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National Treasures

There is a veneer of perfection to Senator Loren, and there is no doubt this something she aims at in everything she does. A woman fighting in a man’s world, so to speak, she is tough and demanding even, but to an extent that she would also impose on herself.

Within the quiet walls of the National Museum’s National Art Gallery sits the hallowed but empty room of what used to be the Session Hall of the Philippine Senate. The generous mid-day sunlight streaming in from the massive windows interplays with the shadows within that carry the weight of history in this proud, almost mysterious setting.

“The Senate has held its session in this historic hall since 1926,” the plaque reads. Even though the Seat of the Senate is currently in the GSIS Building in Pasay, with a room steeped in such history in the repository of the country’s cultural legacy, it seems quite fitting, then, that a short distance down the corridor, we find one senator’s efforts in preserving Filipino history and heritage encapsulated in an exhibit called “Hibla ng Lahing Filipino: The Artistry of Philippine Textiles.”

It is even more fitting that in the midst of this old Congress building, a few whispers away from the glorious former Senate Hall, we are to meet with the main proponent of “Hibla,” who also happens to be the only female senator to top the Senate race twice, and the only woman to become the Senate majority leader.

Behind Senator Loren Legarda’s stature is her tireless effort as a public official. Serving the country through the Senate, she is chiefly responsible for the passage of a number of laws that she authored, among them the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act (RA 9501), the Barangay Kabuhayan Act (RA 9509), the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003), and the Climate Change Act (RA 9729). Her concern for the welfare of women and children championed with the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208), and the Anti-Child Labor Law (RA 9231).

The list is longer and far more encompassing; and her work never stops. In fact, stockpiled on top of her already overwhelming number of responsibilities, the senator also chairs the Committee on Climate Change, Committee on Foreign Relations, and Committee on Cultural Communities. In 2008, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction appointed her as its champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaption in the Asia and the Pacific region.

Walking With Loren

A flurry of activity mildly interrupts the stillness in the air in another room where the production people wait. Senator Loren arrives with her staff and it seems that even with the simple act of walking, the lady senator is multi-tasking, conferring with her staff before she reaches the other end of the room.

Time is precious for the busy lawmaker and, at barely even lunchtime, one can sense she already has fulfilled several duties for the day, and is set on tackling the next ones on her agenda. Central to this day’s to-do list for the senator is a photo shoot for Kultura and Zee Magazine’s cover story. Wasting no time, the senator rushes off to change and, with a lot less time it takes for a model to be primped up for the cameras, the senator returns with a different outfit, simple hairstyle and make-up.

The shoot is fairly quick but marked by some discussions about composition, art direction and how she generally looks in the photos. Senator Loren, a former broadcast journalist and an award-winning anchor and producer of two of the country’s most popular and respected news programs, clearly knows the power of an image, whether it is a clip on television or a photograph. She has been, after all, a commercial model in her teenage years—seemingly a lifetime away, really.

If there is anything this exercise has shown us, it is that she is a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to speak her mind. Although confident in front of the cameras, having been around them for a good part of her professional life, the lady senator nevertheless also discovers something new about herself during the shoot. Used to being photographed a certain way, the senator is genuinely surprised with a picture of her taken head-on. The photo, her face to the camera, exudes quiet power. Hers is not a pose, it is a declaration; the shot near-perfect that it almost needs no words.

Weaving Her Story

Born Lorna Regina Bautista Legarda to Antonio Cabrera Legarda and Bessie Gella Bautista in 1960, she is the eldest and only girl in a family of three children. With the blood of newsmen and public servants running in her veins—from her paternal great grandfather Potenciano Cabrera, the first Mayor of San Pablo City, Laguna to her maternal grandfather Jose P. Bautista, an editor of the pre-Martial Law newspaper, The Manila Times—she seems truly destined to find herself answering a higher calling; of treading the same path. But for this achiever, she becomes both a newswoman and a public servant.

There is a veneer of perfection to Senator Loren, and there is no doubt this something she aims at in everything she does. A woman fighting in a man’s world, so to speak, she is tough and demanding even, but to an extent that she would also impose on herself. A former vice presidential candidate who, according to a May 6, 2012 article by Philippine Star columnist Babe Romualdez, “no longer has any ambition for higher office,” she has just recently filed her Certificate of Candidacy for the senatorial race in 2013. She aims once again for a job not for the meek, one that could cower a lesser man even, and she’s glad to do it again.

