Saturday, December 16, 2006

Progress Report - Month 1

So, a month into this project, and there's really nothing yet to report.

We are talking with several artists, including Elmer Borlongan, Plet Bolipata, Juan Sajid Imao, Manny Garibay, Norman Dreo and Rodel Tapaya. Some companies, and even cities have mentioned - in passing - an interest to participate, which is encouraging. We won't reveal them just yet for the simple Filipino reason na baka mausog.

Several writers have promised to send in guest blog entries on the topic of What is a Filipino? and we're very excited about getting them on board.

Finally, we have one idea cooking to encourage more public participation in the project, and in this blog in particular. It could get you a free Inday Cadapan limited edition print, so watch out for it! :-)

* To the right is Inday Cadapan's 1998 watercolor work "Artist and Her Model."

Friday, December 15, 2006

High School is Never a Thing of the Past

According to Gilas, only 32 out of 100 children who enter Grade 1, manage to graduate from high school. That's a 68% drop-out rate.

Who knows how much better off the Philippines will be with substantially greater investments in education.

Consider this campaign for UP Integrated School, a small publicly funded high school. You may not agree with the politics of some personalities who appear in this ad, but you cannot deny that this one small school has managed to produce leaders, not just in politics, but probably more importantly, in art, music, business and other fields.

Imagine our country if such leaders - confident and articulate - emerged from all over, and not just from high schools (mostly private!) in Metro Manila.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pasko Na!

Is it possible to separate the Christmas spirit from the Filipino? Surely not!

Not when we have the longest Christmas season on the planet! Or is this an urban legend? Not that it matters.

And not when some of our most popular radio personalities count down the days to Christmas as early as September of each year!

Here's something from the late great Larry Alcala. I would have loved to have him as part of this project.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Puzzle of the Filipino Laborer

Here's an interesting piece from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

EVERY YEAR, the AIM Policy Center participates in a World Competitiveness Survey conducted by International Management Development of Switzerland. Every year, the same puzzle appears.

Why is it that, according to global respondents, the Filipino is the number one most preferred labor in the world, and yet, the same survey says that the productivity of Philippine labor, while they are in the Philippines, ranks 58th, or third to the lowest, among the 60 countries surveyed?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

No Need for Words

Source - an Italian site of all places!

You Know You're Filipino If...

A friend sent me this list... The email didn't attribute the list to anyone, so I googled it, and it seems to have come from here.

You know you're Filipino if:

01. Two words: Mengo juice
02. On your wish list, Magic Sing is higher up than the iPod
03. "At the end of the day", "That being said", and "Irregardless" (is that a word?) are always mentioned in your conversation
04. You feel that life was better when the past president was in office ummm... irregardless of who is in office and who was the past president
05. Yahoo Messenger is always on in your office computer. As well as Globe Chikka
06. Your office computer is still running Windows 98 without the updates
07. Load is not heavy. It's costly.
08. You have at least applied once in a Call Center
09. Your coffee drink is Mocha Frappuccino
10. When the government warns that a nearby volcano will erupt you ignore it. When a psychic mentions that an earthquake will happen at 5pm, you panic.
11. You're angry about government corruption but angrier if the cop doesn't accept your bribe and still gives you a ticket
12. Your brand spanking new nose job was done by the beautician in the nearby salon
13. Badminton is your latest sport
14. Your cellphone is more a camera than a phone
15. Your favorite basketball move is the layup
16. U stl use txtspk evn wen chatng
17. The Buzz and Startalk is your source of news
18. Your career goal is to be a caregiver in another country
19. You're idea of an art film is about gay macho dancers or sex starved nymphets
20. You can easily name three of Kris Aquino's ex boyfriends but have a hard time recalling three presidents before Marcos
21. You are either "Kapamilya" or "Kapuso"
22. LBM is your number one excuse for not going to work
23. The local herbologist is more qualified than your doctor in curing you
24. Any unnamed disease or condition is caused by withcraft
25. During funeral wakes, any butterfly, cockroach, or moths present is definitely the spirit of the deceased.
26. Cancer can be cured by magical oil from a crying statue
27. FX is not a movie process, it's a ride
28. It's not acceptable to poke fun on filipinos but it's ok to make fun on balds, blacks, the blind, the deaf, the mentally challenged, etc. etc.
29. You lost because the other person cheated
30. Lance Armstrong? Wasn't he one of the Voltes V?

I've come across many of these you-know-you're-filipino-if lists, just as I'm sure you have. Wasn't there a book on this a few years back?

But what is it that ties them all together?

Related to this, and not that there's anything wrong with it - why is it that we not only like to laugh at ourselves, but we actually take pride in making ourselves the butt of our own jokes? As in... an American, a Japanese and a Filipino were arguing over who had the dirtiest underwear/the stickiest phlegm/the best thieves/etc...

