A very impressive list of nominees for National Artists!


By Crispina M. Belen

A very impressive list of nominees for National Artists!

It is indeed very impressive, the list of nominees to the National Artists Award which I was able to gather around! Reading the list, I was in awe as in my mind, everyone of them are deserving of the awards for which they were nominated for. 

Since the The Order of National Artists, jointly administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), issued the call for nominations, various organizations sent in their respective nominees in the various categories. The whole country, of course, is anticipating with great enthusiasm the eventual  list of winners, considering the fact that it is being done in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was indeed very challenging, according to some organizations we talked to, just preparing the nomination requirements,  considering the health and safety protocols imposed by the government during this world-wide pandemic. But they knew that the awards will be worth all the efforts they have to exert.

Leading the race for the National Artists trophies include Eddie Garcia, Ramon Revilla, Vilma Santos,  Ligaya Amilbangsa, Raul Sunico, Shirley Halili-Cruz, Nicanor Tiongson, Pitoy Moreno, Isagani Cruz, Nemensio Miranda, Nonoy Marcelo and Joey Ayala..

Eddie Garcia was a multi-awarded actor, film director and producer who appeared in hundreds of movies and television shows. Ramon Revilla was likewise an established and awarded actor and producer who also became a noted politician. Vilma Santos, dubbed “Star for All Seasons,” was a veteran star of hundreds of movies, was multi-awarded too, and also went into public service and is currently a congresswoman. Pitoy Moreno, on the other hand, was a popular fashion designer who was dubbed the “Fashion Czar of Asia.” Since they are deceased, Garcia, Revilla and Moreno are Posthumous Awards nominees.

The coveted National Artists Awards, to be conferred by the President of the Philippines, are given to Filipinos who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts: Music, Dance, Theater, Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Broadcast Arts, Architecture and Allied Arts.

Raul Sunico, Nemensio Miranda and Nicanor Tiongson have outstanding contributions to the development of Philippine Arts. Sunico, an award-winning pianist and former CCP President, was also former dean of UST Conservatory of Music. Miranda is a famous painter and sculptor from Angono, Rizal. Tiongson is a top art critic, creative writer and academician.

Shirley Halili-Cruz, Isagani Cruz and Ligaya Amilbangsa are recognized as outstanding Filipino awardees in culture and the arts. Halili-Cruz, a multi-awarded and world-class dance director and educator, is the founder and artistic director of numerous national and international projects that keep dance always dynamic. She is a TOFIL (The Outstanding Filipino) awardee In Arts and Culture. Isagani Cruz, also a TOFIL awardee, is a writer and art critic who loves narrative to the hilt and has produced plays, biographies and short stories, most of them prize-winning.

Joey Ayala

Ligaya Amilbangsa is a Filipino dancer, known for her studies and promotion of the Pangalay Dance tradition of the Southern Philippines, and also a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Nonoy Marcelo, who died in 2002,  was nominated as National Artist for Visual Arts. He was a cartoonist for various newspapers and tabloids before and after Martial Law. He was one of CCP’s Centennial Artists awardees In 1998. Joey Ayala, on the other hand, was a guitarist who wrote alternative songs that made him a name to reckon with in the field of music in the 1990s.

From these distinguished personalities will come the new set of National Artists!


Quartet 4:  Art at the Frontline


By Crispina M. Belen

Quartet 4:  Art at the Frontline

A very interesting art exhibition will be featured at the Shangri-La Plaza on February 1-7, 2021. 



The “Quartet” Exhibition was conceived by Ron and Bambi de Castro of The Artologist in 2017 yet. By then the couple had met four individuals well-known in their respective fields – but who also happened to be artists in their own right! 

For “Quarter: Art at the Frontline,” they bring together a top-notch ophthalmologist, the country’s foremost art critic, a seasoned lawyer who was also General Manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), and a multi-hyphenated fashion designer-equestrian- businessman-educator. They are Dr. Ping Duran, Cid Reyes, Atty. Joy Rojas, and Boysie Villavicencio.

Subtitled “Art at the Frontline”, “Quartet IV” is an artistic response to the COVID-19 pandemic during which the lengthy quarantine the artworks were executed. In these trying times, art once again proves to be an artist’s first line of defense against the pandemic’s siege on the human spirit.

In a special participation is Maestro Romulo Galicano, their guest artist, for which Ron and Bambi de Castro expressed great honor. 

“Quartet IV – Art at the Frontline” will be held at Shangri-La Plaza. Exhibit runs Feb 1- 7, 2021.

A portion of the sales will be donated to the AJ Kalinga Foundation.


Introducing the 1980 Kombucha!


By Crispina M.Belen


Introducing the 1980 Kombucha!


Who doesn’t love the 80’s?

I, for one am, an  80-year-old writer who’s loving what life has in store for me – especially new things and new discoveries!

One of them is 1980 – a handcrafted raw all-natural Kombucha!

1980 Raw All-Natural Kombucha was created and bottled by the former mayor of Iriga City (and owner of Think Coffee cafe in that city), Ronald Felix Alfelor, under a new company he has formed, now that he has moved his residence  to Quezon City. To introduce his products, Ronald sent me six bottles of different flavors. They were Zesty ZINger, Jazzberry Zing, OMG!< Grape Escape, Deep Blue Sea and Apple Cinnabeach.

Not familiar with Kombucha despite being a regular green tea drinker, I was told that it was a fermented tea with a lot of health benefits. Lo and behold! the health benefits that resulted from my search online included  managing Type 2 Diabetes, providing good gut bacteria or probiotics (reminded me of Yakult!), has antioxidants, aids in weight loss, adds energy, a detox drink and many more.

As the 1980 flyer described – Kombucha is all-natural and is low in sugar, making it a healthier alternative from sugar or juice. And as each bottle of 1980 would say on its label – Boost Life with Booch!

The description follows: Raw organic kombucha is unpasteurized, naturally fermented tea containing live microorganisms that promotes good digestion and health.

1980 Kombucha is a delightfully refreshing drink infused with natural flavor combinations that will tickle your taste buds. Which I can attest to after downing the Jazzberry Zing variant which is also my first Kombucha in life!

This is Kombucha the way it was meant to be. Made by loving hands with only the best ingredients in small batches.This is what good, true and beautiful tastes like!

Interested? You can check out their IG account at 1980Kombucha or send them an email at sixpack.est.1998@gmail.com or send them an SMS at 09175801980.

Cheers to life! Cheers to 1980 Kombucha!


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 →

Sushmita Sen remains firm on the essence of being a woman after 26 years,

discusses women’s empowerment with Filipina business leaders


TaskUs Vice President of Finance Rosanna Arceo, upper left; TaskUs Senior Vice President of Operations Jean Lim-Parlade, lower left; and Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen

The first Miss Universe from India engages with women executives in a TaskUs web series raising awareness on gender equality and uplifting fellow women

Sushmita Sen has been a cultural icon and a paragon for women across the globe since winning the Miss Universe crown in 1994. Today, she remains firm in her advocacy as she joins global business leaders in speaking about their experiences as women in leadership roles in a web series entitled TaskUs 121: Women on Spotlight.

Through the years, the Indian actress, poet, and philanthropist broke barriers and lived a life not weighed down by dated societal expectations on women. She is proud to have broken through the glass ceiling––a proverbial metaphor for the barrier that prevents women from reaching their full socio-economic potential—and encourages other women to follow suit.

Sen, famous for her winning answer to the question, “What is the essence of being a woman?” is thrilled to be part of the web series and determined to use her influence to amplify women’s voices on pressing issues.

“In the twenty-six years that I have spent after that moment, I still stick to my answer: A woman is a precious gift of God, and we should all appreciate her. At 18, I answered that question, and it has taken me twenty-six years to understand its true meaning, and I’ve lived it,” said Sen.

