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Cinemalaya, consciousness and the coronavirus

The Cinemalaya Philippines Independent Film Festival, which is now on its 16th year, has taken on a new path by transitioning into virtual theater for the first time.

Roel Hoang Manipon

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The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will be held on purely digital platforms from 7 to 16 August, as the coronavirus pandemic currently besieging the world has prevented events of mass gathering.

According to Arsenio “nick” Lizaso, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), “The Cinemalaya Philippines Independent Film Festival, which is now on its 16th year, has taken on a new path by transitioning into virtual theater for the first time. Having been part of the movie industry myself, I can imagine the difficulties of the filmmakers experiencing in completing a film especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many movie companies and directors to suspend location shootings. But in spite of everything, I am grateful and congratulate this year’s indie filmmakers competing in this short film feature category for their determination and passion to finish their cinematic works.”

The CCP co-produced the festival together with the Cinemalaya Foundation Inc.

“Since it started in 2005, Cinemalaya has supported and promoted the production of numerous full-feature, independent films and short films. Many of these films have won awards in local and international competitions and festivals. Through the annual festival, Cinemalaya has showcased various works by independent filmmakers, including for full feature films, short documentaries, Filipino films, classics and art films.”

‘Quing Lalam ning Aldo’ (Under the Sun) by Reeden Fajardo.

This year’s film festival, which carries the theme “Stream Consicousness,” can be viewed through Vimeo.

“Early this year, when we started experiencing cancellations of major public gatherings, after a series of discussions the Cinemalaya committee decided that we could actually push through with a dimension for a portion of our Cinemalaya festival, given the whole situation,” Chris Millado related, CCP vice president and artistic director and Cinemalaya festival director.

“Please remember that Cinemalaya was born digital about 15 years ago. Pioneering filmmakers were able to produce these films because the digital technology made it possible for films to be produced in a more practical, in a cheaper way, and throughout the years, because of digital filmmaking, it has been very possible to make a transition to online platforms as distribution platforms.

So I think it has always been in the future plans of Cinemalaya to move online or to move much of its experiences online, and this situation has only speeded up the migration to online. Although, as I said, we hope to make this an enhancement of the live screenings and the repeated screenings that we use in our cinemas and our venues.”

Another major difference of this year’s Cinemalaya is its main focus, which will be the Short Films in Competition, instead of the full-length feature films. The film festival awards grants to concepts submitted the previous year so that filmmakers can realized them into feature films, which will compete in the following year. However, because of the pandemic, productions were not able to proceed.

“The 10 shorts this year will be our main competition… and what about the full-length features? Now the finished films from among the 10 feature film finalists for this year, and the 10 for next year will comprise the main competition for Cinemalaya 2021. That is the plan,” Cinemalaya president Laurice Guillen revealed. “Now, like everything else on this planet, COVID-19 has impacted on filmmaking in a way that has disrupted our original plans, timetable and style of work, and Cinemalaya is no exception. It means the feature film finalists who are producing their films for this year’s festival have put their projects on hold until they find a way to shoot their films safely, within the budget during the time of the pandemic. “

The festival is relying on the short films that have been submitted to them.

Millado said, “We’ll be focusing on the works of our filmmakers who have crafted their stories into 15 or 20 minutes of digital video and this year we have 10 new titles which we will be focusing and will compose the main competition section.”

Out of 244 entries submitted, 10 selected short films, which will vie for the best film award, are “Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert” (The Broken Vinyl Record) by Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori; “Ang Pagkalma sa Unos (To Calm the Pig Inside) by Joanna Vasquez Arong; “Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss” by Sonny Calvento; “Fatigued” by James Robin Mayo; “Living Things” by Martika Ramirez Escobar; “Pabasa kan Pasyon” by Hubert Tibi; “Quing Lalam ning Aldo” (Under the Sun) by Reeden Fajardo; “The Slums” by Jan Andrei Cobey; “Tokwifi’ (Star) by Carla Pulido Ocampo; and “Utwas” (Arise) by Richard Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay.

‘The Slums’ by Jan Andrei Cobey. / PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CINEMALAYA

There will be more short films for the festival as it selected 20 entries for its specially-curated Short Films in Exhibition section.

