Friday, February 27, 2009

What Our Food Tells Us About Us...

This episode from Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations, should be required viewing for anyone interested in exploring the question of the Filipino identity.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Shining Moment That's Still Here

We tend too easily to forget how once, we - as a nation - captured the world's imagination, very arguably in terms far, far greater than even Obama does - or is it did? - early this year.

Here's how TIME Magazine put it back then:

Try not to forget what you saw last week. You say now that it would be impossible to forget: Filipinos armed to the teeth with rosaries and flowers, / massing in front of tanks, and the tanks stopping, and some of the soldiers who were the enemy embracing the people and their flowers. Call that a revolution? Where were the heads stuck on pikes? Where were the torches for the estates of the rich? The rich were in the streets with the poor, a whole country up in flowers. In a short string of remarkable days a crooked election was held and exposed; a dignified woman established her stature and leadership; a despot ranted, sweated, fled; a palace changed guard--all with a minimum of blood lust and an abundance of determination and common national will...

Looking ahead, the world wants to see if the country can cast off a history of violence and corruption that long preceded Marcos. For a stunning moment, however, the essential impulse stood up for all to marvel at. There before your eyes a thought became a decision became a deed, with no other impetus than that a people realized they had a claim on their own souls.

Time would also later write that:

By reviving the promise of democracy without bloodshed, all too rare in the past, the Philippine revolution also held up a candle of hope in some of the world's darker corners. Moderate South Africans, for example, could take some heart from the success of civil disobedience; nor could they fail to note the victory of a woman who was once her jailed husband's ambassador to the world, much as Winnie Mandela works in the name of her imprisoned husband Nelson. In overthrowing Marcos, moreover, (Filipinos) helped erase a whole volume of shibboleths. (They) showed that politics could be the art of the impossible; that force could speak softly and carry a small stick; that religion could be not the opium but the stimulant of the masses; that nice guys, whatever their gender, sometimes finish first.

That shining moment may seem so long ago, but it has only been 23 years - not even a blink, really, in geologic time. :-)

And remember that we are still the same - THE SAME! - Filipinos who stood side by side, stopped those tanks, and sparked people power revolutions elsewhere from South Korea to Eastern Europe to even China. And if only for that reason, then we must believe and affirm that the same capacity for change and hope and dreams remains alive in each and all of us.

Happy revolutions, everyone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting Reads

We were looking for articles that could provide some clues or insights, no matter how small, on how the current economic crisis might affect the future of art or Philippine culture.

We found these two quite interesting.

The Boom is Over. Long Live the Art!

Fast Food for the Filipino Soul.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We're Number 1!

Finally... recognition for what we've known all along... our lechon is DA BEST!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fairey's Fair Use

We're all for respecting intellectual property rights, but this is ridiculous.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gary Granada vs. GMA

For an instructive lesson on music composition, intellectual property rights, and one man's stand against a giant network... click here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25 Random Things About CANVAS + 1 Investment Tip

...or a Short History of CANVAS...

1. CANVAS stands for The Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development. We settled on the acronym before coming up with what it stood for. ☺ CANVAS was born on June 13, 2005.

2. It all began with a story entitled, “The Man Who Planted Trees,” a classic French short story by Jean Giono. We had seen the cartoon version back in college in the late 1980s (it won the Oscar for short animated film), and had always had it in mind to adapt it in the Philippines. We finally did it in 2005 when Augie Rivera did the adaptation entitled “Elias and His Trees,” and 24-year old artist Romeo Forbes agreed to do the artworks.

3. “Elias and His Trees” was Romeo Forbes’ first one-man show, and was a critical and sold-out success. It was also his last one man show. He would be diagnosed with cancer, and would pass away - literally a rising star and not even yet at the peak of his career - still at the age of 24 only six months later. To honor Romeo Forbes’ memory, we named what would become our flagship annual activity the Romeo Forbes Children’s Storywriting Competition.