The online talk show features women leaders from different fields coming together to discuss the advantages of having more women in leadership positions. It looks into how diverse and inclusive workplace cultures create sustainable communities.

TaskUs is the leading outsourcing provider for high-growth organizations. The company has massive global operations with key delivery centers in India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Greece, Ireland, Mexico, and the United States.

The term “121” is a play on words referring to TaskUs’s one-on-one coaching sessions between leaders and their reports.

“TaskUs is committed to creating diverse and inclusive work environments that respect everyone’s unique abilities and cultures. We aim to achieve a gender-balanced workforce that is free from discrimination and enables women to succeed and participate in leadership. Our company is built on global diversity and we see our strong culture of inclusion as one of our key indicators of success,” said TaskUs CEO Bryce Maddock.

Maddock has been recognized by HR tech company Comparably as one of the Best CEOs for Women, and TaskUs as a Best Company for Women.

The Philippines has made progressive strides in terms of gender equality in the workplace, and TaskUs is committed to strengthening that leadership, and improving existing statistics: while 47.7% of working age Filipino women participate in the workforce, they remain to be underrepresented in senior leadership positions.

“TaskUs is committed to increasing and improving representation for women in leadership roles, especially in the Southeast Asia region. I am proud to say that 75% of my direct reports are women and that I work with women colleagues who are key decision-makers in the organization. As we continue to grow, we also strive to reach a gender-balanced talent pipeline for our emerging high-growth and leadership roles,” said TaskUs Senior Vice President for Operations in Southeast Asia Jean Lim-Parlade.

The web series brings out insights of leaders who act as the company’s cultural heralds and gatekeepers. Its mission is to inspire women to take space, advance in positions of leadership, and pave the way for others to succeed—values that set TaskUs apart from its competitors and make up the company’s “ridiculously good” culture.

Similar to how TaskUs sees its women talent as key to its success, Sushmita Sen believes it is time for society to be aware of female strength.

“Male dominance is a perception. That perception is fueled by the fact that women have accepted it because our conditioning has taught us that,” she said.

“Human beings have tremendous potential. If you were to put a man and woman together, faceless, without knowing their gender, to sit down in an exam to get into an organization, you’ll be very impressed to see how many women actually make it.

“To get over our biases is one of the most important ways to be better and thrive as a society,” added Sen.

Episodes of TaskUs 121: Women on Spotlight are exclusively featured on TaskUs’s LinkedIn account.

‘See You This Christmas;’ Another meaningful song from Nicole Laurel Asensio


By Crispina M. Belen

‘See You This Christmas;’ Another meaningful song from Nicole Laurel Asensio

See You This Christmas single art _edited.jpeg

I couldn’t help but admire with all my soul and  might singer-songwriter Nicole Laurel Asensio for being so creative during the pandemic. While others succumbed to the anxiety and stress of  the situation, Nicole spend her time productively – using her gift of music from God!

In sharing how the song came into fruition, Nicole said she couldn’t help thinking: “Over months, we have taken to new realizations and revelations of the soul. Some who had never touched a wooden spoon before have now become masters of the oven. Some have noticed that office hours have multiplied as work extended far past cubicle confines. Blazers paired with boxers have become a fashion statement, Some slept and slept and slept cashing in on years of sleepless nights from once working tirelessly. Some, a brave few, our front-liners, have stayed on, fighting for us. After all, it was like we were in a backwards war, where the enemy was invisible and constantly around us and the only way to care for those we loved was to keep our distance and wear masks that hid our smiles from them.”

“But what of those who have gone all these long months without holding the ones they loved? What of those who have gone many nights expressing their innermost desires and intimate moments through lenses and screens? What of those who had to bid a loved one farewell through an iPad? What of wearing a mask under a shield, inside a car? What of those who lost everything they once owned and were left with how’s and why’s? What about those of us who sat here waiting this whole time for someone to return and bring back a sense of the holiday spirit we were used to somehow?”

Christmas photo 5_edited.jpeg

But she snapped out of it, reprimanding herself as she said “pull it back, Nicole, there is much to be grateful for… tragedies happen every year, don’t they?” But somehow this year was different for so many of us, because because it happened to so many of us, in so many different ways.”

It was well into November 2020 and she was wondering why she was putting up a tree when it was more than obvious that she wasn’t feeling very festive. “I think I’ll stop for now, maybe try decorating again tomorrow.” 

It was in the shower, humming randomly of a melody she said, when she thought of all the people and opportunities she missed dearly, maybe even places she would have traveled to by now if not for the virus.  

“It’s been a long, long year waiting, pushing our dreams aside… sitting by windows commiserating, waiting for the city lights to come alive. Indeed, many dreams were shelved for now. But I couldn’t help but feel like despite it all, I was exactly where I needed to be. There is, after all, a reason for everything…..pick yourself up,’ I thought. The melody continued just as the hot running water built a faint steam. 

“Minus the fanfare, commercial craziness and lauded efforts we make to celebrate December…. What truly was the meaning of Christmas after all? Wasn’t it about giving HIM thanks, praise and glory for all he has done for us? And in that light, therefore, being kind to others, giving and  forgiving? 

“We’ll revel in the love of our savior above, ‘Goodbye Blue December, Hello, love.’

“Even if we recount everything the pandemic took away from us… and were left with our hearts quiet, perhaps, we could still celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without the fanfare.”  

After fifteen minutes,  the song was done. The steam cleared from the room, Nicole cleared away the lump in her throat, lit a candle, poured two small glasses of whiskey and tapped Ira Cruz on the shoulder. “I think I have a Christmas themed song. Would you like to help me navigate through the melody and chords?”

After she and Ira had made a simple demo, Nicole called her friend, a talented musical director and arranger, Nikko Rivera. Nikko and his wife would often have pre-Christmas dinners with her, and “I missed them dearly and thought it would only be right to ask him to arrange my simple composition.”

This time around there were some limitations, Nicole realized. She was working on a very conservative out-of-pocket budget, no recording sessions in public spaces and so “we each made use of our resources safely at home. We rounded up a collective of five savvy musicians with home set-ups to carry out my simple sultry tune. Lawrence Nolan on drums, Simon Tan on upright bass, Nikko Rivera on keys, Michael Guevarra on flute and Lester Sorilla, who after rigid protocols came over to record in my attic. The recording went smoothly and was complete in two days, then sent to Angee Rozul for mixing and Abbey Road Studios UK for mastering.”

Nicole knew that going big on production didn’t make sense at this time, and for an independent, self-produced artist, it also has its challenges following protocols. “So, we kept it simple with The Gward Inc’s most skeletal crew and shot the music video solo in a friend’s home. At this point I was just truly grateful that friends from different corners of the industry would chime in and help. The production was intimate, generous and heartfelt, My dresses were borrowed, my makeup was done by my classmate back in college, the location was lent by a friend… and I would just smile in my quiet moments, thankful and teary eyed because the people around me just gave and gave and I had no reason not to feel the spirit of Christmas. They gave pieces of their time and talent to make this project mean something to those who could not be with their loved ones this Christmas.

After the shoot, they had four days to edit and get the materials out into the airwaves. Nicole said “ I trudged back into the steamy shower (where I get most my ideas) tired, but fulfilled. As dawn creeped in I lit a candle and thought of my father in heaven, those friends who were also up there looking down at our crazy world, ex lovers who’d never know how much has changed in the years between us… and took a deep breath and thought. “We’re getting through… we’re doing it right…. We’re okay… by God’s grace, we’re okay…. And we’re exactly where we need to be.” 

We’re all a little broken, but strangely enough, we’re all a little stronger and hopefully, smarter too. We’re less about the decor and wrappers and more about the stuff inside, everything we’ve learned this year. After all, one way or another we have all survived something this year, we have all changed somehow, whether we choose to admit it or not. 

“Moving forward into 2021, one day we might celebrate with all the fanfare again. Life might slip back into the comforts we once knew, life as we knew it… But I hope we remember that we didn’t really need all of that glaze to draw meaning from a Covid-time Christmas, and that Christmas has not lost its meaning, but probably means more now.

“One day we will share our special Christmas, and If I get lucky, then I’ll never let you go. If Christmas is the season for giving love, I will always love you more than you’ll ever know.”

“See you this Christmas.”


Japan Foundation Manila mounts its very first online film festival 


By Crispina M. Belen

Japan Foundation Manila mounts its very first online film festival 

JFF-catalog-2-coverwSM (1)

To continue its tradition of sharing quality Japanese films and its diverse culture to the Filipino people, Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM) presents its very first digital edition of Japanese Film Festival, dubbed “JFF PLUS: ONLINE FESTIVAL,” on November 20 to 29, 2020.

This is in response to the current social climate and the global pandemic, the JFM decided to push through with its much-anticipated annual film festival; however, the featured films will be streamed online, instead of screening them in movie theaters.

Mr. SUZUKI Ben, director of the Japan Foundation, Manila, feels excited to see the event’s new format and happy to bring the JFF Plus: Online Festival to every Filipino home.

“In this time when we can’t go out and visit places, films allow us to take glimpses into new worlds, experience things, see places and gain new perspectives while staying safe in the confines of our homes. Online movies have become the trend due to pandemic. The Internet has also become a venue for instant exchange of information and culture,” said Mr. Suzuki.

Since 2016, Japan Foundation has re-branded its most-anticipated film event and began to call it simply Japanese Film Festival. It started in ASEAN countries and Australia, and expanded its reach to China, India and Russia.

With a central mission to promote Japanese film around the world, the Japanese Film Festival positions itself as an avenue to celebrate Japanese culture in the Philippines and increase people’s interest in Japanese films, as well as bridge the Asia-Pacific film market and the Japanese film industry for possible collaborations.

Last March, here in the Philippines, JFM  bid sayonara to the popular “EIGASAI” brand and embrace “Japanese Film Festival” with a fresh selection of fun and exciting films this November.

This year, the festival put the spotlight to 28 short and full-length feature films in various genres, which will be available for 24 hours in the newly launched JFF Plus, https://watch.jff.jpf.go.jp/ a website run by the Japan Foundation to spread Japanese films overseas.

The JFF Plus: Online Festival featured films are:

1) Our 30-Minute Sessions (2020) by HAGIWARA Kentaro;


Our 30-Minute Sessions (2020)


2) Little Nights, Little Love (2019) by IMAIZUMI Rikiya;

Little Nights, Little Love

Little Nights, Little Love

3) The Great Passage (2013) by ISHII Yuya;The Great Passage_main

4) Project Dreams – How to Build Mazinger Z’s Hangar (2020) by HANABUSA Tsutomu;Project Dreams

5) Café Funiculi Funicula (2018) by TSUKAHARA Ayuko;Café Funiculi Funicula

6) 0.5mm (2014) by ANDO Momoko;



7) Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday (2014)

Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday_main

Ecotherapy Getaway Holiday

8) A Story of Yonosuke (2013) by OKITA Shuichi;A Story of Yonosuke_main

9) Railways (2010) by NISHIKORI Yoshinari;



10)  Lady Maiko (2014) by SUO Masayuki;Lady Maiko_main

11) Stolen Identity (2018) by NAKATA Hideo;Stolen Identity

12) Key of Life (2012) by UCHIDA Kenji ;Key of Life


Anime fans can enjoy the animated films: 14) Sumikkogurashi: Good to be in the Corner (2019) by Mankyu; 15) Production I.G Animation:Tokyo Marble Chocolate (2007) by SHIOTANI  Naoyoshi; stop motion animation shorts 16) GON, THE LITTLE FOX (2015), 17) Moon of a Sleepless Night (2015), 18) Norman the Snowman – The Northern Light (2013), and 19) Norman the Snowman – On a Night of Shooting Stars (2016), all by YASHIRO Takeshi; and Production I.G Short Animations 20) Pigtails (2015) by ITAZU Yoshimi; 21) Kick-Heart (2013) by YUASA Masaaki; 22) Li’l Spider Girl (2012) by KAIYA Toshihisa; 23) Drawer Hobs (2011) by KISE Kazuchika; and 24)  The Girl from the Other Side (2019) by KUBO Yutaro.

Completing the line-up are documentary films: 25) Peace (2010) by SODA Kazuhiro and 26) Tora-san in Goto (2016) by OURA Masaru; 27) Tsukiji Wonderland (2016) by ENDO Naotaro, and 28) the 1952 classic The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice by OZU Yasujiro.

Aside from the featured films, everyone will get to know more about the film directors in the Watch section of the website or the official JFF Plus YouTube channel [https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsPBI-8qZXhqIur-nTJjH7A/]. There, they can watch the interviews of directors IMAIZUMI Rikiya, OKITA Shuichi, SODA Kazuhiro, YASHIRO Takeshi, and SHIRAISHI Kazuya, conducted by film critic Mark Schilling.

“To make this film festival both successful and safe for everyone during this time, we have made these films available online.  Let’s stay home and enjoy watching Japanese films,” concluded Mr. Suzuki.

The JFF Plus: Online Festival is made possible together with Japan Foundation Asian Center, in partnership with JT International (Philippines), the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines and SM Cinema.. 

To view the full schedule of the films, visit http://jff.jpf.go.jp/ or the JFM website (http://www.jfmo.org.ph). Follow the official JFM Facebook page and social media accounts.




PPP4 Extended until December 13 


By Crispina M. Belen 

PPP4 Extended until December 13 

PPP4 Updated Poster

Due to popular clamor, the duration of  of the 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) has been extended  to  December 13, 2020. This is to accommodate  the inclusion of new titles to the lineup now totaling 170 films, and to accommodate the final fine-tuning of some works in the PPP Premium Selection section.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) said during a recent virtual online presscon that it has extended the festival’s run from 16 days to 44 days. PPP4 will start on October 31 and will culminate on December 13, 2020.

Subscribers will get to watch more films as titles are added during peak hours and weekends, plus they will get to learn more about filmmaking and Philippine Cinema from industry experts through numerous events such as talkback sessions, panel sessions, and masterclasses. 

This year’s online PPP will have a mixed format on the FDCP Channel platform (fdcpchannel.ph). The video-on-demand (VOD) streaming will be available for free for 80 short films as well as for one full-length feature: the restored version of “Anak Dalita” by National Artist for Theater and Film Lamberto V. Avellana. The free VOD streaming is available from October 31 to December 13.

Meanwhile, the rest of the full-length features will have scheduled livestream screenings in four virtual cinemas (named after the FDCP’s Cinematheque Centres). A maximum of six screenings per film was agreed upon by the producers and FDCP to minimize exposure to piracy. The paid scheduled screenings will run from November 20 to December 13.

“We are listening to our subscribers, producers, and the rest of our stakeholders in order to make the 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino a more inclusive solidarity event. Aside from announcing the PPP4’s extended duration, we are also pushing forth the ‘Sama All’ spirit by offering a wide array of events to further promote Philippine Cinema, encourage more viewers to learn about the art of filmmaking, and boost the thriving PPP community,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño.

PPP Short Film Showcase with ‘Anak Dalita’ Special Screening 

From October 31 to December 13, the festival will have a PPP Short Film Showcase with an impressive lineup of Philippine shorts from the CineMarya Women’s Film Festival, Sine Kabataan Short Film Competition, and 21 regional film festivals.

The CineMarya Shorts Premiere will feature the 12 finalists of CineMarya,  the short film lab initiative of the Department of Interior and Local Government in partnership with the FDCP, Quezon City Film Development Council, and Philippine Commission on Women.

Meanwhile, five films will be shown from FDCP’s Sine Kabataan: the winners of the previous three editions along with the Jury’s Choice and Audience Choice recipients of 2019. As for the Regional Shorts, a total of 63 films from various regional film festivals all over the Philippines will be screened to give spotlight to regional cinema.

The free screening of the restored version of Lamberto V. Avellana’s “Anak Dalita” (1956) will also be available throughout the PPP4 run in the Sandaan section. “Anak Dalita” will be screened for free to make it more accessible to the public as part of the Sagip Pelikula Advocacy Campaign of ABS-CBN in partnership with LVN Pictures, Inc.

PPP Main Feature Film Showcase 

On November 20, PPP paid subscribers can watch all the feature films in the following sections: PPP Premium Selection, Romance, Youth and Family, Classics, Pang-Oscars, Genre, Bahaghari, Tribute, Documentaries, PPP Retro, and Special Feature with the five-hour “Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon” by Lav Diaz. 

There will be scheduled livestream screenings of the said feature films through the four PPP virtual cinemas named after the FDCP’s Cinematheque Centres in Manila, Iloilo, Davao, and Nabunturan. 

As an homage to the FDCP’s arthouse cinemas that remain closed because of the pandemic, the national film agency wishes to take the Cinematheque experience and film festival atmosphere online. 

With scheduled livestream screenings, subscribers can still enjoy the community experience of watching films together. Although the FDCP Channel website is accessible worldwide, the content within the platform is geo-locked to Philippine territory only.

Public and Exclusive Events at PPP4

From October 31 to December 13, free and exclusive events will be held to further the “PPP4: Sama All” spirit. Such events aim to strengthen the PPP community and promote the appreciation and love for Philippine Cinema.

The free events highlight the PPP Short Film Showcase composed of the CineMarya Shorts Premiere, Sine Kabataan, and Regional Shorts. The following are just some of the free events:

  • Talkback Sessions with featured shorts
  • PPP Panel Discussion (Remembering Yolanda and the Stories of Eastern Visayas, Bringing Regional Stories to the Big Screen, and Film Restoration)
  • CineMarya Specials (Women in Philippine Cinema and Women in Public Service)
  • CineMarya Awarding Ceremony (November 6)

There will also be the Sine Kabataan Story Development Lab from November 13 to 15 for selected filmmakers aged 18 to 30. Meanwhile, beginning November 14, Premium Festival Pass holders can access the following Exclusive Premium Events:

  • PPP4 Grand Virtual FanCon (November 14) – The PPP FanCon tradition continues online to bring together PPP fans and participating filmmakers and artists.
  • Opening Night of Main Feature Film Showcase (November 20) – Talkback with National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik for “Ang Lakaran ni Kabunyan: Kabunyan’s Journey to Liwanag” 
  • PPP Premium Showcase Talkback Sessions with filmmakers and actors from selected Premium Selection titles
  • PPP Exclusive Panel Discussions (Explicit and Realistic Depiction of LGBT+ Films, Visual Storytelling for Kids, Coming-of-age Films for Young Audiences, Auteurs and Arthouse Panel, Romance Films, Dissecting a Genre Film: From Conceptualization to Audience Reception, The Cinema Experience – Nood Tayo ng Sine Panel, and Documentary Filmmaking)
  • PPP Masterclasses (Philippine Queer Cinema, Love to Write on Love, Intellectual Property and the Film Industry, and Musical Scoring)
  • PPP4 Awarding Ceremony (December 12) – for Premium Selection films, excluding the restored titles 
  • Replay of “Sine Sandaan: The Next 100 – Closing Celebration of the Centennial of Philippine Cinema” (December 13)

‘PPP4: Sama All!’ Subscription Options

The FDCP is offering subscriptions options that cater to all: those who want to watch films and attend events throughout the festival’s 44-day run, those who have less time to watch and join events, and those who want to access content for free. 

  • Free Pass – Access to PPP Short Film Showcase, Special Sandaan Screening, Full List of Films, Festival Calendar, Festival Guide, and PPP Public Events
  • Day Pass (PHP 99) – Access to PPP Short Film Showcase, Special Sandaan Screening, Full List of Films, Festival Calendar, Festival Guide, PPP Public Events, Main Feature Film Showcase except Premium Selection titles, and Two (2) Virtual Cinematheque Screens; valid for 24 hours from the date of purchase and available on November 20 onwards
  • Half-Run Pass (PHP 299) – Access to PPP Short Film Showcase, Special Sandaan Screening, Full List of Films, Festival Calendar, Festival Guide, PPP Public Events, Main Feature Film Showcase except Premium Selection titles, Two (2) Virtual Cinematheque Screens; valid for 12 days from the date of purchase and available on November 20 onwards
  • Premium Festival Pass (PHP 599) – Access to PPP Short Film Showcase, Special Sandaan Screening, Full List of Films, Festival Calendar, Festival Guide, PPP Public Events, Main Feature Film Showcase including Premium Selection Showcase, All Virtual Cinematheque Screens, All Exclusive PPP Events (Q&A Sessions with Premium Showcase Cast and Director, Panel Sessions, Masterclasses/Lectures, Exclusive Access to PPP Grand Virtual FanCon, and 15% off on PPP Merchandise); valid for the whole festival duration *An Early Bird Rate (PHP 450) for the Premium Festival Pass is available until November 8. 

The FDCP is also offering discounts on the Premium Festival Pass and Half-Run Pass — 30% for students and 20% for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs). There is also a PPP4+1 Bundle promo coming soon.

With the extension of PPP4 and the expansion of its calendar of screenings and events, the FDCP hopes to encourage more viewers and stakeholders to support the film festival that will give 100% of gross proceeds to the producers of participating full-length films. 

The PPP, established in 2017, is presented by the FDCP and powered by the FDCP Channel. PPP4 is in partnership with Cocolife and supported by Glimsol Web & Digital Solutions, Team On Ground, and Dragonpay, the official payment gateway partner for PPP4. Media Partners are The Manila Times and CNN Philippines.

The Government Partners in this year’s edition of PPP are the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), and Optical Media Board (OMB).

Also supporting the PPP4 are the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, League of Cities of the Philippines, Department of Trade and Industry, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Philippine Information Agency, Intramuros Administration, and the City Governments of Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Malabon, Quezon, and Makati.

For updates and additional information, visit fdcpchannel.ph and facebook.com/FDCPPPP. For more information on discounts and bundles, contact fdcpchannel@fdcp.ph.


The best of Spanish contemporary dance online


By Crispina M. Belen

The best of Spanish contemporary dance online



Instituto Cervantes de Manila presents on its Vimeo channel a selection from FIVER, an international festival of audiovisual dance support, exhibition and production created in Spain in 2012. This will be open to all from October 26 to 31, 2020.

Curated by Samuel Retortillo, director of the FIVER festival, the selection wants to offer through the Vimeo link https://vimeo.com/showcase/fiver a current vision of audiovisual dance, based on five works that Fiver produced or have been finalists in their international competition. 

The works chosen to be featured are: the winner of the FIVER 2019 special award, “I love maids for unreal” by Sofia Castro (Argentina); the finalist, “Babelian Circles” by Ferrand Romeu, and the collaborative works Fiverlabs 2019, “Melee 2.0” coordinated by Esteban Crucci and Jordi Cortes, “Wine or Grape?” coordinated by Álex Pachón; and “Dancer” by Rubin Stein.

This program is expanded with a series of videos that were created during confinement called: “Confined Bodies”, with the aim of analyzing and give value to the creative proposals carried out during this period by authors of the stature of Elías Aguirre, Richard Mascherin, Asun Noales, Alex Pachón, Jesús Rubio, Antonio Ruz, Guido Sarli and Pablo Venero.

For further information, please log on to Instituto Cervantes’ website (http://manila.cervantes.es), or Instituto Cervantes Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila.