Monday, January 30, 2006

Rainy Tuesday morning under Armor's Psychedelic Sun


Rainy Tuesday Morn under
Armor’s Psychedelic Sun

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Blurb: “I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!"

It was no Tuesday dawn at all when electronic folk artist Armor dropped by at my workstation fresh from his gig at Café Shang in Mactan island. But the dawn seemed to have smelled of the Tuesday scent of a woman picking on the stink of muck the rain had stirred in the song Armor had created.

There was a downpour though, but pelted not on the pavement, nor the roof. The rain surprisingly came soft and soothing like the sound of his harmonica. “Rainy Tuesday Morning” is one of his musical compositions, an execution of the fusion of musical influences as vast as Asin, Joey Ayala, Beck and The Blue Man group, U2 and Bob Dylan, and various avant-garde and tribal musicians he mentioned.

And of course, the sun was still in its slumber beyond the languid shoulders of some celestial horizons when we streamed from the Internet his other work, “Psychedelic Sun”, side by side our discussions on the inspiration behind the words, the emotions, and the cords he so handsomely crafted as he venerated the sun that shines on sinners and saints alike.

Armor, of Ilonggo descent, played for my photographer and me his harmonica and his guitar that so blended well as if I was listening to The Corrs’ “Paddy McCarthy”. I hope the comparison is not an insult to the genius of more talented local musicians, but to find Armor play live at my workstation provided me this "MTV Unplugged" atmosphere.

Armor is currently doing solo performances with his guitar, harmonica and the drum machine.

“Sometimes with the sequencer, tribal instruments and toys I circuit bended. But live performance is just an extension of my music," Armor explained.

His real gigs are those times he spent planning, performing, recording and mixing different musical elements. In so doing, Armor described he is transformed into someone he wants to be.

“I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!,” an emphatic Armor enumerated.

Nineteen of his 40 creations, errr…chorus lines, are posted at www.fiestamundo.com/armor. Full rendition of the songs is available at www.songplanet.com/armor. Most notable of these songs are "Rainy Tuesday Morning" and "Psychedelic Sun".

Music compels Armor to travel

Ang pagkadi ni Armor sang banwa sa Sugbo indi lang gid para sang iya mga kabiyanan kag mga kautoran na adi di. Armor makes this side-trip because he heard so much of the Cebuanos' deep love of music.

"I am amazed at the Cebuanos’ love of music that nestles deep down in your culture," he said.

More than anywhere else he had been, he loves the reception here when it comes to independent musicmakers like him.

Born January 6 in Jaro, Iloilo City, Armor later on found himself getting into hobbies and interests in songwriting, and song and jingle production and later on got a knack for creative writing having been equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications major in Journalism degree from the West Visayas State University.

In 1991, he became a recording artist of Hiligaynon Records, and became a basic guitar instructor at the Yamaha School of Music, still in Iloilo in 1993. His creative writing led him to The Mediator, a college publication, as literary writer in 1995. In 1997, he was news writer for The Visayan Tribune; and a contributing writer for The Daily Informer in 1998.

Then he left the country for Oman where he worked as musician in Sur Beach Hotel in 1999; at the Hilton Hotel in Manama, Bahrain in 2000; and New Peninsula Hotel in Dubai in 2001. But he got tired of singing covers. He said doing such is an insult to the gift that he has as a musician. Had it not only been for monetary compensation, of course, he would have left outright when he was requested that very first night of work to sing songs that are readily available over FM stations, and Internet music chart Top 40s or at LaunchCast.

Indeed, fiestamundo very well described such situation - that for most artists, expressing their craft is sacrifice. They have odd jobs to feed their families and work nightly gigs to express their musical gifts. Others abandon any dreams of creativity to earn a stable living singing an endless repetition of Top 40 covers in the hotel lounges, bars and cruise ships of the world. Only a rare few achieve superstar status that will enable them to live comfortably in their chosen profession.

After sometime though, Armor returned to the country and did musical scoring for “Hablon”, an Ilonggo film, in 2002; for a stageplay “Wala Makakita Sang Pamanag-banag” also on same year. Today his works are featured at www.fiestamundo.com, a site dedicated to artists like him who at some point, began to get dissatisfied with copying songs that did not reflect Pinoy soul and who we are as a people.

Like that philosophy that fiestamundo is incorporating in its mission, Armor felt that artists have not been given an opportunity to lead the way into creating music that reflect our distinct identity and the vote of confidence to express originality and creativity, the reason why Filipino popular taste has remain stuck with, American cover songs for example.

Armor travels to promote his music

"It is a fact that we existed in a world where the advancement of audio technology results in a reinvention of presenting the beauty and science of poetry and sound," Armor wrote at his site at songplanet dot com.

"My songs are the result of this evolution. I mix electronically generated drumbeats and bass lines with live guitars and keyboards. I also use toys, tribal instruments and real life audio recordings.

"I wrote the poetry. And when I sing, I tell stories of stars and satellites, of the colors of the oceans like the eyes of a girl, of temples, mountains and skyscrapers that stand high like our hopes and aspirations as a human race. Thus my songs are crafted almost electronically. Yet it has a soul.

”I have several past recordings which includes “Sa Gihapon (As Always )” in 1991, my first single; “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates (1995)”, my first album; and "Sunshine Satellite (2002)."””””

Armor first made his local chart debut in 1991, when he was still with his former band, "Balangaw". The single “Sa Gahipon” stayed at number 1 for four consecutive months. Deciding to go solo in 1995, his debut album “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates” includes ten original tracks that fused acoustic guitar with ethnic and techno rhythm. The lead single “Bola” received a fair amount of radio play. He then released his second album in 2002. The twelve-track CD was entitled "Sunshine Satellite" which he collaborated with a certain songwriter/keyboardist Kristin Perez.

The following year he released his third album, "Walking on a Third World Street", which now fuses elements of new wave and electronica with poetic lyrics.

Two singles "I Wanna Be a Belly Dancer" and "We Are All Atoms" managed to top Internet music charts. Then in 2004, Armor released his fourth album "Primitive Device", which now fuses tribal sounds with electronic backbeats. Aside from recording and live performance, Armor has also worked as a musical scorer for various Ilonggo films and musical plays. He has also hosted songwriting seminars and helped other indie bands record their song in his home studio. He is currently working on his fifth album.

Armor said he is planning to release a CD, which will include live acoustic performances of his gigs here in Cebu, his tribute to the Cebuanos for upholding independent music. Among his accomplishments are staying as Top 100 artists at songplanet.com since July 2004, the only Filipino indie artist to be included on the charts. He is on # 59 with 128 airplays of his songs on Internet radio as of January 2006. "We Are All Atoms" is currently playing on Cebu City's 93.1 Smash FM.

Armor will be interviewed live via mobile phone by 90.1 FM Pinoy Rock Radio in America by Filipino DJ Kokoy sometime in February. Last year, he was interviewed by American DJ Jill No Jack for the "Lucky Fokker Show, by Francis Brew for NU 107’s "In-D-Raw" program and VJ John Doe for MTV Siesta.

Before Armor heads on to bring his music to Davao, catch him play live at Windsor Castle (Ninoy’s Payag) along Escario street Wednesdays at 9 pm. And other days at Café Shang in Mactan island. Such is also opportune time for one to get a copy of his album as he plays ten of his original compositions live in each of these venues.

After Armor would have finished touring the Visayas region and part of Mindanao early this year, he will return to Iloilo and live, in what he calls primitive style, in his native beach house for months to start working on his next CD before he comes back here. Kabay pa nga updan naton si Armor sang iya panakayong musika!

***

For your comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my email addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. For band/indie artists feature requests, text me at 09215323616. For previous articles, visit www.pinaymangatkatay.blogspot.com. Thanks!

Caption:

Armor playing the guitar and harmonica simultaneously to accompany his original composition "Love". Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

noyPi

A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS
www.philstar.com

noyPi

The content of one of the electronic mails sent to me is quite disturbing. This is an open letter via email allegedly penned by a certain Art Bell, said to be a radio talk show host in Nevada, USA.

The email told of Bell as a broadcaster who had "taken advantage of the power and privilege he has when he used hateful words and racial stereotypes that breed further ignorance and intolerance in our society." As a backgrounder, Bell is a radio talk show host who has two programs that he broadcasts from his home in Nevada and that is rebroadcast by 400 stations across the country. He is said to have authored two books, lived in Okinawa, Japan for some years, and anchored a radio program on the English station there. He had been here in the Philippines as he had traveled fairly extensively around the world, and in fact married a Filipina, which had raised brows as to why he had drafted a hate mail against us noyPis.The hate mail read: "Filipinos make me puke. As we've all come to notice, in the past few decades, Filipinos have begun to infest the United States like some sort of disease. Theirextensive involvement in the U.S. Armed Forces is proof of the trashy kind of qualities all Filipinos tend to exhibit on a regular basis. You can see this clearly by studying the attitudes and cultural icons of most Filipino-Americans."Are they really Asian? Well, we have come to accept the fact that Filipinos come from a part of the world known as Southeast Asia. But the term "Asia" is used in the wrong way. You may notice that contemporary Filipino-Americans try very hard to associate themselves with groups that we know as Asian. I cannot count the number of times I have seen a 'ThirdWorld' Filipino try to connect themselves to the Chinese or Japanesepeople. There is no connection and here's why: The Philippines is a thirdworld country. Nothing respectable has ever been created by Filipinopeople during our entire human history. Young Filipino men in Americahave become obsessed with "import racing". They have an enormouslyperverted affection for Japanese cars. It's a common phenomenon. In theirminds, these Filipinos somehow believe that they are Asian and that itsomehow connects them to Japanese people and Japanese cars. They oftentake credit for the ingenuity of Japanese people and say how it's an"Asian thing", term derived directly from AfricanAmerican slang "black thang". It's a black thang. It's an Asianthang."You can see the connection. It's even funnier that, in Japan, Filipinosare heavily discriminated against. The only Filipinos that can livesuccessfully in Japan are the Filipino prostitutes." (***Ouch!)

"Try visiting a young Filipino's web site too.You'll see something called the "Asian IRC Ring". It has to do with the chatrooms. The most horrible thing about this is that these trashy people are trying to associate themselves with Asia again and all they talk about is sex!""""

Okey now noyPis, hold your cool there! Because however disturbing the attack maybe on us, recent fed information said that this is just a form of smear campaign by a jealous American broadcaster who would want to destroy Bell. And that there is no way Bell would have the heart to initiate a hate drive as such, as he married a Filipina. Nevertheless, there is this touching campaign now to answer Mr. Bell in a civilized manner so as not to make his alleged biases reaffirmed.

A reaction that came in after his email had circulated went: "I find this funny, Bell is right in some ways where we, as Filipinos don't actually have an "identity". I think this is due to the confusion of our mixed races from Hispanic, Chinese, American and Malay origins. I see itin malls, imagine young generations wearing ski caps and ski goggles in a tropical country, baggy low rise pants like that of African Americansliving in the Bronx of New York, not to mention endless whiteningproducts being sold at department stores and drug stores."But his ignorance also blinds him from the other truth. That while we may glorify animé shows and Japanese online gaming, he is not aware that a nameless Filipino may be responsible for some technical aspects of some Japanese software. He is not aware of our contribution to the societyin general - in technological advancements that may have aided post warnavigations and landing on the moon, that the antibiotic Erythromycin wasdiscovered by Dr. Abelardo Aguilar from Iloilo creating the brand"Ilosone"; and while Thomas Edison may have discovered the electric light bulb and the fluorescent lighting was thought up by Nikola Tesla, the fluorescent lamp we use today was invented by Agapito Flores (a Cebuano named Benigno Flores of Bantayan Island, according to the Philippine Daily inquirer), a Filipino scientist. The Americans helped then-Philippine President RamonMagsaysay to develop it for worldwide commerce.

"That the personal physician of former U.S. President Bill Clinton is Eleanor "Connie"Concepcion Mariano, a Filipina doctor who was the youngest captain in theUS Navy; that a Filipino writer Jose Rizal could read and write at age 2, andgrew up to speak more than 20 languages, including Latin, Greek, German,French and Chinese; and that Edgardo San Juan made the prototype of the moon rover or moon buggy used by the Apollo 11 moon landing mission."Or that a Filipino genius was responsible for the near hiatus in the Pentagon and White House nearly infiltrating their closely guardedsecrets with the "ILOVEYOU" bug. Nuisance maybe, but still one heck of a'beautiful mind' not to be underestimated.The reaction came with a punch saying, "Another sad reality that although most Filipinos working overseas are domestic helpers and prostitutes, who does he think educates the toddlers of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Tokyo? Parents of these countriesrarely have time spent with their children, leaving them to theirFilipino nannies. And with regard to prostitution, Filipinos are not theonly ones working as one. Filipinos are hardly seen starring in pornographic movies. There might be a few Filipinos we haven't seen, but most are from Mr. Bell's race."

Well, here now comes the most touching part of the email that prompted me to bring this out in publication so as to correct on how some netizens had pictured us:"noyPis may not be perfect, but at least we still have values for one thing. We don't put our aging parents in nursing homes because they're simply old and worthless and we don't have as much numbers of single mothers who get pregnant in their very early teens and eventually become parasites of the government for years and years."

Then, an excerpt from the piece of Patricia Evangelista, 19-year-old Filipina, grand prize winner of an extemporaneous speaking contest in the United Kingdom, was underlined that we noyPis may have lost our identity because of various influences and or the matting effect of these influences over our cultural psyche, but "we are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK National Health Service."

noyPis maybe are victims of patronage politics that have so destroyed dreams of building up a strong Republic, but the borderless world presents a bigger opportunity. noyPis are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world's commercial ships, the software engineers in Ireland, construction workers in the Middle East, doctors and caregivers in North America, and the musical artists in London's West End.(/30)

captions: PHOTOS BY JESERIE CADAMPOG REDONDO AND JOSEL VENCILAO PENDEJITO

noyPi00. Why would one hold a hard heart against us noyPis when all we would want to do is work in harmony with the international community by bringing our values and virtues learned through our family-oriented lifestyles? JESERIE CADAMPOG REDONDO

noyPi01. Why would one keep a heavy heart against us noyPis when most of us are trained from childhood to be hospitable hosts, reliable friends and good listeners? JESERIE CADAMPOG REDONDO

noyPi02. Why would one cast a smirk upon us noyPis when we are such a happy people with our composure saved by our humor and our ability to sing our hearts out amid crises that rock our country? JESERIE CADAMPOG REDONDO

noyPi03. We maybe are at a loss on our identity as a people, but we don't put our aging parents in nursing homes just because they're "simply old and worthless". noyPis make sure the young and the not-so-young mix well just like the potpourri of our influences - Hispanic, Chinese, American, and Malay origins. JOSEL VENCILAO PENDEJITO

noyPi04. Who in the world would ever hate a race like this attuned to the simplicity required of these trying times? JOSEL VENCILAO PENDEJITO

We chat! We converge! We click!

A SPACE IN SPACE
We chat! We converge! We click!
Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros

A color on a canvas can be beautiful in itself, so it has been said. However, the artist excels not by slathering one color across the canvas but by positioning it between contrasting or complementary hues to allow the original color to derive richness and depth from a milieu of unlike colors.

Room 2 of Cebu Tambayan, one of several chatrooms on Yahoo Messenger, is a beautiful canvas in itself that is even made livelier by hues splayed and splattered by a community of online chatters speaking their minds through the keyboards with their spontaneity vis-a-vis the opposing force of repression and the principle of action-reaction. With the interconnectivity comes a niche for methods such as injunction-disjunction and induction-deduction adopted in the exchange of conversations.

At Cebu Tambayan 2, chatters are composed of a motley crew of beauties and beasts, the honest and reliable, the trickster and heel, the comic, the gross and weird, the conservative and perverts, and of curz the "tweeners" - or those who simply border or are in between.

At times, one could cluck a tongue at the absurdity of this whole enterprise happening 24/7 when online chatters in the guise of anonymity converge at this specific virtual room, as the chatroom becomes the most democratic venue for expression one can ever find. There's no one who can control it (except stations that do have operators-administrators, say IrCQ and MiRC). What's more interesting at YM is who's trying to control it.

There is now the game of the forces of repression to control operating versus the creative impulse to express. Most relationships created on cyberspace are seemingly doomed to fail as diversity - though offering the lavish colors of romance and the wondrous design and texture of conversations and relationships on virtual village - offers small space for unity.

Oftentimes, the chatroom becomes a battlefield rather than a sanctuary of peace, a war zone rather than a pagoda of prayer. Most of the time, discussions go overboard and maniacal rather than the upholding of civil relations and diplomacy.

But even when such become hurting experiences to sensible online chatters, grand eyeballs end up like a commodity being craved by those hooked to the hypnotic spell of this computer peripheral device christened "mouse".

The GEB of real time chatters at Yahoo’s Cebu Tambayan 2 (CT2) last August 6 held at the Boy Scout Camp, Capitol Hills was a gigabyte of poetry personified in people who took time to converge from as far as Germany, Singapore, Boston and Saudi Arabia, Manila, Butuan City, and Iligan City.

