Monday, December 31, 2007

Random Thoughts to Close out The Year

Have you seen the new Coke Christmas commercial where a young father brings his son back to be with the child's mother with whom he is obviously separated. It's a sentimental ad - was looking for it on You Tube but no one's uploaded it. But, it does speak volumes about the Philippines today. If a big company like Coke is tailoring its ads along these lines, you can be sure that they have the numbers to back them up. And apparently, the numbers are saying that a significant slice of Philippine marriages are on the rocks and are staying there.

Is the declining dollar really helping us when it directly affects two major engines of our economy - the OFWs and the business process outsourcing sector? On the other hand, just imagine how much higher gasoline prices would be right now had it not been for the dollar's declining value.

Charice Pempenco. I'm sure you've seen it. But have you seen this - Journey's discovery of Arnel Pineda? Mabuhay ang Pinoy! Mabuhay ang YouTube! Mabuhay ang Pinoy sa YouTube! Pinoys rock and rule!

So, despite everything, 90% of Filipinos are entering 2008 with more hope than fear.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Photos by Diego Maya, Simbang Gabi sa Gesu (2007) and Oblation Nation Celebration (2007).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oblation Nation - An Art Competition

To celebrate the centennial of the University of the Philippines, CANVAS is partnering with the UP College of Fine Arts Alumni Foundation Inc. (CFAAFI), and is sponsoring its first Oblation Nation Art Competition.

The competition is inspired by the UP's Oblation - but we are not necessarily looking for an artistic interpretation of this famous icon. The Oblation stands for something that transcends UP, UP students or even the image of the Oblation itself - the selfless offering of one's self for his or her country.

For this reason, the competition is open to all Filipino students, not just UP students.

The Oblation was made by Professor Guillermo E. Tolentino with the help of Anastacio T. Caedo, his student apprentice. According to a book tribute to Guillermo Tolentino, it was Anastacio Caedo, not Fernando Poe Sr., who served as the model for the sculpture.

The idea for the Oblation was first conceived during presidency of Rafael Palma, who was the one to commission Tolentino to make the sculpture. Palma requested that the statue would be based on the second verse of Jose Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios;

In fields of battle, deliriously fighting, Others give you their lives, without doubt, without regret; Where there’s cypress, laurel or lily, On a plank or open field, in combat or cruel martyrdom, If the home or country asks, it's all the same--it matters not.

The concrete sculpture painted to look like bronze (the sculpture was cast in Bronze much later, in 1950), measures 3.5 meters in height, symbolizing the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The sculpture is replete with references of selfless dedication and service to the nation, and as Tolentino himself describes it:

The completely nude figure of a young man with outstretched arms and open hands, with tilted head, closed eyes and parted lips murmuring a prayer, with breast forward in the act of offering himself, is my interpretation of that sublime stanza. It symbolizes all the unknown heroes who fell during the night.

The statue stands on a rustic base, a stylized rugged shape of the Philippine archipelago, lined with big and small hard rocks, each of which represents an island.

The “katakataka” (wonder plant) whose roots are tightly implanted on Philippine soil, is the link that binds the symbolized figure to the allegorical Philippine Group. “Katakataka” is really a wonder plant. It is called siempre vivo (always alive) in Spanish. A leaf or a piece of it thrown anywhere will sprout into a young plant. Hence, it symbolizes the deep-rooted patriotism in the heart of our heroes. Such patriotism continually and forever grows anywhere in the Philippines.

We want to see this spirit and intent behind the Oblation in contemporary art. We hope you do too, and that you will join the competition.


1. The theme of the competition is “OBLATION NATION.” Other than this theme, there is no official criteria. Judging will be done on a purely qualitative basis that in large part considers the artistic merit of the submitted entry, as well as the artist's statement. This competition is open to all Filipino students, whether here or abroad.

2. Entries shall be rendered in oil and/or acrylic on canvas (to be submitted on stretched museum wrapped 2” box-type framing). The size of entries shall be 24”x24”.

3. Submissions shall initially be done by email. Entrants must email a digital photo of their work to Entrants must include a scanned copy of their current school ID (or other proof of enrollment), and a brief artist statement on their submitted work.

Alternatively, artists may submit a photograph of their work, a photocopy of their current school ID and their artist statement at 1/of Gallery, at the second level of The Shops at Serendra in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig (across Market Market).

4. The deadline for submission of entries is 5:00 p.m. (Manila time), 28 February 2008. Entries received after the deadline, even if sent earlier, will no longer be considered for the competition. Neither CANVAS nor CFAAFI shall be responsible for entries which are not received, or which are received after the deadline, due to technical failure or for any other reason whatsoever.

5. By submitting an entry, all entrants thereby agree to authorize CANVAS to post such entries on its website or blog, as CANVAS deems fit, free from any payments, royalties or fees whatsoever.

6. The CFAAFI shall review all the emailed or photographed entries that are received and shall shortlist the finalists. Finalists shall then be contacted by email or text message, and they shall then submit the actual works at 1/of Gallery.

7. CANVAS will choose the grand prize winner. The grand prize winner will get a cash prize in the amount of P20,000.00 - less the applicable withholding tax - sorry! :-). The decision of CANVAS shall be final.

8. The winning entry, together with some or all of the other finalists, as selected by CANVAS, shall be exhibited and made available for purchase at 1/of Gallery. The date of the exhibition shall be set by CANVAS.

9. By participating in the competition, Artists agree that CANVAS shall set the selling price of all works that will be exhibited. Sales of their work, if any, shall be divided as follows: 50% to CANVAS, 25% to CFAAFI, and 25% to the Artist. CANVAS shall cover all costs of the exhibition, including venue, publicity, reception and invitations. Unsold paintings must be claimed within 30 days from the end of the exhibition, and any unclaimed paintings shall thereafter become the property of CFAAFI.

10. All artists shall retain their intellectual property rights to the images of their submitted works. However, by participating in this competition, the participating Artist thereby gives CANVAS a perpetual, non-exclusive license to use the image of his/her submitted work for downstream merchandise such as shirts, magnets, tote bags, etc. Participating Artists further agree that CANVAS shall have the right to professionally photograph, use and crop their images for the development, distribution and sale of other downstream products, including but not limited to shirts, mugs, magnets and other merchandise on its online store –

Artists shall be entitled to a 10% royalty on sales (less applicable withholding taxes, if any) of any merchandise using their respective works. In case more than one artist's work is included in a particular merchandise, the 10% royalty shall be divided equally among them.

All costs of developing, producing, distributing and selling the items shall be borne solely by CANVAS.

11. Submission of entries is not a guarantee that the images of such entries will be developed into downstream products. CANVAS shall have the sole and exclusive discretion in selecting which images, if any, shall be used for downstream merchandise, or shall be featured in

* The background on the Oblation was culled from an entry on Wapedia: Wikipedia for mobile phones.
** "Oblation Nation" is also a Gameface forum on the UP Maroons basketball team. To join or read the forum, click here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Better without English?

We sent one of our previous blog entries (Do We Speak English Too Well for Our Own Good?) as a letter to the editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer several days back. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that they had published it yesterday.

That, in turn, led to one non-Filipino reader to email our executive director, and they've had a short exchange that we thought we should share.

At his request, we've changed his name and deleted his email info. Let's just call him George.

*** Sanctuary is a brass sculpture on sandstone by Michael Cacnio (2006). It is part of his landmark Reflections on Red solo exhibition. To view the exhibit, click here.

On Dec 16, 2007 7:02 PM, George wrote:

Dear Gigo,
I think time will be the judge of the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the present system. I note in your email that those who you mention as successful probably attended school in another time and environment. When I worked here in the 60s, I found a different type of Filipino with a more enlightened view of their future. I really don't see that much now. I had 30 employees working under my supervision and I found them efficient, committed, accountable for their actions, and dependable. Most migrated to the U.S. and have been relatively successful there.
From what I have read, and see, I do not believe it is better now but, as I said earlier, time will tell if I am wrong. I don't know one writer from another but there seems to be more concern among writers (here) that there is something amiss in the present education system.
I love the Philippines. My wife of 25 years is a Filipino. I have lived here (over a 70 year span) for about 15 years, six and a half this time. I hope you are right and I am wrong because that is what I want to see happen here.
Again, thanks for the communication.

December 16, 2007

Dear George,

For all that is bad about the Philippine educational system, I don't think it is as bad as you perceive it to be. This system still produces graduates at the very least at par with some of the best universities out there. Modesty aside, I know - I am a product of the Philippine educational system - and I completed my graduate studies in the US (University of CA System) at the top of my class. I know several others who had similarly distinguished stays. Hundreds of Filipinos go abroad each year for graduate studies - although a good chunk of them stay there and don't return, at least for a good number of years. (But this, is less an indictment of the educational system as it is of the environment that current governance engenders).

The University of the Philippines is stocked with world-class faculty with PhDs from the best universities from the US, EU and Japan. Many of the students there are products of the public school system - not just in Manila or the major cities. In fact, for example, the current head of the Phivolcs, who holds a PhD from Scripps Oceanographic Institute (the number 1 school of its kind in the US), emerged from a school in one of the poorest rural provinces in the Philippines.

UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST, and the other universities collectively produce enough graduates with the POTENTIAL to lead this country in the years to come. The problem is that not enough deserving Filipinos have the chance to grow to their fullest potential - and that is the challenge... and the hope.

As for the other countries, I think you either underestimate the Philippines, or overestimate the rest. Thailand, for example, will face extremely tough times when their King passes away. Note, too - for all our political problems - we are still growing at 6-7% per year - a rate other countries will do anything to get. And truthfully - those countries wouldn't hold a candle to nightlife in Manila, not to mention our beaches. :-)

I write, not to debate you, but rather to hope that when you talk with your friends who are not from here, or who may share the same perceptions - you might speak more positively and more hopefully of this great country.

Don't be sad for the Philippines. I'm not. Quite the contrary.


On Dec 15, 2007 5:53 PM, George wrote:

Dear Gigo, your PS was not shameless. I am not really aware of most of the organizations stressing culture and art. I don't know that I am interested enough to become involved but who knows? Maybe later.

I am a foreigner who should not be involved in the Philippine education, etc. but I hate to see the deterioration in the education system due to so many problems. I personally think the Philippines is behind a curve which it will not be able to extract itself from. The other countries mentioned are so far ahead of the Philippines now and will only increase that lead as the Philippines try to do something about their education system. Sad.


----- Original Message -----
From: Gigo Alampay
To: George
Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2007 3:48 PM
Subject: Re: Better without English?


To be fair, I don't think that De Quiros was really saying that English was unimportant. I think he was using the theme to say that people in other Southeast Asian countries seemed more committed to their nation's development than ours. (I don't agree with that assessment either) :-)

But, you point is well taken. I am not aware of any such studies either.



P.S. I might as well use this opportunity to promote CANVAS, the NGO that I head (to promote Philippine art and culture). If interested, please visit our website at Otherwise, feel free to ignore this shameless plug. :-)

On Dec 15, 2007 10:46 AM, George wrote:

Dear Gigo,

I read your article with interest and do take exception to those who write that English is not necessary to the young of the Philippines. I wonder what unbiased studies have been done to determine the rightful place for countries in their ability to speak English and their subsequent success in the world? I wonder, too, has there been studies worldwide to determine the percentages relative to the working status of Filipino OFWs? How many are graduates of college and holding positions relative to their educational attainment? That is, what is the percentage of OFWs working in their field at responsibile and appropriate levels versus working at the levels of handyman, drivers, laborers, etc. My guess is that not many are working at the levels of their education. If not, could it be their English is insufficient to have those types of responsibilities?

Please don't use my name nor do I want a series of emails. I just thought you might like to see my comments for whatever personal use you have. I am not interested in debating any of this with anyone. OK? Thanks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We're Building a Park in 2009!

The idea is to bring together architecture and art students from different parts of the world who, together with counterpart Filipino students, will design and build a Friendship Park under the artistic supervision of leading artists, architects and urban planners - all in 30 days.

They transcend their language and cultural differences through a shared vision to design and build the project. After a new park is completed, it is given as a gift to the citizens of the Pacific and to the sponsoring organization or institution in the host city. All parks are for the public, and are directly connected to the Pacific Ocean.

The Park will then become part of a network of Friendship Parks ringing the Pacific, and computer kiosks, connected to the Internet and programmed with translation software will allow visitors to chat in real time with citizens in other parks.

There are already four - in the US, Russia, China and Mexico. You can learn more about this global initiative by visiting their website:

We don't know yet where we will build it - we have to find a local government willing to set aside the land (it doesn't have to be big - a few hundred square meters will do), and to whom the park, once built, will be donated back to for it to maintain and keep open to the public. But our initial exploratory inquiries have been universally promising - we're looking at Manila Bay, Subic, Palawan, Puerto Galera, Cagayan de Oro and a couple of sites in Batangas. Dumaguete has also been mentioned, but we have yet to start communications there.

We'll have more than a year to plan - the target date should fall between April and May of 2009 when students are on vacation.

Maybe we can use the opening to also do the art banners idea that launched this blog. :-)

We're excited - it's different, global, cross-cultural, and fun. And it's going to build lasting friendships between and among everyone who's going to be part of it.

Send us an email ( if you want to participate - we'll keep you posted.

*** The photo is of the first Friendship Park in Russia, which provides a dramatic view of the Port of Vladivostok and now is regularly touched by students to obtain good luck on their scholastic exams. The park has also become a favorite place for weddings.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Principles of Uncertainty

We like search the Internet for good ideas and inspiration.

