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Smile ka naman dyan!

7 Jun

Maraming nagsasabi na ang mga Asyano katulad ng mga Pinoy ay sadyang palangiti. Kahit ano pa mang problema, krisis, kahirapan, bumaha man o lumindol, hinding-hindi mawawala ang mga ngiti sa ating mga labi. Kaya nga isa ang Pilipinas sa mga pinakamasayang lugar sa mundo (kahit pa maraming umaalis doon taun-taon).  At kamakainlang ang may akda ng sikat na librong ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ ay nagpahiwatig ng kanyang pagkamangha sa ispiritu ng kaligayahan ng mga Pilipino. Kaya minarapat ng Ang Bagong Filipino na magbukas ng isang pahinang tatawagin naming ‘Smile of the Week’ para sa espesyal na ngiti ng mga Pilipino, pumukaw ng damdamin at magsilbing inspirasyon sa panahon ngayon. Bilang panimula ng pahinang ito, nagbahagi ang pangulo ng Barcelona Exposure Club na si Krystel Cayari-Elepaño ng isang larawan na kaniyang kinuha habang nagbabakasyon sa Camarines Sur sa Pilipinas.

Foto de los niños de Caputatan Primary School, Camarines Sur, Filipinas. Texto y fotos por Krystel Cayari-Elepaño

La foto fue hecha en la Peninsula Caramoan de Camarines Sur, Filipinas. Caputatan Primary School es un colegio público donde niños de diferentes edades comparten una misma clase. Recorren centenares de metros incluso kilómetros, algunos descalzos para acudir diariamente a la escuela y recibir una educación. La gran mayoría no puede  comprar material escolar y la escuela no tiene fondos suficientes para proporcionarle a cada alumno libros pero eso no les impide seguir adelante, tener una ilusión y a pesar de todo son felices. Son niños que juegan, ríen, se divierten  pero todos comparten el mismo sueño; que el día de mañana puedan salir de la pobreza y tener un futuro mejor.

Los niños con la fotógrafa Krystel Cayari-Elepaño de Barcelona Exposure Club

A Rich Voice, A Soul of a Millionaire

1 Jun

Bernie Milan playing Tamino in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s  Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) May 16, 2010. New York City

What is it in opera that New York-based Ilonggo, Bernie Milan, doesn’t mind spending  his free time  memorizing long lines and hard-to-pronounce songs or enduring late night rehearsals, and yet doesn’t earn much from it?

The 34-year old  Filipino opera singer had this simple answer; “Opera is the only performing art where the question is not “Does he look the part?” but rather, “Can he sing the part?”

I knew Bernie way back in high school. The last  time I saw him was more than fifteen years ago. We finally met again when he came to visit Barcelona for a well-deserved vacation last month. Catching up over a glass of  cava and  people-watching by the Las  Ramblas, I later learned that aside from having a stable day job, he also  performs as an opera singer in The Big Apple. I sipped my cava and listened admiringly  to  his story.  During the course of our conversation, he was more animated and  bubblier.  Albeit still sober,  it was deemed necessary for a second  bottle  of  yet another sparkling cava. As they say in ‘Pinas, “Mahaba-habang inuman ‘to.”

A native of Bacolod,  the ever affable and  effervescent Bernard or Bernie to his friends was already singing when he was just a kid.  He was an active musical performer in school which earned  him numerous accolades and awards from several singing competitions.  So it did not come as a surprise that even if he is now working as an Online Manager for People en  Español Magazine in New York, he still finds time donning medieval costumes and belting arias, be it in German or Italian or in whatever language it may be.

“Opera, to me, is the highest form of any of the performing arts. It requires singers with truly exceptional talent and years of formal training. It takes the human voice to the absolute limits of what it is capable of doing. Imagine a venue that the only thing that mattered was talent.”

Hell Week

Bernie joined the community opera company Amore Opera in the 1999-2000 season and since then, he has been a main fixture in every show the company has mounted. With the kind of work that he does during the day, stressful and all, one may wonder how can he still find time to perform onstage.

“During the day I head up online sales for People En Español Magazine and I try to find time to study after work.  I am in the middle of “Hell Week” – the week before a production opens (We are opening Mozart’s The Magic Flute this weekend) and things in the office are getting really busy as well.    I guess the secret is developing a way to silo your different “lives””.

“I must say that when I am in the office, my focus is solely on my work.  The moment I leave the office, I put on a different hat and entertain my artistic side.  Music is a very powerful force.  As soon as I turn on my iPod on the subway to rehearsals, I become the character and my mindset is on that opera.”

“It also helps to find friends that are in a similar situation as you are.  I have a tight knit of friends who work during the day and sing opera at night.  The challenges are immense but when you get a standing ovation, or when someone approaches you after a show and tells you that they were moved by your performance – all that sacrifice, blood sweat and (many, many) tears are worth it.”

This time, Bernie plays Lieutenant Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly while the Caucasian singers play the Asian roles

“Being a Pinoy is an advantage”

He considers himself lucky that he is  an operatic lyrico-spinto tenor, a rather rare high male voice-type. Gifted with such voice, he gets cast a lot. He sings the repertoire of singers like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

“Actually, problems regarding my  being  Asian  has never come up.  Again, it’s about the talent.  The ability to perform certain roles and sing them well.  You can be short, fat, green, crooked, tall etc. – as long as you can sing the role. Of course all things being equal, the director will cast believable singers in the role. I once played Pinkerton, the main American character in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.  Looking at the cast, I was the only non-white (Asian at that)  playing a Caucasian American.  All the Japanese characters, including Butterfly, were Americans (Caucasians, African-Americans, etc.)  It was quite weird at first but the music won the audience over and the show was well received!”

Right now, he is the only Pinoy in the group. Though, according to him, people no longer get surprised to see a Pinoy in any production. Thanks to Lea Salonga, Black Eyed Peas, Charice, to name a few.

“And this is a wonderful thing!”  He gamely exclaimed.  “Being a Pinoy is an advantage. I actually believe in the Pinoy touch.  Pinoys have music and performing arts in their blood. We have the flair for drama.  All throughout my days in La Salle, it was encouraged for everyone to take part in school plays, musicals and variety shows.  I mean even at karaoke here in NYC, people expect you be good if you are Pinoy!

On discipline and Maria Callas

Before a performance, Bernie strictly follows a self-imposed regimen, sleep and eat well. He gets to the theatre really early, get into costume and find a quiet corner to focus and visualize my performance.  He tries not to get caught up in the backstage frenzy with all the other performers. Having played a numerous array of Operatic characters, his most favourite character to date  is “Mario Cavaradossi” from Puccini’s Tosca.

Among the opera singers, he looks up to the two greatest opera singers in the world.

“One is Maria Callas.  This soprano defied the norms of opera and emerged as a superstar in her day.  Her vocal discipline and the drama that she brought to all her roles (not just beautiful singing) made her stand out from the rest.  She is a master of telling a story through her singing. The other one is the tenor Placido Domingo.  His range and characterization always wins me over.  True, there are prettier voices out there, but Domingo brings such a depth to his performances that you actually believe in every note and every nuance. I guess I am drawn to opera singers who understand that voice is just the beginning, the vehicle to tell the story.”

Bernie playing Tamino

Does he think that Pinoys are ready to appreciate  opera?

“I believe that Pinoys need more exposure to opera.  We do not have a vibrant opera company in the Philippines so there are no local artists to idolize and look up to. Also, there are no conservatoires and very limited educational tools for our students to appreciate and learn how to sing opera. That said, I am confident that with the advent of YouTube, Facebook and the Internet in general, our Pinoy youth can have access to musical performances outside the Top 40 Pop hits.”

“Opera has the reputation of being appreciated by a limited  number of followers. Such  reputation I’m afraid.  Because of the sheer scale and grandeur of the medium, productions get really expensive to mount and that cost translates into higher ticket prices. Another barrier for it to be accessible is the language.  German, Italian and French are the three main languages of more than 70% of the works that are out there.  Chances are foreign-language work (for Americans, at least) are deemed as for the elite and rich.”

“Because of this stigma, the Metropolitan Opera has started a “Live in HD” program where certain performances are broadcast live in HD at movie theatres across Northern America, Europe and Japan.  The goal is to make opera accessible to everyone from all walks of life and I honestly think it is helping break the stigma.  I hear they are increasing the number of broadcast performances and theatres in the upcoming season.”

