Monday, August 31, 2009

Have a look at the colorful "Pinoy Art on Wheels" on Philippine anti-TB stamps

By Nancy T. Lu
“Pinoy Art on Wheels” is the theme of this year’s Philippine anti-TB stamps (see photo above) issued this month by the Philippine Anti-Tuberculosis Society, Inc.

Prominent Filipino painter Manuel D. Baldemor invited Filipino contemporary artists of different generations to contribute designs of different styles to the seals used for fund-raising in the fight against tuberculosis in the Philippines.

Initially the colorful jeepney, a popular public transport in the Philippines, was the topic decided upon. But eventually the design theme was broadened to cover wheels in general. Baldemor himself chose to bring in the “sorbetero” or ice cream vendor still familiar to the population in the Philippines.

Baldemor took a short break from his big project in France to return to Manila for the launching of the stamps. He is working on a mosaic mural (see picture below) for the Basilica of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Lisieux, Normandy, France. His masterpiece on the Philippine People Power Revolution, which is being executed with the help of two French mosaic artists, will be iinstalled on October 18, 2009.

Baldemor is a famous artist whose brightly colored works have appeared on many UNICEF Christmas cards over the years.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Korean artist Lee Jae-Hyo turns wood and stainless steel nails into mesmerizing art

By Nancy T. Lu

Many Taipei residents are likely to remember seeing an enormous spherical shape in the shadows on one side of the spacious lobby of the Grand Hyatt Taipei.

Chopped pieces of pine wood, which give away the Korean artist’s closeness to Mother Nature, are brought together and crafted to make this attractive piece of art. The creative style of the geometric form is unique and powerful in its simplicity.

Lee Jae-Hyo, the 44-year-old Korean artist who has been making a name internationally through his creative idea and vision, is in Taipei. In fact, his works stand out at the ongoing “Art Taipei 2009” at the Taipei World Trade Center.

“My art is about the material,” said Lee. “Everything begins and ends with the material. I simply want to show the nature of my common raw materials like wood and nails.”

Lee pointed out that wood and nails are easy to find. His creative concern is “to discover a different way to present the common materials.” Obviously he has succeeded in this area with mesmerizing effect.

Lee summed up his art this way: “Investigating new material is the key.”

The artist has been creating wood masterpieces in the last 20 years. His collection of works at the major art trade event in Taipei, however, includes remarkable pieces covered with thousands of stainless steel nails. Such art has been developed in the last five years. The pointed slender fasteners have been pounded in to make patterns which cast a spell on onlookers.

Lee actually started with iron nails. Inability to control their rust made him settle for the harder stainless steel nails.

Whether working with wood or stainless steel nails, Lee has been pulling in the viewers of his art like magnet, intriguing and fascinating them with his amazing use of his chosen material. Chopped pieces of wood make a lounging chair. Nails hammered into burned wood and bended with a tool form the hypnotic pattern of a painting-like wall decoration with surface and edges smoothed out.

Asked if it is technically difficult to produce a work covered with nails, Lee explained that the physical challenge of a tough material like stainless steel nails is easily overcome with the ever-improving tools available. He has not seen the need to invent new devices. Rather, he has simply modified existing ones to meet his needs.

Lee has a number of craftsmen helping him realize his nail art designs. In fact, his catalogue has a picture of a masterpiece covered completely with Korean characters. These, he explained, are the names of all his workers. Another work has been devoted to the Roman alphabet.

"Art Taipei 2009" winds up at the Taipei World Trade Center on September 1.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Philippines making interesting debut as country represented at ongoing "Art Taipei 2009"

By Nancy T. Lu

The Philippine contemporary art scene is largely unfamiliar to art aficionados in Taiwan. Yet there are many Filipino talents of different generations waiting to be discovered.

Galerie Joaquin’s first-time participation in Art Taipei 2009 — likewise the Philippines’ first exposure at the major art event — promises to be truly an eye opener for local art collectors.

But only a handful of the gifted and appreciated Filipino artists are being introduced through sample works at the booth of Galerie Joaquin at the Taipei World Trade Center. They include Ramon Orlina, Eufemio Rasco IV, Jaspher Penuliar, Jerry Morada, Lydia Velasco, Dominic Rubio, Anthony Palo, PJ Jalandoni and Daniel de la Cruz. Rasco, Rubio and Orlina have made impacts at a number of international art auctions and art trade shows in the last few years.

Opening night of Art Taipei 2009 on August 27 attracted a lot of inquiries at the booth of Galerie Joaquin.

Jack Teotico, editor of Contemporary Art Philippines, will speak on “Trends of Philippine Contemporary Art” at 10:40 a.m. on August 30 at the Taipei International Convention Center.

The developments in the Philippine contemporary art scene have been pretty blurred in the last decade or two for me due to my long absence. Yet in my early years as a journalist, I had the privilege to work for a newspaper magazine where exceptional Filipino artists like the late Rodolfo Ragodon, the late Nonoy Marcelo, Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera, and Pablo Baens Santos were my colleagues.

I moved to another magazine a few years later. The famous Mauro Malang Santos had his office just one floor above mine in Intramuros, Manila, at that time. Manuel Baldemor, one of the most collected Filipino artists today, was working then for Malang. Together with two French artists, Baldemor is presently busy making a big mosaic mural for the Basilica of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Lisieux, Normandy, France. This masterpiece will be inaugurated in October 2009.

Bencab, one of the top Filipino painters today, made a surprise visit to Taipei years ago to participate in a group exhibition of prints at the National Museum of History on Nanhai Road. In recent days he has been one of the active leaders of the big protest lodged against Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s controversial declaration of architect Francisco “Gabby” Manosa, fashion designer Jose Pitoy Moreno, stage luminary Cecile Guidote-Alvarez and cartoonist filmmaker Carlo J. Caparas as awardees of the National Artist honor. He even offered to return his own award to raise his full objection to the violation of the selection process this year. The case has reached the Philippine Supreme Court. Alvarez and Caparas have been the main targets of the protest initiated by a group of prominent Filipino artists.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deaflympics opening ceremony to highlight perseverance and strength of participants

A fourth grader who is challenged in hearing will make his dramatic appearance astride a water buffalo during the two-and-a half hour opening ceremony of the Deaflympics Taipei 2009 on September 5, announced the Deaflympics Taipei Organizing Committee.

The traditional farm animal from Taiwan’s former agricultural society is intended to be a symbol of the perseverance and hard work of the physically challenged athletes at the Deaflympics Taipei 2009 to unfold from September 5 to 15.

Stan Lai (see file photo), Taiwan’s most influential playwright and theater director, will direct a one-hour production during the opening ceremony. He will bring in the lad named Cheng Kun-hsing on the carabao and have him lead other children at the start of a scenario which will tell the story of the evolution of Taipei from rural to urban setting.

Dancers creating an ocean scene will open the program and pave the way for suggestions of the tilling of the land. When little Cheng, who is enrolled at the Taipei School for the Deaf, appears, he will be joined by other children, who will create a field scene. Together, the children in the program will use the sign language to say eloquently: "This is a beautiful land. Perseverance or focus will lead to accomplishment. The strength lies in you.”

Model Patina Lin's picture (above) is from the 2009 Deaflympics Taipei website. She will be featured as a flying ocean goddess during the opening ceremony.

Celebrities expected at the event will include Chang Hui-mei, Taiwan's pop diva who will be transformed into an airborne singing bird. She will perform the theme song of the Deaflympics Taipei 2009. Aboriginal singer Kimbo's voice will also dramatically fill the stadium at one point, vocalizing "Power in Me." International action star Jet Li will be one of the VIP guests.

President Ma Ying-jeou will declare the 11-day Deaflympics Taipei open, using the sign language. Throughout the program, there will be invocations for blessings. Prayer lanterns will be used. Technical experts from the Sydney Olympics and Doha Asian Games have been sought to handle the lighting up of the stadium during the big opening event. Fireworks will also ignite the night.

The 2009 Deaflympics Taipei will see the participation of over 8,000 athletes from 91 countries. Taiwan's 202 athletes who will be fielded in 16 events will aim to win at least 12 gold medals.

Deaflympics Taipei has enlisted the help of 9,763 volunteers. Their ages range from 15 to 72. They have received lessons in the sign language. Likewise, 5,510 law enforcers have undergone similar training in the run up to the Deaflympics Taipei.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Best of Taiwan to be theme of craft and design show in Taipei from August 28 to September 1

By Nancy T. Lu

Chou Yu-jun, Su Su-ren and Chen Kao-ming’s bamboo stool called “Bambool” will be a most attractive and rare item to order on the spot at “Craft Taiwan 2009” at the Taipei World Trade Center (D Area) from August 28 to September 1, announced the event organizer, the National Taiwan Craft Research Institute. “Crafts for Life – Exhibition of Taiwan’s Best” will be the theme of the craft show.

