By Pablo A. Tariman

I am not one person you can invite to a place just because it was fashionable to be seen there.

Boracay on a clear day. Tourism’s glory became nightmare for the environment. Photo: Otavio Licad Meneses

Thus, many years earlier, I was not in a hurry to see Boracay.

I was born in an island probably as idyllic as Boracay and I am not easily impressed by tourism come-ons.

Imagine my shock when a major network invited me to cover a re-screening of an old film called “Temptation Island” with all its original cast attending. When I first watched the film in 1980, the members of the cast were mostly beauty queens in their 20s or 30s and meeting them once again in this paradise island many decades later would be a virtual test if they grew old gracefully.

After swimming at day time (by the sea and in the hotel pool), a media colleague and I were invited to beach party with some of the members of the original cast of the campy film in attendance.

Pianist Cecile Licad in Boracay after a concert.

When you have turned 60 and find yourself in a beach party for movie stars, you know this was not the place for you. The music was not pleasing to my ears and to drown recurring attack of ennui, I downed one bottle of beer after another and soon I became friendly to the stars now into their 50s and 60s.

“Temptation Island” is not a favorite film but as I reflect on that Boracay trip some years back, it might as well describe the island for all that it has become.

When I said yes to the trip, I imagined a quiet moment by the beach, contemplating the moon and the stars and enjoying the fine, golden sand.

But none of that would happen.

The beach party music was the moment of truth and even as I enjoyed one bottle of beer after another to blend with the dominantly young crowd, I felt betrayed. You get a good hotel accommodation and meals, but you have to survive this party, survive the crowd and survive the banal conversation.

Nearing midnight, I went with a media colleague who was a cross between a movie star and a beauty queen and together with another media friend, we lay over the fine sand and reflected on the beauty of the place now reduced to an inferno of sound from drums and electric guitars.

That was all I enjoyed in the island, this moment you could lie on the sand and contemplate the universe.

The author’s granddaughter in Boracay. The closure of the island paradise is wake up call for LGUs to beware of “progress” in the name of tourism.

My favorite spot in the island was a coffee shop called Sonata and while I enjoyed the mineral water which was all I could afford, I wonder how the place looked like minus the phalanx of tourists literally crawling all over the place.

Years later, my granddaughter would make sand castles in Boracay and I would avoid it like a plague even if hosts would dangle free hotel accommodation and other amenities.

This year when the island earned the moniker “cesspool” from no less than the president of the country, I knew that this moment of truth was bound to come sooner or later.

Like the banal film I re-watched, the place has evolved into a virtual Temptation Island with luxury hotels and casinos sprouting like mushrooms, so to speak.

As it is, the closure of Boracay is a wakeup call for LGUs to take care of their natural attractions. Its message is beware of tourist influx at the expense of the environment.

Sunset in Boracay. Photo: Senedy Que

Because when a natural paradise deteriorates into a “cesspool,” no one is to blame but the very important visitors masquerading as tourists and investors.

Also equally guilty are the local villagers and the island demigods who allowed the virtual rape of paradise.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

There is something foreboding when you realize you are hitting your 70th year when the year ends.

The author at Sumlang Lake in Camalig, Albay. Travelling can help you grow old gracefully.

As far as your body is concerned, you are still productive as you beat weekly deadlines for national, provincial and online publications.

You still experience great delight seeing your byline and down below in the internet version of your story, you see good feedbacks which meant you connected very well with your readers.

This is your life ever since high school as you religiously follow your favorite writers in your favorite weekly magazine. Of course you started with sophomore pieces in the school paper (then only mimeographed). You don’t know where it will lead but as you break into national publications and finally getting paid, your forge a contract with yourself that this is going to be your life.

Never mind that writing (for all that it signifies) is a virtual vow of poverty because doing PR is not exactly your cup of tea and you can’t write good speeches. But sometimes you give in because you are dealing with your favorite artists who share your vow – that money isn’t everything.

Out of the blue, you figure out seven decades of a life can be quite colorful. It highs and lows can be materials for a movie and for, horror of horrors, MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya TV series).

To be sure, pushing 70 is a good time as any to start writing your memoir and collect some of your passable outputs into a book.

You get this reminder from your readers, from your editors, from FB friends and some well-meaning acquaintances. But you don’t take them seriously as you are too busy doing weekly deadlines and making ends meet.

The author’s grandson enjoying a deserted beach in the island. As you grow old, you begin to treasure every moments with your loved ones.

You can’t stop writing just to focus on a book that a publisher — who doesn’t read you – will find strange. Who will read a book about artists and musicians when everybody is too busy texting, instagramming and facebooking than going to concerts?

But many artists (young and old) will always have fans who will die for their idols and can buy books by the bulk. But you hate computing the way you figure out what it takes to fill up a concert hall.

The first order of the day will be educating a publisher whose encounter with classical music is attending recitals of musically inclined friends and relatives. She or he can’t see why such a book should even exist. You recoil when a much-seasoned book writer tells you how much she earned in copyrights and how even rich relatives hate buying books. I once volunteered to collect for a great mother who wrote about her great daughter and when I saw the computations, you tell yourself book-writing will be another invitation to poverty.

But then who knows. When I am ready to face all these, I will consider writing a book even if it meant another chapter of a lifelong vow of poverty.

To be sure, this is the age when people think of leaving a legacy, of thinking how he or she wants to be remembered and — to restate that cliché, how to make a difference.

Honestly, I don’t know what legacy means. Legacy is something you connect with, something you have lived with and something you want to carry all your life. It is not anything you keep restating in your biodata as you contemplate being nominated for this and that award.

I love this artist because she lived for her art as she honestly lived her life and acquired world-wide following without having to pay publicists who will sing endless alleluias about her/his world-class status. She doesn’t lose sleep over awards nominations. Because in my book, you earn what you deserve and not by keeping a stable of publicists whose pronouncements are utterly predictable. You have lived your life and your art the way it should be lived and not how awards nominators want you to live it.

Because it is utterly tragic when a national artist is announced in a big gathering with no less than 20 people able to connect with his art and life. To be sure, the musicologists love him, but he produces the kind of music that can only be edifying to people in the run for a doctoral degree.

What I am saying is that you can still live a simple life at 70 and above without losing sleep over re-imagined legacy or its equivalent. Legacy is something your followers will live on to remind them of the person as artist and human being. It is not something mouthed by people who introduce you as a guest speaker for something or the other. Legacy is memory of a good concert or a good book or an unforgettable film that elevated you beyond your mortal self.

With daughter and granddaughters. Life is short and moments like this should be treasured.

A life simply lived will resonate in what you write and not how you are expected to behave during your lifetime. You had your good moments and bad ones, even tragic, ones, too. But as the wise men say, there is no such thing as a perfect human being. You can fall, stumble and only you can bring yourself back to living a borrowed life.

But one day, one would like to really figure in an honest-to-goodness book-launching where I can tell my imaginary fans that those chapters were part and parcels of a life. It’s mine and no one else’s.

Hopefully, I didn’t have to be a Shirley Bassey to be able sing “This Is My Life.”

With conviction.

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By Pablo A. Tariman

When I think of summer, my thoughts inevitably turn to the island of my birth in Baras, Catanduanes.

Image of summer in the island. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol.

Where I was born, I think of the high bright sun of barrio Tilod where the river ends where the sea begins. From the bridge, you see the silvery horizon of the wide Pacific Ocean.

Westward down from the barrio chapel, I see the school where my mother used to teach. While my mother was busy with school chores, I was usually entrusted to a gentle old lady I called Lola Cayang and her daughter I called Tia Lily. Growing up with them, I saw a second family I would seek out even as some of them would settle in Metro Manila. It was pure destiny that I found Tia Lily’s daughter on face book. Tia Lily has since then moved on and her daughter has settled in Canada.

So much memories of this barrio of my birth. Where the river begins is our mountain land we call Sogod and that part with the clearest stream I ever saw in my life we call Minacahon was where we used to take a bath, catch fresh shrimps and cook them with coconut milk with paco (fresh ferns). It was the summer we would pick up farm produce (corn, camote and other root crops) including abaca hemp from local farmhands. For giving them free use of the land, we divide farm produce two-way. Our share we transport to the town proper by sea using bamboo raft passing the shallow coastline.

In barrio Moning was where a grade school classmate lived and come fiesta time, he would invite me to his place where all you can see are abandoned nipa huts and endless rows of rice land. In one such abandoned nipa hut, young townmates do some merry making with some of them proudly showing off their newly “baptized” private parts in a triumphant show of their new state of manhood. One such young townmate would grow up a military general and in the early 80s, I read from the papers that he died from an encounter with Mindoro insurgents.

The bridge where the river ends and the sea begins in barrio Tilod in Baras, Catanduanes where the author was born.

That rite of passage was memorable in the summer after grade school. First year high school found us in this battered building near a store that rented out Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines including local comics. Come recess time, male classmates would check bandage on their private parts in a secluded part of the school and where they thought nobody was watching. Until they heard girls giggling from another room.

Once healed, they’d go swimming naked in that river behind our school. At that time in the island, nobody thought of swimming in birthday suits as obscene. The sight came naturally as treading on the rice paddies back to the town proper.

I thought some summers in the island were highlighted by endless dancing some summer nights. The dancing hall near the sea had improvised fence and everybody was free to join. Like it or not, they reminded me of scenes from popular Fellini films.

In the late 50s, we lived in a house by the sea just near the house occupied by a woman who was a church singer. We presumed she was a widow because we never got to see her husband. But once a year, a daughter who looked like Marilyn Monroe would visit her for a short vacation. My then 9-year mind presumed she had a good-looking foreigner for a husband.

A common summer sight: young man jumps from a cliff and into the sea. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol

But one early morning before sunrise, the neighborhood was awakened by the voice of an angry woman shouting by the window of the church singer’s house. “Come here you Mary Magdalen you,” she roared with her lips trembling with anger. “You sing in the church every day and then you have the gall to sleep with my husband! How dare you!” This was followed by endless island expletives.

The poor lover, a police officer in our town, came out of the house and sheepishly escorted his wife out of the place.

But the early summer I would not forget was when my Uncle Joel (not his real name) figured in a love affair straight from the blockbuster Maryo J. de los Reyes film, The Other Woman.

The incident has since then long been forgotten and my late Aunt Charing (not her real name) has long since forgiven my late Uncle.

The 1950s letter – which went back to the sender for lack of anti-TB stamp – had the scorching passion of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.”

The author contemplating the sea on a cliff in Binurong Point, Guinsaanan, Baras, Catanduanes. Photo: Ferdie Buenavides Ocol

Some excerpts: “My dear, I still have happy lingering memories of that meeting with its happiness that often ends up in loneliness for we are apart. You once asked when we will be together again. Well. I knew not when. I’m (sic) too waiting for that time to come.

The letter came with a dolorous poem which read thus: “My heart in your hand, to fool it beware/ For till death you’ll always have it dear/ To nourish you with love forever and ever.

As I recall this island episode, Shakespeare’s Juliet entreaty came to mind –

“My bounty is as deep as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.”

In my ripe old age now, acceptance comes easy as Shakespeare once noted —

“Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit.”

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By Pablo A. Tariman

“Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight
With lilies o’er spread is baby’s wee bed
Lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed”
                                              – Brahms Lullabye

My daughter Kalon with granddaughter Keya in a beach resort in Mexico during the holy week.

I like freezing the picture of my eldest daughter who fetched us at the Hong Kong airport and billeted us in a hotel for a four-day holiday.

Apart from me, she sent for her sister and two nieces who were traveling for the first time abroad.

As she took care of our tour and inland transport and hosting intimate family lunch and dinner, I can’t believe she was the same daughter who was born in Albay on a Black Saturday. She grew up in a house by the sea with a good view of the perfect cone, lording over the hill I used to climb with a friend.

Now she is a busy business consultant and in the middle of business trips, she found time to see us in a foreign soil and spending for air tickets and hotel accommodation and asking how everyone was.

We exchanged stories in this restaurant called Social Place, we took a tram to Victoria Peak and at that time of the year, the weather was cold, and the icy wind nipped on your skin.

As you view the skylines of this former British colony, you come to terms with what it took to raise three daughters with varied interest.

One is into the arts (she was involved in school theater), another was an activist and the third was into sports before she became a full-time mother.

My daughter Tamara Irika with granddaughter Tanya in Caramoan Island.

Into their growing up years, you cooked their breakfast, walked or biked them to school, escorted them to their first ballet lessons, attended their PTA meetings and before you knew it, they are in college and years later, you figure in their commencement exercises.

In the next three months, three daughters turn a year older, two are mothers of one and the youngest a mother of two.

As you brace for their birthdays, you reflect how you raised three daughters with different concerns and how you coped with their individual life choices.

Before she left for Frankfurt, my daughter taught and tutored staff of diplomats.

Another daughter attended the state university, worked in the university newspaper and just a couple of years before graduation, she disappeared and was soon found in the jungles of Isabela figuring in an armed encounter with the military which claimed to have found several Armalites in her possession.

My daughter Kerima in a Cavite resort with grandson Emman.

This episode in my second daughter’s life saw me travelling from Manila to Cabagan, Isabela and back every month for two-and-a-half years to attend the hearings. Those years were difficult, almost harrowing.

Meanwhile, my youngest was into sports and although I have not seen a single live volleyball game in my life, I could only offer moral support. Now I make up for my absence in her high school and college volleyball games by helping take care of my granddaughters

A top student during her high school years and graduating cum laude in a school for the well-off along Katipunan, my eldest probably sensed there was no way she could be stable with a degree in development studies and a master’s degree in Pilipino. While in Manila, she took courses in German language, later flew to Frankfurt and acquired another master’s degree in business and finance.

Every time we are reunited in Manila, I could see a daughter with a good business sense. But her affinity with the arts remained as she and partner watched concerts and hosted dinner for the celebrated pianist-godmother of her only daughter.

The view from the upper terrace of Victoria Peak was fantastic and I thought it was just as magical as the island’s Balacay Highland Point and Binurong Point in my island province.

All throughout our four-day stay in HK, I recalled the younger days of my eldest daughter staying in the island with her grandmother. At that time, I couldn’t manage deadlines and raising babies and my parents decided to help me out.

My daughter Tamara Irika with my granddaughters Tanya,Tyra and Keya at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

As she personally arranged all those HK itineraries and made sure we had an Uber car from hotel to airport, I realized I had a good daughter who could give me a special treat in my old age.

To be sure, I enjoyed HK but with it came the realization that my eldest has evolved into a seasoned global citizen and a good daughter who cared a lot for her sisters, nephews and nieces as well.

Back in Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, I remember this was the same place recreated by a film inspired by a Han Suyin autobiographical novel, A Many Splendored Thing.

Up there with an exhilarating view of Hong Kong, you rewind your life and times with your three daughters as you recall the Han Suyin film and song that made it popular —

Oh, once on a high and windy hill
In the morning mist two lovers kissed
And the world stood still
Then your fingers touched my silent heart
And taught it how to sing
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing

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TV Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

There is a rare, if, intense, sense of daring as broadcast journalist Atom Araullo documents a day in a life of a family living underneath Jones Bridge in the heart of Manila.

The Atom Araullo Specials. New subject, new explorations.

The passage to that unknown dwelling is by clambering through a rope and going down a dark labyrinth and you are ushered into a small, cavernous space that passes for a home.

The woman of the house gathers usable garbage for a living and gets to eat only after selling what she found. She goes back to this house underneath the bridge and takes a rest and hoping to make it through another night.

Araullo did not stop by just reporting what he saw; he sleeps in the same abode and see for himself what it felt like living under the bowels of the bridge.

Stretching himself on a make-shift floor that passes for a bed, he soon finds out the ventilation is bad and that the entire abode shakes often as it does when ten-wheeler trucks pass by.

The April 1 edition of the Atom Araullo Specials on Channel 7 shows us how far broadcast journalism can bring us deeper into looking at the less privileged sectors of society.

The episode is at once shocking, and by turns, moving as poor wife reveals how she was separated from her children who now live with her in-laws.

Entrance of Marawi tunnel used by terrorists as escape and sleeping quarters. Lo and behold, Atom Araullo finds a terrorist’s camera.

Staying overnight in this house under the bridge, Araullo connects with his subject not just as part of his figure gathering but as a living proof of neglect and of how society has turned deaf and blind to her plight.

The other episode brings him to the caves of Samar where he explores the natural attraction of the place.

The thing is he chose the most dangerous cave and descends on it ready to confront danger, if any. Deep into the bowels of the earth, he finds a waterfall and enjoys a brief immersion.

What secrets it holds he reveals as in another part of the cave, he discovers a burial area where victims of epidemic are disposed of during the earlier times.

This 32-kilometer Sulpan Cave is touted by the country’s longest and in one part of the cave, he discovers a giant tooth from a prehistoric shark.

The closing episode is an exploration of Marawi’s underground tunnels which served as the terrorists’ escape routes and sleeping quarters at the height of the siege.

Atom Araullo descends on a little known abode underneath Jones Bridge. In that small, cavernous space, urban dwellers make it through the night.Ao

The guided tour reveals the extent in which Marawi was practically decimated but Araullo will not be satisfied. He breaks away from the group and does his own private exploration. In the process, he discovers a terrorist’s camera which recorded the villains’ lair and what they do as part of the day’s battle regimen.

As it is, Araullo gives us a view of the often unexplored life and leads his viewers to contemplate both the mystifying beauty of Mother Earth and the extent to which urban dwellers are reduced just to survive.

He explores the subject inside and out, lives with his subjects and at the end, he gets a balanced and very personal view on why people live the way they do.

The Atom Araullo Specials is first-rate broadcast journalism that goes beyond reporting.

It is what television needs in the jungle of asinine shows that have sunk into the lowest pit in the name of the ratings game.

Another part of 32-kilometer Sulpan cave in Samar yields a burial area where victims of epidemic were disposed of during earlier times.

In the end, it shows us that broadcast journalism can be enlightening as well as edifying when news gatherers go deep into the heart of their subjects.

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Hometown Memories
By Pablo A. Tariman

Aunt Alice — the last of my paternal aunts — passed away last week. I told my cousin I couldn’t make it to the wake. I prefer to remember her happy moments when she’d demonstrate newly choreographed dance for her grade school pupils.

A picture of my Aunt Alice. I remember her for her cooking and her innate kindness.

Seeing her inside that coffin was out of the question.

As a boy growing up in the island, my first happy glimpse of her was her wedding at the old town church in the late 50s.

In the eyes of a nine-year old, I recall her happy face framed by the church facade as she emerged from the church in a white wedding dress.

I believe Aunt Alice is one of four aunts I can easily connect with because of her innate kindness and her sense of humor. I believe my fondness for a local delicacy called candinga (bopis in its Manila version) started from my fondness for her cooking.

Aunt Nieves (the eldest on my paternal side) married a rice merchant and I remember my first picture as a child was taken in a Guimba (Nueva Ecija) studio with my cousins. When her husband died, she followed her eldest son to the USA and lived a happy life.

Every time she visited the hometown, she’d be walking along the long stretch of the sea dike every morning and showing off her brand-new clothes that to me was like what the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe wore. She contrasted very well with the nearby Minabalay Island. I get unconfirmed stories of how she had a love life before she died. Nevertheless, I only remember her as my aunt strutting like a seasoned model while Connie Francis was singingDo not forsake me oh my darlin’ in my Uncle Ben’s brand new 1950s radio.

The old Baras church where I suppose all my aunts were baptized.

When I heard of her death, I remembered her laughter and her kindness. I believe she sheltered us while family was forever coping with hard times.

The youngest aunt on my paternal side was the dread of my cousins. What one remembers of her was her temper which erupted for reasons only she could fathom. She’d kick cans used for storing rain water in our house by the sea and in another setting, she’d wail like a child telling everyone nobody loved her even as she thought she deserved more of it as the youngest in the family.

Naturally, her nephews and nieces abhorred her, and she knew it. My one act of unkindness was when she visited me in my old BLISS abode asking for help. It pained me that I could not even ask her to come in. Instead I asked her what she wanted – outside the living room. I told her I could not help her. She didn’t get a glass of water from me and not even a piece of bread. I remember seeing her walk away with a heavy guilt weighing on me.

I did not like what I did. My then ten-year old self was full of hate for her I found it strange that it stayed with me even in her old age.

Coming home every summer, I’d see her tomb virtually devoid of candles and flowers. Strange that my cousins didn’t even want to talk about her.

The rest of my aunts – notably Aunt Trining –were kind and so did their children. Our trademark was our loud and boisterous laughter which today I am still associated with.

The last resting place of my Aunt Alice in Quezon City. A long way from Baras Church where I first saw her happy face framed by the church facade on the day of her wedding.

When my paternal grandmother died in Manila in the early 60s, I saw how my other aunts fared later in their lives. One became a public-school teacher, another whose wedding I witnessed continued her schooling while her husband drove a taxi to support his night studies.

Another aunt with whom I stayed during my early college years had quite a life after her retirement. She had a love child who became a pastor and — like me — was bad with finances. This cousin was forever quoting the Bible and when he married, he’d visit me in my Pasig abode with her wife who volunteered to do my laundry for a few pesos. Years later, he became a widower with two sons to support. He continued as a pastor and fared badly as a father. What he went through I would not wish on anyone.

Years later, his mother died a lonely death outside Manila.

When another cousin asked me if I could go to her wake, I said no. That was the moment I realized I was such a bad nephew.

I said it’s better that I don’t see her. Although she is not hated like her younger sister, I would prefer to remember her kindness and laughter we shared. Seeing her for the last time in a cardboard coffin was out of the question.

When I asked another cousin what he saw during the wake, I regretted ever asking him.

He said when he went to this battered abode — more like an abandoned hut than a house — he saw our dear aunt in a miserable condition. She was in this make-shift coffin with no visible visitors paying respect. My cousin said he was too shocked to make anything of what he saw.

Minabalay Island facing our coastal home in Baras was witness to my life and times with my aunts.

What I learned later was that she died when she was just alone in that hut and when my cousin found her, she was in an early stage of decomposition.

The last time I visited my aunt who just died was with my Australia-based cousin and nephew, she was in good health, looked very well in fact. But she could not remember who I was. I told her I remember her signature candinga. Luckily for her, her kindness was reciprocated by a good son who loved her even with the sure signs of dementia gnawing at her memory.

Trying to make sense out of my love-hate relationship with my aunts, you realize love begets love and hate stays longer than it should.

As you can see, the life and times of my dear aunts varied.

But every time I hear the song Do Not Forsake me, oh my darlin’ played in the early morning program of Richard Enriquez, I remember an aunt who strutted like an aspiring model and the aunt who died a lonely death and yet another one I hated even in her old age.

Yes, life was not fair to some aunts and I believe nor was I fair to them.

For one, I chose a life that made me totally unable to help others.

When I recall all my aunts on my father side, my favorite scene is my other aunt who used to croon a theme song from a 1952 Stanley Kramer film High Noon –

“Do not forsake me oh my darlin’
On this our wedding day.
Do not forsake me oh my darlin’
Wait, wait along.
I do not know what fate awaits me.
I only know I must be brave.
Or die a coward on my grave.”

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Ballet Notes

By Pablo A. Tariman

There is a bit of the millennial Pinoy danseur in Victor Maguad who is dancing Basilio in the revival of Don Quixote mounted by Ballet Philippines.

Danseur Victor Maguad in top form. His idol is Cuban danseur Rolando Sarabia. (Photo: Justin Bella Alonte)

Earlier, he was the Prince in The Nutcracker and Siegfried in Swan Lake. From the way he finished the last performances, it was obvious he has a good future in dance.

As a moviegoer, Victor said his favorite film is Center Stage: On Pointe which to him is a good depiction of the ballet world.

For one, it is about a ballet group’s desire to widen its audience by putting in more contemporary dance in its repertoire. It is also about surviving in the dance world.

Said Victor: “Center Stage is about personalities in the dance world and how they are consumed by passion for dance. They are quite recognizable to me because I see these personalities even in Manila. That is one film where I connect deeply as a dancer.”

One special dance personality he idolizes is Cuban danseur Rolando Sarabia who is often compared with Mikhail Baryshnikov and described by the New York Times as the “Cuban Nijinsky.”

Victor Maguad as Siegfried in Swan Lake. The role helped me mature as an artist.

Pointed out Victor: “I’ve been through a lot as a dancer. And this allowed me to mature a little bit. It helped me understand what I am doing. I believe that this gift of dance is to be shared and this is what I realized when I fell in love with dance and learned how to be generous. Acclaimed Cuban danseur Rolando Sarabia inspired me a lot. How he can portray any role in ballet with high standard of technique and artistry is to me the best that a dancer can aspire for.”

Victor started dancing at age 7 and trained under Luther Perez, Tony Fabella and Eddie Elejar at the Manila Dance Center where he was given a chance to join Ballet Philippines’ production of Shoes++ in 2000. He was full scholar of the CCP dance school in 2004 at age 11. A few years later, he emerged one of the top winners in the First CCP National Ballet Competition.

This is the first time he is dancing the full-length Don Q and he is aware of the challenges. “I would say that the toughest side of this role is to deliver the story from Act 1 to 3. Not to mention that it demands a balance of artistry and technique to wrap up the ballet. I need to internalize the character of Basilio as a young, vibrant and very charismatic lover of Kitri. Technically, it demands a lot of effortless tricks and stamina. I can relate to the character when he fights for his loved one and how he copes with family matters. Doing Siegfried (Swan Lake) and Nutcracker Prince helped me prepare both my body and mind for a role. They also helped me gain strength and maturity as an artist.”

Victor Maguad with Pablo Tariman and co-dancers Denise Parungao who will dance Mercedes and Jemima Reyes who will dance Kitri in Don Quixote.

For Victor, the toughest side of Don Q is the grand pas de deux which is the most awaited finale. “This is what they’ve been looking forward to see as this is the climax of the ballet. This is the moment when we do the most difficult partnering technique that demands stamina and full connection with my partner and to the audience. This takes a lot of mastery, teamwork, communication and motivation to each other.”

The other Basilio in Don Q is Joseph Gatti who will partner Filipina ballerina Candice Adea. “He’s humble and nice person. I admire his working ethics in classes and rehearsals. He’s also fun to work with and he inspires a lot of young dancers here in the Philippines.”

Pablo Tariman during the preview of Don Q at the CCP main theater lobby. Photo: Cherry Bong Edralin)

(Aside from Gatti and Adea, the principal roles of Kitri and Basilio will be portrayed by BP company members Jemima Reyes, Monica Gana and Ian Ocampo. Denise Parungao plays the role of Mercedes. Catch this very special run of Don Quixote on February 9-18, 2018 at the CCP Main Theater. Gala Nights with Mr. Gatti and the Manila Symphony Orchestra under Jeffrey Solares are on February 9, 8pm and February 10, 7pm. For tickets, call Ballet Philippines at (+632) 551-1003, the CCP Box Office at (+632) 832-3704, or Ticketworld at (+632) 891-9999 or

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TV Notes — ‘Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin’

By Pablo A. Tariman

When the noontime teleserye Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin (ILAI) ends January 26, TV viewers are likely to be left with a gallery of characters of a few good men and an eternal villain in Philippine television.

Kim Chiu. Her role as Bianca she also lived in real life.

The saga of Gabriel Viloria (Gerald Anderson) who turns out to be Roman de la Vega’s (Michael de Mesa’s) son is a memorable profile of a son who survived against all odds. He is God-fearing, he loves his grandmother he fondly calls Lola Ganda (Gina Pareno) but he can be tough when pushed to the wall. “I have many things in common with my character, Gabriel,” said Gerald Anderson. “We share the same good family values, we are both athletic and we fight for what is right regardless of danger. I am proud to be part of this teleserye. I think we came up with a good product with the kind of big following we earned.”

Kim Chiu who plays Bianca has the same observation. “I am used to a life of struggle, I also lost my mother and I am very family-oriented. In that sense, Bianca and I are practically one and the same person. The teleserye also prodded me to be athletic and that’s one challenge I enjoyed working on.”

The really mean characters who stood out are Rigor Viloria (Daniel Fernando), his son Carlos (Jake Cuenca) and his wife, Isabel (Coleen Garcia).

Jake Cuenca. He lives up to the bad guy role even if he ends up a national villain.

Coleen says it was nice to be able to play someone mean but not so wicked and still be unpredictable. “I takes a lot of preparation because I have nothing in common with Isabel in real life. What I did was to recall people who don’t like me and when the camera started grinding, I become Isabel ready to get even with my detractors. The character has become an outlet for pent-up anger and I enjoyed it.”

Of course, Jake as Carlos de la Vega will always be remembered as the eternal villain.

Looking tough and villainous in this encounter, Jake says he has to be mean because that’s what is expected of him. “I am an actor. When being bad is what is called for, I gave it everything. When TV audiences started hating me, that’s an indication I played my part very well. I don’t act to get sympathy. Whether they love or hate me in the role, it doesn’t matter to me. Basically, I like the challenge of being bad. Not that I cannot play a good person. When that time comes, you will be surprised to see a sudden turn-around. Except that I don’t get that role anymore. But since I am in demand as a bad person, I can’t ask for more. When you are an actor, you just have to live up to the role. Even if you end up a national villain.”

Cast of “Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin.” They learned a lot from their characters.

Since the series started airing in May 2017, ILAI — directed by Dan Villegas and Onat Diaz — has captivated viewers nationwide with its consistent top rating.

It marked the screen reunion of Kim and Gerald who had equally good supporting cast namely Gina Pareno, Michael de Mesa, Dante Rivero, Nicco Manalo, Andrea Brillantes, and Grae Fernandez.

ILAI — aired in ABS-CBN and ABS-CBN HD (Sky Cable Channel 167)– ends January 26, 2018.

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Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

A cheering applause greeted the showing of the trailer of Coco Martin’s directorial debut, “Ang Panday” which is based on the Carlo Caparas story franchise.

Coco Martin during latest presscon. Trust and respect from cast and crew kept him going as director.

A distinct visual style is a feast to the eyes, but the uncommon touch is that the film travels effortlessly from fantasy to present-day reality. “I wanted this film to be in touch with present day life even if it is commonly associated with fantasy. I worked closely with my writer and I felt the project is better off with that personal concept which is strictly my idea. Everything has to be real. There are enough scenes that will thrill the kids, but I also made sure the adult moviegoers can connect as well.”

Still, he admits he does not know how to react when addressed as Direk Coco Martin.

More confessions: “Nothing came easy in this project and to top it all, I wore three hats as producer, director and actor. In the first, I am constantly signing checks to cover production expenses. In the second, I have to see to it the needs of the cast are taken cared of. Then I have to think about my role and relate to the rest of the characters. Then it just dawned on me, ‘Ganito pala kahirap magdirek at mag produce.’”

But he points out that when you are passionate about what you are doing, the difficulties are easy to overcome. “I don’t treat this latest film as plain and simple work. My heart is in it and so is my hard-earned money. I aim to produce something that will sit well with my audiences and not just to be treated as another blockbuster. I want a film that moviegoers can claim as their own after it hit the theaters. That is my idea of fulfillment as a director and not just to make money.”

Coco Martin with leading lady Mariel de Leon. She can act.

The actor said his directorial work was made easy with good people working around him. “Many years while working with Direk Dante Brillante, I realized I wanted to become a director later in my career. So, in every movie I did whether indie or mainstream, I observed people around me and find out how they contribute to the finished product. Of course, directing is a totally different work. But what made it easy was the people who are more than willing to give me endless support. I could feel the love as well the trust and respect in the set. They were all that I needed to keep me going as director. When I am not sure about one thing, I consult them like part of family. Tita Susan (Roces) was always behind me with some reminders. The children in the cast also contributed a lot. They have become good actors through the months of working with them in a teleserye. Of course, I forbid playing during the shoot. But after the take, they can do what they want.”

It was a big surprise that he realized his leading lady, Mariel de Leon, can actually act. “During the negotiation, I actually asked Tito Boyet (Christopher de Leon) and Tita Sandy (Sandy Andolong) if they can entrust their daughter to me in this project. They were very supportive. During the actual shoot, I realized Mariel needed very little coaching. She delivered like a real pro.”

Poster of ‘Ang Panday.’ Fantasy and reality in one movie.

On the whole, Direk Coco said he gave all he could to make this project really worthy the moviegoers’ time and money. “I did not go into this project to make me feel good as director. I did every frame of this film with the movie audiences in mind. They keep me grounded when I report to the set. I wanted to make sure everyone can relate and to have a good time in the theater. What they will see in my film is the sincerity and the desire to project the Filipino family as a fountain of inspiration in good or bad times.”

“Ang Panday” directed by Coco Martin opens in cinemas December 25. It stars Jaime Fabregas, Gloria Romero, Julio Diaz, Elisse Joson, McCoy de Leon and Awra Briguela, among others.

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TV Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

Sylvia Sanchez has visibly lost weight and beside her son Arjo, they look like brother and sister.

Sylvia Sanchez with son Arjo Atayde. She considers son a natural actor.

During their long break from their respective top rating teleseryes, mother and son bonded every way they could.

Arjo accompanied his mother do regular workouts and that partly explains Sylvia’s trim looks.

For another, she finds true happiness from within and that’s her real beauty secret if she can call it such. “I find peace and quiet just being with my husband and four children. If they are safe and happy, I cannot really ask for more. Of course, bashers will always be there to spoil your day. But I have found a good and effortless way to isolate them. There is no point arguing with them and dignifying their insecurities. I believe this is one is one way to be happy. To be content with what you have and to be good at what you can do. For me this is what counts. Then you try to be of help to others in search of their career fulfillment. This makes my life easy and fulfilling.”

Son says it wasn’t all very smooth growing up with a showbiz mother. “In high school, she makes sure I am home before 10 in the evening. That’s the time when all my friends are still out there enjoying. One night I missed the curfew. She knew I was afraid of ghosts. When I went home trying to get in very quietly, I found a very dark living room and suddenly, a flying lampshade hit the floor and jolted me. ‘You realize what time is it?’ she asked. Yes, she is a disciplinarian in that sense. No way you can break the rule.”

Sylvia Sanchez and Arjo Atayde with cast of latest teleserye, “Hanggang Saan.” They have to go beyond roles in real life.

Mother and son figure in the new teleserye, “Hanggang Saan” airing November 27 on Channel 2 and it is the first time they will have a long-term project in a major network.

Arjo is the celebrated villain in “FPJ’s Ang Probinsiyano” while Sylvia is the equally celebrated mother in “The Greatest Love” which won her TV Best Actress trophies one after another.

Also earning a round of best supporting actor trophies is Arjo who admits it’s a struggle being a good son in the new project while identified as hard-headed and rebellious PMA graduate in the top-rating Coco Martin teleserye. “It’s not easy portraying the good son after months of being a hated villain. I am still working at my character and hopefully the initial taping sessions show some improvements. Going into character is not easy as people think it is. As far as I am concerned, I need to work hard at it. In real life, I am playful and very makulit. I like to think I am a good son. But portraying son with your real mother on television is a totally different undertaking. That character must be different from my real-life role as son. And I need to find a way to react to my mother as character, not as your real mother. Of course, it helps that we are like that in real life. But once viewed by millions on national TV, viewers expect different treatment. They expect you not just to be good but to also do justice to the story. And we have to find a way to relate to the other characters who make up the story.”

At this point, Sylvia admits Arjo is the better actor than herself. “I remember attending the culminating program of an actors’ workshop where he is one of the participants. When I saw him act for the first time, I knew at once he has it. So, the next move with my husband was to give him all the support when he decided to enter showbiz. I wasn’t like him when I was just starting. I thought that my first acting vehicles were not anything I can be proud of. Truth to tell, I know that my acting as a beginner was quite shallow. So, I have to work hard to hone my craft every chance I have. I didn’t become the actress I am today just like that. I have to count years and a lot of heartaches before I felt I was already accepted. But with Arjo, I find him a natural actor. It’s not because he is my son. He also did his homework and that credit belongs to him.”

Sylvia Sanchez with husband, Arturo Atayde during the last Magic Ball. A happy family is all she wants for herself.

Direk Mervyn Brondial says it’s an advantage if the characters portraying mother and son are members of a true-to-life family. “For a director, that means you don’t have to work hard to motivate them to relate to the mother and son characters. With that settled, you have to make them relate to the story and to the other characters and that’s where the big adjustments begin. Because in this teleserye, the mother is not Sylvia Sanchez in real life. She is made of a complicated stuff because her character has a controversial past that threatens her and her family. And that is where you realize you are lucky to assemble a nearly perfect cast for this very unusual story of a mother.”

“Hanggang Saan” directed by Mervyn Brondial and Jeffrey Jeturian stars Teresa Loyzaga, Sue Ramirez, Ariel Rivera, Yves Flores, Marlo Mortel, Rommel Padilla, Nanding Josef, and Junjun Quintana, among others. It airs November 27 on Channel 2 after “Pusong Ligaw.”

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