Pasinaya Festival 2015 (A one-day stint at the museum)

A day after Valentine’s Day, the Cultural Center of the Philippines held the Pasinaya 2015, considered the biggest multi-arts festival in the country, and probably the most fun, too. Pasinaya is CCP’s open-house festival showcasing performances in music, theater, dance, visual arts, film and literature. With thousands of artists participating and approximately 50,000 audience, it does speak volumes of the richness of the culture and arts of the Filipinos.

A few weeks ago, I was invited by CCP to volunteer for the event, and I could not think of a reason to say no even if the pre-event orientation and meetings were done on weekdays, which clashes big time with my sleep schedule since I work nights. At 4:30 a.m. on February 15, I boarded a cab to CCP since our call time was at 5. I got there just in the nick of time and joined a crowd of volunteers clad in white shirts and mostly jeans. Just like me, they seemed slightly anxious about the day’s event. I haven’t had coffee and was drowsy, clutching my notebook in the shadowy corridor at the second floor. Our group was mostly students who were either interning or simply volunteering with CCP, with the rest like me, yuppies with too much time on their hands. I think.

At around 6, Ms. Fatima Gahol, CCP’s volunteer coordinator, gave out our shirts and IDs and instructed us to follow our designated coordinators. From being a Jeepney tour coordinator, I was reassigned to man the booth at the National Art Gallery (National Museum), which would start 9-ish. Garbed in a jersey-esque yellow Pasinaya shirt and with the matching festival ID so the crowd could easily identify us as Pasinaya know-it-alls (even if in reality, I wouldn’t be able to accurately direct you to nor identify the Little Theater and the Dream Theater), I was left to wonder where the shuttle that was supposed to take me to the National Museum is and the even bigger question: what to do with the 3 hours before my task. Good thing there was Kara, a friendly grad student I met during the orientation, who also had the same dilemma: where the shuttle terminal is and what to do before her deployment at the NCCA. We asked around, from guards to ushers to co-volunteers but they were also clueless and kept pointing us to different places. We gave up and had coffee instead at the nearby Krispy Kreme. We waited at the cafe, Kara with her assigned readings, me with my little notebook of random lists. When the pre-show crowd started to gather at Pedro Bucaneg (Yes, I know where Bucaneg is), we sauntered off to join them and tried again to look for the shuttle but to no avail. Kara and I strolled around, mingling with the early morning joggers and took pictures instead. My not-so-dependable smartphone with faulty white balance had these photos that look like the CCP circa 70s.


The pre-show started unceremoniously with dance performances by a high school dance troupe in Bulacan, followed by another dance number but this time from various groups from Marikina. And because they’re from Marikina, naturally, they had to have the giant pair of shoes. Too bad I didn’t take pictures of them. After Marikina came the ASEAN delegates, or so I heard. This time, Kara and I wandered again looking for our shuttle. We were pointed to the parade paticipants preparing for the start of the festival and to my relief, my
coordinator was there, Ms. Minda. She invited me and Kara to join the parade, right there in front to hold the Pasinaya tarp. What an honor, except my face really couldn’t be seen because I’m too short for the height we were keeping the tarp at. At one point, I also stumbled because I barely could see anything in front of me. Who would have thought a tarp-carrying task would be so tough and utterly risky. Behind us were firetrucks, (No kidding!) carrying the performers of the resident companies of the CCP like Ballet Philippines, Philippine Madrigal Singers, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, Tanghalang Pilipino and many others, complete with a lovely marching band. It was an awe-inspiring moment for me, no wonder I was tripping on flat ground.

After the parade, we boarded the shuttle and off to our assignments. Kara went to NCCA while I went to the National Museum with Ms. Minda and Jen, another volunteer. Ms. Minda and Jen headed to the Old Senate Session Hall, (which by the way is one of my favorite places inside the National Museum, second only to the gallery that houses the Spoliarium, because, duh, Spoliarium), to coordinate the Pasinaya performances of the Thomasian Bassoon Ensemble, CEU Singers Manila and the Mapua Cardinal Singers. Meanwhile, I had a table at the entrance of the museum stacked with Pasinaya brochures and CCP summer calendar. Also, I had the yellow Pasinaya wristbands selling for PHP 50, which serves as the onetime fee to watch the performances of the festival as well as the tour of the participating museums: the National Museum where I was deployed, Casa Manila, NCCA Gallery, Bahay Tsinoy, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, 1335 Mabini Gallery, De La Salle College of St. Benilde’s Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design, Museo Marino and Museo Pambata. Not bad for PHP 50, right? Actually, the festival prides on Pay what you can, Watch all you want. Meaning, it’s okay if you don’t want to or can’t afford the PHP 50, you can still enjoy the festival. Because arts. Yay!

The entrance of the National Museum

The entrance of the National Museum

So I spent the whole morning talking to museum guests about Pasinaya and was assisted by two legitimate Musuem ladies, (they actually work at the museum). I got to talk to a lot of tourists, which was kind of exciting and intimidating at first but also really fun, especially if you like talking to tall people. After lunch, Ms. Minda invited me to watch the CEU Singers Manila. It was a 15-minute rendition of original Kundimans, and it was just beautiful. Kind of romantic. What can I say, I am impartial to the venue and the songs. As I was languidly basking in the moment of almost bliss, I was also manning one of the entrances, making sure the left door remains closed so as not to interrupt the performance, then a few moments after, started discreetly counting the audience in attendance. Every performance’s audience had to be counted. Part of the job.

This is the Old Senate Session Hall. If you squint, you can see on the right, part of the concert audience

This is the Old Senate Session Hall. If you squint, you can see on the right, part of the concert audience

After the dreamy performance by the ladies and gents in blue, I headed back to my desk job, but this time, the audience had thinned out since it was siesta time. From time to time, the Pasinaya free shuttle comes in, and a horde of museum pilgrims would barge through the heavy glass doors. Some would approach me either looking for the bathroom or inquiring about the concert schedule. I have never been more friendly in my life. Not once did I ever snark, not even on my haggard-looking reflection on the slightly creepy museum bathroom. I think that was a side effect of working in a museum. Being around beautiful things, you run out of things to snark on. Not even the noisy Korean kids who were impatiently waiting for their guide and loitering the lobby, nor the hipster-ish European guy who probably thought I was selling a sketchy tour or the rowdy teens who would rudely get brochures without so much as a hi. Well, hello to you, too. Sure, you can have the brochures because, you know, we really care about your art education, hence, we are also concerned that your heavily printed shirt clashes strongly with your floral skater skirt. And don’t let me start on that eyeshadow, missy. Nope, did not snark on them. Not until now, anyway.

The view from my desk

The view from my desk

Before I knew it, the clock struck four. It was a wrap. Ms. Minda, Jen and I gathered our stuff and waited for the shuttle to take us back to CCP. I got separated with them and got into a shuttle with the Mapua singers. When I got back to CCP, it was drizzling but there was a crowd left, probably waiting for the People’s Gala, the closing ceremony. I headed to the volunteers’ headquarters to sign out for the day. As I was heading out of CCP, opting to skip the dinner at the MKP Hall, I realized how long the day had been and how tired I was. It was 5-ish and the sky was dark. I had to walk to Vito Cruz LRT station because I couldn’t figure out where the CCP-Vito Cruz orange shuttles were. But it was the good kind of tired, knowing you’ve been productive and had been part of something beautiful. Cheesy, I know. But true.

So thank you, CCP, for inviting me to be a part of Pasinaya 2015. I’m definitely looking forward to more festivals.

Photo taken by Kara de Guzman

Photo taken by Kara de Guzman

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss



Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look ’em over with care.
About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.”
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you’re too smart to go down any not-so-good street.
And you may not find any
you’ll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you’ll head straight out of town.
It’s opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping,
once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!
Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.
Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.
All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.
And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.
But on you will go
though the weather be foul
On you will go
though your enemies prowl
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.
On and on you will hike
and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

*Sometimes this cheers me up.

Other times, this makes me weep. And right now, I think it kinda does.

That Thing Called Tadhana



My friends and I braved second row seats just to watch That Thing Called Tadhana, which means that for most of the time, we were craning our necks to watch the full screen. At around 2 p.m., most seats have already been sold for the 5:40 show, which obviously wouldn’t have been the case had Glorietta assigned one cinema solely for Tadhana. This was surprising for us since the movie has been getting rave reviews and a Grade A from critics. But lo and behold, it only has three screenings and had to share screen with a foreign film, a quite ironic reminder of the status of the local cinema.

The opening title with its quirky dialogue and animated story will ease you towards what the movie is about, a toungue-in-cheek and an all-too familiar story about moving on from a heartbreak. One can easily dismiss it as a stereotypical rom-com with good-looking characters in a narrative woven so as to ensure a happy albeit cheesy ending. When I watched the trailer, it was one of my fears that the movie would be a formulaic melodrama punctuated by Angelica Panganiban’s funny one-liners and JM de Guzman’s adorable smile. And it was that PLUS so much more. It was an honest depiction of the grief of losing a lover, the enormous weight of the memories and the bond that keeps it hard to move on, the pain of betrayal, the stupidity of holding on, the insecurity that eats you up after the rejection and the fear of being alone and of never finding love ever again.

Mace, played by Angelica Panganiban, was the heroine who got jilted by her boyfriend of eight years. Sounds familiar, right? She left Manila to be with her boyfriend who has been working in Italy, only to find out he had been seeing another woman, a colleague. His infamous parting words were, “Di na kita, mahal. Makakaalis ka na.” He’s quite a catch, isn’t he? As Mace would further illustrate, he ended their eight-year relationship with seven words. Let the math sink in. Then carefully consider this, had he made it an eight-word rejection, maybe, just maybe, it would have been more acceptable? Easier to digest? As they say, there’s safety in numbers. How about if he respectfully said,”Di na PO kita, mahal. Makakaalis ka na?” Or tried a sharper one, “Di na nga kasi kita mahal. Ang kulit mo.” But maybe what he really wanted to say was, “Iba na kasi mahal ko. Ganun talaga minsan, magigising ka na lang, iba na mahal mo.”

