Last month, nag-usap-usap kami ng aking staff saan kami mag-inaugurate o mag-launch ng aming presidential at vice-presidential. Some suggested the North, some the South because I come from the Visayas, some wanted the rally or whatever event might happen inside Metro Manila, some outside Metro Manila. Pero bandang huli, dahil marami na masyado ang nagsasalita, ka’ko, dalhin niyo ako sa campus where I have always been most comfortable with an audience, but only a campus consisting of ordinary students. I want a campus with a high IQ.
(Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago at Mariano Marcos State University, Batac City, Feb. 9, 2016)
And, of course, the obligatory pick-up lines here:
The Coronation Night of Miss Ilocos Norte 2015 held May 9 at the Centennial Arena before a crowd of around 6,000 measured up to the hype it generated in the past weeks. One can argue that it is one of the best provincial beauty pageants in the country and, no exaggerations here, probably among the world’s finest.
I offer the following review.
A visual feast The set design by Ohm David, a resident in big Ilocos Norte events, was stunning as usual. The images on a giant HD screen were carefully chosen and animated, providing ambiance to the competition’s various parts. For instance, flashed for the long gown competition were the buttresses of the Paoay Church on a starry night. Miniature windmills and huge harps also accentuated the stage in succession. I am amazed by the organizers’ eye for details from the grand set to the flower arrangements on the judges’ table. The lighting was perfect, but, given the inherent acoustic limitations of the venue, the sounds could have been better.
All the production performers were good, but the background dancers during the swimsuit competition nailed it best. Wearing avant-garde costumes that fused Ilocano and Japanese elements, the dancers’ vogue movements were a joy to watch. They delivered a fresh presentation that did not steal the show from, but instead trained the spotlight on, the real stars: the 23 beauties. I have seen a lot of performances choreographed by Christian Espiritu, but that one, a total work of genius, is yet the best.
The gowns and costumes created by our local designers were mostly remarkable, some of them even world class. In the evening gown competition won by Miss Pagudpud in an Amor Albano creation, the work of Jaynny Lao perfectly donned by Miss Laoag was also a hit. I am really glad of the fabulous display of artistry and talent. But organizers says some of these designers already have attitude problems even before they make it really big. Our source did not elaborate. One wonders, by the way, why Windell Madis of Batac, the third fashion designer from Ilocos Norte to make it to a fashion-oriented reality TV show, did not make anything for anyone, not even for his own town. Something, dear karikna, is amiss here.
I am grateful to my parents for sending me to workshops–mostly held during summer when the young kid’s mind is idle and is potentially a devil’s, well, workshop.
I remember being in a theater company and starring in two one-act-plays–Dionisio Salazar’s Makapaghihintay ang Amerika and another play which title escapes my mind, but I do remember that it was one heavy, very meaningful piece where all of us actors wore black. I was, ehem, best actor in that one-night-only performance, and you can check with my fellow actors–Dennis Raquiza and Philip Zenon Diego, two of the most sought-after Ilocano creatives today–about this claim. The summer heat was intense but it was no match to the sizzling friendships I forged both with my fellow trainees and our passionate teachers.
If I were to bring back the proverbial hands of time to that part of my life when I had no responsibilities but to prepare myself how to be a productive member of society, I now have in mind what workshop to attend. Obviously, dear karikna, it’s on the poster that goes with this write up.
I can personally guarantee of the excellent artistry, craftsmanship, and versatility of the three workshop trainors: Ms. Jane, former manager of Samtoy Books, have conducted a number of successful workshops and exhibits. Ms. Marianne is one of Ilocos’ most sought-after photographers who has put together an amazing picture book. The 3rd member is Russel Andrew Villena whose expertise in digital photography and graphics technology is difficult to match.
I can entrust my own kids to them, only that I don’t have any yet.
(This is the second of a series of articles comprising my critique on the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals 2014 held Nov. 29 at the Marcos Stadium in Laoag City. Read also the article Batac a genius… no loser!)
It was the fourth edition of the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals, now considered as the biggest gathering of Ilocanos, having drawn almost 50,000 in the Marcos Stadium last Nov. 29 at the Marcos Stadium. Celebrating greatness in most creative forms, the show featured once more performances from each of the 21 municipalities and 2 cities of Ilocos Norte.