4. Romeo Forbes was not even supposed to have been CANVAS’ artist for “Elias and His Trees.” Elmer Borlongan and Plet Bolipata had originally signed on to interpret the story, but had to beg off due to unanticipated events. Instead, Elmer Borlongan committed to becoming our artist for the next as-yet unknown story (which would be our first original children’s story). It all worked out for the best, and we now like to think that “Elias and His Trees” was really meant for Romeo.

“Elias and His Trees” would go on to become a finalist in the National Book Awards and Gintong Aklat Awards that year.

5. The Romeo Forbes Children’s Storywriting Competition is, as far as we know, the only one of its kind anywhere on the planet. We commission an artist to come up with a painting (typically 3 feet by 4 feet big), and Filipino writers are encouraged and invited to join a storywriting contest based on its image. The same artist, then, will produce 20 to 22 new artworks which are showcased in a major solo exhibition, and used for the publication of a full-color children’s book.

The 2010 Competition is ongoing right now, and you can still submit an entry until March 30, 2010.

6. “The Rocking Horse” was the very first story to win our competition, and was written by Palanca awardee Becky Bravo. It won the Gintong Aklat Award last year.

Gintong Aklat Awards are given out every other year by the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP), and are meant to recognize excellence in bookmaking in the country's book industry. Book entries are judged for all-around excellence, and are subjected to close scrutiny by three professional panels in book manufacture and design, writing and editing. Entries must merit an excellent rating in each aspect of bookmaking in order to qualify for the award. A book winner of the Gintong Aklat therefore will have been judged not only on its contents but on its totality as a book.

7. We did not anticipate the buying frenzy that would accompany the release of Elmer Borlongan’s pieces for “The Rocking Horse.” Limiting collectors to just one work each, we had someone (the president of a top five Philippine company, no less!), standing outside our gate under a light drizzle at 12 midnight on the day of the sale. We let him in at around 4:30 a.m., and by 6:00 a.m., all 21 pieces were sold out. The hardest part of the day was telling collectors who continued to stream in that morning that there were no more pieces available for them.

8. To avoid a repeat of the inconvenience to buyers and collectors, preselling of artworks for our books that followed “The Rocking Horse” has since been done over the Internet. We simply post the images and descriptive info of the available works online, inform interested buyers by email and text, and sell the paintings on a first-call, first-served basis. It still doesn’t please everyone, but it’s the fairest and most convenient process that we’ve come up with for now, so there.

9. Succeeding children’s books based on our storywriting competition have all led to similar success. The works of artists we tapped for the next two books: Rodel Tapaya and Jose Santos III were similarly sold-out well before the exhibitions opened. “Ang Batang Maraming Bawal,” written by Fernando Gonzalez and for whom Rodel Tapaya rendered the illustrations, was a finalist in the Catholic Mass Media Awards. “Si Lupito at ang Baryo Sirkero,” which was based on Jose Santos III’s contest piece, was released only in 2008 and will be entered in the Award competitions later this year. It was written by first-time writer Rowald Almazar.

10. All our books from the story competition come with both English and Filipino text. We could not, however, come up with an appropriate English translation for “Ang Batang Maraming Bawal,” so there is no English title on the book cover.

11. We never scrimp on design and are proud of the quality of everything we come out with. We cannot claim sole credit for these, of course. Our website is designed by Stray Interactive, and photography of the artworks is done professionally by Northlight Studios - both the best in the business if we do say so ourselves. And nearly all our books are co-published with UST Publishing House, which not only has state-of-the-art printing equipment (to our very pleasant surprise), but also gives us quotations that other publishers have not come close to matching.

12. We receive between 60 to 90 stories each year, and of these, we always find 2 or 3 that are exceptionally well written and publishable. So we sometimes buy the rights to some of the stories that don’t win, and try to find an appropriate artist to interpret them. In 2007, we published “Sol - A Legend About the Sun,” by Agay Llanera. Again, our artist’s (Farley del Rosario) works sold out, and “Sol” went on to become a finalist in the National Book Awards for Book Design. Sol is also our only book so far that’s available on Amazon.

13. We’ve purchased the rights to three other non-winning entries: “Si Ninjang Kabayo at ang Ermitanyong Kalbo,” by Andrea Lazaro; “How Juan Tamad Learned to Work,” by Raissa Rivera; and “Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas,” by Genaro Gojo Cruz. We’re still looking for the artists for the first two stories. “Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas” will be launched in October this year and artist Anthony Palomo will do the honors.

14. Our winning story this year, “Doll Eyes” by Eline Santos will be our first “horror” children’s story. It was also our first story to be selected unanimously by the judges (Lea Salonga, Dawn Atienza, and Wendell Capili). It was also the preferred story of the artist, Joy Mallari. So we’re very very excited about this book.

15. Our artists do not vote in selecting the winning stories.

16. In 2006, we partnered with Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang InK) to launch a storywriting competition based on the theme of environment and culture. The winning story, “The Boy Who Touched Heaven” was written by a first time writer and business student at the University of the Philippines, Iris Gem Li. Illustrated by Serj Bumatay III, we published “The Boy Who Touched Heaven” in partnership with Adarna House. It won the National Book Awards as the best children’s book of 2008.

17. “Message in the Sand” is - for now - our only children’s book that was written by a non-Filipino. Charmaine Aserappa, best-selling author of “In a Japanese Garden” generously wrote and donated this original environmental tale for CANVAS, after we searched for her on Google, emailed her publisher, and somehow got lucky. Amazing thing - the Internet.

18. We plan to make all our books - starting with “Message in the Sand” - available for free downloading as e-books this year. We don’t subscribe to the idea that this will eat into sales of our hardbound books, but the idea sure is difficult for publishers (especially US-based ones with whom we’re talking) to swallow. You can download “Message in the Sand” here.

19. Another foreign author, Canadian environmentalist and professor emeritus Paul Aird (whom we also found through the Internet) generously waived his royalties to allow us to publish “The King and the Royal Trees,” which will be part of “CANVAS TALES,” a collection of short ecofables that we will launch on March 8. All tales from this collection were rendered by three Filipina artists, which is why we chose March 8 (International Women’s Day) as the launch date.

20. “Looking for Juan” is our second major program, and it allows us to explore the theme of “What It Means to Be Filipino” using art, music and literature. Michael Cacnio’s “Reflections on Red” in 2006 was the our first event for this program. It was also the first show where Michael veered away from the kite-flying, fishing, and other feel-good themes that he is known for, to showcase an edgier side that had not been revealed before.

21. We do at least one “Looking for Juan” activity every year. We had “Crux” (artist Manny Garibay in collaboration with poet Gelo Suarez) in 2007, “Rakenrol” (a dream line-up of artists and rock bands) last year, and we’ll have three this year - an ongoing exhibit in San Diego (our first overseas), a big outdoor banner exhibit in May, and then we’re building a Pacific Rim Friendship Park in Puerto Princesa City, also in May.

22. CANVAS thinks out of the box farther than any other group that we know.

23. CANVAS Downstream is our online store, and is based in the US.

24. 1/of Gallery in Serendra is majority-owned by CANVAS. It is intended both as an alternative exhibition space for young emerging artists (so you won’t see any Joyas or Manasalas or Lunas there), and as CANVAS’ profit making arm (to help support CANVAS’ efforts to promote Philippine art, culture and the environment). 1/of Gallery also specializes in more affordable limited edition prints, hence its tagline: “Unlimited Imagination in Limited Editions.”

25. CANVAS is proudly Filipino.

And finally… people sometimes ask which artists are the best ones to invest in. We always answer that you should only buy art that you like, and not because of the name that’s signed on the canvas. But if you really want to invest in Philippine art, visit our website and start with the artists that we’ve worked with… they’re as sure bets as you will find anywhere else… and we will wager that no less than two or three of them will eventually be named National Artists. But we won’t tell you which ones they are. ☺