Saturday, May 23, 2009


I had to ask, who’s Katrina and who’s Hayden?

I have heard of Katrina Halili, of Vicky Belo, but never of Hayden Kho. I google their names and Wikipedia says that Katrina Halili is “a Filipina actress, and a commercial model.” That “she made her screen debut via Starstruck, but did not gain popularity until playing the antagonist roles in Darna, Majika, Atlantika and Marimar and becoming the protagonist in One Night Only and Magdusa Ka.” Unfortunately, or fortunately, I never saw any of those films. A blog said that Hayden Kho “joined Bodyshots 2000…" that “He modeled for a while, then he stopped to pursue medical school in UST.” There’s a quote from Kho himself, “when asked, ‘How would you describe yourself in five words to make us fall in love with you?’ he answered, ‘Tall, handsome, handsome, cute, and… it’s up to you to find out!’” Sure, Mr. Kho, I’ll take your word for it. And Googling Vicky Belo brought me to her website which describes her as the “Ambassadress of Beauty” and the medical director of Belo Medical Group.
Someone offered me the following information: “Si Hayden Kho, isang doktor ng isang cosmetic surgery clinic (Belo Medical Group) na pag-aari ni Dr.Vicky Belo na naging kasintahan nya. Naghiwalay sila Hayden at Vicky ng mapabalitang may namumuong relasyon si Katrina Halili at Hayden Kho na parehong modelo ng nasabing clinic...”

I open my email and find links to some videos online. I click on a couple and see this: A woman clad in a skimpy bikini dancing in front of what I believe was a mirror. Moments later a man joins her, singing along and gyrating to Wham’s “Careless Whisper” (ahhh, the irony). Then at one point, the woman waves to her unseen audience (towards the camera) and goes on dancing. I heard the succeeding videos were even worse, meaning more explicit. In one report, Ms. Halili said that “Gusto kong lumaban kasi ayoko ng maulit ang mga ganitong pangyayari kasi sobrang binaboy kami d’on sa video. Sobrang pambababoy ang ginawa sa amin ni [doctor] Hayden kaya dapat magbayad siya.” Did I mention that at one point in the video she as seen waving at her unseen audience? Anyway.

Still I ask, “sino si Katrina at si Hayden?”

As expected, the Honorables are all over the place: the Palace pledges to “go hard” on Kho; that funny Secretary of Justice says that Kho may be jailed for six years for his actions; “The Honorable” Bong Revilla gave an emotional privilege speech on the matter, demanding the Kho’s medical license be revoked; the National Bureau of Investigation aims to get to the bottom of the issue. Well, with all the brouhaha surrounding this issue, the country’s already at the bottom of a lot of things.

Amazing, nah, disgusting, that the government can take its sweet time to act on the killing of journalists, the forced disappearance of activists, the automation of next year’s election is still uncertain, but has several of its branches up and about on this issue in the blink of an eye, or the click of the mouse. Executive Secretary Ermita was quoted as saying that the video “affects the morals of society.” Sure, so do pardoning a child molester and cheating during elections and stealing from the government - and way much more than this stupid video does.

There’s a bigger scandal here. And it’s not the Halili-Kho video.

Another person asked me in response to my question, sino si Katrina at si Hayden? – “Ha? Hindi ka ba taga-‘pinas?”

Taga-Pilipinas po ako, and during times like this, unfortunately, regrettably.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Candy, anyone?

Candy’s remarks left a bitter taste, pun intended. That’s Candy Pangilinan, tv, film and stage actress. Since they say that in showbiz, you’re only as good as your last performance, I am not inclined to call her a comedienne right now, her recent faux pas at a performance in SM City Baguio was not funny at all. “Tao po ako, hindi po ako Igorot,” a blog entry said that was posted, and linked to, all over the internet, particularly Facebook and And the reactions, as expected, were vicious: “She’s dead meat next time she comes to Baguio;” “There will be no next time, she be persona non-grata;” “…a comedienne with little or no talent;” “boycott anything she’s involved in;” just to quote a few. There are even nastier unprintable ones. And perhaps she deserved every single one of those tirades that came from, among others, the very descendants of the first families who lived in these mountains, of that man who fought the most powerful government in the world in court (and won), Igorots who’ve risen above stereotypes and have contributed so much more to the country than Ms. Pangilinan can never, ever, equal.

I’ve seen her teary apology on TV and heard her explanation, accepted by others, rejected by some. But, though what she said is in itself a major blunder, I believe her other mistake is uttering those words in public, with a microphone, in the presence of Igorots. Because, really, most of us would never say to a child who wants to play out in the streets, “sige ka, kukunin ka ng Bumbay,” in front of an Indian man. Nor would we laugh in the face of a pirated DVD vendor when he offers us “dibide-dibide.” Ok, we’ve heard some of us utter unkind remarks about Koreans in the presence of Koreans, but that’s only when and because we know they can’t understand Tagalog or Ilokano.

Perhaps this incident brings to the fore, aside from the ugly face of racism, the fact that centuries after the Spanish colonization attempted to make this archipelago one nation, tribalism, at times defined as “the possession of a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates oneself as a member of one group from the members of another” (, exists and continues to define the way some of us view ourselves as a people. While we’re all Filipinos, for a lot of us we’re Igorot or Bisaya or Aeta or Kampampangan or Ilokano or Maranao , etc., first. Not that that’s essentially wrong: it is good when it forges unity among a group of people, but not when it separates us from others. It is good to belong: to a family, a clan, a tribe, a region, a nation. It’s not good when, as Filipinos, we separate ourselves from others because we come from a different region, or ethnic group, etc.

