In his undertakings, Tito Sotto is BRAVE!


By Crispina M. Belen

In his undertakings, Tito Sotto is BRAVE!


Among other attributes, Senator President Tito Sotto can be described as unfazed and brave, not only because he is running for vice president in the next national elections, but something he has projected to the fore while doing public service for several decades now.

And during the recent virtual “Tsikahan With Tito Sotto,” held a day after his and wife Helen Gamboa’s 52nd wedding anniversary, he again showcased this facet of his personality but in another context. BRAVE  in this regard is an acronym for a project he is most ardent to do: Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE). Among his other projects for good governance, he will be focused on what’s best to be done for the good of the people, like using government money properly.

In tandem with Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who is also bravely and fearlessly running for president in the 2022 national elections, Tito Sen (Senator Sotto’s pet name especially in the local entertainment world) stressed that in the collective 83 years of their public service, they have more than enough to offer to the voters, the seniors and the young ones, the millennials. 

Interestingly, Tito Sen revealed that it was actually he who Senator Lacson was initially poised to convince to run for the highest position of the land – as president – with Senator Grace Poe as his running mate. (Senator Poe has been a popular choice for VP candidate, and even Mayor Isko Moreno has talked to her to be his running mate, but the lady senator declined the offer). 

So it was actually Senator Poe who prodded the two of them, Senators Lacson and Sotto, to run as a tandem instead, Tito Sen said.

And if  President Rodrigo Duterte is really poised on running for VP, he will be Tito Sen’s opponent or adversary which is okay with the senator.  After all,  “magkaibigan naman kami, may pinagsamahan naman kami. Sang-ayon ako to most of his programs, magkaiba kami sa pananaw in certain things, but magkaibigan pa rin kami. Basta ako, kontra ako sa mga mali,” Tito Sen said.


A former actor, comedian, producer, songwriter and top bowler, Tito Sen was co-host of “Eat Bulaga,” the longest-running variety show in the Philippines, along with Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon. He described “Eat Bulaga” as a public service program masquerading as a variety show. He considers Vic and Joey as well-grounded – what with their 43 years experience! – and he always consults them in every decision he makes, Tito Sen said.

Anyway, the “Tsikahan With Tito Sotto” lasted for several hours, from which we gathered materials enough for several more articles, which will be forthcoming of course. In the meantime, for the benefit of the young voters, the millennials, here are background materials for Tito Sen:

Although he came from a political family (he is the grandson of former  Senator  Vicente Y. Sotto, and the grand-nephew of  former Senator Filemon Sotto), Vicente “Tito” Castelo Sotto 111, who was born on August 24, 1948 from parents Marcelino Antonio Ojeda Sotto and Dr. Herminia Castelo Sotto, did not have political dreams when he was young. “I just wanted to be a lawyer, but I became a lawmaker by destiny,” he said.

Prior to his becoming senator (this is his fourth term as such, becoming Senate President since 2018), Tito Sen served as vice mayor of Quezon City from 1988-1992. He founded the Vice Mayors League of the Philippines of which he was its first president. 

In 2008-2009, he also served as Vice Chairman of the Citizen’s Drugwatch.

Tito Sen finished Bachelor of  Arts major in English at Colegio de San Juan de Letran. His first inclination was music and he started his musical career in the 1960s and he is credited to be the founder of  the musical group VST & Co., one of the pioneers of OPM and Manila Sound. The group included his brothers Vic and Val. 

VST  & Co. played covers of the Dave Clark Five, and later Tito Sen became vice president of Vicor Music Corporation. 

Among his compositions is “Magkaisa,” which was considered one of the anthems of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Tito Sen and wife Helen Gamboa have four children: Romina, Diorella, Gian and Ciara Sotto, and 11 grandchildren.


Senator Legarda calls for stronger implementation of Clean Air Act


By Crispina M. Belen

Senator Legarda calls for stronger implementation of Clean Air Act

Loren Legarda 3Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda welcomed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) release yesterday of new outdoor air pollution standards and called for a stronger implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act (Republic Act No. 8749), which she authored and helped enact into law over two decades ago.

Legarda, a three-Senator,  said air pollution “is a global and national public health concern to which has been attributed millions of premature deaths around the world.” Millions more people today are exposed to higher levels of pollution from a growing number of pollution sources. The Philippines is ranked 70 in IQAir’s 2020 list of world’s most polluted countries.

“Air pollution is literally a question of life and death, with serious impacts on cardiovascular and respiratory health. Our pandemic-defined setting and the aerosols-borne reality of the Delta variant should remind us today to pay far greater attention to this issue,” said Legarda, representative of the lone district of Antique.

Legarda said implementation of the law continues to be a major challenge. “The country’s ambient air quality standards for harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrous dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM10) have not been updated since the implementation of the Clean Air Act way back in 1999. This is certainly unacceptable. The current standards for these pollutants are still based on the values set in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Clean Air Act, all of which fail to meet the 2005 WHO guidelines, much less the upcoming 2021 issuance.”

Legarda cited a study by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) saying total annual deaths due to air pollution in the Philippines is currently estimated at 101,448, which is far higher than what was previously estimated for the country. CREA noted that under new WHO guidelines, total annual deaths would go down to 42,007.

 While most areas in the Philippines meet the country’s annual PM2.5 guideline at 25 ug/m3, Legarda said this clearly shows a more ambitious standard (Interim 3, or stricter) seems reasonable to put in place, including annual NO2 standards.

“I call on the joint oversight committee on the Clean Air Act to work with think tanks and other expert groups on a comparative study to show if the country is on track or not to beat air pollution and discover what else needs to be done,” she added.

Legarda challenged the public to demand that their officials decisively improve the lot of Filipino households struggling with poor health, unstable livelihoods, and an increasingly uncertain future.

“This must be a wakeup call to the executive and to all seeking elective posts next year. It’s a harsh reminder that we are still very far from finishing the job in terms of securing a healthier future for all. We must consider our actions today as legacy acts, because however acute the ecological and social crisis is that we are confronting together at present, the opportunity to leave behind the polluting, destructive, and inequitable past is growing just as fast. We must be on the right side of history,” she also said.

“We need inspirational leadership, we need decisiveness, but more than mere macho boldness, we need caring leadership that sees the high value of establishing resilience at the heart of the country’s climate and pandemic action agenda,” Legarda added.

From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

WHO estimated that 4.2 million premature deaths occurred worldwide in 2016 as a result of outdoor air pollution, 915 of which were in low- and middle-income regions, while 3.8 million premature deaths occurred in the same year that it attributed to household air pollution, or indoor smoke due to dirty cookstoves and fuels. 


TakoyaTea, another successful venture of Joel Cruz


By Crispina M. Belen

TakoyaTea, another successful venture of Joel Cruz

His ingenuity and business acumen made Joel Cruz very successful in all his ventures, especially with Aficionado Germany Perfume, for which he was rightfully dubbed the “Lord of Scent,” a title to which his name will forever be attached. 

Aficionado Germany Perfume did not only gain success and prominence in the country but also in various countries, especially through its franchising aspect. 

Joel Cruz 2And now, Joel Cruz has established even firmer his business integrity with his new business endeavor: TakoyaTea, relatively new but already enjoying success especially in name recall. The idea was suggested by friends and prospective franchisees, to come out with a different business brand to spin off  continuation of prominence from the Aficionado label of franchising. 

Joel said the brand name “TakoyaTea” was  coined word from Takoyaki & Milk Tea. The brand color is turquoise green, the combination of hot color yellow and cool color blue. 

Takoyaki is a famous Japanese street food that started in Osaka, Japan in the 1930s. “Tako” in Japanese means octopus, and “Yaki” means grilled.

 Milk Tea is a popular Taiwanese drink that started in the 80’s in Taiwan and is the rage now all over the world. Milk Tea is a combination of tea with milk and “Pearls” or “Boba” (tapioca or “sago”).

Takoyaki and milk tea are favorites of Joel Cruz and he never misses a bite or a sip  whenever he travels to their countries of origin, Japan and Taiwan.

He wanted to bring the authentic tastes of this  perfect combo meal for local customers to fully enjoy. And so, in spite of the pandemic, he totally involved himself –  from the business concept, to its implementation and finally the launch of TakoyaTea. 