Tan-ok, arguably the most anticipated event organized by the province, has steadily led to a state of maturity, taking small steps since its debut in 2011. Without blinking an eye, I’d say that last installment was the best ever. There were a lot of breakthroughs—not just steps but strides towards even greater planes for this phenomenon. Let me, dear karikna, detail my observations through this series of critical notes.
Truthful, clear stories
“Your stories are your wealth,” the judges posited during the debriefing meeting held the day after the competition. They expressed amazement over the clarity and richness of the narratives they saw unfold in most performances. Unlike the street-dance based festivals in the Visayas like the Sinulog and Dinagyang, the strength of Ilocano presentations indeed lies on our people’s tales.
Personally, I am glad that the stories presented this year were not only entertaining, but more truthful. Indeed, as confessed by Edna Vida Froilan, one of the country’s dance icons, who sit as one of seven Tan-ok judges coming from diverse backgrounds, judges are like “babies” who don’t know or know very little about the culture of the locality. They thus evaluate performances based only on what they see. The burden of determining authenticity, therefore, are not on their shoulders.
It was wise of the festival organizers headed by creative director Aian Raquel to hold a story conference prior to the big event. I am happy (and humbled) to have been invited to share my thoughts to choreographers and key people involved in drafting the storylines of every contingent. I would usually just write critiques after the show, just like this one. Interacting with our local artists early on was a welcome experience because it allowed me to talk more on the future, and ramble less about the past. During the conference, I already had a feeling that this year’s Tan-ok will be very different. That feeling was right, and it was very evident in the case of Laoag. Continue reading “Why this time I am proud of Laoag”
(Note: This essay was originally titled, Loving Marcos as a right: in defense of historical revisionism)
It is sad when self-aggrandizing freedom fighters cry foul whenever anything good is said about Ferdinand E. Marcos. To them, he is pure evil and that the youth must be constantly reminded about alleged misdeeds during his presidency. Students such as the Ateneans who joyfully had selfies with Imelda are criticized for having poor historical knowledge while artists like Chito Miranda who perform in Marcos-related activities are chided for glorifying the ‘dark side.’
These ‘freedom fighters’ consider Filipinos who recount positive personal experiences during the Marcos era as ignorant or stupid. Meanwhile, writers whose accounts of history diverge from what anti-Marcos folks believe to be Gospel truth are branded as revisionists and propagandists.
These are foul.
For how could you blame farmers who enjoyed strong government support in the 70s for loving Marcos?
How could you blame mothers whose children enjoyed quality education, and who had more food on their tables then for remembering the president well?
How could you blame artists whose respective crafts blossomed under Imelda’s patronage for dreaming for the same support?
How could you refrain people from wishing we have today a more stable power supply, a saner traffic situation, and an efficient transport system the way they were when Marcos was president and Imelda was Metro Manila governor?
How could you look down at our countrymen who wish we have today the same level of respect we enjoyed in the international community when Marcos was president?
And, how could you prevent Filipinos from feeling hungry for reform, and from rooting for the new society Marcos envisioned or something to that effect?
These “how could you’s” go ad infinitum. Point is, as a growing majority of our countrymen now realize that as our social ills have remained—and by all indicators have even worsened—in our post-1986 national life, Marcos is not the real enemy. If people feel they lived more decent lives during the Martial Law years, no historian or scholar or political analyst could contest that without insulting those who own that experience.
I know typhoons pretty well, and my only credential is that I live in Ilocos Norte, a province most frequently hit by disaster. That and some gut feeling matched with common sense.
I have learned survival skills: keeping necessary supplies in the house (food, water, batteries), monitoring news on the radio, being alert all the time and not panic. Over the years, I have also learned one important survival mechanism: not to trust PAGASA, the Philippines’ official weather agency.
On Sept. 15, for example, PAGASA raised public storm warning signal No. 3, automatically cancelling classes in schools in all levels, and work in government offices as well. It turned out to be a fair and sunny day. Even malunggay leaves were still.
Last Friday, on the other hand, PAGASA raised only Signal No. 2 as Mario set its sights on Ilocos Norte. On Saturday morning, the people—at least those who were able to sleep—woke up to a great disaster. Trees have fallen, debris were scattered in the streets, many areas were flooded, and the province was enveloped in darkness. It is, by far, the strongest natural disaster to hit the province this year.
At mid-day, hundreds of families in in high-risk areas have been evacuated, some towns have become isolated, a number of roads and highways were rendered impassable (leaving thousands of travelers stranded), and agriculture has sustained millions in losses, even as Mario, by then infamously referred to as Super Mario, continued to intensify. PAGASA released at 11:00 a.m. another weather bulletin: it was still signal no. 2. Continue reading “No hope: When PAGASA can’t even count 1, 2, 3”
Rosy but grounded. Ambitious but compelling. Elegant but inclusive.
By all indicators, Governor Imee Marcos’ 5th State of the Province Address delivered Aug. 25 at the Plaza del Norte Hotel located on a land area disputed by Laoag City and Paoay has been the best by far.
Riding on the notable transformation of Ilocos Norte in the past few years, the people’s very high morale and sense of pride, and the equally high levels of trust and confidence the governor enjoys from his constituents, Imee urged her people to dream bigger: Ilocos Norte as the country’s best province by 2020. The road map is creatively called IN2020.
More than just the usual detailing of the achievements in years past, the governor clearly spoke on the bright prospects of the future and what all sectors must do to help achieve it.
Let me quote some of the best parts of the speech that lasted 49 minutes and 49 seconds, interrupted 33 times by the audience’s generous applause:
On poverty alleviation
“Poverty in the coastal and mountain zones had climbed up from 21 % in 2003 to 24% in 2010. We responded aggressively—food packs in the lean months, 16,000 scholarships a year, barangay roads, fishing boats, tools, and new agricultural packages. 9.9% laengen ti nabati pay, nasapsapa ngem 2015 nga nagun-od ti MDG, nga mabingay iti marigrigat”
On good governance
“Hindi lihim na nakunsume ako sa sistema ng Capitolyo noon, nagngingitngit sa ilang empleyadong laging absent! Ngayon nagkakaunawaan na kami, at nakatutok ang bawat digital Ilocano citizen, sumbung nang sumbong ng text at tweet!”
On windmill developers abusing nature (and our hospitality)
“Going green is part of our provincial DNA. Last week, we constituted a multipartite monitoring team for renewable energy projects. Ironically, despite their mission to provide clean energy, wind construction sites have not always observed local ordinances on quarrying, coral preservation, and the protection of endangered plant and marine life. In Ilocos Norte, let it be known that even the country’s biggest companies have to comply with the law—the law of man and the law of nature.”
On transforming Ilocos Norte into a learning province
Let us take education beyond the classroom, beyond age and place. Let us convert Ilocos Norte into a learning province, so that every field and beach is a science lab, a Heroes Walk in Laoag or in Bacarra is a library in the park, and Sirib buses become learning movie houses.
On MMSU, garlic, and heritage conservation
Palagay ko panahon na ring pag-usapan ang MMSU. Our premier educational institution has begun to rethink its role in a quickly-diversifying economy. Originally focused on agriculture and forestry, bigger enrollments are now found in business, engineering, tourism and computer sciences. Our farmers also await from MMSU research and innovation that will impact their lives— when can indigenous Ilocano white garlic be developed into weightier, sturdier, new and more productive varieties?
The first conservation school in the country has been launched in Paoay CIT-MMSU, to revive the classic trades of carpentry and wood-carving, handloom weaving, bricks and stone masonry. NCCA, Spain’s Escuela Talleres, and the Betis, Pampanga workshops are behind us. We all watched with horror when the Bohol churches fell during the earthquake. Let us be mindful that after Bohol, our province has the most number of colonial churches. And only with long-term planning and fervent prayer can we safeguard them.
And, my personal favourite: On volunteerism
“In truth, 6 years is a very very short time to achieve all that we must IN2020. Government cannot go it alone, we need you to volunteer and assure help in continuing change and transformation. If we can set in motion a virtuous circle of generosity and volunteerism, awareness and participation will ensue, your volunteer work will generate savings for government, which will in turn fund more student jobs, more loans for women, work for tribesmen, fishermen and the handicapped. A virtuous cycle indeed!
“Sa ngayon, iilan ang nagvo-volunteer, mga suki ng kapitolyo sa barangay, Red Cross, ang Chinese Chamber. Lahat tayo ay abala sa trabaho at pamilya. Ngunit hindi ako naniniwala na ang Ilocano ay hindi matulungin. Dahil nakikita ko kayo sa barangay, naghihirap upang mabuo ang ating kalye, ang sipag-sipag ng mga magulang at titser tuwing Brigada Eskwela, at ang malasakit ng mga doktor tuwing kami’y mag-Capitol Epress. Damang-dama pa rin ang mga donasyon ng mga balikbayan sa bawat munisipyo, at maraming Ilocanong kasama kong tumulong sa Tacloban.
“Itan! Tapno awan ti maibati, awan ti maisiasi ken awan ti haan a maikkan iti tulong.”
I am glad that the governor urged the people to do their share in catapulting Ilocos Norte to the place where it should be. An extensive volunteerism campaign doesn’t also amount to savings but, more importantly, gives the people a sense of ownership of government programs. The are made to understand their roles not only as beneficiaries but as key actors in development.
There was a marked increase in Miss Imee’s use of the Ilokano language. Unlike before when Ilokano content did not exceed five percent of the entire speech, almost one-fourth of her 5,263-word 5th SOPA was in the vernacular. Here is the actual breakdown: 23% Ilokano, 33% Tagalog, and 44% English. Imee did struggle with speaking lengthy Ilokano, but its the effort to struggle that really counts. Mother tongue and plurilingualism advocates must be very happy with this development.
Attendance and seating arrangement
One thing that struck me was that some young people—youth leaders, provincial scholars, and other achievers—had even better seats than mayors.
Indeed, present were a lot of young people, including over a hundred collegians and some high school students who all looked their best. The oldest attendee was nonagenarian Magdalena Gamayo, the only master weaver of Abel in the country and a National Living Treasure. The audience was touched when the governor had a solo picture with her after the program.
The set was simple, nothing ostentatious, but very refreshing with a lot of plants in it. It is really green too as many of the stage props are reusable.
The governor herself noted that in years past, some people gave more important to fashion than the speech itself. It was not true this year. There were no scene stealers, nothing outrageously good nor abhorrent..
I also noticed that more abel fabric has been used for the gowns. I particularly liked the uniform gowns of the ladies from the Provincial Tourism Office. It was designed by no less than their boss Aian Raquel (I always knew he is multitalented, but I never realized he knows decent fashion design as well). The sleek dress is multifunctional. Made of binakol, the top with structural paired sleeves may be paired with either pants or a short skirt.
In contrast, a famous personality from Laoag City (not a politician) also wore an abel gown, but it really looked off. Done by a famous designer, the over-imposing top made the thirty-ish beauty look like a a cross between an overloaded ship and an old-fashioned spacecraft. In fairness, she still looked terrific regardless of what she wore. Still, the gown could have been better.
By the way, Imee’s blue gown is an Amor Albano creation. Its design makes a classic terno look contemporary with the play of silhouette and texture.
On a personal note, I wore a modest barong, actually a hand-me-down from my father, which Joel Dul-loog was so kind to repair on very short notice.
After-event food and refreshment
Attendees generally commented that food served at Plaza del Norte this year was slightly better than in past years. A group of provincial scholars remember enjoying the following: banana bread, cream puff, puding a kasla maja ti kolorna, bread a round a babassit nga adda meat idiay unegna, lechon baboy, and chicken a ‘dimi ammo’t lutona.
A famous Ilocos Norte physician noted that of all the food served, it was only the lechon baka that he really enjoyed. It was unfortunate, he said, that before he noticed the roasted cow, he already had his tummy filled with forgettable pasta, pastry, and other meat dishes.
Me, I was so busog with Imee’s speech. And it was really all that mattered.