Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Latecomer in world of romance Erik Cua of Valkyrie Club gives up bachelorhood for the love of Jam Chan

By Nancy T. Lu
A latecomer in the world of love and romance – that until recently was a fitting description of the very eligible 37-year-old Erik Cua. But one fine day in September last year, the owner of the very popular nightclub in Bonifacio Global City popped the question with a three-carat diamond ring to his lady love at Antonio’s in Tagaytay. The surprised Jam Abby Kate Chan, who was 11 years younger, blushed and said yes to the delight and joy of Erik.

And so after very traditional Chinese-style engagement ceremony earlier this year, they wed with family and friends in attendance at the San Sebastian Church in Manila in November. The bride was dazzling in a Francis Libiran wedding gown. Erik for his part was on Cloud Nine because he wanted very much to begin life as a family man. Since he was 29, when he started the Temple, he built a name in the nightclub circuit and went on to launch the famous Valkyrie Club as the first of six happy destinations at nightfall of the colossal Palace.

Nancy Cua, the Pho Hoa restaurateur and mother of the groom, was very happy to see her second son finally settle down. For his wedding, she left him to freely find several principal sponsors like Tessie Coson of SM and BDO as well as Andrew Tan of Mega World.

A very special fairytale wedding ceremony witnessed only by very close family members and truly selected friends took place in Boracay. Both Erik and Jam happened to share a love for the romance of the sea. The final grand wedding banquet unfolded on a very auspicious day, November 25, at the Makati Shangrila. 

The happy newlyweds will make their home in Forbes Park. Their love nest and mansion is still being renovated.

Jam, the daughter of Johnny Chan and Imelda Chan, has gone back to helping her family in the Osram lighting business. Erik, the son of Mariano Cua and Nancy Cua, has resumed his hectic planning and pursuit of his future projects. Their honeymoon will just have to wait for now.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Harana organized to celebrate birth centennial of Filipino food icon Mama Sita

Mama Sita's children celebrate her birthday with choir and rondalla.

By Nancy T. Lu

Celebrated recently in a nostalgic atmosphere of love and joy was the birth centennial of the Filipino culinary icon Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes. A serenade or harana both romantic and patriotic in spirit fanned reminiscences of the halcyon days of the older generation. 

Teeresita "Mama Sita" Reyes
Full appreciation of the Filipino cultural heritage seemed the intention of the event’s organizers. The Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir under Jerry Dadap and the RTU Tunog Rizalia Rondalia under Lino Mangandi came together at the UP Film Center in Diliman last September 29 to bring back the heartfelt kundiman era of a distant past.

Baby boomers and those even older watched and enjoyed the gently flowing singing which sparked flashbacks of a period of traditional courtship songs in Philippine music history.  Folk songs like “Sa Kabukiran” in the program captured in vivid detail the idyllic countryside settings immortalized in Fernando Amorsolo’s rustic paintings.  

Wasn’t Ruben Tagalog the kundiman king who warmed listeners’ hearts with his soothing rendition of “Ang Dalagang Pilipina” in days long gone? Didn’t soprano Sylvia La Torre flirtatiously sweep through the high notes of “Ako’y Kampupot” and leave her audience breathless many years ago? Young vocalists this time stepped into the limelight to perform these beautiful music compositions to the delight of the young and the old alike.

Jerry Dadap and Romy Vitug 

Songs like Constancio de Guzman’s “Bayan Ko,” Francisco Santiago’s “Pilipinas Kong Mahal,” and Jerry Dadap’s “Awit ng Pagkakaisa” stirred nationalistic fervor and pride. Dadap was even commissioned to compose “Mama Sita March: Awit ng Pagkain” for the occasion.

The Reyes family gathers around a dinner table in an old photograph.
Photographs from old family albums shown during the program highlighted an outstanding Filipino mother who taught her children Filipino values like love and nurture of family as well as care for fellow countrymen. She cooked enthusiastically for her children savory native dishes. When Mama Sita had the chance to travel abroad, she observed how overseas Filipinos missed  cooking the familiar and flavorful recipes of their homeland due to the difficulty of buying the needed ingredients. 

Over the years, the family of Mama Sita has undertaken to develop, launch and market successfully a whole range of mixes, sauces, condiments and spices to facilitate the cooking of well-loved Filipino food especially abroad. The list of products keeps building up. Mama Sita has emerged a brand name associated with lutong Pinoy or Filipino way of cooking.

A pair from Malolos, Bulacan – hometown of the Reyes clan – stepped forward to engage in what seemed like balagtasan on the topic of Mama Sita as exemplary mother, cook and Filipina. Before the night was over, 92-year-old writer Virginia R. Moreno waxed poetic about Filipina  achiever Mama Sita’s success in promoting  Philippine cuisine and good nutrition. Her cookbooks, she pointed out, have found their way to famous national libraries in London and Paris.

Clara Lapus

The Mama Sita Foundation led by Clara Lapus, the 4th of 11 Reyes children. planned and made the memorable harana happen. The award-winning cinematographer Romy Vitug documented the event.


Virginia R. Moreno

 Invitations to the event suggested a Filipiniana-inspired dress code. The men wore their barongs and the women showed up in kimonas and even ternos. Two paper-mache giants known as  higantes welcomed guests to a merienda of pancit bihon and champorado. The chicharon and chips dipped in vinegar of different kinds proved irresistible.  Guests finally headed home humming harana songs in their minds.                                                         

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Artist and storyteller Dick Bruna and his Miffy from a scrapbook of memories

By Nancy T. Lu

Miffy, the storybook rabbit, was born many years ago during the Dutch creator’s vacation on a beach in the Netherlands.  Rabbits were running around and Dick Bruna had to play parental storyteller. He came up with “Miffy at the Seaside.”

Illustrator Bruna decided from the beginning to keep his cartoon character very simple. Even his own parents who were in the publishing business did not believe that Miffy would be a success.

Dick Bruna decided that Miffy would not be illustrated like a real rabbit. While favoring the expression of the literal, he likewise wanted to invite the viewer’s participation in fleshing out the character.

French artist Matisse inspired his minimalist approach to art, Bruna revealed during a visit to Taipei years ago. He used simple black lines to outline his rabbit. Miffy was given a strictly frontal countenance. The facial angle never changed.

The capture of emotional expression became a big challenge. To arrive at consistency in simplicity, he often had to draw hundreds of sketches to create a picture. Solid colors were introduced. He left a lot of space for children and even adults to fill up with their imagination.

A single tear on the iconic character’s face caught the attention of  the Miffy Museum website visitors last February for it was bigger than usual. The reason: creator Dick Bruna had passed away at the age of 89 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on February 16. 

Bruna confessed in an interview that he had great difficulty making Miffy express sadness. He drew as many as six teardrops on Miffy’s face and still felt that he could not get the emotional expression right. He finally decided to leave just a single tear on the face.

Storybooks revolving around Miffy had been translated into more than 50 languages and even in Braille during Bruna’s career as author and illustrator of children’s books spanning at least six decades. Miffy also came to life on the movie screen as well as on television.

Bruna originally gave Miffy the Dutch name Nijntje, meaning Little Rabbit. Bruna’s first English translator gave it the name Miffy. In France, Miffy is known as Le Petit Lapin. In Japan, Miffy takes the name Usako. Avid Japanese fans of Miffy were reported to fly all the way to the Netherlands just to hang out at Bruna’s favorite coffee shop  in Utrecht, 40 minutes by train from Amsterdam, in the hope of catching him to seek his autograph and a souvenir picture with him.

But Bruna is gone. His Miffy, however, lives on in the hearts of many fans. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Millennials as cooking contestants prepare familiar veggie dishes with difference

By Nancy T. Lu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

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

By Nancy T. Lu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Artists transform gallery into classroom for discussion on Philippine history

By Nancy T, Lu

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

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

Jonah Salvosa's "The Galleon Trade"

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

Julius Samson's "Occupied Philippines"

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

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

Grace Javier Alfonso's "Empowerment of Filipino Women"

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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

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

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

Renoir's "Girls at the Piano"

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

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

Van Gogh.s "The Midday Siesta"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Philippine National Artist BenCab reveals his fascination with Chinese tai chi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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