Friday, August 18, 2017

Millennials as cooking contestants prepare familiar veggie dishes with difference

By Nancy T. Lu

Good nutrition nowadays gives importance to vegetable consumption. In fact, food experts encourage meat intake reduction as part of the promotion of a healthy diet. Eating less meat, in fact, is believed to cut down abdominal gas excess as well as farting, with the effect of countering global warming.

“Bahay Kubo,” an upbeat song which Filipino children for generations have learned to sing in school, highlights through its lyrics the Philippine cornucopia of vegetables which can be easily grown in the backyard. This song very recently became the theme of a Mama Sita Foundation-sponsored veggie cooking contest at the Jose Fabella Memorial School in Mandaluyong.

The Soroptimist International of Mandaluyong, supporter of the cooking class program at the school by providing the budget for the food ingredients since a year ago as well as by donating kitchen utensils to motivate the training of the very young millennials in kitchen knowhow, was actively involved in coordinating the cooking event.  The members led by Dorothy V. Cueva, the president, were very happy to see the interest in cooking among the students.

Five 10th graders aged 15 to 19 pitted talents against each other in preparing strictly or at least predominantly veggie dishes on a budget of 300 pesos. With the help and guidance of their teachers in preparing for the contest, they put their creativity and originality to work in coming up with their entry recipes.

Seventeen-year-old Jaymark R. Orbase won first prize in the contest with his colorful and appetizing dish of Mama Sita’s Stir Fry Vegetables with Fried Tofu. Sitaw, talong, kalabasa, patola, okra, kamote, kamatis, bawang, sibuyas and mane - all so familiar in the “Bahay Kubo” song - went into the pan during the on-the-spot competition under the watchful eyes of three judges, including this writer. Tofu or bean curd, a highly concentrated protein food that occupies a place in oriental cookery, likewise got added as fried ingredient. Mama Sita’s Soy Stir Sauce and Mama Sita’s Pang-Gisa Mix contributed taste and aroma to the plateful of vegetables.

Nineteen-year-old Jocelyn M. Molano placed second with her Mama Sita’s Upo a la Palabok.  Steamed strips of upo (gourd)  replaced the noodles in the food presentation. Chicharon, tinapa flakes, fried tofu, spring onions and boiled egg slices as garnishings completed the food picture. Mama Sita’s Oriental Gravy Mix and Mama Sita Pang-gisa Mix proved ever-reliable in the cooking.

Mama Sita’s Veggie Lumpiang Shanghai entered by 15-year-old Jeric B. Canada earned the final score which deserved third honor.  Fourth in overall standing was Jazel Marie Villanueva’s Mama Sita’s Sinibuas. What seemed like sinigang soup made good use of sigarilyas and kamatis. Bagoong isda was another required ingredient. Meanwhile Christian Estores, aged 17, submitted Mama Sita’s Tortang Talong. Ground pork was used in this dish, which ended up in fifth ranking in the overall judging.

Redj Baron, a celebrity chef who used to host a cooking show on  UNTV and now a cooking instructor as well as consultant, drew shrieks of delight when introduced to the high school students at the Bahay Kubo Veggie Cooking Contest last August 3.  He with his millennial appeal in looks and style candidly spoke to his instant fans about his humble beginning before finding fame in the culinary world. He urged his young listeners to work hard and to go pursue their dreams.

Rosie Lardizabal, another contest judge, drew admiration from the youngsters for having an amazing mother and mentor like Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes, famous for her love and promotion of the flavors of the Philippine Islands.

How many of these five contestants will climb their way up and one day become renowned chefs? Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Raul Isidro against all odds meets two-year deadline to show new art landscapes

By Nancy T. Lu

Two years ago, Raul Isidro booked the Artist Space Gallery beside the Ayala Museum in Makati for another one-man show. But while preparing for his modern art exhibit titled “Landscapes,” health concerns set in one after another.

The mind, as believed by the Buddhists, controls the body. As his physical being went through healing, Raul Isidro did not allow his mental power to grind to a halt. His artistic voice was not silenced and his painting vision remained focused and clear. His amazing creative impulse continued to surge, finding expression in new and very colorful abstract paintings.

Emotions spiraled up and down as seen in the colors of Raul Isidro’s paintings from the period. The biggest work of art at the exhibit was in fiery orange.  Isidro also celebrated life and passion in bold red. Shift in mood saw him opting sometimes for contrasting tapestries of softer shades.

What thoughts crossed Isidro’s mind when he painted an abstract procession scene with shadowy figures against a strong red background? Was he contemplating a spiritual journey with fellow travelers on a planet going through global warming?

Isidro discovered a garden of delight in his abstract art landscape. Beautiful flowers bloomed on his canvasses, warming the hearts of exhibit viewers, including artists and collectors, on opening night.

The sweeping brush strokes, the darting lines, the small and playful images, the evolving shapes and the layers of colors could only be the refined work of a seasoned painter.  At age 74, he showed himself as still bursting with creative inspiration and energy.

The painting collection on view included a few precious remembrances of output from earlier periods or his "relics" from the past. More one-man shows can be expected from the driven Isidro who has been upbeat in supervising personally the expansion of his atelier.

Nominated year after year for recognition as Philippine National Artist, the award-winning talent from Calbayog and mentor of many young and upcoming local artists deserves to find his niche of great honor and prestige soon, pointed out a follower of Isidro’s long career during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 26.

“Landscapes” will run at the Artist Space Gallery until August 8, 2017.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Artists transform gallery into classroom for discussion on Philippine history

By Nancy T, Lu

“Sining Saysay: History in Art” - an ongoing exhibit of mural paintings at the Gateway Gallery in Cubao - invites a revisit of the Philippines’ colorful and dramatic past but with a difference for some of the finest Filipino contemporary artists who proudly call the University of the Philippines their alma mater are the interpreters of events.

The 27 men and women who participated in realizing the big painting project had labored over their creative contributions to the present-day visual treat and educational experience for the general public. Foremost in their minds was the importance of being factual and accurate in their painted narratives.

Jonah Salvosa's "The Galleon Trade"

Period costumes of figures in history sometimes proved extremely difficult to draw because no precise record and reference could be found despite lengthy and thorough research, according to Jonah Salvosa. A desperate need to know how attacking planes looked like in wartime Philippines drove  artist Julius Samson to start collecting scale models of aircraft.

Julius Samson's "Occupied Philippines"

Adi Baens Santos' "Martial Law"
For Adi Baens Santos, history is about memory. His “Martial Law”  has to do with an era of unrest and protest which he knew firsthand. As a young artist working at the Sunday Times Magazine of the Manila Times in the early Seventies, he saw up close and heard directly the extremely idealistic student leaders of the First Quarter Storm. Edgar Jopson, Ericson Baculinao, Gerry Barican, Chito Sta. Romana, and Mila Astorga-Garcia turned up one by one in the editorial office to passionately air their frustration with and protest against the establishment as well as to angrily cry for freedom and change. Association with radical activists made this artist highly politicized. His art over the years has consistently been a strong statement on social issues and causes.

 “Sining Lakbay” - a project adding a digital interface to initially 10 mural works - was launched to lure the generally digital-savvy millennials into the gallery to view and talk about the exhibit. This took place three days before the EDSA People Power Anniversary this year, thereby calling special attention to a relevant work like “Martial Law.” The digital input to this 6 feet by 20 feet painting runs for a total of three minutes.

Grace Javier Alfonso's "Empowerment of Filipino Women"

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Grace Javier Alfonso’s “Empowerment of Filipino Women” will take the special limelight through art images recalling the history of courage of the heroines in the Philippine revolution and in their continuing struggle for their rights.

Neil Doloricon's "History of Labor in the Philippines"

“Sining Saysay: History in Art” opened at the Gateway Gallery about a year ago and it will run at the venue for another year before the entire collection will be moved permanently to the UP campus. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Musee d'Orsay in Paris lending paintings of European masters to Taipei museum

Add aptMillet's "The Gleaners"ion
Lovers of the classic art masterpieces belonging to the Musee d’Orsay will soon no longer need to fly all the way to Paris to view them up close.  The famous repository of paintings that stand out in the history of western art will lend 69 art treasures to the National Palace Museum in Taipei from April 8 to July 24.

The “Impression, Left Bank – Musee d’Orsay 30th Anniversary Exhibition” will highlight the paintings of masters like Van Gogh, Millet, Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas, Seurat and Delacroix. Van Gogh’s “The Midday Siesta,” Renoir’s “Girls at the Piano” and Millet’s “The Gleaners” will be in the collection of major 19th century works of art on loan. The awaited art event in Taipei, only about two hours by plane from Manila, requires insurance coverage amounting to 400 million euro, according to the Taipei museum.

Renoir's "Girls at the Piano"

The exhibit will call attention to the leading lights in the art movements in the 19th century like Realism,Impressionism, Expressionism and Cubism. The works of these celebrated artists command incredibly high prices in the art market today.

The Musee d’Orsay is located at the site of the former Orsay Railway Station in the French capital. This opened as the first modern train station in Paris in 1900 but closed down in 1939. The station became the Musee d’Orsay in 1986. Works of art which used to be housed in the Jeu du Paume were moved to this present-day landmark museum, which is said to attract 3.5 million visitors every year.

Van Gogh.s "The Midday Siesta"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Philippine National Artist BenCab reveals his fascination with Chinese tai chi

BenCab presents "Studies of Dance Movements" at his Baguio museum.

By Nancy T. Lu                                                                
Yuan xiao jie (February 11 this year) or what the Chinese people know traditionally as the first full moon after the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival saw National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, better known as BenCab, bring out his calligraphy-like ink sketches of a female performer in a dance celebration at the BenCab Museum in Baguio. As in the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy, his strokes suggesting cursive script influence went bold sometimes but turned softly flowing just as quickly.

An initial sweeping panoramic look at his 26 works hanging at the Print Gallery of the BenCab Museum resulted in the unmistakable impression of a gracefully evolving tai chi  performance.

BenCab confessed to his fascination with tai chi or the art of pushing hands since his London days. He had the occasion to demonstrate his knowledge of slow-moving tai chi routines and exercises (said to promote good health and longevity) before Polish choreographer Paulina Wycichowska, who then interpreted what she saw in a collaborative effort using dance techniques.
BenCab swiftly went to work with his brush and ink to draw and create with artistic flair 40 different images on rice paper. 

The museum gallery selected for the exhibit titled “Studies of Dance Movements” could only accommodate 26 of the sketches produced during the beautiful encounter of the two artists from different realms.

“Take 5 on Aquarelle” featuring watercolor paintings by five artists of different generations also opened on February 11 at the Gallery Indigo of the BenCab Museum. Alfredo Roces, the oldest at age 85, led the group and he was followed by BenCab, who will turn 75 this coming April. Elmer Borlongan, Kelly Ramos and Abi Dionisio, the youngest at 27, completed the lineup.

BenCab’s take on the challenging watercolor art medium included his depiction of the most handsome rooster with white feathers from the poultry yard in his sprawling estate as the regal and reigning Chinese zodiac animal of the 2017 Lunar New Year. Uneasy, he said, was the process of leaving unpainted the spaces that called for the white color. BenCab expressed his intention to paint all the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. He has finished only four so far.

As in all exhibits of BenCab, icon Sabel must find a niche. Two watercolors put on view were of his famous bag lady with her robe flying and swirling around her.

Both exhibitions at the BenCab Museum will run until April 7.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jesuit priest Pierre Tritz remembered for passion to help dropouts return to school

Father Pierre Tritz is shown with children in front of ERDA Foundation at 66 Linaw Street in Quezon City.
By Nancy T. Lu

Back in 1981 or 35 years ago, a documentary film titled “Les Trottoirs de Manille (The Sidewalks of Manila)” aired on French television, revealing the shocking poverty of out-of-school children in the Philippine capital. Unraveled dramatically was the heart-wrenching tale of survival of the children scavengers in the depressed neighborhoods of Metro Manila like the garbage dump site known as the Smokey Mountain.

A French-born Jesuit priest, the principal resource person of the TV documentary, realized the extreme importance of education to build a better future for these school dropouts born to families who knew only a hand-to-mouth existence. He reached out to help the streetchildren whose jobless parents could not afford to keep them in school. He undertook to raise money to pay for these sons’ and daughters’ uniforms, books, project materials, school supplies and even transportation allowances to enable them to avail of the free primary school education offered by the government.

The priest launched in the 1970s a school dropout project for the informal settlers called Operasyion Balik-Paaralan or Operation Back-to-School. His staff rounded up the streetchildren to put them back in school. For the parents, he gradually organized skills training programs to prepare  them for a regular and stable means of livelihood.

His name: Father Pierre Tritz.

Father Tritz was born in Alsace Lorraine, a region in France which underwent occupation by the German forces and later reversion to France. As a result, he was fluent in both French and German. His language proficiency proved helpful when he went fund-raising in Europe for his projects in the Philippines. In fact, strangers he met while traveling by train around Europe gave cash and wrote out checks as their donations after hearing Father Tritz share with them the plight of the impoverished Filipino children in need of education for a better tomorrow. 

Father Pierre Tritz, second from right, updates his friends in Paris on the progress of his campaign to keep children of informal settlers in school.

For many years, he encouraged individuals’ sponsorships of disadvantaged and marginalized children to keep them in school. He personally wrote letters to thank benefactors whether in the Philippines or abroad for their generosity.
Former French First Lady Daniele Mitterrand even made a special private trip to the country when her husband President Francois Mitterrand was still in office because of her foundation’s interest in helping Father Tritz in his meaningful work for the poor through his Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation.
ERDA Foundation encourages corporate sponsorship of Christmas party for marginalized children. Father Pierre Tritz is seen with Alfonso Yuchengco  and  executives from Yuchengco's group of companies. 

Missionary greatness lies in inspiring others to generously spread love and work to help pull those mired in poverty and deprivation to arrive at a much better life. The soft-spoken Father Tritz touched so many lives throughout his years as a Catholic missionary in the Philippines.

Actually Father Tritz was ordained a Jesuit priest in Shanghai on June 4, 1947. His dream was to serve in China. But with the communist takeover in China in 1949, he was forced to leave, arriving in the Philippines on October 24, 1950. He spent the next over half a century showing his full commitment to making people aware of the importance of investing in the education of the young. He gave up his French citizenship to become a Filipino by presidential decree and concentrated with missionary zeal on work among the poorest of the poor in his adopted homeland.

The well-loved Father Tritz passed away at the age of 102 last September 10 at the UST Hospital in Manila. But for many who knew him, he continues to live and be remembered for his passion and greatness in inspiring caring for the poor.  The ERDA Foundation, his legacy, rallies those with the means to help bring down the high incidence of school dropouts in the Philippines.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Master poet Yue Qu Liao lives in the hearts and minds of writers and readers

By Nancy T. Lu

An alma mater always welcomes back with enormous pride the visiting alumni especially graduates who have gone on to become great achievers in their chosen careers.

Last July 9, the Chiang Kai-shek College in Manila warmly celebrated the return in spirit of the award-winning poet Yue Qu Liao 月典了 (Bartolome Tan Chua 蔡景龍). The occasion with local and foreign Chinese language poets in full attendance proved that the late Philippine-born talent in Chinese verse writing has continued to live in the hearts and minds of his many friends and admirers, including his well-known contemporary poets as well as fans and followers from the younger generation.

The awarding of the third batch of winners of the Yue Qu Liao Youth Modern Chinese Poetry Competition dominated the event which unfolded only two days before his 5th death anniversary.

The Yue Qu Liao Foundation which was established after the death of the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas awardee of the Writers Union of the Philippines five years ago launched the poetry contest, attracting once every two years young poets to submit entries and learn from the critiques and evaluations of older and experienced members of the local Chinese literati.

Zhi Shui (real name Yan Xu) led this year’s winners at the Yue Qu Liao Youth Poetry Awards with his poem, “Old House.” “Dream Searching” by An Ran (Shih Ya Wen) garnered second place and “Straw Rope” by Shi Nai Pan picked up third honor.. 

Honorable mention went to “Mountain Peak” by Zhang Mu Hui (Wang Li Jiao), “Mahal Kita” by Hong Zhong (Qiu Hong Zhong), “Nostalgia for the Past” by Liu Yun (Zheng Zhi Qin), and “Growing Up” by Ru Guo (Nian Yen Xin).

Thirty-nine aspiring young writers submitted 111 poems in this year’s contest. Each contestant was encouraged to enter at least five poems. The final winners were 21 to 31 years of age.

Dr. William Chua, Yue Qu Liao’s cardiologist brother who happens to be a painter and sculptor by avocation, designed the stainless trophy handed out to the top three awardees this year. The late poet’s Chinese nom de plume meaning “the moon in a waxing or waning crescent stage” inspired the design.

Yue Qu Liao, renowned for his published writings, co-founded with his close poet friends the Thousand Island Poetry Association in 1985, going on to help organize poetry forums as well as invite famous poets from China and Taiwan to share insights on poetry writing and reading at lectures to keep alive interest in creating modern Chinese poems.

The Thousand Island Poetry Association publishes on the first Wednesday of every month an entire page of poems in the widely-circulated newspaper World News to encourage local poets to write. Members of this leading group of poets in Metro Manila gather also in the evening on this day for poetry appreciation activities like reading of selected works as well as exchanges of ideas on poetry style and technique.

Yue Qu Liao’s Chinese verses and stanzas in his inimitable style have moved and excited countless readers, even intriguing them to pause and reflect on his amazing creative imagery and great sensitivity to nuances of life and living. His emotional outpourings have time and again revealed a depth of feelings so powerful as proven by the tears that flow down the cheeks of his touched readers.

Rosalinda Ong Chua, his essayist wife, confessed that getting acquainted with upperclassman Yue Qu Liao and responding to his electrifying approach and offer of friendship one fine day 50 years ago at the CKS College campus opened up the beginning of truly exhilarating episodes in her life. He looted her heart with his very romantic way with words.

Memories of this marriage partner of 45 years have inspired her to write revealing and moving essays. Life without him at her side in the last five years has made her more determined than ever to work and pass on his legacy in promoting interest in the literary field primarily through meaningful activities of the Yue Qu Liao Foundation and the Thousand Island Poetry Association.

The loving pair published together “Different Dreams, Same Bed” in 2007. He suggested at that time coming out with “Different Dreams, Same Bed (Part 2)” on their 50th wedding anniversary this year. With him gone, she still managed to launch a back-to-back expanded edition of his poems and her essays last July 9.

A mini memorabilia of Yue Qu Liao which was part of a poetry exhibit by senior members of the Thousand Island Poetry Association included one last love poem penned by the poet for his beloved bedfellow. He described love as cutting a finger and turning it into a branch to burn and keep her warm in the deep recess of her heart on a cold winter day. Dr. William Chua painstakingly created for the exhibit a diorama of his eldest brother as calligrapher working on this classic Yue Qu Liao poem.

“Poem Draft for Father,” another exhibited poem by Yue Qu Liao, described a first draft of poetry that was read carefully by his father. With his parent gone, noted the writer, the piece of paper was taken and folded by an unappreciative child into a boat and a plane. The verses could be paraphrased to mean that the beautiful culture of Chinese poetry was lost on the young, perhaps hinting a generation gap.

Words, words, words moved and warmed hearts at the memorable gathering of poets. Definitely a strong presence was the spirit of Yue Qu Liao. His little granddaughter Martina Bernice Chua even overcame earlier stage fright to sing ardently his verses on self-reflection.