But a rarely seen softer side to the lady senator comes by way of an article called “The Loren Legarda I Know,” written by none other than her younger son Leandro (Lean) Legarda Leviste in his column for the Philippine Star in May this year.

A “mom before anything else,” he begins, Lean also lightly reveals that his mother “sometimes thinks she’s Martha Stewart,” owing to her penchant for planting her favorite herbs in their garden and playing “interior decorator in the living room.” Painting a more human figure of Senator Loren than anyone ever could, he lovingly describes her as a micromanager in the kitchen “even though she can’t cook, because she can do just about everything else,” and calls her on her lack of rapport with technology—although she now apparently “swears that the iPad… changed her life.” Like many of us, sad movies make her cry, romantic ones turn her to mush, but she “avoids action flicks at all costs—except if they’re starring George Clooney or Harrison Ford.”

But perhaps the most personal aspect the son reveals of her is the senator’s extreme closeness to her mother. Senator Loren was once quoted to have said, “I am a mother first and foremost,” and it is evident that her own relationship with her mother has greatly shaped how she’s has cultivated her own bond with her sons.

In a Philippine Star column by Joanne Rae M. Ramirez dedicated to Mother’s Day also in May this year, she quotes the senator as saying, “My mother Bessie was my best friend. I am so much like her. But she died so young, at 61.” Yet the senator has never lacked for a mother figure thanks to her “yaya” of 50 years, Felicidad “Fely” Balagtas, whom she considers her second mother.

Nanay Fely, as she is to the entire family, has given up “a life she could have had to be with us. Her life is us,” Senator Loren was quoted in the article. As such, even her own sons Lean and Lorenzo (Lanz) have grown up under the grace and care of the woman the senator describes as “no longer just my ‘yaya.’ She has become my partner in life.”

Of all the many facets of Senator Loren’s private life and public persona, it is the strength as a woman that becomes quite immediate to anyone who meets her, owing to the influence of such strong women in her life. One also gets the sense that the senator’s strong empathy with our history and our people is because she has had first-hand lessons from her own mother—the love for our culture chief among them it seems. In fact, the “Hibla” exhibit houses rare pieces from Senator Loren’s own collection: several Baro’t Saya with Pañuelo ensembles of Bicol “pinukpok” abaca fabric worn by her late mother; as well as a T’boli upper garment, a Maranao “malong” and the B’laan ensemble that the lady senator proudly wears during important Senate sessions.

Even more so, during the shoot, Senator Loren points out that her background in one photo is T’nalak, a fabric from Cotabato, and her accessories comprise of gold earrings from Butuan and bracelet from Kalinga—“North to south,” she says, clearly proud to be central to a single image that represents the diversity of artistry of our people.

The Fabric of Philippine History

In 2009, the month of October was declared as “National Indigenous People’s Month” through Proclamation No. 1906. Fittingly, along with the “Hibla” exhibit in the National Museum, Senator Legarda spearheaded the launch of the HIBLA website, which they held during the Manila FAME Design and Lifestyle Event at the SMX Convention Center on October 17, 2012. The site aims to further promote awareness about our traditional arts and crafts, and would prove to be an easier access for younger readers. Another highlight at the event, which closed on October 20, was the Hibla Pavilion of Textiles and Weaves of the Philippines.

“[It was] an exhibition aimed at showcasing our rich and colorful heritage through the Schools of Living Traditions (SLT), a program I supported to ensure that indigenous techniques on textile-weaving, basket-making, beadwork and embroidery are passed on to the next generation,” the senator said.

Highlighted in the exhibit were the Ivatan and Gaddang traditional weaving, Antique abaca/bariw mat weaving, Iraya Mangyan traditional nito basketry, Hanunuo Mangyan weaving, Panay Bukidnon panubok embroidery, Subanen pulaw weaving, Ekam Maguindanao mat weaving, Ata Talaingod liyang weaving, T’Boli t’nalak weaving and Blaan mewel weaving. By celebrating the artistry and grandeur of these weaving traditions, the senator steps up the focus on not just an awareness campaign, but on finding solutions to threats to these traditions, including apathy that could be a factor in their extinction.

“I have visited various provinces and communities in our country, and every visit leads to a discovery of the rich heritage of the indigenous peoples—the intricately woven fabrics, the songs, chants and dances that narrate the story of your ancestors and the distinct way of life they strive to preserve,” the senator notes on the Katutubo: Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines website. With unwavering pride for our heritage, this wonderful tapestry created by every cultural contribution of every indigenous community, Senator Loren works tirelessly to “promote this cultural inheritance and improve the welfare of its stewards,” as she states.

In 2011, the senator tells Philippine Star columnist Wilson Lee Flores, “There are 15 million indigenous peoples out of our over 100 million population in the Philippines. I care about them, because they’re marginalized and the most vulnerable also to climate change. They and their traditions are who we are as a people.”

The senator champions the cause of 110 ethno-linguistic groups nationwide “because they are among the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized. I champion their cause not only to hear their voice, but also to promote their culture and traditions, the heart and soul of the indigenous peoples,” she tells Flores.

Advocacy Politics

In her interview with Flores, Senator Loren declined to talk about politics. She insisted, “The only politics I want to talk about is advocacy politics — how we can improve the lives of women, children, indigenous peoples, how to promote arts and culture, the environment, disaster risk reduction, nature, planting trees.”

At the shoot, she also waves off an interview with a smile, preferring that we visit and read up on all her office’s achievements and projects from her website and various links that detail them in full. Mind you, the wealth of material isn’t just about her work with our country’s indigenous peoples, but also her widely known environmental advocacies, what she’s done for the rights of women and children, education, good governance, as well as various foundations and programs.  Action over words; it is much better to show results than to make verbose promises of things to be done.

Helping the plight of indigenous people is only one aspect of how Senator Loren hopes to preserve our national heritage. They have shaped our story as a people, reflected our courage in their music, our dreams in their art, our glory in dance, our knowledge in their skills; our self-worth seen in their resilience.

Yet, it is not only these indigenous peoples and their cultures that are in danger of extinction. An October 7, 2012 article that appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer by Augusto F. Villalon detailed the “shocking state of heritage in the Philippines” as described by Dominic Galicia, an architect and the new editor-in-chief of BluPrint magazine. In it, Galicia laments the disappearance of certain architectural icons that speak of our heritage from the streets of Metro Manila and nearby provinces. Yet, he accounts being impressed by some measures taken to reverse this, especially that more people seem to be acting on their realization of the importance of heritage conservation.

To the communities she supports, defends and champions, Senator Loren is foremost in that list. Leading by example, she hopes to inspire the new generation through her own actions how truly important it is that such cornerstones of our culture are passed on, kept alive and lived.

  • by Annie S. Alejo
  • photography Jo Ann Bitagcol
  • creative direction and styling Melo Esguerra 
  • locale National Museum’s National Art Gallery 
  • Special thanks to Kultura Filipino

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LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.

Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic.  People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu.  More and more are joining the ride.  Many are quite serious about cycling.  I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.

How did you get into serious cycling?  What was your motivation?

Blinky de Leon.  Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer

“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”

 

“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”

 

Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant

“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”

“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”

 

Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative

“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”

Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…

by: Zen

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People

#CebuPride:  Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films

Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts

By:  Allain Dumon Fonte

 

Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ.  Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies.  In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society.  The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more.  Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people.  Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia.  At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.

ZEE’s Allain Fonte with the casts of the top-rating Thai BL series (2019) “Cause You’re My Boy” of GMMTV (from L-R) Amp Phurikulkrit Chusakdiskulwibul, AJ Chayapol Jutamas, Neo Trai Nimtawat, Frank Thanatsaran Samthonglai, ADF, Drake Laedeke, Phuwin Tangsakyuen, and JJ Chayakorn Jutamas.

The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s.  Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide.  A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!

 

1. Lingua Franca

 

Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval.  Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay.  Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent.  When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”.  While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.

The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media.  Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.

 

Isabel Sandoval wearing Marchesa at the Venezia Red Carpet in the Venice Film Festival (2019)

Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines.  In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU.  She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.

 

2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story

This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan.  Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz.  However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee.  Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.

 

Darren Criss with his dad (left) Charles William Criss, and his mother (right) Cerina Criss. Source

Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA.  Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools.  He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan.  Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines.  When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother.  Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.

 

3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

     The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film.  It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall.  It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends.  Raquela  is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines.  The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.

 

Raquella Rios in Bangkok’s MRT (a scene in a Thai film).

Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology.  Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela.  She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies.  Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.

Raquella (right) with film director Olaf de Fleur (left) receives the Best Feature Film Award at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival in Germany. Photo grabbed from Berlinale archives.

There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have  brought Cebu to world.  They truly are #CebuPride.

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Fashion

37 Years of High Fashion; Arcy Gayatin leaves a Legacy of Edginess and Elegance

Arcy Gayatin: A Legacy of Luxury in Fabrication

 

By:  Allain Dumon Fonte 

 

The brand Arcy Gayatin gave the Queen City of the South a distinct reputation in the fashion industry.  The fashion line of Arcy Gayatin sets the bar higher each year for clothing luxury and fabrication techniques.

 

April Duenas, Nikki Gayatin and Arielle Gayatin for Arcy Gayatin—Photos by John Paul Autor from Lifestyle Inquirer.net

 

Araceli “Arcy” Ancajas Gayatin is the daughter Galileo Ancajas and Remedios Zanoria Ancajas who founded Cebu’s home brand, Gal’s Bakery.  Arcy went to the University of San Carlos and studied Political Science.  And just like Dr. Muccia Prada, who completed her Ph.D. in Political Science and established the luxury line of Prada, Arcy also got in touch with her artistic side and started her own fashion line.  However, it was not Prada that influenced Arcy.  Arcy was introduced to fashion and tailoring at a very young age by her mother, Madame Remedios Anacajas whom they dearly call Mama Eme.  Mama Eme was running a tailoring business back then.  It was called Arabel; named after Arcy and her sister Belma.  Ara from Araceli and Bel from Belma.  In those years, Arcy was fascinated by fabrics and was intrigued by how to manipulate the fabrics to come up with fashion-forward designs without compromising comfort and taste.

 

Arcy Gayatin (photo grabbed from Space Philippines Blog Spot)

 

After 37 years of creating haute couture pieces for the most fashionable personalities in the Philippines, Arcy Gayatin is now laying down her sketchpads and pens to rest.  As she enjoys her retirement, may be on a cruise to the Bahamas or a holiday to the Swiss Alps, Arcy Gayatin has left the fashion industry a legacy of elegant and edgy clothing ensembles that understand and define the shape of women; without compromising comfort and good taste.

 

Arcy Gayatin’s Pink Flamingo collection                                               Arcy Gayatin’s Sketch on a Terno

 

To salute the lady who brought Cebu fashion to the world, a retrospective exhibition of Arcy’s incomparable masterpieces can be seen today at Ayala Center Cebu’s The Gallery; curated by fashion editor and writer, Clint Holton Potestas, and interior and fashion designer, Jul Oliva.

 

BALANCE.  Arcy Gayatin is known for her perfect symmetrical lines when fabricating.  She knows how to balance edginess and class; understanding well the strength and the finesse of a woman.

 

RHYTHM.  Arcy’s expertise in draping and fabric manipulation can be seen in how she achieves rhythm between architectural lines and soft fabrics like silk and cashmere.

 

TEXTURE.  With her thorough knowledge on fabrics, Arcy Gayatin has achieved the perfection of fabrication by working on different types of fabrics and creating a single piece of art out of them. 

 

HARMONY.  The simplicity of the silhouette plus the intricacy of the details create a wonderful harmony, making Arcy Gayatin’s design a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

           

The photos below show an up-close look at the intricacy and the exquisite craftsmanship of Arcy Gayatin’s fabrication techniques:

 

THE SPIDER WEB:  one of Arcy’s genius fabrication techniques.

 

MATCH and PATCH:  Arcy’s unique fabrication craft by patching layers of different types of lace and lace patterns

 

PLEATS: The perfection of symmetry in pleats on silk.

 

LA ROSE BLEUE:  U.P. student, Danielle Alessandra Deutsch, inspired by the artistry of Arcy Gayatin, designed this midnight blue dress.   The cabbage rose made from layers of silk organdy gave this evening ensemble a romantic appeal.

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