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: