Saturday, June 6, 2009

Matt Monro... That Warm Singer I've Met

That was the year 1982, I was about to dance on a TV show when it was announced that the famous balladeer is in the country and was right there in the studio to sing for us all. We were at the dressing room preparing for our dance costumes when I bumped with Matt along with his American body guards.

Matt was an average built and bit of a stocky guy. I thought he was that tall. He was so warm and friendly. He smiled with everyone along his way. As far as I can remember he visited the Philippines several times already.

I was at the back side of the studio when I saw him. Me, along with my girl friend saw him preparing to come on stage to greet the studio viewers and the nationwide television. My friend prompted and signaled me to greet Matt. It was understood, we wanted a picture together with him. Matt's American bodyguard was a surprise. He knew how to speak Tagalog and psyched our bodily intentions. He spoke to Matt and ordered him to stop walking and pinpointed on our direction.

Matt approached and gladly posed with us for some souvenir shots. I was star struck. I wasn't able to utter a word or two. I just kept on smiling. My Mom and her generation loved Matt so much. We have a couple of his vinyl record collection at home. After the poses Matt left to serenade the crowd. We handshook and bade goodbye after.

I still need to scan our pictures together for you to see. I will post it here as soon as I can.

Who doesn't know his "My Way" song anyway? I've met him in my own little way as well...

My Memoirs of Leopoldo Salcedo - King of RP Movies

(This article was previously published by the author with PARADIMO, the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Journal of De La Salle University-Dasmarinas, 1998)

Only few actors can be called debonair as when he was known as the King of Philippine Movies.

Leopoldo Salcedo, who has been in the movie for quite a time has done 500 pictures he starred in. A newspaper article about him revealed that he has made love with 18,000 women, no doubt he was once called also a "Great Lover" (Evening Star, 1988).

From unknown teen-ager to King of Movies, such is the true life story of "Pol" as he is fondly called by his colleagues. How he accomplished these things in a short span of time can not be narrated in a page of comment. He is not only an artist, but also a shrewd businessman.

In Gene Camposano's book, The Brown Idol: The Leopoldo Salcedo Story, an intimate and revealing portrait of the original "King" of Philippine Movies was painted. In the book are revealing facts about Salcedo's checkered career, hitherto unpublished: he was the only man who spurned Hollywood sex-goddess Ursula Andres; he built the famous celebrity home ever erected, La Roca Trinidad, as a "gift of love"; he is the great-great-grandson of the dashing conquistador, Captain Juan de Salcedo who, with Martin de Goiti in 1570 , overran Rajah Sulayman's domain and conquered Manila, chased the Chinese adventurer Limahong to the north and swept the Bicol Peninsula. Leopoldo Salcedo himself is the grandson of the Adelantado and General Miguel who proclaimed the conquest of the Philippines for the Spanish crown and declared Manila as its capital.

Pol has always been Filipino, even has he walked with the inner circle of the greats and the near-greats; raised champagne glasses in toast of excellence with the elite; shared with limelight with the equally famous, and tasted the sweet brew of success. In any event, Pol's name is alreadyenshrined in the Cavite Hall of Fame, born in San Roque, Cavite on March 13, 1912 and stands at 5'11.

In his "I am the Philippine Movies" attitude, that rendered him indestructible, has remained true to his Piscean mold, attained by his own merit, a position of considerable celebrity and honor.

The "Rudolph Valentino" of the Philippines was given a break by Jose Nepomuceno's Santong Diablo, having Purita Santamaria as his first leading lady in 1936.

He had his stint as a producer also, with his own outfit which produced Dalawang Bandila, Bisig ng Manggagawa, La Roca Trinidad, Neneng Ko, etc.

The "king" in the Moises Padilla Story, won the FAMAS Best Actor award in 1961, and is also a Lifetime Achievement Awardee.

When both local and foreign movies were banned by the Japanese during the occupation, he shifted to the stage where also became a favorite.

In my oral history conducted with Pol, he gave us insights on the plight of the movie industry, the abuse of movie reporters, his treatment to the intrigues he had encountered, the censorship in Pre-Martial law era, and the so-called bomba or sex films.

This is a tribute to a great artist of Philippine cinema and a highly regarded Filipino historian who has helped the author draft the questionnaire for this oral history project conducted in 1988, the late Dr. Marcelino A. Foronda, Jr.

The following are interesting questions and answers that will enlighten readers on Philippine Cinema selected to shorten this blog.

Gador: What would you consider as the highlights of your early movie career?

Salcedo: Highlights? There are no highlights. I'm glad because I was able to express my feelings and I have entertained the people, my kababayans, and I am happy about it. I also like learning different languages and dialects like Bicol. As I told you, education is a continuous learning process, that's what Dr. Laurel said.

Gador: Who were your contemporaries during your heydays? Are they still active at present and how are you going to rate them?

Salcedo: A lot of them died already, like Rogelio de la Rosa, who was one of the prominent actors then, Carlos Padilla, Jose Padilla, Efren Reyes Sr. who came later, of course, was also good, but they died already. I think dying depends upon what you are doing.

Gador: Could you please share with us your experiences as the King of Philippine Movies?

Salcedo: Well, I'll tell you what. There was a nationwide contest through coupons, there was a prestigious movie magazine then about literary film movies and I won for three consecutive years. My points are millions and very distant from my opponents. So after three years I asked them to stop already the contest, they said "Why?" I said. "You are not winning, puro ako na lang nang ako, kayo na lang ang mag-contest at ako na lang ang adviser."On which my opponents did not agree. My opponents then were Rogelio de la Rosa, Efren Reyes Sr. , Ernesto La Guardia, Jose Padilla, all these prominent actors. But if I'm not included, they don't run as candidates, because they thought that the level of the contest will be very low. But nothing was changed, I was the one who always win and so my decision was to stop it and my reason was, I don't like it anymore.

Gador: Please give us insights into the early Philippine movies as you perceive them. What kind of storyline, the acting, the directors and the amount actors and actresses were paid?

Salcedo: My conception and belief about the motion picture is not only to invest and make money which is so called business. What I want is a story that can educate our people to have in their minds ahigher sense of values, so that we will have our own identity as Filipinos, so that we will not forget where we came from , our heritage, our background, our history, because our race is a beautiful race. I don't want the Filipinos to forget where we came from, because there is a golden rule... If you forget from where you came from, you can never reach your destination. So I want the motion picture to inculcate in the minds of the audience what are the virtues or the moral values and not business. That's what I want and it's not the matter of making money. But take a look of what is happening now. Before you are proud to be an actor, but now it seems that you are not proud to be an actor anymore. In any profession, the dignity of a person is the most important. Even though you're only a driver nor a barber, but the dignity of a person must be there. Now, if you come out from a less quality film or a bold film, I don't thinkyou can be proud of that, because you are ashamed. That's why I don't want to appear in so many movies now.

to be continued...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Meeting Alf Kumalo, Pres. Nelson Mandela's Good Friend in Doha


My meeting with Alf Kumalo in 2007, was strictly on an invitation from the South African Embassy in Doha. They also invited some schools to get the chance of meeting South Africa's master photographer. The Philippine International School in Qatar was included in the shortlist of attendees. He was in Doha for a series of lectures and exhibits at the Qatar National Theater. His unselfish sharing of his thoughts about his masterpieces, enlightened and inspired the Filipino students. He was proudly exhibiting his prize winning photos in black and white. 

Here is a simple introduction I got from The Star, 1 November 2004, p.8.
Alf Kumalo is a World renowned photo-journalist and social documentary photographer.

Alf Kumalo was born in Alexandra near Johannesburg. He first worked in a garage doing various jobs and then started freelancing for various publications, selling his photographs where he could. He did a lot of work for the Bantu World.

In 1956, he found a permanent position at the Golden City Post.

In 1963, while working for Drum magazine, he was selected together with Harry Mashabela to go and shoot a story about African students in the Iron Curtain countries. The two made the front cover of the next edition of the magazine, Drum men go to Europe.

While in London, he interviewed Cassius Clay and then found out that he had won first place in a photographic competition. The prize was an Austin Cambridge motor car.

Kumalo had used his African names Mangaliso Dukuza because he wanted the judging to be mpartial and not influenced by his reputation. A picture of him and his award was published by the Star on its front page. A lot of black people talked about it for days afterwards, because in those days they would only get on to the front pages of white newspapers if they were thieves.

Despite the prospect of being arrested and assaulted, Khumalo kept on taking pictures, ometimes at personal cost. David Hazelhurst recalled: One day in 1963, when I was editor of Drum magazine, Alf Khumalo walked into my office carrying a picture. It showed a burly policeman delivering a vicious kick between the legs of reporter Harry Mashabela from behind. Such was the power of the kick you could see the shape of his boot exploding through the front of Mashabela’ trousers.

It was the year of the jackboot of John Vorster, habeas corpus had disappeared, the 90-day-detention without trial Act had given policemen a license to kill and assault behind closed doors with impunity.

The police hated journalists – and photographers in particular, for their pictures portrayed the truth about an evil system, and Kumalo, despite warnings, risked a severe beating to take the Mashabela picture. He had tried to sell it to several papers with no success.

Meeting British Supermodel Naomi Campbell

I never thought that even the world of fashion I can also indeed conquer.

With my large collection of friends from various industries, I was invited to be one of the VIP guests to grace the ground breaking rites of Fashion Cafe Manila branch.

Campbell's next venture was the restaurant business. In 1995 she, along with fellow models Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington, and Italian restaurateur Tommaso Buti, launched the Fashion Café. The restaurant and coffee house first opened in New York City, and was situated in Rockefeller Center. Patrons entered the restaurant through a door shaped like a giant camera lens and serving staff carried cuisine down a catwalk. The decor included a collection of fashion memorabilia, from Madonna's famous Jean-Paul Gaultier bustier to one of Elizabeth Taylor's wedding gowns. Branches in London, Jakarta, Barcelona, Mexico City, New Orleans, and Manila soon followed.

It was no less than Supermodel Naomi Campbell that opened the ceremony.

All the fashion gurus of Manila were there. Hosted by no less than Martin Nievera and Dawn Zulueta. It was launched at the former Gift Gate in Glorietta, Makati.

Me, donning my Replay black outfit was asked to sign their guest book at the entrance swooned by fans and spectators.

It was a large white paper using a purple pentel pen leaving my well wishings for the cafe.

Statuesque male and female models abound the Gift Gate area. Some celebrities I also spotted.

But Naomi was of course the main guest.

Everyone was so excited to see her. Movie and press people can't wait to catch a glimpse of her.

After the ground breaking rites at the 3rd floor, she immediately proceeded at the Gift gate area to meet her fans.

Then she came.

The way I looked at her in her casual clothes, she was gray in color, not that black in skin tone as presumed.

She was shining indeed and was very charming. No doubt that the camera lenses love her so much.

You could feel the star complex that she possesses. Everything went natural with her. Her smile, her glimpses while busy signing autographs on a piece of paper, napkins, shirts, and her coffee table book that was recently launched simply entitled -- Naomi.

Me and my friends stayed till the program ended.

I was given her poster, her advertising materials in nylon which I am now hanging in my room.

I was also given a yellow hard hat as souvenir during the launching and was gladly signed by Martin Nievera when he was still hosting his MAD show.

Meeting British Rizal Biographer Dr. Austin Coates

I can still remember it clearly, the day I have met that famous Oxford Scholar and one of the famous international biographer of Philippine National Hero--Jose Rizal.

I was then taking my Masters at De La Salle University-Manila but already teaching at the University of Santo Tomas. The Third International Philippine Studies Conference was hosted by the Philippines for the very first time (why the third time only?) . Thanks to the consortium then by the University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University and De La Salle University to bring home the convention locally in 1989.

Dr. Austin Coates delivered his paper nonetheless about Jose Rizal, his latest thoughts and views on the hero.

Dr. Coates was a British civil servant, writer and traveller. He was the son of noted English composer Eric Coates.

Austin Coates wrote extensively on topics related to the Asia-Pacific region, particularly Hong Kong and Macau. He was first connected to the East through his service for the Royal Air Force intelligence in India, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia during World War II.

Coates was the guest of many prominent Asians, among them the Tagore Family, and Mahatma Gandhi to name a few.

After his visit with Gandhi, he decided that understanding between East and West was one of the most important goals in the world.

The noted academicians of the world were always with him during the conference. I couldn't squeeze myself in. The media reporters were also trying their best to get nearer. Tough luck indeed to have a chat with Austin Coates.