At the Boys Scout Camp, I met upclose and personal the rest of those who share with me the same passion – simply_jessie (Jeserie Redondo - moderator of our CT2 yahoogroup), smilekopermi (Susan Padua-Albo) kim_pang_ga (Karina Immaculada Apale), potatored (Rex Edward Apale), labod_sad (Agnes Abellana), nyhavn (Arnel Aranton), femme_fatale (Lyra Faye Baynosa), micro_cheat (Maranatha Illustrisimo), venyang_waffa (Venice Gonzales), torch (Hector Luzon), alain (AJ Cabardo), vanes_mae (Edna Schell), lloren_74 (Emily Cadutdut), gotonitz (Domingo Untal), ugly (Vilma Bongo West), joan rodarodz (Joan Roda), liza_anne_for_u (Lilibeth Flordeliz), highlight (Alexander Listones), rbyan (Randel Bryan Ebrada), inot (Antonio Cortes II), misty (Rearlyn Buctot), zastful_19, suplada_gamay, druglord and boy_berig.

The CT2 crowd of online chatters who find delight in the amazing sense of interconnectivity the virtual world provides with just a click of the mouse gathered for real to strengthen the bond already started with the institution of SCQ yahoogroup or the Senior Chatters Qualified. The GEB bannered the theme: "We chat! We converged! We clicked!"

A plethora of chatters that are either cruel or compassionate, weird or conventional, bully or kindhearted, stupid or brilliant, gross or comic, pervert or angelic, the youth or the not-so-youth, the kind, creative and sensible met and played games, did some teambuilding activities, sang songs via the videoke system, swam at the pool and ate dinner togther, barhopped, chat with webcam, and slept together at this inn, serving from minute to minute affection in bear hugs, mwahs and tsup-tsups!

CT2 peepz have already passed that stage of facing virtual calamities just like flooding wherein nasty chatters key in a flashflood of messages obviously to create mess. And then some are at the mercy of booters who kick chatters out of the rooms using booting softwares. We also encounter spats with chatters who are just there to piss others off and or annoy with their unsolicited green jokes or invitations for sex chat.

After all the trouble, SCQ did pull through with the GEB. By the way, Pinoy and Pinay chatters working out of the country who got the heart to share their blessings for the gathering sponsored the CT2 GEB. Big thanks go to egomez in Norfolk, California; tobeb in New Jersey, ugly of singapore, pinay2care of germany, atlantic_express of the UK, joe_millionaire; doisneau_ethnies (the GEB was dedicated to him), mr. anonymous, zhimpee of florida, summerscent of singapore, and pacs8 and gotonitz of Boston, Massachusetts.

Special thanks also go to SFO4 Bernardo Cortes del Mar of the Bureau of Fire Protection with Cris Comendador for facilitating the teambuilding activities, to Alo Catering Services for a smorgasbord of gastronomic delights able to feed the proverbial multitude, to Bryan Sacmar for the transportation, to the videoke service, to the printing shop that made our shirt designs "sport-able" (the attagirls and the whattamen never looked that great! smile!), to Fountainhead for such a lovely cake, and above all the Almighty for making great things possible.

Real time chatting or online chatting is beautiful and invincible in the new age. Like poetry, it seeks to intertwine justice and the arts to find the stability of truth. Matter of fact is, truth at the chatroom is very elusive. The GEB provides a space in space for one to decipher whether one is a person or a myth. The event comes with the realization that when you click that person at the other end of the line, you will know he or she is for real because he or she doesn’t go overboard with this privilege of chatting in the guise of anonymity. (Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros for A SPACE IN SPACE)


caption: The regular online chatters of Cebu Tambayan 2 in our Grand Eyeball held at the Boy Scout Camp, Capitol Hills, Cebu City last August 6, 2005.

86th Freeman moon


A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS

86th Freeman moon

A handful of stars was generously sprinkled on a satin soft dawn sky that night of July 18. They glittered and shimmered, their serene countenance were intermittently freckled by sleepy mantles of clouds lit up by one moon - one I always call The FREEMAN moon.

I bored a gaze at it, gaping in awe. "How many FREEMAN moons have come and gone unnoticed, unacknowledged?"

I gulped down the effluent moonshine that fled from its illuminating body and counted the years of my stay at The FREEMAN. Seven years! Before I became part of this organization, I used to drop by at the Philippine Information Agency to check on this paper’s Environment page, Cultural/Historical reports, and Science and Technology -– the latest in computers, technology transfer, and updates on what was yet a new world to explore: the Internet.
Little did I know fate would bring me here, and provide me a niche in here.

I remembered the very first time I had witnessed what Guttenberg had contributed to the world. The roaring and rolling of printing machines became a new genre of music to appreciate. Each machine had its language, had its stories to share like a war veteran babbling of battles fought, of medals donned. It’s as if each would tell me, "I was here long before you learned to read and write! Innumerable issues that extend to the concept of the EXTRA-EXTRAs had been printed out of my gut, recording historic events that connect the present to its past; a vital witness how men and women-chroniclers, in a working team, collide minds to minds and purge their creative juices."

The FREEMAN, my home for the last seven years, turned 86 this month. I would be last to greet TF "happy birthday" because I was waiting for the 86th FREEMAN moon to rise on some new horizon – the best metaphor to stand for my enthusiasm. Seeking to be vibrant everyday. More vibrant than it was yesterday.

My inkwell runs out of appropriate terms to describe how proud I am to be part of a community newspaper that carry out in its stories the catchphrase of being "free, fair and fearless".

For seven years with TF, I deal with the word survival that is taught in terms never to be misunderstood.

For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions, crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com.

A father's eloquent example

A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS
www.philstar.com
A father’s eloquent example
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! Thanks to Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, USA who first had the idea of "father's day" that she had thought of while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909 to honor her father William Smart, a Civil War veteran.

The celebration of a national Father's Day was supported by US President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. Then in 1966, Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.

This allows due recognition for fathers who empower us with their simple eloquent examples, just like Father Damien of Moloka'i - my best example of father's love personified. He shone through the silent eloquence of his love for a community suffering from Hansen's disease (leprosy).

According to accounts, no person is as central to the history of Kalawao and Kalaupapa (Hawaiian islands) as Joseph De Veuster, best known to the world as Father Damien.

It was told that he arrived during the early days of Kalawao’s history, when people with Hansen’s disease were being rounded up throughout the Hawaiian islands and shipped to the isolated settlement on Moloka`i.The account went: "Joseph De Veuster was born in Tremeloo, Belgium, in 1840. He arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864. There he was ordained in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on May 31 and took the name of Damien.

"His first calling was on the big island of Hawai`i where he spent eight years. He often traveled great distances to minister to the people of his districts of Puna, followed by Kohala and Hamakua.

"In 1873, he learned of the need for priests to serve the 700 Hansen’s disease victims confined on the island of Moloka`i. He and three other priests volunteered to go in succession. Damien was the first, and soon he was on a boat carrying cattle and 50 patients bound for Kalawao.

"Damien was the most famous but not the first caregiver or religious worker to arrive at Kalawao. He followed congregational ministers, Catholic priests, Mormon elders, and family and friends of patients who went voluntarily to Kalawao to help. Slowly, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope. He spoke the Hawaiian language. Assisted by patients, he built houses, constructed a water system, and planted trees. He also organized schools, bands, and choirs. He provided medical care for the living and buried the dead.

"Father Damien had lived in Kalawao 12 years when it was confirmed that he had contracted Hansen’s disease. Although the disease is not highly contagious, Damien had not been careful about hygiene. Over the years he had done nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the bowl shared with other patients. He shared his pipe. And he did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores.

"Father Damien was 49 years old when he died April 15, 1889 at Kalawao. Shortly before his death, he wrote his brother Pamphile, "I am gently going to my grave. It is the will of God, and I thank Him very much for letting me die of the same disease and in the same way as my lepers. I am very satisfied and very happy."

"He was buried in the cemetery next to his church, St. Philomena. The people of Kalawao had lost their strongest voice. Damien’s death was widely noted throughout Hawai`i and in Europe. As the years passed, his life of devotion served to inspire thousands. Because Kalaupapa remained an isolation settlement and the world could not come to his church and grave, Damien’s remains were exhumed in 1936 and reburied at Louvain, Belgium.

"In 1995, a relic composed of the remains of his right hand was returned to his original grave at Kalawao, to the great joy of Kalaupapa and the rest of Hawai`i. Damien’s life of service and fatherly love to the sick and outcast continues to serve as an inspiration."

If only all fathers were made with a heart like his, it would be easier for the world to feel and see the transforming power of the human spirit.(/30)

Like the air


A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS
May 2005
www.philstar.com

Like the air

Weeks back, Mother's Day was celebrated. I wasn't able to pen down that time a tribute for all the wonderful moms worthy of recognition. I felt guilt for being immersed with my passion for the great outdoors, negotiating the Rio de Cagayan in a familiarization tour, forgetting all about this article I had to submit before hie-ing off to northern Mindanao.

I flew out of Cebu without ever handing in this story intended to exalt the purpose why moms are given to us. Middle of last week, my mother quipped while we were having lunch: "Twenty-three years na si nanay sa yuta."

I counted back the years. Yes, May 18 was my grandmother's 23rd death anniversary. I moved on to retrieve this file and determined to have this on print. This is for my mom and my grandmother and for their potent influences - my mother with her great sense of humor, generosity, and passion for reading; my grandmother for being a woman of sensibility and substance.

"Gikan kos Santo Niño, mora nako shag nakita nilaray padulong sa hagkanan. Gikan kos San Jose, mora nako shag nakita sa hagdanan," my mother went on.

And then tears began welling in her eyes. Obviously, she missed her mom, and that going to the places where my grandmother used to frequent gives her the chance to relive all those precious moments in time.

"Mother's love is like the air. It's so commonplace you won't ever notice it till the supply is cut off."

I wonder how many of us appreciate our mothers and show this appreciation in ways they feel or sense. It's true that we are often guilty of taking our mothers for granted and accept their love as if it were our right, without giving them anything in return.

Take my case for example. There was only a single tear which dropped from my weary, burnt eyes. My heart ached for a while. And the aftermath was a single tear - a manifestation that somehow, in my mother's moving out, I got hurt.

She blew her nose thrice or more, that I wasn't able to give a count but then I was sure she did cry. She had suffered a lot, but I knew she would suffer some more and that she would endure a bucketful of pain because she is willing to love unconditionally.

If onlys were uttered, but one could never change her destiny. Not even a river of tears could. That's maybe the reason why only a single tear dropped from my eyes. They were just too tired to give a damn. All I wanted to do was to go back to sleep as the sound of her footsteps faded down the wooden stairs.

She went away to work in Manila in the hope of sending us - her three children - to school. My sister was completing at that time a degree in elementary education. I was struggling with my journalism studies, while my brother was a graduating high school student.

Our momentary separation gave me the feeling we are parts of one beautiful tapestry ripped into a thousand segments. She said her "bye" tenderly. It sounded more like "I love the three of you". Her farewell played once more that lullabye she used to sing when my days revolved around a course flour-cloth hammock and the milk overflowing from her taut breast buds provides salvation at the strike of hunger pangs.

She carried a travelling bag on her shuddering, weary shoulder. This person who bore me had all the reasons to sacrifice time and her very own life - we are family.

In all her pain, she made me strong. She has always believed in the Divine Providence, in love being absolute, and the beauty of life thriving like lotus on murky waters. You'll never get to know she suffered. For she did it, silently!

With the parting was the message: "Hold on." It means more than holding on to something physical. It's holding on to a lot of things beyond what my mind could conceive. She wrote after some time though, and scribbled: "Elaine, be good. You're firstborn. Do your part. You have to trailblaze to clear the path for those next in line. You are weird, but I do miss you."

Am I worthy to be missed? Often, she would tell me I have an attitude problem. That I must change it before it would eat up my system. But I hated her demanding so much from me just because I'm firstborn. I was struggling that time to weave a life of my own - resisting to embrace conventional wisdom. Most of her words weren't taken seriously. Advice fell on deaf ears.

But when she left us behind once, I did miss her scoldings! I did realize that mother's love is like the air. I had never known it was there, till she went away and the supply temporarily ran out.

For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions, crank up my addy:
pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com.

The Skimmers


A space in space
Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
www.philstar.com

The skimmers

Lanky Mark is obviously obsessed with his skimboard (skiffle to Americans, skidboard to Aussies and Kiwis). He is in love with the offshore wind that had playfully tussled his unkempt hair before it headed out to sea. His eyes were admiring the frothy seashore, lapped endlessly by the waves he had fallen head over heels with. And then he ran to pick up the right wave – the very secret of skimming.

To have good wave judgment, say, employing some spectral profile to decipher the contents of the sea's brains, would lead to a successful flip or a headstand. Using such technique, Mark amazed me with an ollie bringing his body to a turnaround with skimboard magically glued to his feet like iron filings attached to a horseshoe magnet. I was left there some distance from him shaking my head, clapping like another Chapman wild over Lennon, my eyes deepoceangreen with envy.

I just happened to bump into lanky, bubbly Mark and his crowd of skimmers at the remaining minutes of my stay in Agusan. I was walking my way from Trianggulo in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte to the port to catch the boat back to Cebu after a successful climb to Mt. Magdiwata, a caving activity and a trip to the Agusan marshland in line with the Naliyagan festivity of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur when a guy named Rich called my attention.

"Miss, climber ka?" he asked. He was there sitting on this bench in a carenderia, while there I was slowing down my pace some minutes before he had thrown at me the question hoping to feast on adobong dabong (stir-fried bamboo shoot) for lunch at the eatery.

After we went through that rite of exchanging halllleerrrrs, and after getting my serving of the tempting bamboo shoot strips fried in soy sauce made all the more palatable by the aroma of crushed garlic, Rich ushered me to his motorbike and sped away to their office in barangay Talisay, close to the Nasipit wharf. I met the rest of the gang – fellow nature freaks I would say - skimmers Bryan, Ronky, and Mark.

It was so easy to connect with them as we shared the same passion and love for the great outdoors. We easily jibed, except that though I love the surf, sand, sea, sun and the froth at the breaking of seawaters, I am a total stranger indeed to skimboarding. Well, it’s because my being uncoordinated remains a strong force to reckon with.

Mark was the most talkative. Oh, well, they all talked about lots of "nature stuff", but Mark had the most stories. I spent most of the afternoon with him while waiting for the Cebu-bound ship. He did an aerial to begin with, catching the air off of a wave and landing back on the face of the wave.

And there I was etching on the sand what I believe am only good at – figuring out this relationship between the art of skimming on waves and the art of skimming the waters of life. Mark said something that it would be best to choose a flat beach. Of course, of what good will bumps and humps and jagged and rocky areas do to your board and skimming pursuit? The sight of dents and the pain of failure for sure.

"See here, L (my name shortened)," Mark shouted like a pro-skim instructor waving his skim and pointing to the surf "the best time to begin running for a wave is right after the wave breaks. Once we reach the water or wet sand, we throw down the board so we can jump on it."

He did the act with so much ease and grace that for a beginner like me would give tummy knots. Somewhat physically challenging! I learned that it is more difficult than it looks at first and many people don’t stick with skimboarding because learning to ride the skag is too hard.
However, with persistence and patience, even the most uncoordinated person can learn to skimboard. That's what am told, so I bank on the encouragement (*smile!). Well, all aspirants have to take a few bruises learning how to get themselves first on the board. Close to the real picture. We do have our brushes with the bruise-inducing, pressing issues of our lives. The art of gliding through either harsh or tamed waves is for us to muster.

To skim through life, we must be prepared for the waves and learn to inhale the offshore winds and exhale inshore winds. To deal with our skims, we must keep our weight centered over the board, keeping it pointed towards the ocean. Talking of balancing our priorities, our schedules, our decisions, our quality time. Toward the ocean. Not against it. Toward the sun. Not against it. There might be instances when nature would call us to go against the elements. Say, fly a kite against the winds or be like the pink salmons traveling back home against the currents. But with skim, we learn both to face the harshness and the friendliness of the oceans. With life, we bring ourselves to look at our concerns squarely. It is common to accelerate too quickly and lose control in skimming so that it is important not to run too fast. That brings us closer to the facts of life: Man can play neurotic and can be one. With fame, fortune and wealth all fleeting he easily loses control. So skimboarding rule applies to life as rule of the thumb: Don’t run too fast. Just run this race. Run and arrive somewhere.

Then the skimboard meets the ocean, the riders' weight must be on their back foot so the nose of the board does not catch on the water. If this is applied to how we deal with life, we would be neatly gliding up over the waters of challenges instead of plowing through it.

By being insistent, persistent and consistent, the rest of the moves would be executed flawlessly. If the rider has enough speed, balance and ability to turn, he can do various maneuvers while banking off the wave and riding toward the shore. Unlike surfing, skimboarding allows for the ability to spin, greatly increasing the rest of the possibilities on moves.

Skimming I think is not just awesome. But very awesome! No wonder it has won popular approval even in the absence of early records and even if its history is shrouded in mystery. Here in Cebu, how the sport was introduced to local folks is not annotated but there is the Liloan Skimmers Club headed by Daisy Senido creating waves in this kind of aquasport. It is expected then that this art of riding a board across water or wet sand would take more beach buffs creating more tricks where there’s about an inch of water.