“What used to be in the background of Cinemalaya is now in the foreground in the form of our CCP Gawad Alternatibo para sa Video at Pelikula. As you know, our Gawad Alternatibo even predates Cinemalaya. It was the main platform for emerging filmmakers and in fact a lot of our Cinemalaya filmmakers who have moved on to making full-lengths started as emerging filmmakers at our Gawad Alternatibo,” Millado explained. “This year, our Gawad Alternatibo’s theme is ‘Ligalig.’ Gawad Alternatibo offers a lot of content, and these are divided into different sections or genres… So our Gawad Alternatibo this year will be featuring titles in both competition and exhibition, in animation film, experimental, documentary short features. There will be a section which is curated from various numerous submissions, and this is new this year and quite exciting, emergent media exhibition, which focuses on gaming. These are games or video games that will be on exhibition online at our Gawad Alternatibo.”

Included in this section are “Ang Meron Sa Wala” (Beyond Nothing) by Arby and Christine Larano; “Ang Nawalang Haligi” (Pillar) by Sarah Mya Regacho; “Dama de Noche” by Lawrence Sibug; “Grand Gestures” by Cody Abad; “Gulis” (Lines) by Kyle Jumayne Francisco; “Habak” by Paolo Matibag and Mia Salisbury; “Himagsik ng Hiwaga” (Revolt of the Mystic) by Geoffrey Solidum; “Igib” by Joey Paras; “Jepoy” by Avid Liongoren; “Kung Saan Patag Ang Bundok” (Where The Horizon Meets The Mountain) by Dolliete Echon; “OctoGod” by Shievar Olegario; “Paon” by Seb Valdez; “Pinakanakapagpapabagabag-Damdamin” (Most Disturbing Feeling) by Jermaine Tulbo; “Si Gloria at Si Juan” by Gilliano Salvador; “Sumasaiyo,” (Yours truly,) by Jermaine Tulbo; “Tarang” (Life’s Pedal) by Arvin Alindogan Belarmino; and “The Rooftop” by Avirup Biswas.

Other components of Cinemalaya are Visions of Asia, screening award-winning indie films from Asia; tributes director Peque Gallaga and actress Anita Linda; a scriptwriting master class by Ricky Lee; allied festivals such as Eigasai Japanese Film Festival and Cine Europa; documentary section; Cinemalaya Retrospectives, featuring past Cinemalaya films; webinars; and Cinemalaya Campus, among others.

“We are excited to announce that this year we are going to have a collaboration with Kumu which is a gaming app. Kumu is going to be our official livestream partner and they will be covering our awards night which which will happen earlier than usual so that this will give our audiences a chance to check out our winners in screenings online,” Millado shared. “Now, how do we then access these films? We can access these films through our mobile devices, in our homes, where we are comfortable in watching all of these titles. Simply we just need to activate the Cinemalaya channel.

Choose the titles that you like, and it will give you, for example, a synopsis of the content, of what the short feature is all about, and then you can proceed to rent or subscribe. When we say rent, you’re given the option to rent a bundle of films or to subscribe to the whole experience at a one-time rate. We will try to make this platform as seamless as possible and easy as possible for everyone.”

Millado said that they also partnered with ABS-CBN’s iWant TV and then TFC Global.

“Cinemalaya, after the two-week festival, is going to broaden its reach through its exciting partnership with iWant TV. We will be streaming our competition films and selected titles from the Gawad Alternatibo as well as other activities with iWant TV which has its reach nationwide. And so this effectively broadens the reach of Cinemalaya content online through this partnership,” he said. “After that, Cinemalaya moves on globally by partnering with TFC Global as it brings our competition films, Gawad Alternatibo titles and even some full-length titles to Filipino audiences in other parts of the world as well as international audiences. Although we are not able to be on site by moving online, we are effectively broadening the reach not only nationwide but to the whole world.”

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BTS singing all the way to the bank as record label prepares IPO

Agence France-Presse

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K-pop sensation BTS are set for a multi-million-dollar windfall next month when shares in their record label go on sale, with a public offering valuing the company at over $4 billion.

The trailblazing septet cemented their prominence in the world’s biggest music market last month, when their all-English track “Dynamite” debuted at number one in the Billboard Hot 100.

The band’s label Big Hit Entertainment priced its initial public offering at 135,000 won ($115), the firm said in a regulatory filing Monday, the top end of its indicative price range, giving the agency a market value of $4.1 billion.

Big Hit CEO Bang Si-hyuk, who owns 43 percent of the agency, is worth $1.4 billion with the offerings, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

With the IPO, all seven members of the group — currently the world’s biggest boyband — are also set to become multi-millionaire stakeholders.

Last month the members were given 68,385 shares each from Bang — worth about $8 million at the offering price.

During demand forecasting sessions last week, 1,420 institutional investors showed interest in more than 1,100 times the number of shares available, the firm said in the regulatory filing.

BTS’ passionate fans, as well as retail investors, are bidding in hopes of securing at least one share.

Big Hit will raise 962.6 billion won ($823 million) — according to the firms’ regulatory filings — the largest South Korean IPO since Celltrion Healthcare raised 1 trillion won ($855 million) in 2017.

K-pop — along with K-drama soap operas — has been one of South Korea’s most successful cultural exports and is a key component of the “Korean Wave” that has swept Asia and beyond over the last two decades.

The chart-topping single “Dynamite” alone could generate more than $1.4 billion for the South Korean economy and thousands of new jobs in the country, a government study claimed earlier this month.

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Beguiled by Bustos

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RAMOS House PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EA SEMBRANO

The town of Bustos in Bulacan is known for its 19th century bahay na bato (literally “stone house”) structures, particularly in the villages of Bonga (pronounced as “bunga”) Menor and Bonga Mayor.

These houses are noted for the bas reliefs on the stone exterior walls that feature stylized flowers and other designs that make them uniquely Bustos-Baliuag-type of stone-and-wood houses.

Aside from these Spanish-era domiciles of the rich, the town’s built environment is also composed of American- to post-war-period houses in varying states of conservation.

Some are well-preserved and some need attention, as they mirror the history and heritage of the municipality, which was originally part of the town of Baliuag.

Bustos became an independent town in 1867, was reincorporated to Baliuag in 1899, and separated again to form an independent town in 1917.

These houses are concentrated in the Poblacion area especially along Santo Niño Street. Examples include the Paulino house which dates back to January 1936, and the American-era to post-war houses of the Gaba, Santos, Cruz, Ramos, Prado, Marquez, Lopez, and Gaspar families.

The adjacent barangay of Tanawan is also home to a number of heritage houses which include one of the Lopez families as well as those of the Gaba, Lazaro and del Rosario clans. The Lopez house, which was built in 1936 and is now the Green Trees Resort and Hotel, has Art Noveau calado details in the interior, as well as Art Deco details on its ceiling.

 

An exception to these houses in Poblacion is the Villa Florencia mansion or the Jacinto aka Mateo heritage house which dates back to the Spanish period. Located in the compound right beside the rather-new Bustos church complex, this house, a bahay na bato, has undergone renovation recently. Its buttressed perimeter wall is made of larger than the usual adobe blocks and inside the compound is a most likely 19th century huge stone camarin for storing rice.

The compound’s iron gate located adjacent to the church is quite a surprise since it is dated 1889. This detail stirs curiosity since these types of gates are typically found in cemeteries. Whether it came from a cemetery or originally installed in the Villa compound is a question that needs to be answered by further research.

Old cemetery
Speaking of cemetery, tucked in an inconspicuous area of the Poblacion and accessible only by a narrow path is the town’s cemetery, one of a number in the province which has remnants of its Spanish colonial past. Its gate, portions of the perimeter wall, and old niches are still extant.

According to Gilbert Ramos, a sepulturero, the land where the cemetery is located was donated by the Mateo family which originally owned the huge house beside the church. Doña Florencia (the house was named after her) and Don Tomas Ramos were interred in this cemetery in the American-era style niches.

General Alejo Santos, former Bulacan governor and one of the founders of the World War II guerilla force in the province, the Bulacan Military Area, was interred in the family plot inside an adjacent private cemetery.

Another cemetery in town is the Bustos Memorial Park which has an open-air chapel of the International style particularly its aspect, brutalism.

Not far from this cemetery is the town’s post-war municipal hall building constructed from 1956 to 1959 through the help of Gen. Santos. This heritage building is scheduled to be renovated soon.

CAMARIN, 19th century huge stone structure used for storing rice.

Bustos Dam
The only structure that identifies Bustos as Bustos is the American-era Bustos Dam or the Angat Afterbay Regulator Dam constructed in 1924.

This dam irrigates farmlands in both the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga through a series of irrigation canals of varying sizes, starting from the immediate area of the dam itself, one on the side of San Rafael town and the other in Bustos.

The big irrigation canal in Bustos has an irrigation tunnel inscribed with the phrase “Angat River Irrigation System” and year “1924.” Atop this tunnel is a portion of the Gen. Alejo Santos Highway and a number of residential houses. This tunnel leads to the irrigation canal, called patubig, that leads to the villages of Malamig, Talampas, Cambaog and beyond.

The water level on the canal, which is also crossed by American-era concrete bridges, is controlled through a number of locks.

 

Paulino house which dates back to January 1936.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF EA SEMBRANO

A village of chapels
San Pedro is as interesting as the town itself. Located along the Angat River, this is literally a village of chapels due to the number of chapels within its territory.

In Bulacan, it is normal to have one barangay chapel called a bisita but in this barangay, aside from the bisita of San Pedro, there is another one dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de Lourdes de Bustos, a chapel originally erected in 1933 due to the devotion of its residence to the Virgin. The present structure, a uniquely round one, is the third on site, having been constructed in 1972.

Aside from these, San Pedro is also host to a small kapilya of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) built in the 1970s.

This teeny-weenie kapilya is reminiscent of early mission chapels of the INC — semi-concrete and small rectangular structure, having a simple facade with triangular pediment topped by a spire in the tradition of the Filipino Gothic which is a church trademark.

Minasa
For its culinary heritage, the town is known for its minasa, a cookie made from the flour of the arrow root plant as well as cassava flour, egg yolk, butter, coconut milk and sugar.

A personal discovery is the mariposa or butterfly bread of the Antonio’s breadbasket in the village of Cambaog, made with an array of ingredients including flour, desiccated coconut, cheese and condensed milk.

Details inside the Green Trees Hotel.

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Nothing can stop the arts

Care Balleras

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Inspiration overload is expected despite being socially distant at this year's Festival of Windows. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PETA

Determined to reach out to its audience amid the pandemic, the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) launches Festival of Windows 2020: Locked but Linked — its first-ever online fest.

The three-month event will come in four folds with different focal points to be shown on PETA’s Facebook and YouTube pages. The aim is to showcase creative works and expressions of Filipino artists especially the emerging ones.

For September, young artists and teachers will be the focus of sulYAP Kabataan Playlist. This may be the first time that the YAP Festival pivoted to online platforms, but for the past three years, it has been helping promote young artists.

PETA coordinated with a Special Program in the Arts of various schools to engage theater kids into meaningful online workshops.

“The youth are suffering and we want to make sure that we are reaching out to the people. We want to show other people how young people are coping,” PETA president CB Garrucho said.

 

From PETA Classics to contemporary takes, KE-POP has got you covered.

Expect an inspiration overflow on 10, 11, 17 October because 3G, Connect! Community Arts Festival takes the virtual centerstage with leaders and partners to share expertise in the arts. Collaborations between audience and esteemed artists will be fostered as they tackle more socially aware art forms.

On 17 and 22 November, START: A Quest to Claim Our Safe Spaces will discuss political and social underpinnings of art in children’s lives.

Not stopping with three windows open, PETA launches its first-ever gated streaming KE-Pop: Kalinangan Ensemble Performers Overcoming a Pandemic on 23 November to 10 December. Short and full-length plays ranging from classics to contemporary productions will be shown.

PETA Laboratory Director Maribel Legarda said: “This is a tribute to the artists — their capacity to be creative and resilient.”

The income-generating event will sustain PETA artists and its subsidiaries.

Festival of Windows 2020: Locked but Linked wants to prove that instead of being discouraged by a crisis, the world will see a more vibrant art space where more windows are open for new artistic expressions inspired by the trials and tribulations of the times.

IMMERSE in artistic shows that are diverse and inspirational.

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‘Stay at Home’ jazz fest until 4 October

TDT

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Vocal trio Baihana. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CCP

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), through the CCP Office of the President, is presenting a music festival featuring all-Filipino artists in Jazz Stay at Home: Virtual Jazz Festival 2020, which streams online via Facebook on the CCP Office of the President page and the CCP page from 25 to 27 September and from 2 to 4 October at 7:30 p.m.

The festival is free to the public, part of the CCP Office of the President Outreach Program billed as “Sining Sigla,” which pivots to digital to reach out to its audience despite the current ban on communal activities due to the pandemic. Amid this situation, music and the arts continue to bring not just entertainment and diversion but hope and inspiration around the world.

Jazz Stay at Home features an all-Filipino lineup of artists that include Nicole Asensio, Baihana, Tots Tolentino, Michael Guevarra, Simon Tan Trio, Pipo Cifra, Lorna Cifra, and other notable names in the Philippine jazz scene. Hosted by Stanley Seludo, a musician himself and a CCP trustee, the online event brings together jazz enthusiasts, both artists and audiences, in a series of concerts that showcases the different periods in jazz history. The best thing about this breakthrough event is that people can enjoy it in the comfort and safety of their homes.

On 25 September, the festival officially opened with a brief tour of the evolution of jazz, followed by “Timeless Jazz,” a selection of all-time favorite jazz songs performed by singer-songwriter Asensio.

 

On 26 September, a lecture-demo concert, “Saxophone Music Production at Home,” was conducted by saxophonist and musical arranger Michael Guevarra. His informative talk included topics such as live recording and Midi sequencing for Minus 1, and was made more entertaining by musical numbers. This was followed by “Pinoy Jazz,” a showcase of all-original compositions with a touch of Filipino music featuring Baihana, an all-female vocal trio that creates, arranges and performs music that is fresh to audiences young and old.

On 27 September, another saxophonist, Tots Tolentino performed online in “Free Jazz,” also known as improvisation where musicians play with liberty to create melodies on the spot. Tolentino is considered one of the finest session musicians in the Philippines.

On 2 October, “The Wonderful World of Bossa Nova” features musical director, composer and arranger Peter Paul “Pipo” Cifra as he talks about the fundamentals of jazz and its use in the composition of bossa nova, which is a mixture of samba and American jazz. This is followed by “Improvisation and All That Jazz” featuring Pipo Cifra’s sister, Japan-based bossa nova artist Lorna Cifra.

On 3 October, “Modern Jazz” will be presented by the Simon Tan Trio. Composed of Simon Tan, Joey De Guzman, and Rey Vinoya, the trio has been active in the local concert scene, in theater productions, and in festivals that resulted to collaborations with notable local and international artists.

On 4 October, the festival closes in an evening showcase of the Philippines’ jazz greats featuring Baihana, Simon Tan Trio, Nicole Laurel Asensio and Tots Tolentino. This gala showcase promises a grand night of free-spirited jazz music splendor.

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Elsa Payumo: Beauty in service

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Elsa Payumo hits the runway for a fundraising fashion show.

Heads would turn whenever she attended conventions, congresses and milestone celebrations. Half a century and a decade later, she still draws attention.

She is the perennial Elsa Payumo, one of the most lauded beauty queens — and much more — of our time.

Having celebrated her 80th birthday just before the pandemic, she gratefully looked back on her life — with no regrets, mind you — as she recounted the series of events she experienced, through the perhaps-well-documented segments of her life under the public limelight.

After a happy childhood in Bataan, Elsa went to take up Voice and Piano at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music.

 

Elsa during her 80th birthday celebration.

Miss Caltex
She became the muse of several organizations and deemed as a campus crush by many. Family and friends seriously motivated her to join the selection for Miss Caltex — at the time the beauty and brains competition to watch out for. This was the crowning glory, the absolute cream of the crop for anyone who wanted to be in the pageant arena.

She easily won the competition in 1963. Word of her victory spread like wildfire and she became an overnight sensation.

Known and adulated not only for her pretty face and sharp brains, complemented by her sharing and caring nature, she charmed and captured the general public through her continuous appearances as cover girl of several glossies, go-to ramp model for fundraiser fashion shows, and the choice of Filipino fashion designers and merchandisers for collaborations with foreign luxury brands.

Elsa was so popular that she was offered to be the next biggest movie star. However, she wanted to pursue more fulfilling avenues.

As the newly minted corporate ambassador of goodwill, she visited destinations she has never been to before, which gave her the opportunity to explore the country’s beautiful islands. She immersed herself into the nitty-gritty of airline flights, shipping sails, hotel accommodations, sightseeing schedules, courtesy calls, media interviews and the exciting world of hospitality.

Reckoning time, her heart whispered she wished to be part of the travel and tourism industry.

In interviews, she declared: “I realized there is more to life than the trivial concerns of the renowned. I want to serve the country with a purpose.”

 

Baron Travel Girl
A travel agency it was, where she pioneered women-led initiatives. With her influence, she launched the Baron Travel Girl, considered as prestigious as Miss Caltex.

She was then elected president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

During her stint, she spearheaded the Outstanding Taxi Driver of the Year citation, which was later on adopted by the Department of Tourism itself and incorporated it into the Annual Kalakbay Awards.

Through her many projects, she was recognized as the first recipient of the Tourism Category of the Ten Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Award, which aimed to empower women.

She was likewise elected as a pro-people Makati councilor for one term.

Reversal of fortunes
Due to a reversal of fortunes — the lingering illnesses of family members, failed endeavors and loss of other business — Elsa let go of her material possessions and found herself in the biggest slump of her life.

At that time, she discovered Buklod ng Pag-ibig, founded by Fr. Pascual Adorable, S.J., a Catholic community that was instrumental in her healing through trying times. The Bible has been her constant companion through the years. She would always turn to the Holy Book for inspiration, guidance and answers.

She soon dedicated her time to Bible studies, prayer meetings and fundraisers. She held inspirational talks for the Balik-Samahan group of actors and delved into charitable ventures with her various groups of friends of beauty queens, Karilagan models, travel and tourism circles and the Nations Womens Group.

She recalled: “I was blessed by the Lord to win over a million pesos as a contestant in the TV game show Deal or No Deal, an amount I donated entirely to Buklod ng Pag-ibig.”

Fast forward to the present. Today, Elsa, at 80, is still as radiant as ever, appreciating glorious pasts, never forgetting her trials, and, with gratitude, gives back as much as she can to the community.

No doubt, she has found genuine fulfillment and happiness.

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Viber Communities not just a marketplace

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In the past six months, COVID-19 has turned life upside down.

The things people normally did —working, dining out, shopping, exercising at the gym, attending cooking class, going out with friends — stopped until further notice.

Home quarantine made people look for ways to find a sense of normalcy and community and manage anxieties at a time when physical distancing means saving lives.

Some Viber users didn’t let the pandemic stop them from bringing people together (safely, of course). Meet the people who created Viber Communities while in quarantine.

When KG Sison, a marketing consultant, saw an unanswered question about baking suppliers in one of the communities she’s part of, she decided to create her own. Homebaking community, though initially dedicated to baking supplies, evolved into a thriving support group that shared baking tips and more.

“We encouraged members to post their creations and freely ask baking-related questions. We wanted to be a legit community — a place where people talked and made friends instead of being transactional in nature,” she said.

KG pointed out that managing a community made her less lonely while in quarantine, emphasizing how the Communities have become a source of positivity for her and the members.

 

Celina Payawal

“Even our members have reported that the group has made them less anxious during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). It served as a form of social support for us and our members,” KG said, noting how webinars have been produced and future field trips planned. “We made friends. I think this was the greatest surprise and blessing that I gained from the Viber Communities.”

Since then, KG has lived up to being a superadmin, establishing other groups like Homecooking Community, Urban Gardening and MNL Sourdough Fam Community, all of which have the same community vibe — “less selling, more interaction.”

It wasn’t until recently that she decided to create the Homebakers Marketplace, providing Community members another venue to sell their baked goods.

“I use a variety of chat platforms, but I noticed that the general public uses Viber, and that means more reach. But more importantly, I find that there are less trolls on Viber because you need to have a phone number attached to an account,” she said.

With gyms closed, fitness enthusiasts were pushed to modify their workouts and do their routines at home. For those who didn’t have what they needed, the Gym & Fitness Marketplace MM Viber community became a life saver. This was where everyone who was looking for jump ropes and yoga mats, to more specific gym equipment like spinning bikes and squat racks, flocked to.

Created by Celina Payawal, an entrepreneur, after she noticed that there was no community dedicated to the fitness market, the group that was only supposed to cater to those living in Metro Manila grew to include members from Tarlac, Ilocos and Cebu.

Given the popularity of the messaging app in the Philippines, it’s easy for superadmins like Celina to connect with like-minded individuals and help sellers reach out to customers. It really was a no brainer for her, pointing out how Viber made sure that superadmins got the features they needed to manage their community well, from pinning posts, choosing notification settings, to deleting unwanted messages.

 

KG Sison

A major point for Celina was how Viber allowed community members to chat with each other without having to share their number. “It’s a safe place for all online sellers and buyers to transact with each other, since they don’t have to divulge their personal numbers, providing them both convenience and security,” she said.

Since the virus forced many stores and SMEs to close indefinitely, several entrepreneurs have been struggling to sell their products to a wider base. Terry Ilagan noticed this, and decided to create the Locale City Guide, a Viber community that catalogs essential items sold by SMEs. From auto shop services to face shields, members were welcome to sell their products from the safety of their homes.

Terry chose Viber because of its unlimited member capacity and easy invite features. He thought it would be a great way to sell a wide array of goods. Terry knew he was doing something right when sellers began reaching out to him to thank him for creating the community. “It may sound shallow, but being able to extend help by posting a seller’s homemade pastries and knowing that she made some bucks, gave me a pleasant feeling that lasted throughout the day,” he said.

One evening in March, Diane Jimeno was looking through a Viber community that gave residents of Bonifacio Global City a catalog of goods and services they could avail of over quarantine. She decided that her community, Acacia Estates, needed one, too, and decided to make it herself. The Acacia Estates Residents Community initially was dedicated to health updates on the pandemic.

But later, people began using the community as a way to sell their products. “We decided to just accommodate the sellers in the group, but the community kept on growing rapidly that having community updates related to COVID-19 was almost impossible to discuss,” said Diane. “This led us to decide to create another community called Acacia Estates Community and renamed the Acacia Estates Residents community to Acacia Estates Marketplace.”

Several of Diane’s neighbors began thanking her for giving them a space to do business. “Being able to promote micro and small businesses in the community helped people especially during these trying times,” said Diane. Though many were feeling the economic crisis of the pandemic, the people of Acacia Estates had a platform to keep their livelihoods afloat and support one another.

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Meditations through Cloud 9

Francine M. Marquez

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THE author climbs the easy stairs of Life Trail. PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRANCINE M. MARQUEZ FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

The goal was to do a 12-kilometer run from Pasig to Antipolo for practice and for meditation. While most gyms remained closed but quarantine rules have eased up, running outdoors as I’ve always done before the pandemic was a weekend thing to look forward to.

With health protocols still requiring social distancing, running a relatively long distance really allows me to stay away from people while keeping myself company, with my own thoughts, along the uphill route of Sumulong Highway.

As an insulin-dependent diabetic, I found running as a great therapy especially during this COVID-19 crisis, when confinement hardly allows people to do any physically active pursuit.

Weekend fun runs are still not happening. But as the novelist and marathoner Haruki Marukami said, “Being active everyday makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”

Even just one day a week of exercise as a routine would be very helpful in keeping body and mind strong.

 

POSTERS with inspirational quotes are scattered around the forest park.

Camaraderie
The run was a breeze. Wide sidewalks provided safety. Not surprisingly, one or two runners on the road were garbed in tops that said “Finisher” from some major running event. Their slim bodies had belt bags and vests with bottles of fluids or energy bars.

There was camaraderie as runners passing each other would cheerfully say, “Go runner, go!”

The highway had a zone for motorbikes and bicycles. Oftentimes, riders would encourage the terra-bound as well. On that particular Sunday last week, the road seemed to welcome groups of joy-riding motorbikers on their way to Antipolo’s roadside eats while enjoying the expansive view of Metro Manila below.

 

LOVERS admiring the natural scenery at Cloud 9.

Life trail
Still, the rest of the motorbikes ridden mostly by couples continued to growl all the way to a popular hangout: Cloud 9 Hotel Resort, which happened to be the 12-kilometer mark of my run.

Originally a family-type place, Cloud 9 had visitors composed of various barkada and lovers who were probably out for a “gimmick” after enduring months of strict quarantine rules.

The parking space was full of bikes side by side. People, although wearing masks and face shields, walked alongside each other with hardly any space between them.

The hotel itself was closed and only the hanging bridge was open. This was where everyone gravitated to, which led to long lines of people waiting for their turn.

 

THE hanging bridge is one of its popular features.

No one seemed to notice, or were interested in an area of the property called “Life Trail,” a forest park with a placard that said it’s “not for picnics but for meditation.” And so there you go — that itself was the stinger in a sea of Sunday thrill seekers.

But for this runner, it was a good place to cool down (before taking a bus ride home) and to breathe in the midst of full-grown trees and signages that had inspirational quotes. The Life Trail had a narrow concrete path that flowed around the trees and ended with easy steps towards the hotel building.

Chirping birds provided the restful ambient sound as one went through the quotes from philosophers, world leaders and even anonymous ones.

 

A nice warm bowl of beef mami is the perfect ender after burning off calories from the hike.

“Distance doesn’t separate people, silence does,” said Jeff Hood.

“We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have awaited in the darkness.”

“That man is richest when pleasures are cheapest,” said Henry David Thoreau. So true, I surmised as the happy accident of stumbling into Cloud 9 became the weekend’s highlight after the weekday’s dailiness of quarantine living.

The quick stay at Cloud 9’s Life Trail proved to be energizing and an inspiration for more runs and possibly, new travels to come.

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Lifestyle

Would you dare visit ‘Manila Bay Sands’?

Raye Sanchez

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Life under quarantine for the past six months must have been so boring to the city folks who flocked to Roxas Boulevard for a glimpse of the artificial white sand or dolomite that was being poured on the shore of Manila Bay as part of the government’s “beautification” project.

Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the white sand — it looked more like beige — was meant to discourage the further degradation of Manila Bay which, for many years, has suffered from pollution.

Netizens had a blast on social media as they poked fun at the fake sand. The memes dripped with sarcasm.

In one instance: a photo of Boracay and, below it, a snapshot of Manila Bay dubbed “Burakay.”

Somebody thought of an alternative name: Manila Bay Sands.

The thing is, a United States cement company and the Philippines’ Department of Health (DoH) said dolomite is a health risk.

The Texas-based cement supplier Lehigh Hanson said, in a 2012 safety data report (www.lehighhanson.com/docs/default-source/safety-data-sheets/sds-dolomite.pdf?sfvrsn=66124d22_4), that dolomite — which is used in the manufacture of bricks, mortar, cement, concrete, plasters, paving materials and other construction materials — may cause cancer and lung damage through prolonged or repeated exposure.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that dolomite can cause pain in the stomach and diarrhea when ingested.

Yikes! But wait, maybe that was the intention — to scare people from frolicking again in Manila Bay by pouring fake sand.

Gosh! We hope nothing happened to that lady in a red swimsuit who posed on the sand for pictures just before authorities closed down the area.

As for the curious mob that was packed cheek by jowl on the pedestrian overpass, God forbid anybody caught the COVID-19 virus.

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Lifestyle

What Pinoys’ travel wish lists reveal

TDT

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IN terms of international destinations, solo travelers are most willing to visit Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AGODA

With COVID-19 restrictions cautiously being lifted, the travel itch continues to grow stronger. Keeping their future plans aligned with calls to support local travel, Filipinos are dreaming of domestic destinations once allowed, according to Agoda.com.

Manila, Boracay, Cebu, Palawan and Batangas, figured prominently across different demographics for Filipinos, which include Couples, Solo, Family and Group Travelers based on Agoda’s top searched data for travel til year end.

Among these, travelers planning to go as a group are most keen to travel domestically with all their top 10 most searched destinations within the country. Meanwhile, Solo Travelers are the most willing to travel outside of the country, searching for deals in Tokyo (No.5), Bangkok (No.9) and Seoul (No.10) for when overseas travel is possible.

Globally, people want to go to Asia
While Filipinos are keeping it local, the rest of the world is looking forward to overseas adventures with Taiwan, Thailand and Japan emerging as the top searched destinations for travel until the year-end on Agoda.com.

Overall, Taiwan tops the travel escape searches list among all different traveler groups — from couples to solo travelers, and families or groups, beating last year’s champs — Thailand, which came in as the second most searched destination. Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea round out the top five, while the United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Indonesia complete the top ten.

Agoda’s search data show distinctions between destinations searched by type of travelers, with Japan and Thailand taking second and third spots respectively, for solo travelers.

“While Agoda’s search data has seen a shift toward domestic destinations as regulations are being eased for domestic travel, people are still dreaming about international adventures. What Agoda’s data is showing us is there is still a hunger to travel. People are keen on exploring their own countries whether alone, with family, or with friends. They are also looking forward to visiting their dream international destinations once it’s safe to do so and are looking for the best deals for when that time comes,” said. Tim Hughes, vice president of Corporate Development, Agoda.

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