An irritating part of moving on is replaying the last moments, overthinking what has been said, looking for the loopholes in the past and rationalizing the ending. Mace grappled with the separation because she couldn’t figure out what she did wrong. Most of us get this wrong too often. She didn’t do anything wrong. The guy found someone else. Still familiar, right?

So Mace goes home, meets a cute harmless-looking Pinoy on her flight with a knight in the shining armor flare to remind us that this is a rom-com because in a movie you just don’t simply meet a guy. Something has to happen like he rescues you from the zombies or he is the heir apparent of the hacienda your family works for. Anthony, played by JM de Guzman, is a yuppie who throws around the word “burgis”(bourgeois) ever so casually, which would have endeared his character to me since burgis happens to be my go-to insult for practically everything wrong with the middle class (side eye #JusticeForDLSZ) except he is burgis himself. He has a car, has just vacationed in Italy, has a seemingly high-paying job and has the luxury to be insecure with his talent. Okay, now that wasn’t really burgis. Haha.

So then in the movie, we follow these two as they go on a road trip to Baguio and Sagada, which Anthony thinks is a favorite of the burgis to go soul searching. The film doesn’t disappoint Baguio City’s Tourism Office with its showcase of the popular tourist spots like The BenCab Museum, Cafe by the Ruins, Session Road and even the strawberry taho. Then we go further north because as Anthony has told Mace, there is a place there, which can help you ease your burden, a beautiful place on top of the clouds, literally. Here we see Mace break down and beg to let go of her heartache while Anthony tries his damnedest to look sympathetic without taking away screen focus from Mace. That almost endeared him to me except I couldn’t forgive him for not borrowing or renting a tent and letting Mace spend the night before without protection from the cold. I dare you to sleep under the stars in Sagada and not wake up with a bad case of colds. I mean, just before they slept that night, they were at an indoor cafe and she was shivering from the cold. Now explain how she survived the night. Also, Anthony didn’t even bother picking up their mat and blanket in a hurry to get to the perfect spot. Try explaining that to mountaineers and foresters.

So then we follow the duo, more mellow now that they have seemed to have accepted their path and more intent to move on. By this time I couldn’t really help imagining how much they stink since they haven’t taken a shower. So I was very excited for hygiene’s sake when they got back to Manila. Finally, they’ll get to lather. But life’s fucked up. Mace has an unexpected guest waiting for her at the gate of her house. Oops, spoiler alert. Sorry. On the other hand, Anthony goes home in a dark typically unsafe-looking cab (hello, white cab with a cheesy name) deep in thought before breaking into a hopeful smile, easily my favorite scene (but second only to the one where Mace recounted how her boyfriend likes her to put ketchup on his hotdog because i’m mature like that}.

One of my guilts about the story is that I could not feel sorry for Mace despite what she went through and even when she threatens to flood the audience with her never-ending supply of tears. I couldn’t share her pain and I wasn’t sure if it was because I only hear her talking about the breakup and then cry some more and that there were no tangible or more visual representations. Or did I miss them? Or maybe I wasn’t meant to. Maybe sharing the pain wasn’t the point. Maybe rooting for her to pull through it all was. Because just like your friend who got dumped by a douche, you walk with her as she tries to survive her agony even if it means listening to countless retelling of ex memories or singing cheesy videoke songs.

I’m not sure if I am alone in this but I also couldn’t bring myself to believe that Mace and Anthony will end up together. I am strongly hoping though that they both fully let go of their past and meet someone new in their lives. That’s why I like Anthony’s cab ride at the end, it was like a peek at his future. But this is a rom-com, and as the epilogue suggests, it’s a happy ending for them. And we need happy endings. No one can disagree with that.

So ladies and gentlemen, watch That Thing Called Tadhana if you are a fan of Antoinette Jadaone’s quirky, relatable writing; if you appreciate Angelica Panganiban’s comedic timing and you think JM de Guzman is adorable; if you want a traditional rom-com for approximately half the cost of a bus ride from Manila to Baguio; if you like a movie that can really make you laugh, and that includes inside jokes about John Lloyd Cruz and Derek Ramsey, if you’re into that, I mean; if you believe in destiny (tadhana), and also if you think it’s pure BS; if you have been crazy and stupidly in love and maybe have lost it, too. Because sometimes a funny movie about how stupid love can be is a good reminder that you may be lonely but definitely not alone. Mace will literally tell you that.

To suck the marrow out of life



Whenever I watch a film, I expect to be moved, to laugh and cry with the characters, to fall in love, to be enraged. To be someone else. I haven’t been to the cinema for some time now. The last time I went, it was Toni Gonzaga and Piolo Pascual’s Starting Over Again. Toni’s antics were hilarious. Piolo Pascual was his usual almost sinfully looking self. I didn’t enjoy it. I dozed off in some parts. That movie seemed unreasonably lengthy. One of its tragedies was that the writer couldn’t make me fall in love with Iza Calzado. I was torn between rooting for her and silently hoping she’d meet someone else, someone who would be fully into her, someone who wouldn’t sleep with an ex. She deserved better. I deserved a better movie.

I have just watched Dead Poets Society on my laptop. I’ve been a Robin Williams fan ever since Mrs. Doubtfire. Mr. Williams could certainly play anyone and own the character. He makes it easy for us to empathize with him, to wish he was our English teacher. This film has the characters you could easily identify in real life: the strict and authoritative teachers/boss/parents, the rebellious rich kid, the snitch, the pretty girl with the jerk, the lovestruck boy after the pretty girl, the quiet smart guy and the aspiring actor whose parents want him to be a doctor.

It was exhilarating when Todd told a story in front of the class, his first time to address an audience and to yawp. I also felt like ripping something when the class ripped Dr. Pritchard’s essay. I wanted to claw Cameron’s eyes after he snitched about the DPS and Mr. Keating.

I was guilty yet hopeful when I realized I’m practically Mr. Keating’s realist colleague and disheartened to be reminded that as you grow older, you meet a lot of Mr. Nolans and Mr. Perrys. But that it’s also heartwarming that I have my Todds and Nuwandas and Pitts and Meeks.

I was floored when Neil took his life. I wept for a youth that will never blossom, for a talent nipped in the bud and for freedom in death. I felt no shame in weeping. For a while, I was Todd puking in the snow. I lost a friend in Neil. His death reminds me of life’s cruelties: like a super typhoon killing thousands, like corrupt politicians who just won’t die, like a president who had to be cajoled in paying respects to fallen soldiers, like being a prejudged minority living in a war zone, in constant fear of the rebels and the government.

The last scene when Mr. Keating bid the class goodbye while the DPSs were standing on their desks took on a different meaning now that Mr. Williams is dead. Thank you for the voices, the humor and for sharing to the world your immense talent. May you have found peace.

Thank you also to my teachers who have guided me and have been a source of inspiration for without them I would have sat through, wide awake, a lame movie like Starting Over Again and missed out on precious naps.

Oh captain, my captain! Life sucks but may we always be reminded to take a different perspective. The view is different on top of your desk.

Two Zero One Four

I haven’t been active this year. Sorry about that. Hoping to do better in 2015 with more posts and hopefully better ones.

Anyway, the stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Of Good Food And Good People

The earthy smell reminded me that I was ankle deep in mud, the sticky soil clinging heavily to my rain boots, making each step a challenge rather than a mindless task. A miscalculated step could get my face planted in the mud with a scythe buried deep in my midsection or in my chest, depending on how much I flail from the time I lose my balance to when I hit the ground. I wiped my sweaty face with the sleeves of my sweatshirt, swiping my mud-stained gloved hands to take care of stubborn strands of hair that have managed to escape from my haphazard bun. I hunched over and firmly grasped a bunch of stalks and felt them surrendering to the deceptively sharp blade of the scythe. The scythe feels surprisingly light in my hands, giving me a sense of accomplishment each time it cuts through the rice stalks. It didn’t take a long time for me to find the rhythm of hunching over to cut the stalks, putting them to a nearby sack, straightening up and managing a small careful step to the next stalks of rice to cut and ignoring the tiny yelps from my lower back while silently cursing the mostly sedentary life I have back in the city.

Photo taken by Edge Apura

City folks harvesting rice. Photo by Edge Apura

A few minutes after six on a Saturday morning, a small section of the rice field of Mangarita Farm in Capas, Tarlac was already abuzz with the scent and sound of rice harvesting. What’s unusual with the picture is that instead of local farmers working on the harvest, it was a sea of urban dwellers, mostly yuppies dressed in a colorful ensemble of workout clothes, denim shorts and t-shirts, and jeans and sneakers combos. We were a mixed group. Some are subscribers of Good Food Community (our host at Mangarita farm), others are writers, but definitely all of us are interested in organic farming. Some, like me, were armed with scythes, cutting through the stalks. Others were picking up sacks of harvested stalks and bringing them to the threshing area. After roughly an hour, the assigned area only had stumps left looking defiant against the wet black earth, a testament to our efforts to take on a foreign task. After cleaning up and getting rid of mud, save for some tiny patches that dried in my pants and shirt, I joined the group for the manual threshing.

In the manual threshing area, a blue tarp was laid on the ground with two wooden benches lying on their side at each opposite sides of the tarp. Going barefoot is a requirement for manual threshing. Rage optional but deemed useful, which I’ll explain in a bit. We were told to take a bunch of stalks, hold them tight, then forcefully swing and hit the bench with the stalks to remove the grains. Each hit on the bench, the mature grains flew while the green ones stubbornly clung to the stalks. You repeat the process until all the ripe grains are removed then dispose the stalks. The discarded stalks will then be dried in the sun, locally known as dayami, and used as fertilizer. Manual threshing seems to be somewhat cathartic for people with deep-seated rage. If you focus on your rage, you hit with more force, you hardly notice the sting of grains flying into your face. This allows you to thresh faster. Of course you’ll never find that in any agricultural handbook.

Photo taken by Lancel Marcos

Manual threshing. Photo by Lancel Marcos

At almost eight, with threshed grains barely filling a few cups, Good Food invited us to a breakfast of red rice, fried bangus (milkfish), fried eggplant, boiled duck eggs, pan de sal, peanut butter, banana, tarragon tea and coffee. After the heavy meal, while we were lazily sipping on our teas and coffee, Charlene Tan, or Char, head and founder of Good Food Community, started the discussion about CSA or community-shared agriculture with an introduction of the company followed with a Q&A about organic food, genetically modified organisms and farming in general.

Good Food, through Greenpeace, invited us over at Mangarita Farm to get a glimpse of organic farming, meet the farmers and to encourage us to patronize organic produce and also to promote urban gardening and composting. Char and her friends from church started Good Food Community back in 2011 with the aim to make organic produce more accessible to consumers, especially in the city. We live in a time where crops are heavily laden with pesticides and others even genetically modified that consumers are facing serious health risks, especially those in the urban areas where the only options are buying from grocery chains and public markets with produce supplied by big farms. Good Food acts like a middle man, reaching out to local farmers and encouraging them to switch from traditional farming to ecological agriculture. Farmers are usually adamant to make this switch mainly because it’s financially risky. If you’re used to commercial fertilizers and pesticides giving you a certain amount of yield, then someone tells you to ditch them in favor of natural means without assurance of the yield you’ll get, you’ll be wary, too. So this is where the community-shared agriculture model comes in.

Good Food convinces the farmers that Good Food will buy each week’s harvest, regardless of the market situation. Whether the market says vegetables should be cheap or expensive due to weather, supply and other factors, the farmers are assured that Good Food will buy theirs at an agreed fixed price. This means that Good Food needs to have subscribers in the metro who would buy these goods from the farmers. Subscribers are the upfront short- and long-term stakeholders of the company. The subscribers can enroll on a farm pack of their choice: a Salad Pack, Bayong Pambahay or a Juice Pack either on a short- or long-term basis. They will then get to pick up their organic produce each week at designated drop-off points called hubs.

Here are some things I gathered from the breakfast discussion:

– The local farmers practice ecological agriculture, basically a sustainable form of agriculture wherein you work with nature instead of against it. Definitely no commercial fertilizers and pesticides are used. Instead, organic fetilizers e.g. compost and mulch and natural means to ward off insects or pets are utilized.

– One of the challenges of eco-agriculture is convincing neighboring farms to go organic. Even if a farmer practices eco-agriculture if the farm next to his still uses commercial fertilizers and pesticides, then the organic farmer’s crops are at risk of getting contaminated. This can be remedied though by creating a buffer zone in the farm, a 3-meter-wide buffer from the boundary, which is planted with bananas, malunggay and madre de cacao (kakawate) to absorb the harmful chemicals from the
neighboring farms. The plants on the buffer zone will not be organic since they’ve been contaminated.

– Good Food’s main funding source is the subscriptions, which they use to pay the farmers. They’re working hard to reach out to more consumers in the metro to switch to organic produce in order to support more local farmers. If you’re a city dweller who likes fresh and healthy food and would like to help the farmers, then go ahead and check out their farm packs to see which best suits your needs.

– SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya), or Wellspring of Science and Technology, worked with Good Food in their early days and helped them set up in the province. SIBAT is an NGO which aims to promote and develop sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and water resources in rural areas.

– Good Food currently works with farmers in Capas, Tarlac and La Trinidad in Benguet. They dream of working with farmers from other provinces.

– Our whole lives we were taught to pick the produce with smooth skin and avoid those with marks left by insects. Well, guess what? What the insects find delicious are actually delicious. And the unmarred and perfectly looking veggies and fruits are the ones laden with pesticide, hence insects couldn’t bear to approach them, much less eat.

After the colorful discussion, Char gave us a tour of Mangarita Farm and the farms of Nay Marie and Ate Lady. Nay Marie and Ate Lady are members of COPFC or Capas Organic Producers and Farmers Cooperative. The rest of the Good Food team also accompanied us on the tour: Drei, community support and volunteering; Micah, marketing and events; and Jabez, farmer, teacher, learning and accreditation support. Ernest, in charge of operations and supply, was conducting a meeting with the COPFC farmers at that time. At the meeting, I couldn’t help but notice that they’re mostly elderly, except for Ate Lady. Nevertheless, they exude health and energy that you probably only get from daily farm work and regular consumption of organic food.

It was past ten when we did the tour. I was all sweaty and felt like the merciless sun had fried my brains at that point. And I have an umbrella, a scarf and a handy water bottle to boot. Here I was with farmers probably twice my age who tend to their farms every day, and they still have the energy to smile and welcome us. How lame can I get, right? Anyway, here are some things I gathered from touring Nay Marie’s, Ate Lady’s and Mangarita farms.

– Diversity of crops. As Char puts it, we don’t want “pinakbet” vegetables every day. Hence, aside from the “bahay kubo” staples, the farms also have lots of varieties of leafy vegetables such as pechay, kangkong, Chinese Kai-lan, arugula, mizuna and romaine and iceberg lettuce; root crops such as sweet potato, cassava, radish; herbs and spices such as basil, pepper, rosemary, mint (yerba buena) onion, lemon grass and ginger; and fruits such as banana, jackfruit, avocado, papaya, caimito and mango. I even saw cacao at Ate Lady’s farm.

– Intercropping is practiced by organic farmers. As I have just said, their crops are diverse. What I was surprised to see is that their vegetable gardens are not the “organized” vegetation that is usually seen on magazines or on TV. But this seemingly disorganized system actually is based on science and is a natural way of fighting pests. As Jabez explained to us, when insects see neat rows of vegetables, it looks like buffet for them, hence, they get really attracted to the plants and devour them in no time. Whereas when they see a disorganized garden, they tend to get distracted and confused. That’s why a plot could be planted with a mix of amaranths, mizuna, lettuce, basil and others. And you would also see eggplants next to okras and tomatoes.

– Sacrificial plants and other distractions. For vines such as ampalaya (bitter melon), patola (sponge gourd) and squash, farmers usually put sacrificial plants beside them or at least a distraction for insects. Marigolds are a favorite distraction. Their flowers are a rich yellow that insects easily get attracted to them. We know people who are like this, too, right? Also, sweet smelling herbs like basil are used. The insects find their scent irresistible. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Marigolds.  Source:


– Weeds. In the words of Jabez, “There’s no such thing as weeds. We just haven’t found uses for them yet.” Another thing that came as a shock to us is that weeds are everywhere. They don’t seem to bother the farmers. Jabez has explained that there’s no need to remove them. He further explains that when you remove the weeds, the empty patch of soil gets exposed to the heat. Nature reacts to this by growing weeds again. So instead, what you do is let the weeds grow alongside the vegetables but train your plants to be “winners.” He actually used the word winner. He said it is best to let the plant learn to compete with the weeds so that it’ll grow tougher. Yes, it’s just like being overprotective with kids versus letting them be street smarts. With plants, you want the street smart ones. You want them to be survivors, not spoiled brats. He said putting mulch around the plants help them win over the weeds.

– Greenhouse/s. They’re very important, especially with the kind of weather that we have. Plants could die or get damaged easily due to extreme heat and rain. The greenhouse ensures that when extreme weather hits, there will be plants that would survive. Farmers can borrow money from Good Food to set up their greenhouses at 0% interest. If that isn’t good, then I don’t know what is.

Vermiculture. Jabez and Drei explained vermiculture to us, which is a type of composting using African nightcrawlers who feed on decomposed waste. Their poop becomes the compost. It looks like soil, we couldn’t believe it was worm poop. Can you imagine if your life’s sole purpose is just to poop? How simple could it be? No taxes to be paid. No risk of getting stuck in EDSA traffic. No worries about weight loss or gain. No wars to be fought. Haha.

Jabez poking the worms of a Vermi compost. Photo by Lancel Marcos.

Jabez poking the worms of a Vermi compost. Photo by Lancel Marcos.

After the tour, we had a sumptuous lunch of red rice, kare-kare, veggie meat barbecue, grilled pork, ginataang papaya and fried spring rolls. Good Food is very serious about the “good” part in their name. I mean, seriously, from the heavy breakfast to the merienda where they served us rice cakes and kalamansi juice, to the lunch buffet, everything was delicious. After eating, Good Food gave us media kits with more information about CSA and organic farming. Included also were lettuce seeds and an invite to their weekend farmer’s market they call Good Food Sundays at Uno Morato, (which I’ll probably write about on a different post). Greenpeace gave us a swag bag with literature about sustainable agriculture and a cute writing pad. Oh, Greenpeace, you know I’ve professed my love for you a long time ago, but now I heart you more for this bag because I badly need a new lunch bag. Hah! Thank you also for the bokashi starter kit. For a city dweller like me with perpetual guilt about food waste, this offers me redemption.

We hit the road right after lunch and I could hardly believe we went through all that in just half a day. I was seeing cacao trees, marigolds and smiling weathered faces before I drifted off to sleep on our way to back to Manila.


For those interested in organic produce and community shared agriculture, or if you’re also interested in visiting an organic farm, you can check out Good Food’s site here.

Good Food also brings fresh produce every Sunday at Uno Morato, at GYY Building’s garden at the back, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aside from vegetables and fruits, there are freshly baked breads, preserves, coffee, chocolates, cheeses, nuts, soya milk, honey, chicken, pork, rice and even seedlings. It’s an intimate gathering of people passionate about food. Organic food that is. Check out Good Food Sundays on Facebook.

If you want to know more about Greenpeace’s campaign for organic food and food diversity, click here.

A Beautiful Game Being Played Dirty

The world of football is buzzing with excitement and for many of the fans, the World Cup can’t get here soon enough. Sadly though, it is not just excitement that is wrapped around this tournament. Football, a sport loved by many, has been hounded with controversies, one of which concerns the official outfitter of this year’s World Cup, adidas. This leading sports brand prides itself for its legacy and passion for sports. Being the leader on anything and everything sports is at the core of the adidas Group. And today, in the midst of the environmental issues that adidas is facing, there are troubling questions they must answer truthfully.

How do you claim to love a sport when you have tainted it with poison?
Does brand leadership involve putting your followers (peers, customers, employees, partners, et cetera) at risk?
Is football still beautiful if it is stained with a supply chain that harms the environment and put the lives of its workers and customers at risk?

Back in 2011 when Greenpeace launched the Detox campaign by publishing the Dirty Laundry report (a list of global fashion brands that have harmful chemicals in their supply chain processes), adidas was one of the first companies to commit to clean up their processes, which looking back was admirable and very much aligned with their core values as a leader in the sports industry. Other fashion brands have also followed suit and made the commitment to detox. However, unlike H&M, Mango and Uniqlo, just to name a few, adidas has not kept its promise. Investigations conducted by Greenpeace Germany and some independent laboratories showed that adidas products still contain hazardous chemicals. These chemicals appear on boots, goalkeeper gloves and the official “Brazuca” ball. A Greenpeace press release on the Detox campaign points out that “These hazardous substances can leach from the products into the environment or get into the food chain. Some of them potentially cause cancer, disrupt the hormonal system or can be toxic to reproduction.” Hence, Greenpeace has now branded adidas as a greenwasher, or a company supposedly commited to the Detox campaign but fails to implement the necessary actions to clean up their manufacturing processes.

In response, adidas countered the accusations and reiterated their commitment to the Detox campaign, even citing their transparency in the supply chain and carefully monitoring or regulating toxics. The company also pointed out that as a founding member of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), they remain committed to the Joint Roadmap, “a plan that sets a new standard of environmental performance for the global apparel and footwear industry.” The ZDHC has been widely criticized as being overly ambitious and lacking the concrete steps to carry out their timeline for the roadmap. At the end of the day, adidas can make numerous promises and lay out various plans to eliminate the toxins in their manufacturing but as long as these chemicals are showing up in their products and in waterways where their toxins end up in, adidas has nothing to show of their true commitment to cleaning up their act.

Adidas cannot keep the game beautiful by playing dirty. It’s high time they walk the talk. No more hiding in bold pronouncements and empty promises. Adidas has long convinced the world that “Impossible is Nothing.” It’s now their turn to believe that it was not just another empty marketing ploy but instead a life rule and a challenge that also applies to them, especially when it comes to the safety and sustainability of their products. Only when adidas goes “all in” on detox can we keep the game beautiful.

“Dirty Laundry. Unraveling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China.” Greenpeace International 12 July 2011. 27 May 2014

“About ZDHC” ZDHC. 28 May 2014

Manfred Santen “Greenpeace investigation reveals toxic scandal with World Cup merchandise” Greenpeace International 19 May 2014 27 May 2014

Pia Ranada “Toxic trend? Harmful chemicals found in big fashion brands” Rappler 25 Jan 2014 29 May 2014

“The Detox Catwalk” Greenpeace International 2013
-Catwalk/ 27 May 2014

An Appeal For The Students of SFCS

Mostly Warays, the natives of Eastern Visayas are accustomed to the harshness of the weather but early morning on the 8th of November (2013), they were not prepared for the devastation that was about to come. Internationally named Haiyan, Yolanda was the worst typhoon most people have seen in their lifetime: lives were lost, properties destroyed, hope nearly crushed and dreams almost shattered. The first few days after Yolanda’s landfall were the hardest. The typhoon survivors felt isolated with no electricity and phone signal, food and water almost gone. Surrounded with mountains of garbage and corpses on the streets, most Warays felt as powerless as the remnants of their homes crushed to the ground by the strong winds. But as they say, no adversity can ever defeat the Filipino spirit. Filipinos worked together to help the survivors, not just in Eastern Visayas but other places as well that Yolanda has wrecked. The Bayanihan spirit once again came alive. Donations came pouring in. The spirit of volunteerism was overwhelming. Also, international aid was significant and greatly helped the survivors. Everyone pitched in. Though a lot of political bickering ensued, in the end, the Warays came through.

Life still has not gone back to normal but slowly, the Warays are trying to recover and rebuild their lives. Students returned to school as early as December. Small businesses are trying to get back on their feet. Electricity has been restored. Cellphone signal is back although land lines are still dead. Those who became homeless are now staying in bunk houses, while others are still seeking shelters at some schools. One of these schools is San Fernando Central School (SFCS) in Tacloban City. This public school is situated at the corner of Real Street and Lukban Street, approximately 100 meters away from the shore. SFCS was one of the many schools in Tacloban that sustained heavy damage with 14 classrooms that collapsed and more than a thousand students displaced. After Yolanda, the classrooms that withtood the typhoon became evacuation centers. Until now, some rooms are still used by homeless survivors.

Mr. Ted Failon Image source: Ms. Imelda Gayas

Mr. Ted Failon

My cousin, Imelda Gayas, is SFCS’s school principal. After Yolanda, I was amazed at how she got right back to attending to her duties in school despite what her family went through. Her duties as a leader and an educator came on top of her priorities. Fortunately for SFCS, help came pouring in. Ted Failon, a popular news anchor and a proud Waray, visited the school and with the aid of ABS-CBN helped the rebuilding of some classrooms. They also provided chairs and school supplies for the students. Also worth mentioning is the Adopt A Child program of DepEd that ensures each child is provided with his or her daily needs and can attend school regularly.


Almost a month ago, Ate Melda (as I fondly call her) and I were catching up on Facebook and I asked how her school is coping after the tragedy. They seem to be on track to recovery and she is grateful for everyone who has and is helping SFCS. She mentioned though that some of their newly built classrooms are still empty because most of their chairs were swept away by the storm surge. The school is asking donations so that the students would not be sitting on cold concrete when school starts again in June. Hence, I am posting this to appeal to generous individuals who may be willing to help SFCS students. These children, early on in life, went through a horrifying experience but slowly, they are trying to rebuild their lives. They realize the value of getting an education and they are desperately holding on to their dream even if Yolanda threatened to take it away from them. Let’s help them hold on to their dream.

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Ms. Gayas overseeing the distribution of relief goods at SFCS

Your donation will be used to buy plastic chairs. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. For those willing to donate, you may contact me at:
mobile: +63906-487-3234

You may also contact Imelda Gayas at:
mobile: +63915-417-8527 and +6349-172-5424

In behalf of Ate Melda and the San Fernando Central School, damo nga salamat!

Note: Photos courtesy of Ms. Imelda Gayas.

When Wicked Is Both Good And Sinful

Jazz, Neoli and I agreed to meet Sunday after lunch at McDonald’s Philcoa. The destination: late lunch at Wicked Kitchen in Maginhawa then drop off the children’s books for the Yolanda Book Drive at Haduraw Pizza. The sweltering heat of the afternoon sun could not sway us from the lure of gastronomic delights. We know our priorities.

Image source:

Image source:

From Philcoa, we took a tricycle to Maginhawa and would have easily missed Wicked since the resto was situated on the third floor of a mostly restaurant-occupied building. At the ground floor is Breakfast Table, a breakfast all day shop with a gorgeous blue door. We kind of promised, before we headed to Wicked, to sample their food some other time.

Neoli and I in front of Breakfast Table Photo by Jazz Braganza

Neoli and I in front of Breakfast Table
Photo by Jazz Braganza

Wicked lies unassumingly at the third floor beside a spa. No fancy store signs. The interior borders on minimalist with black and red as the motif, black and red walls with a few unpainted concrete ones. Wicked loves mason jars. They hang them as lamps and use them for cocktails. Mason jars are pretty.


If you’re snarky, this wall will remind you to tone it down a bit with its positivity.


Same thing with the bathroom wall.


Anyway, going back to the food, we ordered rice bowls because we were famished but we shared only one dessert. Sorry to disappoint those who were expecting this to be a thorough review, we didn’t order a variety of dishes. We didn’t go there planning to write a review but rather, to satisfy our tummies. As I said, priorities set. Besides, we were kind of hoping we could still have pizza and beer at Handuraw after.

Crunchy Bagoong Rice

Crunchy Bagoong Rice

I ordered Crunchy Bagoong Rice (P152.00), their bestseller. I was surprised that the food was not stir fried. Instead, it was boiled rice topped with bagoong (shrimp paste), which was just the right amount of salty, green mango sticks and crunchy liempo bits. The green mangoes and bagoong is a classic combo. I’m not fond of pork but the liempo wasn’t bad either. It would have been better if the bagoong was spicy to enhance the flavors. But no worries, they have hot sauce you can douse your food with.

Spicy Mongolian Rice

Spicy Mongolian Rice

Jazz ordered Mongolian Rice (P175), which is rice topped with chicken, squid and fresh vegetables tossed in Mongolian sauce. It tasted good, just like the usual Mongolian food in other restos. Hah! Again, this tastes better with hot sauce.


I thought Neoli had Kimchi Rice because that’s what I remember from his bowl, the kimchi. But when I checked the menu while I was writing this, there was no Kimchi rice. They have Bulgogi rice, which was the only Korean food on the menu so maybe it was what he ordered. I didn’t get to taste his food because he said he has colds and I could get infected. Or he could just be not in the mood to share.

Wrath: Mango crepe with vanilla and spicy Nutella

Wrath: Mango crepe with vanilla and spicy Nutella

We capped the meal with one of the deadly sins: Wrath. Yes, they named their desserts after the seven deadly sins because, yeah, they’re supposedly sinfully good. Well, we only had wrath and it was good. Wrath is a mango crepe with vanilla ice cream and spicy nutella. The tragedy is that Nutella loses its spiciness in the midst of the ice cream and the crepe. But here’s what we discovered, a very important learning we will carry on in life: you can put hot sauce on vanilla ice cream and then voila, vanilla transforms into an explosion in your mouth. You may try it, too, with other ice cream flavors.

The ghosts of Neoli and a server roam the resto.

The ghosts of Neoli and a server roam the resto.

Overall, food was filling and worth the price. The staff are attentive and ever so helpful. Or it could also be that at 3 in the afternoon on a sleepy Sunday, we were the only patrons so they didn’t have much choice but to be there at our beck and call.

Judgement is nothing too special but place is really nice. Definitely coming back to try other dishes and sample the other sins. By the way, don’t forget to check out their bathroom even if you don’t need to go. They have wickedly sweet messages there for you.

Guaranteed to make you instantly feel better!

Guaranteed to make you instantly feel better!