“Men wished to lay fortunes at her feet, and celebrities vied with each other to be seen and photographed with her. Tribute was collected from men of rank and fame, the most famous actors wished to have her as their partner, producers and directors couldn’t wait until they could work with her, and her circle increased to include the top writers and creators of her day. Dukes and generals and even the heads of nations wanted her to grace their tables. One journalist, quoted in one of the many books devoted to her, not only raved about her beauty but ‘rated her brains on a par with those of Napoleon, Caesar, Mussolini and Lenin’. Opposed to this pinnacle of glory was her position on my stage. Here was no enthusiast, but a cold-eyed mechanic critical of every movement.
If there was any flattery, it was concentrated in a ‘That’s fine, it will do.’ More often she listened to ‘Turn your shoulders away from me and straighten out … Drop your voice an octave and don’t lisp … Count to six and look at that lamp as if you could no longer live without it…Stand where you are and don’t move; the lights are being adjusted’.” One gets the sense that von Sternberg loved the exposure and the success their relationship brought them, but his intimate relationship with Dietrich was becoming increasingly complex. Writer James Hancock describes the connection between screen icon and director in his article ‘The Brilliant Doomed Romance of Marlene Dietrich and Josef Von Sternberg’. The quote from Von Sternberg is from his autobiography FUN IN A CHINESE LAUNDRY.
Filipino audiences have the great privilege of catching a very rare screening of Marlene Dietrich’s early work CAFÉ ELECTRIK with live music by RIVERMAYA in the 11th Silent film festival for free on September 3rd, 3pm at the Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall. Entry/ seats are available on a first come first served basis so check schedules and come an hour early.
The fest running from August 31 to September 3, 2017, features a total of 9 Silent films from 9 different countries accompanied by esteemed musicians from the local scene. Opening the fest is EL GOLFO (1918) from Spain- Instituto Cervantes on 8 PM August 31 with music by TALAHIB.
September 1st has Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND (7:30 PM) from the U.K.- British Council with music by GOODLEAF; THE NEW ENCHANTMENT (9:30 PM) from France accompanied by Helouise La Harpe. September 2nd has A PERFECT FAMILY (3 PM) from Italy- Philippine Italian Association / Emb. of Italy with live score by TOM’S STORY; Yasujiro Ozu’s DRAGNET GIRL (5:30PM) from Japan – Japan Foundation with live narration from benshi Ichiro Kataoka and music by THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA; Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (8PM) from the Philippines – FILM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES with music by KAPITAN KULAM. September 3rd has CAFÉ ELECTRIK (3PM) from Austria with music by RIVERMAYA; PANDORA’S BOX (5:30 PM) from Germany – Goethe Institut Philippinen with music by SANDWICH and Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL (8PM) from the U.S.A with music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS.
MUST SEE from every country
Every title from every country has its own ‘must see’ attraction. The Japan Foundation for example will bring in a benshi or traditional narrator Ichiro Kataoka combined with the very Filipino classical musical sounds of THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA. They will be performing to DRAGNET GIRL (1933) from one of Japan’s most revered filmmaker in Yasujiro Ozu.
The International Silent Film Festival Manila on its 11th edition has garnered some praise from abroad. Pordenone Silent Film Fest programmer and VARIETY film critic Jay Weissberg said, “One of the wonderful things about the festival in Manila is that everything is accompanied by live music exactly in the way these films were originally screened. Music too is an important part of any silent film. The program that you will be seeing is also exceptional. You have wonderful films, one of my favorites Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND a truly terrific drama, thriller. The program goes beyond Europe and the United States of course Japan. And relatively more recent films from the Philippines prove that filmmakers even today are experimenting with the pure visual beauty of what it means to make a silent film as always with live music.”
Weissberg is referring to the recent work of Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (2012) and from Filipino-Italian filmmaker Ruben Maria Soriquez: Una Familia Perfetta A PERFECT FAMILY (2017).
Two Female Icons Plus
Two countries have set themselves apart by having a strong female icon in their cast. Austria has CAFÉ ELECTRIK from 1929 with Marlene Dietrich. Viewers have the chance to see a rare glimpse of the screen legend before she achieved stardom.
Dietrich is considered to be the ninth-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema as ranked by the American Film Institute. In the same list on the male side is Buster Keaton ranked 21. One of Keaton’s biggest films THE GENERAL (1926) is also part of this fest as an entry from the U.S.. Soul and funk music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS will accompany the biggest budget action comedy movie of its era.
The second female icon is from a German film: Louise Brooks (as Lulu) stars in George Wilhelm Pabst’s PANDORA’S BOX (1929). Goethe Institut Philippinen has likewise chosen a high stature band in SANDWICH to provide the live score. Both RIVERMAYA and SANDWICH are established Filipino bands with a long list of hits. RIVERMAYA guitarist/vocals Mike Elgar has said that they will be choosing from their library of music and play the best songs to fit the soundtrack for CAFÉ ELECTRIK.
First Female-to-Female Kiss
Marlene Dietrich was born in December 27, 1901 in Schöneberg, now a district of Berlin. Her screen name is a combination of her given name Marie Magdalene with a nickname Lena. So the pronunciation is MAR-LEE-NA. She came from a cabaret background in 1920s Berlin that was a more open and tolerant scene.
She was used to wearing men’s clothes. She made quite a splash with her Hollywood film MOROCCO (1930) wearing a tuxedo, top hat and tails. She capped off those moments with the first ever female-to-female kiss in the lips on the silver screen. The 30s were also the time when talkies became popular where sound had accompanied film.
Biographer Steven Bach said, “I still think that’s the most startling star introduction in the history of motion pictures. Marlene was the first great star to be created in the sound era. And how did he (Josef Von Sternberg) do it? She sings a French song from the turn of the century, dressed in men’s clothes. Turns, gives a very obvious lesbian kiss to another woman…This was the Marlene Dietrich he wanted us to remember.”
Later on she would deny ever making a silent era film, although she did at least two in Europe. She eschewed being identified with the older silent era stars. “Only Garbot and Gish made silent films , I never..” That’s why her appearance here in the Austrian made CAFÉ ELECTRIK is a very special and rare opportunity for Filipino audiences. They will be able to compare her performance from that time to her more popular and known film work.
PANDORA’S BOX in 1929 actually predated MOROCCO and was more significant going beyond a mere kiss. Louise Brooks was an American who was cast in a German production. Director George Wilhelm Pabst describes her, “Brooks had both innocence and the ability to project sexuality without coyness or premeditation.” And for the character of Lulu, this magical combination was essential. [From: The Style Essentials: Louise Brooks written by Kimberley Truhler]
It would be years later when PANDORA’S BOX would be recognized for breaking barriers: “This film is notable for its frank treatment of modern sexual mores, including one of the first screen portrayals of a lesbian. Brooks then starred in the controversial social drama Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), based on the book by Margarete Böhme and also directed by Pabst, and Miss Europe (1930) by Italian director Augusto Genina, the latter being filmed in France, and having a famous surprise ending. All these films were heavily censored, as they were very “adult” and considered shocking in their time for their portrayals of sexuality, as well as their social satire.” [From: Louise Brooks Wikiwand]
Creatively PANDORA’S BOX was also considered as a landmark achievement in terms of the visuals. The lighting, mood made it a precursor to the famous film noir genre. Kimberley Truhler writes, “G.W. Pabst is a legend of early cinema. The composition of his shots was elegant and ahead of its time, especially when combined with the lighting of cinematographer Gunther Krampf. Together they used shadows to create drama and, especially toward the end of Pandora’s Box, a somewhat sinister mood. Some scenes in the movie included filtering light through window blinds, which would later become a staple of film noir style. In the 1930s, directors like Josef von Sternberg continued to refine the look; his cinematography with Lee Garmes and James Wong Howe for 1932’s Shanghai Express, for example, shows even more of the evolution. And when film noir hit its stride in the 1940s, directors Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity), Carol Reed (The Third Man), Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce), and Alfred Hitchcock (Notorious) all admitted their admiration for Pabst and Pandora’s Box. “There’s no question,” says Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller, “that German Expressionism was one of the strongest roots from which film noir grew.” [ from: The Style Essentials: Louise Brooks written by Kimberley Truhler]
Bob Cut and Jean Patou
Louise Brooks had a unique style all her own. She had a very distinctive short bob cut that became a trend and was copied by other actresses of her time. But its impact can still be seen today, such as Katie Holmes and Linda Evangelista. “Other fashion trends that stem from the movie include Jean Patou’s tank dress, which became a staple of 1930s style and resurged in popularity once again in the 1990s. Pandora’s Box fan Calvin Klein included them in collection after collection that decade. And Prada is still remembered for dressing Uma Thurman in one for the 1995 Academy Awards. At this year’s Oscars, we saw another 20s-30s trend with jewelry draped down the back of some stars, which brought to mind Patou’s bejeweled razor back dress for Lulu.”
The same article continues, “Lending to Lulu’s seduction are the all-important costumes of Pandora’s Box. Though the wardrobe was overseen by (and credited to) Art Director Gottleib Hesch, Louise’s clothes were courtesy of Jean Patou. Patou is one of the legendary European couturiers of the early 20th century, already dressing Louise and other international stars such as Gloria Swanson both onscreen and off. Along with Coco Chanel, he is considered the inventor of our modern casual attire, especially in the area of sportswear.”
Both Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich were known to have many lovers, men and women. But they seem to prefer men, having a greater number and more intimate male sexual relationships. Dietrich’s biographers seem to agree with this and in Brooks’ case her own memoirs.
But it’s the lesbian angle that seems to titillate a lot of fans, even historians who have studied their lives. For example, Dietrich’s female lovers have included a lot of high society names, movers and shakers in Hollywood.
“Sewing circle was a phrase used by Dietrich to describe the underground, closeted lesbian and bisexual film actresses and their relationships in Hollywood. In the supposed “Marlene’s Sewing Circle” are mentioned the names of other close friends such as Ann Warner (the wife of Jack L. Warner, one of the owners of the Warner studios), Lili Damita (an old friend of Marlene’s from Berlin and the wife of Errol Flynn), Claudette Colbert, and Dolores del Río (whom Dietrich considered the most beautiful woman in Hollywood). The French singer Edith Piaf was also one of Dietrich’s closest friends during her stay in Paris in the 1950s, and always rumored something more than friendship between them.” [From: Marlene Dietrich- wikiwand.com]
Neither Bi nor Lesbian
The sources for most of Dietrich’s intimate details of her life are from her daughter Maria Riva who wrote tell all book and biographer Steven Bach. Brooks however, was more open about her past, with a few interviews and even through her own writing.
“Brooks enjoyed fostering speculation about her sexuality, cultivating friendships with lesbian and bisexual women including Pepi Lederer and Peggy Fears, but eschewing relationships. She admitted to some lesbian dalliances, including a one-night stand with Greta Garbo. She later described Garbo as masculine but a “charming and tender lover”. Despite all this, she considered herself neither lesbian nor bisexual:
I had a lot of fun writing ‘Marion Davies’ Niece’ [an article about Pepi Lederer], leaving the lesbian theme in question marks. All my life it has been fun for me. … When I am dead, I believe that film writers will fasten on the story that I am a lesbian… I have done lots to make it believable […] All my women friends have been lesbians. But that is one point upon which I agree positively with [Christopher] Isherwood: There is no such thing as bisexuality. Ordinary people, although they may accommodate themselves, for reasons of whoring or marriage, are one-sexed. Out of curiosity, I had two affairs with girls – they did nothing for me [From: Louise Brooks – wikiwand.com ]
Dietrich’s Modern Marriage
Dietrich however, had a rapacious sexual appetite that would make Madonna look ‘Like A Virgin’. Brooks was more just unlucky in love. She was unable to marry the great love of her life in George Marshall. Brooks became a noted film critic and writer later on.
In 1923 Dietrich married Rudolph Sieber and had her daughter Maria a year later. Maria Riva in an interview for the documentary NO ANGEL – A LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH, said, “Ménage trois we understand. But ménage quatre (4) and ménage cinq (5) was very normal in our house.” Steven Bach added, “Dietrich had a famous affair with Douglas Fairbanks and it was reported the two moved in with Rudy (Sieber) and his girl friend. These two were modern people even by today’s standards”.
NO ANGEL – A LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH
Dietrich would even show the letters of her lovers to Sieber. He would have a mistress later on in life with the knowledge of Marlene who at one time brought them to California. Sieber and Dietrich although living apart, would remain formally married until the time of his death in 1976.
In 1930 she made her first film with Josef Von Sternberg, THE BLUE ANGEL and the same year MOROCCO. The brilliant director was madly in love with her. The problem was she tended to have affairs with co-stars, which broke his heart. They continued to make films 7 in total, some argue is the most successful team up of actor director creatively. Their best work was undoubtedly with each other as Dietrich shot to stardom after MOROCCO.
Because of her fame the Third Reich had offered Dietrich to come back home to Germany and produce propaganda films. To this Dietrich flatly refused despising what the Nazis had done to her homeland.
“In the late 1930s, Dietrich created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor ($450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.”
“During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK and France, then went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton. When asked why she had done this, in spite of the obvious danger of being within a few kilometers of German lines, she replied, “aus Anstand”—”out of decency”. Wilder later remarked that she was at the front lines more than Eisenhower.” [From: Marlene Dietrich- wikiwand.com]
For the Cause
The documentary also dealt with her war efforts, “Narrator: It wasn’t just her talent she gave. Fact was she was willing to lay her body for the cause. A dedication extended to fulfilling the servicemen’s fantasies. [Footage of Dietrich surrounded by crowds of servicemen, sometimes crowd surfing them]
Riva said, “It was part of the romanticism. If you were going to face death don’t you want to live one time? Really magnificently before you face death? Right? She felt that if a young man, a soldier from Arkansas, the South, somewhere, would sleep with a movie star who was beautiful and giving and loving. Was that not the proper way to prepare for the mourn of his demise?” Narrator: She didn’t restrict herself with enlisted men she had a long affair with James Gavin the youngest general in the army. He was described as a cross between ‘Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper’.
Her affair with Gavin would be the cause of her rift with her long time lover, French man Jean Gabin. Even in later years she was still capable of seducing co-stars. “Ex lover Michael Todd directed AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, the 54 year old Dietrich had 3 others in the cast who claimed to be her old flame: George Raft, David Niven and Frank Sinatra.”
For her War efforts Dietrich received the Medal of Freedom, from the U.S. in November 1947. She said this was her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government for her wartime work. She would become the first woman and German to receive the Israeli Medallion of Valor in 1965, “in recognition for her courageous adherence to principle and consistent record of friendship for the Jewish people”.
Dietrich was the true embodiment of glamor. To this day we continue to be fascinated with her work in film, as singer and recording artist but even more with how she lived her extraordinary life.
The 11th International Silent Film Festival is made possible in partnership with Shangri-La Plaza, Para sa Sining, the National Film Center of The Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, the Embassies of Italy, Japan, and Spain, Filmoteca de España, Institut Français, JEC Philippines and Marks & Spencer London . All screenings will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Watch and listen as we score the silents again!
For more information on the schedule and inquiries, please check our Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/InternationalSilentFilmFestivalManila or you may also check our websites:
Embassy of Austria :
The Japan Foundation, Manila
Embassy of France
Embassy of the USA
The 11th International Silent Film Festival is made possible in partnership with Shangri-La Plaza, Para sa Sining, the National Film Center of The Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, the Embassies of Italy, Japan, and Spain, Filmoteca de España, Institut Français, JEC Philippines and Marks & Spencer London . All screenings will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Watch and listen as we score the silents again!
For those who love me
Mia (Emma Stone) stopped Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in his tracks with what she said next. Mia: We might as well get this out of the way–I hate jazz… You ok? He immediately takes her to a smoky jazz club. Seb: It’s just that when people say they hate jazz they don’t have context. They don’t know where it comes from. Jazz was born in a little flophouse in New Orleans. People were crammed in there spoke five different languages. The only way they could communicate was with jazz.
Mia: But what about Kenny G? What about elevator music? You know jazz music that I know? Seb: What about it? Mia: I find it relaxing. Seb: It’s not relaxing. It’s not. It’s not. Sidney Bechet shot somebody because he was told he played a wrong note. It’s hardly relaxing. Mia: In where I grew up there’s this station called KJAZZ 103. People just put on that station when they had a cocktail party. And everyone would just talk over it.
Seb: I know I think that’s part of the problem. You have to hear it. You have to see what’s at stake. Look at the sax player he just hijacked the song. He’s in his own trip. Every one of these guys they’re composing they’re rearranging. They’re writing and playing the melody. Now look the trumpet player he has his own idea. It’s conflict and its compromise. Its new every time. It’s brand new every night. It’s very, very exciting. And it’s dying. It’s dying Mia. And the world says let it die. It had its time. Not on my watch.
Mia and Seb at first glance aren’t remarkable people. What they do have in common is that they live for their dreams. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with them when you see their eyes light up talking about their passions.
Mia is obsessed with old Hollywood. She sleeps under the gaze of Ingrid Bergman whose image is the size of her bedroom wall. Her love for movies inspired her to become an actress. Meanwhile she’s a barista at the Warner Brothers lot, which has a lot of film history.
Sebastian or Seb for short is an extremely talented musician but is having a hard time making ends meet. He finds difficulty in compromising his art and passion for jazz. There’s a huge gap between what he wants to do and the music that he’s paid to play in his gigs.
Hollywood isn’t just about fame and fortune, although it doesn’t hurt having them. LA LA LAND shows that Hollywood is still about having a dream and going after it against all odds. Theirs is the struggle of thousands of Angelenos, dreamers searching for that big break. That’s why the story is so inspiring and entertaining in the most classical sense. They made old Hollywood come alive and relevant in a magical way. They harkened to a time when musicals were king and was considered the best way to tell the story. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and the recently passed Debbie Reynolds would be proud of the song and dance work in LALALAND.
Featurette- homage to Musicals – filmaker’s own words
Millennials who are not able to relate with Hollywood’s glory days are given a lyrical and eloquent introduction. Hopefully they’re infected with the same passion that Mia grew up with and was inspired by. After all movies like CASABLANCA, BRINGING UP BABY and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE are now just a YouTube click away.
Vocals and Choreography
It’s hard not to fall in love with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. They have that combination of adorable and sexy as a couple. Their previous rom com CRAZY STUPID LOVE with Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore was a hilarious hit. They were also a pair for period film GANGSTER SQUAD. Gosling though, could be seen more as the top romantic lead after THE NOTEBOOK with Rachel McAdams.
Their vocals weren’t spectacular but were definitely moving. Neither of them may not necessarily be the next Luciano Pavarotti nor even to the level of co-star and executive producer John Legend. But both of them sang with such sincerity that audiences can’t help but be drawn to their performances. There’s the longing in CITY OF STARS by Gosling and heartfelt AUDITION (The Fools Who Dream) by Emma Stone. Of course John Legend had his stellar START A FIRE performed in a huge concert scene.
START A FIRE performed by John Legend
Where Gosling truly shines is his newly acquired skill on the piano. He trained for 3 months and called it “his most fulfilling pre-production experience”. John Legend (known for his piano playing) in turn also had to learn the electric guitar as Keith.
