Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rediscovering Denise Keller

HAVEN'T had a pretty face here in a while. Okay, here's someone that I featured in Manila Bulletin back in 2005. At the time, Singapore native Denise Keller was a sought after model and MTV Asia VJ who was in town to promote Plains & Prints, a local brand of women's wear, of which she was an image endorser then.

Since then, Denise has added a few more things to her increasingly impressive resume. In addition to being one of the most recognized faces in South East Asia (shame on you if haven't heard of her) and gracing the covers of Asia'a best known magazines, she has also been honored with such prestigious awards as Elle Singapore's 2008 Fashion Icon of the Year.

Aside from remaining a resident MTV Asia VJ, Denise is also currently hosting Discovery Travel And Living for the Discovery Channel
and is also involved with a number of projects addressing issues such as Aids/HIV, human trafficking, drugs and eco-awareness.

And here's a slightly revised version of my 2005 feature profile on this fine lady:

NO PLAIN JANE
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

IN the guestbook section of her official site, popular MTV Asia VJ Denise Keller warns, “I can track your IP or just delete your entry so keep profanities to a minimum.”

Of course, given that Denise is such a hot chick, it's just natural for trigger-happy male online fans to get a little carried away. But as stern as her little warning sounds, it is really nothing more than a friendly reminder and is hardly necessary at all.

Because anyone who has either seen Denise do her mesmerizing thing on MTV or who has had the good fortune of actually getting to know her up close and personal is likely to tell you that she exudes nothing but positive vibes and effortless sensuality. Known by most fans for her good-natured wit and infectious energy, there is really nothing profanity-worthy about this confidently sexy woman, who was recently in town to do work as an image model for the Plains & Prints brand of specialty women's wear.

And as cliched as it sounds, she is a lot more than just a pretty face. This VJ slash supermodel is a Renaissance Girl of sorts who in her spare time is also a painter slash athlete slash avid fencer slash animal lover slash yoga enthusiast slash voracious reader slash everything in between. Born to a German father and a Chinese mother, Denise was born and raised in Singapore, a land of incredibly friendly people which also explains why she's pretty much sugar and spice and everything nice.

“I grew up in a matriarch kind of family along with my grandmother, my mother and my sister,” she fondly recalls. “That's four generations of women living in one house, we're kinda like The Joy Luck Club.”

As a kid, Denise was very much into drawing things and in fact, saw herself as having a successful career in advertising. She sort of got her wish when at the very tender age of 13, she was discovered by a modeling scout and was soon gracing print and TV commercials for popular consumer brands as Samsung, Renault, LG, Kao Biore, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, Palmolive, Shiseido, Max Factor, Giordano, Nokia, Wacoal and Bausch & Lomb. At the start of the millennium, Denise also won the coveted Ford Supermodel of the World title. As a result of all these exposures, she also became a popular cover girl for top magazines like Elle, Cleo, Seventeen and yes, of course, FHM.

But as much as she loves the fine arts and was having a great time with her modeling career, Denise is equally passionate about music.

“Music has always been in my blood,” she quips. “I love Madonna but not because of her music but because she's a great performer. When I was young, I would lock myself in my sister's room, dress myself up like Madonna and jump up and down my sister's bed and sing like Madonna. In college, I was the singer of our school band and we wound perform songs by Bob Marley like Jammin' and Is This Love and all that.”

So when an opportunity to audition as an MTV VJ was brought to her attention by a make-up artist friend of hers, Denise was initially in a dilemma as she already had other plans at the time.

“I was in Hong Kong at the time and was already planning to go to New York to finance my studies in Fine Arts but I've always been a fan of MTV. So when I heard that Donita was getting married and leaving soon, I thought it would be a great job to be a VJ myself so I auditioned and I eventually got the job.” she exclaims.

Denise is obviously not the type who likes to be pigeonholed under a certain category or field of specialization. The host of such shows like MTV Pop Ink, MTV Screen and MTV Rock It! does like to be associated with things that are reflective of her independent personality and sunny outlook in life such as her memorable stint in the recent reality dating show, Eye For A Guy or the charitable cause fighting the child sex trade known as WMD or Women Making A Difference.

Plains & Prints is one particular brand that she's proud to be an image endorser of, as its present collection of young women's wear is very much like her.

“Their clothes are very me,” Denise beams. “I don't like to be dull. I like to paint pastels and I always like colors. And I really like the clothes that Plains & Prints make. The colors are so vivacious, bright and sunny and the designs are so funky and eclectic. You know, I'm not a big fan of skirts because I'm more of the tomboyish type. But these skirts really suit my taste. So watch out, boys. I think I'll wear skirts more often now and maybe even bring some of them back to Singapore.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nelson “Rey” Bohol: Pixar's Pinoy Animator

IF you're an artist or art student who is always thinking of pursuing a career in animation, you're in luck.

This coming December 5, there will be a day-long Animation Portfolio Workshop at the Richville Hotel in Mandaluyong City where the guest speaker is no less than celebrated Pinoy animator Nelson Rey Bohol. For those not familiar with Rey, he's an animator who now works for Disney Pixar and whose credits include Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille and WALL-E.

Back in 2006, I was given an opportunity to interview this guy who was in town to promote Cars, which was about to be screened for the first time back then. Who exactly is Nelson Rey Bohol? He's just another Filipino we should all be proud of. His story below, published in the Manila Bulletin that year, is one reason why.

HIS ART IS A HIGHWAY
The Pinoy animator of Disney Pixar’s Cars gets his kicks on Route 66
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

“IT’S not just a song. Route 66 really does exist.”

That’s Disney Pixar Supervising Production Artist Nelson “Rey” Bohol talking about the historic route and the several small towns behind it that serve as the inspiration for Radiator Springs, the sleepy town he helped design for the company’s latest CGI animated blockbuster, Cars.

Rey, a Filipino who originally hails from Samar and is now based in San Francisco with his wife and four kids, was recently in town to promote the film and grace its premiere screening at the SM Mall of Asia. In a one-on-one interview with this writer, he talks about his work with Pixar in general and the movie in particular.
Although his present job is somewhat related to the architecture degree that he completed in college, Rey never thought of having a career in animation. In fact, he admitted that he never looked at animation as anything more than cartoons. That was until an American company gave him his big break and hired him to create short animation films for exhibits and product presentations in 1986. That same year, he also worked on a Hanna-Barbera type of Saturday morning cartoon.

“That was when I fell in love with animation and realized that I can actually have a career in this field,” he recalls. “When I moved to the US, I was hired by Fox Network to work on their animated feature films like Anastasia and Titan A.E.” The box-office disappointment of the latter film prompted Fox to close its animated studios. But you know what they say about closing doors and opening windows? Well, it was no less than Pixar Animated Studios, the makers of Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, that opened that window for Rey.

“My job here in Pixar is not much different from that of an art director of live action films,” says the man who is credited with adding Pinoy touches in the design of that famous aquarium in Finding Nemo complete with bahay kubo and Mayon Volcano-inspired accessories as well as the Palawan-like feel of Nomanisanisland, the tropical hideout of the villainous Syndrome in The Incredibles. “I try to add a Pinoy flavor in the designs that I help work with whenever I can.”


So what’s it like working for his current employer? “Working in Pixar is so much fun,” he beams. “The environment there is like a playground. I have never been with a company where I’m so excited to go to work every single day including and especially Mondays. I come in early and stay late. I just want to stay there all the time.”


“At Pixar, we are encouraged to take breaks in between our work or whenever we’re stumped with ideas so we can clear our heads. There’s a gym, a basketball court, a soccer field and even a videogames area right within our premises to relieve us of stress and pressure. I think it’s an environment that brings out our very most creative ideas.”


Rey adds that top Pixar executives, like Cars director John Lasseter and yes, its enigmatic CEO Steve Jobs (you know, that same guy who heads a certain fruit company that manufactures Mac computers), are so pleasant to be around with. “John is a really cool guy who is also open to our own ideas and suggestions and contrary to what people think about him, Steve Jobs is a very down-to-earth fellow who says hi to everyone at Pixar although we only see him on special occasions since he now spends most of his time at Apple.”


As for Cars, Rey says that while the movie is about giving a human face to the vehicles that become part of our lives by driving us to our daily destinations, the film’s creators wanted to be true to the real-life cars that inspired most of its characters.


“We had car experts help us with the details of the cars that we featured in the movie,” he says referring to such “stars” as the 1951 Hudson Hornet that was the basis for the Paul Newman-voiced Doc Hudson a.k.a. well, The Hudson Hornet, or the 1970 Plymouth Superbird where The King’s character voiced by no less than racing legend Richard Petty was definitely far from loosely based, or even the 2002 Porsche that was more than an inspiration for Bonnie Hunt’s Sally.


For his part, Ray is credited with designing Radiator Springs, although he will only admit to merely helping out in the creation of the town discovered by the film’s race car hero, Lighting McQueen, during an unexpected detour to Route 66. “I’d like to think that everything we do in Pixar is a collective effort on the part of everyone involved.”


Route 66 is the gateway to the Grand Canyon, a breathtaking view which was remarkably recreated in 3D animation for the film. With its striking similarity to the real sleepy towns whose existence have been passed by time and progress, Radiator Springs might as well be Paradise Lost for a young car like Lighting McQueen who eventually learns that “life is a journey, not just a race to the finish line.”


Nelson “Rey” Bohol believes that life is, indeed, a journey not just for himself but for other budding animators out there who also harbor dreams of working at Disney and Pixar. “There is no question that we have the talent,” he says. “We all just have to patiently wait for our opportunities. Just keep your dreams, keep knocking on the door and I can tell you that it is going to open. Dreams do come true.”


Go to Smart Juan to register for the coming Animation Portfolio Workshop. All Pixar films that Nelson “Rey” Bohol has worked on are available on original DVD and Blu-Ray discs.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cyberpress Statement on Maguindanao Massacre

THERE'S a reason why I only write about the lighter side of things and it's probably the same reason why political jokes makes me cringe more than they make me laugh. Having had my share of bad news (literally and figuratively), I've always preferred the idea of putting a smile on people's faces with something more pleasant to read, to sort of counter or balance the unpleasant headlines of the day. All this negativity is not doing anybody any good.

But there are also things that you simply cannot turn a blind eye on. The Information Technology Journalists Association of the Philippines, better known as Cyberpress and an organization where I'm a proud member, do not usually issue statements taking a stand on certain issues. After all, most, if not all of us there are headstrong individuals who do have different views on different things. And while we don't always agree with each other, we do respect each other's opinions.

But the recent Maguindanao massacre is something else and this is where we all found ourselves on the same page. Here now is the official and collective statement of Cyberpress as we hope to add our little voice to the many already outraged by this sad and horrible episode in our country's history.

The IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (Cyberpress) condemns violence against any person, especially atrocities against media people.

The IT Journalists Association of the Philippines, also known as CyberPress, is one with the civilized world in condemning the brazen killing of our colleagues in the journalism profession in Maguindanao. The Philippine government should act swiftly in putting the perpetrators of this dastardly act to justice – we expect nothing less.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HTC Concept Store in SM Cyberzone

HERE's a recent news item I wrote for the Infotech section of the Manila Bulletin about the new HTC concept store that opened just last August, slightly tweaked.

HTC OPENS VERY FIRST CONCEPT STORE
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

IN what seems to be an indication of its steadily growing presence in the country as well as the increasing popularity of smartphones as a whole, the Taiwan-based handheld device specialist HTC in partnership with local distributor SIS Philippines has recently opened its first concept store at the 4th floor of the Cyberzone Annex of SM North EDSA in Quezon City.

“Currently we see a growth in the consumer segment and in order for us to enhance our reach to our end users, it’s vital for us to roll out in the retail market as well,” says HTC Country Manager Mark Dewey Sergio in explaining the rationale behind the new store.

While Sergio did not disclose the actual market share figures of HTC in the Philippines, he did say that with the new HTC Store, consumers will be able to experience the brand’s newest smartphone innovations. “They will also be able to experience an interactive demonstration of our TouchFlo 3d UI featured in the latest HTC Windows Mobile devices in our Diamond 2 mock up which is displayed in the store as well.”

Depending on model, HTC phones currently ran in two platforms, the Windows Mobile and Google’s Android OS. In both touchscreen and non-touchscreen configurations, HTC smartphones are providing stiff competition to sought-after models particularly the Apple iPhone to which certain touchscreen models are most often compared with.

“What is even more exciting about this new store opening is that also coincides with a lot of innovations that have been recently introduced by HTC in the market,” Sergio enthuses. “Innovations like the Touchflo3D,the HTC Footprints and the People Centric Communication are just some of our answers to our consumer needs.”

With special offers and discounts on models like the HTC Touch Viva, HTC Touch 3G, HTC Diamond2 and HTC Touch Pro2, the launch also featured a free educational training on the first Android-powered device, the HTC Magic. Another significant feature of the new store is what Sergio describes as the “dedicated service corner.”

“Here, customers who wish to optimize and enhance the performance of their HTC devices can bring them to the HTC Concept Store for on-site diagnostic testing,” he announces. “This diagnostic test will easily determine the time required for repairs. In uncomplicated cases, repairs can be finished within two working days while more complex cases may require a longer time. But with our speedy turn-around guarantee for all service repairs conducted at our store, we will provide our customers with a loaned unit during the repair waiting period.”

