Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation funds art teachers for the next generation

Funding art teachers for the next generation
By Walter Ang

The Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation recently announced their latest batch of grantees for the ACC Philippines Fellowship Program.

"The ACC supports cultural exchange in the visual and performing arts between the United States and countries of Asia by providing fellowship grants to artists, scholars, and specialists undertaking study, research, observation, and creative work in the United States," says Teresa Rances, ACC Program Representative in Manila.

"Some grants are also made to arts organizations and educational institutions if they have projects that have special significance to Asian-American cultural exchange."

Established in 1963 by John D. Rockefeller III, the ACC began to operate as an independent foundation in 1980. The council's main office is in New York and branch offices are located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei.

Though grants have been awarded to Filipinos since 1963, the Manila office was finally established in 2001?the same year that ACC Philippines Foundation was established. The foundation is ACC's partner in fundraising in the country.

"The grantees are all chosen by ACC New York. Once initial applications are screened, the New York office shortlists the applicants who then have to submit their portfolios. It is only then that the Manila office becomes involved by way of assisting these shortlisted applicants in the process," says Rances.

"The New York office will later inform the Manila office who the grantees are. The foundation has nothing to do with and is not involved in the selection of the grantees. It only serves to raise funds for the grantees. As a general rule, ACC New York matches the contribution of ACC Philippines Foundation, thus, enabling more artists and scholars to receive grants each year."

Last year's grantees include Jose Jay Cruz (Dance); Mideo Cruz and Clodualdo Aladen Llana (Visual Arts); Edgardo Maranan (Theater); Grace Nono (Music); and Wawi Navarroza (Photography). Other fields that are considered fro grants include archaeology, architecture, arts administration, art criticism, art history, conservation, crafts, design, film and video, museology, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

The current ACC Philippines Foundation board of trustees is chaired by businessman and board member of Ballet Philippines Ernest L. Escaler with Ma. Isabel G. Ongpin (wife of former Aquino administration Finance Secretary Jaime Ongpin) as president.

"In order to foster the cultural exchange of our artists, The ACC Philippines Foundation undertakes a yearly fundraising event," says Escaler. "We also have some good friends who contribute regularly, like the American Women's Club. But of course, anyone who would like to help out can do so anytime by contacting the foundation."

Trustee Isabel Caro Wilson, Philippine ambassador to Spain and former ACC Philippines chair, says, "Actually, ACC New York didn't use to have fundraisers, but now they do because they were inspired by how we were able to successfully do our first fundraiser in New York City back in 2001, just shortly after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. It proved that we Filipinos are always ready to support our artists. By allowing our artists to learn more outside of the Philippines, we ensure the continuity of excellence in art. Our grantees become teachers for the next generation."

"What is wonderful about supporting the foundation is that you know where your money goes," says fashion designer and trustee Rajo Laurel. "When the artists come back and share what they've learned, you will see that your money is a real investment. This is a form of philanthropy that contributes to nation building."

Last year, ACC Philippines' fundraiser was a fashion show featuring the work of USA-based fashion designer Josie Natori, also a trustee.

"We are already preparing for our next fundraiser, an art auction in February next year," says owner of Boston Gallery and trustee Dr. Joven Cuanang.

"We already have 100 paintings so far and it's a mix of seasoned and up-and-coming painters. Some of the painters include Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, and John Santos. It's also our way of letting Filipinos know that art is for everyone. If you can't afford one of the masters, you can certainly get a painting by one of our younger painters and support their growth, as well as assist with funding the grantees."

"It's nice to know that even if the world is in utter crisis right now, we have an organization that is in place to continually help Filipino artists learn more about their craft," says Laurel. "It is up to us not to forget that artists are the soul of a country."

To donate to the Asian Cultural Council Philippines Foundation, call 757-3006.

December 14, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bialetti and Saeco: Italian espresso makers for Pinoy homes

Italian espresso makers for Pinoy homes
By Walter Ang
December 9, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pinoy coffee lovers can now make their own espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos at home with premiere Italian-brand coffeemakers Bialetti and Saeco. "These brands meet the growing interest of Filipinos in gourmet cuisine with quality equipment," says Norman Reynoso, Institutional Sales and Marketing Manager of Fabriano S.p.A., the official Philippine distributor for both brands.

For families where only one or two members enjoy a cup of good, strong coffee (and acquiring an espresso machine isn't feasible), there is the Bialetti line of stovetop espresso makers. "These come in charming designs and are convenient since the smallest models are for single servings, though there are models that can brew up to six servings," says Reynoso. "You just fill it with water and ground coffee, put it on top of the stove, and in a few minutes, you have espresso!"

The original model was created by Italian engineer Alfonso Bialetti around the Second World War. Inspired by sealed boilers used by laundry women that had a central pipe to draw soapy water from the bottom and redistributed it over the laundry, Bialetti created a device where steam travels up a funnel (thus creating a characteristic gurgling sound), through ground coffee and into an upper chamber where the espresso is collected.

With most coffee makers, water simply drips through ground coffee and down to a pot. Bialetti's creation allows pressurized boiling water to steam through the ground coffee for more efficient extraction of flavor and caffeine. The result is stronger coffee compared to drip brew.

Bialetti's invention has become a staple in every Italian household, allowing Italians to have espresso-bar quality coffee in the comfort of their own homes. Prior to the creation of this nifty device, there were only two ways to get their coffee fix: going to espresso bars that had large, steam-pressured machines or to endure the slow filtration process at home.

Different designs
The distinctive Bialetti octagonal shaped stovetop espresso maker is iconic and a visual cue for Italian culture. It was ranked as one of Italy's best designs in the 20th century along with the 1957 Fiat 500, the 1946 Vespa, and the Nutella bottle. Bialetti's design blueprints are even featured in several museums including the Science Museum of London. The models manufactured today all feature a logo caricature of Bialetti.

The stovetop espresso makers come in several styles to suit different aesthetic preferences. "There are designs that are romantic, some are minimalist, and some are even playful," says Reynoso. There's even a model with a glass collecting chamber for those who prefer to see their coffee gurgle up in the mornings.

While most models come in stainless steel finishes, Fabriano S.p.A. is considering bringing over more colored models, even pink ones, and a model that changes color when the coffee is nearly ready. "The more experienced coffee lovers know not to brew the coffee to boiling point as it will affect the taste," says Reynoso.

He notes that the bestseller, thus far, is the stovetop cappuccino maker with a cow-skin design finish. "Most Filipinos are not really too fond of very strong coffee, so they opt for the cappuccino makers. The cow-skin design is kind of cute, which Pinoys like," he adds. The cappuccino makers have bigger collecting chambers compared to the espresso makers so that milk can be added. It can even make froth, technically called crema, with just a click of a pressure valve.

Automated
More technophilic households will be attracted to Saeco, the Italian market leader of home-use espresso machines. Saeco was established in 1981 in Gaggio Montano, a small Apennine town in Bologna.

Saeco has some lines that are exclusively designed by BMW Designworks USA such as the Talea line which features silver and titanium color palettes. "Saeco's Taleo Giro model is our bestseller," says Reynoso.

Most of the machines come with LCD displays and either programmable push-button technology or interactive click wheels. Some machines comes pre-programmed with coffee recipes so the user can get a great drink instantly but settings can be adjusted to user preferences.

Saeco's Royal Prof model is the ultimate in automated coffee making. "It will even grind your coffee beans for you," says Reynoso. "An autodose function detects the size of the beans that are put in. Just push a button or turn a knob to create the perfect cup of coffee to suit your personal taste." The model comes with a ceramic grinder which creates a soft hum rather than the usual loud buzzing, grinding sound most people are used to hearing.

Saeco has received several design awards for its different models such as the Red Dot Design Award for Product Design Excellence, the IF Product Design Award, and the Plus X award for design and ease of use.

"Both brands have consummate stylishness due to thorough design standards and research. They have also gone through exhaustive quality control measures. The Filipino coffee aficionado is assured of an attractive and durable piece that is a noteworthy investment, in and out of the kitchen," says Reynoso.

For details, visit the GE Monogram Experience Center, 2/F Serendra, Taguig City, or call 643-3456.

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/homeandentertaining/homeandentertaining/view/20091209-240902/Italian-espresso-makers-for-Pinoy-homes

Digital meridian system: Evaluate your vital energy

Digital meridian system: Evaluate your vital energy
By Walter Ang
December 8, 2009
Manila Bulletin

"Filipinos have a tendency to wait until they are really ill before they seek medical help," says Ian Nubla. "We tend to ignore symptoms, what our bodies are telling us. It's best to seek medical attention while a negative condition is still in its early stages, the longer you wait, the more expensive and time-consuming treatments and medicines will be."

Nubla is connected with Health is In, a company that promotes products related to complementary medicine (www.health-is-in.com). To address this ingrained lack of vigilance in monitoring the status of our health, Nubla is advocating the use of the Digital Meridian System (DMS), which is a method of evaluating a person's "vital energy" level. The system indicates potential health problems and suggests alternative modes of natural therapy to help restore and balance one's energy.

"People are more receptive now to the idea of vital energy as a way to assess health, even if it's something you can't really see," he says. Nubla goes on to say that the concept of vital energy has been around for thousands of years, especially with Asian medical theories such as chi from China, ki from Japan and prana from India.

Based on science
Meridians are pathways along which the vital energy of the body is considered to flow. The meridians form a network that connects all parts of the body, such as the skin, tendons, bone, and internal organs. Disease is said to be caused by blockages or disruptions of energy flow along the meridians.

Acupuncture, acupressure and some martial arts like tai chi and qigong operate on the principle that manipulating the meridians help balance out a body's energy.

The technology behind the Digital Meridian System started in Russia as a way to monitor the health of its cosmonauts. The Russians combined ancient Chinese meridian theories and modern electronic physiology. Detailed tests were conducted in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, atomic energy medical health departments, clinics, and the military.

The test results provided the database of over a million people for the past 40 years and the data was processed by computers, proving that meridians and human organs are interrelated.

"The system eventually replaced X-rays and ultrasound monitoring for the cosmonauts," says Nubla. "Imagine how stringent the medical testing for an astronaut can be. They have to withstand great stresses in outer space such as extreme changes in air pressure. So the doctors have to make sure they are in top shape. For the Russians to use this system is a testament to its accuracy."

Preventive tool
"The Digital Meridian System can be used as a tool for early detection of illnesses," he says. The concept of the DMS may be new to Filipinos, but these kinds of systems are widely used in hospitals in China and in Europe. "When some Europeans visited our store and saw our DMS, we didn't have to explain, they were familiar with it."

While the concepts of meridians may seem alien and confusing (after all, there are as many as 20 meridians and up to 600 acupuncture points), one does not need to know anything about it to operate or use the DMS.

"It's convenient and easy to operate, it's safe and non-invasive, and it's quick?a session only takes around ten minutes," he says. "You simply move the hand-held sensor over several meridian points on the hands and feet. The program shows you a diagram so you'll know where to place the sensor."

The sensor picks up data that are then analyzed and a report is generated. The report will show an individual's vital energy status: whether low, balanced or excessive. It also identifies possible root causes of diseases while giving early detection of potential illnesses.

Once these "imbalances" and potential illnesses are listed down, the system then recommends suitable supplements (like vitamins or herbs that one can take) to help correct the imbalance. It even recommends aromatherapy scents for a user's particular needs as well as acupuncture, body massage and foot reflexology points.

Not to replace
I was able to try out the system in the company's showroom along West Avenue, Quezon City and it correctly identified my chronic upper back pain. I had not told the staff anything about my state of health prior to the procedure. My individual report suggested root causes of my body pain and recommended supplements that I should take as well as acupressure points that I could either massage on my own or as a guide for an acupuncturist or massage therapist.

Admittedly, some portions of the report (like graphs) may not be understandable right away, but the staff are very helpful and are patient with their explanations. "People who acquire the system can call us at 4160123 any time to ask for help," says Nubla.

The system comes with a hand-held sensor and a software program that will be installed in your desktop computer or laptop. If you don't own a desktop or laptop, Health is In can customize a package to include a laptop with your digital meridian system.

It's ideal for families who want to monitor the health condition of their members or for companies or organizations that would like to have a general health assessment of their employees or members.

Nubla points out that health practitioners such as doctors, acupuncturists, nutritional therapists, reflexologists, alternative, naturopathic and holistic practitioners, as well as those in the spa and wellness industry may find good use for the DMS.

"Nonetheless, this system is not supposed to take the place of doctors," Nubla cautions. "It can aid and compliment a general check-up, but it does not replace conventional laboratory tests or technology-aided diagnostic tests like MRIs or X-rays. It's simply a tool that will allow you to take your health into your own hands by monitoring how your body is functioning. We hope that the digital meridian system will promote the habit of preventive health care management."

Geraldine Javier does art shows with a heart

Art shows with a heart
By Walter Ang
December 8, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Thirty-something contemporary visual artist Geraldine Javier has been setting records in major Asian auction houses Christie's and Sotheby's in Hong Kong and Borobudur in Singapore in the past few years.

Last year, her "Curating the Sky" sold for at least 10 times its estimated selling price in Christie's. In 2007, her "Absurdity of Being" sold for 16 times more than the original estimate. Other works that have been sold include her "Storm Chasing Dog Chasing Girl Chasing Storm" and "One Leads to Oblivion, The Other to Sorrow."

Her most recent international auction was for Christie's just a few weeks ago. Javier acknowledges that her success at the auction houses makes her "happy" but she notes that "there is also a lot of pressure." She has not rested on her laurels and is known to keep a very strict schedule (this interview was conducted after her regular work hours) to continuously produce new work.

This year, she has participated in exhibits in Milan, Beijing, and the Czech Republic. In Manila, she was part of the group show "Interior Motives" at Mo Space Gallery and had a solo show, "Butterfly's Tongue," that opened in West Gallery and moved to Manila Contemporary Gallery.

Giving back
Javier completed a degree in nursing before becoming an artist. A recipient of the Cultural Center of the Philippines's 13 Artists Award in 2003, she has been participating in group exhibits since the mid-90s and has consistently done solo shows this past decade.

Her work has been lauded as "sophisticated and enigmatic," touching on subject matter such as "death, misery, dysfunctional relationships, and emotional violence" with executions that mix "absurdity, imaginary, fantasy, and reality."

Javier uses oil on canvas; her technique is described as photorealistic and has now evolved into a more painterly direction with the inclusion of other media such as preserved insects and hand-embroidered elements.

Despite her success, Javier does not live in a bubble. Her home was flooded in the recent spate of typhoons and she was acutely aware of how her colleagues were affected. "Many artists' works were destroyed in the flood. There was very little I could do to help. After the storms, I had to finish pending deadlines and wasn't able to volunteer. It was very frustrating, not being able to help," she says.

She called on news broadcaster Julius Babao for help. Javier had participated in the Art 40 fundraiser auction last year organized by Babao for a Gawad Kalinga village he had sponsored. "I knew it would entail a lot of work for Julius to organize another fundraiser auction but I brought up the idea anyway," she says with a laugh.

Art 2 Heart
"Ghe is a real gem in the art world," says Babao. "She is well loved not only here but also abroad, as evidenced by her success in the international art auction scene. Her works are extraordinary and unique. The time, effort, and skill that she puts into every painting is really amazing. That's why her paintings are sought after by Pinoy and Asian art collectors. The young collectors say you're not "in" if you don't have a Geraldine Javier.

"But what makes her more interesting is that aside from being a great painter, she's also a good person. When she sent me a text message to suggest that we organize another fundraising auction, I immediately agreed."

Babao didn't have plans to organize any fundraisers this year. "The success of Art 40 is a tough act to follow. I also wanted my artist friends to take a break from fundraising and to concentrate on their shows here and abroad. But when Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng hit the country, it awakened the volunteerism spirit in all of us, everybody was eager to do their share in helping people."

Gawad Kalinga is a movement for nation-building that aims to transform poverty stricken areas with the goal of building 700,000 homes in seven years (2003-2010). Babao hopes to replicate the success that his first GK village has achieved. "Close to a hundred artists joined Art 40 and it was able to raise P2.5M. The money was used to build 30 houses for 30 families in Bagong Silang, Caloocan, which is doing very well. It has become tourist attraction for foreigners and a GK model village because it's the only village with houses that have graffiti murals spray-painted on them.

"This year's fundraiser auction is titled `Art 2 Heart,' and we're targeting P3M. The amount went up because of higher production costs for construction materials. GK is giving us land in Sitio Amparo, Caloocan where we plan to build the Art 2 Heart Village for 30 families who were badly affected by typhoon Ondoy."

Javier is putting the finishing touches to her Art 2 Heart piece titled "Casta Diva." She says, "It's inspired by opera and can be described as Louvre Museum-meets-flea market."

Babao adds, "So far, we have 50 artists joining us in this event, masters like Ang Kiukok, Ramon Orlina, Mauro `Malang' Santos and the best crop of contemporary artists that the country has ever seen like Ronald Ventura, Elmer Borlongan, Rodel Tapaya, Winner Jumalon, Mark Justiniani, Gabby Barredo, Wire Tuazon, and many more."