Ryan and Emma also excelled in the dance portions with choreography that paid homage to the sequences from SINGING IN THE RAIN and other classics. The sequence in A LOVELY NIGHT where it was just Mia & Seb during sunset was memorable although not as complex as the others.
A LOVELY NIGHT
Mandy Moore Cameo?
There was some confusion when Writer Director Damien Chazelle credited Mandy Moore as choreographer during his Best Director acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. It turns out that their choreographer Mandy Moore is the (exact) namesake of the pop star. Mandy, the actress/singer, is currently starring in the TV show THIS IS US. She also had a concert here in EASTWOOD CITY MALL (Quezon City, Philippines) last 2008. Her hits include: I WANNA BE WITH YOU, CRY and performed the official soundtrack I SEE THE LIGHT for Disney’s TANGLED.
The choreographer / professional dancer Mandy Moore is no slouch having worked on SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, AMERICAN HUSTLE, JOY and TV shows SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE and DANCING WITH THE STARS. She is one of many creative people like composer/ film scorer Justin Hurwitz, lyricists Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and cinematographer Linus Sandgren who have made LALALAND the award winning film that it is. Screenwriter and director Damien Chazelle also wrote the lyrics for the song IT HAPPENED AT DAWN.
Almost throughout the movie Mia goes from one dehumanizing audition after another. Although the story celebrates the history and glory of Hollywood, it also sheds light on some the negative aspects. The challenge of the audition is something that all performers go through. Lili Tomlin during her acceptance speech for Screen Actors Guild -Lifetime Achievement, said she’d accept any part as long as she didn’t have to audition. That same night Emma Stone won for Best Actress; it was one of several for her and Ryan Gosling.
LA LA LAND is one of the favorites in the upcoming Oscars after earning 14 nominations. They’ve nearly swept every major category in the GOLDEN GLOBES: Best Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Actor – Ryan Gosling, Best Actress – Emma Stone, Best Director / Best Screenplay Damien Chazelle, Best Original Song – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Pau and Best Musical Score- Justin Hurwitz. The number of trophies from International and U.S. based awards are too many to mention such as the Director’s Guild of America etc. listed here.
Film History & L.A. Landmarks
In one of the early scenes, her friends in a late night party abandon Mia and she has to make her way home by herself. She passes by a mural and the camera reveals the faces of screen legends albeit in a humorous way: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, child star Shirley Temple sits on the lap of W.C. Fields (who reportedly hated children). The wall Mia passes is a real location: YOU ARE THE STAR MURAL on 1648 Wilcox Ave and Hollywood Boulevard. Artist Thomas Suriya completed it in 1983 and was restored by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles in 1995.
Production designer Dave Wasco encapsulated the emphasis on location and history when he said, “It was an opportunity to do a movie about a place we deeply loved”. Dave along with wife Sandy Reynolds-Wasco has already won Best Production Design for LA LA LAND from the Art Director’s Guild, Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, Florida Film Critics Circle Awards and Georgia Film Critics Association along with a nomination in the Oscars and BAFTA.
There are so many ways that Chazelle honors the past, the places that Mia & Seb visit around L.A. are landmarks that have been made famous by the movies. There’s the Griffith Observatory (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, THE TERMINATOR, TRANSFORMERS), The Light House Café where they shot the jazz club scene is near Hermosa Beach and was made famous by Miles Davis. Check out the list with photos of film locations made by Conde Nast Traveller here.
After more than a century of filmmaking, Hollywood is still a city of dreamers that can still make you fall in love. As Mia sings in Audition (The Fools Who Dream)–
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays
And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make
AUDITION (The Fools Who Dream)
Leo Selomenio (addresses a crowd of Filipino maids): Wag niyong isipin katulong lang ako binabayaran lang ako ng amo ko. Nandito ako dahil may sahod akong dollar may ipapadala ako sa Pilipinas. It’s not that. Isipin ninyo sa sarili ninyo manager kayo! Syempre ako nag mamanage ng bahay ng amo ko. Bakit kayo hindi? O? Tatawa sila. Bakit kinahihiya mo trabaho mo? Sabihin mo muna manager ka. Siyempre titignan ka niya from head to foot. Oo may nakasabay ako sa eroplano. Anong ginagawa mo sa Hong Kong? Manager. Manager? Manager ka ng ano? Manager ako ng amo ko. O tinapat ko nga i-phone ko ha! Manager? Tapos tinignan niya ko from head to foot.
(Don’t think of yourselves as mere helpers. You’re here just for your salary to send back home. It’s not that. Think of yourselves as managers. Of course I manage my employer’s household. Don’t you do the same? They laugh at me. I met someone on the plane and asked my job. Tell them you’re a manager. They look at me from head to foot. You’re a manager? Yes I manage the affairs of my employer. Then I whip out my i-phone. Then they look at me from head to foot.)
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is a touching love letter to all mothers, sisters, aunts anyone who has sacrificed something to make us who we are. When you think about it, it’s for every Filipino, for any parent and child, family in the world. It will make you want to hug every woman in your life.
Directed by Babyruth Villarama Gutierrez, it is the only documentary to ever win BEST PICTURE in the history of the Metro Manila Film Fest Awards. It also garnered BEST EDITING- Chuck Gutierrez, GATPUNO ANTONIO J. VILLEGAS CULTURAL AWARD, CHILDREN’S CHOICE along with SAVING SALLY and VINCE & KATH & JAMES.
It’s a story we’re all familiar with regardless of race. There’s someone a mother, an aunt, a sister, a father, a provider who sacrifices themselves so we can go to school, have food to eat, clothes on our back. They are stories that don’t attract million-dollar blockbuster excitement, its not necessarily Gal Gadot of WONDER WOMAN or Hugh Jackman as LOGAN for 2017. More often than not they are the people we take for granted and not really think about.
We feel and see the ‘sacrifice’ through the experiences of Leo Selomenio (Science Education Graduate), Rudelie Acosta (IT Graduate), Mylyn Jacobo (AB English Graduate), Hazel Perdido (Computer Science Graduate) and Cherrie Mae Bretaña (Hotel Management Graduate).
They are all Overseas Filipino Workers who work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong but have found meaningful activity during Sundays. Leo is an organizer of pageants and other events specifically for Filipina OFWs since 2008. The rest of the subjects are the candidates. The pageants are held only on Sunday as their one free day in the week.
We go through their typical day, hear their stories and even hear from their employers. As you can see from their college degrees they’re actually overqualified for the position of domestic helper. That doesn’t protect them from experiencing verbal abuse from their employers or looked down upon even by their own countrymen. Even as the government hails our OFWs Overseas Filipino Workers as modern day heroes, other Filipinos sometimes look down on domestic helpers.
Just like the joke that Leo shares above, SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN isn’t just a tearjerker but more of an inspirational journey. We see that they cope with loneliness through mutual support, performances and yes beauty pageants.
Ju-Chen Chen, an Anthropologist at the University of Hong Kong was at first puzzled at their efforts, time and passion for these activities even after an exhausting workweek. Chen witnessed firsthand the camaraderie during an event.
She discovered that they literally carry the Philippine flag through the performances of cultural dances, pageants and concerts. There are elaborate costumes, choreography. They are proud bearers of Filipino identity. Chen realized that the fulfillment they get is far greater than their day-to-day difficulties. Through their gatherings, performances, they find a greater sense of self worth. In the face of stressful or often discriminatory work environment, they take the one-day they should have for themselves and still find the energy to put on a show for others.
There’s no doubt that domestic helpers in Hong Kong have a vital role. Long time TV producer Jack Soo was interviewed and said, “I live alone by myself. Mylyn is the only one taking care of me in my daily life…Let me tell you something. IF Hong Kong has no foreign helpers Hong Kong will be in trouble. Just imagine those family without a foreign helper. How are they gonna work how will they take care of their children? How are they going to do their daily lives? So if the Philippine government stop all the helpers in all of the country, the whole world will be in big trouble without helpers. There’s a big problem.”
Not everyone though has a glowing opinion of foreign domestic helpers. In April of 2015, Executive Councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee made some derogatory comments against Filipina domestic helpers accusing them of seducing their employers. The comments on her blog and official facebook page were particularly painful knowing the abuse that a majority of foreign domestic helpers endure. Some of them have even suffered physical and sexual abuse. For Filipinas who sacrifice so much this is has the potential to damage their familial relationships back home.
The issue came up in the Q&A portion in one of the pageants. Mylyn Jacobo very ably replied: “It’s a big insult to us that most Filipina OFWs are called prostitutes. I will cite something what Mrs. Regina Ip told us. We Filipino domestic helpers are working here to provide the needs and support our families in the Philippines. Whatever you do abroad you should think twice.”
2 Week Rule
Documentaries put important issues to the forefront because viewers see real people in real situations not actors. In this case it’s the policies of the HK SAR concerning domestic helpers. This affects not just the DH themselves but their wards, the elderly not to mention their own families back home reliant on the money they earn.
Discrimination against foreign domestic helpers is built into the system. A clear example is what happened to Rudelie Acosta. After one of the pageants she was late coming back to her employer and went over her curfew hours. She was fired on the spot and was asked to leave the only lodgings that she had. Even after pleading to at least spend the night her employer refused and kicked her out without a roof over her head. On top of this she only has 2 weeks to find another employer or lose the right to stay in Hong Kong.
Although the termination was abrupt and unfair, because of the 2-week rule there’s almost no recourse to file a complaint and immediately find a new job. Rudelie’s case is an example of the unfairness and injustice that thousands of foreign domestic helpers find themselves in Hong Kong.
Different foreign workers associations of Indians, Indonesians, Thais, Malaysians, Nepalese, of course Filipinos have banded together to formally complain against the 2 Week Rule since the late 1990s. But HK SAR has stuck to its guns allowing this discriminatory and racist policy to continue.
A comprehensive article entitled Maid in Hong Kong: Protecting Foreign Domestic Workers explained clearly how the 2 week rule is unjust: “Beyond cramped housing conditions, isolation of domestic workers means that abuses by employers often go unreported. A 2013 survey conducted by another Hong Kong-based group, Mission for Migrant Workers, found that 58 percent of the more than 3,000 workers surveyed experienced verbal abuse in the home, 18 percent physical abuse, and 6 percent sexual abuse.”
The report continues, “Another policy, the “two-week rule,” mandates that once foreign domestic workers quit or are let go, they must depart Hong Kong within two weeks. This policy, critics say, discourages domestic workers from seeking justice, for fear they could lose their jobs. It also makes finding a new employer difficult, as this process can take from four to six weeks. Moreover, a visa extension, the length of which varies by case, costs HK $190 (US $24), and during the extension application period migrants cannot work and must pay for their housing and food. Many domestic workers, therefore, choose to stay silent about abuses.”
Interestingly enough a possible solution also came from one of the victimized helpers in the documentary. She theorized that no less than our own Philippine government along with other nations like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and others should negotiate in behalf of their workers with the Hong Kong authorities to abolish the 2 Week Rule.
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is another meaningful and significant creative contribution from executive producers Vincent R. Nebrida, Fernando Ortigas and E.A. Rocha. These are the same executive producers who brought us the historical hit HENERAL LUNA and the enchanting KANA THE DREAMWEAVER. In a short period of time they have established a winning track record of award winning and critically acclaimed films.
Director Babyruth Villarama’s loving and supportive husband Chuck Gutierrez is both Producer and Editor. Chuck has added yet another BEST EDITING award from the MMFF to his wins in Cinemalaya, Cinema One and many others.
Dexter Dela Peña as cinematographer also deserves credit in being able to make everyday scenes more cinematic. Even though it was a run and gun style we were able to see the character of the city and more importantly the beauty of the contestants. Babyruth must have also handled the secondary camera. The trio of Babyruth, Dexter and Chuck have already been together for several projects including JAZZ IN LOVE another documentary that was part of Cinemalaya in 2013.
Watching SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN is so enriching and educational in so many ways and levels. There are many touching moments between the families that helpers literally care for. Employers address Leo as ‘he’ even if he is biologically a woman. They see him as who he is, as a person. If you bring every family member, every maid, yaya, kusinera, labandera to this movie you will all come out richer for it. Respect and kindness truly goes a long way.
Leo uses the earnings from the pageants to help domestic helpers who were abused and need emergency assistance. In truth he has given those who participate in them and even those who watch something more valuable. He has given them a chance to see and feel the beauty they have. You can see the pride in the costumes, dances, unique to their provinces and hometowns in the Philippines. This pride extends not just to participants but to the audiences as well.
Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
Ballet Philippines calls the 47th season WINGS and the opening salvo makes it soar high. Audiences will be captivated by a very wide range of pieces put together in one stage called FIREBIRD and Other Ballets running from August 19-21, 2016 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, CCP Main Theater. There will be two shows each day of the weekend on the 20th and 21st at 2pm and 6pm.
The headline among 4 different pieces is FIREBIRD with choreographer George Birkadze and elaborate costumes designed by Mark Higgins. Truth of it is every piece is able to stand on its own and is vastly different from one another.
There’s no dull moment. The accompanying music literally sets the tone for the performances. For example there’s the romance of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major for MOVING TWO, the energy shifts to the unique vocals, rhythmic string and singular violin of Iva Bittova’s NE NEH LEDEJ.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D
MOVING TWO is choreographed by Dwight Rodrigazo and performed by Victor Maguad and Katrene San Miguel / Jemima Reyes. NE NEH LEDEJ is choreographed by David Campos. The performers for each piece is shared among dancers of Ballet Philippines such as Jean Marc Cordero, Gilliane Gequinto, Victor Maguad, Denise Parungao, Lester John Raguindin, Jessa Tangalin, Erl Sorilla, Monica Gana, Garry Corpuz and Sarah Anne Alejandro.
SHIFTING WAIT choreographed by Carlo Pacis also has JM Cordero and Jemima Reyes. SHIFTING won Outstanding Choreography for Modern Dance from Gawad Buhay in 2010. This version is expanded to six dancers from four. Along with the expanded cast there is experimentation in the pairings: female to female, male to male.
How the dancers are able to change 180 degrees from one choreography to the next is a testament to their skill and versatility. Just like actors they have to inhabit moods and emotions in the characters they portray. They have to do this in less than a few minutes or as quickly as they can change costumes.
Has the ingenious design of handles in the torso. This allows dancers to be lifted in different ways. Pulling them using the large handles can also be jarring not just for the dancer being dragged but also for audiences. When a jealous lover suddenly yanks on the handle away from another the effect can be heart rending. The lighting is one directional with high contrast which adds to the drama of movement. Carlo Pacis has to be given credit, there seems to be a more equal treatment between genders. Women also carry men instead of just the usual way.
Highlights the synchronous movements of a pair in this case and Jemima Reyes and Victor Maguad. Jemima is also in the title role of Firebird while Vic is Koschei the Immortal. Conductor Olivier Ochanine has modified Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major into a slightly faster tempo. This gives the oft-used melody for weddings seem more exciting at the same time retaining its romance. Having the grand sound of all the instruments in the Philippine Philharmonic makes it a moving experience, enhancing the already powerful performance of Maguad and Reyes. Jemima is sometimes interchanged with Katrene San Miguel. The matched height and frame of Vic and Jemima adds to the fluidity and timed movements of the pair.
NE NEH LEDEJ
This is also the title of the track by Czech singer and violinist Iva Bittova (not performed live unlike Philharmonic). She has a very unique style where she scats. There’s almost a beat box quality to the vocals creating rhythm along with plucking her violin string. Nearly the whole BP Company joins in this piece. The huge cast has a more powerful effect especially when they leap and bound at the same time. There’s a lot of athleticism as with all ballet but even more so here.
This was a hit production for BP back in 1978 and featured the best dancers of the country. This version is reimagined from the spectacular costumes by Mark Higgins, the set by Ohm David. Russian trained, U.S. based choreographer George Birkadze also modified the main character of the FIREBIRD as well. Olivier Ochanine conducts Stravinsky’s FIREBIRD with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra fresh from their stint from Carnegie Hall.
For this all-star creative team FIREBIRD is a true labor of love. Mark Higgins said, “People were asking why don’t you sell the pieces (to make it feasible) no. 1 I don’t think I can repeat a head dress like this. 2. The whole point of doing this is I want to support the dancers well and put them in something lavish. There’s a real psychological effect from my clothing.” In 1998 Higgins collaborated wth Ballet Philippines in designing costumes for choreographer Agnes Locsin’s FOUR LAST SONGS. He has been co-director of SLIM’s Fashion and Art School since 2009.
Birkadze talked about their concept, “This Firebird is really from Asia. This Firebird is authentic, unique. Mark did such a great job, Ohm did such a great job. Everything in this firebird lets say 99% transmitted to the stage. Even the choreography, I studied Filipino dance, Indonesian dance we did deep research. Its not just choreography we’ve achieved something very special.”
BP Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales explained why they chose FIREBIRD,“ We only have 4-5 shows this season. We really have to be deliberate about which particular show to comeback and also because we have so many pieces. So at the moment Ballet Philippines has a repertoire of about 500. It’s hard to prioritize which piece to do. In the history there is so many interesting pieces. With Firebird, internationally they did it 2011 about 5 years ago. Firebird premiered 1911 and also Stravinsky’s centennial. For this side it’s the spirit of it. You will see it’s like the original where there’s a big emphasis on the design and overall schematic. This is with the purpose of creating exciting work for the audience. On one level there is artistic priorities. The other level is what we think would be interesting production to create. We always discuss the seasons back and forth and many times. There’s a factor of fate on how everything comes together. Napapanahon siya the same with Swan Lake. Swan Lake was the first production I performed in as a dancer for Ballet Philippines. That’s the root of why I’m a dancer and why I’m still here because that first production we had with Mia Barredo and Morishita with Nonoy Froilan for me that’s a life changing experience. As director I wish we could also achieve the same for the audience. So we can have more people supporting the ballet.”
BP President Margie Moran adds, “Margie: We make sure that what we choose is palatable to the audience. Its something that will excite the audience to come and watch the show. We have a very good pool of dancers and we want to put them in a position to where they can really excel and go to the next level as dancers. Although every year we lose talent most of whom go abroad. But we have young ones that come up in the ladder. We’re also excited we have very good dancers. We want to bring out the best in them. The past years we’ve been successful. We’ve done very well in showcasing our best masterpieces. It has given us financial rewards we are able to produce better shows and train our dancers well.”
While FIREBIRD is the first show of the season BP’s Principal Soloist Cyril Aran Fallar announced this will be his last for the company. He thanked Morales for his long term support and mentoring and thanked Birkadze for entrusting the role of Koschei The Immortal to him.
Firebird: Rita Angel Winder, Jemima Reyes
Pearl Merchant: Jean Marc Cordero, Garry Corpuz
Spice Princess: Denise Parungao, Monica Gana
Koschei the Immortal: Cyril Fallar, Victor Maguad
fb fan page:
fb fan page:
Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
They both have unique names but have similar features. From Manila’s elite circles Leica Carpo is a former Sunday Inquirer Magazine publisher, L’Oreal Exec and now Public Relations Executive in the U.S. Her chinita eyes, luscious lips bears a striking resemblance with K-POP star Heo Solji who is a member of the group EXID. The group’s name is short for Exceed in Dreaming. Solji has the most technically polished vocals in the group. She actually started out as their vocal coach before becoming an official member.
In 2015 she won the King of Mask Singer TV competition garnering more attention for EXID. Leica however, is also a famous runner having participated in the Boston and New York Marathons as well as being a consistent triathlete.
My Delicate, we’re both otaku.
Beloved, thank you for encouraging me to write this.
Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda) is a handsome man, one of the most popular guys in campus. Unknown to most he is actually even prettier as a woman and loves make up and fashion. In full drag, he looked forward to the Amars group’s sukiyaki night. To this group of reclusive women he was too ‘attractive’ and fashionable. The group prohibits men in their apartment, even women who they deem intimidating, pretty and stylish. They were also all fully convinced he was female. Either way or gender he was unwelcome.
Sensing this he bit back, “How old are you women?” Chieko (Azusa Babazono) retorted, “How dare you ask a woman her age!” Still irritated Kuranosuke added, “You’re all NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) aren’t you? You’re in your 30s and yet none of you have a decent and consistent income.” A frantic Mayaya (Rina Ohta) replied, “We’re not NEET! For your information we do have a decent and consistent income…it’s called an allowance!”
PRINCESS JELLYFISH is currently showing in RED by HBO. For screening schedules click here. PRINCESS JELLYFISH is a live action film based on a successful manga (comic book serial) “Kuragehime” by Akiko Higashimura. It was such a huge hit in 2008 that it was also produced as a popular anime series that has reached the U.S. and other countries. The hit movie premiered in the Philippines at Eiga Sai 2015 organized by Japan Foundation Manila at Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall.
The film version directed by Yasuhiro Kawamura is hilariously funny, touching and even romantic but goes way beyond that. The story was originally by creator Akiko Higashimura (manga) and the screenplay by Toshiya Ono. The movie is able to deal with serious aspects of the story that the animated series or the comic book versions were not able to convey and made it even more human and relatable. Anyone who has ever had any kind of insecurity will be able to see themselves in the unique and quirky characters.
On the surface, it does feel like a teenage comedy because of the directorial treatment, use of animation and effects. But it also deals with a lot of angst. In a way it explains how people become reclusive, while not necessarily judging them. People are who they are, whether or not they fit into definitions or boxes of society’s expectations.
Otaku (オタク) in Japanese slang is ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’. According to Wikiwand: “it’s a more derogatory term; seeing an “otaku” as a person unable to relate to reality… It is typically used to refer to a fan of anime/manga but can also refer to Japanese video games or Japanese culture in general. Some classify distinct groups including anime, manga, camera, automobile, idol and electronics otaku. The economic impact of otaku has been estimated to be as high as ¥2 trillion ($18 billion). According to studies published in 2013, the term has become less negative, and an increasing number of people now self-identify as otaku.”
The Amars group-5 women in the story do fall into this category. They live in an old apartment as roommates in the Amamizu district in Tokyo. Tsukimi (Rena Nounen) is an aspiring illustrator obsessed with jellyfish. Mayaya (Rina Ohta) is into medieval Samurais complete with action figures. Banba (Chizuru Ikewaki) can’t get enough of trains, trains sets and subway trains. Jiji (Tomoe Shinohara) is into Manga but also has a fetish for images of old white haired men whether drawn or photos. And Chieko (Azusa Babazono) is into Ichimatsu Dolls, a traditional Japanese doll that represent little girls or boys, correctly proportioned and usually with flesh-colored skin and glass eyes. Chieko dresses in a kimono and acts like a ‘mom’ to her dolls dressed in a similar costume.
One of the group’s common passions is food. Kuranosuke gained entry to their Sukiyaki night by bringing them Grade-A Wagyu beef. Apart from Japanese fare they love Chinese food. The most rotund of them Chieko sings a song with the lyrics “We’ll eat siomai, dumplings and Peking Duck!” They call siomai the same way we Filipinos call it. Banba and Mayaya regret not going with the others to Yokohama Chinatown crying in frustration: “They must be having Bird’s Nest soup by now!”
Hikikomori and NEET
Apart from their obsessions they are also in a way reclusive. Collectively, they all have an aversion to attractive people who are fashionable and men in general. Sometimes it can reach to paranoid proportions. In one scene, Tsukimi intended to go to a pet shop specializing in jellyfish. But since it was also in a district with students where she saw so many pretty girls. She had a panic attack where she had an impression they were all mocking her for her plain looks. She couldn’t reach the shop and had to run away.
There’s a very real phenomenon in Japan called Hikikomori (ひきこもり) literally “pulling inward, being confined”, i.e., “acute social withdrawal”) is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement. The term hikikomori refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general and the people belonging to this societal group. Hikikomori have been described as recluses, loners, or “modern-day hermits.”- also from wikiwand.
Their apartment actually also has a 6th occupant, who the Amars group consider their sensei. She is a recluse to the point of being unnamed and unseen. They slip questions underneath her door and she replies by writing as well.
NEET or Not in Education Employment or Training is a British acronym adopted in Japan. It is a broad category some of the youth fall into because of economic factors.An article by Kaitlyn Smith–Stagnant Youth: the NEET, freeter, and hikikomori phenomena expounds on the economic and sociological factors that have given rise to NEETs and the Japanese media’s reaction to them. “In a society primarily consisting of older adults, many youth found that it became increasingly difficult to find long-term employment, and as a result many young Japanese became disenfranchised with the Japanese school-to-work system…It (Japanese media/opinion) served to ostracize and punish those who fit the NEET definition, without paying appropriate attention to the social and cultural circumstances that created them.”
Lesson in Tolerance
For Smith NEET is related to Hikikomori, “In many societies, the youth who feel isolated or rejected tend to form subgroups, to emphasize and idolize the qualities that allow them to be unique individuals. However, Japanese society places an enormous value on conformity and all individuals living and working in unity. Therefore, to those Japanese youth who find themselves unable to conform may find themselves turning to isolation. Rather than work to change themselves, they may find it easier to instead isolate themselves in their rooms, disconnected from society.”
In my view this is how PRINCESS JELLYFISH goes beyond entertainment. While we’re laughing, we learn how and why each character has their obsession, insecurities and fears. Kuranosuke loves to dress up as a woman; one of the reasons is that he is rebelling against his strict politician father. We learn that all of the Amars group members were victims of bullying in school, some of which lead to their life long insecurities.
Even the group has its own prejudices, which we now see is also wrong. We understand, accept and not judge. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the trauma we cause people when we bully them. Or if we were victimized in our youth, we should work to overcome these insecurities and fears that have affected our lives for so long.
fb fan page:
fb fan page:
Mitzi Borromeo of CNN Philippines is not just one of the prettiest broadcasters on TV today. She is the whole package beauty, brains and a big heart especially for the environment. She is one of several women featured in Phil Star’s Women of ALLURE. I included the feature on her below.
Another broadcast journalist I admire who was also featured in the list is Ginger Conejero. I have been fortunate enough to meet Ginger on countless press conferences in the entertainment and music field. She always has the best questions and comes well researched and prepared. It was so touching to find out that she took a leave from her high profile job in ABS CBN to take care of her ailing mother in the U.S. I am so glad and happy to see both women make this prestigious list. The creative team they put together to shoot the prestigious group such as photographer Jo Ann Bitagcol and Creative Director Luis Espiritu also impressed me. They featured the posh interiors of SHANG RILA HOTEL at Fort Bonifacio. —Jude Bautista
For the full list please log on to:
Mitzi Borromeo The power of storytelling
(The Philippine Star) – May 29, 2016 – 12:00am MANILA, Philippines – The stories we watch on the news are not just tidbits and splices of the day that was, but they collectively share the story of all of us. And helping to bring more light, depth and perspective to our daily feed is seasoned news anchor Mitzi Borromeo, the woman in pursuit of stories of inspiration.
“With media, what I love about it is that it’s all about storytelling,” shares the stunning broadcast journalist. “Whether it’s about a poor fisherman who has no food to eat, or rich guys making their billions, or this entrepreneur who’s trying to change the world, it’s about looking at the common thread between all of us so that we can learn something. It’s really about trying to bring inspiration to our stories,” shares Mitzi, who graduated with a Political Science degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.
Since the beginning of her career, her heart had always been drawn to social issues and environmental causes. In fact, in 1998, when she first joined the Sarimanok News Network (which would later become ABS-CBN News Channel), she juggled responsibilities in the newsroom while volunteering for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines.
After a few years, she left media — albeit temporarily — and worked full time as an NGO worker for WWF and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability.
“These types of advocacies and jobs have always been close to my heart because at the end of the day, I believe that everything is an environmental issue. Everything and everyone is connected,” she shares.
When it comes to working in the media, on the other hand, the draw had always been about giving hope and encouraging change. “In news, you’ll never find a lack of sad stories. There will always be problems. But what we can do through the power of media is we can stimulate minds, let audiences see different perspectives, and despite all the craziness out there, give them a glimmer of hope. All we need is a little inspiration,” she beams.
Thankfully, through her work, she’s been able to contribute a little bit of sunshine and shed light on matters that need attention. Today, Mitzi is the news correspondent for the daily evening newscast on CNN Philippines, and is co-producer, writer and anchor of Profiles.
“I’m particularly proud of Profiles because we feature different personalities that are inspiring, people who have made a difference in the world. I enjoy these stories more because I’m able meet so many people, and somehow I’m able to live out my dreams through them. For me, with every new story and encounter, it’s like falling in love. You’re entering a different world each time.”
There is indeed power in stories — in the ones that we share and in the ones that we make of our lives. Through her work, Mitzi hopes to make her own life something worth reading and worth sharing. “Through stories, we can start our own revolutions.”
Photography by JO ANN BITAGCOL • Creative direction by LUIS ESPIRITU JR. • Makeup by SARI CAMPOS for Make Up For Ever • Hairstyling by RONNIE TUMAMAK for Creations by Lourd Ramos • Styling by DIANE LASAM • Jewelry by MILADAY JEWELS • Coral pink gown by MARK TAMAYO and lacy blue cropped top by FOREVER 21
Ginger Conejero A tale of a faithful child
MANILA, Philippines – The tapestry of Ginger Conejero’s soul is a beautiful tale of a faithful child. She has mapped her own path to be a no-nonsense entertainment reporter for TV in the Philippines but she also knows that her comfort zone remains in her parents’ hearts — in far away California. It’s been 15 years since Ginger, an only child born and raised in the US, started living on her own. She was 17 when she moved out of their house in San Francisco to study Political Science (minor in Business) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she graduated magna cum laude. –
She landed a job as an analyst in a legal firm in the US. It was in the late 2006 when she came to the Philippines, the county of birth of her parents, to compete for the Miss Philippines Earth beauty tilt where she landed Miss Philippines Earth-Air. The following year, the Filipino TV viewers welcomed her in their homes as a fresh face delivering entertainment news for ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol. “I have survived living alone because I always have faith. To have faith is the most important lesson I learned from my mom. My dad taught me to work hard and to be strong,” Ginger says.
Ginger is a faithful child to her parents Antonio, 61, a part-time hotelier in the Bay Area; and Azela, 66, a retired lawyer who now does real estate management. Her parents own a limousine rental business in the US. “Their hard work put me through school. I’m very grateful.” In February last year, amidst her successful TV reporting career, she filed for a leave of absence at ABS-CBN to be with her parents. “I was in a coverage when I learned that my mom had ovarian cancer, stage 3. I knew I had to be with her,” she recalls with tears. “I am grateful to the ABS-CBN management because it allowed me to go on an extended leave of seven months. I accompanied my mom to her chemo sessions. Now, she is doing well in her recovery from treatment and is being closely monitored by her team of doctors,” Ginger smiles, adding that she has returned to her beat at the TV station in October 2015.
“Cancer is a horrible thing,” she says. Ginger now also involves herself in advocacies focusing on the fight against cancer. “I want to spend more time with cancer kids. That’s something that I would demand more from myself.”
Ginger is not coy about sharing that independence has its own challenges. “To be independent has taught me about loneliness and how to ride it out. It has taught me about myself, my purpose. It has taught me to be grateful of the littlest things that make me happy,” she says. Every day, even if she lives alone in the Philippines, she is comforted by love from her parents from across the miles. “They call me every morning to make sure that I awake to another day.”
Indeed, Ginger, the Faithful child, welcomes a beautiful day every single day.
Photography by RITA MARIE • Creative direction by LUIS ESPIRITU JR. • Makeup by SARI CAMPOS for Make Up For Ever • Hairstyling by BOGGY DIAZ • Styling by DIANE LASAM and JEAR DE MC CUTTAC • Jewelry by MILADAY JEWELS • Blue top and pink trousers by HARLAN+HOLDEN and pink beaded gown by AZUCAR –