Monday, September 28, 2015

Young 'katutubo' (indigenous peoples) are keeping their cultural traditions alive

Bryan and his young aunt Joy Marie perform a Tingguian ourtship dance.

We had the awesome opportunity to witness young 'katutubo' from the Cordilleras to Mindanao -- B'laan of Sarangani, Mansaka of Davao del Norte, Panay Bukidnon of Iloilo, Ibaloy of Benguet, Tingguian of Abra, and Ayta of Zambales -- gather together and make 'daton' (offering) of music and dances handed down to them from generations of yore.

This was in celebration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples & International Youth Day last August under the auspices of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Katutubo Exchange. The 'daton' was held in several places; we witnessed the one held at the GSIS Museum,

A courtship dance of the Panay Bukidnons.

The young performers were mostly of elementary school age. The older ones were in their early 20s like Joy Marie and Bryan Gabriel of the Binongan tribe among the Tingguians of Abra, and Muller Bato, an Ibaloi college teacher who played the sulibao, one of the instruments used to provide the music accompaniment of their dance number,

A festive dance of the B'laans.

We may not have understood the chants but we were very pleased to hear them from children. One of these was a chanted repartee of a boy and girl, apparently one of courtship, because we understood that part where the girl said something like they have to wait until they have finished schooling.

The Mansaka courtship dance with a beaded necklace.

We loved the courtship dance of the Mansaka pair. This involved the boy offering the girl a gift of a necklace, but he was spurned three times (the girl took the necklace off her neck and threw it away). Of course, it had a 'they lived happily ever after' ending.

Talipi dance of the Aytas of Zambales.

The Ayta children from Aningway in Subic, Zambales danced their talipi. One of the boys danced the role of a hunter, while another one mimicked a monkey trying to find what's inside a basket.

Ibaloys in celebration: dancing around and around.

We discerned very great pride among the young katutubo of their very own cultural traditions. They will certainly keep these traditions a living tapestry of colors and rhythms in their costumes, chants, songs, and dances.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Juan Luna's "A Do Va Nave?"sold for Php40-M ... is this the original?

The photo-engraving of the Luna painting published in the 31 May 1886 issue of Ilustracion Artistca. 
The title in the caption: "A DO VA NAVE? ... QUIEN SABE DO  VA!

The painting came all the way from Argentina. It was sold by Salcedo Auctions at Php40-million. 

A phone-in bidder clenched Juan Luna's "A Do Va Nave?" oil painting from Salcedo Auctions for a whooping Php 40-million on19 September 2015. When the auctioneer banged the gavel to close the sale, the audience gave it appreciative applause and cheers as mobile phonecams rose to record the winning price on the screen.

The painting is dated 1885. A similar painting--although with very significant differences--appeared in the May 31, 1886 issue of Ilustracion Artistica: a photo-engraving by M. Weber. It was titled"A Do Va Nave?,,, Quien Sabe Do Va!" from the first chorus of the "El Diablo Mundo" (The Devil World), a poem that was left unfinished by the famous Spanish poet Jose de Espronceda (1808-1842):

                               "Alla va la nave: Quien sabe do va?
                               "Ay, triste el que fia / Del viento y la mar!"

"El Diablo Mundo" is described as a "Romantic poem [which] builds an allegory of human existence. ... [The six hymns or parts] recount how Adam, as the embodiment of all mankind, must choose between dying and discovering the ultimate truth, or living eternally. Having chosen the first option, Adam is reborn in a young and strong body, But all this will bring him bitter consequences. [1]"

Luna must have admired Espronceda, his life as poet, lover and rebel. Ilustracion said that the painting is his interpretation of the poet's devilish world. One woman was just about to be swallowed by the sea. Tthe sea has claimed a victim, Ilustracion said, and that the lady reclining is unconscious and"leaning towards the abyss." The boatload of ladies with a young officer and a gentleman are headed to the unknown in the face of danger, a storm looming in the distance.  These make us then look at the totally veiled lady in white as a specter, not a bride as we initially thought.

The version that was auctioned came all the way from Argentina. According to the published reports, the original owner brought it with him from Cuba to Argentina after the Casto take-over, and tt's possible that this could have been from Gov-Gen Ramon Blanco, a friend of Luna, who was posted in Cuba.

The picture became postcard pretty: ladies in a leisurely trip on a boat, and one of them a bride, with the young man at the helm, and the older gentleman busy with his pen, There are skiffs too in the left background even if the sea appears rough and the skies are dark.

We forward that the Luna painted two versions. He could not have reworked the Ilustracion version to eliminate the lady falling to the sea. He could have been commissioned to do a variation of the theme. The "A Do Nave?" came after the success of Spoliarium in the Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts.  In fact, according to his biography [2], Luna was commissioned to do an exact copy of the Spoliarium for a Russian art lover even as the masterpiece was still hanging at the Madrid Salon.

The Ilustracion version could be the original; it was still around in 1886 to be photographed for publication.  This copy then remains lost. Who knows, the heirs of the original owner may yet bring it to the lucrative art market in due time.


[1] Spain is Culture at
[2] Pilar Santiago Albano. 1980. Juan Luna: The Filipino as painter. Quezon City: Eugenio Lopez Foundation, Inc. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Grace Poe declares presidential bid for 2016

"Ako po si Grace Poe. Pilipino. Anak, asawa at ina, at sa tulong ng Mahal na Diyos ay inaalay ko sa inyong lahat ang aking sarili sa mas mataas na paninilbihan bilang inyong Pangulo." [I am Grace Poe. A Filipino. A daughter, wife and mother. And with God’s grace, I offer myself for the country’s highest calling as your President.]

16th September 2015. We dropped by UP Diliman in the mid-afternoon to get a hair-cut at the shopping center. On the way out, we saw people wearing some kind of white 'uniform', which on closer look had slogans in blue declaring support for Grace Poe. I was surprised when told that the senator is going to announce her bid for the presidency in the early evening at the UP Bahay ng Alumni.

Well, I soon found myself looking for a vantage point to record the newsbreaking moment. The program was brief.  As soon as she arrived and after some greetings/handshakes/hugs with supporters within her reach, she joined her mom Susan Roces and the Llamanzares family, a prayer was said, and the national anthem was sung. For introduction, a short video was shown to refresh in the audience's mind of her beginning as a Poe, her return to native land as Filipino once again, and her stint as government servant from the MTRCB to the halls of the Senate.

She spelled out her platform in Filipino, a to-do list of 20 items.She hopes to attain these with "your help", she tells her countrymen listening to her live on radio and television. Before she did that, she recalled that her father FPJ declared his decision to seek the presidency in this same venue, and that she just want to continue what he started "to help the poor, fight oppression, and forge a prosperous and just society."

Her platform in English translation (from the Philippine Daily Inquirer):

"1. In education, we must attend to the needs of our classrooms. We should maximize digital technology for education, and eliminate backlogs. We shall strive to expand our scholarship programs and strengthen the “Study now, pay later” program. We will also help college students find internships and jobs to gain invaluable experience even before they graduate.

"2. We shall work for the flourishing of the agricultural sector. We will heed their longing for land to till. Irrigation is still badly needed in half a million hectares of land. We will push for mechanization. We need an effective program to make fishing, farming and livestock propagation profitable for our farmers and the youth.

"3. We will make infrastructure development our priority, whether in terms of streets, trains, airports, seaports or the internet. I will strive to increase the annual infrastructure budget to 7% of the GDP. The government will support the private sector in formulating an industrialization and IT plan. As more products “Made in the Philippines” flourish, more jobs will be created. This should be done while taking care of our environment.

"4. No one man or group holds a monopoly on “Tuwid na Daan”. President Aquino has done much to curb corruption and I am thankful that it has restored the people’s faith in an honest leader.

"It is only right to continue the fight against corruption. We will hold the corrupt accountable, whether they be friend or foe. This should be the crusade of every Filipino, not just one person or party.

"To strengthen transparency in government, I will push for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill at the soonest possible time.

"5. We have one of the highest tax rates in the world. My aim is to lower these.
People know what their needs are and they have a right to choose how to spend their hard-earned money. But if government lowers taxes, we should reciprocate by paying the right taxes. And this I guarantee: Every peso you pay will be returned to you in fast and quality service.

"6. We need to examine if we are giving our workers and government employees fair wages and benefits. Their work and service will suffer while their own families starve. Every worker needs a decent and legal source of income.

"7. A large percentage of a family’s earnings goes to paying for electricity. We need to find a way to lower power costs. In many parts of Mindanao, brownouts are a frequent occurence. We will ensure sufficient power to fuel a growing economy, especially in Mindanao. We shall see to the development of renewable energy.

"8. We will value our OFWs and take care of them. We will provide them with proper legal support overseas and reduce the fees and red tape that they currently put up with just to have their papers processed.

"9. As a mother, I am deeply troubled by the proliferation of crime and drugs. Like every parent, I cannot rest easy until my children are home safe at night. For me, the elimination of drugs and crime is not just a job. It is my personal crusade. I will make sure the police have the required discipline and skills to immediately deal with crime. Their job is not just to log crimes, but to catch the criminals.

"10. We will pursue peace with all groups. Filipinos should need no longer kill fellow Filipinos. With peace, real progress can touch all corners of the country.

"To our Moro brothers, your culture and heroism were the inspiration for many of my father’s films. After a long and hard history, it is time that you are given equal opportunities and genuine assistance.

"11. We should respect human rights. We will not be blind to the conditions of our vulnerable sectors, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, urban poor, women, youth and children, the LGBT sector and senior citizens. To all senior citizens, you will not be ignored. My own mother has asserted that the older one gets, the more he/she should feel government’s care.

"12. Everyone’s health is important. No family should be driven to bankruptcy by illness or be made to choose between food or medicine for their sick loved ones. Our people should be able to rely on expanded health benefits through Philhealth. I will ensure that each community has a proper hospital, staffed with enough doctors, nurses and midwives, and with all the necessary equipment, medicine and supplies.

"13. The West Philippine Sea is ours. We will protect our right through peaceful means, and according to international law. We will beef up our Coast Guard and armed forces so that we need not be intimidated by other countries.

"14. The traffic situation takes away not just our precious time, it tests our patience. It eats up valuable time that we would otherwise have spent at work or with our loved ones.

"15. We should do the following: We should build more roads and trains not only in Metro Manila but all over the Philippines. We should ensure that our train project is awarded to a contractor with strong capability and track record in long-term maintenance. We should clean our drainage systems. We should provide coats and boots for the people who manage our traffic. We should remove all colorum and illegally parked vehicles. We should implement staggered office hours. No roadwork should be left unfinished. We should immediately fire contractors who don’t stick to the approved timetable.

"16. The internet is just like a highway. It is a conduit for information. It should be fast. Many jobs will become more productive with faster internet connection. Kids will finish their homework faster and we can more easily talk to our loved ones working overseas without any Skype delays. When it comes to the internet, connecting should not take Forever.

"17. Arts, culture and sports deserve the government’s attention. We are recognized internationally as a creative race of visual artists, writers and performers, but we do not value them ourselves. They bring us honor, so we should support them. Our athletes too need our support. We should never give up on our dream to win an Olympic gold medal.

"18. Let us not forget the reality of climate change. This is not just a middle class issue; the poor will be hardest hit by its effects. We should have a separate Emergency Management Department that will focus on national preparedness, climate change and geo-mapping.

"19. Tourism is another sector that needs our attention. A vibrant tourism industry will create new jobs for Filipinos, even those in far-flung areas. Our country is filled with beautiful tourist destinations, but the industry will never fully succeed if we don’t provide sufficient infrastructure and build more airports.

"20. Children are the nation’s treasure. They are our present and future. And yet, they do not stand a chance if they do not receive proper nutrition. Many children continue to starve and waste away. It is time to create a Standard Lunch Program in all public schools."

Who will be her running mate? The rumor mill points to Senator Chiz Escudero. Will he make a similar newsbreaking show pretty soon?