Found this, check it out: The Principles of Uncertainty. Be sure to check out the actual column, too.

When we do this, we sometimes stumble onto something that gives us hope for the future as well. So check this out: Drawing from New Sources.

We don't know yet how or if these will lead us to develop some new projects for CANVAS... who knows? But it does plant some seeds.

We'll see... :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do We Speak English Too Well for Our Own Good?

Conrado de Quiros shares an interesting thought on the role of language in development in his article in the Inquirer today. Is the failure of the Philippines to live up to its much-touted potential the result of our well-documented proficiency in English?

He writes, in part:

"...We speak better English than our Southeast Asian neighbors, but look at our Southeast Asian neighbors (including increasingly the former Indochinese ones) and you’ll see that nearly all of them have left us biting their dust. Singapore certainly has. Malaysia certainly has. Even Indonesia and Vietnam are so. Indeed, just look at this airport in Bangkok, as unabashed a display of prosperity as they come (you’d take a day traversing the expanse of it) and, well, what’s the feeling beyond depressed?

Maybe it has to do with language, with a grasp (or lack of it) of what it’s supposed to do. Those of us who keep emphasizing English as a way to communicate with tourists and to find jobs abroad ... may think we are saying the most commonsensical thing in the world. But other people would find that the battiest thing in the world.
The primary function of language is not for a people to communicate with foreigners, it is for a people to communicate with themselves. The primary function of language is not for a government to communicate with other governments, it is for a government to communicate with its citizens.

Maybe that’s the reason they are what they are now and we are what we are now..."

It's something to think about, but frankly, we think the message is flawed. The primary function of language is to communicate, period.

To limit it to communication by people "with themselves" or by a government "with its citizens" is dangerous and could lead to even more damaging close-mindedness at a time when, really, what is needed more is greater openness and communication between peoples and between nations.

And he sees a possible causation where we think there is none when he says,

"Maybe that’s the reason they are what they are now and we are what we are now. Maybe they’ve built airports like this because they have found a way to talk to one another and tell one another exactly what to do. Maybe we’ve been reduced to looking for menial jobs in foreign companies or foreign shores because we’ve found a way to talk only to our employers and masters. Maybe they’ve been invited to the gala because they have interpreters who can tell the other guests what they’re saying and so engage them in conversation. Maybe we serve as waiters in the same event because we know enough to offer them a glass of wine and a smile."

Some of those waiters that he talks about would probably even be thankful they know English well enough to have those jobs. Would they want to have better jobs, with more authority? Sure. But is language to blame for their not being qualified for such "higher" jobs? We don't think so.

So why, indeed, are our Southeast Asian neighbors seemingly doing better than we are? We all know why - it's their greater emphasis on education, and better governance. Some may even argue that they simply work harder than us.

But they're doing better not because they know less English than we do. Assuming they're doing better (and ever the optimist, CANVAS is not ready to concede this point), they're doing it despite the fact that they don't speak English as well as we do.

Our two cents.

"The Animals Laughed" (Limited Edition Digital Prints on Metallic Paper) by Plet Bolipata (2007).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Trillanes Fan Club

A fiasco like the Manila Pen misadventure would not be a complete Pinoy event without the inevitable jokes!

From the Philippine Comedian:

And check out this new blog:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Better the Devil You Know, Than the Devil You Don't

Never mind the irresponsible ineptitude (was there ever any doubt how this would end?) or the rank ignorance/naivete (was there every any doubt how this would end?). In between ranting, overused motherhood statements, Trillanes offered one challenge: "Si Gloria ba, o pagbabago?"

The problem with this question is that for all her faults (and arguably of all recent presidents, she has one of the most), Gloria is hardly the worst option. We could do worse - we could have a Burma-style junta in charge, for example. Or an incompetent, misguided adventurist with no clue, to give another.

So, a question like "Gloria ba, o pagbabago?" can only be answered by another question - "Kung pagbabago, anong klaseng pagbabago?"

People want change - on that point, there is no debate. But not change for its own sake.

It's like asking someone who's unhappy with his or her job to leave the security of a regular paycheck, and just look for something else. To be sure, there may come a point where having no job is better than staying in a present position. But until the current job becomes the worst possible condition, not too many folks (especially those with families to feed) would take the risk.

In the case of GMA, that line has not been crossed for most. There is no one who captures the imagination, and imagining every single one of the offered alternatives as President would seem to result only in more of the same, at best.

That being the case, most of us are simply willing to wait for the change will surely come - one way or another - in 2010.

In the meantime, therefore, Filipinos will continue to tolerate Gloria simply because for now, tolerable is good enough.

There is much much more to life in the Philippines - there is Art, for example :-) - and it does not revolve around what happens in posh hotels like the Manila Pen, or snake pits like Malacanang or Congress, or even in the minds of aging bishops, has-been politicians and running priests who really should know better.

Life, real life - the kind that truly matters - will simply go on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Boy Who Touched Heaven

CANVAS, in partnership with Ilustrador ng Kabataan, is very proud to invite you to the book launch of "The Boy Who Touched Heaven," written by Iris Gem Li and illustrated by Serj Bumatay.

Inspired by the Banawe Rice Terraces, "The Boy Who Touched Heaven" won CANVAS' Elias Dakila Children's Storywriting Competition on Environment and Culture, and is being published in partnership with Adarna House.

To read the story, click here.

The book launching will be held on Monday, November 26 at 6:30 p.m. at 1/of Gallery at the Shops at Serendra, Global City, Taguig. For more information, please call 901-3152.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Church is Wrong on This One

"Ang May Akda" by Manny Garibay
The war against family planning (at least insofar as the "non-natural" methods" are concerned) is again being waged by the Catholic Church, this time in Quezon City which is considering a proposed ordinance to institutionalize the city’s current reproductive health program and insulate it from partisan politics.

Rina Jimenez-David wrote an excellent column today in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which compared the diverging fortunes of the Manila and Quezon City on this very issue. While the budget for family planning services and commodities was increased to more than P10 million per year in Quezon City by Mayor Sonny Belmonte, Mayor Lito Atienza started his three terms by issuing a notorious executive order that discouraged most of the modern methods of family planning.

The resulting statistics are stark and revealing.

Jimenez-David writes, "While the birth rate declined rather steeply in Quezon City -- from 35 per 100,000 in 1996 to just three or four per 100,000 in 2006, it basically remained the same in Manila -- from 27 per 100,000 in 1996, to 23 per 100,000 in 2006. The figures for maternal mortality -- deaths of women due to causes related to pregnancy or child birth -- tell an even more dramatic tale. Maternal mortality declined in Quezon City, from 10 per 100,000 in 1996, shooting up to 14 per 100,000 in 1997, then tapering off to about three per 100,000 in 2006. In Manila, maternal mortality rates rose steadily: from about seven per 100,000 in 1996, reaching a peak of about 12 per 100,000 in 2005 and tapering to about seven per 100,000 in 2006."