The Cruz family started TakoyaTea  as a home-based-business selling take-away food online in the vicinity of Manila and Quezon City.

On October 18, 2020, the offline or brick and mortar store, was launched on the corner of Retiro and Sisa Streets, right next to the Aficionado Headquarters. It was opened both for dine-in and takeaway orders. 

The business that started operations online, soon enough proved to be a promising venture, as it  registered encouraging daily sales result. Its operation then expanded  into a combination of:

a.ONLINE via social media,  food delivery platforms and express delivery services.

b.OFFLINE with a brick and mortar food store for dine-in or takeaway.

Upon sharing the new endeavor to a network of friends and current business partners, it  received immediate interest in franchising the business, thus the expansion in various locations.

Business-wise, the combination of Takoyaki and Milk Tea, deliciously savory and sweet in flavor, offers value for money – affordable, wholesome and nutritious. In addition, it offers convenience from store to home delivery.

So, if you haven’t tasted TakoyaTea yet, it’s time you do, and incorporate it into your daily habit! Joel Cruz promises you won’t regret it.



TOWNS launches  program on values education for youth


By Crispina M. Belen

TOWNS launches program on values education for youth

To help Filipino young men and women clarify and put into action personal and nation-building values, The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) launches its “Values Development Program” on Wednesday, March 10.

Through a series of 12 video modules that combine lecturettes, testimonies, dramatizations of illustrative situations, animation, music and group discussions the program intends to bring 16 to 25 year olds thru a process of self-discovery and values clarification. The overall aim is to develop or enhance cornerstone values and competencies for transformative leadership such as emotional intelligence, creativity along with discernment and critical thinking.

Upon completion of the program, it is hoped that the participants would have began to be aware of their own personal values and link these to values necessary towards building relationships, especially within their families, and expanding these to the community and the larger nation.

Development organizations, schools, civic associations and other groups, as well as interested individuals are invited to partner with TOWNS in implementing the VDP by hosting sessions with groups of students or youth.

Currently, the TOWNS Foundation is headed by broadcaster Ces Drilon, with Deanie Lyn Ocampo as vice-president. TOWNS counts more than a hundred women awardees honored for their individual accomplishments and work in advocating and advancing nation-building.

To signify willingness to attend the VDP launching and take part in disseminating the video modules, potential partners may get in touch with TOWNS through or +9984008238 on or before March 8, 2021.

Winnie Wong: Teaching is also a Learning Process


By Crispina M. Belen

Winnie Wong: Teaching is also a Learning Process

Winnie Wong 2

It has been said that teaching is the noblest profession, but it could also be the most tasking vocation. And nobody knows this better than Winnie Wong, better known to her avid YouTube subscribers as Penelope Pop.

Not everyone knows that the social media sensation (who has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers) works full time at International School Manila where she teaches Graphic Design and Photography. She says that dealing with students with different personality types requires a great deal of patience and an innate love for teaching.

Winnie Wong 2

“One of the biggest challenges for me as a teacher is really trying to identify with key personality traits of every single student and being able to adapt to their learning. So, I have to find the balance to cater to all those students. It can be difficult to navigate in the beginning,” she explains.

She added that the transition from face-to-face learning to online schooling brought about by the pandemic also posed some challenges when it comes to developing a more direct interaction with her students.

A persistent student herself, Wong studied and earned her degrees in Canada (one from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and the other from Vancouver College where she majored in Early Childhood Education). And, after a year of teaching children in Canada, she decided to fly back to Manila and continue her teaching career, this time for high school students.

Soft-spoken and petite, the pretty school teacher can easily pass off as a high school student herself, a fact that encourages some students to treat her with a little unwelcome flippancy and cheekiness. In cases like these, she finds that conducting herself with more firmness than usual works to put her message across.

She says, however, that the rewards that come from imparting her knowledge are innumerable. For one, she is able to build meaningful relationships with students who get to know her better and vice versa.

“I have some students that I still talk to up to now even if they’ve already graduated,” Wong remarks. “And that’s very educational because you get the youthful perspective of life from them. I feel like there’s a lot to learn as a teacher because you’re dealing with all sorts of people,” she adds.

In the future, she hopes to be able to grow into a position of leadership in school to effect more positive changes and implement steps that will develop the potential of every student to the fullest. But for now, like the avid learner that she is, Wong is acquiring more insights from her daily encounters with students and teachers alike.

“I’m still learning a lot as a teacher. There are still areas for growth and development,” she admits.


The 5th Film Ambassadors’ Night goes virtual


By Crispina M. Belen


It’s the first virtual event of the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ 5th Film Ambassadors’ Night that’s happening on February 28 at 8 p.m. on the FDCP Channel ( for free.

Coinciding with the National Commision on Culture and the Arts’ (NCAA) National Arts Month, FAN will bestow honor and recognition to individuals and entities for their contributions to the film industry.

The FAN, an annual event spearheaded by the FDCP since 2017, recognizes Filipino film industry creatives, artists, filmmakers, and films of various formats that gained recognitions from established international film festivals and award-giving bodies in the past year.

02 - FAN 2021 A-Lister Lav Diaz

FAN 2021 A-Lister Lav Diaz

Leading the FAN 2021 honorees are the A-Listers filmmakers Rafael Manuel and Lav Diaz. A-Listers pertain to those who bagged awards in prestigious A-List international film festivals as declared by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF).

03 - FAN 2021 A-Lister Rafael Manuel

FAN 2021 A-Lister Rafael Manuel

Rafael Manuel was awarded the Berlinale Shorts Silver Bear Jury Prize for “Filipiñana” at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival in Germany while Lav Diaz won the Orizzonti Award for Best Director for “Lahi, Hayop (Genus Pan)” at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in Italy.

The Feature Films category has six honorees: “Sunshine Family” by Kim Tai-Sik, “Write About Love” by Crisanto Aquino, “Latay (Battered Husband)” by Ralston Jover, “Pan de Salawal” by Che Espiritu, “Lingua Franca” by Isabel Sandoval, and “John Denver Trending” by Arden Rod Condez. The honorees in the Directors category are Maria Diane Ventura for “Dein Fabre,” Mallorie Ortega for “The Girl Who Left Home,” and Derick Cabrido for “Clarita.”

The Actors category will award Cristine Reyes for “UnTrue,” Ruby Ruiz for “Iska,” Elijah Canlas for “Kalel, 15,” Louise Abuel for “Edward,” Isabel Sandoval for “Lingua Franca,” Alden  Richards for “Hello, Love, Goodbye,” Lovi Poe and Allen Dizon for “Latay,” and the cast of “Kaputol” led by Cherie Gil, Alfred Vargas, Angel Aquino, and Ronwaldo Martin. Dingdong Dantes and Arjo Atayde are the television awardees who made it to the FAN 2021 Actors list.

“Philippine Cinema continues to thrive amid the pandemic because Filipino filmmakers and artists did not allow the global health crisis to derail them from sharing our stories to the world. Through the Film Ambassadors’ Night, we celebrate their efforts and laud their achievements,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño.

The FAN has other categories such as Short Films, Documentaries, Creative Awards, and Special Citation. The two Special Citation recipients are veteran television and film director Luisito Lagdameo Ignacio and the late filmmaker and International Film Festival Manhattan co-founder Gerry Balasta.

The FAN is supported by the CCP through the participation of its resident symphony orchestra, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO). The PPO will perform in various production numbers alongside the country’s premiere performers such as Bamboo, Tres Marias (Bayang Barrios, Cooky Chua, and Lolita Carbon), Bituin Escalante, Beverly Salviejo, Karla Gutierrez, Lawrence Jatayna, and The Pogi Boys. A special number featuring Ice Seguerra, Juris Fernandez, Princess Velasco, Sitti, Richard Poon, Kean Cipriano, and Duncan Ramos will also take place.


Cinemadvocate honoree Cong. Toff de Venecia pushes for Philippine Creative Industry Bill


By Crispina M. Belen

Cinemadvocate honoree Cong. Toff de Venecia pushes for Philippine Creative Industry Bill

09 - FAN 2021 Cinemadvocate Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia

FAN 2021 Cinemadvocate Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia

The upcoming 5th Film Ambassadors’ Night or FAN will honor individuals working hard on their own right for the betterment of the country’s movie industry. One of them, under the Cinemadvocate category, is Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia.

“I’m very honored to be recognized by FDCP for our efforts to help the local movie industry and to continue my grandfather Doc Perez and Manay Ichu’s legacy,” he expressed via #Facebook #Messenger chat.

It can be recalled that one of his valuable contributions to the industry is his crucial role in the landmark Eddie Garcia Bill.

“I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to serve as its lead person for the said bill that will provide protection to our film, television and radio entertainment workers,” shared the lawmaker.

To date, the Eddie Garcia Bill has since been passed on its third and final reading at the Lower House.

As explained by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Cinemadvocates is one of the special segments of this year’s FAN “to laud individuals and groups that tirelessly champion the welfare of film workers and the development of the industry.”

A more recent action of Cong. Toff de Venecia as the chairperson of the Special Committee on Creative Industries and Performing Arts, is the launching of an inquiry into the rampant online piracy that happened during the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival. He said that they hope to “strengthen the movie industry’s intellectual property regime.” According to him, they have filed an amendment to the intellectual property code which is now on the technical working group stage.

His committee’s pet bill, he added, is the Philippine Creative Industry Bill.

“This bill will institutionalize a framework for the development of our creative industries, including film, and will create both a creative industry development council and a creative industry development plan,” he described. “It will also institutionalize support mechanisms such as infrastructure, fiscal incentives, creative economic zones, research and development, creative education, marketing, and others benefits.”

Another Bill which he is pushing to be passed as a law is the Film Philippines Bill which he signed with other congressmen. It is about institutionalizing film and television incentives for tourism and providing financial support to both our local and foreign producers. He is also in the process of filing a Film Archive Bill to strengthen the state’s preservation of our cinematic heritage.

Most immediate and of great importance to the congressman is providing assistance to industry workers rendered jobless or unemployed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Through our efforts also in the crafting and implementation of Bayanihan 2, in partnership with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s office, we will be providing cash assistance to thousands of film workers through DOLE – a total of 200 million pesos worth to as many as 30,000 freelancers from various creative industries,” he stated.

Also honored alongside Cong. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia as Cinemadvocates are National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Chairman and Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) President Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, Lockdown Cinema Club, Inter-Guild Alliance, Dingdong Dantes, and Angel Locsin.

Other special awards categories of FAN are Gabay ng Industriya and Camera Obscura.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines’ online 5th Film Ambassadors’ Night will take place on February 28.


FDCP’s CreatePHFilms Grants P12.1M to Support Funding for 22 Filipino Projects


By Crispina M. Belen

FDCP’s CreatePHFilms Grants P12.1M to Support Funding for 22 Filipino Projects

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) announced recently the awardees of its CreatePHFilms Philippine Cinema funding program that provides selective funds for development, production, post-production, and distribution. 

Cycle 1 of CreatePHFilms ended in November and after thorough deliberations in December, the Selection Committee chose 22 grantees: eight for scriptwriting, four for script development, three for small budget production, two for large budget production, and five for post-production. The funding allocated for the CreatePHFilms Cycle 1 awardees amounts to PHP 12.1 million.

The esteemed Selection Committee members for Cycle 1 are Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher de Venecia, FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño, director and writer Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr., director and Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. representative Raymond Red, Cinema Evaluation Board Chairman Christine Dayrit, Solar Pictures, Inc. General Manager Butch Ibañez, and cinematographer and Lupon ng Pilipinong Sinematograpo President Mackie Galvez. 

“The industry has been clamoring for public funding to support the development of films since 2016. We believe in the importance of public funding, as countries with thriving film industries such as France and South Korea benefit from various government programs and funding. At long last, the Philippines has public funding for film development through CreatePHFilms and now, we have our first batch of grantees,” said Diño. 

“We are proud of the resiliency of our filmmakers and their perseverance to continue the production of their projects in these challenging times. We hope for the government’s continued support to the industry through funding programs,” she added. 

Through the CreatePHFilms Funds for Development for Scriptwriting and Project Development, the FDCP wants to support Filipino scriptwriters by helping them develop innovative stories based on Filipino culture and heritage.

The CreatePHFilms Fund for Scriptwriting is a selective, nonrefundable fund of up to PHP 100,000. Awardees will also have at least two FDCP-led sessions of script consultations with international mentors on concept, creative issues, and developing the screenplay. The eight grantees for scriptwriting that will receive PHP 100,000 each are:

“Ang Alamat ng Gumamelang Bukid” by Richard Soriano Legaspi

“Dead Boy” by Jules Dan Katanyag

“Magiliw (Gentle: A Carnage by the Land of the Rising Sun)” by Bor Ocampo

“Mother Maybe” by Sonny Calvento

“Oyayi” by Mitzi Delima

“Silk Ties” by Wilfredo Manalang

“Strange Natives” by Paolo Herras

“The Fighting Filipinos” by Honee Alipio

The CreatePHFilms Fund for Project Development is a selective and nonrefundable fund of up to PHP 200,000 for production companies. These are the four selected projects that will be given PHP 200,000 each:

“In My Mother’s Skin” by Kenneth Lim Dagatan

“Ninja From Manila” by Miko Livelo

“Outerspace Filipino Workers” by Keith Sicat

“The Tootle & Tina Show” by Danzen Santos Katanyag

The FDCP wants to encourage Filipino film producers to create high-quality films for domestic and international audiences through the CreatePHFilms Funds for Production: Small Budget and Large Budget. The CreatePHFilms Fund for Small Budget Production is a selective refundable fund up to PHP 1 million for production companies. The three films selected as small budget production fund recipients of PHP 1 million each are:

“12 Weeks” by Anna Isabelle Matutina

“Blue Room” by Ma. Anna L. Asuncion-Dagnalan

“Faramanis” by Gutierrez Mangansakan II

Meanwhile, the CreatePHFilms Fund for Large Budget Production is a selective equity investment fund worth P3 million to P5 million for production companies. The two chosen projects that will each receive the large budget production fund worth PHP 3 million are:

“Bansa” by Brillante Mendoza

“Kidplay” by Khavn

The CreatePHFilms Fund for Post-Production seeks to enhance post-production services so that they meet international standards. This selective fund of up to PHP 300,000 will be applied for by a production company and granted to its engaged post-production company. The five recipients of the PHP 300,000 post-production support are: 

“Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago” by Martika Ramirez Escobar

“Gensan Punch” by Brillante Mendoza

“Kargo” by TM Malones

“Mirador” by Loy Arcenas

“The Brokers” by Daniel R. Palacio

There is also the CreatePHFilms Fund for Distribution, a selective fund of up to P300,000, for the local and overseas distribution of Filipino titles. Producers can apply for this as well as for the CreatePHFilms Funds for Development, Production, and Post-Production this year.

Eligible applicants must be Filipino filmmakers and companies accredited by the FDCP’s National Registry, while eligible projects must have a Filipino director. In addition, 100 percent of the funds must be spent in the Philippines for qualified expenses.

CreatePHFilms was launched in September in time for the commemoration of the closing of the Philippine Cinema Centennial celebration. “This domestic funding program also shows the government’s support for the vulnerable sectors of the film industry by increasing economic opportunities for local services and workers,”  added Diño.

For more information, e-mail or visit    

Marlene dela Pena: Acclaimed Pinay jazz artist in Japan!


By Crispina M. Belen

MDLP solo

Marlene dela Pena: Acclaimed Pinay jazz artist in Japan!

Although she started her singing career in the country of her birth, the Philippines, Marlene dela Pena would find fame and popularity in an unlikely foreign land – Japan!

While in the Philippines, Marlene tried to make a name, or as they say, carve a niche, singing in music lounges like at the Calesa Bar of Hyatt Regency Hotel. But fame didn’t come to her in her country, because as fate would have it, Marlene would make it in Japan, the country she chose to be her second home. She moved to the land of the Cherry blossoms in the late 70’s.

As backgrounder, Marlene recalled that when she was young, she joined a singing contest during a fiesta, without her parents’ knowledge, surprising them with the goodies she brought home from that contest. At 10, Marlene joined Tinno Lapus’ “Eskuwelang Munti.” And at 15, she joined “Tawag ng Tanghalan.”