Art 2 Heart fundraiser auction is on Dec. 19 at Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Foundation, 4/F Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell, Makati City. Call Art Verite at (632) 915-1982 or 63917-329-6273. Preview viewing begins Dec. 18 at 12noon or visit art40.multiply.com.

Also published online:
http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/artsandbooks/artsandbooks/view/20091207-240511/Art-shows-with-a-heart-Art-2-Heart-auction-to-the-rescue

Alli (Orlistat) diet pill is a new ally in weight loss

A new ally in weight loss
By Walter Ang
December 7, 2009
Manila Bulletin

The latest report from the Food and Nutrition Institute indicates that the incidence of being overweight is on the rise with 21.4% of Filipino adults weighing significantly more than they should. "The prevalence of obesity has risen 24.9 percent since 1998," says endocrinologist Dr. Cristina Chua.

She goes on to note that being overweight increases the risk of developing several serious health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, among many others. Aside from physical problems, being overweight can also affect one's self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.

Dr. Chua points out that lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity (read: exercise) are the key factors in weight loss. The trick, she shares, is in setting realistic targets. "Aim for 5-10% reduction in weight over six months," she adds.

An ally
To help Filipinos jumpstart their weight-loss efforts, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has introduced weight loss aid Alli to the local market. "For every two pounds you lose on your own, Alli helps you lose one pound more. It will partner with you towards your journey to gradual, steady, sustainable weight-loss," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.

Alli's active ingredient is orlistat, which works by combining with the enzymes in your digestive system to prevent the fat you eat from being absorbed by your body. "When taken three times a day, Alli blocks about 25% of the fat you eat," he says. "Fat is the most calorie-dense food, so preventing the absorption of some of it while eating reduced-calorie, lower-fat meals helps you lose weight."

When taking Alli, the unabsorbed fat passes naturally out of the body. Most people have heard of horror stories of the side effects of taking orlistat that would need extreme measures such as wearing adult-diapers. However, this side-effect only happens when one eats large amounts of fatty food and should instead serve as motivation to eat less fatty food.

He says that the target duration of using Alli is usually around six months. "The assumption is that during this time, the user would have gotten used to the lifestyle changes and would have reached their targeted weight loss. However, they can opt to continue using it if they wish to lose more weight."

He adds, "Alli has had success in the United States and Europe because of the program it offers. Each Alli starter pack contains a weight loss program that includes a one-week meal plan, a healthy eating guide, and tips for a healthy lifestyle."

A Pinoy menu
Registered nutritionist Virgith Buena of Cardinal Santos Medical Center designed the eating menu and includes food items that Filipinos actually eat such as pan de sal and chicken tocino for breakfast, daing na bangus and sinampalukang manok for main courses, and even leche flan for dessert.

"This nutrition plan is not a deprivation diet. Users can continue to enjoy their favorite food, but in moderate amounts. You don't eliminate fat completely with this meal plan because the right amount of fat helps the body absorb vitamins and perform other essential functions," Buena says. "This eating plan is different from many other common diets in several ways. It allows you more calories a day than many others do and it allows you to eat three meals a day, plus a snack, if desired. However, while you can choose any food you like, it has to fall within your fat and calorie targets."

She points out that making nutritious choices is not complicated. "Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods are rich sources of necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber. Look for the words `whole grains' or `whole' in the ingredient list on food packages. Keep fruits and vegetables on hand for instant grab-and-go eating. Drink low-fat or fat-free milk. Select lean meats, fish and poultry."

As an added tip, Beuna notes that one must learn to distinguish between hunger and thirst. "You may think you're hungry when, in fact, you're just thirsty."

In addition to changes in diet, users of Alli are also encouraged to increase their physical activity. Jim Saret, coach and fitness and consultant says, "You don't need to enroll in a gym, as long as you do some kind of physical activity where you feel `challenged,' you will already be on your way."

He also advises, "Some people find it difficult to change their eating and exercise habits. They may occasionally slip. The awareness of slipping is a positive sign compared to before when they didn't care if they did. The conscious effort to do better the next day is the beginning of changing one's lifestyle."

For additional movitation, users can log on to www.alli.ph for online support. "There are tools and advice on the website to help you adjust to eating reduced calorie and lower-fat meals, as well as a list of physical activities to help you burn calories. You also get to interact with other Alli users in the online discussion forum where you can share tips and help motivate each other," says senior brand manager Gio Robles.

Just a little off the top, please: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in "Sweeny Todd"

Just a little off the top, please
By Walter Ang
December 2009 issue
Metro Magazine

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was excited but also scared when she found out she would essay the role of "Mrs. Lovett" in Repertory Philippines' staging of Tony-winning Broadway musical "Sweeny Todd."

You wouldn't think that someone who grew up acting on stage and has 25 years of experience under her belt would be afraid of anything at this point in her career. Menchu has starred in the leading roles of musicals such as "West Side Story," "Camelot," "The King and I," and "Evita," just to name a
few.

Not only that, she's actually acted in this musical before. Menchu played Todd's daughter Johanna in Rep's 1982 staging with Junix Inocian (Sweeny Todd) and Baby Barredo (Mrs. Lovett). But it is her familiarity with the material that intensified her apprehension.

The 2007 movie version, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) and Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Lovett), introduced to a wider audience the story of how Todd returns to London after being imprisoned on false charges. When he learns from his former landlady, Mrs. Lovett, that his wife killed herself after being raped by the Judge who wrongly accused him, Todd vows revenge.

The original musical premiered in 1979 on Broadway with Angela Lansbury (of "Murder She Wrote" and Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" fame) as Mrs. Lovett. Nominated for nine Tonys, it won eight, including Best Musical.

So perhaps it is the pressure of performing such a well-known piece that scared Menchu? Or maybe it's because of all that blood? (For readers who are not familiar with the story, Sweeny Todd is not called the Demon Barber for nothing--he puts a shaving razor to much use apart from actual shaving.) The reason for her initial apprehension, apparently, was the musical's, well, music.

"Sondheim's music is not your usual predictable sequencing of melody. On the contrary, to someone not familiar with his work, it may seem jarring at first. It takes genius to create a harmonious fluidity in the dissonance," she says.

Sondheim is a multi-awarded composer and lyricist for stage and film. He's won nine Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. He wrote lyrics for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," and was composer/lyricist for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and "Into the Woods," among others.

Menchu finds the chance to perform Sondheim's music for "Sweeney Todd" a major milestone for any serious actor. She notes that it can be frustrating when you "come in from the cold." With this in mind, she rose to the challenge and started rehearsing a few months before the actual cast rehearsals, working with a voice coach to prime herself for the work.

"It sounds complicated and is complicated to sing, but the music is extremely beautiful. The songs go from super low to super high Ds. There is even a song with six-part harmony in dissonance. It makes the actors sound like they're off, but they're not," she says. "When you think you're singing it right, that's when you're off. And when you think you're off, that's when it's right!" she adds with a laugh."

Menchu will share the stage with Audie Gemora who plays the titular character. He's always considered "Sweeny Todd" as the classic masterpiece of Sondheim. He jokingly remarks that if Repertory Philippines did not choose to produce it, he would. "For athletes, it's the Olympics; for actors, it's "Sweeney Todd." He adds that the musical is an art piece that has to be performed with precision, because the ear has to be trained for this particular type of music. The challenge is to bring the audience to that space where the dissonance is actually harmony.

"This musical is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for audiences to hear this kind of music," says Menchu. "Combine the music with a darkly irresistible story, you're bound to have fun in a darkened theatre when the bizarre events unravel and you experience delicious, tingly sensations."

The tale is somewhat dark, but there is a satirical, black comedy mood that takes off some of the edge. And as Audie points out, "[What happens to Todd and the things that he does] ? are things we see everyday and take for granted. We've become cynical. To see live actors act it out for you, it helps you understand and get drawn to the story. It can be a potent and shocking piece of work. It is impossible for you to remain unaffected. Bottomline, this production really has good music and it's good theater."

Menchu is excited that long time fans of Rep and new audiences will get to see "a mix of the old and new." Half the cast are actors in their first production for Rep. "It will give audiences a different flavor. Everyone is learning from each other and making things fresh," she says.

The musical also features Liesl Batucan (beggar woman), Robbie Guevara (Beadle), Robbie Zialcita (Pirelli), Franco Laurel (Anthony), Lena Mckenzie (Johanna), Marvin Ong (Tobias), and Roger Chua (Judge Turpin) with Ms. Juno Henares as the Mrs. Lovett understudy.

Baby Barredo (The Fantasticks, The Sound of Music) co-directs with Michael Williams (Miss Saigon, original London cast). Other members of the artistic and production staff include Gino Gonzales (Golden Child, Mulan Jr.) for costume design, John Batalla (West Side Story, Once On This Island) for lighting design, and Mio Infante (West Side Story, N.O.A.H.) for set design. Gerard Salonga (West Side Story) conducts the FILharmoniKA orchestra.

"Sweeney Todd" runs from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13, 2009 at Onstage, 2/F Greenbelt 1, Ayala Center Makati City. Call Repertory Philippines at 8870710, 8880887 or Ticketworld at 8919999 or visit www.ticketworld.com.ph

Discovery Suites offers exercise toys for the big boys

Exercise toys for the big boys
By Walter Ang
December 2009-Janurary 2010 issue
Garage Magazine

While working out in a gym can provide certain comforts and conveniences, routine can also quickly set in when you use the same machines again and again. Most weight-resistance machines only provide a singular, linear route of motion (either up and down, side to side, or front to back).

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club of Discovery Suites now offers spanking new exercise equipment that allows for freedom of movement that is much closer to how we use our muscles or bodies in real life.

Cue the spotlight on the Kinesis One, a machine that looks almost like a space-age transporter with a collection of cables suspended from a metal frame. It won't take you back and forth in time, but it can give you one of the most versatile workouts in terms of providing a well-rounded, zero-impact session, regardless of your current level of fitness and ability, whether you're aiming for balance, strength, or flexibility.

The cables are strung horizontally above the head and in line with the feet while another set of cables are suspended vertically. The cables have handles for you to hold on to, so you can already begin to imagine the different possibilities of positions. The cables are mounted on a 360-degree rotating pulley system which enables movement (and providing weight resistance) in almost any possible direction of the human body.

You can push, pull, row, and swing or do combinations of these actions in one movement. Aluminum alloy arms support the cables and allow the cables to slide through during outward and return movements, providing smooth action for the user. There is definitely a child-like appeal in being able to pull and push the cables, adding an element of fun and a sense of play when working out on these machines

The sense of play belies how effective the Kinesis One can be for developing muscle tone. Specific muscles (chest, back, abs, glutes and quadriceps) are exercised in the standard movements whereas the combined movements work several different muscles synergistically at the same time.

It has two weight stacks, one for each cable, which allows you to set different weight resistance for each arm or side of the body. It allows for variable resistance depending on the range and angle of the movement.

The Kinesis One is manufactured by Technogym, the exclusive supplier of 1,000 exercise machines for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It will also be supplying the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Its equipment is used by the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team.

Balance also acquired the Excite line from Technogym to provide users with multimedia cardio workouts. This line includes treadmills that have heart rate monitors, iPod compatibility, and video screens. There are also Cardio Wave step machines that allow users to stride from side to side, enabling more workout positions to change the level of involved muscles like the glutes, stabiliser muscles of the backbone, and lower limbs.

If these technical facts don't sway you to try out these exercise toys for the big boys, then some celebrity approval might help: Slyvester Stallone and George Clooney have their own Technogym equipment in their homes.

Of course, machines are only as good as the effort you put into using them. You have to make sure that your form is correct and that you still seek advise from, well, humans. Good thing Balance's staff use different up-to-date training programs backed up by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

There are several Balance Signature Workouts which includes fat-loss programs and sport-specific programs such as their Golf Performance Enhancement, which focuses on often-neglected aspects such as muscle strength and flexibility.

They also have a Corrective Exercise program that helps rid the body of muscle and joint aches and pains and helps correct postural defects by correcting imbalances in muscle strength.

One can never look buff or cut enough without a shirt, so the Leonidas Workout is sure to sound enticing. A regimen inspired by the movie "300," this workout program aims to result in a Spartan-like body.

The Atlas Workout, on the other hand, is a program for achieving muscle-tone and build without resorting to use of steroids. Customized workouts are possible upon consultation with their trainers.

If you'd like to get in shape together with your friends, Balance offers group exercise classes from as meditative as tai-chi to as funky as hip-hop classes.

After a good session, you can wind down in the club's jacuzzi, steam room, or sauna room. There are even toiletries so you won't need to pack vanity kits when you visit the gym. A membership to the club will allow you access to the Discovery Suites pool.

If you need to check for that all important incoming email, you'll rest easy knowing that the entire gym is Wi-Fi enabled. What's more, it's right beside the Terra Wellness Spa, so a relaxing massage or spa treatment after a workout is only a few steps away.

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club is at 4/F Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

In the wake of a storm, in the lay of the land

In the wake of a storm, in the lay of the land
By Walter Ang
December 2009-January 2010 issue
Garage Magazine

Living in a tropical country like the Philippines, one would think that we'd be used to typhoons and other natural weather and geographic phenomena like earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and landslides.

Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the devastation wrought by Ondoy and Pepeng when these two storms whipped the country in September. Ondoy is now known as the worst storm to hit the country in 40 years, dumping one month's worth of average rainfall in a matter of hours. Pepeng, on the other hand, will be long remembered as the storm that did a u-turn and stayed for almost an entire week. Manila, its surrounding cities and northern Luzon were hit badly and are still in the process of (a long) recovery.

News reports have pegged the damage to crops and fisheries in billions of Pesos. It's almost too overwhelming to imagine how much infrastructure damages could amount to. And, of course, there is no value to compare to the number of lives lost.

There is a host of factors that come into play in analyzing what has happened: weather, climate changes, inadequate civic and government preparedness, gross mismanagement of dams, pollution, unregulated real estate development and urban planning, etc.

In the context of urban planning, Manila was built on marshy land with rivers criss-crossing it. Augusto Villalon noted in his newspaper column that during the Spanish colonial era, there were efforts to build towns and cities with the local terrain in mind. Manila's various districts were built around Pasig River and its tributaries (esteros), allowing for natural drainage to Manila Bay.

By the time American colonizers took over in the early 1900s, architect Daniel Burnham created a master plan that proposed elevating the status of our esteros into romantic Venetian canals that would be used for ferrying. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, Manila was one of the worst razed cities in Asia during World War II. Reconstruction efforts that followed did not follow any master plan. Succeeding years saw the rise of homes and buildings (as well as squatters) all over the city without any regard for the area's underlying risks. For example, if the area is in a low-lying area prone to flooding or landslides, or even its proximity to creeks, rivers or dams.

Architect and environmental planner Anna Maria Gonzales pointed out in an article that many residential subdivisions have been built on former wetlands, rivers and creeks that were cemented over to become roads or create more space.

All of the experts who have shared their advice to the media all say that cementing over open spaces and natural vegetation limits the land's ability to drain flood water naturally.

All also agreed that pollution and disregard for natural resources played a very big role in the calamity. Garbage blocked channels for water drainage. Uncontrolled logging has denuded forests that now no longer absorb excess water.

We've also heard of horror stories of poorly constructed public infrastructure such as streets or drainage systems that would show damage sometimes as early as even before construction would be completed.

In an interview, green architect and urban planner Dan Lichauco noted that engineering also played an important part in the calamity. He said that the existing infrastructure that Manila has for water control and drainage "just really could not deal with that much water."

When asked by different news organizations, green architect and urban planner Felino "Jun" Palafox, bemoaned the fact that a plan sponsored by the World Bank for Manila drawn up in 1977 was never followed. He noted that the plan included proposals to construct spillways in certain areas to drain excess water from Laguna Lake to Manila Bay.

Most of the professionals who spoke to media agreed that the existing plans and infrastructures were either obsolete or no longer efficient. Lichauco said that "existing [urban planning and engineering] standards are developed based on historical and existing data and are created to withstand destructive risks but within certain parameters" and that since many of the factors (such as population, waste and, even weather patterns) are now so different from when old standards were made, "Manila will have to reevaluate and revise its standards, too."

There are calls for better management of urban sprawl (both population and property development). For creation of more accurate urban planning and zoning codes, and for stricter implementation of laws. For relocation of squatters and for home buyers to be more vigilant in selecting the location of their homes. There are calls for better garbage and pollution management. For canals to be dredged, for garbage landfills (which should be acting as draining fields) to be relocated. For people to stop throwing their trash all over the place.

Yes, there are proposed solutions, but the cry for political will and a more mindful civic response is on top of everyone's wishlist. You, Garage reader, can be part of this mindfulness, of this will. From small things like watching where you throw your garbage to actions with bigger impact, like voting wisely in the coming elections, you can perform tasks that contribute to change. Our land depends on it, our future depends on it.