One has to wonder how the Church can ignore these numbers, and would do well to remember that its leadership and members, in the end, are only human.

* "Ang May-Akda (The Authors)," by Manny Garibay. 4'x4' Oil on Canvas (2004).

Thursday, November 8, 2007


It's only a soft launch of CANVAS DOWNSTREAM. We'll keep adding more works and artists in the coming days, but it's functional enough now.

We'd appreciate any feedback or suggestions you can give. Thanks!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Star Thrower

One of the things we like to do at CANVAS is to publish short environmental stories (either as books or on our website or both), not only for the lessons they carry, but also as a medium for showcasing works by Filipino artists.

We have two such stories on our website now - "The Hummingbird" interpreted by Plet Bolipata and "The King and the Royal Trees" which was illustrated by Ivee Olivares-Mellor.

Below is another story, "The Star Thrower," for which we are still looking for an appropriate artist.

Many of you may have already seen this story, or a version of it, as it is popular on the Web. It's not clear who wrote it, but it is often most attributed to anthropologist Loren Eiseley. But his original tale is told differently and the message is less upbeat.

Anyways, if you could recommend or suggest a good Filipino/Filipina artist, we'd be happy to hear it.



One day, thousands of starfish had washed ashore along a beach that a man was walking upon. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.

When he got closer, he saw that it was a little girl and she wasn't dancing. Instead she was reaching down to the shore, picking up starfish and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

He called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?" The little girl paused, looked up and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean so they won’t die."

"Don't bother, dear," the man said, "There are too many starfish. It won't make a difference."

The little girl listened politely. Then she bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves.

She then looked up and the man, smiled and said, "Well, it made a difference for that one!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Truth About the Philippines

Just replace "Argentina" with Philippines...

Friday, October 5, 2007

How Big a Deal is This?

"It's very degrading," said Registered Nurse Bernadette Roco.

"It's not only a slur, it's an insult to the quality of Philippines education," added former President Fidel Ramos.

On the other hand, here's something a friend of mine wrote: "That's too much ado over nothing. We should not be onion-skinned about being the butt of a joke in a TV serial. Instead, we should wonder why our (medical) schools have a poor reputation. It's about the blatant forgeries at Recto, the profit- hungry diploma mills, the cheating scandals in board exams, election fraud, etc. Foreigners could say worse things about us."

What do you think?

Epilogue: Well, apparently it's a big enough deal. :-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

1of Gallery is Turning One!

Our small gallery space in Serendra is turning one! The anniversary exhibit, which opens with cocktails on October 11 at 6:30 p.m., will feature works by Elmer Borlongan and Plet Bolipata (shown here), as well as other pieces by Alvin Villaruel, Buen Calubayan, Salvador Convocar, Farley del Rosario and Michael Cacnio.

Drop by if you can!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Forget Forgive and Forget

Our collective cultural experience with dealing with corruption has always been tinged with cynicism - that the big fish always get away; that it is better to forgive, forget and move on; and that things will get better anyway even if the guilty go unpunished. Bahala na.

Which is what makes the Sandiganbayan decision extraordinary. From the "ordinary" folks we've spoken to - bank tellers, taxi drivers, students, friends - the overwhelming sentiment is pity. Pity for Erap. But this was also almost always followed by support - even approval - for the verdict as long as it does not end with Erap.

Below is a related op-ed piece that appeared on the UK-based The Guardian.

Are we slowly maturing and getting over the forgive and forget Filipino mentality that almost never results in closure?


Falling star

Subdued public reaction to the jailing of film star and former president Joseph Estrada suggests that Filipinos may develop a taste for justice.

By Roby Alampay

Joseph Estrada, the disgraced former president of the Philippines, faces the prospect of spending his remaining years in prison after a special court in Manila found him guilty of amassing around $15m in bribes and kickbacks. During the 30 months he ruled his country, from mid 1998 to the start of 2001, Estrada accepted payoffs from gambling lords and orchestrated (with social security funds) sales of stocks, channelling much of the profits into his personal aliased account. Estrada literally defined plunder: as a senator in the early 1990's, he was a member of the congress that crafted the law under which he was convicted. For many Filipinos, there is more than enough poetry in this fact, and certainly more irony than Estrada's action-comedy movies of the 1960's ever mustered.

There is no underplaying the significance of the court's unanimous decision to convict the first Philippine president ever to undergo a criminal trial. This is, after all, the Philippines, where Imelda Marcos is still living free and easy. Despite massive evidence of the widespread death, poverty, suffering, and dysfunction she and her late husband, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, inflicted on the Philippines, the only real disappointment she has subsequently endured has been losing the last presidential election she was allowed to contest.

The Philippines is not a country used to seeing powerful people punished. When officials are accused or suspected of corruption, they do not quickly resign, as in Korea or Japan. Instead, they often seek immunity by running for public office. When a bloody coup against Corazon Aquino's fledgling democratic government failed, the leader of the putsch escaped from a floating prison - and then successfully ran for senator.

On the one hand, the wheels of Philippine justice need retooling, so much so that the country's chief justice himself recently called for an emergency summit to discuss a rash of extra-judicial killings that have the claimed the lives of leftists, human rights workers, and journalists under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. There have been few convictions for these crimes. On the other hand, Filipinos themselves simply cannot seem to imagine their leaders behind bars.

Even before Estrada's conviction, opinion polls showed that 48% of Filipinos wanted clemency, if not a guaranteed pardon from Arroyo. More than 80% said Estrada should be allowed to languish in a lush private family vacation home where he already spent the last six years awaiting his verdict. Is this lack of appetite for justice a part of Filipino culture -- or is this learned behaviour?

Has an overly "forgiving nature" prevented Filipinos from achieving closure in so many painful chapters of their history, or are the ravages of impunity to blame? With so few examples of justice clearly dispensed, and overwhelmed by examples of villains so easily forgiven or forgotten, perhaps Filipinos could not bring themselves to demand what they could not imagine.

Estrada's conviction gives Filipinos the clearest illustration of what the rule of law may bring to their society. Estrada remains adored by the masses, but so far the public's reaction to the verdict has been non-violent and almost subdued. Notwithstanding the opinion polls, it does seem as though the public not only accepts his conviction, but that they respect it as the outcome of a fair system that has been allowed to work. This suggests not only that justice in the Philippines has a chance; equally important, it suggests that Filipinos will give justice a chance. If the Estrada saga leads to a firm yet dignified exercise of justice, Filipinos may discover a taste for more of the same.

(In cooperation with Project Syndicate, 2007.)
Roby Alampay is a Filipino journalist currently based in Bangkok as executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). This article refects his personal views.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mind Mapping CANVAS

We've discovered the joys of mindmapping.

A mindmap is a simply a diagram used to represent words, ideas and plans, among others, and these are arranged radially around a central theme. It is supposed to help to clarify thoughts and ideas in your mind, say for organizing, strategizing, problem solving, or decision making.

At three years old, CANVAS has grown a bit and is now being pushed and pulled in various exciting directions. The downside is that we may be stretching ourselves thin without realizing it. So we're embarking on our first serious medium to long term planning, and mindmapping is turning out to be such a boon.

There is a bunch of mindmapping software out there if you just google it, but we're using Mindjet, which is simply great.

Here's what CANVAS programs - some fully established or ongoing, and some in the pipeline - currently look like:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The plan has evolved a bit... we're still going to go for the original idea of an outdoor exhibition of 200 banners, but we may have to take our time on that for now. In the meantime, efforts are coalescing around a new and very exciting "Looking for Juan" project in October 2008.

CANVAS is now working closely with Songstream Music - through one of their executives, Rommel "Sancho" Sanchez (a local rock scene legend as far as lead guitarists go).

The idea is to for Songstream to line up 7 rock bands, while CANVAS lines up 7 artists. Each will be paired with a band. The artist creates an original work on what it means to be Filipino, and the band then creates an original song based on the work.

And vice versa - the band also comes up with an original song, still on the same theme, which the artist then responds to.

The collaboration should be very interesting, and it will all be immortalized in an interactive music CD and book!

We don't want to preempt the bands/artists we have in mind, but needless to say, the first (and if we say so ourselves - some of the most exciting) ones we've approached have all been enthusiastic about this project.

Seven bands, seven artists, fourteen songs, fourteen artworks... all about the soul of the Filipino.

We're excited!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The King and the Royal Trees

The King and the Royal Trees
by Paul Aird

The King had a frightful dream. He dreamt that while riding his horse through the Royal Forest, the south wind called: "Beware of falling trees! Beware of falling trees!"

Though the trees were beautiful and waved gently in the wind, the King was frightened. He turned his horse and galloped out of the forest.

The next morning the King ordered his people to cut down all the trees in the kingdom. "We do not want the trees to fall down and hurt our children," he reasoned. "We will remove the forest and grow vegetables instead."

The people liked the King's idea, for now they had their pick of the finest wood in the forest to build houses and furniture, and the rest of the trees were sold at handsome prices to neighbouring kingdoms.

Once all of the trees were cut down, the King felt happy -- and relieved. But the people were unhappy. They missed the trees, which had provided work for loggers and carpenters, and homes for birds. Although they sadly missed their work, they missed the birds most of all.

Soon after the trees were gone, a dry south wind began to blow. It blew day after day. The vegetable crops began to wither and die. People huddled helplessly in their houses watching the wind uproot their gardens and scatter the dead plants across the land.

The King was worried. He called for his horse and rode through the fields to inspect the damage. There were no more trees to break the fury of the wind. As the wind blew faster, it swept withered plants and soil past the King, who watched dumbly as his kingdom blew northward.

Lost in clouds of dust and drifting sand, fatigue overcame the King. Nodding asleep in the saddle, he heard the south wind call: "Beware of falling trees! Beware of falling trees!"

* This is the second story in a trio of environmental stories that CANVAS will publish (hopefully) later this year. The first is "The Hummingbird" which is already viewable on our website. All three stories are slated to be illustrated by three women Magsaysay-related artists. Plet Bolipata did the works for "The Hummingbird," Ivee Olivares-Mellor is our artist for this story, and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the great Anita Magsaysay Ho who has agreed (in principle) to do our third story, "Message in the Sand."

And We're Back!

According to Chinese tradition, August is a dead month. But that's not the reason why we didn't have regular posts last month.

We don't really have any good reasons, except that we've been really busy with a bunch of projects that we'll tell you about soon enough...

But suffice it to say, we're back, and we have a lot to share. :-)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thing None Knew Two

Here are two writings only Pinoys will truly appreciate.


May persona ingrata from my alma mother who asked for my number so we can keep intact. Sabi ko connect me if I'm wrong, but are you asking me ouch?

Sabi nya: the?!!

I mean, tell me to the marines ang kapal! The nerd! Naiyak ako sa galit, I cried buckles of tears.

Tapos sabi nya: don't cry. Isipin mo na lang this is a blessing in the sky. Irregardless of my feelings let's go out na rin.

Now we're in love. Mute in epidemic na yang past. Thanks god we swallowed our fried. Kasi I'm 33 na and I'm running our time. After 2 weeks, he asked me will you marriage me? Hay, talagang when it rains it's four. This is true good to be true! Love is a many splendor at kahit di sya gaanong cute, beauty is in the eyes naman di ba? Sabi niya: like twice.

Kaya advise ko sa inyo take the risk, just burn the bridge when you get there. Life is shorts. If you make a mistake, we'll just pray for the external repose of your soul!

I second emotion.


Thing none knew see in die
Who bought, who bad
The hill key none taught see in die
Last fog see in die

Fog must done knew see who one
Thin knee tea gas sun
Cash sea see in die
Who bought, who bad
Bull ball money peace.

In knee love bus knee who one
Dean act money in die
Key knee league see who one
The hill be not tea knee in die
Knee love as son see who one
Be thin see in die!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Honest Pinoy

80% of Manilans would return a lost cellphone to its rightful owner, according to a recent (though unscientific) global survey.

That's pretty good, especially when compared with Hongkong and Kuala Lumpur which both scored less than 45%.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Only in the Philippines!

Here's the link to YouTube. And check out their interpretation of a scene from Sister Act.

Really, only in the Philippines!!!

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Philippines' Incredible Shrinking Basketball Players

Now, what better symbol of hoping against hope is there than our love for basketball?

We may not have any chance of winning in - some say, even qualifying for - the Olympics, but hey, what's the harm in trying? It's like winning in the lotto... if you don't have a ticket, then you definitely can't win. But if you buy even just one ticket, then you have a chance. And then you have the luxury of imagining the possibilities.

Ah, and here at home, we can make the fantasy a little more real by simply tweaking the rules so that larger foreign-born players won't seem so tall. Check out this piece on the incredible shrinking basketball players in the Philippines.

And here's a podcast interview with the author of the same article. Note: The main interview starts somewhere in middle of the program, so load it up first then just forward to the middle of the bar.

* Featured painting: Guwardiya (36"x26" Oil on Handmade Paper by Manny Garibay).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Liturgical Fashion Police

We're all for proper respect in our places of worship, but this makes me wonder what (or rather if) the Church was thinking when it issued this dress code.

At first glance, it appears harmless enough... but it's easy to see how some could take this over the edge. Listening to a couple of priests on the radio yesterday, you could see that they, and likely many other priests, could take this code as mandatory and not merely recommendatory. One was even saying how there is a biblical basis for requiring women to wear veils, and that implied that only men should wear pants in Church! Another priest then piped in with a clearly baseless opinion that even maong pants would be frowned upon.