As for older HTC units and Dopods, Sergio says that after-sales service will soon be available for these devices at the concept store. Aside from the Android platform training, other special activities that took place during the three-day launch of the store are Touch and Click Sessions, customer briefings on Windows Mobile and a special concert by the band, Itchyworms.

“We will also be offering promos for selected HTC devices so that will be something to watch out for,” Sergio further reveals. “And we will be launching new and exciting phones for the last quarter under the Windows Mobile and the Android Platform where social networking features are readily available so that’s good news for those who are into sites like Facebook and Friendster.”

And here's a video review of the new HTC Magic smartphone:

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

FROM Samsung and Nuffnang:

As part of its ongoing "I Imagine" campaign, Samsung is inviting all college students ages 15-25 and currently enrolled for school year 2009-2010 in any Metro Manila university to imagine their way to the most creative shout out suited to either of the three categories:

TALK: A Shout-Out that expresses emotions, ideas, thoughts, dreams, hopes, and ambitions.

PLAY: A Shout-Out that expresses how life is experienced through love of music, sports, fashion, and the arts.

LOVE: A Shout-Out that expresses how bonds are formed with family and friends through shared interests and passions.

The shout-outs, whether in English or Filipino, must fall under any one of the above categories. Aside from their very own shout-outs, students can also vote for other “I Imagine” shout-outs posted at www.samsungimagine.com.

Judging criteria are as follows: Relevance to the Chosen Category (40%), Creativity (40%) and the Total number of online votes (20%).

The winning statements will be printed on exclusively designed Samsung “I Imagine” hoodies by Folded & Hung and will be available at participating Folded & Hung stores in Metro Manila. Individual winners (one per category) will take home exciting prizes such as P30,000 cash, the Samsung Corby mobile phone, Samsung ST500 Dual LCD Camera, Samsung CLP-315 printer, Samsung LapFit LD190G monitor, 5 Samsung “I Imagine” hoodies to keep or giveaway, and P10,000 worth of gift certificates from Folded & Hung. Likewise, the schools of the respective winners will each receive a Samsung LCD monitor.

What’s more, all who register for the campaign, whether it's to upload their own shout-out or simply vote for already posted shout-outs will automatically entitle them to a chance to win cool Samsung gadgets. Every registration is equivalent to one raffle entry which will be drawn on December 15, 2009. Up to 500 Samsung I Imagine hoodies, 20 Samsung phones and 20 Samsung DVD players are also up for grabs.

And here's a sample entry:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Armin Van Buuren's Universal Religion

SLIGHTLY revised version of a 2007 article I wrote for the Manila Bulletin about Armin Van Buuren, the celebrated trance DJ who performed here back then and is again scheduled to, well, bring the House down anew this December 10 at the World Trade Center for the Manila leg of his ongoing Universal Religion tour as presented by Nokia Music and Big Fish Manila.

At the time of the interview, Van Buuren was holding the number two position in the Top 100 vote of DJ Magazine, the bible of his industry. Since then and according to his Wikipedia page, he has been voted number 1 by the same magazine for three straight years from 2007 to the present.

Read on and get to know him some more:

NOT JUST A SIMPLE GUY FROM HOLLAND
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

“SOME people think trance is a dirty word,” Armin Van Buuren muses. “It’s only the most popular form of dance music in recent years. For others, it’s simply electronic dance music. For me, I just call it trance.”

The superstar DJ, who was recently in town for the second stop of his ongoing Asian tour, was more than pleasantly surprised to see the warm reception he received from the full house crowd that trooped to see him strut his stuff at A-Venue along Makati Avenue.

“I’m just a simple guy from Holland,” he exclaims. “I come to the Philippines and people know who I am, it’s amazing.”

In that one-night stand presented by Big Fish Manila (now this is what I call a really Big Fish), Van Buuren literally brought the house down as only a world class DJ can. The Dutch native also has a way of charming the select members of the media, as he did during a backstage meet and greet session that also effectively doubled as a mini press conference.

“I’m a big music fanatic in every broad sense,” he says while admitting that as far as he can remember, he always wanted a career in music. “I listen to everything from the Beatles to Sinatra to everything in between. I probably have one of the weirdest music collections you will ever see in my iPod, or any other iPod, for that matter. If it’s not hopelessly commercial or hopelessly cheesy, then I’m probably listening to it.”

And yes, Van Buuren always wanted to be a DJ. He says he could not remember a time when he actually considered a career outside of music, even if his good looks and demeanor easily reminded us of early, no, make that Footloose Kevin Bacon. Since he became a DJ, Armin has always been identified with trance, especially after he started hosting his own weekly two-hour radio show called A State of Trance in 2001.

“And seven years and 300 episodes later, the show is still around,” he beams. “When I first started it, fans were asking where they can find this or that track. It’s amazing how its following grew in such a short time. It now airs in about 40 countries in FM and in the internet. It’s the first globally established trance show with a listener base of over four million people who tune in every week for it.”

In explaining the trance phenomenon, Van Buuren attributes the popularity of the dance sub-genre to what he calls as “going back to its roots.” “Trance has elements of just about all types of different music,” he says. “There’s progressive, tribal progressive, techno, melodic progressive and of course, trance, euphoric trance and vocal trance. When all these styles come together, they evolve into a new sound altogether, which is what trance has become, a broader term that covers many different genres.”

When asked about the longest set he ever played, Van Buuren was quick to emphatically answer, “12 hours and 21 minutes” as if it only happened recently. “Actually, it was way back in 2002 at The Hague. How did I do it? Well, for starters, I brought a lot of records,” he smiled.

Van Buuren is actually used to playing long sets as far back as when he began his DJ career at ca club in his hometown of Leiden in the Netherlands where regularly played six to seven hour-sets. During school holidays he played more than four times a week. In 1999, he met Dave Lewis who introduced him as a DJ in England and the United States. His DJ career accelerated when he cracked DJ Magazine’s Top-100 DJ’s and debuted at number 27 in the magazine’s November, 2001 issue.

Having played in more than 25 different countries, often as a headliner of big summer festivals, Van Buuren is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s best and has been ranked number 2 by the same DJ Magazine for the last two years. When asked how it feels to be the second best DJ in the world, he did not show (or at least tried not to) any hint of displeasure over his ranking.

“It is what it is,” he replies in a matter-of-factly tone. “I’ll be honest, I do dream of being number one but it’s not my main concern at the moment. I’m not doing this for the money. I’m not doing this to compete with anybody. I do it because I love to do it, just sharing my passion for music with everyone out there.”

“As for expectations from my audience, like from you guys here in Manila, well, I don’t have any,” he shrugs. “The less expectations, the better party I usually give.”

And here he is:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Film Review: Ninja Assassin

FROM Wikipedia:

Raizo (Rain) is one of the world's deadliest assassins, having been kidnapped as a child and raised by the Ozunu Clan, believed by the world to be a myth. When Raizo's friend is executed by the clan, Raizo flees into hiding. He later reemerges, seeking revenge. Meanwhile, Mika Coretti (Naomie Harris) is a Europol agent who investigates money linked to political murders and finds that it is linked to the Ozunu Clan. She defies her superior, Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles), and retrieves secret agency files to find out more. The clan, finding out about the investigation, attempts to assassinate her, but she is rescued by Raizo. Hiding in Europe, Raizo and Mika must find a way to take down the Ozunu Clan.

Having seen this on the same premiere night as New Moon, I thought of worse ways of killing time, given that I'm not particularly big on martial arts and ninja flicks and have only seen quite a few to this day.

But I do like fast-paced action and from that standpoint, Ninja Assassin delivers in spade and in style. As I would later discover, there are actually a lot of high expectations in this film, given that such names as producers Joel Silver and the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix), James McTeigue (V For Vendetta), screenwriter J. Michael Stracynski (Babylon 5) and celebrated Japanese martial arts actor Sho Kosugi (who often plays a ninja anyway) are attached to it. And that may be a reason for critics to pan it, given its rather hackneyed plotline, even if the involvement of the FBI, er, the Europol is a nice touch.

Be that as it may, Ninja Assassin still makes for terrific action entertainment even as its main hero (Korean matinee idol, Rain) "looks less like an assassin and more like someone from a boy band" as one smart aleck Europol guy would snidely remark. Though a little wooden, Rain is serviceable in the lead and the very radiant Naomie Harris is even better as his foil and eventual love interest while Sho Kosugi is as usual, top-notch in yet another ninja role.

Although executed in a tad less graceful manner than the climactic action scenes of Enter The Dragon, John Woo's less celebrated Hard Target and Quentin Tarantino's overwrought Kill Bill Part 1, there is still a lot of carnage to like in Ninja Assassin, even if it does border on the gory at times.

For the most part, the movie feels like a videogame. But hey, I happen to like videogames. Whether as a film or a game, Ninja Assassin works well enough to be the blockbuster that it's expected to be. And like most blockbusters, I smell a New Moon, er, sequel forthcoming here.

Here's the trailer:

And To Think That I Got It From Mulberry Lane

“CUPCAKES are fun. They're exciting and delightful. Relive your childhood with home-made goodies baked from the heart.”

That’s what former advertising executive Mae Ramos says about her latest passion. And there’s a lot of truth to it, too. Her Mulberry Lane cupcakes are simply drop dead delicious.

With must-have varieties like Caffeine Overload, a moist chocolate cake topped with coffee butter cream and sprinkled with homemade peanut brittle; Lemon Daze, a lemon butter cake filled with real lemon curd and topped with a dollop of meringue; Choco Loco, a moist chocolate cake bursting with white and choco bits and topped with French chocolate buttercream and a drizzle of more chocolate bits; and Apple Dapple, a spiced apple cake packed with nuts, raisins and streusel and topped with a generous swirl of whipped cream and sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon, Mae makes heavenly cupcakes like it’s nobody’s business.

After taking up a basic culinary arts course in 2003, Mae’s interest in pastries started during her internship. Intially specializing in cakes, she eventually gravitated towards the smaller cupcakes that she found more fun to prepare and yes, eat. “See, the thing about cupcakes, they’re actually friendlier and the portions are smaller so it is less fattening and if you’re a girl, you feel less guilty about trying out its many flavors,” she points out.

Taken from the very first children’s book of Dr. Seuss and not the all-female pop group of the same name, Mulberry Lane’s cupcakes are nowhere near the same types sold in your street corner bakery. Even something as common as Black Forest, a miniature cupcake version of an old classic are given what Mae calls “the Mulberry twist.” Her Upper Dapper is actually a Tiramisu- coffee butter cake soaked in rum and topped with whipped cream and sprinkle of cocoa powder and mocha. And her latest creation, Choc Nut Cupcake, is a butter cake packed with choc nut bits and topped with choco- chocnut buttercream.

For those who think carrot cakes are, well, bland, Mae recommends her Carrot Cream Cheese, where “the yummy cream cheese is not on top of this carrot cake, but blended inside with pineapple and raisins and topped with cashew, sugar and cinnamon.” “I found a way to make a carrot cake more interesting. It’s not at all boring,” she declares.

Available in packs of two’s and four’s, Mae said she’s considering creating six packs of her Mulberry Lane goodies for the coming holiday season. Recently, she released a new Sesame Street edition of her cupcakes for children’s birthdays.

While orders are mostly for birthdays, Mae has lately been getting requests for weddings as well, since she says cupcakes are getting to be quite a staple in nuptials as of late.

Still not convinced? Hey, don’t take my word for it. Give Mulberry Lane cupcakes a try and find out what all these hallelujahs is about. Call or text Mae Ramos at 7242968, 7210112 or 09189019857. You can also drop her an email at mulberry.lane.bakeshop@gmail.com. Minimum order is P450 plus P75 delivery charge. Delivery is free, however, for those who live in the E. Rodriguez and Tomas Morato areas.

And since we don't have a Mulberry Lane cupcakes video yet, here's the next best thing, the pop group, Mulberry Lane with their 1999 single, “Harmless.” Sweet!

Netbook Mania

REPOSTING an article that I wrote for the February-March, 2009 issue of Silver Lining, a Singapore-based lifestyle magazine that specifically caters to the 45 to 64 year old readership and “aims to take a lighthearted look at aging issues confronting Singapore's baby boomers.”

I got to get to know this magazine when I answered an online ad for a Managing Editor opening for a new Singapore lifestyle publication last year. I got a reply from the representative of the publisher (Words Worth Media) who told me they already got somebody for the job. But she also said they liked the samples of the published articles that I submitted to them and asked me if I would like to contribute just the same. So I did.

This is one of two articles that I pitched and approved for publication. Since it was published earlier this year, netbooks have remained popular and have continued to improve in terms of hardware specifications and additional features. For one thing, the Intel Atom processor that powers these babies have now gone dual core. Likewise, Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system is now officially supported (even Mac OS X can be installed by, uh, more resourceful user) and even more netbook makers like Gateway and NEO have entered the fray, although Apple remains non-committal.

Even with all these developments, the article has so far stood the test of time quite well. Well, it has only been a year. Check out this slightly tweaked version and you decide:

NETBOOK MANIA!
Ultra small, ultra light and ultra affordable but are they really for us?
by Edwin P. Sallan

MINI-LAPTOPS, Sub-notebooks, Ultra Mobile PC’s and Netbooks, whatever you want to call them, these cute little computers are everywhere. Designed primarily as a secondary computer for basic tasks such as sending emails and surfing the internet, its phenomenal popularity has accelerated its evolution and even expanded its general use.

Smaller than a laptop and certainly bigger than the most advanced smartphone like the Apple iPhone, they strike an arguably perfect balance of fit, function and yes, even fashion. But are netbooks as they are more commonly referred to nowadays, really the ideal computing companion for those of us in our Silver Age? A look at their brief history should give us a clue.

Ease is the word

Although not entirely a new concept, the netbook revolution actually began with the release of the original Asus EEE PC 700 Series only last year. Designed to be “easy to learn, easy to work and easy to play,” the EEE PC was exactly just that as it did away with all the complexities of a regular computer.

With a Linux-based operating system, early models boast of a simple graphical user interface where internet, email, instant messaging, casual games and basic office suite software are all accessible at the tap of its touchpad. A VGA camera was also built-in to further enhance chat sessions.

Compared to the back-breaking weight of standard laptops, the Asus EEE PC’s were almost feather-light even with the battery and AC adapter. Battery life is also amazingly long for this device.

All this plus that all-important built-in Wi-Fi capability has made these babies a staple at Starbucks and other Wi-Fi enabled coffee shops here and just about everywhere else.

Limitations of early models

But limitations of these early netbook incarnations also made them less than appealing for the largely busy 40-something crowd. For one thing, while the small 7-inch screen makes it a joy to surf the net compared to an even smaller 3G mobile phone, it also makes it a chore when typing long documents. The tiny keyboard also doesn’t help in that department.

The lack of a CD or DVD drive (intended to keep costs down) coupled with mere internal storage capacity of 2GB to 4GB tops also limits its entertainment options and is certainly not an enticing proposition for executives who travel a lot and would like to listen to music or watch movies in their idle time.

Because of the limited internal and external storage capacities (32GB tops for USB flash drives) that can’t store all of their important data, it was hard for working Silvers to look at the early netbooks as more than a toy. That also means they have to deal with the shoulder-separating potential of their heavier laptops as they simply can’t ditch them just yet.

More juice, more power, more everything

With newer Asus EEE PC models and the arrival of formidable contenders like the MSI Wind, the HP Mini-Note, the Lenovo S Note and the Asus Aspire One this year, the playing field for netbooks just got wider and the options a lot better.

Most, if not all of these latest netbook models are now available on both Linux and Windows XP or Vista incarnations, generous hard drive capacities ranging from 80GB to a whopping 160GB, standard memory of 1GB and with the exception of the Mini-Note, are pumped up by the powerful Intel Atom processor.

The larger and brighter widescreen displays of either 8.9 or 10-inch displays coupled with a generous software bundle including a trial version of Microsoft Office further sweetens the deal. Typing long documents on Word as well as creating stunning Excel graphs and Powerpoint presentations have never been more of a breeze in such a small computer.

And at an age where our vision is beginning to be literally compromised, it’s also good to know that netbook displays are optimized for better viewing. It also doesn’t hurt that there are several viewing options to suit us, whether it’s the larger text or zoom functions in our favorite browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari or the ability to display larger fonts from Windows itself.

While all these improvements will also mean a slightly heavier and more expensive machine, especially with the availability of the more powerful 6-cell battery option, the netbooks remain generally lighter and relatively inexpensive compared to your average notebook.

Make mine netbook

True, there are still no CD or DVD drives and serious gaming remains a no-no. But that’s no reason to nitpick as netbooks are still designed to be secondary computers, a mobile alternative to the main desktop PC you have at home.

Given everything else that it has going for it, netbooks are indeed emerging as the way to go when it comes to mobile computing. It shouldn’t be surprising if some people decide to make it as their main computer both at home and on the road.

With this increasingly smart, new mobile computing companion and the exciting possibilities that await it on the horizon, the netbook is indeed a must-have. It’s only going to get better from here. Those of us in the Silver Age should feel like we’re part of some kind of Golden Age with one in tow.

This article was written entirely on an Acer Aspire One netbook. For more information on Silver Lining magazine, please visit http://www.silverlining.com.sg/.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Boracay Weddings

IN most of my media trips and if the itinerary is not too tight, we were usually given a much-needed free time to pretty much do whatever we want. It's actually something I particularly look forward to. During my last five-day sojourn in Boracay for that Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool coverage, I took that occasional free time to visit some friends, take my usual long walks and just marvel at the beauty of a place that is far from its usually crowded self during the summer and the holidays.

It also made me realize that I've been writing about Bora (as most people refer to it now) and several of its attractions since 2005, the first time I've been there. And one of my favorite pieces was actually an assignment for Wedding Essentials magazine, something about a couple of pre-school teachers who turned out to be the premier wedding planners in the island.

Yes, Amanda Tirol and her sister-in-law Nicole Guidotti are responsible for some of the best weddings in Boracay, including the celebrated nuptial of actress Giselle Toengi and her American husband, Tim Walters (pictured above). Here's a slightly revised version of that 2005 article that, well, never quite got old.

BORACAY WEDDINGS
By EDWIN P. SALLAN

YOU already decided on realizing that dream wedding in Boracay. So what do you do next? Who should you call to help you get it done and get it done right?

Well, you’ll be surprised to know that since 2004, some of the best weddings in Boracay have been organized by a couple of former pre-school teachers. After successfully organizing her own Boracay wedding three years ago and get subsequent requests from friends to help them with their own nuptials, Amanda Guidotti Tirol got together with her cousin-in-law Nicole Hollander Guidotti and founded Boracay Weddings and Events, a wedding coordinator service that helps “make the planning and conceptualizing of each and every wedding as unique and cozy as possible for the bride and groom.”

With 10 weddings under their belt in 2004 and 11 more scheduled from November, 2005 all the way until 2006, Amanda and Nicole both take pride in being “pretty good” at what they do with their track record so far. And what exactly do they do? “We try to make your dream wedding in Boracay as worry-free as possible,” Amanda says. “We’re willing to work with your budget, be it big or small, and we give you a choice between our full and partial service packages.”

To be more specific and depending on the service package that you choose, Boracay Weddings can help you with just about all aspects of your wedding from airline reservation, land and boat transfer, church reservation, beach ceremony and reception set-up, fixing accommodations for wedding party and guests and assistance with all the wedding suppliers you’ll ever need from photographers, florists, couturier and entertainers.

And because they specialize in Boracay weddings, Amanda and Nicole are capable of making it as small and intimate as possible or also as big and festive as their clients would desire. They would also suggest unique little touches that will make the big day even more special including the hiring of non-traditional entertainers such as fire dancers, the use of a Golf Cart as wedding car and even sand sculptures to marvel at during the beach front reception.

“Where else will you see sand castles in the middle of the reception?” Nicole quips. “And where else can you exchange your I do’s against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset and on the surface of pristine white sand?”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the family of Amanda’s husband are actually residents of Boracay and own several resorts there including White House where we held our interview, which also means that Amanda and Nicole stay frequently in the island and have become familiar with its ins and outs. One crucial aspect of the wedding planning is the choice of resort for the wedding rites itself and subsequent honeymoon. Well, that’s not at all a problem with Boracay Weddings.

“We give our clients a choice of resorts and we give them the pros and cons of each and that should give them an idea of which one is perfect for their big day,” Amanda says. “And because we’re from here and have worked with many of the resorts here, we can pass on the discounts that we get to our clients.”

Wedding suppliers from the area are also no big concern. “Most of the suppliers that we recommend to our clients come from Bacolod, Iloilo and Kalibo and they’re all very good,” Amanda notes. “There are particularly many good entertainers and bands from Bacolod and they have in fact played in some of the weddings that we’ve helped organize.”

As fun as it sounds, there is a lot of hard work involved in Boracay Weddings and while they only have about three staff members to assist them, Amanda and Nicole admits to doing most of the dirty work themselves.

“But we really enjoy it. We really love weddings so that says a lot about our personal commitment to doing this,” Nicole enthuses. “We really go out of our way to do the little things for our newly-wed clients including those that are already outside our scope of services. We’re proud of the fact that they are more than satisfied with the services that we provide to the extent that they actually thank us for it during their speeches and that means a lot to us. Both Amanda and I still get teary-eyed every time we watch a bride walk down the aisle.”

For more info, visit www.boracayweddings.com.ph and boracayweddings.multiply.com. The above images are taken from these websites.

And here's a video of Giselle Toengi's wedding to Tim Walters:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seventh Heaven for Manny Pacquiao

AND so it has come to pass.

Wala lang. I always wanted to start an article with that sentence. Yun lang. Oh, you guys can read this pala. Sorry. Take two. Here we go:

And so it has come to pass.

We all saw what happened and read all about it later in print and online. Manny Pacquiao wins a world title for the seventh time in convincing and oh, yes, graphic fashion.

But the big question is where did you watch this historic boxing match unfold? If you're not in Las Vegas, then you're probably in any of the countless viewing parties all over the metropolis. Malls, restaurants, hotels and anywhere else who found a way to access the exclusive pay-per-view event made a killing that morning.

Me? Well, along with my brother Edmund and three more friends, we found ourselves trekking to the very exclusive, by-invitation-only viewing party of the fight hosted by Nike Philippines at White Space in Pasong Tamo Extension in Makati. With good, brunch-worthy food, cozy ambiance with strong airconditioning, free Wi-Fi access and of course, all things Pacman and Nike, it was a well-attended affair graced by such celebrities like Sarah Meier, Marc Nelson, the members of Sandwich, Chicosci and Kjwan, basketball star Jeffrey Cariaso, Reema Chanco and even classic character actress Ester Chavez to name a few.

Aside from the fight itself, other highlights of the event was the unfolding of a mural created by celebrated graphic artist AJ Dimarucot on a special boxing ring canvas that served as "a place of honor" at the venue. The ring celebrates Manny’s Just Do It spirit and highlights the defining moments in his history, from his humble beginnings as an aspiring amateur boxer to the world boxing champion that he is today.

Also on display were signed Manny Pacquiao merchandise auctioned off to fans (the proceeds of which will be turned over to Gawad Kalinga for the education of GK youth communities affected by Typhoon Ondoy) as well as special edition T-shirts released by Nike a week before the fight.

There's the Nike MP Team Pacquiao Eagle Tee that comes in bold red, showcasing a gold foil outline of the Philippine Eagle head in the center front, with a screenprint of an outlined Eagle wing in the background. The back carries the Team Pacquiao statement in bold letters, with the Nike–Manny Pacquiao logo below it.

The Nike MP Tee, on the other hand, comes in black, and showcases the iconic Nike logo on the front, accompanied by Manny Pacquiao’s initials MP in red and blue respectively and a sun to the lower right, reminiscent of the Philippine flag. The localized version of this tee differs in the writing on the reverse side, which says, “Lamang Gawin Ito,” a Tagalog translation of Just Do It.

Just Do It? Manny Pacquiao certainly did. And so it has come to pass.

Check out these Special Edition tees in select Nike stores nationwide including Nike Park The Fort, Trinoma, and Glorietta 4.

Here's a YouTube video of this special viewing party:

Hitting Bikini Bottom with Spongebob and the Gang

HAD a great weekend last week that started as early as Friday afternoon at the Katy Perry press conference. It was followed by the equally exciting grand finals of the Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool Grand Finals the next day and a special Nike viewing party of the historic Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto Match dubbed as Firepower at Whitespace Sunday morning.

The weekend was far from over, though as I treated my two youngest pamangkins, Ginger and Popey to a special live show of their favorite Nickelodeon character, Spongebob Squarepants at Greenbelt Park 3 that same Sunday afternoon. Accompanied by my sister and Ginger's mother, Edna, the jaws of the two cousins literally dropped the minute they saw the "real" version of Spongebob trot to the stage. He will later be joined by Patrick, Squidward, Plankton and Gary along with Pirate and his merry women in a song and dance show about sharing tales from under the sea.

A meet-and-greet photo op that followed pretty much erased Ginger's fears of mascots as she and Popey gamely posed with Spongebob and the other characters of the well-loved Nickelodeon show.

Exclusive to Ayala Malls and dubbed as Spongebob Squarepants Stories From Bikini Bottom, the well-attended children's offering will continue to be staged on November 19 to 22 at
Trinoma Mall, then on November 24 and 25 at the Pavilion Mall, then on November 27 to 29 Alabang Town Center and finally on December 4 to 6 Market! Market! All shows will be held on each mall's Activity Center.

While the show is free and open to the public, every P2,000 worth of single or accumulated receipts from any store in Glorietta one day before each show date entitles the shopper to one (1) stub equivalent to one seat at the reserved area. (P2,000 = 1 seat, P4,000 = 2 seats). Receipt/s can be exchanged at the Glorietta 3 Concierge on the following days to claim your stubs. A maximum of two (2) stubs can be redeemed by every customer per day.

For more inquiries, call the Ayala Malls Concierge hotline at 752-7272.

And here's a sample of what to expect at the Spongebob Squarepants Stories from Bikini Bottom live show:

Monday, November 16, 2009

It’s Eevee, Babes

ENZO Villegas just wanted to have a girlfriend. He and his bandmates got more than what he bargained for.

Less than 24 hours before Manny Pacquiao won an unprecedented seventh world title by methodically beating the bloody pulp out of Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas, a little known band from Davao City was making a little history of their own at the Ninoy Aquino Sports Stadium in Manila. In what many consider to be a stunning upset, Eevee, whose pop-rock sound easily recalls the Eraserheads and Sugarfree bested 12 other worthy contenders to win the 5th Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool 2009 Battle of the Best College Bands.

The seven-month old band, whose name is basically a wordplay on its lead singer’s initials, is also composed of Paolo Raymundo Segura on lead guitar, Jerrick Sy on bass and Craig Neniel on drums. With a very catchy original song, “Gusto Ko Lang Ng Girlfriend,” a deceptively clever ditty about longing for not just a girlfriend but a “girlfriend na walang sabit,” Eevee captured the imagination of the panel of judges composed of Sony Music Entertainment executives Vic Valenciano and Jinno Mina, Souncreation Studio head Shinji Tanaka, band manager Darwin Hernandez and Nescafe Philippines Marketing Promotions head Yayin Bangcoro.

In a spectacular grand finale, the show’s opening sequence showed videos of the finalists from the early qualifying stages to the interviews with the judges to the radio tours, the photo shoots and the workshop, mentoring and team building sessions in Boracay. I have to say that all finalists were very fortunate to experience this kind of special treatment. Other battle of the bands contests or any other similar competition for that matter, could learn a thing or two from the way the Nescafe organization took its annual Soundskool event very seriously and how it has invested heavily on this particular talent search. This was a first rate production from the word go.

Following the tried and tested format of the finalists performing with their mentor bands together before getting their last chance to impress the judges with their final original number, the Grand Finals night is not without its own share of highlight reels including the pleasantly odd combination of Soundskool alum Hilera and finalist Disco…Disco…Disco, the seasoned stage presence of Play, the show-stopping vocal stylings of Daryl Garlando of Lady Suzette and a surprisingly killer rendition of the slow-burning, stop-and-go, six-minute epic, “In Case of Fire” by Sandwich and Nameless Heroes, the band that many including myself predicted to win it all.

But the night belonged to Eevee, who also covered Rico J. Puno’s “Macho Guwapito” during the early rounds and more than held their own in their number with mentor band, Pedicab. Winning this year’s derby also meant taking home P250,000 in cash, P100,000 worth of music equipment for their school, the Philippine Women’s University of Davao and more importantly, an exclusive record label deal with Sony Music.

When I asked him if he still wants a girlfriend after winning all these prizes, Enzo just smiled and sheepishly replied, “Gusto ko pa rin ng girlfriend. Maghahanap na lang ako ng ibang topic para sa mga susunod naming mga kanta.”

With their victory, girls should no longer be that hard to come by for these lads. Their Facebook fan base has been growing by leaps and bounds since then. Ah, the things that dreams are made of. And I stood up Katy Perry for this? Just kidding. Best of luck to Eevee, of course. And hats off, as well, to Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool 2009.

(Band photo taken from Eevee's Facebook fan page as added by Rica Segura Villanueva.)

Here’s Eevee in an early performance of their hit-bound tune:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mt. Pulag: Vertical Horizon

IANNE Borillo is an ad agency executive and one of the owners of Mag:Net Bonifacio High Street who I met during the sought-after bar and restaurant's launch around 2006 (or was it 2007?). Ianne always struck me as one hell of a woman, a Renaissance chick who likes to give just about everything a try.

Being a creative type, not only is she an artist who stages her own one-woman exhibit every four years but she's also big on the great outdoors and extreme sports. She's one of those adventurous types who likes to put her money where her mouth is and as far as I've known her, never backs down from any challenge, be it as navigator of a cross country race that she never previously participated in or negotiating the highs and lows of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" during Mag:Net's Rockeoke Night.

Anyway, Ianne is Radio Clash's very first guest blogger. Here is her interesting, often funny but always engaging account of her very first foray into mountain climbing back in 2007. Since then, she has managed to climb a few more peaks. Read on.

THIS IS WHY WE CLIMB
By Ianne Borillo

THIS is where my half-baked decision had taken me. Maybe it’s my sense of adventure. Maybe it’s my sense of reckless abandon. Maybe both. But I found myself joining a four-day hike to Mt. Pulag, Luzon’s highest peak—a familiar enough place yet completely unknown territory.

I can enumerate a thousand excuses not to go through including those that took place at the last minute: pre-menstrual syndrome, bad weather, bad start (we missed the bus) and fair warning from one of the hosts that this is anything but a fun climb. The odds does seem to pile up on each other like a mound of heavy rocks similar to the pack I had to haul for the rest of what would later feel like an eternity of climbing.

Yet there I was, teaming up with four veteran male climbers—the only one without any prior climbing experience. Although I was the only rose among the thorns, I felt more like a thorn on the side of my seasoned teammates. So even as the guys made sure I am well-equipped from gear to mindset, I was compelled to keep up with them with every step.

True enough, fun is not exactly a word I’ll use to describe those four days. For starters, I was literally hanging on to dear life for three straight hours atop a truck that consistently broke down every 20 minutes. With no restrooms in sight, I had to quickly pee in the open trail. I also got soaked by the unpredictable rain which along with the unforgiving winds gave me a really nasty cold. And I’m not even at base camp yet. In between asking myself what I got myself into, I actually prayed for the bad weather to get worse so everything will just be called off. I wanted to go home so badly.

Arriving at base camp did not seem to divert my prayers. I have never seen my ACGs so dirty with mud I barely recognized them. At that point, I am so cold and just wanted to change into fresh clothes. The sleeping arrangement was fairly okay as I felt more comfortable and toasty inside my newly acquired sleeping bag. I slumped anxious in between bodies imagining what it’s going to be like in the morning. I did not get to sleep.

Sunrise. It’s finally the moment of truth. I’m getting more excited as I gear up. The lack of mirrors prevented me from confirming how awful and silly I look. After some stretching, our group did some photo op (in case somebody goes missing) and then off we start rolling. Atthough the itinerary says “descend” I think the word barely does the actual thing justice. I find myself ankle deep in mud, constantly slipping and helplessly clinging to a person I don’t even know just barely 10 minutes into the trail.

My short term goal is to go through the day without falling on my behind. It’s bad enough that I have to recycle my clothes so I try to keep it clean and mud-free as possible. With a little keen observation and tons of human intervention, I managed to succeed. I was amazed by the openness and willingness of these strangers to help one another.

As the moments go by, I slowly adjust to the environment, the activity and the culture of climbing. Instead of constantly looking down and minding where my feet lands, I concentrated on appreciating the sights, the scenery, to calm my nerves,

Eventually, I start to interact with the other climbers whom I will be stuck with for a couple of days. Yes, I worried about getting sick from the fickle weather and completely dread facing my worse nemesis- the formidable leech. I freaked at the sight of it crawling up my legs. As I could barely looking at the bloodsucker, much less touch it, I had to impose on whoever is nearest to take it off me.

One naughty climber, who doesn’t realize the intensity of my leech phobia, chose a really bad time to get cute and scared me further. I didn’t realize how the shrill sound of a woman’s shriek (meaning mine) can send the teams that rolled ahead of us running back as they thought I had fallen into a ditch. Thankfully, I learn that functionality before fashion is definitely the way to go as my unfashionable combination of printed slipper socks, tights and cargo shorts prevented the suckers from penetrating my skin.

Nine hours and about 30 kilometers later, we finally reached camp. Surprisingly, I still have the energy to cook a decent, rather gourmet pasta meal for my team. I realize that nature provides a constantly changing backdrop that has a way of not only entertaining you but also somehow makes you ignore your weariness.

Having survived the first day, I was pretty sure Day Number 2 will be more of the same and I was prepared to face it with a little more confidence. Wrong. The itinerary says “ascend” and “assault.” Apparently, the grueling first day is supposed to be the fun part. In addition to the physical torment of the climb, I unexpectedly got my period which explains my constant lack of energy and exhaustion. But I cannot give in to my physical and mental urges to give up. My short term goal is to just make it through the day regardless whether I slip, fall or tumble. I chow down my chocolate power bars and slipped into iPod mode. It worked. Successfully, I psyched myself to push forward until we reached camp. Unscathed. I feel extra proud of myself now.

My team then initiated a meeting to push to the next camp despite the extreme cold. Ironically, we were the first to bail out as the eldest and most experienced member started feeling uncomfortably cold. The other teams went on their way leaving just a handful of us at the camp. We started rolling at 2am, wih me wearing a long sleeve shirt, a dry fit shirt, fleece, rain jacket, tights, climbing pants, 2 layers of socks, bonnet, scarf, gloves, my ACGs and finally a head lamp. I have never worn that much clothes all at the same time.

As we trek under the moonlit sky, I barely felt the exhaustion. As if every part of my body is overwhelmed by a picture perfect silhouette of a tree atop a distant hill against the full moon and midnight blue canvas. I stop every so often to catch my breath as my little glimpse of perfection becomes bigger with every step. Daylight breaks and the previous silhouettes of hills turns to gold transforming the canvas into a marvelous play of orange, pink and blue.

My excitement turns to exhilaration as I finally reached the peak. What stands before me is a sea of pure white clouds so beautiful beyond words that I just find myself sitting silently in solitude without a care in the world. My teammate looks at me and simply utters “This is why we climb”. Overwhelmed, I just acknowledged his words with a nod and a smile.

Physical and mental torment coupled with countless mishaps aside, I am grateful that I bit that bullet. Frankly speaking, I’ll bite it again, this time with eyes very wide open.

And here's Ianne again with good friend Pia Boren as members of the Lighthouse-Subaru team during the recently concluded M-150 Unleashed Cross-Country race:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soundskool of Rock

“CREAM of the crop talaga, Ser!”

I’m not quite sure if Beejay Valero, the clean-shaven guitarist of the band, Project from Jose Rizal University was the first to say it. I am pretty certain, however, that it was a consensus shared by Beejay’s bandmates as well as the other 12 finalists of the Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool 2009.

Last week, these finalists all found themselves together in one roof as they learned from music industry stalwarts, from their own favorite bands and even from each other at the much-awaited Boracay Workshop component of the Soundskool competition.

In any other band competition, an all-expense paid trip to Boracay is already quite a prize in itself, expecially given that the majority of them were in the sought after tourist destination for the very first time. “Even in our previous Soundskools, the Boracay Workshop is something that all participating bands would look forward to and work very hard to be a finalist for,” admits Nescafe Marketing Head Yayin Bangcoro. “For us at Nescafe, we see this as an important part in making their dreams come true. Not only does the workshop intend to orient them with the music industry and enhance their skills but it also aims to magnify these young talents as persons as much as they are musicians.”

This particular Band Camp held at La Carmela De Boracay resort had quite a “faculty,” too. Sony BMG executive Vic Valenciano and his Artist & Repertoire man Jinno Mina gave a comprehensive industry orientation that presented the finalists with income-earning options (i.e. ringtones, gigs, modelling, film soundtracks) should they make it big. Band manager Darwin Hernandez talked about how to handle success, Sandwich’s Raimund Marasigan discussed the art of performing in a tone that's a little more serious than what his band demonstrated in their “Procrastinator” music video.

And the members of Pupil minus a fever-stricken Ely Buendia gave an engaging insight on music composition and pretty much told these kids in so many words that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing good tunes. Some just come to you in a flash, others take a little or a lot longer to finish—either way, just better be ready to record or write those thoughts down.

There were also equally enlightening breakout sessions on drums (conducted by Pupil’s Wendell Garcia), guitar (by 6cyclemind’s Chuck Isidro) and vocals (by Nei Dimaculangan). Pupil, Sandwich, 6cyclemind, Callalily and last year’s winner, Letter Day Story also headlined the nightly concerts that also allowed the 13 bands to show their wares. While all of them were very impressive, there were quite a few standouts in my book.

During the Mindanao night, Eevee (shown in picture) representing Philippine Women’s University of Davao made a few ears turned with a potential radio hit in their quirky, “Gusto Ko Lang Ng Girlfriend.” The Evanescence-like Lady Suzette from AMA Computer Learning Center in Tacloban featuring the powerful vocals of Maria Daryl Gerlando made a few heads turn during the Visayas night.

Come Luzon night, University of Perpetual Help Laguna’s In Descent brought the house down with their own brand of old school classic rock and just when everyone thought they’ve heard the best, Mapua Institute of Technology’s Nameless Heroes crashes the party on GMA night and pretty much knocks the ball out of the park with their high octane alternative rock.

There were other interesting stories as well. True to their Ateneo De Cagayan De Oro pedigree, Little School House were the most articulate with their impressive views on nationalism during our interview sessions. Given their close proximity to Boracay and frequent visits here, the members of Iloilo Doctors College’s Sundae Special was hoping the workshop was held somewhere else. The original drummer of Mixed Tape of Lyceum-St. Cabrini College of Allied Medicine died from a vehicular accident a year ago and the band is dedicating a song and their performance in his memory. Project is actually a finalist for the second time and was also in Boracay for the workshop last year.

Despite the fact that they’re just in their teens, the syrupy pop quartet called Play from the Polytechnic University of Quezon City have been playing together since they were kids and could also surprise everyone with their cohesive play. I already believe that vocalist Yu-an Rabago, who sings really well, is on her way to a long career in music regardless of what happens on the grand finals.

And that Grand Finals will take place this Saturday, November 14 at the Ninoy Aquino stadium. All told, I could have done a lot worse last weekend. Thankfully, I actually did much better. Not only is it always a pleasure to spend a few days in Bora but it was certainly a lot of fun for a semi-retired music writer like myself to be in the company of such talented young musicians. Forget Fame. Forget Glee. Want to see real talents with plenty of balls? You can't go wrong with Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool this year.

Yeah, cream of the crop, indeed.

For more information on the finalists and how to get tickets for the Grand Finals, please visit the Nescafe 3-in-1 Soundskool 2009 home page here.

Here's a performance by Nameless Heroes: