6:22 AM

The Take-Home Dress

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

What a glorious evening of fun, complete with bruised soles and weary feet from walking to five parties after Golden Globes awards, yet a full heart and soaring spirit!  That was what Golden Globes experience did for me. But, the showstopper for the evening was Janet Nepales, the spouse of Ruben Nepales, a Board of Directors member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who was recently mentored by Judy Solomon.
Janet, the hot fox whose left shoulder was touched by Johnny Depp, who was noticed by Jon Hamm and another man who told her that she was hot and placed his arm on Janet's shoulder saying, "C,mon I am taking you home." Janet's reaction made us chuckle: "He must have thought of me as Chinese food." 

That was our hot fox, Janet Nepales, a member of the prestigious Hollywood Foreign Press Association. She strutted the gown fashioned by Carlyn Nuyda Calloway of Thumbelina. She walked like a princess, a mermaid, a beautiful queen -- call it what you want but she owned the red carpet when she walked it.  All eyes were on her and her gown. Lea Michele of Glee screamed upon seeing her outfit.  

Of course, the most endearing comments came from spouse Ruben. 
Ruben kept posting her photos on Facebook saying, “Bear with the proud husband for posting non-stop about how his wife Janet Nepales looked in her gown by Carlyn Nuyda Calloway ( Thumbelina Cnc). I heart my wife but last night, I fell in love with her all over again! Bravo, Carlyn! Mama Rocio Nuyda, you have a genius daughter!" 
I wanted to tell him not to forget that I introduced them to the family of artistic Nuydas. I even chauffered Janet to Thumbelina’s shop.  Success has many fathers and mothers and truly that night, Janet shined in Thumbelina’s gown that I, too, shared her joyous splendor.  She danced all night, feeling like she owned the dance floor.  And she did -- stealing thunder so folks watched as she danced with Harry Shum Jr., after a flawless cha-cha dance with husband Ruben.
To see her dress glimmer next to Paris Hilton and to recognize it as equivalent in grandeur and excellence -- one can absolutely say the genius is in Thumbelina’s hands. Thumbelina described it as
"The dress's silhouette is a one-shoulder long sleeve mermaid gown made from silk taffetta and ruched silk tulle.  The skirt is made from embroidered silk tulle composed of flowers in various stages of bloom in hues of peach, nude and coral against a backdrop of a soft sage green.  
On the bodice, I hand sewed silk tulle appliques of leaves and flowers cascading from the shoulder down to the waist.   It is lightly hand-beaded with vintage diamantes for a hint of sparkle.  The gown's skirt has a sweep train.

The jewelry was generously provided om loan by Tabesh Mirmirani for Amrapali, a leading jeweler in the world.  I noticed many celebs wearing Amrapali last night including Globes winner Dianne Warren.  The earrings set in 24k gold is composed of almost 14 carats of diamonds surrounded by little rose cut diamonds.  The cuff, also set in 24K gold is made from raw cut clear and champagne diamonds fashioned in an art deco setting.  

Lind Duclos is my Tailluer Principale  (Lead tailor)"
Yong Chavez had this to say about Thumbelina’s creations: “Janet’s [gown] was such [a] head turner! Her gown was so intricately made and yet it wasn't cumbersome so she was able to party all night wearing it. I think Thumbelina's gowns are magical!" 

Thumbelina's genius, Carlyn Nuyda Calloway next to another hot fox, Yong Chavez, Balitang America newscaster!

Yong also wore a Thumbelina creation that was similarly a head turner to the point that one of the television newscasters propositioned her to go out on a date.  Wow, two take home dresses by Thumbelina in the Golden Globes!  

Sorry fellas, both stunning head-turners are already happily married!

9:52 PM

Sitting in the Chair of Privilege

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

"Life is a battle – you must enter into it fully, and do what needs to be done. You cannot shrink from your duty.  Life presents difficult, sometimes horrendous situations, unwelcome tasks, and obstacles of every sort. Despite this harsh reality, you must resolutely go forward."  Pierro Ferrucci

I have wrongly believed life is a battle, in which I have to face all the challenges everyday by myself.  It was much later in life that I realized that my Universal Partner is always with me and that I have the capacity to create my own life of privilege.

I have often wondered what it is like to sit in "The Chair of Privilege," wherein one’s check book is freely accessible towards a donation to a church project or a non-profit cause.  Or perhaps where one’s circle already includes the ‘sifted and the centrifuged ‘ crème de la crème of society.  They can be folks who have endured their own life’s challenges, embraced them, and now are at a point of coming to their privileged times of harvesting the fruits of their labor. 

Or simply folks who are children of elites, who have no financial barriers yet still, have interior challenges of living a life of purpose, fulfilling their own goals using motivation and determination that we all must have to reach ours. 

When I was going to the University of the Philippines’ College of Home Economics to pursue a science degree in food technology, I was part of a different universe.  Some of my classmates were children of elites, chauffered by their own drivers, in their own cars, to the university campus.  I was trained by my working parents and my elder sister to take the bus and to ride the "ikot jeepney" to reach one end of the campus, and back.  It was a sheltered life: go to classes, go to mass, go to cafeteria, do laboratory experiments and sleep in the dorm. Our weekends were spent at Ma Mon Luk for siopao and mami and the movies.

While I lived a sheltered campus life, I was not content. I instead, compared myself to the children of elites, as if I have much less.  My mindset was quite wrong.  Somehow, I expected a rich person, an elite to reorient my life to work for me.  I did not educate myself to look at my parents as my role models.  Not having that secure belief in my family and myself hindered me.

Could it have been my Christian education then in the early sixties, wherein the nuns emphasized a life centered on academics and prayers, but not service to country and its poor?  Or was it my university education which emphasized having the skills to work abroad, but not harnessing my skills to improve the industries in the Philippines?  While my core education gave me skills, I did not have the inner fortitude to have a correct mindset.

It was not till much later when I was in the United States, that I came to realize how much my father, Eleazar, sacrificed to get his higher education in law.  He was an orphan, and without financial means of support from his parents, he befriended hunger. It was his daily companion.  He walked barefoot several miles to go to school. He had water but no food. He believed that his higher education was his ticket out of poverty.  And it was by divine providence that he got to eat.

His active imagination helped him visualize a better life for himself. Then, he met my mother, Asuncion, who herself was determined, and had her own inner determination.  She burned the midnight oil to get her master’s degree in Science, while teaching full-time and raising five girls.  She showed me by example how to work hard to reach our goals. 

While I had those life examples to learn from, I took them for granted. I incorrectly viewed myself as poor, when I am richly endowed with my parents’ life examples of patience, perseverance, true grit and imagination. 

Because of what they showed me, I instinctively knew I can pursue higher education.  Because of how my dad and my mom sacrificed, I knew I can achieve, with sacrifice and hard work.

But, my life did not turn around to a life of privilege until I was grateful for what God has endowed me: my own skills, talents and knowledge. It did become a life of meaning, of purpose when I serve others, mentoring them to reach their own life’s goals. 

I began to realize that my own poverty of imagination and my own poverty of spirit stopped me from having a life of privilege, one that is connected to the Higher Source of imagination and creativity.  I stopped desiring what others have.  I started cultivating my own gifts of imagination and creativity.

So here goes now, my life begins with an ambitious climb of 282 steps. This overlook trail was created by the collective foresight of the community and good governance by the state government.  It took over a decade for the community to gain this public victory. Yet, the Baldwin Hills’ African American community persisted, and sustained their community efforts not to fall apart to dissension.  They solidified their ranks, through their social ties, and with their own creative skills of coming together by holding coffee klatches, movie nights and dinner potlucks, they succeeded in stopping the development of 241 homes over 50 acres of private land.  It was not till the land was bought, and state rangers appeared did the community truly recognized their own strength. 

Now this overlook scenic trail is populated by folks of different origins, of different ages, of families persisting to have their own lives rich in imagination, rich in creativity, but mostly, rich in connections with their Universal Partner.  Here is where I found a 78 year old poet, running up these stairs and working through her own issues of poverty, unbeknownst to her, her own writing skills, stumped by her own grief, and expecting folks to like her.  Here is where I found close to century old - couple whose formula for life is not about viewing challenges, but to take a step at a time, by loving one another for 64 years and smiling as they walk together.   They appear to be living lives of privileges, connected to their Universal Partner, the source of all Goodness.

“ But there is an equally great experience of suffering that occurs when we try to numb ourselves to the realities around us.  It is like ignoring a sore and letting it fester.  When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness.  We clean the wound- our own and others’ and it can finally heal.  - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I have often wondered how President Noynoy Aquino felt when he went to the provinces or when he visited the poor around Malacañang. What did he feel when a poor student gave him his can of saved centavos, just to get him elected? When a woman decided to buy yellow ribbons to decorate the town he was about to visit instead of her medicines, because she had hope in him? How did he feel when he encountered the sufferings of his people?   

When  Pres. Noynoy Aquino came to the United States, he shared how he was inspired by kababayans he met at Max’s Restaurant in Milpitas, California. He admired them for managing to stay connected to their homeland, despite years of being away. 
This reminded me of what Archbishop Ted Scott's words to his congregation, when he was installed in 1971: ”You are important as people.  Every single human being is important.  Our own sense of worth should never stop us from seeing that other human beings are also important. Christian people are called, not to a life of privilege, but to a life of service.“
What does it mean to be of service to the Philippines, whose growth momentum is blocked by its demographic trap? A demographic trap means any growth in the economy is blocked and reversed by a ballooning growth in population.
According to the CIA Factbook, the Philippines has a population of 99 million and is the 12th most populated country in the world.  The country ranks 85th among 139 countries in terms of global competitiveness, says a study by the World Economic Forum.  The idea is to have the situation reversed, where ranking in population growth diminishes and global competitiveness increases.  Why?  Because economic growth should keep up, even overtake population growth.

One of the indications of economic growth is the government's capability to provide ample education to the youth. But even if the government is mandated to make such a provision, the reality is that the Philippines does not have enough schools, nor books or teachers.

More teachers
Even if PNoy forges private and public partnerships with the wealthy and is able to build 100 schools each year, the president knows that the government will still be needing teachers for these new schools.

Will the government be able to train enough teachers to cope with the rate of population growth? Imagine, Php 1,000,000 per minute has to be generated just to meet school children's needs, since babies are born 40 infants per minute.  
In his book, The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs describes developed countries, where for each mother, there is a daughter to replace her for the next generation. But for some families, there is no one to  succeed them, resulting in a fertility decline.  
In a developing economy like the Philippines, a mother bears three daughters or more, tripling or quadrupling her replacement for the next generation and adding to the phenomenon called demographic trap. For the mother's generation, one classroom should have been sufficient.  

To meet the needs of her three daughters, three classrooms are needed. This blocks progress in the economy, since a big chunk of the national budget is utilized for basic K-12 elementary education. This diminishes the funds for higher education, which is needed for innovation and global competitiveness.  
What is the Aquino's government’s response to the major increase in population?  
Pres. Noynoy Aquino said firmly that his administration will address the problem through the Reproductive Health Bill -- a move which will allow the government to educate families about responsible parenthood and to give them options for family planning. You would think that his stand on population control would generate robust conversations, instead of tension between the Catholic Church and the State.
The Catholic Church has expressed the moral option of civil disobedience against the President, should he push through with the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Why? The Church believes that the government must not tamper with God's will to procreate within a marriage.

Ironically, The Catholic Church itself is embroiled in sexual abuse cases, with some of its priests involved -- resulting in multi-million settlements.  Pope Benedict apologized for the conduct, but has not made any action to right this wrong.

The Catholic Church believes that when a man and woman engage in sex, they are doing God’s work in procreation.  The Church believes that “no man must interrupt God’s will”, hence, no condoms, or artificial methods must be employed.  
But is the Catholic Church really entitled to do this?  
Shouldn’t this be about freedom of conscience? Is a woman not entitled to her own decision in the event of an unwanted pregnancy? 

Pregnancy does not start until the embryo is deposited in the uterus of a woman.  Why not allow the process of preventing the sperm from going into the uterus of the woman, so the sperm is not deposited and conception is avoided?  Why would God frown on this responsible behavior?
Would God allow women to have unexpected pregnancies due to sexual abuse? Or wives with abusive husbands to have unwanted pregnancies? Wouldn't God want these women to at least, have an option?

Would God be pleased when mothers are secretly aborting their children in backyard garages, or are abandoning them in garbage bins? 

We no longer live in medieval times, when “Roman women threw their children in the Tiger river during the daylight.”  Women need support in order to make an intelligent decision and embark on the journey of motherhood and responsible parenting when they are best prepared and are confident that they will be able to provide for their offspring, or at least give consideration to the capabilities of the government to provide for their children's needs. 

7:13 PM

Harvesting Goodwill: Heto ang Taya Ko!

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“We are blessings to one another, Choose the narrow gate, not the big gate. Joey Velasco, a painter, once said [ I live not by the time of the clock, but what is the meaning of life, meaning what is shared with others.]" - Fr. Arnold Abelardo

Fr. Arnold Abelardo, the chaplain who accompanied President Noynoy Aquino during his campaign sorties, concelebrated Sunday Mass with Fr. Rodel Balagtas at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (IHMC). 600 parishioners packed the pews and electric fans blasted to draw out the heat in this energy-wise Gothic church. Every Sunday at 4pm, a Tagalog Mass is celebrated. The choir, led by Pete Avendano, is world-class in demeanor, professionalism and singing.

The choir members are the face of the church, greeting folks warmly. The whole congregation warmly greeted Fr. Abelardo, who used to say Mass at IHMC, years ago, where five hundred folks were baptized every Saturday and eleven masses were celebrated. Today, six masses are held in English, Spanish and Tagalog. Two get-togethers for the parishioners were concurrently held, one in the patio and another in the rectory. We were in the rectory with Fr. Abelardo.

Fr. Rodel’s Prophetic Voice set the tone for that Sunday. He said: “Life presents to us as a struggle. All have to undergo hardships; all have to experience trials and challenges. In today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus told his disciples that despite any hardship, they must strive to enter through the Narrow Gate.“

Fr. Abelardo then described his experiences. He considered the May 2010 elections, miraculous. Why? When the other presidential candidate voted, they got a return message, “Congratulations, you won! ” He is also the same candidate who took the longest in conceding to the current president. When President Noynoy Aquino voted at his precinct, all the PCOS machines failed. He waited for hours in the heat, and like the others, he patiently stood in line, did not cut through to the front, he had to vote manually and did not get a return message of congratulations.

Prior to Cory Aquino's death, there was malaise in the country. Folks did not know whom to believe -- whether the police, military, government or the private sector. No one seemed to be telling the truth.

Then, when Cory died, all of the yearnings and aspirations of the common people came out. While some politicians had ample time to prepare for their candidacy, Noynoy was asked to run for the presidency in August -- 9 months before the election. In deference and out of respect for his mother's recent demise, he told them, “ Wait, this is not my dream. “

Pinky, his sister, told him to go on a retreat. Pres. Noynoy Aquino went to Zamboanga under the auspices of the Carmelite Sisters, headed by Sister Agnes. His question was “ Eto po ba ang kalooban ninyo para sa akin? ”

Kalooban is a word in Tagalog that denotes one's inner spiritual mission. The president-to-be did not ask for his ambitions or political wins to manifest, instead, he asked is this your will for me? After all, his life was comfortable. But, he was steeled to have unselfish devotion to the Filipino people by his parents. Ninoy said Filipinos are worth dying for, while Cory said Filipinos are worth living for. But the question remained for Noynoy -- “ who will stand up for the principles and teachings of your parents? “

On September 9, 2009, Noynoy Aquino declared his presidency. Children, men, women, carinderia store owners, tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers all came out to support Noynoy. Even the Bishop in Mindanao donated his one month’ s pay for his candidacy,“ Heto ang taya ko!” It was a symbolic act of ownership.

Instead of buying her medicine, a woman in Bicol bought yellow ribbons to line the streets where Noynoy passed through. In an elementary school that Noynoy visited, children gave up their barya sa loob ng alkansiya na lata. Heto ang aming taya!

So, when Noynoy was asked, how will you sustain your candidacy, he responded with great dignity and openness, as he went from Aparri to Jolo, saying, “ Ang taong-bayan po ang magbibigay lakas sa akin. “

Ordinary citizens made banners from used rice sacks, banig and used T-shirts. “ Ituloy ang Laban, Noy-Mar Kami! “ Asked how he would sustain his campaign, Noynoy replied, “ Eto po, participation ng taong bayan, unconventional, barya-barya! “
Every sortie they went to, they were treated like celebrities. At some point, "I would be the one dancing", said Fr. Abelardo.

As a treat, he sang a very moving song to the IHMC parishioners, "Basta maghintay ka lamang/ Huwag mawawala ang pag-asa/ Isiping may bukas pa/ Iikot ang mundo, hindi lang kasawian/ Huwag maiinip, huwag mawawalan ng pag-asa, dadating ang ligaya."

The generosity of IHMC’s parishioners became evident once again. A second collection was done for the orthopedic patients that Fr. Abelardo cares for. Fr. Rodel said a dollar is worth Php 44, but most gave more.

Retired Presidential Security Guards who ensured the safety of former Pres. Cory Aquino volunteered to secure the house of President Noynoy Aquino, during his transition and installment as the 15th President of the Republic. They were armed, not with weapons, but by a might and force more potent than bullets -- The Divine Power guards the new President, a president who embodies honesty, integrity and wholesome goodness!

For the first time since he left the Philippines, Fr. Abelardo said, “ I felt that I am leaving the Philippines in good hands. “ But, let me tell you though, the calamity funds have been wiped clean, not by God’s calamities, but by man-made pagnanakaw. The budget has been decimated, the only monies left are designated for salaries of the government staff. "

Fr. Abelardo’s list of tourist attractions he wants to visit is long -- Universal Studios, Disneyland, Disney Music Hall. But for now, they would just have to wait. He is going around the United States to speak with Filipino-Americans about his observations during Noynoy’s campaign. However, he said, " I am not the Presidential spokesperson, I was simply a witness who saw what happened and attest to the character and simplicity of our president."

In Orange County,a kababayan said, “ Oh Father,anong masasabi ninyo baka naman hindi totoo iyan, baka magnakaw din iyan katulad ng dati?“ To which Fr. Abelardo replied, “Ikaw ba ay totoo, ano ang iyong gagawin para tumulong sa pagbabago? ”

There was a pause, a long pause, “ Father when I go home, I will endure the long wait and not insert $20 in my blue passport. That will be my contribution.”
The Corvettes (Cory veterans) posted yellow ribbons with messages: “Kaya natin, magtulong-tulong tayo." Instead of crushing the Filipino spirit, the calamities of Ondoy and the massacres of Ampatuan brought goodness instead.

Fr. Abelardo shared an observation. South Koreans and Chinese investors have bought restaurants, hotels and resorts in the Philippines. It would be also nice to see groups of Filipino-American investors become part of this renaissance in the Philippines. Ano ang taya natin sa pagbabago?

As for me, ano ang taya ko?

I will continue to harvest and write about the goodwill built by President Noynoy Aquino. When I see something glaringly wrong in the US in our consular offices, I will speak up and work with them.

Fortunately, for us in Los Angeles, we have one of the most honest, transparent and efficient consular generals in the person of ConGen Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon! We hope she will stay with us for a few more years!

And for President Noynoy Aquino, my wish is that he will preside over the best renaissance of my birth country, so we can all say that we are collectively proud to be called P-NOYS!

The design of the violin – those sensuous, feminine curves of the shoulders, waist, and hips ( Man Ray famously superimposed the instrument onto the back of a shapely woman) – is the result of a long simmering stew of intellect, practicality and some mysticism. It has been thought that the violin’ shape and workings were influenced by such varied forces as the geometries of Pythagoras, the transcendent theorise of Plato and the workbench savvy of Stradivari and his forebears. But the real reason a fiddle looks the way it does is simply because that’s what works best-though no one really knows why. “ - John Marchese, 2008

As design of the violin is described as a confluence of a ‘simmering stew of intellect, practicality and some mysticism, including a workbench savvy of Stradivari’ by John Marchese that suggests a timeless display of world-class talent and performance, so was the Kultura’s Dance, Rhythm, Harmony: Mabuhay! at the Ford Amphitheater. Almost perfect! A crowd in the parking lot, who I got to know for a brief period, described it as “ perfect and awesome! “

Ted Benito said it best: "Flawless rendition. I think the most fascinating thing was the triumphant union of 3 powerhouse cultural groups here in Los Angeles: Kultura, Philippine Chamber Singers and FASO. Kultura, whose dancers I am appreciating as some of the best that I have seen, put on some of the most captivating interpretations of Filipino folk dances. Banga's Alexandria Diaz Defato captured my soul and the abbreviated Muslim suite took your breath away. I define Philippine Chamber Singers as simply a flawless harmonization of vocal prowess. Period. The original songs they sang were irresistibly charming and clever. "

For me, it was less than flawless, only because I believe Perfection belongs to the Highest Maker, God, and we, as imperfect beings, can only claim close to perfection. But when one sees the grandeur of Kultura, its 25 dancers who were diverse in ages, bound by a common denominator of precision, skill, prowess and soulful meaning in their dance steps -- I began to understand the audience’s fascination in seeing dancers move not just to the beat nor the music, but possessed by the period characters they embody.

One cannot help, but join in the crowd, in their enduring standing ovation for five minutes, yelling “Bravo, Bravo, Encore!“ For indeed, our search for embodied greatness and excellence got fused in Kultura’s dancers, Indio and Philippine Chamber Singers!

After all, my husband and I started our cultural quest of deepening our heritage as Filipinos back in the seventies, when Enrique and I took our two young children to every Pilipino Cultural Night (PCN) events, whether it's at UCLA, CSUN, or UC Irvine and even FILAMArts. It became our children’s immersion into our culture. We found ourselves locating the bamboo poles, as they evolved -- now performing their dances in their own PCNs, teaching their friends in high schools and later, UC Irvine and Berkeley. My daughter, Corina, learned the Highlander’s Fury dance, from the tribes of Northern Luzon’s mountains. When she balanced a single palayok on her head, she considered it a big success given sweat from dedicated practice.

But, Kultura’s dancer, Alexandria Diaz Defato adeptly balanced six nesting clay pots secured by a turban which barely cradled the bottom of the six. The audience was mesmerized -- would her risky dance steps drop all six nesting clay pots as she moved her body? Though conscious of the load on her head, she gracefully moved and kept dancing.

When the Mindanao Tapestry dance showed the pre-nuptial encounter of a man and woman as seafarers on their journey, two bamboo poles simulated the movement of an outrigger boat, sailing to distant shores. These two poles were carried by two men on their shoulders, while the royal princess, Alyssa Capili skillfully balanced herself, climbing up the bamboo pole as she danced gracefully using ‘languid arm and wrist movements to ward off evil spirits,' craning her neck as her feet slid, struggling to stay on, and her precise training paid off, as she kept her balance.

She was lifted, while standing, dancing, barefoot on the smooth, curved bamboo poles. You could hear folks gasping, quite nervous and hoping that she does not fall off. It was as intense as watching someone do triple lifts on figure skating and holding one’s breath until they touch the ground, landing on one foot.
My husband had one word -- “Competent!“ Indeed, it was culturally competent, but it was also heritage-rich and musically and artfully literate!

What an evening of understated elegance, grace, and well-scripted fusion of dance numbers from Celia Defato, Alexandria Diaz Defato, Greg and Candy Sanchez, and the entire cast of Kultura. The musical genius of the Indio tenors: Pete Avendano and Gelo Francisco and shyly ramping up guitar renditions of Ric Ickard, whose guitar plucking is of the highest order, and the vibrant, alive voices of the Philippine Chamber Singers with synchronous sounds from the Filipino-American Symphony Orchestra (FASO) made the dance quite riveting to watch!

It is beautiful to see FASO’s technical orchestral proficiency grow. They were smooth, with no discordant notes. But somehow, I could only feel the feelings of FASO’s conductor, Bob Shroder, as the musicians played their instruments. In time, this young orchestra will age beautifully like fine wine! On their third public event tonight, their youngest musicians who are under 20, are now at ease. I will soon see this orchestra’s promise and potential on display when FASO Goes To The Movies next Saturday at the Pasadena Civic Center, let us not miss their repertoire!

I was enchanted by Gelo Francisco’s harana and his courtship with the dancer, Janice Santa Ana, a staged interplay that shows how the fan (abanico) in Pamaypay ng Maynila become the reservoir of unrequited love -- indirectly expressed through this lyrical kundiman or love songs. With some encouragement: a look, a smile, a playful dance of the senorita and Gelo singing the harana so lovingly, it was pure joy to watch and their brightly-lit faces had enough wattage to light the stage.

It was an inspiring performance that I could not help but be moved to tears. It has been a long time since I've gone to more Music Center events that I care to catalog, but even with their technical prowess, I could not be moved to cry.

Tonight, Kultura gave me not just the music that cradled me, but one that I suckled to as a baby, while being fed by my mother, Asuncion. As I looked around the audience who were also in tears, we lovingly affirmed our love for our culture and heritage!

I got goosebumps as Gelo Francisco and Pete Avendano sang the Ave Maria duet, alternating their solid tenor voices, so superlative, and majestically rendered. It was their ode to God, which they carefully, generously and so kindly shared on center stage. When they sang Usahay, even if I did not know the Visayan words, I felt their emotions of love, grace and playfulness.

But, let me tell you what got me prouder – it was the coconut dance! Kultura’ s program described ‘coconuts as the tree of life because of its many uses -- and for the performance, it was coconut shells recycled as musical instruments. There was a pounding of dancers’ bare feet on stage, as they rhythmically struck the coconut shells attached to their bare-chested bodies, heads, backs and knees, in Maglalatik and complimented by the clever use of Filipino martial arts called Arnis. I have seen this dance before, but the dancers of Kultura had varying body sizes, mirroring the true population, some with beer bellies. They were not selected based on physique and physical attributes, but for their prowess and literacy in rhythm.

Yes, there is literacy in rhythm. When you feel there is a beat, the guitar strings are plucked. It is not slow nor fast, but a soulful rendition which connects the audience to their spirits, their inner beings. Their tears, as well as mine, are moved to flow, regardless of gender. When the tunes change, it makes a person sway their arms, stretch up into the air, sway their bodies, not caring to sit or stand, but simply to move with the beat. When bamboo poles were slowly put up for the Singkil dancer to ascend, when she balanced her body, we, the audience, with our pounding heartbeats were careful not to exhale too loud so she would not fall out of grace!
Yes, the audience gave Kultura their utmost respect, not a sound, not a whimper, not any side discussions, for they respected them to showcase their talents completely, withholding none! They respected the cultural heritage, such that their performance had an imprint -- a continuity of tradition dating back to the centuries when our ancestors were culturally competent. Almost every word or utterance from their mouths was either a corrido, a composed sonnet, a composed lyric, a spoken word of poetry or a kundiman!

My, not only are Filipinos hopeless romantics, but our hearts were made to love and to be loved back by our people in their music through dance steps and musical arrangements and compositions.
Celia, Gelo, Nadina, Greg, Ed, Pete, Anne, you have not only created art, but also a legacy of richness in creative spirits -- something we are proud of to call our own! And to Indio tenors, Gelo and Pete, I forecast a future richer than Il Divo's, for you share your talents, not with the endpoint of wowing the audience, but with a soulful integrity, a watchful generosity that God gave you these talents to share flawlessly with others!

I whispered to Ted Benito: “There is now a new standard of excellence and quality you must aspire to, Ted, and you saw it tonight!” He smiled. Indeed, it was nearly flawless! Tonight, we cried, we stood up in tears, we clapped so loud, we hollered Bravo, Bravo, Bravo for an enduring standing ovation of over five minutes to Kultura. Kultura brought us home again!

11:09 AM

Practicing self-restraint and good judgment

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.” - SPJ’s Preamble, 1909

My prescient publisher, Cora Oriel, asked me to write a piece about ethics in May 2010.

Writing about ethics proved to be more difficult compared to just observing folks practice it in their everyday lives -- the priest at my church, my mentors and some friends.

There were a lot of topics to choose from, but the August 23 hostage drama tragedy in the Philippines surfaced and I wasn't even expecting to write about it.

That fateful day, nine lives were lost from the pre-meditated actions of PS Inspector Rolando Mendoza.

A seemingly harmless hitchhike started it all -- but Mendoza had the intention to take the passengers of the tourist bus as hostages. At first, it seemed that amicable negotiations with regards to Mendoza's demands would suffice to pacify him.

But after 13 hours of unsuccessful negotiation, things became ugly -- eight critical incidents of lapses in judgment; omissions, lack of command presence by the police and the mayor of Manila; lack of training and capacity by law enforcement to handle the hostage-taking situation; and irresponsible coverage by the media were some of the culprits behind the worsening.

After the tragic incident, investigations were immediately conducted. Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima chaired the Incident and Investigation Review Committee, composed of Jesse M. Robredo, Roan Libarios, Teresita Ang-See and Merman Basbano. They released their findings in a 60-page report on Sept. 17, 2010.

The second rule in SPJ's Code of Ethics states, "Minimize harm. Show compassion and special sensitivity for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.”

Here are some excerpts from the 60-page report:

“At 6:12pm, Mendoza announced live on air over RMN the approach of the negotiators and Gregorio and handed over the phone to Lubang. Rogas talked to Lubang and listened in on the conversation at the other end of the line as his broadcast continued.

At 6:14pm, Yebra handed the Ombudsman letter to Mendoza and the latter started to read its contents over live radio at the request of Rogas. After reading the letter, Mendoza said that the letter was garbage and that what he needed was a decision reversing or sustaining the decision, and that he would have even preferred a decision dismissing his reconsideration rather than a letter promising another delay in the resolution of his case.

Rogas kept on calling his attention to continue their live interview in the middle of the hostage negotiations. Mendoza then threatened to make an example out of one of the hostages and told people to step aside. Rogas continued his live interview asking Mendoza questions for five minutes as the negotiators waited outside for him to finish.

Yebra then asked if it is alright with Mendoza if his dismissal is recalled and Mendoza is reinstated, pending the resolution of his motion for reconsideration with the Ombudsman. Mendoza said “Alright, alright”. Yebra asked if the hostage taking will then end, Mendoza said they will talk again. At 6:20, Mendoza fired a shot.” (IIRC Report, page 24).

Media provided a venue for the hostage-taker to air his grievances -- sensationalizing and morphing his image from a dangerous hostage –taker to an aggrieved police inspector.

While his grievances may seem legitimate, the media seemed to have forgotten that he was still the hostage –taker and such an act just put 15 lives at risk. The microphone to a live radio carries a base of subscribers, and with that base, attaches a responsibility to relay truthful information that should be verified. Media did not verify with the Ombudsman nor the police authorities if he had legitimate grievances. While the hostage crisis was going on, Mendoza got angry when it was broadcasted on radio that he forced a chef to swallow metamphethamine ( Shabu), which became the basis for his dismissal.

In the middle of police negotiations with the hostage-taker, a hyper zealous member of the insisted that live coverage continue, oblivious to the mental state of the hostage-taker.

If media paused to question their actions – is this story so important enough for me to risk my life, orphan my family members, and risk the lives of others in the bus, on balance, they would have acted prudently.

Did Michael Rogas view himself as an advocate for justice?

"At 6:30pm, Rogas continues his live interview with Mendoza. Mendoza said he no longer wants to deal with Yebra because he is a liar and he lied about returning his brother’s gun. He demanded a change of negotiators. He also said the shot he fired was a warning shot at Yebra. He then threatened to kill TSE Ting-chunn who was handcuffed near the door if the negotiations do not progress.

At 7:07 p.m., Rogas’ live interview resumed and Mendoza threatened that he will end everything if no negotiator shows up. At this point, Mendoza said his disposition and his thinking are already changing. He was then interviewed by Atty. Ed Araullo who affirmed Mendoza’s opinion on the Ombudsman letter. Mendoza expressed frustration that there is no justice anymore. It was also at this point that Erwin Tulfo of RMN who was at the scene told Mendoza that he was going to the bus after being cleared to interview him with a camera. Mendoza then let him interview YEUNG Yee-wa whose 15-year-old daughter was still in the bus."

Should Rogas and Erwin Tulfo have stopped when they heard Mendoza fire the first shot at 6:20pm? While Michael Rogas was understandably in ‘hot pursuit’ of a story, they could have decided between themselves that there are lives on the line.

“Gregorio was escorted through the side exit of the PCP by Col. Po and handed over to Major Navales but he immediately ran towards the front of the PCP where the media were camped out, sat on the pavement and started shouting. This drew the attention of the media who converged around him. Salvador heard Gregorio shout “Papatayin nila ako! Papatayin nila ako! Hindi ako accessory!” (They will kill me! They will kill me! I am not an accessory!). He was lying on the floor while his police escorts just looked on and told him to stand up because it was embarrassing. After a while Col. Po, together with some policemen, tried to pacify Gregorio and stand him up. However, his brother, son and daughter were clinging to him. Col. Po then explained to the media why he was being brought to the MPD. He then asked the media to stop covering the scene being made by Gregorio but the media kept on covering the scene until Gregorio was carried to a police car.

The GMA News 7’s live coverage showed Susan Enriquez interviewing Gregorio as he sat on the pavement crying out that he is not an accessory, as he was being shielded by relatives, and as he was bodily carried by policemen to the police car. The coverage did not stop until the firing of several shots in intervals was heard from the bus more than a hundred meters away.” (IIRC Report, page 27).

If you were part of GMA News 7 and Radio Mo Network, would you have drawn the line and practiced self-restraint? When we, the media, act like superman, we forego our role to inform, to report the news. Our responsibility as media people and as journalists is to deliver the news -- not be part of it.

1:23 PM

Impressing vs. Expressing?

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life….all of our life. “ - Henri Nouwen

I have been fortunate in being able to live in the public fronts of community, regulatory agency, professional associations, activist events, and now writing for Asian Journal. It is a life’s journey with many folks to meet, so many friends, and foes to learn from, but few amongst thousands stood out.

Few stood out because they had aligned their lives to match their values and their actions reflected in their enduring principles of serving humanity. Like Helen Toribio. Long after she is gone, we still share stories of how she made us feel, how she helped clarify our vision, particularly when we were so much in chaos. Or NVM Gonzales, whom I daresay was fulfilled not because of the money in his pockets, but because he loved his family. He had an affair with written words, and mentored others to live a life of meaning, not for themselves, and influenced many to write and keep writing. Some are still alive and when you ask them, they are happy, from living simply and helping out folks, like Tony Meloto.

Some still have growth spurts in their businesses that become moments of hell. These hellish moments become their sources of wisdom as these challenges transform them. These moments of hell are their spiritual challenges: do they give in to popular demand or do they transform their lives to reflect their true character and cherish their true selves? Do they succumb to avoid the conflict within and become someone impressing others?

Impressing others
I had a discussion with a friend, X, about life after 50. She felt free to be who she was, to claim her true self. While at work for decades, she learned to subsume her true self. She smiled and cracked jokes, even when she felt no longer joyful. What a performance that must be, a false mask that one takes off when one gets home just to feel real again.
It reminded me of Y, who confided that as a defense mechanism, he always smiles. He smiles when he agrees, he smiles when he disagrees, and he smiles even when he can no longer stand the person he is talking to. He smiles even when he feels like he can't anymore and by doing so, he keeps himself out of trouble. What a strain that must create from within: when he gets home and is mad, he screams, just to lose his mask of false smiles, just to be sure he is still living his reality.

Smiles and jokes for X and Y became their survival skills to protect themselves and consequently -- to impress. For them, the value in being not themselves means sparing themselves from conflicts and wounds, and so they go along to be popular, to be liked at all times.

They live to impress others, but inside, they feel awkward -- not at home, nor cherished, nor valued. They cannot honor their true selves, their true worth remains hidden, undiscovered even to themselves and unshared for others to learn from. So when they are invited to friends’ parties and soirees, a non-ending array of invitations, they go even when they do not feel like going anymore. They are called ‘sosyal’ -- a social butterfly. Why? Because their lives revolved around impressing others.

In impressing others, they make precise decisions of who will be part of their circle or not. They take great care in perfecting their small circle, tailored to make sure that everyone is marching to the same drum. In their mission to impress, everyone has the same look and fashion. It makes for a sosyal-fitting world of impressing one another and conveying the look of a very impressive group of people.

But what about their conflict from within? The human spirit has been clobbered, so we find many demonstrations of angst: folks needing to soothe their inner wounds, but they look for external ways to soothe these inner wounds, without considering the ways they can be of service to others. No one has examined the body of thoughts that got us thinking mostly for ourselves. How do we relate so that we are not impressing others, but instead, expressing the deepest yearnings of our soul?

Furthermore, how do we live so that we can stop comparing ourselves to others? What type of outfit is that? Doesn’t she look too flamboyant in that outfit? Doesn't it look like her seams are overly stretched to fit her sausage body? Upon hearing that from people living a life to impress, I started my own journey of looking within. I simply wanted to help out community folks, and at times, I get invited to public events where the rich and famous are invited. But now, am I living this life to impress?

What exactly is the essence of one’s character? Character is what a person becomes when confronted with a crisis or a challenge. Do they retain their true selves or do they impress others to convey a new image: remove the inconvenience, the anxiety, the turmoil they are going through, by being who they are not? Or do they respond with gracious dignity, reflect on the lessons of their spiritual challenge. What exactly was their personal share in that conflict, and if so, what can they change? Can they continue to express their spirituality in their actions to live their truth, aligned with their true self?

I want to live a life to express. What are we living our lives for? Look around us: the wasted efforts from wars, from unrequited aspirations...instead, how about living our lives in a higher sacred space? A positive space where we displace old wounds from ourselves, giving them away to the Universe. Then, after ridding our wounds and hurts, we can replace them with good lessons to learn from and thinking of how to be considerate to ourselves, to our needs that we have long forgotten because we keep living lives to impress others.

Grace Lee Boggs has two new questions for us to answer if we are going to turn this world around: “What time is it in the world now?" and "What would you do as majority in the world?" Let us start with those two questions, link them to answers from all perspectives, and install a process of finding our dwendes, helping us discover the essence of our humanity. What do we leave as our legacy to the next generation, as children displaced by a life of artificiality? Do we really want to live a life to impress or a life to express?

End Note: Dwendes, like little elves, dwarfs are each person's creative spirit, imagination, sense of playfulness.