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. :-)