In Baguio alone, there are several groups that exist and at times divide us as a community: taga-Benguet, taga-Kailnga, taga-Ifugao, taga-Bontoc, Ilokano, taga-Pangasinan, Muslim, taga-baba, taga-Manila, Koreano, Amerikano, Australiano. How many Rotary, Soroptimist, Lions, etc., clubs are there in this small city? Artists belong to different organizations. The youth belong to different fraternities, gangs. Even in the small circle I mostly move in, the theater community, parochial mentality creates a great divide among the different groups, as if it is not hard enough that there are very limited opportunities for theater artists in the city.

And from there stems our condescending attitude towards others: when we separate ourselves from others. From there stems our ignorance of others when we stop understanding those who do not fall inside the fences we build around us. And that’s probably why there wasn’t as much noise when the Baguio Country Club decided that because some Koreans do no behave properly on the golf course, all Koreans must be banned from entering their premises. In some of the barriers we have created, the Koreans do not belong, and since most of us didn’t belong inside the barriers of the Baguio Country Club, we didn’t care as much.
Candy Pangilinan’s remarks are deplorable, terrible, unacceptable. She can explain all she wants - she was referring to an Igorot statue, she was tired, she didn't mean it. Nah, we know exactly what she meant. But we ourselves can also put a different spin to it: “Hindi lang tayo IGOROT, Taga-BAGUIO rin po tayong lahat” (and perhaps we can really begin to make Baguio a better place). Or “Hindi lang tayo taga-BAGUIO, FILIPINO rin po tayong lahat” (and maybe we can start making this nation great again). Or “TAO po muna tayong lahat, bago pa man tayo naging mga IGOROT at mga taga-BAGUIO.” And then we maybe we can start making this world a better place.

There’s an update on my Facebook wall that says, “Domogan forgives Candy Pangilinan.” Well, if our good congressman can forgive and protect a president who mocked our electoral process and continues to take all of us for a ride, why not Candy?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Maybe this, is

I learned of some of the reactions regarding my article, “This was Session Road in Bloom” (April 26, 2009). Initially glad to learn that there were people who actually read my column (an artist always appreciate an audience, receptive or otherwise), it was also depressing to learn that a lot of them missed the point.
No, it was not necessarily a critique of the people behind Panagbenga’s Session Road in Bloom, but of the event itself and the concept behind it. For me, no matter who takes charge of that annual rape of Session Road, it would remain what it is for me: rape. Because of the adverse reactions to the article, I asked a few friends, some of whom were actually directly involved in that week-long event: did you actually enjoy Session Road in Bloom? Did you actually feel good about yourself and for Baguio itself walking down that road amidst the chaos and noise and, particularly at night towards the end of the day, filth? I'm sure you can already imagine most of the responses.

I was asked why I was “attacking” Session Road in Bloom when I myself was a part of it (our group performed and had a public screening of “Portrait of a Hill Station,” our documentary on the history of Baguio). We were invited to perform at the main stage of Session Road in Bloom, and we are very happy and honored to have been invited at all. Grateful, we truly are, and we thank the people behind Session Road in Bloom for the wonderful opportunity to tell the people of the history of Baguio and sing songs with lyrics such as “Kabunyan kami’y dinggin, kalikasan ay i-adya sa lahat ng masama;” “Sino ba’ng nagmamayari ng lupang ‘to, ano ba’ng tama kasaysayan o titulo?;” “Ang mithiin ng Baguio isapuso mo,” right there at the top of Session Road.

Consider the tentative schedule of events that was published ahead of the festival: 29 scheduled minor events, 19 of which were to be held in one mall, 10 pop concerts, a beauty pageant and a fashion show, a couple of promotional tours by television networks engaged in a ratings war who relentlessly elbowed each other out for better positioning the whole festival, you get the drift. Oh, and ahhh, a Pony Boys’ Day. Panagbenga is a Baguio festival, a good idea to begin with, and like most festivals around the country, you would think that it would highlight and celebrate the beauty of and the many other things that this city can be proud of.

And that Earth Day morning? That was a celebration of what Baguio is all about, that was something the city could be proud of. No rush, no filth, no noise, just children drawing, just people smiling, just the city heaving a sigh of relief. I also asked some people how they felt on that cool Baguio morning, you can already imagine all of their responses.

As I said, that previous article was not exactly a critique of the people behind this year’s Panagbenga. Maybe this, is:

And one night, a big night, Baguio artists played supporting roles in a musical performed on the lake which served as a front-act to La Diva, promoted by festival organizers as the country’s version of the pop group “Destiny’s Child.” Our group provided stage management support to that musical, and while we were packing up boxes and boxes of props and costumes, preparing huge set pieces for transport after the show, we were being harangued by both festival staff and security guards to quickly get out of the way because the La Divas were coming. And while festival staff sternly informed us ahead of the performance that there are no meals allocated for the unpaid stage management group during rehearsals, and no, they can’t provide a couple of hundred pesos worth of candles that could have added much to the musical’s aesthetic value, and no they can’t provide us with a few extra plastic monoblock chairs for the cast and choir to sit on backstage, and no they can’t provide a few extra personnel for the production that it badly needed, by the end of La Diva’s performance, there were suddenly throngs of Panagbenga personnel and security guards cordoning off the way from the stage all the way to Lake Drive for the three pop stars to make their way to their vehicle safely and comfortably.

Yeah, I think this one is.