It was that time that a Japanese promoter offered her to go to Japan but she declined, citing for a reason the fact that she wanted to finish high school first. The talent promoter came back after three years, and as they say, the rest is history!

It wasn’t really her fondest dream to be a singer-performer, Marlene revealed to us. “I thought about singing, but most of all about finishing college and helping send my siblings to school too,” she said.

Her formal introduction to the musical stage came when she, 15, and Dulce,14, performed in a beerhouse at the foot of Jones Bridge in Escolta. Dulce would become Asia’s Diva, while Marlene would be the toast of Japan in the field of jazz!

Specializing in the pop and jazz genres, Marlene endeared herself to Japanese music lovers with her uniquely simple but engaging style of performing. Not long after introducing herself to the Japanese audience, Marlene clinched a recording deal with EMI Japan for her first single which was released in 1979.

“It was December 1978 when I landed at the Land of the Rising Sun!” Marlene recalled. After I was I introduced to the people in the music industy in Japan, I got my recording contract with Toshiba-EMI. I was marketed as an idol singer with my debut single ‘Love Me,’ composed by Tsutsumi Kyohei. Few more singles followed. I was also fortunate to do a commercial song for Seiko watch Credor, became a poster model for Blue Jean’s UFO. I also was asked to sing the theme song of Tatum O’Neal’s ‘Ganbare Bears’ for NTV4. I was also featured in magazines along with some of the most popular idols of the time!”

She added that two years later, the big break came when Sony’s top producer Ito Yasohachi, approached her personally. After talking to her manager, Ito offered her to be one of his artists. Six months later, she was working on her very first album, “Just Like First Love” which had 32,000 copies reserved even before press time. From then on, she was recording albums twice a year!

Marlene remains a contract artist of CBS Sony, now Sony Music Entertainment, till today. In 1983, two of her albums appeared on the Oricon Charts, with “Deja Vu” reaching No. 8, and “Magic” reaching No. 5. Each of the albums sold over 150,000 copies, not bad for a relatively new artist in Japan.

So far, Marlene has recorded 31 albums, five of them Gold Records. In the United States, she was known for her ” Stay With Me” album that climbed to No. 28 in the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart in the 90’s.

Marlene worked with Seawind with whom she recorded her second album “Summer Night” in Los Angeles, California in 1982. Her sixth album, “Looking for Love,” was also recorded in LA, in 1984. Another album, “This Time,” was recorded in New York in 1987.

Significantly, Marlene has earned the reputation of being the highest-paid Pinay jazz artist in Japan. Aside from singing, she has also dabbled into acting, appearing in two Japanese movies: “Nantonaku” in 2007; and “Karanukan” in 2017. Marlene was also the subject of “Mundo ni Juan sa Japan,” a TV film documentary made in 2015.

Her hit song in 1986, “Left Alone,” was used as the theme song for the Kadokawa movie “Cabaret.” The song was composed by Mal Waldron with lyrics by Billie Holiday.

Among Marlene’s most memorable and successful performances and/or concerts include her debut stint at the Carnegie Hall in New York City In February 2, 2019. Another unforgettable show is her 2019 sold-out dinner show with THREESOME at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati. It was attended by the Who’s Who in Philipine society including Bongbong Marcos and few Ambassadors.

THEEESOME was the trio created by Marlene that included prominent musicians – accomplished guitarist Jiro Yoshida and acclaimed pianist Makoto Kuriya.

Yoshida Jiro is Japan’s 51st UN WAFUNIF Goodwill Ambassador for various humanitarian efforts. He is also a music producer for National Geographic Channel. He has also performed with a number of famous singers like Barbra Streisand, Cyndi Lauper and Sting, etc.

Makoto Kuriya is also a music producer never had a formal music education. He is very well known and very much respected in Europe ! He’s a well sought music director for both TV programs in Japan .

Another memorable concert that Marlene was part of was the “George Benson and Friends,” at Axis Theater, Planet Hollywood Las Vegas. Held on January 8, 2019, it featured George Benson, Patti Austin, Robert Duvall and Marlene.

Marlene was also a special guest at the State Dinner for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held at the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s residence in May 2019.

As it did to all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic also affected Marlene. “It was both bad and good for me,” she said. “Good because I got to become a full time mother to my children, aged 13 and 16. Bad because I was out of income…until September last year when things got better.”

With the pandemic, things went “crazy and unpredictable. But I have to live with it; I knew worrying won’t take me anywhere. I just have to let things be and move on!”

Knowing too that she’s luckier than most, Marlene also embarked on her own charity work when she turned 60 last January 4, 2020. She pledged to help about 150 relocated families in Davao del Sur affected by the consecutive earthquakes through a water support for life. She called it “Sweet 60 Project.” As part of it, she celebrated her birthday with children afflicted with cancer at the House of Hope in Davao,

Marlene also gave away shoes and bags to displaced pupils of Tagaytay Elementary School. In her charitable endeavors, she was assisted by a sister, a brother and a cousin. As to why, she personally involved herself, she said “I wanted to give the gifts from my hands to theirs!”

As to her personal info, Marlene was born on January 4, 1960 in Sta. Ana, Manila and studied at Sta. Ana Elementary School, then finished secondary school at Villamor High School. For college, she studied at Centro Escolar University.

A single mother of two, Marlene’s American husband died in June 2019.

Marlene is now working on a new CD, to be released sometime this year. On a positive note, Marlene said with great enthusiasm: “I’m looking to a NEW me in the years to come!”


GMA programs and personalities win top honors


By Crispina M. Belen

GMA programs and personalities win top honors

GMA Network, the country’s leading  broadcast company, continues to receive accolades with its various programs and personalities winning honors from various award-giving bodies.

Asia’s Pop Diva and The Clash Master Julie Anne San Jose won big at this year’s Aliw Awards after being named “Entertainer of the Year” and “Best Rhythm and Blues Artist, “ another notable feat she can add to her growing achievements. On the other hand, The Clash Journey hosts Rita Daniela and Ken Chan took home the “Best Featured Performance” award for their number at the “Two-gether Again” concert. 

Earning the nod as “Best Male Host” was Kapuso actor Derrick Monasterio. Fast-rising singer Golden Cañedo received the “Best New Female Artist” award, while comedian and TV host Donita Nose was chosen as the “Best Stand-Up Comedian.”

Louie Ignacio

The Clash director Louie Ignacio was inducted into the Aliw Hall of Fame for “Best Concert Stage Director” after winning the said award for the fifth time.

‘Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit’ director Laurice Guillen was given the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” while her daughter, professional actor, distinguished classical performer, and acting coach Ana Feleo was recognized as “ Best Classical Performer.”

At the recently concluded Paragala: The Central Luzon Media Awards, GMA News and Public Affairs dominated the News and Current Affairs category.

24 Oras

The Network’s flagship newscast, “24 Oras,” was hailed once again as “Best News Program.” This is the seventh time “24 Oras” was given the award, making it the only newscast to win the recognition since Paragala was launched.

Top-notch documentary program “I-Witness” won the “Best Documentary” for Kara David’s episode “Silaki” while travel and adventure program “Biyahe ni Drew” received the “Best Magazine Show” award.

Six out of Paragala’s Top 7 News Personalities also came from GMA. These included GMA News pillars Mike Enriquez, Mel Tiangco, and Arnold Clavio, as well as award-winning broadcast journalists Kara David, Ivan Mayrina, and Atom Araullo.

Various Kapuso shows also received special awards by various Paragala juries.

Pepito Manaloto

‘iJuander’ was given this year’s Paragala Pang Kultura, which was chosen by the Center for Kapampangan Studies. Earning the Paragala Pampamilya award was ‘Pepito Manaloto’ as it was the Jury’s choice of Holy Angel University’s Campus Ministry and Guidance Office. Infotainment show ‘AHA!,’ on the other hand, received the Paragala Pang-Likhaan as decided by the Communicator’s League, the official organization of the Holy Angel University’s Communication students.

Meanwhile, at the 10th EdukCircle Awards, Asia’s Multimedia Star Alden Richards and Phenomenal Star Maine Mendoza were recognized as part of the Most Influential Celebrities of The Decade for their impact among the audience and using their platform for social good. Continue reading →