“How wonderful would it be to wake up and just sing for a living”

Being with the opera group, Bernie had  the chance  not only  to do what he loves most but also to  meet amazing people on and off stage. Every performance is always a bottomless pit of fun and good memories. And that includes anecdotes and bloopers as well. One of the most unforgettable happened a couple of years ago.

“I was singing the title role of Gounod’s Faust.  We were multicast and all of the other Faust’s were…let’s say rotund. So when it was my turn to play the role, the costume was pinned to fit me. Let’s just say I had to finish the love aria “Salut! Demeure chaste et pure” with my lederhosen halfway down my knees.  I didn’t flinch – the show MUST go on!”

With all  the exposures that he gets from every performance, Bernie has actually considered taking opera on a professional level, making it as his bread and butter, so to speak. 

“Of course.  How wonderful would it be to wake up and just sing for a living. I’m getting there I think.  I have many people approaching me about auditions and artist representation and that feels good.  My day job allows me to live a certain lifestyle and it would be a hard adjustment to go the “starving artist” route at my (young) age – I am still hopeful though.  One must never give up on their dreams.”

Bernie in Puccini’s Tosca. Act II (as Mario Cavaradossi)

Does he have some advice to his fellow kababayans who are  interested in operas and want to be opera singers too?

“I would simply say give opera a chance. Listen to an aria or two.  Read about it.  Go on YouTube and watch clips from famous operas.  All the best love stories and musicals today are based on opera:  Rent was based from La Boheme; Moulin Rouge form La Traviata, Miss Saigon from Madama Butterfly. As for budding opera singers, listen to as much opera as you can. Study not only the technique and music but also embrace the story, the drama behind every note. And continue to sing – there are no boundaries or limitations!”

It was time to leave and to catch the Opera Flamenco concert Bernie was excited to watch as part of his Catalan experience. I sipped the last drop of cava from my glass before I decided to launch my last question that I was dying to ask him since the first time I heard  that he was into opera.  If we invited him to sing for the Filipino community in Barcelona or Madrid in the near future, would he sing for us?

“But of course, just say when!”

With this, I got my answer. As we walked down to the Teatro Poliorama  squeezing ourselves  through the crowded Las Ramblas, Bernie, as if  giving  Barcelona a glimpse of what to expect,  released  his own aria  from his  favourite  “Che Gelida Manina” of La Boheme:

“Per sogni e per chimere
e per castelli in aria,
l’anima ho milionaria.”

“When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.”

Echoing the message of the aria, Bernie said it best as we finally reached  the theatre.

“I am just  trying to live my life – full of dreams and not afraid of possibilities.” Photos contributed by Mr. Bernie Milan; Text: Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

Divided We Fell

28 May

Once there was a dream called the Katipunan. It was a brotherhood of fire and passion, fighting for  land, love, and freedom. It was the union of Filipinos tired of being controlled by outsiders and wanting to reclaim what’s truly theirs. But, though it had one goal, the dream was taking shape in too many different minds. Very different ones. And so, unity was disrupted by disagreement, and egos went bloating and flying in different directions. Magdiwang rivaled Magdalo, Bonifacio challenged Aguinaldo. And vice versa. In the face of the powerful outsiders, they preferred to dwell in conflict among themselves rather than resolve differences and be one. They fought against each other and took sides, jeopardizing our much longed freedom. They fought some more and CHANGED sides, until Bonifacio had to die by another Katipunero’s hand. Until Andres Bonifacio was killed by another Filipino. Kapwa Pilipino at Katipunero ang siyang pumatay kay Andres Bonifacio.

But why did they fight? Why was our country’s Freedom put aside? Were their egos really that big and important? Bigger and more important than taking back what’s ours? Worthy of giving up the dream? The dream ended and sadly, it ended in vain. Freedom was not achieved. Instead, tied Filipino hands were simply passed from one outsider to the next. And the rest, as it is said, is our country’s special history.

This special history has created many special creatures along the way. Among them are those who will forever be slaves, those who will forever be needing masters. Thus, the obsession with titles. You are but a slave if you don’t have one. And if you don’t have one, you worship those who do. These special creatures’ main objective in life is to please the master, blinded as they are by authority and status, by power and position. But what can they do? Our special history has been unkind to the masses, keeping them apart from the wealthy and learned and maintaining the gap between them, never allowing any lasting union of all kinds of Filipinos. Not even against the outsider who wanted what was ours. Prestige has been a force since the time of the Revolution according to one noted Filipino writer, and it seems our slaves of today are mere outcomes of the many years Filipino masses have been worshiping the high and mighty. Poor followers who’ve been taught to think that their poor lives are meant to be the way they have always been, and that things can never be any different.

Of course, how can things be different if the high and mighty won’t allow it? Prestige being a force, it gives power and title to those who have it. And having power has long corrupted many souls in this world, not just Filipino ones. This thirst for power (and each time more of it!) is what marks the difference between a Leader and a Master. A Leader respects and serves the people. They, in turn, earn the respect of the people who deem them worthy to serve. Masters, on the other hand, are masters because they simply want to be one. Forget earning respect and truly serving their followers, it’s all about the title and not ever letting go.

It is with this divide that we Filipinos continue in our quest for freedom and making our special history. Wherever we go – and we’ve gone places! – we take with us this disunity that runs deeply in our veins. But luckily for us, especially for the Filipino migrants, the rest of the world is not like the Philippines.  There exist other possibilities out here, other ways, and we are free to make them ours. And as some of us see that a more equal and just way is possible, we are left to wonder about alternatives and ultimately hope that Filipinos will someday be capable of wanting this- a world without slaves nor masters. Kay S. Abaño

Dying Slaves and Merciless Masters. Juan Luna’s Spolarium displayed at the entrance of the National Museum of the Philippines. La obra “Spoliarium” es una pintura del filipino Juan Luna. Óleo sobre lienzo de 400×700 cm. Fue expuesta por primera vez en la Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes de 1884, ganando una medalla de oro en ella. En 1886, fue vendida a la Diputación Provincial de Barcelona por un importe de 20.000 pesetas. Aprovechando que se había enviado el cuadro a Madrid para ser restaurado, el dictador Francisco Franco lo donó al gobierno de Filipinas, pese a tratarse no de una propiedad del Estado español sino de la Diputación de Barcelona. Actualmente se expone en el Museo Nacional de las Filipinas.  Text: Photo:

Bigmouthing the World

26 May

Yeah, I know, you have already seen this video. Bigmouth or BM, one of the contestants in ABS-CBN’s reality show Pilipinas Got Talent has been all over the place. Check youtube and you’ll see BM being the subject of talk shows, variety shows, morning shows, in Chile, in the US, in Hong Kong, in France, even in Spain. In fact, I got this video from my Spanish boss (I hope he wouldn’t think that all Filipinos got that ‘unique’ talent) Most Filipinos got the voice but only BM has the mouth to leave us con la boca abierta (open-mouthed/flabbergasted). Daniel Infante Tuaño

Here’s the famous video, pardon the pun, straight from the horse’s mouth:

“My actors are real scavengers”

18 May

The Mountain Thief director Gerry Balasta. Photo by Fritz Anthony Magistrado of Barcelona Exposure Club

The Mountain Thief, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2010 San Francisco International Asian-American Film Festival, was one of the Filipino films shown at the recently concluded 2010 Barcelona Asian Film festival.  Its director Gerry Balasta flew in from New York to present the film.  The film had two screenings and both had successful runs. The audience turn out, comprised mostly of Spaniards, was surprisingly impressive and a lot of them stayed during the Q & A portion.  On the second screening, a group of Pinoys came to show their support to their fellow kababayan.

The day after the first screening of the movie, Ang Bagong Filipino had the opportunity to interview the director where he shared his thoughts and insights of his first feature film.  Here is the whole text of the interview:

ABF:         It took the film to be finished in seven years.  Was there a point where you were about to give up?   Did the thought that “I would not finish the film anyway” occur to you?

GB:       Yeah, it was hard. I had to use my personal funds, my credit card and look for possible producers to invest on the film. It was like dreaming the impossible.

ABF:        Didn’t you think of approaching big production companies to finance it?

GB:       No.  I don’t think they would be interested.  It’s a depressing film and my actors are not  big stars.

ABF:       Finding investors was already a big problem. So what kept you connected with the film?

GB:      The story has to be told.  I want to show the world that there are people who live this way.   It was depressing how they lived.  I saw it with my own eyes. I smelled poverty everywhere I went. In the end, it was a responsibility on my part to tell the story.

ABF:       There have been films that delve on poverty, hardships and struggles. What do you think makes your film different from the others?

GB:       For one, the actors.  My actors are real scavengers.  This is their life.   Also, the soul of the movie is the story itself.

ABF:       How did you motivate your actors knowing that they are not professional  actors? How were you able to squeeze the cinematic juice in them?

GB:       The casting was really memorable for me.   I talked to them one by one, asking about their lives,  their dreams.  After finding my actors for the film, I conducted a one-month  acting workshop with my 20 actors.  Initially, they’re shy, nervous and very conscious in front of the camera. I had this one actor who couldn’t stop blinking. But surprisingly, they were really professional.  Actually, it was easy to motivate them. This is where they live. Their home, where they sleep, where they eat.  They didn’t have to act. They reacted to the situation just like they usually would in real life.

ABF:       And them to you?   Were you motivated by them? Learnings,  perhaps?

GB:      Yes! Honestly,  they taught me about HOPE.  I thought I had a lot of that already. But when I was with them, seeing them, how they live.  They really inspired me.  It was a learning experience. A great learning experience.

ABF:        Now that your film is finished and has been touring around the globe, can you say that it was worth it?

GB:       Oh definitely yes.  You see, the movie is all about the reality of trash.  When we see trash, some of us will avoid it. But to them, it’s the source of life–money, medicine, food, clothes, a home and a reason  to live. I am glad and proud that I did this movie. It was worth all the troubles. If I were to do a film debut again, I would still do the same film.

ABF:        You ended the film on a hanging note. Why is that?

GB:       It is because I want to leave it open for the audience to decide for themselves how they want to end the film.  If you are optimistic, then you will end it on a happy note.  But if otherwise, then you will end it on a sad note.

ABF:       As a filmmaker, who do you think have influenced  your style in making a film?

GB:      Two.  Fernando Meirelles  and Akira Korusawa .

ABF:      I noticed  that you presented your story in a non-linear style, a  touch of Rashomon in some  ways, am I right?

GB:      Well  yes, I want it to be interesting where the storytelling dwells on the different points of view of each character.  That is why, I presented all the angles of the persons involved, the way the mountain thief saw what happened. Or through the eyes of the child, Inggo or through Ato.

ABF:      There are scenes in the film where you mentioned a lot  about religion, the bible and God. Are you religious?

GB:       I used to be. Now, I think I am more spiritual than religious.  Just like in reality, we are religious people.  We go to mass, we pray, we leave everything to God. The character of Ato, the one who always  reads the bible but at the same time  is a mean person.  He might be a bad person but then he is searching.  He is confused.  He is looking for something.  It is a fact based on reality. A lot of us are like Ato in some way or the other.

ABF:      What can you say about  the reaction of your audience after watching the film?

GB:      It was really great.  I didn’t  expect this.  I was expecting only a few people to watch my film.  And I’m very happy because they stayed until the closing credits. It was a good sign.

ABF:      After Barcelona, where next?

GB:      I plan to show my film throughout Europe first. I am giving myself one year to do this. Joining more film festivals abroad, in Europe, the US or Asia.  And hopefully, I can show this to my countrymen in the Philippines.

ABF:      Do you think the Filipino audience is ready for your movie?

GB:     I don’t know. But I am very hopeful.  They need to be reminded of the story. They are aware of it. My film will just serve as a reminder.  I want to show them the power of kindness. I hope they also see it.  Maybe yes, the Filipino audience is  ready to see my film.

ABF:      After The Mountain Thief, what’s next?

GB:     Another film is on the drawing board. This time it’s a suspense thriller and the story resolves around Ninoy Aquino.  Its title is “The Silence of Manila.”

ABF:      Any message to new filmmakers dreaming of making a film just like yours?

GB:     I always believe in the goodness of men.  When I did this film, I trusted my actors and my actors trusted me as well.  I also believe that one can be good in his field  if he really works hard on it.  Same with making this film.  I worked hard, my actors did the same too. I am very thankful.  As long as you always consider everything that you do as a labor of love, it will come out just like that.

The Mountain thief is a story about the lives of scavengers living on the mountains of trash in Payatas, Quezon City.  It took seven years for The Mountain Thief  to be made and  real scavengers living in the dumpsite were hired as actors.  The director was also the writer and editor of the said film.  You can also check out the official website of The Mountain Thief

(L-R) Kay Abaño, Lea Baduria, Director Gerry Balasta and Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna during the screening of The Mountain Thief at the 2010 Barcelona Asian Film Festival. Photo by Fritz Anthony Magistrado of BEC

Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

Hyphenated identity and literature

17 May

“Hagedorn transcends social strata, gender, culture, and politics in this exuberant, witty, and telling portrait (of  the Philippine society).” Penguin\’s Women Studies

Since the Filipino diaspora began in the first half of the 20th century, uprooted Filipinos have not only gone abroad in search of greener pastures and have helped the country through their foreign exchange remittances. They have also created a Philippine diasporic culture that addresses the concerns –both bodily and spiritually—of a community that is thousands of kilometers away from its home country.

One of the features of this culture is the body of literary works that have been written by Filipinos who moved abroad or who were even born and raised overseas, but who share Filipino-ness with those who have remained in the Philippines. Authors like Carlos Bulosan, Bienvenido Santos and Jose Garcia Villa began an artistic tradition that still continues in the writings of Ninotchka Rosca, Jessica Hagedorn and Peter Bacho. Like many non-white writers, their identity is hyphenated, i.e. Filipino-American. This hyphenated way of referring to the author’s nationality indicates the dual roots of their identity. Instead of a deterrent to artistic production, this double consciousness has contributed to the writing of brilliant works of literature.

The artists I just cited are children of the Filipino diaspora to the U.S. But the phenomenon of Philippine migration overseas has become worldwide. Destinations range from nearby Hong Kong to the driest part of Southern Africa. Europe is, of course, a popular destination. If I’m not mistaken, it has been thirty years since we started filling the ranks of foreign workers in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. I remember taking a bus in the center of Rome on a Thursday some years back, and seeing that the only Italian person on the bus was the driver. The rest of the passengers were Filipinos. I’ve also seen Filipino children in Italy who speak Italian like any other native citizen of the country. I’m quite sure the same thing happens in Spain, especially in Barcelona and Madrid. This means that there are Filipinos here whose identity has already come to adopt Spanish or Italian quality. I’m convinced that this dual consciousness has begun working its influence to inspire thoughts about life in our adopted Europe and about art as a space to channel migrant longings. So here’s to the future of Filipino-European artists!

The discrimination and unhealthy working conditions Carlos had experienced in many of his workplaces encouraged him to participate in union organizing with other Filipinos and various workers. Carlos become a self-educated and prolific writer determined to voice the struggles he had undergone as a Filipino coming to America and the struggles he had witnessed of other people.   Carlos Bulosan\’s biography

Grace Concepcion

Show us the Manny

13 May

Look who’s in town. Well, at least a 2D version of him.   A billboard of our very own pambansang kamao (Philippine’s national fist) cum leading candidate for a congressional seat in Sarangani province can be seen in a popular department store in Madrid, Spain. News and Photo by Neil de la Cruz

Best film for Bakal Boys

11 May

photo BAFF website

‘Baseco Children Metal Divers’ was judged as the best film in digital format in the recently concluded Barcelona Asian Film Festival. This docudrama, directed by Ralston Jover, takes us to Baseco, a place where children risk their lives to collect scrap metals in the esteros of Manila Bay for a living.

Dancing her way to success

30 Apr

Irene Sabas is the co-director, ballet mistress and répétiteur of Ballet David Campos Dance School

Discipline, hard work and faith.  Three important elements that Irene Sabas, the Filipina co-director and teacher of the famous Ballet David Campos dance company in Barcelona, put in  mind when she was starting as a ballet dancer in Manila.  I met Irene by chance when a friend of mine came from Madrid to interview her.  After learning that I would be meeting an exceptional ballet dancer, I tagged along.

“Anybody can be lucky.  As long as she/he doesn’t stop working and believing, everything is possible.”  These were the words uttered with complete calmness and sincerity from a lady who perfectly knows how to put the word “perseverance” in good use. She trained with the prolific Felicitas Layag-Radiac. Luck may have played its part somewhere, but it was more on her determination to hone her skills that she got the endorsement by the famous ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn to a two-year scholarship grant to study in the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London. There, she mastered her craft under the guidance of high-caliber professors such as Pamela May, Marion Lane, Eileen Ward and Julia Farron.

Not long enough, with her impressive training and international exposure, she became a soloist/principal ballet dancer for the Dance Theatre Philippines portraying major roles like “Swanhilda, Cinderella and Giselle. Hard work coupled with sheer love for her craft, she went on to be a soloist of the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium where she had the chance to interpret principal roles like “Masha” in Valery Panov’s “The Three Sisters” and “Adelaida” in “The Idiot”, Carmina Burana by John Butler, Symphony in Three Movements by Nils Christie, etc. She did performances all over Europe, America and Asia and worked with famous and outstanding performers from the ballet world such as A. Prokofiev (Bolshoi Ballet Moscow), Nicolai Beriosov (Leningrad), Woytek Lowski (American Ballet Theatre) and Vladimir Kaplun (Leningrad), among others.

“Filipinos have a way of doing things, we have the Pinoy touch.”   Irene shared that in 1987 together with her husband David Campos opened their own school in Barcelona.  Her students found both a teacher and a friend in her.  She is very thankful to her parents for teaching   her to love her craft and for supporting her all the way to achieve her dreams. Truly an     inspiration to our fellow kababayans, Irene continues to help and motivate young dancers to enhance their skills and make it big in their fields of interest. Known for being a top-caliber ballet teacher, she has been invited to give intensive classical ballet courses for Spanish Conservatories and by the University of the Philippines for the Master of Dance Production course in Manila.

At present, Irene is the co-director and ballet mistress and répétiteur in all the productions of Ballet David Campos Dance School. Currently, the school has 90 students and also employs two top Filipino ballet dancers namely Elline Damian and Eduardo Espejo. Both Elline and Eduardo are actively performing in ballet concerts mounted by the school and giving out classes as well.

Last April 24, 2010, Ballet David Campos staged “Bella Durmiente” (Sleeping Beauty) in Igualada.  On May 1, 2010, the group will be staging “En Clave de Jazz (A touch of Jazz) at the Sta. Coloma Theatre.

Her message to her fellow kababayans, Irene said it best.  “We Filipinos have a lot of talents to offer to the world.  Let‘s show them what we’ve got!”  Written by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna

‘Filipinos have a way of doing things, we have the Pinoy touch…Her students both found a teacher and a friend in her.’

(For more information, pls. check out Ballet David Campos\’s website)

Pinoy films in Barcelona

26 Apr

Independencia by Raya Martin

Children Metal Drivers (Bakal Boys) by Ralston Jover

Manila by Raya Martin and Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr.

Manila Skies (Himpapawid) by Raymond Red

Squalor (Astig, Mga Batang Kalye) by Giuseppe Bede Sampedro

Aurora by Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr.

The Mountain Thief by Gerry Balasta

Manila by Night (City After Dark) by Ishmael Bernal

These are the Filipino films to be screened at this year’s Festival de Cine Asiático de Barcelona (Barcelona Asian Film Festival). The resurgence of Filipino cinema can be seen in the Southeast Asian Selection entries as 6 out of 7 films are Philippine made. Adolfo Alix’s Aurora is competing in the Official Section.

South Korea as well as Japanese Anime get special attention in this year’s festival but nonetheless will be shown with the rest of other participating Asian films from the 3oth of April – 09th of May at the CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona), Cine Rex and Sala 2 of cines Aribau Club.

Last year, two Filipino films won: Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis and Francis Xavier Pasion’s Jay. Photos and Reports from


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