Next thing you know, some overzealous lay minister will be standing guard at the chapel door turning away the "improperly" attired faithful.

The problem is, at a time when some slippers cost more than shoes, and when it is so hot and humid that - for some - wearing (decent) shorts is really more conducive to prayer and worship - who's to say what fashion is proper?

Church issues Mass dress code

The Philippine Star

The Archdiocese of Manila Sunday reminded the faithful that there is a proper dress code for attending Mass.

The archdiocese’s Ministry of Liturgical Affairs (MLA) said wearing the proper attire when attending Mass is an important part of showing respect to the sanctity of the house of God.

In guidelines posted at parishes and chapels, the MLA said the faithful should wear formal, semi-formal or smart casual attire when attending Mass.

Male Catholics are encouraged to wear long-sleeved polo shirts, collared shirts, or t-shirts paired with either slacks or jeans. Women are asked to wear dresses, long gowns, or collared blouses.

The guideline said corporate attire and school uniforms are also allowed inside churches. However, no guidelines were issued regarding footwear.

The faithful are strongly advised not to wear caps, basketball jerseys, tank tops or jersey shorts and shorts during Mass. Women are also asked not to wear spaghetti-strap tops or tank tops, short skirts, skimpy shorts or sleeveless shirts with plunging necklines when at Mass.

MLA assistant minister Fr. Godwin Tatlonghari said in a circular sent to parish priests, chaplains and shrine rectors under the archdiocese that the guidelines were a response to "many requests" they received from conservative parishioners.

"They usually cite the increasing number of people who come to Church to attend Mass or other liturgical functions garbed in a way that disrespects the sanctity of the house of God and the sacredness of the liturgical celebration," Tatlonghari said.

He said the MLA has produced posters that clearly show the proper attire for church. He added that these posters will be distributed to all parishes, chapels and shrines under the archdiocese and its suffragan dioceses.

Tatlonghari also said he will ask priests to post the guidelines in areas that are easily seen by people visiting their churches or chapels.

Painting: "Dalangin" by Manny Garibay. 20"x30" Oil on Canvas (2004).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The General's Report

Here's an article from the New Yorker on General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the infamous Abu Ghraib scandal.

If only we had more like him here...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Invitation to "Ang Batang Maraming Bawal"

CANVAS is very pleased to invite you to the book launch and exhibit opening of

by Fernando Gonzalez
with artworks by Rodel Tapaya

Monday, June 18, 2007 at 6:30 p.m., Glorietta Artspace, Makati City

The exhibit runs until June 27, 2007.

See you there!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Your Names as Ancient Filipino Texts

A friend sent me this piece on alibata or baybayin, the Philippines' ancient writing system.

In yet another demonstration of the beauty of the Internet, a few taps on my keyboard, and I found this online translator. Here's what CANVAS would look like in alibata:

I tried translating various words and found it quite fascinating. (It reminds me of the elven runes that Tolkien wrote about in Lord of the Rings.)

Try it out with your kids. It's a great way to get them introduced to or more interested in Philippine history and art.


Teaching ABCs the alibata way
by Tina Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 13, 2007

MANILA, Philippines – Raymond Cosare initially couldn't explain his fascination with the Chinese brush.

"I was just fond of collecting it but I didn't know why," he told the Inquirer.

A psychology professor at the Far Eastern University, the 38-year-old Cosare discovered the answer about seven years ago shortly after he began working as a volunteer at Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, an old house in Quiapo, Manila that has been turned into a museum for artifacts belonging to its previous owners and members of the Katipunan.

Since 2000, Cosare has been putting his brush collection to good use by teaching children, as well as the young at heart, the art of writing the baybayin, the ancient Filipino script.

He explained that baybayin is an old Tagalog word that refers to all the letters or alphabet used in writing a language. It is taken from the root word, baybáy, meaning "to spell."

Syllabic writing system

The baybayin is a syllabic writing system, which means that each letter represents a syllable instead of just a basic sound compared to the modern alphabet. There are a total of 17 characters: three vowels and 14 consonants, but when combined with the small vowel-modifying marks called kudlít, the number of characters increases to 45, Cosare

"Though it is more commonly known as alibata, it is proper to use baybayin," he stressed.

He explained that alibata was the term introduced in the early 1900s by Paul Versoza of the University of Manila. He said Versoza claimed that the term was coined from alif, ba and ta, the first three letters of the Maguindanao arrangement of the Arabic letters.

These days, while his students are on their summer break, Cosare is busy holding "baybayin classes" for curious guests who drop by Bahay Nakpil-Bautista.

His students include children and their mothers as well as local and foreign tourists, he said.

Each class, which lasts about an hour and a half, begins with Cosare talking about the history of baybayin.

"It's very informal because I don't want them to get bored, especially if it's the kids I'm talking to," he added.

But the real magic begins as soon as Cosare's eager students sit on the wooden floor of the ancient house to write their names in baybayin using a brush, paper, ink or paint.

"They write awkwardly at first but little by little, they develop confidence until their handwriting flows, and the curls they draw become so natural it's as if they've known how to do this before," he said of his students.

According to Cosare, he first encountered baybayin when he was in second year high school.

"Our Filipino teacher wrote the baybayin characters on the blackboard but she did not explain it, she just told us to copy what she was writing on the board," he said. He added that he quickly became interested in learning how to write the characters, even using these
to write letters and journals.

"I mastered baybayin because I used it to hide my deepest thoughts in my journal—my way of protecting it from my nosy siblings," he said with a laugh. "At least, they wouldn't understand what these characters stood for."

But with no one to share his newfound interest with, Cosare put aside baybayin when he got to college.

Then one day, Teresita Obusan, the ebullient curator of Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, showed him material that featured seemingly intimidating characters.

"She asked me to practice writing it and use those characters in writing 'Merry Christmas' on cards she was about to send her friends. She was surprised because I finished faster than she thought I would. That's when I told her that I've been writing baybayin since high school," Cosare recalled.

Since then, Cosare said he and Obusan have found something new to share with guests of Bahay Nakpil-Bautista, apart from giving them a tour of the house and of Quiapo.

Asked why it was significant to study something that many people has long regarded as "useless" and passe, he answered: "Baybayin is something Filipinos can really call their own. So, why don't we use it?"

Making Filipinos prouder

"But more importantly, baybayin makes Filipino people prouder of who they are," he added.

Contrary to common belief, when the Spaniards arrived in the country, they found a culture that was very different from their own, he said.

"The ability to read and write is the mark of any civilization and according to many early Spanish accounts, our ancestors had already been writing with the baybayin for at least a century. This script was just beginning to spread throughout the islands at that time," Cosare

But baybayin soon went out of style. "Perhaps practicality was the main reason," was his answer when asked why, adding that social expediency could be another.

He further explained: "Maybe Filipinos abandoned baybayin in favor of the alphabet because they found the latter easy to learn and it was a skill that helped them to get ahead in life under the Spanish regime, working in relatively prestigious jobs as clerks, scribes and

But Cosare happily noted that because of information revolution, many Filipinos are taking a new interest in their heritage and it is usually the baybayin that catches their attention first.

"Through the use of computer fonts, the baybayin is now being used in graphic designs for websites, multimedia art, jewelry, compact discs, T-shirts, and logos," he disclosed.

And for some Pinoys, it seems that baybayin has come full circle, he added. "Today, a growing number of young Filipinos are getting tattooed with baybayin characters to show their pride in their heritage."

However, he claimed that he was referring to Filipinos staying in other parts of the country.

"Malakas ang interest (There is a lot of interest). But for some, either they're not aware or they find it very Filipino. I don't know what that means but somehow too Filipino is not a very positive thing for others."

"Check the Internet and you will see that most websites about baybayin were done by Filipino-Americans, Filipino-Canadians, walang purong Pinoy," Cosare lamented.

According to him, he would be happy if baybayin is introduced in school curriculums.

"The suggestion has always been there but maybe the Department of Education has other concerns for now," he said, adding that it would be better to introduce baybayin to preschool children.

Ultimately, Cosare added, his goal is to be able to produce a book about baybayin.

"That's my next target. To reach out to more people, something that hopefully would give them a little pride, something that would work wonders for the Filipino people's sense of who they are," he added.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Job Opening

The Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS) is looking for a Program Manager for its business development arm, Art Ventures.

The successful applicant will be tasked to:

* Establish and implement, under the direct supervision and guidance of the Executive Director, a business development strategy and business plan for CANVAS, centered on the production, marketing and sales of downstream products based on art images in CANVAS' databank.

* Establish and implement an e-commerce strategy for CANVAS' downstream product line (limited edition prints, books, shirts and magnets).

* Manage and expand the local distribution network for CANVAS' downstream products.

* Assist in the development of other downstream products based on CANVAS' images, stories and other products.

Preferred Qualifications: College graduate, preferably with business/finance background/experience and an interest in the arts. Excellent writing and speaking skills. Computer literate. Demonstrable entrepreneurial interest. Web development skills a plus.

Monthly Compensation: P18,000.00 to P22,000.000 (depending on qualifications) plus allowances & performance incentives, including profit sharing.

This is a full time position.

If interested, please email your resume, complete with references to

For more information on CANVAS, please visit our website:

Monday, May 14, 2007

Why do Filipinos vote?

Even if the choices are so limited that most of us can't come up with 12 names to vote for Senator?

Even if we all know people are going to cheat?

Even when good people - make that good FILIPINOS - like Jesse Robredo can be disqualified without any real basis?

Even if it takes an embarrassing several weeks to really know the score?

Even if the Genuine Opposition isn't so Genuine and Team Unity isn't so United? And for that matter, despite the fact that the two aren't so different?

I think it's because it says a lot about who we are as a people - hopeful despite the signs, staunchly democratic despite our history, and game for any game (even one where the odds are stacked against us).

It's not because we really think it will make that big of a difference - although we continue to hope. It's because elections are a way for us to participate and take some measure of control (however small) over our nation's destiny.

The Inquirer today says it's in our hands. They got that right. They end the editorial by saying "It starts today, with our vote." They got that wrong.

It doesn't start (or end) with the elections. For us, this is just one more turn along the road. An important turn, to be sure. But just one of many that we've taken and will continue to take.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Pssst! Would you like a limited edition print?

We're looking for Juan... do you know where to find him?

Email us at to let us know... it can be anything - a poem, a story or an essay (no longer than 250 words, please), or even an artwork. In English or Filipino, it can be on anything - general, specific, about a place, about a person, about a feeling, about food, about growing up, or growing old... as long as it helps us understand who the Filipino is.

If we use it on this blog, we'll give you a high quality limited edition print of the late Inday Cadapan's 1995 piece entitled "OFW."

Finally, it's a shame, but we have to end on a legal point: Please note, by submitting anything to us, you will retain all intellectual property rights to your contribution. However, you also grant us a perpetual, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, and otherwise share in the exercise of all copyright and publicity rights to it, including incorporating it in other works, and in any media, now known or later developed, including without limitation, published books.

We reserve the right to select, edit and arrange submissions, and to remove information from our blog and/or website at any time in our sole discretion.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Good Provider is One Who Leaves

I heard about this great article on OFWs - the cover story of the New York Times Magazine. Unfortunately, when I went to the NY Times website, I found that the story was classified as premium content, available only to subscribers.

Not to worry - we have Google, and blogs - which gave me hope that the article would likely be available elsewhere.

My faith in the Internet was not misplaced. You can view the entire article here. :-)

Read it. Together with this Wired article, it's one of the best I've read on the subject.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Beauty of Manila - Just Waiting to be Noticed

From the latest issue of Time (Asia edition):

The Bold and the Beautiful
Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2007
By Lara Day/Manila

"Why does everyone love Bangkok and Havana? Even Mumbai sounds better than Manila," says Filipino conceptual artist Yason Banal over coffee in Quezon City. There isn't an immediate answer. The Third World cities he lists aren't immune to the challenges that beset the Philippine capital: all grapple with congestion, crime and corruption, and none escape the banes of poverty, heat, seediness or pollution. So perhaps it's a question of marketing. Tourists are drawn to destinations with double-pronged, p.r.-friendly pegs—saris and spices for Mumbai, cigars and salsa for Havana, markets and temples for Bangkok. Manila, with its bewildering collision of Spanish, Mexican, Malay, Chinese, American and Arabic influences, doesn't benefit from such glib categorization.

Every week in Intramuros, the old walled city in whose heart, the San Agustin Church, I was christened, tour guide Carlos Celdran peels back the city's colonial layers and shows why the texture of this city doesn't lend itself to glossy hooks. I haven't taken his tour before. In fact, today, I'm bleary after staying up to watch Cebuano reggae act Junior Kilat play saGuijo's in Makati, and as I sluggishly make my way to the Fort Bonifacio meeting point, I yearn to crawl back under the covers. But witty, hilarious Carlos jolts me into wakefulness. Interspersing trenchant facts with lively anecdotes, he hurtles through 600 years of Filipino history, and, all of a sudden, Manila begins to make sense.

"If you can't find beauty in Manila, you won't find it anywhere," he quips as we later scarf Chinese takeout in his high-ceilinged Malate apartment. I find it impossible to disagree. Manila's aesthetic isn't perfect, and that's its attraction. There's an ironic local expression that sums it up: Frankenstein. It describes an old object or concept injected with new life through fresh components—"antique" chairs bolstered by new arms and legs, jeepneys revamped with transplanted motors and fresh paint jobs (a new MTV program, Pimp My Jeepney, is in the works), to ukay-ukay, or rummage-sale, vintage clothes stitched together with modern materials and prints. To me, Frankenstein explains the city's visual style as well as its strength and resilience. Improvisation and cheerfully making do characterize the Filipino attitude toward poverty.

That poverty may be ubiquitous, but so is the energy. Teeming, corrugated-iron slums surround decaying Art Deco mansions. Lush bougainvilleas peek from behind high stone walls trimmed with barbed wire. Chapels hear confession in the middle of decadent shopping malls, and hand-painted billboards advertising movies like Brazen Women overlook vendors touting T-shirts that read JESUS OF NAZARETH. At stoplights, peddlers tap on your window proffering newspapers and Marlboro Reds, while children wave garish feather dusters and delicate lace handkerchiefs. And wherever you go, there is music, in the endless strips of "videoke" lounges, pouring forth from bars and clubs, and in the broken strains of a busker's ukulele.

I head to Quiapo, where I wade through a sea of stalls selling bootleg DVDs and used electronics, pirated porn and secondhand bridal gowns. Exotic fare abounds, but I opt for a simple treat from childhood: a bananacue, or banana speared with a skewer, caramelized in deep-fried sugar. As I savor the sweet, sticky snack, I listen to a sermon blasted from a loudspeaker by a church decorated like a pastel Easter egg; in front of me is a row of old women selling religious figurines along with herbal potions that claim to do everything from curing coughs to terminating unwanted pregnancy. Afterwards I walk to Chinatown, where merchants hawk watermelons, pearls, watches and glutinous rice cakes. Padyaks, or pedicabs, painted with names like Raymond and Alfonso are lined up for action, while a jeepney called Jeremiah 616 whizzes by in an eye-catching streak of fuchsia and peacock blue.

That's the kind of beauty Manila offers: not obvious, but undeniable once you've encountered it. My grandmother has lived here for almost nine decades, through World War II and the Marcos years. One afternoon, while stuck in traffic on Roxas Boulevard, she suddenly exclaims 'Maganda!' (Beautiful!). I look to where she is pointing: a few scraggly, nondescript bushes sit on the divide between a choking 12-lane thoroughfare. But then I look closer: at the tips of the sparsely covered branches are clusters of tiny, vivid scarlet buds. Amid this congested, often dilapidated city, they're right there, just waiting to be noticed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Winner of the 2007 Romeo Forbes Children's Storywriting Competition


CANVAS is very pleased to announce that Rowald Almazar has won the 2007 Romeo Forbes Children's Storywriting Competition for his story "Si Lupito at ang Baryo Sirkero." In a very very close decision, his story edged out Raissa Rivera Falgui's "How Juan Tamad Learned to Work."

Both stories, inspired by John Santos III's' untitled oil on canvas artwork above, are now posted in our website.

We thank and congratulate everyone who joined in the contest, and hope you will all continue to support and participate in our future activities.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Help Us Choose a Cover :-)

Is It Art if No One Notices?

It's a fantasy of many collectors to find the work of a famous artist in a flea market or a bazaar or a garage sale, and to get it for a song. But if you weren't really looking for it, would you recognize the beauty of the art if it were staring you in the face?

There's a lot to be said about Philippine art and writing and music and culture... but how many have the time, or take the time to just take it all in?

Here's a great great article... pretty long, but definitely worth reading... from the Washington Post.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Happy Na, Beautiful Pa!

For what it's worth, and despite all reports to the contrary, Filipinos are a very happy people. (Check out the article below.)

Then, I just read that two Filipinas will compete in the 2007 Miss Universe Pageant.

Happy na, beautiful pa! What else do we need?!!!


Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005


By Alan C. Robles

Is it plausible to think of happiness not as a state of mind or a state of the pocketbook, but as an actual sovereign state? Many surveys lead us down that path. In study after study on national happiness levels, my country, the Philippines, gets unlikely top scores. The World Values Survey published by the University of Michigan last November ranked 82 countries and territories according to feelings of "subjective well-being"�which combined its happiness and "life-satisfaction" scores�and the Philippines had one of the highest ratings in Asia, above far richer locations such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. A few years back, a Hong Kong ad agency found the Philippines to be the happiest place among a group that included Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and mainland China.

This is counterintuitive to say the least. We Filipinos live in a country mired in poverty, political conflict, corruption and environmental destruction. On top of that, the Philippines is so regularly battered by typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, floods, volcanic eruptions and other natural catastrophes that it's been ranked the world's most disaster-prone nation by the Brussels-based Center for Research and Epidemiology of Disasters. Yet last Christmas, toward the close of a particularly wretched year, eight out of 10 respondents told a local research firm that they felt "optimistic" about 2005. No tropical depression here, folks.

This cheery outlook doesn't reflect a national state of blissful ignorance. When ACNielsen asked Filipinos to evaluate their lives a few years ago, the respondents were clearheaded enough to give "fair" to "poor" ratings in areas like personal safety, economic well-being and general health� Yet they went on to say they nonetheless considered themselves "very happy."

For Filipinos, happiness isn't material - it's social. We're happiest in a group: family, friends, immediate community, even strangers. I've seen it happen in many airports among perfect strangers: as soon as Philippine travelers drift in, they gravitate toward one another and soon form a boisterous crowd, exchanging jokes and mobile-phone numbers. The awesome range of peculiar Philippine nicknames, a source of amusement to foreigners, are tokens of how much such social groups mean to people: the nicknames are bestowed by family and friends. Some Filipinos use a string of them over the years.

The small group is our bastion against life's unfairness. Hundreds of years of bad government have taught us to expect little from impersonal institutions. We know that our leaders are corrupt, that our country is marred by inequality, that there's plenty of injustice. We just try not to let it get in the way of enjoying life. Filipinos often describe themselves as mababaw ang kaligayahan, or easily amused. There's a dose of self-deprecation there. But let's take it from the national to the personal level. We all know people who aren't easily amused. You rarely think of them as happy.

Filipinos are also known for a pair of connected traits: resilience and self-sufficiency. Instead of counting on government to help us, we help one another. In the U.S., Filipinos are near the top of the list of migrant groups who are least likely to go on welfare. Today, resilience and self-sufficiency have a grim ring. But, once again, take it to the individual level. Do you know many irresilient, dependent people who are happy?

My wife recently met a 43-year-old Filipino named Nestor Castillo, and they started chatting about a proposed government program in the Philippines to give poor people food stamps. Castillo was against it: he didn't believe the politicians and the bureaucrats would be able to pull it off honestly. And yet Castillo could use those stamps. Four years ago, he lost his job as a janitor at the Quezon City Hall. He and his family are now scavengers, living out of a wooden pushcart. This is Castillo's idea of happiness: "Once I found nearly half a fried chicken wrapped in plastic," he told me. "I knew it was still edible because it was still cold, just came from the refrigerator. We had a feast that day." Around the world, people are searching for happiness. For Filipinos, happiness isn't a goal: it's a tool for survival.