DIRECTOR MAE CRUZ-ALVIAR ON FINDING HER AUDIENCE AND DEALING WITH THE YOUNG AND POPULAR

Film Notes
DIRECTOR MAE CRUZ-ALVIAR ON FINDING HER AUDIENCE AND DEALING WITH THE YOUNG AND POPULAR

By Pablo A. Tariman

Direk Mae Cruz-Alviar is fully aware that she is living in the world of make-believe and that she has to deal with two young stars with a huge mass following in “Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love.”

Direk Mae Cruz Alviar. What is important is to tell a good story and impart values and send out a message that the audience can learn from.

To be sure, she has earlier worked with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo (Crazy Beautiful You, Pangako Sa’yoand 24/7 In Love) and she has witnessed how the two has evolved through the years.

But the basics of good collaboration remains the same every time she starts a new project.

One of which is that it is important that when they work together, they are on the same wave-length.

Points out Direk Mae: “My routine at the start of every project is to sit down with them to discuss the project and also to get to know them (if I haven’t worked with them yet). I want to know what their views are on the story, their characters, their personal take on love and such. This practice trains them to think more critically about the roles they play and to learn to collaborate with their director. This also helps me see what we could use based on their input in creating their characters. I also lay down ground rules for those I will be working with for the first time. Especially young love teams, I always have to remind them not to let work get affected by their personal problems and to always take work seriously. After all, they still are kids! For those I’ve already worked with, it’s a chance to catch up and see how they’ve grown or changed.

What’s important is that the expectations of each other are clear and that we work as a team to reach our goal. Also, being much older than them, I have to know how to communicate with them in a way we could understand each other. I have to understand their language and for them to understand mine as well.”

It doesn’t come easy but for Direk Mae, the bridge to good collaboration begins with gaining the actors’ trust and respect. “It is also important that I get to know them well enough so I will know how to handle them. Since you are dealing with young people, it helps to be nurturing but to also have an iron fist when needed. I also take time to talk to them or even have fun with them when we are not working. It’s important to build that bond with them.”

Direk Mae Cruz Alviar with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo.Trust and respect are a must in all film collaboration.

Happily, Direk Mae has seen the two young stars evolve from beginners to professionals. For one, she noticed the two now take acting seriously. “To them this is not just a popularity contest nor is this a fleeting thing. They are actors and they see this as a career. They understand and appreciate the craft and they give 100 per cent to it. They are also critical thinkers, really understanding the scenes, their characters and the progression of the story.”

One thing that she liked very much is that the two has remained humble and grounded. “They don’t act like divas and are very warm to everyone and with no exception. Lastly, they are very appreciative of their status, the people who work hard for them and the fans and supporters who tirelessly show their love to them.”

After doing several romantic comedies through the years, the big challenge for her is how to make the new project different. “What I’ve come to realize is that surely you have to retain the same elements of ‘kilig’ and fun and drama. I know this is going to be different because for one, the casting is different, the attack is different—and the story is different from the others I’ve done. I feel that this is a good mix of romance, comedy and drama—not too cheesy, not overly comedic, not melodramatic, not too mature, not too juvenile. You have to know the brand of your actors. I honestly had a difficult time finding the right flavor since my actors are just fresh from a very mature ‘Barcelona’ and yet they are realistically just at the cusp of adulthood. I feel that we achieved in finding the right mix that the film requires.”

On the whole, she enjoyed working again with the popular love team plus working with her production and creative teams.

“We were filming out of town a lot and there were a lot of things to see which I enjoyed as well. However, the filming schedule was very tough. Being with this group made it fun and less stressful. The kids were so cooperative. My team also did their best in making the shoot run smoothly. As I always say, what goes on behind the scenes are the best memories of every project.”

Thus far, she has logged 22 years in showbiz which is practically half her life. “Looking back, I’d say those were my growing up years where I really learned about life. Almost all my life lessons happened there. Those years were exciting, scary, painful, fun and most of all humbling. I made a lot of mistakes and my learnings were life changing. It was like a rollercoaster ride of emotions and all my experiences in those twenty-two years made me who I am now.”

Of her mentors, she likes to single out Rory B. Quintos and Olivia Lamasan.” They’re like my mother hens in the industry. They’ve guided me not just in directing but also in life, in general. They also give me a good bop on the head whenever I need it.

Kathryn Bernardo with Pablo Tariman. The young actress has evolved from beginner to professional actor.

I also learned from Direk Marilou Diaz Abaya who taught us in our Master Class in Directing under Star Cinema. I also learned from all the directors I’ve worked with. I’m so fortunate that I got the chance to work with so many of them and to learn from all of them. I also learn from the actors I’ve worked with, my production and creative team who have various experiences with other directors as well. But most of all, I learned from my own mistakes.”

With all the varying profiles of film audiences she has to deal with, she tries to achieve something not necessary to please all of them. “Yes, I do keep my audience in mind. After all I create films for them. My goal is for more people to watch it so that the message of the film reaches more people. But it won’t get to a point where I will end up with a hodgepodge of a film just trying to accommodate the various audiences. Ultimately for me, what’s important is we tell a good story and that we impart values and send out a message that the audience can learn from.”

“ Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love” directed by Mae Cruz-Alviar opens in cinemas April 15. It has been rated B by the Cinema Evaluation Board.

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DIRECTOR DONDON SANTOS: A FASCINATION WITH NORTHERN LIGHTS

DIRECTOR DONDON SANTOS: A FASCINATION WITH NORTHERN LIGHTS
By Pablo A. Tariman

The director who megged “Noy” (a Coco Martin starrer) and “Dalaw” (a Kris Aquino horror film) is not one who easily enjoys talking about his project.

Direk Dondon Santos gazing at the Northern Lights in Alaska.

He has logged more than 20 years in showbiz directing films and teleseryes including special edition of MMK and Magpakailanman and this probably helped him judge potential stories that will connect with audiences.

He relates: “Three years ago, I went to Alaska and from there I toyed with the idea of a film on father-son relationship. I thought it would make a good project. Since I know the background of Piolo Pascual and his son Inigo, I thought he might as well play the lead role in this film. So, I sat with him, discussed the story and he was so touched by the storyline he immediately said yes.”

On the other hand, there is no escaping the fact that he was obsessed not just with the story but with the natural phenomenon called Northern Lights (also known as aurora borealis) which to many people hold not just scientific significance but personal and spiritual ones as well.

(Northern Lights according to a reference occur when electrically charged particles from the sun zoom into Earth’s atmosphere. The phenomenon is most commonly witnessed during fall and winter months at high-latitude locales, including Alaska and Northern Canada.

(An Eskimo legend says there is a land of giants living in the far north and whenever they are out with their torches to spear fish, they brighten the sky. Another legend tied with Northern Lights is that they are actually torches in the hands of their Ancestor Spirits, lighting the way for the souls of those who have just died, to lead them to the hereafter.)

Direk Dondon Santos (center) with Piolo Pascual and Jerald Napoles. Another look at overseas Filipino workers in Alaska.

For this reason, Direk Dondon took a lot of establishing shots in Alaska to capture the mystical Northern Lights as a natural backdrop of the story of the film. “I can relate to this personally because I have a brother who used to live in Norway and was always fascinated by the Northern Lights. He has moved on already but I cannot forget his fascination with this cluster of lights in the skies.”

Direk Dondon listens intently to Piolo how he relates to the Northern Lights. When he reacts, it was as though he was sharing the same life-changing experience.

Piolo opines: “Watching the Northern Lights is an enlightening experience. It gives us a thoroughly encompassing idea how vast the universe is and how small we are compared to the spectacle it creates. When one goes to see the Northern Lights, I feel it is also an occasion to love your fellow men and learn how to forgive and be forgiven. I can say it is a magical moment watching it and indeed it is a once in a lifetime experience. To fully enjoy it, you have to bring someone you can relate to. For sure, it will change your life.”

In this presscon, Direk Dondon seems relaxed just listening to what members of the cast went through filming “Northern Lights: A Journey to Love” in Alaska and New Zealand.

But on his own, he sees Northern Lights as a natural component of the story of the film. “I really saw to it that this natural phenomenon is right into the milieu on which the story is set. A father (played by Piolo) looks forward to seeing his son (Raikko Mateo) and how they are transformed with new love interest coming in with the Northern Lights in the background. I believe we have a good film we can be proud of.”

Yen Santos, Piolo Pascual and Raikko Mateo. Working with Direk Dondon was a breeze.

The director finds the leading lady (Yen Santos) and the child actor both very raw and that allows him great leeway to work on spontaneous character build up. “It is always rewarding working with real people not yet affected by stardom. You can help shape their characters the way you want it and without them having a compartmentalized idea of how to deal with their roles. Of course, their very distinct appearance helped a lot.”

Piolo admits working with Direk Dondon was always fruitful. “As a matter of fact, it was a breeze. He is very collaborative and our initial concept grew in scope and substance until we were able to find the common ground on which to find the real magic of the story.”

“The Northern Lights: A Journey to Love” released by Star Cinema opened in cinemas last March 29.

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LOWER DEPTHS

Film Notes
LOWER DEPTHS
By Pablo A. Tariman

Watching Joel Lamangan’s “Bhoy Intsik” is like looking into a typical DSW social case study report and reliving all the personas involved.

Raymond Francisco as the gay con man in a cemetery scene from “Bhoy Intsik.” A deeply felt portrayal.

It isn’t a gratifying subject because it involved two felons with contrasting characters and different backgrounds. One is a gay ex-husband whose only child was electrocuted while he was flirting with a lover and the other is an abandoned orphan who has learned to live by the skin of his teeth, so to speak.

When they meet, screenwriter Ronald Carballo provides the milieu in which they cope and manage and love beyond the call of flesh.

Probably one of the timeliest and the most powerful entry in the recently concluded Sinag Maynila film festival is “Bhoy Intsik” aided in a large measure by a riveting story and screenplay by Carballo.

Opening with a bird’s eye view of the Cavite public cemetery, “Bhoy Intsik” grows on the viewer like a social time bomb waiting to explode with distressing story of how small people cope with poverty. They are into small-time gambling, they are into selling internal organs and they offer young bodies to the well-off who want a good time on their natal day.

Raymond Francisco with his Sinag Maynila Best Actor trophy. His hard work paid off.

These are the disconcerting scenarios awaiting the characters of lead actors Raymond Francisco as the gay con man and Ronwaldo Martin as the young vagabond.

With a well-written screenplay, the film is at once engrossing with razor-sharp ensemble acting between two felons superbly played by Raymond Francisco and Ronwaldo Martin.

You know you are with stage actors as you notice the superb ensemble acting of the supporting cast namely Tony Mabesa (as the pastor), Jim Pebanco (the gay character who likes to call himself Digang de Lima),Shyr Valdez (as the ex-wife) and Elora Espano (Martin’s lover), among others.

Director Lamangan hewed closely to the powerful story by avoiding unnecessary musical scoring and used quiet moments to speak for themselves. The result is a poignant film re-exploring age-old social problems minus the hysteria.

Alas, the film is as timely as PNP’s Operation Tokhang with a concluding scene that highlights the brutal senselessness of extrajudicial killing. One character listens to the TV news clip with the President underscoring his anti-drug war. With a sense of detachment, he turns off the TV set and decides he will live his life the way he wants it.

Like it or not, “Bhoy Intsik” is contemporary sociology as it zeroes in on true-to-life characters doomed to live in the country’s Lower Depths.

It brought out the best of Francisco as the gay con man and the most compelling side of Martin as a natural supporting actor.

Surely, one would count “Bhoy Intsik” as one of Director Lamangan’s best output.

The cast of “Bhoy Intsik.” Commendable ensemble acting.

Happily, the film won the top grosser box office award and the well-deserved best actor trophy for Francisco who shared the award with Kristoffer King (for “Kristo”).

On the whole, the awards meant the audiences easily connected with the story of “Bhoy Intsik” enough to give it a well-deserved audience patronage.

Other Sinag Maynila entries worth watching (if there is a repeat screening) are “Hango” (Best Documentary), “Aliens Ata (Best Short Film), “Beyond The Block” (SM People’s Choice Award) and “Tu Pug Imatuy” (Best Picture).

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‘BLACK SWAN’FOR REAL IN BALLET PHILIPPINES’ SWAN LAKE

‘BLACK SWAN’FOR REAL IN BALLET PHILIPPINES’ SWAN LAKE
By Pablo A. Tariman

The 2010 Darren Aronofsky film “Black Swan” came to life when Ballet Philippines mounted Swan Lake at the CCP last February 24 to 26.

Natalie Portman in the Darren Aronofsky film, "Black Swan."

Natalie Portman in the Darren Aronofsky film, “Black Swan.”

“Black Swan” — which won for Natalie Portman the Best Actress Oscar trophy — had its world premiere as the opening film at the 67th Venice Film Festival in 2010. It received a standing ovation whose length Variety said made it “one of the strongest Venice openers in recent memory.”

Manila balletomanes had a taste of the Black Swan in the recent revival of Swan Lake with three ballerinas alternating in the part namely Candice Adea, Denise Parungao and Jemima Reyes with the Siegfreds of Joseph Phillips, Victor Maguad and Gary Corpuz.

“I see the Black Swan as grounded and mysterious and obsessed with revenge,” said Adea during the presscon. “But the thing is I also have to work on the White Swan to be able to give a good character contrast.”

The country's first full-length Black Swan, Maniya Barredo.

The country’s first full-length Black Swan, Maniya Barredo.

Parungao said she sees the Black Swan as the scheming kind. “She is the other side of good people and I just have to imagine how it is to be bad and to possess a black soul. It is a tough character to portray if you are not naturally bad.”

Adea is the first Filipina to win gold medal in the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in 2012 and silver medal at the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition.

Last seen at the CCP as the sensational Nutcracker Prince and Basilio in Don Quixote two years ago, Phillips’ Siegfred will be seen for the first time in Manila with Nonoy Froilan restaging the coming production.

Parungao and Reyes agree on one prerequisite of the ballet warhorse.

Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad in a Black Swan episode.

Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad in a Black Swan episode.

“This ballet needs a lot of stamina. We have to secure our technique first but we should not lose sight of the characterization. We are white swans and black swans in this ballet. For sure, nothing is easy doing these dual roles.”

The country’s first Black Swan in a full-length ballet was prima ballerina Maniya Barredo with the Siegfred of Froilan in 1982.

He recalled: “Apart from being a very lyrical dancer, Maniya is strong technically. I don’t have to work hard to support her because she can do balance with very little help from her partner.”

In the Black Swan episode, balletomanes usually count in unison curious if the lead dancer can complete the required 32 killer fouettes.

Maguad said the hard part of the ballet is not just portraying the prince but being a good and reliable partner. “Good partnering is another equally difficult requirement for a Siegfred aside from projecting his princely character. It is not enough that you can lift the ballerina without effort. Foremost of all, she should look good up in the air and down.”

Candice Adea as the dazzling Black Swan with the Siegfred of Joseph Phillips.

Candice Adea as the dazzling Black Swan with the Siegfred of Joseph Phillips.

Reyes (as Odette-Odile) and Maguad (as Siegfred) ended the first weekend run of Swan Lake literally with a bang.

Reyes was a surprisingly tender Odette with a lot of delicate swan-like turns of her head and with arms simply perfect for a swan used to good advantage in her dramatic exit in Act II (White Swan).

Moreover, she was a flashy Odile in Act III delivering triple fouettes in the grand pas and outnumbering the output of the earlier Odiles.The crowd simply went crazy as the fouettes — later turning into pirouttes — went as far as the 20th mark.

Reyes did her homework well and she was lucky to have a good and stable partner in Victor Maguad who was a superb and remarkably youthful Siegfred.

Denise Parungao as Black Swan with the Siegfred of Garry Corpuz.

Denise Parungao as Black Swan with the Siegfred of Garry Corpuz.

As the icon of choreography George Balanchine once noted: “All leading dancers want to dance Swan Lake at least once in their careers and all audiences want to see them dance it. To succeed in Swan Lake, is to become overnight a ballerina. Petipa and Ivanov (the composer and choreographer) are to the dancer what Shakespeare is to the actor. If you can succeed in their choreography parts, there is a suggestion that you can succeed at anything.”

(Swan Lake will have its last weekend run March 3, 4 5 at the CCP. Call the CCP box office (8321125 or TicketWorld ) for tickets.)

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THE INCOMPARABLE SWANS IN MANILA’S BALLET SCENE

View from the Wing
THE INCOMPARABLE SWANS IN MANILA’S BALLET SCENE
By Pablo A. Tariman

When the curtain rises for the last weekend run of Swan Lake March 4 and 5 at the CCP, Filipino balletomanes will once again call to mind the earlier exposure to dance of Filipino audiences to visiting Russian artists.

Ballet Philippines' Swan Lake in its well-received Friday night opening. Ballet was first seen in Moscow in 1877.(Photo Mario Hernando)

Ballet Philippines’ Swan Lake in its well-received Friday night opening. Ballet was first seen in Moscow in 1877.(Photo Mario Hernando)

Swan Lake was first seen at Bolshoi Theater in Moscow in 1877.

The late dance chronicler Ronnie Alejandro (who used to dance and choreograph) wrote that one of the greatest ballerinas of all time, Anna Pavlova, also danced at the original Manila Grand Opera House in 1922, some two years before she announced her retirement.

One outstanding Filipino figure in dance also in awe of Russian artists is Maniya Barredo, who had a triumphant reign as prima ballerina of Atlanta Ballet in the United States.

While Maniya was in awe of Russian artists, she was herself an object of generous praises coming from them. Performing in Cuba for the first time in a dance festival that featured the world’s best dancers, Maniya not only attracted the Cubans but the Russian dancers present in the festival.

Dancing Romeo and Juliet in the first part of the program in one theatre, she created a sensation forcing Russian teachers and choreographers Natalia Dudinskaya and Konstantin Sergeyev to leave the theatre where Gelshey Kirkland was dancing Giselle and proceeded to where the Filipino was dancing Juliet.

Two great Russian dancers identified with Swan Lake are two great prima ballerina assolutas — Natalia Makarova who danced at the CCP in 1979 and Maya Plisetskaya who did her signature Dying Swan also at the CCP in 1982.

Natalia Makarova in black and white. She is an incomparable dancer of this planet.

Natalia Makarova in black and white. She is an incomparable dancer of this planet.

I recently watched a video of Makarova before her retirement. She said her dance life wasn’t all about flowers and applause. It was also about disasters on the ballet stage.

She started at the corps de ballet, was asked to fill in for a sick member and ended up doing a funny version of a parrot dance she never rehearsed. “I was called to the office of the director and I thought my dance career was over. He said I was being promoted from corps de ballet member to soloist.”

Her first Odette (Swan Lake) was marred by a creaking elevator at the Bolshoi Theater while audiences were being given an illusion of a swan swimming through the lake. “The Russian elevators then were not as good as they were today where you just push a button and you are up or down anywhere quickly without noise. My swan pose became a trembling one when the elevator floor started making strange noises and the music that I heard was not anything from Swan Lake.”

In 1982 some three years after performing in Manila, Makarova was injured in an accident during a performance at the Opera House of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

She was hurt when a pipe that was part of the scenery fell and hit her as she was dancing in a revival of “On Your Toes,” the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical. She was struck by the pipe during the second act, at the beginning of the “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” ballet sequence. The rest of the performances were cancelled.

Natalia Makarova and Patrick Bissell after their Giselle in Manila in 1979 with Edna Vida and other dancers of Ballet Philipines. (Photo from the collection of Edna Vida)

Natalia Makarova and Patrick Bissell after their Giselle in Manila in 1979 with Edna Vida and other dancers of Ballet Philipines. (Photo from the collection of Edna Vida)

When I interviewed her in 1979 on the CCP main theater stage, she started with an apology, “Excuse me but I speak poor English.”

Beside her was her dancing partner – the then 21-year-old Patrick Bissell – a well-proportioned hunk of a man who was also a favorite partner of other great ballerinas like Leslie Browne, Cynthia Gregory, Gelsey Kirkland, Jolina Menendez and Martine van Hamel.

Amidst the eerie Giselle graveyard props, Makarova talked about her true love which was dancing, her fate after the defection from Russia and how she managed between dancing and motherhood.

After her dramatic defection in 1970, she changed a lot according to her.

“Life is like that and it’s true to me. Careers, images, traditions change – and so have I. I didn’t have a hard time trying to get a job. When I defected, it was just timely because at that time, a dance company was in need of a new name and they found me.”

Does she live her role to do well in the dance medium?

“That’s not necessary. Suppose you play the role of a madwoman, do you have to be like that in real life? I’ve lived through some of my roles. To concentrate on one role, I listen to the music the night before the performance. There is nothing like music. It stimulates me, it gives me joy, it makes me cry, too.”

Makarova explained how she transforms herself for a particular role.

“It is very much an inner vision for me. The change for the role starts within me. You can’t afford to lose control. Art is art. When it’s inside you as in a role in Giselle, I put the skin of Giselle in me. It is a role you perfect by experience, by constant practice and unending search for artistry. You just have to be involved.”

Natalia Makarova (first from left) with fellow honoree actor Dustin Hoffman in the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors program.

Natalia Makarova (first from left) with fellow honoree actor Dustin Hoffman in the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors program.

In the last rehearsals before opening night for excerpt from Giselle, I watched her movements and I was gradually carried away by the way she essayed lyricism in the dance medium. Her turns were swift but luminously graceful, her leaps were like a giraffe caught in slow motion by a movie camera. She was quite a sight. When she wanted certain parts of the accompaniment right, she hummed with the orchestra and made suggestions on the way. “That’s wrong, that’s wrong. Stretch that a little, just a little before my exit.”

When she was in Paris 1978 eight years after her defection, she saw her friends at Kirov for the first time after nine years and she unabashedly confessed, “I cried on the second act of Swan Lake.”

In 2012, Makarova was one of the honorees in the annual Kennedy Center Honors along with bluesman Buddy Guy, actor Dustin Hoffman, television host David Letterman and rock band Led Zeppelin.

When asked if she considered herself Russian or American, Makarova replied in her native Russian tongue answered simply. “I am a ballerina. For me ballet has no borders, no barriers – it’s a universal art form. I am a dancer of this planet.”

Filipino danseur Nonoy Froilan who is re-staging Swan Lake March 4 and 5 had an uncanny recollection of Makarova: “As a ballet great, we expected her to be very demanding but she wasn’t at all. She has a way of getting what she wants without flaring up. She is very receptive no matter how advanced her training is from us. When she’s late for rehearsals, she apologizes. And she listens to corrections. Young as we are in the CCP Dance, she goes down to our level to work out certain differences. She knows how to adjust to limitations.”

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TWO DAYS IN A FAMILIAR TOWN

Feature
TWO DAYS IN A FAMILIAR TOWN
By Pablo A. Tariman

Many things come to mind as the Catanduanes Tribune observes its 36th year.

The marvelous view from Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

The marvelous view from Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes. Photo by Floyd Evangelista Flores.

It is the only paper you turn to when you want to announce a coming concert and the only one faithfully chronicling the passing away of your loved ones.

To be sure, it has chronicled love, life and perfidy in the island as well as the achievements of its noteworthy islanders.

I have known Tribune’s founder, Fred Gianan, from way back when the island’s Kit Tatad still held power and influence in the 70s.

I would visit Fred in his Manila Hotel room to get in touch and always, he was happy I was making good being published in national publications.

He must have been surprised to know I was into classical music as he attended one of my concerts at the Provincial Capitol lobby and telling me, “You are into music but I also notice you are also active in the movies.”

I couldn’t tell Fred the arts is my legal wife and that showbiz was a necessary mistress. The first has a select readership and the second gets you to the masses. I am happy with both readers in the opposite spectrum.

It must have been my brother who brought me closer to the Catanduanes Tribune. When he passed away in 2012 a few days short of his 62nd birthday, I met Tribune editor and publisher Fernan Gianan who invited me to write regularly.

Cut off from the islands for many decades, I thought I would reach out to my fellow islanders most of whom have no access to the national papers.

I started with personal recollections and then turned to the movies and the arts which I cover regularly for the national dailies.

It was in that lobby concert in the late 90s that I would see Fred Gianan for the last time and so with other friends.

Pablo Tariman in Batag Beach in the capital town.

Pablo Tariman in Batag Beach in the capital town.

Other friends I saw in that concert included island poet Jose A. Tablizo who gave me a draft of a book of poetry that he wanted published. JAT, as he was called in the inner circle, chronicled the idyllic days of the island before the onset of the motel inns and the discovery of shabu laboratory near the roadside of Palta.

Was it JAT who accompanied me to visit a dear friend, writer-journalist Benny Bagadiong, nestled in his own nipa hut by the sea adjacent to his regular residence?

He passed away without getting his book published and in one concert at the provincial capitol lobby in 2001, I dedicated the event to the friends and kins I have lost: Fred Gianan, Jose Tablizo, Beda Camacho and my mother (my father moved on earlier).

I was in Virac last week to represent my late brother in a class reunion Batch ’67 under Tribune contributor Rosulo Manlangit and got reunited with the same teachers we both had in the same school (CNHS).

Got to see my teachers, Mrs. Araceli Lim, Miss Rose Surtida and Mr. Domingo Taperla. How gracefully they have aged!

Also saw my first high school crush who came with her daughter now based abroad. The face remained maiden-like especially when she changed into a school uniform to join an ensemble singing “High School Life” which was the theme song from the Maryo de los Reyes film, “High School Circa 1965” which was the year I left CNHS.

In this reunion of Batch 67, I got to see a townmate who used reigned as Miss Baras at one time – Evelyn Torrente, now Mrs. Clerigo.

Moreover, Catanduanes Midtown Inn was a familiar hangout when it was known by another name and owned by a popular politician.

If Tribune had its share of libel cases (it is a badge of honor among journalists), I had my own share of it and my first complainant was from the island after I wrote my early memoir in a popular women’s magazine patronized by the island school teachers.

The author with his high school teachers Rose Surtida and Domingo Taperla. They haven't aged a bit. (Photo: Francisco Camacho)

The author with his high school teachers Rose Surtida and Domingo Taperla. They haven’t aged a bit. (Photo: Francisco Camacho)

In the late 70s when the inn was known by another name, I used to drink with my friend on its rooftop and later dive in the middle part of the pier at midnight in my birthday suit.

My friend wasn’t horrified while he watched by the dike. He knew I was born — and grew up — by the sea. He figured I was depressed by my first libel case and allowed me to drown my sorrow in the only way I know – to drink beer and swim my sorrows away.

A few years later, my friend died in a helicopter crash along with a media friend who had several children by different fathers.

There used to be a telegraph office on the inn’s ground floor and that’s where I received the news of my former high school classmate who passed away in Mexico and brought to a nearby cemetery with not a single patch of wood to warm her up.

When I saw her off at the Virac airport in the middle 60s on her way to Mexico, I was reading a book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay given to me by a Peace Corps Volunteer named William Keating.

My favorite stanza was —

“My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light.”

I was in Mexico in the middle 90s and on my way to a theater to cover a cultural event, I thought of my high school classmate while someone on the taxi radio was singing “Historia de un Amor.”

Indeed, this island inn is another repository of my memories.

For the record, I was born in a village by the sea called Tilod in Baras, Catanduanes and the woman who took care of me as a child has a Canada-based daughter who is now my FB friend.

The sixties in the island saw me playing Rizal in an elementary graduation play and on to public high school in Virac, Catanduanes where I appeared in a play called “Seven Years” with classmates Gracia Lucero and Guadalupe Tomagan, among others. One Mrs. Tacorda directed the play.

The late island poet Jose A. Tablizo with Estrella Placides. The island the poet knew is no more. (Photo: Gerry Rubio)

The late island poet Jose A. Tablizo with Estrella Placides. The island the poet knew is no more. (Photo: Gerry Rubio)

This was the decade I saw my first ballet in the island. Since I cannot afford a ticket, I climbed a tree with a view of an open window overlooking the Catanduanes College stage and saw the best of Anita Kane Ballet in the late 60s.

On my last day in the island, I revisited a landmark of my youth.

Farmacia Guerrero — where I took my first typing lessons — is now gone blown to smithereens by Typhoon Nina.

However, this visit afforded me to see the Catanduanes Midtown Resort in Batag, Virac, Catanduanes for the first time.

Over beer and guinatan served by Mr. and Mrs. Napol Co, I got to reflect in this beautiful and pristine place where the only thing you hear is the sound of waves.

This idyllic part of the island brought back memories of the home province that will never come back.

Island poet Jose A. Tablizo summarized them thus in this poem —

“There are many things we do not have –
A few things we do have.
We have no hustling, wide, cement boulevards
With glittering streetlights; no sinful women
on the boulevard under the street lights,
We have no traffic jams, no ticket fixers,
We have lazy narrow roads – and lazier streams
We have devastating typhoons and generous seas
For what we do not have, we are proud:
For what we do have we are humble.”

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KOREAN DIVA DONATES TALENT FEE TO HOME FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN

Concert Updates
KOREAN DIVA DONATES TALENT FEE TO HOME FOR ABANDONED CHILDREN

By Pablo A. Tariman

Grammy-award winning Korean diva Sumi Jo said here the arts are in a better position to unite people and neutralize political tensions among the superpowers.

Sumi Jo during her last engagement in Manila 2014. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Sumi Jo during her last engagement in Manila 2014. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Jo, the first Korean nominated in the Oscar awards last year for her interpretation of a song used in the film “Youth” announced in a message sent by email that she is donating her talent fee to the Tulay ng Kabataan Foundation which is taking care of abandoned and abused children in Manila.

The Tulay ng Kabataan home for abandoned children was the same orphanage that Pope Francis visited in 2015.

Ms. Jo, a devout Christian, is known for her charitable works for orphanages and for advocacies against cruelty to animals.

Said the world-acclaimed soprano who graced the Oscar red carpet last year: “I have good memories of my last concert in Manila and I was happy to be able to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda. This time I would like to help Filipino children and show people that I care a lot about promoting friendship between South Korea and the Philippines.”

Sumi Jo with children of Don Bosco in 2014. Photo: Elizabeth Lolarga

Sumi Jo with children of Don Bosco in 2014. Photo: Elizabeth Lolarga

The soprano who is the cultural ambassador of her country and UNESCO ambassador for peace said she is concerned that there is so much publicity about a Korean killed in Manila and Koreans allegedly involved in the drug trade. “There is more to Koreans than we read in the newspapers. We love music and the arts and international competitions will show Koreans excel in music. I do believe music can do a lot to promote genuine friendship. For this reason, I want to give a good example by sharing what I have with less fortunate Filipino children. I hope to show my countrymen and my Filipino fans the meaning of sharing. Of course, I can share more with all my heart and mind if they watch my concert at the Meralco Theater. My music can express a lot. I am inviting Filipino journalists to receive my message of deep concert and friendship through music. My concert will be a meaningful occasion to promote friendship between our countries.”

Sumi Jo with Pope Francis during his visit in Korea two years ago.

Sumi Jo with Pope Francis during his visit in Korea two years ago.

The Korean diva received a standing ovation during her 2014 engagement in Manila and critics described her as “an operatic talent of earth-shaking proportion.”

She was also well-received in her debut engagement with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Long Yu at the Lincoln Center last Jan. 31 and with Hong Kong Philharmonic last February 3 and 4, 2017.

Sumi Jo is scheduled to arrive in Manila Sunday night (February 5) via Cathay Pacific in time for her engagement at the Meralco Theater on Tuesday, February 7, 8 pm with Filipino pianist Najib Ismail.

Pablo Tariman with Sumi Jo during the 2014 presscon in Manila. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Pablo Tariman with Sumi Jo during the 2014 presscon in Manila. Photo: Anna Leah Sarabia

Sumi Jo’s program on Feb. 7 includes Benedict’s “Gypsy and the bird,” Purcell’s “Music for a while,” Rossini’s “La pastorella d’Alpi,” Bellini’s “Eccomi, O quante volte” from I Capuletti e Montecchi, Gounod’s “Serenade,” Ravel’s “Habanera” ( Vocalise en forme de Habanera), Delibes’s “Le Fille de Cadix,” Martini’s “Plasir d’amour,” Santiago’s “Nocturne,” Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” and Verdi’s “E’strano, Sempre libera” from La Traviata.

The February 7 concert is made possible in partnership with Marco Polo Hotel Manila, 98.7 DZFE The Master’s Touch, Steinway and Sons Piano and Leica.

For ticket inquiries, call 09065104270 or Ticketworld at 891-9999, CAEO at tel. no. 7827164, 09183473027or 09209540053.

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WHEN FOOLS RUSH IN

Film Notes
WHEN FOOLS RUSH IN
By Pablo A. Tariman

The variations on love and destiny have long been over explored in cinema to the point of extreme boredom.

Angeline Quinto pays lip service to Jake Cuenca in "Foolish Love." Comic encounters and lofty poetry.

Angeline Quinto pays lip service to Jake Cuenca in “Foolish Love.” Comic encounters and lofty poetry.

In one film after another, characters of lead actors look for signs and mistake one seemingly positive moment for the real thing. But trouble is things can go awry, the perceived signs could be nothing but chance encounters.

Director Joel Lamangan and writer Jerry Gracio offer an entertaining, if, highly poetic twist in “Foolish Love” with another character (Angeline Quinto) perennially obsessed with destiny and mistaking people she accidentally meets as signs of a future romantic destiny unfolding.

Quinto emerges as a natural comedian by just being the character she is: naïve, gullible, but remaining positive whatever the outcome of her fantasy is. And no matter how ridiculous.

By turns, she is encouraged and warned by a close circle of friends (Cai Cortez, Miho Nishida) wishing the best for their friend.

Fun and confusion start when she looks for a childhood sweetheart in the most unlikely places. After one ‘false alarm’ after another, she meets an unlikely answer to her daily supplication when she sees a forlorn man (Jake Cuenca) seemingly left out in the rain. She falls for this one and throws caution to the wind. She is gradually initiated into the perks of a romantic love and even agreeing to do the kinky ritual demanded by her lover who gets extreme delight in being strangled while making love.

Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida. A new hot love team in the making?

Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida. A new hot love team in the making?

The funny side of the lead character is that she remains naïve even as she goes through the rituals of love-making – just to please her man. Quinto’s character has two comic sides — one on the side of naivete and the other in the form of blatant ignorance.

Indeed, this mad search for destiny has driven her to go to church regularly to seek the counsel of her aunt who happens to be a nun.

In one desperate phase of her love-hungry life, she nearly answered the call of the convent to the horror of her mother (Beverly Salviejo) who’d rather see a single mother daughter than be morally tortured by the possibility of a chaste, if, holy figure in the family.

Much of the fun and comic delight of “Foolish Love” come from the long search of a childhood sweetheart. Another is her regular consultation with her friends who are going through difficult transitions themselves.

On the whole, “Foolish Love” elicits screams and guffaws of fun from the audience — thanks to the consistent portrayal of Quinto as a church-going ‘manang’.

Salviejo as her mother provides the portrait of another middle age, lovelorn woman seeking refuge from loneliness from dance instructors. With ease and insouciant finesse, Salviejo can easily metamorphose from a lonely widow to a concerned mother and as a harum-scarum ballroom dancing aficionado.

Vangie Labalan fares very well as the much-hated corporate witch while Jason Gainza does an earthshaking confession at the MRT station which set the perspective of the lonesome character of Quinto.

On the other hand, Jake Cuenco was a perfect foil as the schizophrenic loner to Quinto’s destiny- obsessed character.

From the way the audience screamed no end in every scene of PBB love team Tommy Esguerra and Miho Nishida, you can sense a new unlikely love team in the making.

Direk Lamangan is not associated with romantic comedies but in this project, he found a way to make something comic and dramatic in the characters. One could sense he used a light brew on which to make something of the story.

The character of Quinto keeps a diary in which she waxes poetic at every turn. Her output is sophomoric but the one coming from the loner (Cuenca) was at best poetry of the exemplary kind.

Poster of "Foolish Love."

Poster of “Foolish Love.”

This is to be expected as the writer (Gracio) is a certified poet and indeed, poetry finding their way in the screenplay was a big bonus in this film with such lofty lines as –

Nabubuo tayo kapag umiibig
Matapos mapilas ang mga damdamin
Sa paulit-ulit na pagkakaputol
Ng mga relasyong sa ating akala
Ay walang hangganan, ngunit natatapos
Sa paghihiwalay. Tayo’y naiiwang
Kabiyak na lamang, tila mga anghel
Na iisa’ng pakpak, hindi makaangat
Kahit na piliting kumampay pataas.
Hinahanap natin ang ating kabiyak
Sa makakasiping, makakapareha.
At kapag nakita, magkaakbay tayong
Magpapaimbulog sa kaitaasan—
Sapagkat buo na dahil umiibig.

The film is light and breezy and with just the right amount of fun and comic encounters thrown in.

Like it or not, it is another version of a tableaux called a funny valentine.

“Foolish Love” directed by Joel Lamangan is now showing in cinemas.

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TALE OF POSSESSION IN A HIGH-RISE CONDO

Film Notes
TALE OF POSSESSION IN A HIGH-RISE CONDO
By Pablo A. Tariman

There are many things going for “Ilawod” deftly directed by Dan Villegas.

The cast of “Ilawod.” Genuine horror from within.

The cast of “Ilawod.” Genuine horror from within.

For one, it has a solid story written by award-winning writer Yvette Tan and the seasoned actors are complimented by highly promising young people in the cast.

The cinematography doesn’t call attention to itself but with superb musical scoring and sound editing, the film strikes terror in the heart of moviegoers without trying too hard.

One likes the quiet pace with which the film builds up but when you least expected it, you realize anyone can be possessed even if you are enjoying the safe, if, relative comfort in a high-rise condominium.

Even without effects, the film triumphs as a horror vehicle with good writing and imaginative direction. For another, the film provides good contrast between rural and city living and along with it, the cultural contrasts in how rural and city folks take to the existence of the supernatural.

Director Dan Villegas with Ian Veneracion and Epi Quizon. A real creepy tale without the effects.

Director Dan Villegas with Ian Veneracion and Epi Quizon. A real creepy tale without the effects.

The pessimism that follows every tale of possession is exemplified by a reporter played by Ian Veneracion who thinks the possessed person is just acting for the benefit of media persons with camera. On the whole, this pessimism is shared by his wife played by Iza Calzado.

But as the story unfolds, the pessimism turns into quiet alarm until it begins to wreak havoc into their quiet and simple condominium living.

The good thing about this film is that it horrifies by just quietly following a good story of possession in the countryside.

In this film, Veneracion and Calzado reach a level of acting that is at once mature and quietly spontaneous. There is no attempt to overact or over delineate a scene. For these two lead actors, one saw perfect ensemble acting at its best.

Iza Calzado in “Ilawod.” A well-nuanced performance.

Iza Calzado in “Ilawod.” A well-nuanced performance.

The supporting cast (Epi Quizon, Joel Saracho, Ruby Ruiz) add to a certain level of credibility in the story as they talk and look like the ordinary people in Tan’s engrossing story.

But as the film reaches its horrifying finale, you realize the young actors have allowed the film to reach a level of terror hinted in the story.

Harvey Bautista (son of Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista) reveals a lot of promise in this acting debut and Xyriel Manabat jolts everyone in her concluding appearance before the credits rolled on.

Shooting the underwater scenes in “Ilawod.” The young actors are equally at their best.

Shooting the underwater scenes in “Ilawod.” The young actors are equally at their best.

But a contender for best actress is Therese Malvar as the water spirit, Isla. She provides a lot of spooky moments that range from the sensual to the hair-raising.

This early, “Ilawod” is my first candidate for horror film of the year.

It yields a lot of horrifying moments it will likely follow you even after the screening.

“Ilawod” directed by Dan Villegas opens in cinemas January 18.

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A YOUNG FERRANDO IN MOZART’S COSI FAN TUTTE’

Opera Notes
A YOUNG FERRANDO IN MOZART’S COSI FAN TUTTE’
by Pablo A. Tariman

Metro Manila’s music lovers will have a respite from the long opera drought when the MCO Foundation mounts a contemporary version of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte (All Women Are the Same)” at the Ayala Museum on Monday, November 28.

Tenor Carlo Manalac. All set for Cosi fan tutte November 28 at Ayala Museum.

Tenor Carlo Manalac. All set for Cosi fan tutte November 28 at Ayala Museum.

The opera is basically about two friends who wanted to test the loyalties of their girl-friends by putting on a good disguise as suitors.

Playing Ferrando is 28-year old tenor Carlo Manalac who earlier played Rodolfo in a new version of Puccini’s La Boheme set in Baguio City. Earlier, he was Padre Salve in an earlier staging of “Kanser” and has just wrapped up a series of performances as Crisostomo Ibarra in the musical version.

The tenor admits the role of Ferrando was a first in his opera repertoire and he studied it by listening to the 1996 recording of the opera featuring tenor Frank Lopardo and soprano Renee Fleming. “I chose the recording because you can see a lot of nuances in the music and the characters while they are singing.”

Tenor Carlo Manalac with soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi. The opera  has a new look to connect with millennials.

Tenor Carlo Manalac with soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi. The
opera has a new look to connect with millennials.

To him, one tough challenge of the opera is that the tenor almost always uses the upper register which is true of all the works of Mozart. “Every time I sing, the feeling is I am always up there with no chances of going down. Another tough part is the difficult passagio which is the transition from one high register to another.”

To have a good look at the opera inside and out, he had to watch the entire opera in different versions. “The English libretto helps a lot to better understand the opera. The difficult part is that you have to be prepared to meet its vocal and mental demands.”

When he sang Boheme as Rodolfo, he noticed that the music has a wider range and with few high notes to worry about. But with Mozart, the arias sit on the passagio and if you are not focused, you’ll be in a lot of vocal trouble.”

Between him and the character, there is a common ground. “Ferrando is very hot-tempered and I am like that too if things don’t go well as planned. The thing is he is very romantic as well.”

He gets to sing the difficult aria “Tradito schernito” in the second act and it requires a lot emotionally because it is about the character’s fits of jealousy and anger. “The tendency to start pushing because of the nature of the music is so tempting. It is also sitting on the passagio (high register) almost all of the time.”

Moreover, he has no doubt the opera will appeal to the millennials in its current version. “I do believe that visually, this Ayala Museum staging will appeal to the millennials even as I know the opera has been staged in different versions. But we saw to it audiences can relate to its contemporary setting.”

Come opening night, Carlo will usually be preoccupied with being happy with his performance. “I must satisfy myself first before I can say I have done my best. I always try to achieve that ‘feel good’ status by putting on a good show. I am almost sure the production will give everyone a stress-free evening. The opera is really light and fun. I am sure every music lover can relate to it.”

The cast of Cosi fan tutte.Chamber opera at Ayala Museum.

The cast of Cosi fan tutte. Chamber opera at Ayala Museum.

The other members of the cast include members of the Viva Voce ensemble namely soprano Anna Migallos as Fiordiligi, soprano Aissa Guilatco as Dorabella, baritone Carlo Falcis as Guilegno, mezzo soprano Roxy Aldiosa as the wacky Despina
and bass baritone Roby Mahusay as Don Alfonso with musical direction by Camille Lopez Molina.

(For tickets to the November 28 performance of Cosi fan tutte, please call Ticketworld at tel. no. 891-9999, MCOF, 997-9483, 782-7184 or cel. no. 0920-9540053 and 0918-347-3027. The opera production was made possible in association with Ayala Museum, Lyric Piano and DZFE. 98.7 The Master’s Touch.)

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