After that ceremonial rite of tying around my right ankle a piece of his life and culture – his Manobo tribal necklace – Mark encouraged me to take an idyll with the waves through skimming, to have my own magical transport to some other horizon through the skimboard, and to love the psyche of every skimboarder. Well, I do am beginning to love the sport long before I can even do my very first ollie. Matter of fact is, I have been beautifully skimming through my life's waters all these years.
(For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com).

Vaya con Dios, 'torni Arbet


A SPACE IN SPACE
MARIA ELEANOR ELAPE VALEROS

Vaya con Dios, ‘torni Arbet

It was Friday afternoon, 1 pm. I was preparing for my health tips and trivia segments for a weekly one-hour radio program over dyLA produced by Women’s Feature Service, an international wire agency that works to place into mainstream media the pressing issues faced by women and children across continents and walks of life, when my co-anchor and former senior editor Marivir Montebon-Auxilio, in a phone call, informed me I don’t have to arrange for another guest for our 3 pm program as she got somebody to talk on the issue of women dragged into virtual prostitution by a Caucasian who operated an Internet café here that allowed customers online pleasure (say cybersex) with the women.

The guest's name I heard was "Anna Yongco".

She was introduced to me by Marivir when I arrived at the technician’s room of the radio station. But since that was the first time we met, Marivir took care of introducing her on air. She was Attorney Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco who worked on cases involving violations against women and children, and an advocate working to address on major global concerns such as women trafficking or modern-day slavery, child prostitution and pornography.

She shone in her field without that air of arrogance most lawyers have. She was expounding on women trafficking, emphatic but never intimidating. In her soft-spoken unassuming manners, she was able to put the message across that women are pressed with the major issue of "the struggle for power". She cited we feminist advocates should be alarmed that Cebu has unfortunately become both as the main passage and destination point in the trafficking of both women and children. Her point was recently supported by data from a survey released by a non-government advocacy group, saying that no less than 1.2 million children have been trafficked for prostitution, child labor and domestic servitude in 2003 alone.

Yesterday, ‘torni Arbet was laid to rest after four bullets took her precious life morning of October 11 inside her office at the corner of Alcohol and Sikatuna streets in barangay Zapatera. She had handled mostly pro bono cases, particularly the Ecleo parricide case, and others like that of the shooting of a prominent Danao city businessman, of a man sentenced to 26 counts of death penalty for raping his own twin daughters, and another case involving a girl rescued from sex slavery.

Sharing ‘torni Arbet’s feminist advocacy, I can’t help from being angered by such a senseless killing. "Kon naglagot man diay, dapat mokiha! Ayaw lang patya! The person killed was a good woman, wife, sister, and lawyer alone in her fight. She was the lone prosecutor in the Ecleo case. With that one-hour she spent with us over the radio, she showed us how firm she is in her stand to free women from the claws of virtual prostitution. ‘torni Arbet told me it is part of the fight, to educate women so they will have options and or alternatives other than trading their flesh in exchange for cold cash, including the virtual flesh vending. She said some women don’t know what quagmire they are entertaining because they simply don’t realize they are victims. Expounding this stand but without imposing, she left behind a message that the best thing an educated woman would do is to get a fellow woman out of that quagmire of ignorance, to walk with her another mile, and show her there are better paths for women to take.

'torni Arbet was shot while she was reading her Bible at her office. You can just imagine the ruthlessness of the gunman! Her death is indeed a loss to the legal profession, an attack against the judicial system, a loss to our feminist advocacy. I remember her words well "the attack on women and children is an issue involving people enslaved by their struggle for power". Even in her death, she carried the issue of being attacked by people enslaved by their hunger for power, of people who enjoy moving around brandishing their arrogance, happy at phasing out good people from the face of the earth to whitewash their guilt, cowards who can’t overpower a woman’s wit in the sala of justice other than to silence her with the gun.

As for ‘torni Arbet, vaya con Dios! You fought a good fight. They had taken your body, but not your spirit. They might have tipped the weighing scales, but never will have the power over it! They will continue entertaining their arrogance and it will fan the embers of their malevolence, but good shall triumph in the end. It has been written, it shall come to pass! (/30)

Bag-ong Kaplag...

Bag-ong Kaplag: Si Armor ug ang iyang mga musikanhong mugna
Tinagik ni Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Mga hulagway kuha ni Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Mibutho sa buhatan ning maong pamantalaan si Armor, usa ka bag-ong sulbong nga electronic folk artist, bag-ohay pa lamang gikan pagkahuman sa iyang “live” nga pasundayag sa Café Shang diha sa Mactan. Miagi siya pagtuyo ning maong pamuhatan alang sa paghatag og katin-awan mahitungod sa iyang mga musikanhong mugna nga inanay nang nakakablit sa pagtagad sa mga mahiligon usab sa huni nga pinahaum sa electronic folk nga kategorya sa musika.

Bisan pa man dili kadto Martes nga kaadlawon, apan ang sayong kabuntagon mibagis sa pamayhon sa babaye nga iyang gihulagway diha sa iyang orihinal nga komposisyon “Rainy Tuesday Morning” kansa nangantalita sa yanang nga namugna sa bunok sa uwan sanglit nagpanghadlok man kining mahugawan ang iyang lapa-lapa kon makayatak sa lapokong dalan.

Diha hinoon kadtoy kalit nga ulan nga inay mobundak sa aspaltadong dalan, o mobati-bati pagbunal sa sin nga atop, nahimo naman hinoong mananoy daw huni nga namugna sa silindro ni Armor. Ang “Rainy Tuesday Morning” usa sa iyang orihinal nga komposisyon diin iyang gilubid ang mga impluwensya sa iyang mga kinaham nga mga mag-aawit ug banda nga sama sa Asin, Joey Ayala, sa inilang U2 sa Britanya, ug si Bob Dylan ug Beck and The Blue Man sa Tinipong Bansa sa Amerika.

Ug labaw pa gayud nga sa dihang nahapit si Armor ning maong buhatan, ang adlaw nahikatulog pa sa likod sa nanghuyhoy nga abaga sa kasadpan samtang gikugihan namo pag-ugkat gikan sa Internet ang iyang laing mugna, ang “Psychedelic Sun”, kuyog sa akong kahinam nga nakigkumbati pagsukit-sukit kaniya mahitungod sa iyang inspirasyon nga naglimin dihas mga pulong, pagbati, ug sepra nga maayo kaayo niyang pagkabalay samtang siya nagasimba sa Haring Adlaw tungod kay nibidlisiw man kini dihas balaan ug makasasala sa walay pagpalta ug pagpinig.

Si Armor, kansa Ilonggo ug kaliwatan, midalit sa iyang katakos sa pagkuskos sa iyang sista nga gidunganan sa pagtayhop niya sa silindro. Sa pagkakaron, siya makita nga solong mopasundayag sa iyang katakos sa pagtukar niining mga instrumentoha ug usab sa drum machine dungan sa iyang pagkanta.

“Sometimes with the sequencer, tribal instruments and toys I circuit bended. But live performance is just an extension of my music," matud pa ni Armor.

Apan alang kang Armor ang iyang matuod nga pasundayag naa sa iyang paggahin og panahon sa pagplano, sa recording ug sa mixing sa iyang mga kanta.

“I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!,” dugang pamahayag ni Armor.

Napulo ug siyam sa mga koro sa iyang kap-atan ka mugna nahipatik nas www.fiestamundo.com/armor. Ang kinatibuk-an niining maong mga kanta mapalgan sa www.songplanet.com/armor sama sa nahisgutan nang "Rainy Tuesday Morning" ug "Psychedelic Sun".

Musika nakapaaghat kang Armor nga mobiyahe

Ang pagkadi ni Armor sang banwa sa Sugbo indi lang gid para sang iya mga kabiyanan kag mga kautoran na adi di. Gibuhat kini ni Armor tungod kay nakadungog man siya sa nakagamot nang gugma sa mga Sugbuanon sa natad sa panggama og mga huni’g awit.

"I am amazed at the Cebuanos’ love of music that nestles deep down in your culture," ni Armor pa.

Nahadiin-diin na si Armor, apan dinhi lamang sa Sugbo niya nakita ang dakong kahangop alang sa mga independent musicmakers nga pareha kaniya.

Nahimugso niadtong Enero 6 sa Jaro, Iloilo City, si Armor nakabaton sa ngadto-ngadto sa abilidad pagsulat ug kanta, ingon man mga “jingles”, ug nakat-on ug creative writing sa dihang nagtoon siya alang sa pagkab-ot sa Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications major in Journalism degree gikan sa West Visayas State University.

Mibiya siya sa nasud nanimpalad dala ang katakos sa pagkanta sa Sur Beach Hotel sa Oman niadtong 1999; sa Hilton Hotel sa Manama, Bahrain (2000); sa New Peninsula Hotel sa Dubai (2001). Apan gilaay si Armor sa pagkanta sa mga huning gipasikat sa mga laing music artists, labi na gyud sa mga langyaw. Alang kaniya dakong insulto sa iyang talento ang iyang gibuhat ug nga kon dili pa lang kuno tungod sa konsiderasyon sa panapi, sigurado kuno nga sa unang gabii pa lang sa iyang pagtugtog hinanali niya kining gitalikdan.

Si Armor padayon sa iyang tim-os nga tingusbawan

Nagplano siyang magpagawas og CD sa iyang “live acoustic performances” dinhi sa Sugbo. Iya kining matawag og halad alang natong mga Sugbuanon nga misuporta sa klase sa iyang musika. Matala nga kalampusan ni Armor ang pagkahiapil sa Top 400 artists sa songplanet.com sukad pa sa Hulyo 2004. Siya mao lamang ang Pinoy nga independent music artist nga nahilakip sa maong talaan. Siya ana-a karon sa ika 59. Ang iyang laing musikanhong mugna nga nag-ulohan og “We Are All Atoms” ana-a nanganaw-kanaw na karon sa 93.1 Smash FM dinhis dakbayan.

Sa dili pa dad-on ni Armor ang iyang musika sa Davao, mapaminawan siya nga live mopasundayag diha sa Windsor Castle (Ninoy’s Payag) dalan Escario matag Miyerkules sa alas-9 sa gabii. Sa laing mga adlaw naa siya sa Café Shang sa Mactan diin kadtong buot makabaton ug kopya sa iyang upat ka mga album – Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates, Sunshine Satellites, Walking on a Third World Street ug Primitive Device, makahimo sa pagpalit samtang siya mokanta ug live napulo sa orihinal niyang mga mugna dihas gikasulti nang mga dapit-pasundayaganan.

Human unya sa misyon ni Armor sa dakbayan sa Davao pagpakatap sa iyang musika ug pag-apud-apud sa iyang CD, mobalik siya sa Iloilo alang sa laing obra, ang ikalima niya nga album, usa niya ipadayon ang iya nang nasugdan dinhi sa Sugbo. Kabay pa nga updan naton si Armor sang iya panakayong musika! – Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros, mga hulagway kuha ni Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Caption:

Si Armor mihalad ug usa sa iyang kap-atan ka orihinal nga komposisyon, nga may ulohan “Love” dinuyugan sa gitara ug silindro. Mga hulagway kuha ni Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Vanilla Hills Experience

Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
August 10, 2002
Visit www.philstar.com
MOON as red as blood shone above Boholano horizon. Slowly, its rays flooded onto the sea turning the vast sheet of water abruptly into silver. Three shadows of excellent form trudged upon rocks. Finally, we found each a throne, sat there, and did some moongazing.
It was a Saturday night. The last Saturday of July. Fifty-six senior scouts from the University of the Visayas-Mandaue, University of San Jose-Recoletos, Mandaue City National Comprehensive High School, Mandaue City Science High School, St. Louis School, Mt. Olives Christian School, and Cabangcalan, Campu Lapu-Lapu, and Pakna-an National High Schools set a bonfire at the Vanilla Hills Eco Park and Scout Camp.
The gathering was in consonance to Executive Order 98, the observance of the National Disaster Awareness Month. The boys had their Emergency Service Course conducted in cooperation with Rescue 160 of the Bureau of Fire Protection, of which this writer is one of the volunteers.
Day 1. We left as early as six in the morning from the premises of the Lahug Elementary School where the participants of the Emergency Rescue Service course were gathered. A mini-bus took all fifty-six participating senior scouts to the municipality of Argao. Upon arrival in Argao, the boy scouts were immediately transferred to a dump truck, provided by the municipality, bound for Butong. These boys are to trek to the campsite: Vanilla Hills Eco Park and Scout Camp owned and developed by Mr. Juan Sala, the same owner and developer of Discovery Hills in Babag, Cebu.
Together with a certain Roy, we facilitated the spelunking activity at Triangle Cave. Billy Jack Bahian, Mark Jephen Francisco and Christopher Oyangoren of the University of the Visayas; and Joanne Villamor assisted the boys in penetrating the cavern; while Marites Arañas and I lectured the students a little of what we know about caving. Aside from Triangle Cave with its tawny-stained ground and marvelous limestone formations, there are quite a number of caves in Vanilla Hills waiting to be explored.
After unrigging the ropes, the group trailblazed back to the camp. We emerged some distance from the foot of the towering steel viewing deck. There, we agreed to have some fun by rappelling down the tower.
Day 2. I had my rapt attention all to the lambent flames emitted by an early morning sun. Sunrays beamed through the eastern vanilla sky, launching a brand new day on Vanilla Hills. This day was when the scouts submitted themselves to a rigorous Emergency Rescue Service test. The rescue group gave them two scenarios: a plane crash and a truck loaded with passengers which haplessly lost its brakes and rolled over a ravine. The scouts responded to the needs of the surviving victims according to how they had interpreted the basic emergency action principles.
After the tree-planting activity, Mr. Yndig, the scoutmaster, declared a break-camp. The handing out of certificates followed after a sumptuous lunch of sinugbang isda, mawos nga ginamos, piniritong buwad, and kinilaw nga bulinaw. (/30)

Atop Prayer Mountain

Atop Prayer Mountain
by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Visit www.philstar.com

DOWN south of Cebu lie charming idyllic towns of tranquil azure waters to dive into, creamy sandy beaches to comb, pristine coves to discovr, fantastic waterfalls to abseil, awesome labyrinthine systems to explore, challenging rivers to tame, rocky hills to trek, and cool mountain peaks to scale, say Prayer Mountain in Butong, Argao where Vanilla Hills Eco Park and Scout Camp is.
Prayer Mountain is about 800 feet above sea level, located 19 kilometers from Argao's town proper. On its peak stood an over 30-foot-high stell viewing deck, protruding into the sky, a vantage point where every adventurer can get a sweeping view of two straits dividing Cebu from nearby islands - Bohol strait in the east where the island of Bohol lies, and Tañon strait in the west where Negros island is. Down below, lying on the eastern side of Tañon strait are the municipalities of Dumanjug, Moalboal, and Badian; and off its coast are Zaragoza and Pescador islands, the latter being one of the best diving spots in Cebu.
Finding ourselves on top of the world, we screamed till our lungs burst, as gusts of strong wind tousled all the more our already unkempt hair.
Later that night, we watched a lovely moon that rose over Bohol and enjoyed the cold wisps of mountain breeze that momentarily whipped our napes. A world down south of Cebu, a world freely-given, freely-laid. Fresh air unmetered. Lethargic stars untagged. Mantles of cloud uncoded with bars. Indeed, nature is a grand symphony conducted by one Creator.
As we slumped onto ash gray rocks, sculpted and grooved by rainfall, we entertained our peace. Tall grasses swayed with the blowing of the mighty wind. What lapsed was an eardrum-piercing silence, broken only when time took us discussing "weird and stupid" dreams. Dreams that were never destroyed by tragic circumstances or ripped by fangs of discouragement. We all believed that while being a rescue volunteer is the most difficult task we have to endure, it never takes much time to master the skills. Insistence, persistence, and consistence in training make for perfection.
Being of service is born in the mind and nests in the heart. There only can it find rest. (Text and photos by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros together with fellow Rescue 160 volunteers and Rovers Scout mountaineers Batch 55-Cebu council: Billy Jack Bahian, Marites Arañas, Alex Salazar, Joanne Villamor, Christopher Oyangoren, and Mark Jephen Francisco)

Maze

Poem by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
1.16.2002pm
ONE NIGHT...
Wrote your name, Maze, on a handpainted sky
where careening clouds stormed celestial horizon
it all had taken your whispers, whimpers
it all carried away your million-dollar promises
ONE LONELY NIGHT...
when time seemed to have stood still
when nary a waft of air or a breeze blows
I uttered your name, Maze, onto the dead wind
it took me by surprise to have missed you this much
certainly, love has a gazillion faces.
ONE LONELY WEDNESDAY NIGHT...
I fought back tears and guilt pangs
torn between keeping the faith and having you, Maze
wish we get some time to storm distant horizon
find out if we are really made for each other.
ONE LONELY WEDNESDAY JANUARY NIGHT...
I praised high heavens for your love
your name I wrote on a handpainted sky
where careening clouds covered my sham
for I believed I have always loved you, Maze
always has, always will
if only to starve my doubts.

The Pres. Ramon F. Magsaysay, Sr. Millennium Trek

Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Visit www.philstar.com

March 18, 2000; Saturday morning. Raging lathery waters, in delicious shade of mocha, rampaged upon river stones and smashed on ebony boulders. The current was indeed strong, but it never succeeded in taking away the faith the mountaineers had. As the waters' tumultuous outburst cascaded down from uphill streams and spilt its froth into the gushing river, which separated the mountain barangay of Tabunan and the foot of Mt. Manunggal, we were determined to make a milestone for the new age - conquering a mountain peak and having communion with nature.
August of 1982. I was only in grade 4 then. In a social studies class, we had lessons on volcanoes and mountains, mentioning prominent ones in the Philippines. My teacher, a spinster, was so dear to us because she really treated the whole class like her own little kids - seeing to it that we learn the lessons by heart. For our homework, Miss Cecille Ramacho asked us to list down the volcanoes and mountains we knew of. Upon reaching home and eager to comply with the assignment, I asked my father about mountains, mountain ranges, and volcanoes in the Philippines. There was my mother too who mentioned of Vesuvius and Krakatoa. But because we were only limited to the Philippines, I listened to my father more. He said there's this very beautiful Mt. Matutom in Marbel, South Cotabato. So, the next day, I presented to Ms. Ramacho my social studies workbook with a list of ten mountains. She was not so pleased with the last item - the Mt. Matutom thing - saying she was doubtful.
She then asked me where in the world did I ever hear of it. That was the first time I argued with a teacher. Never mind if she was older than me. I trusted my father more even if he hadn't had any college degree, for that matter. It was a sorry state for an educator to have taught a lesson she wasn't even well-informed of, I reckoned.
Then the name of Mt. Manunggal popped up in that same class when she started enumerating the beautiful mountains and volcanoes of the Philippine archipelago. In connection to that Mount Manunggal thing, she started discussing about the late President Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay - dear to the hearts of the common tao, champion of the masses - who was given the moniker "my guy". My mother said a song was written about him which went: "Mambo, Mambo Magsaysay; Mabu-Mabu-Mabuhay, our democracy will die kung wala si Magsaysay."
I was only a grader then, amazed to the point of applauding the fact that once this country had a good president but who haplessly met his death in a plane crash aboard his private plane, Mt. Pinatubo, on Mt. Manunggal with Nestor Mata, the journalist, as the lone survivor. Given such information, I went home with all the questions in my mind. So I had to confront my father who I found to be busy scanning my Nancy Drew books. "Why did you not ever inform me about Mt. Manunggal? It is here in Cebu. Why of all mountains was it forgotten? Had you remembered, I could have proudly written it as first item on my list," I insisted. My father only shook his head and plainly recited "I forgot".
He forgot. And must have now forgotten how I insisted Mt. Manunggal on my list. But I haven't forgotten a dream - to someday set foot on a mountain I so long to climb, I so long to discover. Along with a few friends from the University of the Visayas Mountaineers (UV-M), I reached its peak at 1:00 in the afternoon. There, I met residents of barangay Magsaysay who welcomed the visitors while some mountaineers had already pitched their tents on the campsite. I went straight near the late President's bust where information about him was inscribed in marble. Meeting the "guy" - the sculpted Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay gave me a lot of realizations. Dreams are just waiting to be realized. That kid in her grade four social studies class had finally stepped on the reddish brown soil of Mt. Manunggal, over three thousand feet overlooking the pristine beauty of Tañon strait, and the proud peak of another wonder - Mt. Kanlaon on Negros island.
The activity dubbed "The President Ramon F. Magsaysay, Sr. Millennium Trek" began at barangay Tabunan, with an uphill climb that took us four hours. It was organized by the local government of Balamban to commemorate Magsaysay's death anniversary. I appreciate the way the Good Lord blessed me with a reliable pair of feet that never gave the slightest problem as I travelled the terrain's serpentine path. Fact is, I was just too stubborn to let go of that great opportunity. I was just too bold to explore greater heights even if people around me tend to be pessimistic at times. Expectations are born out of wishes, and those wishes are motivated by dreams as inspired by ideals. Remember the story of the mountain and the squirrel? I have, time and again, been amazed at the way a mountain can carry forests on its back, how the world looks up to it, the way it provides us with quenching waters that spring from its rocks, and how our dining table is filled with the fruits of its earth.
At seven in the early evening, thick fog covered the vicinity of the camping grounds. It was very, very cold indeed that I had to wear three layers of clothing. Strong gusts of wind threatened to swipe our tents out of sight, but then thanks to the expert backpackers who fastened them well to the ground. The thick fog completely covered the hypocrisy of the world below I always deal with, while puffs of cool mountain breeze blew all the boredom I had felt for the past weeks as I had engaged myself in thankless jobs. From where I was comfortably and peacefully stretched out, I could see strobe lights blinking in synchrony to dance music. The discotheque, sponsored by the municipality of Balamban in coordination with its active youth organization, was the highlight of the activities for that night. There was a showdown of talents beforehand participated in by various mountaineering societies and clubs from different universities and colleges of Cebu and the provinces.
Alone in a blue-green tent and laid on a blue soft earth pad at 9:00 in the evening, I could see the thick fog slowly gave way for the moonshine to pour in over us as a handful of stars littered beside the moon. In what one might call as a "quick sojourn" into the grandeur of the universe, I chuckled at how people - in numerous times and occasions - had denied the simple and plain truth: that over all creation, there is this Almighty Hand in charge of its details and whereabouts. I am simply convinced that nothing in this troubled yet still very beautiful world popped into existence without the consent of the Supreme who knows where to place what, and how to sustain who.
I somehow left a trail of footprints on Mt. Manunggal that may not withstand the tests of grueling times, and a track of rebellious spirit that may not at all survive nature's wild forces. So too did I carry home with me a lot of things: memories captured within the borders of photographs, the sense of achievement inspired by Magsaysay's story, and the revitalized energy to conquer new horizons together with fellow mountaineers who love the great outdoors. But most of all, I brought home the idea of simplicity - that inkling to desire desirelessness.(/30)

Of boulders and river-trekking

Of boulders and river-trekking
Text by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros

visit
www.philstar.com

BOULDERS. Such tough creations. They come in smooth, in shapes like peeled potatoes; while others are rough, and sharp like slivers of glass. But whichever of the two kinds I encounter, I hold on to each piece with a heart beating in awe and throbbing in pure joy; and a sense of reliance on the ability to manage "bouldering" with the strongest of convictions.

These huge stones protruding from riverbeds lift an ecstatic me to a higher dimension, both in the figurative and literal sense. These rocks have faces scarred by the rain's intermittent dropping, its countenance bronzed by a tropical sun. To each scar, I take faithful holds, planting my toes carefully on each crevice grooved by the rain; hoping never to slip down when faced with mossy and slimy ones. Each gecko-crawl, left hand against right foot, right hand against left foot, moves my heavy body inches closer to a destination. And after clawing on to the hardness, emerging at the top of every boulder gives me a queen-like pride able to dethrone fear, able to defy the pull of gravity.
Sometimes, it would take half of a day to complete a trail, or a whole day at most (excluding night treks) to negotiate each river here in Cebu. One I could not forget was that of spectacular Dao in Malabuyoc with all of its Colombian appeal - palms establishing roots in rock crevices, vines hanging down like veils on cliffsides, freshwater prawns rippling bank puddles, and wild monkeys swinging from limb to limb.
RIVERS. Raging or tamed. They all amaze me. I have a penchant for watching rivers cascade down the back of the earth, sallying and babbling and all. Their murmurings I love to listen to whenever their cool brim wash my sandals and my feet. Their bubbles, I admire, swiftly popping when carried in whirlpools to drain into the vast seas and oceans. Their gurgling and rushing and swooshing tickle the strings in my childlike heart. And each of these twangings jabs my memory with the lessons on creation.
Finally, out of finishing every river trek, I find the joy in praising the Almighty, even when it dawns on me that the tarck is only half-beaten. After every conquest, I content myself with the delight of knowing my boundaries, my limits. Yes, because every river's mouth is a small hole on a rock or a narrow passage on the earth's belly, and the rest of its story is locked up behind it, so that everything else becomes a mystery. Almost always, I'm left knocked down, kneeling on pebbles, softened by the goodness of a Sustainer. "Men may come and men may go, but rivers go on forever," so goes poet-of-the-first-caliber Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Believe me when I say that most people think it's weird for me to leave the convenience of home, to wander in forests and mountain ridges just to be able to take an idyll with rivers. Boy! Some people would never ever learn to realize the joy in every river trek undergone. Every step taken is like a scene in a movie. It tackles infinite beauty. It discusses about life on a more vivid picture. Scenes pose most especially to give pleasure to the senses, to gladden the weary heart.
With river-trekking, you have all the time in the world to pause and take time to appreciate this form of creation, one of God's best manifestations. As you walk through the vistas of indescribable beauty, each step intensifies feelings. Each wandering step to the Unknown stimulates the senses. This state of grace, accentuated by the surrounding splendor, breaks through even the toughest exterior.
And most of all, every river can be likened to life. Beautiful but delicate. It gives you very little idea on when you'll have your last glimpse of it. (/30)

Rainy Tuesday morning under Armor's Psychedelic Sun

Rainy Tuesday Morn under
Armor’s Psychedelic Sun

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso

Blurb:
“I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!"

It was no Tuesday dawn at all when electronic folk artist Armor dropped by at my workstation fresh from his gig at Café Shang in Mactan island. But the dawn seemed to have smelled of the Tuesday scent of a woman picking on the stink of muck the rain had stirred in the song Armor had created.


There was a downpour though, but pelted not on the pavement, nor the roof. The rain surprisingly came soft and soothing like the sound of his harmonica. “Rainy Tuesday Morning” is one of his musical compositions, an execution of the fusion of musical influences as vast as Asin, Joey Ayala, Beck and The Blue Man group, U2 and Bob Dylan, and various avant-garde and tribal musicians he mentioned.

And of course, the sun was still in its slumber beyond the languid shoulders of some celestial horizons when we streamed from the Internet his other work, “Psychedelic Sun”, side by side our discussions on the inspiration behind the words, the emotions, and the cords he so handsomely crafted as he venerated the sun that shines on sinners and saints alike.

Armor, of Ilonggo descent, played for my photographer and me his harmonica and his guitar that so blended well as if I was listening to The Corrs’ “Paddy McCarthy”. I hope the comparison is not an insult to the genius of more talented local musicians, but to find Armor play live at my workstation provided me this "MTV Unplugged" atmosphere.

Armor is currently doing solo performances with his guitar, harmonica and the drum machine.

“Sometimes with the sequencer, tribal instruments and toys I circuit bended. But live performance is just an extension of my music," Armor explained.

His real gigs are those times he spent planning, performing, recording and mixing different musical elements. In so doing, Armor described he is transformed into someone he wants to be.

“I become a scientist when my fingers move the different knobs and faders of the mixing console. I become a poet when I scribble the rhymes and metaphors. I become a rebel when I take off my shirt and plug the guitar in front of the microphone. And when I sing, I become a rock star!,” an emphatic Armor enumerated.

Nineteen of his 40 creations, errr…chorus lines, are posted at
www.fiestamundo.com/armor. Full rendition of the songs is available at www.songplanet.com/armor. Most notable of these songs are "Rainy Tuesday Morning" and "Psychedelic Sun".

Music compels Armor to travel

Ang pagkadi ni Armor sang banwa sa Sugbo indi lang gid para sang iya mga kabiyanan kag mga kautoran na adi di. Armor makes this side-trip because he heard so much of the Cebuanos' deep love of music.


"I am amazed at the Cebuanos’ love of music that nestles deep down in your culture," he said.

More than anywhere else he had been, he loves the reception here when it comes to independent musicmakers like him.

Born January 6 in Jaro, Iloilo City, Armor later on found himself getting into hobbies and interests in songwriting, and song and jingle production and later on got a knack for creative writing having been equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications major in Journalism degree from the West Visayas State University.

In 1991, he became a recording artist of Hiligaynon Records, and became a basic guitar instructor at the Yamaha School of Music, still in Iloilo in 1993. His creative writing led him to The Mediator, a college publication, as literary writer in 1995. In 1997, he was news writer for The Visayan Tribune; and a contributing writer for The Daily Informer in 1998.

Then he left the country for Oman where he worked as musician in Sur Beach Hotel in 1999; at the Hilton Hotel in Manama, Bahrain in 2000; and New Peninsula Hotel in Dubai in 2001. But he got tired of singing covers. He said doing such is an insult to the gift that he has as a musician. Had it not only been for monetary compensation, of course, he would have left outright when he was requested that very first night of work to sing songs that are readily available over FM stations, and Internet music chart Top 40s or at LaunchCast.

Indeed, fiestamundo very well described such situation - that for most artists, expressing their craft is sacrifice. They have odd jobs to feed their families and work nightly gigs to express their musical gifts. Others abandon any dreams of creativity to earn a stable living singing an endless repetition of Top 40 covers in the hotel lounges, bars and cruise ships of the world. Only a rare few achieve superstar status that will enable them to live comfortably in their chosen profession.

After sometime though, Armor returned to the country and did musical scoring for “Hablon”, an Ilonggo film, in 2002; for a stageplay “Wala Makakita Sang Pamanag-banag” also on same year. Today his works are featured at
www.fiestamundo.com, a site dedicated to artists like him who at some point, began to get dissatisfied with copying songs that did not reflect Pinoy soul and who we are as a people.

Like that philosophy that fiestamundo is incorporating in its mission, Armor felt that artists have not been given an opportunity to lead the way into creating music that reflect our distinct identity and the vote of confidence to express originality and creativity, the reason why Filipino popular taste has remain stuck with, American cover songs for example.

Armor travels to promote his music

"It is a fact that we existed in a world where the advancement of audio technology results in a reinvention of presenting the beauty and science of poetry and sound," Armor wrote at his site at songplanet dot com.

"My songs are the result of this evolution. I mix electronically generated drumbeats and bass lines with live guitars and keyboards. I also use toys, tribal instruments and real life audio recordings.

"I wrote the poetry. And when I sing, I tell stories of stars and satellites, of the colors of the oceans like the eyes of a girl, of temples, mountains and skyscrapers that stand high like our hopes and aspirations as a human race. Thus my songs are crafted almost electronically. Yet it has a soul.

”I have several past recordings which includes “Sa Gihapon (As Always )” in 1991, my first single; “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates (1995)”, my first album; and "Sunshine Satellite (2002)."””””

Armor first made his local chart debut in 1991, when he was still with his former band, "Balangaw". The single “Sa Gahipon” stayed at number 1 for four consecutive months. Deciding to go solo in 1995, his debut album “Ice Cream, Cakes and Chocolates” includes ten original tracks that fused acoustic guitar with ethnic and techno rhythm. The lead single “Bola” received a fair amount of radio play. He then released his second album in 2002. The twelve-track CD was entitled "Sunshine Satellite" which he collaborated with a certain songwriter/keyboardist Kristin Perez.

The following year he released his third album, "Walking on a Third World Street", which now fuses elements of new wave and electronica with poetic lyrics.

Two singles "I Wanna Be a Belly Dancer" and "We Are All Atoms" managed to top Internet music charts. Then in 2004, Armor released his fourth album "Primitive Device", which now fuses tribal sounds with electronic backbeats. Aside from recording and live performance, Armor has also worked as a musical scorer for various Ilonggo films and musical plays. He has also hosted songwriting seminars and helped other indie bands record their song in his home studio. He is currently working on his fifth album.

Armor said he is planning to release a CD, which will include live acoustic performances of his gigs here in Cebu, his tribute to the Cebuanos for upholding independent music. Among his accomplishments are staying as Top 100 artists at songplanet.com since July 2004, the only Filipino indie artist to be included on the charts. He is on # 59 with 128 airplays of his songs on Internet radio as of January 2006. "We Are All Atoms" is currently playing on Cebu City's 93.1 Smash FM.

Armor will be interviewed live via mobile phone by 90.1 FM Pinoy Rock Radio in America by Filipino DJ Kokoy sometime in February. Last year, he was interviewed by American DJ Jill No Jack for the "Lucky Fokker Show, by Francis Brew for NU 107’s "In-D-Raw" program and VJ John Doe for MTV Siesta.

Before Armor heads on to bring his music to Davao, catch him play live at Windsor Castle (Ninoy’s Payag) along Escario street Wednesdays at 9 pm. And other days at Café Shang in Mactan island. Such is also opportune time for one to get a copy of his album as he plays ten of his original compositions live in each of these venues.

After Armor would have finished touring the Visayas region and part of Mindanao early this year, he will return to Iloilo and live, in what he calls primitive style, in his native beach house for months to start working on his next CD before he comes back here. Updan ta si Armor sang iya panakayong musika!

***

For your comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my email addy:
pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. For band/indie artists feature requests, text me at 09215323616. For previous articles, visit www.pinaymangatkatay.blogspot.com. Thanks!

Caption:

Armor playing the guitar and harmonica simultaneously to accompany his original composition "Love". Photos by Chendrina Villarino Rosaroso