Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spain, as seen through films

Travelife Magazine is the only magazine partner of the 10th PELICULA Spanish Film Festival, the grandest Spanish film festival in Asia, and the biggest and best showcase so far of Spanish movies in the Philippines. Organized by the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the film festival will showcase over 20 award-winning films carefully selected from Spain and Latin America; and full of enticing tales of humor, enchantment and romance.

PELICULA is the must-see event for Spanish films in the Philippines, as it introduces to the Philippine audience some of the best Spanish and Latin American filmmakers.

"Pelicula brings together the works of some of the most innovative and engaging artists from the Hispanic community for the local audience of film lovers, journalists, and film industry representatives," said Instituto Cervantes director Eduardo Calvo.


The films in the festival include a 2011 release called Primos (Cousins), which is a story about three cousins who travel together to the village where they spent summer vacation as children.


A 2009 movie about the friendship between a university graduate afflicted with Down's Syndrome who falls in love on his first day at work and a young girl who frequents clubs and singles bars every evening to escape her loneliness.


Meanwhile, the movie Biutiful, starring Javier Bardem, is a Cannes Film Festival entry that's bound to generate a lot of buzz. It's the story about a man who is able to see his death in advance, and this serves as a guide to how he lives his life.


Fuera de Carta is a comedy by Nacho Vellila. It's a 2008 release about a famous Spanish chef who owns a popular restaurant in Madrid's gay district, who thinks his life is perfect until his children re-enter his life and turn it upside down.

Schedule for
10th Spanish Film Festival
October 5-16, 2011
Greenbelt 3, Cinema 1
Tickets are PhP65 each

Wednesday, Oct 5
Fuera de Carta (430 pm)
La verguenza (7 pm)
Primos (930 pm)

Thursday, Oct 6
La zona (430 pm)
Biutiful (7 pm)
Morirse esta en hebreo (9 pm)

Friday, Oct 7
La verguenza (430 pm)
Yo También (7 pm)
También la lluvia (930 pm)
Didi Hollywood (12 mn)

Saturday, Oct 8
El secreto de sus ojos (2 pm)
Mal dia para pescar (430 pm)
Elsa y Fred (7 pm)
Lope (930 pm)
Habitacion en Roma (12 mn)

Sunday, Oct 9
Mar adentro (2 pm)
Buried (430 pm)
También la lluvia (7 pm)
El Gran Vazquez (930 pm)

Monday, Oct 10
Mil cretinos (430 pm)
Todos las canciones hablan de mi (7 pm)
Buenas Noches, Espana (930 pm)

Tuesday, Oct 11
La vida secreta de las palabras (430 pm)
Gordos (7 pm)
Primos (930 pm)

Wednesday, Oct 12
En la ciudad sin limites (430 pm)
Amador (7 pm)
Buried (930 pm)

Thursday, Oct 13
El gran Vazquez (430 pm)
Viridiana (7 pm)
Yo, También (930 pm)

Friday, Oct 14
El secreto de sus ojos (430 pm)
Chico y Rita (7 pm)
Primos (930 pm)
Habitacion en Roma (12 mn)

Saturday, Oct 15
Fuera de carta (2 pm)
Gordos (430 pm)
Biutiful (7 pm)
Mar adentro (930 pm)
Didi Hollywood (12 mn)

Sunday, Oct 16
Fuera de carta (2 pm)
Gordos (430 pm)
Chico y Rita (7 pm)
Audience Choice (930 pm)


One down, 10,000 more to go...

Last night, I went to the Dusit Thani to attend the cocktail reception hosted by the US Embassy and the US Department of Agriculture to showcase the best of American food products. Actually there were two events at the Dusit yesterday, including a special Thai dinner at Benjarong, which we were supposed to follow to after the cocktails; but we ended up enjoying the first event so much that we never made it to the second event.

The food at the US event was wonderful. They had a big hunk of Black Angus beef on a trolley, which had absolutely no fat on it. I usually never eat any kind of meat without fat (don't tell my cardiologist) but last night I decided to give the lean meat a try. Wow. It was so lean but so tender I had to check twice if I was actually eating meat. Talk about steak without the guilt here.


I happily tucked into a couple of slices, even if I had strict instructions from Patrick at the Arogya Ayurveda Center -- where I am on Day 3 of an eight-day detox program -- not to eat meat. In fact, he said "don't eat restaurant food." But how can that ever be, in my never-ending Travelife? I eat at home without company only about six nights in a year, and none of those six nights for 2011 are in this month -- or in the near future -- so far.

So instead I tried to be good -- or at least better than usual. I had the steak, and of course a little bit of the Napa Valley wines, but the rest of the night I stuck to the smoked salmon and the flourless chocolate cake. The flourless chocolate cake was heavenly and a life-saver as I was craving something sweet. Everyone looked amused when I pronounced the flourless cake as healthier, but at least it didn't have any refined flour in it.


Sometime in that long evening, too, I was invited to decorate one of the 12 Christmas trees that will be displayed in the Dusit Thani lobby from November 15 to January 3. It will be a competition of sorts to determine the best Christmas tree, and the first prize winner will get to pick a charity of his or her choice, and Dusit Thani will donate P50,000 to that charity. Such a nice idea and a chance to put my creativity to a test, so of course I said yes. And this morning, I was brainstorming all kinds of ideas for our Travelife Christmas tree. And actually, it's quite fun to do so.


Back to my supposed detox and ongoing diet. It's actually not been very hard to keep to a diet of sorts as I shed quite a lot of pounds at The Farm at San Benito a couple of weeks ago and I've actually been able to keep them off so far. So I've had every incentive to keep on some sort of diet as I'm actually seeing results -- until tonight, that is, when I had dinner with some friends from Shangri-la and the Travelife team at Makati Shangri-la's famous Circles buffet restaurant.

10,000 MORE TO GO

Prior to heading for the Makati Shangri-la, I'd gone home to change and to my surprise, my La Sallite friend M had come around to my house while I was away and dropped off a long awaited envelope for me. I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for this, but today I was just about to start thinking that it would never come. When I opened it to find the cherished pieces of paper inside, I almost wanted to text him another tease: "Wow. One promise down. 10,000 more to go." But I got very busy and then forgot all about it until now. And actually, he's pretty good about most promises, even if I tease him mercilessly about keeping promises and being a La Sallite.


When I reached the Shangri-la, a second surprise awaited me. I saw so many friends just by standing for a few minutes in the lobby. And the surprise was that they were all eating at Circles as well, as tonight was the last day of Shangri-la's Indian food festival; and so many of them were actually on their return visit tonight.

"The food's so good," gushed one friend. "This is actually my third visit this week."

I then went in to talk to the master chef, who was visiting from Delhi just for the festival. He actually runs a famous restaurant in Delhi and comes from an illustrious family of chefs who have been cooking for the maharajas for over six generations.

We talked a little bit about Indian food and I got so hungry discussing biryani and tandoori with him that as soon as we'd finished talking, I quickly stood up to get a plate and heap it with everything he recommended: lamb biryani (the lamb was incredibly tender and the herbs and spices in the rice were so fragrant), my favorite dal, a wonderful cheese dish that one of my Shangri-la friends said she'd eaten everyday, and freshly made Indian bread.


Everything was so good and the dal was especially delicious. Rich, buttery but also light and flavorful. I threw my conscience out the window and had two heaping platefuls, which I followed with some excellent rose ice cream. I could've then gone home earlier, but one of the Shangri-la girls is going to Kuala Lumpur soon and so the Travelife team started reminiscing about the great fun we had last month when 10 of us spent 10 wonderful days in Malaysia.

"You guys seem to have so much fun," said one of the Shangri-la girls. We all nodded almost in unison because we really do have fun. Just tonight we laughed about so many funny things that had happened on our last trip together.

Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, TRAVELIFE.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Catch Ang Bagong Harana this week

Philippine Opera Company's Artistic Director Karla Gutierrez writes about the Age of Innocence for Filipinos. There are too few authentic Philippine cultural shows but this one genuinely captures our culture in its many facets, and is also a genuine labor of love. Catch this beautiful show from September 29 - October 1 at the RCBC Plaza. For tickets, please call 8817168 or 0917-527-2880.

Mounting a show like this is an act of faith. All around, the commercial theater and concert scene is full of imports, both the ideas and the actual productions. When we at the Philippine Opera Company decided to make a tradition of our Harana series, we said to ourselves “This is going to be a tough job. But we want to do it because we need to be reminded of how beautiful our music is, and how much our souls can be enriched by hearing these sung again.”


So, with a cast of twelve dedicated singers, plus the members of the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, we set out creating the production. The stirring arrangements of Jessie Lazaten, Von de Guzman and Paulo Zarate were more than enough basis for the staging and the choreography. As the production took shape, we felt more and more inspired and encouraged by the over-all picture that we were painting for an audience: a picture of an Age of Innocence that we Filipinos so badly need to return to.


From children’s songs to tribal chants, from planting songs to courtship ditties, from stirring kundiman to the delightful showstoppers by Sylvia la Torre, from the works of the three C’s—Canseco , Cruz and Cayabyab, the portrait we paint is of a race that is inherently good, inherently strong and kind and noble. The music we need to hear again and again, has painted the portrait of a people we need to reminded we once were.


And that is why we wanted to push through with “Ang Bagong Harana,” despite the financial constraints, despite the constant struggle to find sponsors and sell tickets, despite the seeming foolhardiness of doing a Pinoy Musical revue when every other Pinoy seems interested in listening to anything but his own traditional music. Now, more than ever, we need to believe in ourselves. The songs that have served us well in the past will also serve as well as we go bravely into the future.

So, we thank those who believed in our vision, the sponsors who chose to see beyond just media values and audience numbers, the ticket buyers who chose this show, the friends who have been so supportive and giving. We thank them---and you---for choosing to experience “Ang Bagong Harana”, and in so doing, have chosen to believe in the very best that the Filipino can be.

Written by Karla Gutierrez

Artistic and Managing Director

Philippine Opera Company


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stormy start to an ayurveda detox

Today it was storming outside but the Arogya Aurveda Center in Makati -- the Philippines' most authentic ayurvedic center -- was open for business and I was supposed to start the first day of my eight-day ayurvedic detox program. So I braved the ferocious winds and a couple of falling trees to drive over from my pretty comfy part of town to Arogya for Day 1 of my panchakarma (ayurveda detox).

I do the panchakarma at least once a year and twice a year if I can manage it. The trick here is to find a block of time when I am actually in Manila and not traveling. That's very rare, indeed, as my Travelife usually involves a plane ride every week or at least every 10 days. But for some reason, I'm here for an unusually long time -- which is really a fluke as I'm supposed to be in Taiwan today and in Bohol over the weekend, but both trips have been moved down the calendar.


The panchakarma at Arogya can be done for six days straight or longer. Last year, I did twelve days and felt completely rejuvenated after that. In fact, after 12 days, I didn't want the program to end; and I was told that this feeling is pretty common. This year, I've set aside eight days, although I'm still hoping to do at least ten days if I can find the time. Obviously, the longer you do the program, the better it will be for your overall condition.

During the panchakarma period, you undergo all kinds of treatments including a regular abhyanga, which is a full body massage by two therapists using large quantities of herbal-infused sesame oils; the takradhara, which involves pouring medicated buttermilk onto the forehead for about 20 minutes; and the udvartan, which is a deep and dry massage using herbal powder on the body.

For very busy and pretty stressed people like myself, the panchakarma is a great treatment for health and rejuvenation. Ayurveda itself is the oldest known system of medicine which has been preserved in India, and treatments are conducted using a large variety of traditional ayurvedic oils which have long been recognized for their efficiency.

Ayurvedic oils are reportedly powerful in terms of their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and these oils are quickly absorbed by the body. The oil molecules attract oil-soluble toxins and carry them out into the blood stream and then out into the body as waste.

- Balances the body, mind and spirit
- Makes the body healthier by preventing recurrence of disease
- Reverses biological age
- Improves metabolism
- Provides luster to the skin


- Enhancement of digestion and metabolism
- Clearing up of mind and complexion
- Rejuvenating the body and gaining strength
- Increases immunity and prevents diseases
- Revitalizes the nervous system
- Lowers diastolic blood pressure
- Reduces free radicals
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Lowers toxic lipid peroxide levels
- Decreases rate of platelet clumping & lymphatic congestion
- Helps the body get rid of toxins

Tel. 403-4048 or 0906-249-2463


Monday, September 26, 2011

Waiting for a La Sallite

In between this busy day I found some time to exchange a few messages with my friend M, fervent La Sallite and occasional partner in crime. We were working on something together which couldn't be tackled by a few jokes, but nevertheless, in-between the serious stuff, we traded barbs about schools and all the basketball games La Salle lost.

We'd been discussing some requirements I needed to provide him, and so he sent me a text of instructions. Then he added, with some patronizing humor: "You're in the big leagues now, so you need to comply with requirements."


When I got that slightly patronizing text about the big leagues and all, I just couldn't resist; so I messaged back: "Are you sure I'm in the big leagues now? After all, I'm dealing with a La Sallite who never keeps his promises." I didn't have to say anything else because he knew what I meant.

He sent back a cheerful reply: "Welcome to the big leagues, Blue Eagle. Will fulfill my promises soon."


I replied: "I'll be nice to you since La Salle lost the game again. And I'm not holding my breath regarding your promises or I'll probably die from lack of O2." He texted back quickly: "Wait for us in two years. Our trophy room is too full anyway and we need to create storage room for now." (Of course, I knew better...)

Then I added: "PS: I have a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, Travelife. But you, La Sallite, just seem to have a never-ending list of excuses."

Of course I added the requisite smiley face afterwards to show him it was a tease I actually meant.


Interestingly, today too I went to a family dinner with my relatives who are all rabid Ateneans. We go back generations and generations at the Ateneo, after all. Well, the talk was nothing but about the basketball game tomorrow between Ateneo and FEU – possibly the deciding match in this year’s UAAP championship. If Ateneo wins tomorrow – assuming it’ll not be Signal no. 3 and there’ll actually be a game – then we win the UAAP championships for the fourth year in a row.

Everyone had their Blackberries and schedules out and were comparing notes on the UAAP. Everyone except me, of course. I'll happily go to an Ateneo-La Salle game to watch my school win, but not really to other games.


If Ateneo wins tomorrow, then the bonfire will be on Oct. 2,” said my cousin who never misses a game. She’d in fact just bought about 15 tickets for tomorrow’s game for my assorted cousins and uncles who were watching the game. The Ateneo bonfire, for the uninitiated, is the big outdoor celebration on campus that takes place whenever Ateneo wins the UAAP championship. Everyone participates in it, including current students and alumni going back generations.

“What if the game’s canceled?” I asked.


“It better not be,” another cousin said, perhaps my most rabid Atenean relation. He and M would certainly have a most interesting chat if they sat at the same table. “That’s bad luck. I really hope not, as that’s a jinx. Historically we’ve lost the momentum and the game’s been jinxed when the we’ve had to postpone the game. Of course, in those days, we didn’t have Norman Black.”

My other cousin, more in tune with the schedules of the UAAP, piped in: “Then we probably will have the game on Saturday and the bonfire on Oct 8.”

My rabid Ateneo cousin corrected her: “Of course we’ll have to win the game first. If the game's tomorrow, I'm sure we'll win. If it's canceled, then historically it's jinxed and it's free for all.”


Then I showed them the text that M had sent me earlier that evening, about why La Salle had to give way to Ateneo this year because their trophy room is already full and they need to make way for more. There were expletives all around the table. "Tell him to do the math, please," said my cousin seated next to me. "He obviously has a lousy memory and he needs a calculator."

I burst out laughing, wondering if I should actually tell M this. But it was pretty late and I know he usually sleeps early so I didn't bother.

The rest of the evening was devoted to basketball talk and to why Ateneo is better than La Salle. So sorry to my La Sallite friends, but that’s what happens when Ateneo loyalists get together, and especially on the eve of an event that fosters school spirit like the UAAP championships.


Most of the stuff discussed is actually unprintable if I still want to keep my La Salle friends. So I’m going to stop here and say that I spent the rest of the evening happily sending BBM messages to some people while my cousins bashed the rival school – and one cousin in particular, the rabid Atenean one.

I looked up from my Blackberry finally, just in time to hear the following threat – the ultimate threat for a rabid Atenean -- hurled at him by someone across the table: “Sige, you’ll get karma if you keep talking that way. All your in-laws will end up being La Sallites. Or else your daughter's going to end up studying in La Salle”

All in good fun, of course. Some of my best friends are actually from "the other side," after all, and I love them dearly.

PS: If you think this has been too one-way in favor of Ateneo, please read my post on what my La Salle friend M had to say sometime back about the Blue here.

from my basketball fan relations
since 2000

UAAP Men's Champions
2000-2001: La Salle
2001-2002: La Salle
2002-2003: Ateneo
2003-2004: FEU
2004-2005: FEU
2005-2006: FEU
2006-2007: UST
2007-2008: La Salle
2008-2009: Ateneo
2009-2010: Ateneo
2010-2011: Ateneo
2011-2012: TBD


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Travel & Music

Tonight I started thinking about old and favorite songs because I've been brainstorming in my head all day about the upcoming AIESEC Alumni Asia Pacific Congress 2011 Opening Night & AIESEC Alumni Reunion party on October 21 at the Peninsula Manila. So much of my college life and memories of it is tied to music, and in this case, all the more so, since so many performing talents in the Philippines are part of the AIESEC Hall of Fame.

So in my head, songs from the 80s have been playing, as I've been trying to imagine how a reunion should be. That's still in the works, but in the meantime I thought I'd share with you some favorite songs that traveled with me all over the world this year alone.

I can't live without music and so music is always playing in my car or on my iPod. At work, I also pump up the volume at lunchtime or after 5 pm. As for these songs I'm about to share with you, well, there was no particular coordination or arrangement in matching certain music with certain trips. But it just so happened that I heard a song and liked it either before or during the trip, and so these songs ended up accompanying me on my travels. Now, when I hear these songs, memories of my trips come back to me as if they were last week. Thank goodness for my iPod.

March 2011
"Do It For Love"
Hall & Oates
Click here to listen to this

When I hear this song, I'm instantly transported to my suite on the Silver Spirit of the Silversea cruise line, one of the best small luxury cruise ships in the world. I took this boat from Bali to Manila via Sandakan, Malaysia over a period of six days in March; and I often played this while having breakfast or a glass of champagne on my balcony, with my laptop set up, as we sailed across nothing else but a blue sea. Whenever I sat in my balcony, I'd set the iPod speakers in my direction, open the sliding door and just chill.

I also played this everyday on my iPod as I walked the decks every sunset for a bit of exercise before the never-ending fancy dinners. The great music and the peaceful setting was just what I needed after the trauma of the Tokyo earthquake.

BATANGAS, March 2011
"Sweet Reunion"
Kenny Loggins
Click here to listen to this

This was the song I was listening to when I went to The Farm at San Benito in Lipa, and also to Punta Fuego in March. It was on my iPod for the longest time but I only discovered it among the thousands of songs on this particular trip to Batangas.

April 2011
"It's Over"
Level 42
Click here to listen to this
Hearing this song always brings back the golden beaches of Colombo last April, and particularly the private beach of the historic Mount Lavinia Hotel at sunset with the waves crashing all around. I walked the entire stretch of the beach with this song playing over and over, after all the work for the week was finally through; and then I joined my friends for a really wonderful al fresco dinner on the terrace of the hotel.

April 2011
"Crazy for this Girl"
Evan & Jaron
Click here to listen to this

This was my driving song as we crisscrossed Sri Lanka from one end to another on some incredibly long driving trips. It was a pretty arduous driving expedition, especially for someone who doesn't like long drives, but it turned out to be incredibly fun. All the guys had their own iPods and I had mine. And when we weren't joking around in the van, we each took a row of the van to ourselves and retreated into our own worlds and to our own music.

DUBAI, July 2011
"Heart of the Matter"
India Arie
Click here to listen to this

I took this song with me to Dubai, and it was perfect zoning out music as we rode a 4WD and headed out to the desert for an afternoon of battling the sand dunes. This song also accompanied me on my shopping trips to the Dubai Mall, and on a dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek.

PALAWAN, July 2011
"Land of the Loving"
Diane Reeves & David Benoit
Click here to listen to this

This was my Palawan song. I'd flown to Palawan last July for the opening of the Sheridan Hotel on Sabang beach, and late at night, I'd sat on the beach with this playing on my iPod. I particularly liked the lyrics at that particular time, and I must've played this song a hundred times in Palawan.

MALAYSIA, August 2011
South Border
Click here to listen to this
I played this song throughout my trip to Malaysia, and thank goodness most of my team liked it as well because this time I played it on my laptop instead of my iPod; and everyone else had to listen to it as well in the van. This was playing on the way to Malacca from Kuala Lumpur in one of the two Travelife vans; but actually, it was playing on my iPod and in my hotel room throughout the 10 days we were in Malaysia.

And what am I listening to exactly now?

"If I Didn't Have Love"
Chris Camozzi featuring Chelsea
Click here to listen to this