanding Citizen (2009).

Last year, as the so-called “father of modern Philippine children’s literature,” he was recognized for being the moving spirit behind Adarna Books -- the first comprehensive series of educational books for Filipino children -- and the founder of Philippine Board on Board for Young People (PBBY). He went to the United States to accept the Distinguished Country Scholar Award 2012 from the International Children’s Literature Society during the 39thInternational Children’s Literature Conference on 14 June at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Recently, a sudden turn of events in Rio Alma’s life seems like an answer to a lot of his unfinished businesses, in one way or another.

He is the new Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino’s Chair!

A natural born Bulakenyo from San Miguel, he is no Juan-come-lately, so to speak, in the field of language or lexicography. He has books about the national language issues namely Filipino ng mga Filipino in 1993 and 2009, Tradisyon at Wikang Filipino in 1998, and Patnubay sa Masinop na Pagsulat in 1981. He was the Director of U.P. Sentro ng Wikang Filipino from 1993 to 1996. Of course, aside from editing the UP Diksiyonaryong Filipinosince 2004, he is also at the helm, as chief editor and translator, of the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by Juan de Noceda and Pedro Sanlucar since 2007.

Well, to all the lazybones at KWF, he means bad news!

Why? Because Rio Alma seems to be singing: “So many things to do, so little time...”

Vim Nadera: How was your first day of office as Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino Chair?
Virgilio Almario: Alam mo ba ang ginawa ko noong unang araw ko sa KWF? Sinabi ko sa kanilang lahat na 12 taong walang Diyos ang wikang Filipino.

VN: Why?
VA: Dahil wala silang ginawa. “Masakit mang sabihin,” wika ko, “hindi kayo nagsikap na bigyan ng payo ang inyong mga pinuno, ang mga nauna sa akin, para naman bigyan sila ng bisyon at misyon ng Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino.”

LIRIO SALVADOR’S SAVIOR (Last part) (February 25, 2013)

Mary Ann Jimenez (left) is her husband Lirio Salvador's savior

Vim Nadera: How is Lirio now?
MaryAnn Salvador: He is in the process of recuperating in our temporary home in Dasmariñas City. He is showing some improvements like scratching his face and head. He pinches us whenever his diaper is full. His facial expressions also tell us whenever he is in pain or in a relaxed mood. There were also attempts to raise his head while lying on his back.

VN: How great is the chance for his recovery?
MS: According to the doctor, everything that is happening to him is a miracle. We just take it one day at a time. We are not in a hurry. We are not expecting that he can go back to his normal life, just like what the doctor said. He is a fighter and so are we. We are happy to see him improve little by little everyday.

VN: How can we help?
MS: We need a lot of prayers. We also appreciate financial help because Lirio is undergoing regular physical therapy and soon he will be having speech therapy. He is also undergoing regular check-up with his neurologist, neuro-surgeon, internist, etc. There were times too when we brought him to the emergency room for some medical reason (ex. seizure). We also appreciate personal visit of his friends and relatives. Sharing and spending an hour or two with Lirio might help him regain his memory. For those who are interested to help, they may check our facebook account “Help Lirio Salvador” or they may get in touch with me.

VN: What do you miss most about him?
MS: I miss his enigmatic look and smile.

VN: By the way, how did you meet him?
MS: We met at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts where I worked as a librarian. He organized a group exhibition there in 1997 entitled Pangunahing Udyok (Primal Urge). Melanie Casul, my former officemate and our common friend introduced us.

VN: Could you tell us more about your love story?
MS: Lirio and I were brought and united together not just because of romantic love we have for each other but because of our creative endeavors. Our passion for the arts sustained our relationships for nine years until we finally decided to tie the knot in a unique veggie wedding experience we called Bigkis-Sining: Pag-iisa sa Buhay at Sining on 22 December 2007 at former Penguin Café in Malate, Manila. Bigkis means union of two souls who are both art lovers and practitioners. It turned out to be a celebration of love in art and life.

VN: How is he as a husband?
MS: He is a very cool husband, he never puts a hand on me. If we have a misunderstanding, he tries to settle it right then and there. Lirio is also a very spiritual person. He has introduced me to Lord Krishna, Bhagavad gita, and vegetarianism. We don’t have kids but he is a father to many young and emerging artists. He is a very generous, thoughtful, and kind person. He used to surprise us with ice cream and pizza.

VN: As an artist?
MS: He is an inventor, explorer, and most often relies on serendipity. He is a very spontaneous person which he applies in his music and art making. He loves watching foreign movies, surfing the net, and read books. He used to hangout before at the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center and Goethe Institut to do research and get ideas. He is not stingy when it comes to sharing knowledge and art secret.

VN: What is his main contribution to Philippine art or music?
MS: He is one of the main proponents of sound art in the Philippines, along with Tad Ermitanyo, Jing Garcia, and Blums Borres of The Children of Cathode Ray. He is the only Filipino artist I know whose artwork could pass both as a musical instrument and as a museum piece. His artworks are interactive -- an amalgamation of different disciplines and an assemblage of ready-made objects.

VN: Among his works, what is your favorite? Why?
MS: Sandata ni Mary Ann, of course, because it was named after me. I also like the sculptural assemblage named Sandata of Something Wonderful. This sandata has multi-function and multi-sound. It has USB port, synthesizer, air synth, circuit bent, etc. Actually, he invested a lot of time in doing this instrument which is actually an art work in progress. He named and called his artworks sandata (or arm or weapon in Filipino) because he believes that the world we live in is a battlefield and his artworks are his weapons. For him, there are no other means of ending and winning this life struggle except through creativity and spirituality. 

VN: What is the price range of his musical instruments? What is the most expensive?
MS: Php 20k and up. His Sandata: Four Head Brahma Minus One was sold for 17,741 USD in 2009 Sotheby’s Auction.

VN: Who are his customers here and abroad?
MS: National Artist BenCab owned a Baby Sandata which you can find in his museum in Baguio. I also saw in a magazine that actress and TV host Iya Villania owns Lirio’s Sandata ni Juan while cyclist and art collector Raymond See wrote in his blog that he has Sandata 12 Liquid Angel dated 2005. Yoga guru Rina Ortiz also owned Lirio’s work which was featured in November 2010 issue of Rogue magazine. Since some of his artworks were sold in Christie’s and Sotheby’s Auction Houses as well as International Art Fairs definitely there were foreign collectors who also own his works but I cannot name them here.

VN: How would you like us to remember Lirio?
MS: If Lirio could speak, he wanted to be remembered not as a sound artist or sound assemblage creator but as who he is as a person – a passionate and creative soul. You know that and those who had a chance to talk and be with him. Moreover, this article of yours is now part of his life documentation which will remind us of who Lirio Salvador is. Thank you, sir Vim for being part of our creative life. Mabuhay!

LIRIO SALVADOR’S SAVIOR (First of two parts) (February 18, 2013)

Mary Ann Jimenez (left) is her husband Lirio Salvador's savior

Last Monday, 11 February, Lirio Salvador turned 45. 

We had second thoughts on greeting him “Happy Birthday.” 

Well, our favorite sound artist is not that well. 

Since 30 December 2011, he had been fighting for his life. 

On that fateful day, his wife, MaryAnn Jimenez recalled that he came from 

Manila to attend an exhibit opening at the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Museum and Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) Christmas Party at the Kanlungan ng Sining. He was about to go home in Dasmariñas, Cavite at around 1:00 in the morning when he met an accident. 

What was sad was that it just a few steps away from his space, Espasyo Siningdikato CreatiVEnue, an art gallery right across Gate 1 of De La Salle University Dasmariñas. The said gallery at Block 11 Lot 9 along Congressional Road was co-founded together with her and their artist friends who actually heard the collision. His best buddy and fellow musician Jonjie Ayson, who found Lirio lying on the street, was told that three unidentified persons on a motorcycle were the culprits. Right right after that hit and run, he was diagnosed with subdural hematoma at left frontotemporoparietal area and fractured left temporal bone. 

Mary Ann reported that he immediately underwent craniectomy and evacuation of subdural hematoma to allow a swelling brain room to expand without being squeezed, after which, he was given 72 hours grace period to live. The 72 hour-period extended to up 600 hours in Intensive Care Unit, 1,320 hours in a private room, and another 7,128 hours to date. Cranioplasty was performed after a month and a half in the hospital. To avoid pneumonia, he was also required to undergo tracheostomy which was removed after six months. 

We subconsciously avoid visiting Lirio. We really want to picture him in our mind, breaking borders with his music. We met him even during his Elemento days but what was most unforgettable was our gig with the Syjuco’s Attacked from Underground at Lumiere Gallery in Makati in 2006 when we, together with poet/sculptor Raul Funilas literally wreck havoc! Or, two years ago, when we planned to do a back-to-back tour while sat on the sofa with Renmin Nadela at the University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing, where we were supposed to buy one of his “sandatas” for our performances at the Nippon International Performance Art Festival in Japan. 

Last Saturday, we terribly missed Lirio during the pioneering collaboration of 11 Thomasian colleges, 14 partners, and 30 friendships entitled Making: Love in 14 Collaborative Acts at the University of Santo Tomas Main Building which poet/dancer Prof. Nerisa Guevara and her angels organized with the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies. Artists Rogger Basco, Thom Daquioag, Martin De Mesa, Raul Funilas, Sam Penaso, and Mannet Villariba traded audiovisual memories as we remembered him after our multimedia project called Kinetic Orchestra 2.

Lirio’s contribution to Philippine art is via his sculptural assemblages out of bicycle parts and other scrap metal which he used for his experimental and electronic music.

Last year, MaryAnn received the greatest gift for her birthday on 23 January --

Lirio was taken out of the Intensive Care Unit and was able to breathe without any machine’s help. Last Monday, when Lirio turned 45, they celebrated it peacefully since he always want a simple life. They immortalized the event at Bahay Makulay, their temporary home, via a vegetarian party with the usual suspects from Espasyo Siningdikato. Before 2013 ends, MaryAnn intends to stage a major sound art exhibition in honor of Lirio.

Vim Nadera: What exactly is Lirio’s state of health? 
MaryAnn Salvador: According to Dr. Victor Alvarez, his neurosurgeon, he is still in the vegetative stage. But thank God, his vital signs are normal. His lungs are clear. There are no other complications except for some stomach discomfort. 

VN: What are the changes in him? 
MS: He could no longer do the things he usually does like creating artworks and performances. Physically, he shrinks because he is confined to his bed and could only eat by means of nasogastric tube feeding. At present, he could not remember us yet, could not talk nor walk. 

VN: What are the changes in your life? 
MS: My life now revolves around the house, hospital, my workplace and Lirio. I have to learn the art of nursing care and caregiving. I have to read a lot on Traumatic Brain Injury and how to deal with it. I also learning how to manage finances specially the donations we are receiving and how to budget them for his medical supplies and other medical needs. As for our day-to-day needs and other bills, I allotted my salary to this. I also made sure that we update the donors of Lirio’s improvement and well-being through text and our facebook account. With regards to Lirio, we tried to give him lots of activities which could help him remember us and himself like watching his performances on YouTube and videos, listening to his favorite music and radio program, showing photographs and tell or read a story about his idol – Bob Dylan and other passions in life. As for me, I avoid nightlife but I see to it that I still have time for myself, my career, and my passion – art. 

VN: How did you take it? 
MS: I just take everything as a challenge. I know God gave this to us for a reason. I didn’t question him, instead I offer everything and everyday to God. Whatever happens, we are ready. Lirio is ready. But we have faith that we will win this fight. 

VN: What is your typical day these days? 
MS: I am a librarian in the morning and caregiver in the evening, week-ends and holidays. I usually start the day with a prayer, then introduce myself to Lirio and inform him about the date, month and year. Then I start preparing his food prescribed to us by our dietician then we bring Lirio outside the house for a morning sun before going to my work place. In the evening, I chant and chat with him. Feeding is done every four hours. 

ARTHUR ESPIRITU’S ARTISTIC SPIRIT (Last part) (February 11, 2013)

World-renowned tenor Arthur Espiritu (right) tied the knot with his Guinevere, singer-teacher Christina Bojocan, at the San Agustin Church last 21 December, supposedly the End of the World

Vim Nadera: What comes to mind you hear the following places?
Arther Espiritu: Milan? My debut at La Scala and the Caprese salad -- mozzarella cheese with tomatoes, basil, olive oil and vinegarette. Paris? Funny enough, the sushi and my trips in the subway or Metro and Champs Elysees. Hongkong? The beef noodles I used to eat at Causeway Bay. Tel Aviv? Hummus. Vienna? Prater Park where you can rent a bike or take a walk on the beautiful gardens, Wiener Schnitzel, Staatsoper. Pittsburg? My friends over at Pittsburgh Opera and my best friends Chuck Unice, Jason Karn, and Daniel Billings. Connecticut? Don Giovanni and an awesome soprano named Pamela Armstrong. Austin? These great mobile restaurants all over town serving all kinds of food from sushi to Mexican food to ice cream etc. I loved the food in Austin. Meeting new friends there and the time that I went on a quick trip to the Alamo. Santa Fe? Santa Fe is a great city and I love going there. Amazing people who are so friendly and most notably, hiking, and mountain climbing around there are awesome. The Gem Market and the food! Again, sorry, all food in my mind. 

VN: Could you compare or contrast your recent experience here when you did Verdi's La Traviata and Rossini's Il Barbiere di Seviglia?
AE: I really enjoyed doing La Traviata because it is more close to my own temperaments. Barber of Seville is a comedy and it has a lesson at the end. Vocally, Barber of Seville was more challenging since it is written in a style where the vocalist and his/her abilities are the main focus. The plot is given and you just have the most fun with it. Being able to play different characters in Barber of Seville was so much fun! La Traviata is more serious and deals with real human emotions and more dramatic than the light-hearted Barber of Seville. Musically, they are very different in all aspects. But in comparing the subject of love, jealousy, and the feeling of being abandoned, they are not too far from each other. Only difference is: one is a romantic comedy and the other is a romantic tragedy.

VN: Are Filipinos as members of the audience far different from foreigners?
AE: Hmmm, let me just say that audience participation is what inspires artists. It's the feeling of return and interaction. I have performed in European theaters and they do vary. In Italy, the audiences are very responsive and very loud. They clap and yell bravo if the performance is great... In Austria, the audiences are a bit more subdued. Also in Switzerland, and mainly German speaking countries. I'm not saying that they don't appreciate the art as much as the Italians but they look at live theater like watching a movie. You have to finish the entire show and then clap if you love it. They are subdued because they are more than likely very, very involved in the show. So, clapping after an aria is a given but most of them won't clap until after the show is done.

In Italy, Spain, and mainly France, people are very, very responsive. Except that, in France, you will hear boos if they don't like the show, even if it’s just about the staging, or the stage sets or even conductors. Now, I would compare the Filipino audience to the Italians. They clap and make plenty of noise if they really, really like the performance and maybe clap as well, if the performance is not that good because Pinoys are very compassionate. I had the privilege of singing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines twice now and so far, no boos. Fingers crossed? 

VN: Are the Filipinos ready for opera? Why?
AE: I strongly feel that Filipinos have been ready for opera. It's just that no one is performing opera here as much. It's all about the exposure and the continuity of support for this art. 

VN: You recently married Christina Bojocan. Is your choice to tie the knot with a Filipina deliberate?
AE: I'm so happy to be married to Christina. My choice to marry Christina was not deliberate at all. It was a whole series of circumstances that led us to each other and I'm so happy to have met her and now married to her. Someone that I can share my life with now and forever. 

VN: How would you see yourself 10 years or so from now?
AE: Well, Christina and I are definitely planning on having a family soon. I plan to audition for roles and gigs in the United States and Europe. Also in Asia. Teach private voice lessons? Wherever the Good Lord takes us... Perhaps live in the US in the next two years... 

VN: Do you intend to teach? 
AE: I have not really started teaching, but I am considering teaching somewhere in Manila.

VN: Or personally train classical singers?
AE: This would probably be my choice is to teach privately. So, anyone who is interested in having lessons privately, let me know. (Laughter.) Shameless plug.

VN: What lessons did you learn from The Poet Speaks last 6 February?
AE: It was my very, very first solo recital in the Philippines. It’s a different recital where it was geared more towards art songs and the mastery of the composer and mainly the poets who wrote them. Some would say that the music I performed was an acquired taste, but I felt that was not the case here. I learned so much from this concert in ways that I cannot just simply understand. That feeling of being able to affect so many people through music and lyrics. The type of emotions that I felt while interpreting the pieces and the feelings that the audience felt during performance. It's like while I was singing, I want to comfort them but, at the same time, I did realize that I'm actually singing. These poems are so strong and it carried with it strong emotions. Music is just simply the best way to express human emotions. It is why I am still singing in the first place.

ARTHUR ESPIRITU’S ARTISTIC SPIRIT (First of two parts) (February 04, 2013)

Arthur Espiritu's latest show -- The Poet Speaks -- on 6 February at the Ayala Museum

Arthur Espiritu’s world did end last 21 December.

In fact, it became more, shall we say, artistic and spiritual?

On that fateful day, Arthur walked down the aisle of San Agustin Church in Intramuros with his Guinevere, singer-teacher Christine Bojocan, the pride of the Philippine High School for the Arts and the University of Santo Tomas.

We got the chance to witness it, up close and personal, being one of their principal sponsors, fortunately together withMrs. Irma Ponce-Enrile Potenciano, Ms. Marivi Santos, Mrs. Maria Jeng, Mr. Ray Sison, and Vice- Mayor Nathaniel Hugo.

A year and four months, they met when he was doing a masterclass at the University of Santo Tomas. What caught Christine’s attention since August of 2010 was was Arthur’s transparent self, honest and trustworthy, inside and out. And though when he says yes, and she says no, they still can manage to talk about the differences.

Christine adores Arthur like a huge fan, not just because of his greatness but also of his generosity: “He wants to help other people, especially young artists through teaching and music. He gives his 100% to his music and that's what I like about him as an artist.”

His dad Felino seconded the motion. An Amado Goyena deadringer, he revealed some of Arthur’s secrets while we were seated next to him at Barbara’s. We learned that as a kid, Arthur idolized Michael Jackson and Gary Valenciano so much. True enough, during the programme, Arthur showed his guests, especially his mom Fe and his in-laws, Rosita and Guerrero Syta, that still he has Da Moves!

But why did he end up as a classical singer? “I honestly don't know.” Arthur admitted, “I just fell in love with the style and the way music is interpreted. Being able to hear the complexities of each piece of music challenges me. The idea of making music within what has been written by these amazing composers and the honor of being able to interpret their music is a joy.”

Originally, he had so many dreams. He wanted to become a dentist and a physical therapist and a pilot. But it was his teacher who sort of discovered him upon hearing him, being a popular tenor in his high school choir and the lead vocalist of his band. So, Mr. William Thomas advanced him to join the Gifted and Talented Class where he was exposed to classical, jazz, pop, rhythm and blues.

However, he gives credit to another Significant Other, actually his second mother -- Dr. Raquel Cortina. He considers her his Musical Mom, someone who really pushes him to go ahead with music. Even before, she felt very strongly about his talent.

The late Mr. Buddy Carruth, on the other hand, was his sponsor ever since he started his Master of Music degree.

All of them contributed a lot to Arthur’s decision to go for it without looking back.

He studied at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio, getting an Artist Diploma with the late Professor Richard Miller who wrote several books on Vocal Pedagogy and voice training such as The Art of Singing. Mr. Miller showed him many different ways to look at his voice and his singing. After having studied at the University of New Orleans with Dr. Cortina, it was Mr. Miller who gave him the new approach in singing and in voice technique he needed. He needed more training and Mr. Miller provided him that. After graduating from Oberlin, he got lots of auditions and Mr. Miller helped him get most of them. That is, to get to the next level. 

Well, this Love Month, or better yet, this National Arts Month, we have the rare opportunity to fall in love with Arthur’s music via The Poet Speaks.

Together with pianist Najib Ismail, he will perform Robert Schumann's Liederkreis, Franz Liszt’s composition based on Petrarchan sonnets, and opera arias about, of course, love!

Produced by the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation for the benefit of Unang Hakbang Foundation, his concert will be on Wednesday, 6 February, at 7pm at the Ayala Museum.

Vim Nadera: What is your reaction when people consider you the finest Filipino tenor in the world today?
Arthur Espiritu: I don't really think that I am the finest Filipino tenor in the world today considering there are plenty of great tenors here in the Philippines and all over the world. I consider myself lucky and being able to have the privileges and opportunities at the right place at the right time. I am grateful.

VN: Could you tell us more about becoming the 2009 George London Awardee, the La Scala Awardee in the Belvedere Vocal Competition, or the second placer in the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition? How did competitions change you?
AE: Competitions are a good way to challenge yourself as a singer and to test where you are in your technique and advancement in singing. Being able to win these prizes are great but what I remember most in being in competitions are the times when I lost or did not even make it to the finals. It was those times when I really realized that I had to believe in myself and look at it as a learning experience. It made me realize that "I'm only as good as my last performance"... Judges are gonna be judges and you cannot change that fact. It is the journey you take from being a loser to being a winner. For me, win or lose, it is the same journey. As long as you realize that you still believe in yourself and no one else. You, and only you, have the power to change the results.


Suzette Doctolero (fourth from left) with her GMA family _Denoy Punio, Kit Villanueva, RJ Nuevas, Richard Dode Cruz, Des Severino, Jun Robles Lana, and Roy Iglesias at Camp Benjamin

Vim Nadera: Can you compare and contrast your degree of fulfillment of your two big hits Encantadia and Amaya?
Suzette Doctolero: As a writer sa TV na may headwriter, wala kang boses. Ang vision at boses ng soap ay nasa headwriter. Headwriter ang guide, ang captain of the ship, siya ang magtatakda kung saan pupunta ang kuwento: characters, plot. I understand that kaya as a writer ay masunurin ako sa headwriter ko noong nagsisimula ako. Tanggap ako nang tanggap ng turo nila, inaaral ko ang style nila. Gusto kong matuto e. Pero dumating sa point na feeling ko, naaral ko na ang dapat kong maaral sa mga headwriters ukol sa soap kaya gusto ko nang marinig din ang boses ko. Luckily, GMA-7 offered me a headwriting job. My first. Tungkol daw sa diwata, kay Maria Makiling. Ay, fantasy? First time kong gagawa ng fantasy sa buong buhay ko. Two weeks akong hindi nagparamdam sa kanila. Tinatanong ko ang sarili ko: gusto ko bang gumawa ng diwata na mala-Mariang Makiling? Nakasuot ng puti? O, kaya ko bang magsulat ng fantasy? Hindi na ako puwedeng umurong. Baka isipin pa ng GMA, hindi ko pa kayang mag headwrite. So nag-isip ako ng kuwento. Gusto ko ng kakaibang diwata. Palabang diwata. Mala-amasona. Sila ang nagtatanggol at hindi ipinagtatanggol. Thus, the story of the four sisters was born. Beautiful women na mga powerful at mga palaban. Same lang din sa Amaya. Powerful woman, palaban. Sabi ko nga, matriarchial ang pinanggalingan kong pamilya na babae ang nasusunod kaya s’yempre iyon din ang gagawin ko kasi iyon ang normal sa akin. Encantadia was a test for me. Test sa pagtuklas, pag-aaral, at pagyakap ko sa genre ng fantasy. Test kung hanggang saan ang kayang tanggapin ng audience. Imagine, mga babae ang knight in shining armour at hindi lalaki? Isang Inang Reyna na may anak sa iba’t ibang lalaki at iyon ang norm sa kanyang kingdom? Pero tinanggap ng audience. Naging confident ako sa Encantadia. Pakiramdam ko, nakita ko na ang simula ng aking voice doon bilang manunulat sa TV.Amaya, compared with Encantadia has no humor. Mas serious ito. Pero palaban pa rin ang babae at powerful. Ayaw ko ng mga babaing hindi lumalaban. Pakiramdam ko, niloloko ko ang sarili ko at ang pinagmulan kong pamilya. (Actually, afterEncantadia ang Etheria, I wanted to do a historical fiction na so I submitted a concept about the life of Urduja. Pero hindi na-approve kasi nauso na ang mga adaptations bukod sa fantasy that time. So I waited for several years pa bago na-approve na gumawa ng historical fiction). While doing the research for Amaya, nagbalik sa akin ang Encantadia. I’ve realized na may nagawa akong pagkakamali sa Encantadia. I naively used the term – diwata -- to mean fairies. E iyon din ang pagkaka-intindi ng karamihan hindi ba? Hindi fairy ang diwata kundi lambana. At ang diwata, iyan ay goddess. Diyosa. Ang fairy ay isang western concept. Ang diwata ay Filipinong-Filipino. I corrected that sa Amaya kaya ginamit ko ang term na diwata bilang mga goddess. Hindi ako kinabahan sa Encantadia. Why? May excuse ako. E kasi ang mga cast ng Encantadia ay hindi pa mga kilalang artista at that time so sa loob-loob ko, pag hindi nag-rate, sila ang masisisi at hindi ako. (Laughter.) Pero kinabahan ako sa Amaya. Superstar na sa TV si Marian Rivera e. Pag ito hindi mag-rate, kuwento at concept ko ang may sala. Tapos historical fiction pa ang genre, bago sa soap ng Filipino. Ngayon pa lang gagawin. Kaya noong ito ay ipinalabas, gabi-gabi ko itong pinapanood para tingnan kung maganda ba ang episode, tapos itse-check ko ang internet para sa reaction ng mga nanood. Positive naman ang reaction except sa isang nagdunong-dunungan na ang mga binukot o hidden maidens ay sa Panay lang daw at hindi iyon makikita sa ibang banwa o tribe during the pre-Spanish Period. Ay, bobo! Other than that, masaya ako sa naging outcome kasi nag-rate, maraming commercials at may mga positibong reviews mula sa mga historians at teachers ng history.

VN: What lessons did you learn from your past works?
SD: One by one. In Kirara, I was one of the writers at sa dulo na ako pumasok. Salimpusa kung baga. Pero doon ako unang nakapunta sa tirahan ng mga aeta sa Pampanga at nakita ko ang tunay na pamumuhay nila. Mula noon ay nakita ko na ang kahalagahan ng research kahit sa mga soaps. In Sana Ay Ikaw Na Nga, inaaral ko ang pagsusulat ng traditional soap opera noong mga panahong ito at ako ay pumaloob talaga dito. In Etheria, I was humbled. Importante pa ring isaalang-alang ang gusto at hinihingi ng audience. Lupin is based on a French novel. Hinabol kami ng reklamo mula sa Japan kasi may Lupindin sila. Hello? Kinopya lang din kaya nila sa French Lupin iyon kaya walang nangyari sa kanilang kaso. Ikaw Na Sana is a family drama, sibling rivalry, so balik- formula. Joaquin Bordado is another adaptation of a Carlo Caparas’ work for komiks. Hindi lahat ng nasa utak ng writer ay mata-translate sa TV. Totoy Bato is another adaptation, another Carlo Caparas’ work. Kung ano-anong pinasok na trabaho ni Totoy, at sa bawat mapasukan niya, dini-discuss namin ang socio-ecomomic realism ng bawat pasukan niyang trabaho. Pero nag-away na kami ni Robin. Ayoko na ring pag-usapan iyon. In My Lover, My Wife, may binuwag kami sa soap: walang tunay na kontrabida sa kuwentong ito. Relationship story rin ito. Ibang bihis ng wife-mistress-husband story—noong panahon na hindi pa uso ang pag-tackle muli ng mistress stories sa pelikula at TV. Panday Kids is a another adaptation. Pambata. ‘Yon lang. Gagambino is another adaptation. Flopped sa Mega Manila pero nag-rate sa Visayas at Mindanao. Sumumpa ko na hindi na ako gagawa ng adaptation na hindi ko gusto. One True Love is my favourite drama soap na maliit ang production budget, kaunti ang tauhan pero mahuhusay ang mga artista, intimate ang mga scenes. I learned that huwag maliitin ang kakayahan ng audience na maka-unawa ng isang ideya, o complex na sakit lalo na’t kung ito ay madi-discuss nang maliwanag. Naintindihan ko rin kung bakit nag-rate ito to think na dapat ay filler lang ang soap at pang eight weeks lang pero umabot ng 17 weeks. Karamihan ng audience ng soap ay mahirap, hindi nakatapos sa pag-aaral pero nangangarap..tapos makikita nila ang isang character na nagsumikap kahit mahirap? Gusto nila ang inspiring soaps.