The remarkable bamboo stool, a collector’s item, was the Taiwan design product which drew raves at the Maison et Objet home-fashion trade show in Paris in September 2008. The item of great refinement (shown in background of one photo) takes a long time to produce, rendering orders difficult to meet. Five such stools will be up for grabs among buyers.

During her meeting with the head of the Louvre in Paris this year, Huang Pi-twan (shown speaking in photo above), chairperson of the Council for Cultural Affairs, was told about the great aesthetic impact of the design at the trade show to her great delight.

An award-winning modern chair called “43”(see photo) is to be available for ordering, too. The Pompidou Center in Paris is reported to be interested in this beautiful product design, which requires exactly 43 strips of bamboo to make.

The National Taiwan Research Institute has been stepping efforts to promote the cultural creative industry particularly through the craft industry in the hope of being able to catch the attention of those with an eye for excellent innovative design. Training programs stimulate interest in crafts and skills notably among Taiwan’s younger generation.

A total of 100 booth spaces spread out over an area of 300 pings will be filled with a wide range of design products at the trade show. On view will be the evolution of Taiwan crafts since 1970.

“An exhibition being planned is rounding up the works of 60 of the country’s top craftsmen,” said Lin Jeng-yi, director of the institute. “The display will include over 100 items: from the classics to the contemporary designs. Craftsmen and artists considered as national treasures and masters are to be featured through their creative works, which are a combination of design and craft.”

A section will be transformed into a showcase of masterpieces like ceramic vase by Lin Pao-chia, lacquered art (see photo of work with aboriginal subject) by Lai Kao-shan, Li Sung-lin’s woodcarving, Chang Hsien-ping’s woven bamboo and Wu Ching’s gold sculpture.

New Chi, a label being pushed by Heinrich Wang, will be there to make impact through exquisitely beautiful and unique porcelain designs. Yii will be unveiling the creations of 18 award-winning local craftsmen and 15 contemporary designers with international exposures. The presence of The One, a label of ever-growing popularity, can likewise be expected.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Taiwan gets unprecedented taste of success at international culinary championship in Taipei

By Nancy T. Lu

Taiwan had a first taste of culinary glory on home ground, finally succeeding in keeping the grand trophy in the international cooking contest during the 2009 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition.

The Chinese Gourmet Association team representing Northern Taiwan upstaged their closest rival from Fuzhou, China in the final round of the competition. The eight groups seeking to be declared the best this year represented China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, the United States, Northern Taiwan and Southern Taiwan.

Lo Chin-han and his winning team members proudly raised their thumbs in a victory gesture when Janice Lai, director general of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, presented a crystal cup to Lo, declaring his group as the overall cooking champion during an awarding ceremony at the Taipei World Trade Center on Sunday, August 23.

“This year’s eight teams turned out to be stronger than those in 2007,” remarked Dr. Chuck Yim Gee, a veteran judge of culinary competitions and the chairman of the jury panel this time. “The judges were all looking for something new and exciting. The teams created new Chinese cuisine, earning our admiration.”

He explained that judging was first carried out the traditional way. And then the jury voted anonymously, indicating their strong personal choices.

Chefs Lo Chin-han, Chen Chao-feng, Kang Chih-wei, Huang Chung-loung and Wen Kuo-chih of the champion team had to prepare appetizers, a soup, a giant grouper dish, an Yilan duck recipe, a livestock main course and a dessert all under strict time constraint. The food ingredients which must be used were announced only at the last minute. There was no time to practice. They ended up turning to the home-cooking of their mothers for inspiration.

The cash prize given out this year was NT$300,000. But even before the announcement of the big winner, Lo from the triumphant team already offered to generously donate NT$150,000 to the victims of the typhoon Morakot disaster. Uniforms with autographs of the chefs from the different teams were earlier auctioned as part of the fund-raising drive to benefit the typhoon victims.