Guess who always wins in the end?!.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Dos por Dos

Last Saturday, I passed by the opening of Dos por Dos at the Boston Gallery in New Manila.

About 200 artists participated by contributing 2x2 works on the general theme of human rights - including works by some of the very best this generation has to offer - Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Manny Garibay, John Santos III, Norman Dreo, Dansoy Coquilla, Michael Cacnio, Fred Esquillo, to name a few...

In more ways than one, this is a project similar to what we're trying to do - except that this is an indoor show of smaller pieces, whereas we want an outdoor, more publicly accessible activity of banner-sized works. And we're dealing with a ligher theme - What is a Filipino? - that might be more appealing to more people.

A lot of the works, individually, are already quite provocative.

But there is one factor that makes this show important.

If we look at the press today - depending on where you sit, you may perceive it as either repressed and under siege on the one hand, or as irresponsible and reckless on the other. I don't know who's fault this really is, but either way, the public ends up confused or skeptical.

Dos por dos, taken together, demonstrates the power of sheer numbers focused on a single effort (there are nearly 200 of them!) and makes quite a statement on the possibilities for the art community as an alternative force for raising and pushing greater awareness on very important public issues.

Dos por dos runs til December 30, 2006 at Boston Gallery.

* The artwork depicted is Fred Esquillo's "Scarecrow II" (24"x24" Oil on Canvas, 2006).

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Without Spanish, What is a Filipino?

Found this on the web:

El Mes Español — Without Spanish, What Is A Filipino?
Friday, October 13th, 2006 in Jaded Fables, Culture by Pepe Alas

A PILIPINO is convincing a FILIPINO to become patriotic…

PILIPINO: We must get rid of Spanish words from our native languages!

FILIPINO: And why is that?

PILIPINO: “Why” is a stupid question. Haven’t you learned anything from your history class? It is but a folly to retain Spanish loan words in our languages when it was Spain who destroyed our identity!!!

FILIPINO: Oh. Really.

PILIPINO: Really!!! And not only that! We should not cherish any Spanish legacy at all! Aside from Spanish tyranny, Spanish culture is not Philippine culture!

FILIPINO: Does that mean we have to throw away the culture that Spain bequeathed to us?

PILIPINO: Yes, of course! Don’t you remember what Señor Simoun told Basilio? “If they are unwilling to teach you their language, cultivate your own.” In a larger sense, we should cultivate our own culture.

FILIPINO: Hmmm, you have reason. So, throw everything away?

PILIPINO: EVERYTHING! The language, the culture, the concepts, the religious superstition… EVERYTHING!!! Our national heroes have already set an example by revolting against Spanish tyranny! Leadership by example! We should follow the great Filipinos of yore!

FILIPINO: Oh, OK. I might agree. But first, you have to begin this Castilian purging from our “culture” yourself. Just like what you said, “leadership by example…”

PILIPINO: Exactly. I’d be happy to take the lead. Now, what do you want me to do?

FILIPINO: First of all, take off your sombrero my friend. It’s Spanish.

PILIPINO: (stumped). That would be easy.

FILIPINO: And throw away that corbata, too. Of course you know it’s Spanish.

PILIPINO: (thinking) Well… I think I’d still look fine without a tie.

FILIPINO: And your passionate “nationalism” would look good on you if you take off your chaleco, camisa, vestido, zapatos, cinturón, and pantalón as well.

PILIPINO: Now wait a minute there…!

FILIPINO: No, you wait a minute there!!! You’re PILIPINIZATION is not yet reflecting on you. You’re still wearing a relój.

PILIPINO: Fool! This wrist watch is from the US, not from Spain.

FILIPINO: You’re the one who’s loco, ese. We’re not talking about brand names. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing GUESS? or HILFIGER or whatever stuff that came out from another country that is not Spain. We’re not only talking about Spanish words now but concepts also. Before the arrival here of ROLEX and SWATCH and TIMEX, Filipinos already have watches and large grandfather clocks. Of course you already know that.

PILIPINO: (hesitant) Oh, all right! (mumbles and grumbles, but throws watch away) There! Gone!

FILIPINO: You can always tell the time by just looking at the sun, moon, and the stars, right! That’s the true PILIPINO way! Cultivate our own!

PILIPINO: (sigh of exhaustion) Cultivate our own…

FILIPINO: Uh, sir. you still have your medias and calzoncillo on…

PILIPINO: (raising his voice) Are you mad?!

FILIPINO: Nope. But I think you are if you’re still donning Spanish concepts. Leadership by example?

PILIPINO: (groans)

FILIPINO: Don’t worry! You can always search our forests –or whatever the neocolonizers might have left of it– for tree barks and any natural material for your clothing. Now that’s true PILIPINO culture. Am I right? Or am I right?


FILIPINO: Good! Leadership by example.

PILIPINO: Leadership by example.

FILIPINO: Cultivate our own?

PILIPINO: Cultivate…

FILIPINO: (inspects PILIPINO) Say, you’ve got false teeth.

PILIPINO: (embarrased) Yeah, so what?

FILIPINO: Throw that postizo away, dude. That’s demeaning to our “true” culture. But let’s save your peluca just for this month’s Halloween party.


FILIPINO: Here, wear these in the meantime so you won’t grow cold (hands over strips of banana leaves for the PILIPINO to wear).

PILIPINO: Are you doing this to mortify me?

FILIPINO: How ’bout saying “thank you for giving me something to wear” instead?

PILIPINO: (grumpy) Thank You!!!

FILIPINO: You’re very much welcome. Now where were we? Oh, yes, and don’t use all utensils that the Spaniards brought here.


FILIPINO: OK. Let me make it clearer. “Throw everything away?” That’s perhaps the most patriotic idea I’ve ever heard in my life. Friend, dispose of your cubiertos, aparador, cama, silla, balde, pozo, lápiz, papel, plato, cepillo, florera, la mesa, ventilador, todo todo TODO! And do I even have to mention the food?

PILIPINO: Friend, I think you should…

FILIPINO: Go on? By all means. Don’t even think of continuing your educación. Those libros at school will poison your mind. Stop going to church, too. Remember how María Clara was screwed! And your ancestral home, man, your bahay na bató is getting to be an eyesore. Better demolish it.

PILIPINO: (panting) That house is my family’s house! It is the history and the soul of my family and ancestors!!!

FILIPINO: Which is, unforunately, español. Enough talk. I’m your convert, dude. You woke me up from the “bitter” truth. You make me proud! And without anything to wear now except for those leaves, sonuvagun, you look very fine! Very respectable! Very great when you’re naked, y’know. Very PILIPINO.

PILIPINO: Oh please stop…

FILIPINO: Indeed, without Spanish, our “true” identity will emerge. Thank you, friend, for this “awakening.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back Where They Belong

Noli and Fili are back.

I wonder if the Bells of Balangiga are ever coming home.

A Makeover for the Santo Nino

Images and icons.

Just came back from a short visit to Nepal and Thailand, and over there, it's Buddha. Over here, I suppose it's the Santo Nino (and jeepneys).

One key difference - Buddha seems to be making more money for Nepal and Thailand that the Santo Nino does for us. That's because Buddha - as pop art - is a bigger hit with the tourists, than the Holy Child. There's the laughing Buddha, the smiling Buddha, the reclining Buddha, the sleeping Buddha, even the sequined Buddha...

And because they're everywhere, attractive and easy to purchase, Buddha is not only a boon to their economy, the image also conveys a sense of the local culture that visitors can and do like to bring back home.

Is it time to give the Santo Nino a makeover?

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on the Supposed Brain Drain

By the way, check out Wired Magazine's classic One Nation, Overseas published way back in 2002.

The Myth of the Brain Drain

The Asian Development Bank, in a recent study, warned that the sustained export of skilled Filipino labor could eventually end up discouraging foreign investments if the local talent pool continued to decline. "Brain drain has an impact on foreign direct investment as capital will flow only into economies with perceived adequate supplies of skilled labor in key sectors," it said, adding further that "One of the greatest concerns about brain drain is that the continued migration of skilled workers reduces overall productivity."

For all their talk about free trade and globalization, they seem miss the point.

Just two things to think about:

1. It's not a zero sum game. Conrado de Quiros gets it in part when he says that we can now use information technology to bring the world to us. And in fact, the seeds of doing this are already being sown. GILAS and Last Mile Initiative-Philippines, are two of numerous efforts to provide all Filipinos with access to information and communications technologies.

The key, however, is not just access. The key is actually using the technology for productive purposes. So when our more than 10 million bagong bayanis send their more than $10 billion back here every year, do we use them just to buy stuff or to make stuff? Do we use them to play games or to program games?

There's nothing wrong when government proudly recognizes the role of OFWs, but government should remember that it's not there to clap. Government has to do more with the gift that OFWs give each year - and in simple terms, that's to equip and encourage those who stay to make productive use of this gift (through education and by making it easy to set up businesses)... and then get the hell out of the way.

2. And second, if other countries are taking away our brains, then why can't we take theirs? Sure, first world citizens may think twice about coming here, but it seems to me that a bright and educated Vietnamese or Indonesian or Indian or Chinese might just as easily give us ideas or capital or jobs...

We shouldn't be afraid of the competition they will bring to local folk... just as we're asking Americans not to be afraid of the nurses and teachers and virtual labor we send over there.

Come to think about it, maybe it's time we open the door to foreign coaches for our basketball (gasp!) and soccer programs. Vietnam and Thailand already are, and look how far their football programs are compared to us. Or look no further than Manny Pacquaio - he's got an American trainer - do you think he'd be the global phenomenon that he is now without him?

It's time for Juan de la Cruz to realize that it's a new world. In a globalized economy, there is no drain, there's just one big bathtub.

P.S. The painting is entitled "Technological Society" by Filipino artist Norman Dreo. A hopeful and positive representation of the ubiquituous role of information and technology in the Philippines today, Dreo won the Asean Art Awards (Juror's Choice) for this work a few years ago.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One Country... for a few rounds at least...

What things unify our country? Here's one.

My fearless forecast?

No traffic in Metro Manila from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. this coming Sunday!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Culture in a Watering Hole

Still on shared collective experiences of a generation, have you ever visited The Watering Hole near Shangrila Mall along EDSA at 6:30 in the morning?

I chanced upon it one morning a few weeks back, and saw that they had a not-too-spectacular, get-what-you-pay-for, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. All the tables were occupied, but the people there - mostly in their early 20s - were not there for the buffet. No, they were there for the beer – San Miguel, San Mig Lite, Red Horse and Super Dry. At a time when most of us would still be asleep!

They did not seem to be from one group, and it finally dawned on me that these young folk were probably call center agents at the end of their shift. 6:30 a.m. was the end of their day, and they were simply unwinding just like many of us do in the early evening of each workday.

Indeed, visit UP, and you will find that many students there also work in call centers. They earn quite a substantial amount, it seems. The downside is that many of them are often too tired to attend, much less do well in class, and quite a few have simply dropped out.

I don’t have any numbers but my guess is that many, if not most, college students would – if not they themselves – have friends who work in call centers and other similar facilities.

If you want to understand today’s youth, you could do worse than starting with a look at today’s call center culture.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Jupiter Effect

If you have the chance, read The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera.

For me, it’s fiction and yet it’s not, because everything in the story happens against the backdrop of events that profoundly shaped my, and most of my friends’ generation - Martial Law.

I remember my dad talking about his memories during the Japanese occupation when he was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Stories like how they didn’t know any better when they threw stones at trucks carrying captured Japanese soldiers at the end of the war. Or about how, during the occupation, his dad (my grandfather) would pound eggshells and mix it into their rice to give them more protein.

I don’t know how true it was that times were really that bad that eggshells had to be pounded and mixed into rice, or that doing so actually gave them more protein – but it didn’t really matter. It was a nice story that was just that. It wasn’t real enough for me and I couldn’t relate.

So now, when I now tell my kids about how, back in our days in the university, their mother and I once stood with hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in front of tanks to oust a dictator, or that we once marched from UP Diliman to Luneta, or that once upon a time it took less than 30 minutes to get from Makati to Quezon City, would they treat my stories the same way?

If we are defined in part by what we go through, what does that say about us as a people when most Filipinos probably can’t really relate to events that each of us may see as monumentally important? Some events, after all, simply have to be lived through to be truly real.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Start

I stumbled into The Urban Forest Project.

"The Urban Forest Project brings 185 banners created by the world’s most celebrated designers, artists, photographers and illustrators to New York’s Times Square. Each banner uses the form of the tree, or a metaphor for the tree, to make a powerful visual statement. Together they create a forest of thought-provoking images at one of the world’s busiest, most energetic, and emphatically urban intersections. Following their display, the banners will be recycled into tote bags and sold at auction, with proceeds going to scholarship and mentoring programs that benefit students of the visual arts. Some banners embody visceral responses to pressing environmental, political and social issues. Others use the evocative power of nature to develop rich patterns and abstract forms that delight the viewer. All contain passion, thought, and energy—qualities that only emerge when the world’s finest creative minds apply themselves to a brief they truly believe in."

It got me to thinking... can CANVAS do the same thing here in the Philippines?

One idea that has, for some time now, been percolating in my mind is to conceptualize a creative activity that explores what it means to be Filipino. Now that's a theme that seems to me to be more relevant, and more challenging.

So imagine it - an outdoor art exhibition featuring the works of 200 of the country's best artists, writers, graphic designers and photographers, showcased as banners, all conveying unique personal visual or literary representations of the contemporary Filipino. Imagine these banners lining public spaces that everyone can easily visit, reflect on or simply be proud of - like Luneta or the UP Academic Oval or Fort Bonifacio or Baywalk.

October 2008 sounds like a good target date for the big show. Between now and then, we're going to sell the idea to people, companies, and organizations that can help make this happen.

I'm not sure how or if I, and CANVAS, can make this happen. All we have right now is the passion and the idea. But we're certainly going to have fun trying.

So this blog will be as much about documenting this creative journey (I'm pretty sure the idea will still evolve over time), as it will be about finding the soul and heart of being Filipino.

Join us?