The Fuzhou Juchuyuan Group in China, the Super Star Group of the Asian Chefs Association in Hong Kong, the Society of Chinese Cuisine Chefs in Singapore, the Master Chefs of Kyoto in Japan, the Pan Malaysian Koo Soo Restaurants Chefs Association, the Pariss Seafood Restaurant Jhubei representing Southern Taiwan and the Chinese Gourmet Association fielding the chefs from Northern Taiwan all contributed to the putting of Taiwan on the international culinary map.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Culinary event in Taipei, now on its 20th year, whets appetite

By Nancy T. Lu
The 2009 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition, now on its 20th year, has not lost its appeal. Far from it.

Colors and forms grab the eye, even inviting experience through the palate, as soon as a visitor enters the Taipei World Trade Center. Dining menu options and banquet offerings in beautiful settings have never looked so appetizing and tempting.

This year’s food celebration is particularly strong in riding on the attraction of places with great tourism potential. Suzhou, Venice of the East renowned for its stone bridges, pagodas and gardens romantically reflected in the water, proudly presents the exquisite refinement of Chinese cuisine in an entire pavilion at Taipei’s foremost food event. Recipes call for stewing, braising, quick-frying, stir-frying, steaming, roasting or deep-frying.

Dishes done Suzhou style are said to veer towards the sweet side. Presentation tends to be classical. Servings of Suzhou cuisine are set beautifully against picture backdrops capturing typical Suzhou scenes. One unforgettable dish consists of tofu finely sliced into strips resembling traditional noodles. In keeping with the Chinese penchant for extending good wishes, gods of good fortune as well as of longevity find their places next to auspicious sayings in the array of Suzhou specialties.

Taiwan’s very own culinary talents from far and wide have been mobilized and grouped for special highlight and ultimately for better appreciation by the crowds of visitors at the Taiwan Culinary Exhibition from August 20 to 23.

Twelve international hotels and restaurants are trotting out their food bestsellers during the period. Landis Taipei’s Tien Hsiang Lo, for example, entices with fine food preparations like braised bamboo pith with shepherd’s purse as well as braised noodles with water eels and Chinese leeks. Tautau makes a convincing sales pitch through a set menu costing only NT$880. Dishes include abalone and scallop.

If the queue is exceptionally long at the booth of the Formosa International Hotels Corporation and Silks Palace, the explanation lies in the incredible offering of a stay complete with breakfast at the five-star Grand Formosa Regent of Taipei for only NT$3,999. The regular price is NT$12,078.

Visit recreational farms and try rural living. An entire pavilion offers tips on wonderful dining possibilities in the countryside and up in the mountains the whole year round. Fresh food ingredients wait to be enjoyed very much in keeping with a healthy lifestyle, according to chefs on duty.

About 50 giant grouper recipes in another section point to how the harvest of this usually exported fish is being returned to the local dining table for the delectation of gourmands in Taiwan. Chefs demonstrate here their creative expertise in cooking it.

As in the past, a cooking championship event gathers experienced teams from Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fuzhou, the United States and Northern as well as Southern Taiwan to compete against each other this year. The final competition will take place on August 23. At stake is the grand prize of NT$300,000.

Folk entertainment like Taiwanese glove puppet theater on a special stage is a new feature at the food fair. Dough figure items sell as souvenirs for tourists to bring home. Food products sold elsewhere, such as handmade noodles and special sauces to go with them from Kinmen, may be the preferable choices of shoppers, who want to share food discoveries with their loved ones at home.

The Food Street buzzes with activity the whole day. A day at the 2009 Taiwan Culinary Exhibition is not complete without a detour to this corner to actually order some food of personal fancy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Choreographer Lin Lee-chen’s 60th birthday calls for all-out dance celebration

By Nancy T. Lu

Thursday, August 20, seemed at first to be just another rehearsal day at the Taiwan Human Rights Memorial compound in Taipei for the dancers of Legend Lin Dance Theatre (Wougow in Chinese). The young talents under Lin Lee-chen, the company’s artistic director, had gathered to practice in preparation for the Taipei premiere of a new piece of choreography, “Song of Pensive Beholding (Chants de la destinee)” in December.

The Legend Lin Dance Theatre has been one of Taiwan’s leading contemporary dance companies to have found acclaim on the world stage. The group since its founding in 1995 has developed a repertoire focusing on large-scale and often slow-paced dance dramas inspired by traditional religious rituals and ceremonial rites in Taiwan, evoking the ever-changing seasons and celebrating the rhythms of nature and life. “Hymne aux fleurs qui passent” first made a big impact in France in 1998 before touring other countries in Europe with great success.

Elsewhere, inside another building on Thursday afternoon, a flurry of activity indicated that a surprise was going to be sprung on Lin for good reason. Somebody finally announced that Lin would shortly be ushered in.

As soon as the choreographer, with hair tucked as usual into a bun and wearing a white pants outfit, entered the room, everyone broke into the upbeat birthday greeting song.

Lin, surrounded by her dancers and friends, marked her 60-year milestone on August 20. The small party was organized secretly on just a few days’ notice.

As she choked with emotion and expressed gratitude to her mother, standing next to her, for bringing her up to be what she has become, tears flowed. She made her wish and blew out the sole candle on the big cake.

Some of the company members shortly picked up their exotic percussion instruments to strike out a truly exciting beat, kicking off a dance celebration. Lin herself could not resist moving to the rhythm of the music. An impromptu program saw dancing feet taking turns in grabbing the limelight. Others got pushed to gracefully dance with joy on such a happy occasion. Through it all, Lin Lee-chen gave her fine dancers a big smile of approval and encouragement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Turkish percussionists drum up excitement, raising money for Typhoon Morakot victims

By Nancy T. Lu
Exotic Middle Eastern music filled the lobby of the Taipei International Building at noontime on Wednesday. A Turkish percussion ensemble going by the name of Ritim Art struck an exciting beat in the office building, making people stop and watch. Not long after, many found it irresistible to sway to the music or tap their feet to the rhythm. A Taiwanese belly dancer even got into the act at one point.

The Turkish Trade Office, one of the many de facto embassies housed in the building, arranged to have the five visiting percussionists from Istanbul fan some excitement through their showmanship. An appeal to the generosity of the crowd was made. The event was planned on short notice as a charity concert to benefit victims of Typhoon Morakot.

The office workers having their lunch break showed curiosity over the musical instruments. They quickly bought all the CDs of the group on sale.

A very young percussionist brought the program to a high with his darbuka drumming. He even engaged an older member of the ensemble in a hot and playful percussive dialogue.

The bendir in Turkish hands helped transport the audience to an imaginary Anatolian setting. The Turkish hand drum called davul also took the spotlight more than once. The qanun string instrument or zither also lent itself beautifully to the Turkish airs. The time came, too, for the Turkish lute guitar called baglama to entertain the gathered audience.

The performers even gave a Turkish-style rendition of the familiar Taiwanese song, “Tiu Tiu Tang.”

Ritim Art will head for Yilan to participate in an international festival there, according to the Turkish Trade Office (tel. 02-27577318).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

13 art educators show color and diversity of their creative expressions in Taichung

By Nancy T. Lu
Thirteen artists who have long been engaged in art education have gathered regularly in the last 20 years to share their personal progress in art creation. Pa Fang Yun Chi, the name of the group, sums up the color and diversity of the members.

Actually their early careers as art educators started at Fuhsing and Nanchiang Schools. Then they all moved to Ming Chuan University. Some have stayed on to teach in the same campus. Professional growth for some has meant moving on and finding their places in the faculty of the fine arts departments of the National Taiwan Normal University and the Fu Jen Catholic University, even rising to become department or institute heads.

Art expressions have evolved and run a gamut of styles for the 13 friends, including a painter-cum-Taichung gallery owner. Individual creativity has kept evolving for every artist in this grouping of talents working for Taiwan’s academe and nurturing future generations of artists.

Their exhibition venue has moved around. The Fun Year Art Gallery, which belongs to Tsai Cheng-i, plays host to the ongoing art display. The show opened on August 7 and will run until August 23.

The collection of works include Tsai Cheng-i’s abstract paintings, Lin Yao-tang’s computer-generated portrait prints, Kuo Ming-fu’s boat and water reflection paintings, Su Hsien-fa’s landscape works, Tsai Chun-mei’s glass art, Feng Chen-chih’s black-and-white paintings, Lin Wen-chang’s prints, Li Chi-lien’s lotus paintings, Chou Li-hua’s travel memories, Kang Tai-sheng’s nude photographs, and Chen Ting-hua’s Taiwan landscape paintings. Tseng Kun-ming and Tsai Ming-hsun are also participating in the exhibit.

The Fun Year Art Gallery (tel. 04-27032424) is located at B1,16, Lane 301, Honan Road, Sec. 2, Taichung City.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Plan a trip to Sun Moon Lake for magic moments filled with orchestral music

By Nancy T. Lu

Musicians of the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (NTSO), all very experienced in coaxing emotional notes out of their classical instruments, are returning to the Sun Moon Lake to make the area come alive once more with the beautiful sound of music.

So prepare now to experience magic moments filled with music in a natural setting. Start planning a a trip to Sun Moon Lake. The NTSO will be there to romance listeners with music by Mozart, Strauss, Sibelius and many more composers.

Three Saturday concerts and one Wednesday performance during the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra’s International Music Festival from August 14 to October 3 this year will unfold in the open air at the scenic Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan. One program will even be played on a very new stage complete with dancing fountains built right on the water by the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration. Admission to all four concerts will be free.

No less than 14 concerts have been lined up for the music festival over a period of nearly two months this year. The NTSO has invited world-class cellist Misha Maisky to collaborate with the orchestra at the Chung Hsing Hall in Taichung on August 29 and at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on August 30. Violist Nobuko Imai will play with the orchestra at the NTSO Recital Hall in Wufeng, Taichung County, on August 31. The Szymanowski Quartet, too, will put the public in the mood for good chamber music in Puli on September 29 and in Wufeng on October 2.

Taiwan’s very own award-winning violinist Hu Nai-yuan will be the featured violinist at the festival’s big opening concert at the Chung Hsing Hall in Taichung on August 15. Hu, it must be recalled, won first prize at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition in Belgium in 1985. Hubert Soudant will be the conductor at the podium during the performance. The evening’s repertoire to include Mozart’s Overture from “The Magic Flute,” Beethoven’s “Concerto for Violin in D, Op. 61” and Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 8” will be replayed the following evening, August 15, at the Sun Moon Lake’s Shueishe Parking Area, which is very close to the water and the row of hotels with at least three-star rating.

The participants of the NTSO Youth International Music Camp will cap their training with a performance under the baton of award-winning Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang on the special stage in the lake on August 22. Wang Yu-chuan will be the French horn soloist in the spotlight during the playing of Richard Strauss’ “Horn Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major, Op. 11.” Also in the program will be Haydn’s “Symphony No. 104 in D Major – London” and Rachmaninov’s .”Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27.”

Charismatic Taiwanese violinist Lin Cho-liang will perform with the NTSO under conductor David Alan Miller also at the Sun Moon Lake’s Shueishe Parking Area on September 9. Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture – Fantasy, Sibelius’ “Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47,” Copland’s Suite from “Our Town,” and Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” will get an airing. The concert the evening before, September 8, at the Chung Hsing Hall in Taichung will have a similar program.

The closing program at the Shueishe Parking Area in Sun Moon Lake on October 3 will be “A Tribute to John Williams.” Music from “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will be among the repertoire’s highlights.

Of the Sun Moon Lake performances, the NTSO organized a very successful first concert with “Sounds of Nature” as theme in June last year. Matthew Lien, famous for his “Wolf” recording, gave a dramatic keyboard performance accompanied by recordings of sounds of nature including taped ripples of water, roars of the ocean, chirping of birds and singing of cicadas.

Taipei residents interested in visiting Sun Moon Lake can drive to central Taiwan. Buses to Shueishe Visitor Center pick up passengers near the SOGO Pacific Department Store on Fuhsing Road in Taipei. The bus ride takes about four hours. Some of the finest hotels, such as the Hotel del Lago, are only a five-minute walk down the road from Shueishe. Visit the website of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration (tel. 886-49-2855-668) under the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications at for information on the popular tourist destination, the Sun Moon Lake.

The picture of the serene Sun Moon Lake shown here was taken by this writer in June 2008.

Foremost Filipino architect Francisco “Bobby” Manosa sings ever in praise of the functional “nipa hut”

By Nancy T. Lu

If Francisco “Bobby” Manosa, the famous Filipino architect who was very recently named by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as one of the seven national artists of the Philippines for the year 2009, has one song on his lips, it is “Bahay Kubo” (My Nipa Hut).

As the keynote speaker who was invited to address the Asia-Pacific Space Designers Association (APSDA) Congress in Taipei back in 2005, he enthusiastically sang this song, familiar to every Filipino since childhood, with the other Philippine delegates at a social event.

Actually Manosa’s decades of successful architectural practice sing in praise of the functional “bahay kubo (nipa hut).”

“I just want to design Filipino,” he declared after giving his architectural service to at least 300 residences, 40 churches of different faiths as well as 20 resorts and hotels. “I want to innovate and invent designs that can identify with the Filipino.”. (“Designing Filipino: The Architecture of Francisco ‘Bobby’ Manosa” is the title of a coffee table book about him and his landmark projects.)

Those who listened to his talk in Taipei then were fascinated with his Coconut Palace, also known as the Tahanang Pilipino (Philippine Home or Residence). He tapped indigenous materials like coconut, bamboo, rattan, capiz and narra to build the guest house for international performing artists next to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Folk Arts Theater. The project, which the former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos commissioned on reclaimed land in the Manila Bay area, was completed after 14 months some 31 years ago. In the post-Marcos era, he designed the monument to people power and the Edsa revolution – the Edsa Shrine with its underground chapel.

Manosa’s own unique home is a showcase full of the functional features of the Philippine native house. Philippine tourism officials, in fact, like to show it off as a Philippine tourist attraction to visiting VIPs.

Manosa’s father was a Harvard graduate who became the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Santo Tomas. When Manosa graduated from high school, his father called him aside to ask him what he intended to take up in college.

“When I said, `Piano,’ he stared at me in disbelief,” recalled Manosa. “`Are you kidding?’ he asked. `There is no future in it. So I said, `Violin.’ `Don’t talk to me,’ he said. `Talk to your mother.’”

His mother finally conveyed his father’s message and it was to choose between architecture and painting. He opted for architecture. His father, if he were still alive today, would certainly be very proud of him for he has emerged a true champion of the cause of Philippine architecture.

Throughout his college years at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), he was the classmate of another renowned Filipino architect – Leandro “Lindy” Locsin. As the students were seated alphabetically, the two sat next to each other throughout their UST years.

According to Manosa, students in his time learned through research. They opened American books and read about world architecture.

“Lindy admired Le Corbusier while I marveled at the work of Frank Lloyd Wright,” said Manosa. He appreciated the heavily-decorated work with tropical inspiration, which Wright did on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. According to Manosa, Wright tried to keep the natural environment. Wright’s low and spreading prairie houses with rooms running into each other somehow inspired Manosa in his projects, too.

Manosa pointed out that love of music is what he has in common with Locsin. “He plays piano classics while I go for jazz,” revealed Manosa.

In trying to design Filipino, Manosa has been going against the tide of building American bungalows, Swiss chalets, Spanish villas and Mediterranean houses, among others, over the years. He has not only fallen back on the “bahay kubo” (nipa hut) with its practical high-pitched roof and slatted bamboo flooring as well as the “bahay na bato” (house of stone) built by the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines hundreds of years ago but also learned directly from the squatters in the building of homes.

A couple of years ago, Manosa, ever open to ideas from different sources in his creative exercises, playfully designed for his son a house with the bedrooms on the first floor, living and dining spaces on the second floor and a garden on top. This way, the garden is really spacious. This is supposed to be how Filipino squatters build their shanties in the big cities.

During his Taipei visit, Manosa hinted at his building plan for his daughter’s new home. An architectural scale model of the project still veiled in secrecy already existed then, according to him. He described it in this puzzling way: “Tahanan na siya, wala pang bubong. (It’s already a house but there is still no roof.)”

Almost chuckling, he remarked that his daughter, an interior designer, was then on the road to owning the only house without a roof in the very exclusive Ayala Alabang subdivision in Metro Manila. The persuasive architect convinced his daughter to accept his extraordinary design, which he had offered as a father’s gift gratis et amore. (This meant that he would not charge her for his professional service.) Her daughter would pay for the construction. Anyone making an educated guess would imagine the project to be a contemporary residence incorporating with great creativity traditional Filipino features.

Wikipedia describes his Bahay Kubo mansion in Ayala Alabang (as of May 2008) as having “only 3 posts or ‘haligi’, 5 one-inch coconut shell doors, 2nd floor, a ‘silong’, Muslim room, sala, and master's bedroom with a fish pond therein.”

Manosa, who is in his 70s, is often asked which of his many projects he considers his landmark design. This time, he threw back a question during the Taipei interview: “How many landmarks can you build in a lifetime? My landmark design is my next one.”