I made myself busy momentarily by listening to some other lectures by the invited speakers.

That was a whole 4 day convention series at the historic Manila Hotel.

I already forgot which day I saw Dr. Coates, but the eventful meeting with him was a big surprise for me.

Dinner is served... according to the hotel staffs.

The Maynila Ballroom was the venue for the final dinner of the convention.

I was late to enter the room. I had some chit chats with some colleagues from UST and classmates of mine from De La Salle. I rubbed elbows with the history professors from Harvard and Yale.

The ballroom was full. The dining chairs were all taken. Suddenly the concierge approached me and guided me to one vacant slot in front. I was still lucky at that moment to find a place to eat.

The head waiter pulled the chair and assisted me to sit. I gazed my eyes on my seatmates trying to recognize if I knew someone by looking at their conference IDs.

Heavens! When I stared on the left side of my seat. It was Dr. Austin Coates! WOW! I would be sitting right next to him. A big opportunity to have a chat or talk with him.

I was trying my best to see Dr. Coates to consult him. I was working on my research about Rizal's possible 23rd language at that time. After eating, it was time to ask.

I already introduced myself to him prior to dining. I told him that I was on a current research on deciphering the facsimiles I found from some old rare books of Rizal. I told him I found 6 documents that Rizal wrote in an ancient language if he was aware of those documents.

Dr. Coates with all honesty did not know about my latest discovery on Rizal. He wanted to see my work. I told him that I was still writing my first drafts since I needed to refurbish my Spanish language to interpret the documents. I just promised to send him my printed copies when it's already published. I've learned that he was residing in Portugal at that time. He gave me his address. I promised to mail him my work when it's done. Unfortunately, only after 10 years that my latest research on Rizal was published. I also lost his calling card.

I also remembered that during the conference, I encountered several German history professors who wanted to see my Rizal facsimiles. Fortunately, the documents weren't with me. My fear then was the possibility of stealing my work upon seeing my latest research and publish it ahead of me. A pioneering work in the academic world is always an easter egg hunt adventure as I realized.

I firmly believe that a Filipino must be the first to write something about his country, especially if it's a novel research work.

Dr. Austin Coates eyes' sparkled in amazement upon learning my latest work. He was very excited to see my complete paper. Him. The notable Rizal biographer, did not know that Rizal spoke or had written that ancient language. As of this day, our Rizal texbooks claim that Rizal knows 22 languages.

The complete list includes French, German, Latin, Greek, English, Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian, Spanish, Malayan, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Dutch, Catalan, and the Philippine locals Tagalog, Ilocano, Visayan and Subanon.

What's Rizal's 23rd language?

Coming up next in the very near future...

Dr. Austin Coates died in 1997 without seeing my published work and this saddened me a lot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Doha Asian Games Experience

I was just lucky to be in Doha back in 2006 when Qatar won the bid to host the 15th Asian Games.

Back in Manila, where they usually host the South East Asian Games, I always ignored joining to become a volunteer with them.

But there I was joining the biggest sporting event in Asia not even in my wildest dreams.

Recruitment was also tough to volunteer with them. You have to register online, do their pre-screening, wait for a call if you are successful in the application, then hope for a possible interview by the Doha Asian Games Staff. Once called, then it's time to fill up their lengthy forms to scrutinize your credentials by them. Then you have to wait again for the next step.

Time availability was very crucial. Since I was working then, that would mean some sleepless nights to proceed with the volunteering? I just can't imagine at that time.

I volunteered myself for no salary at all, so I can buy my own time and serve them part time if possible.

But as the Games was fast approaching and the whole country of Doha was all agogged and excited in hosting. Schedules were fixed especially for the working volunteers. Lucky enough, that was held in December and some schools were given the power to excuse the volunteers to serve.

Suddenly, a change in my assigment was declared. I should now be the Team Liaison Officer for Hockey with pay! 2,000 riyals was the payment for the 2 week duration.

The Chinese Taipei Hockey Team was assigned to me. I need to arrange their transport, orient them about Doha and others. In short. I was their link with the host country.

Their manager had good command of English on which I was very thankful and was able to communicate with the rest of my athletes.

The Asian Games was very successful and the Emir of Qatar doubled our pay! 4,000 riyals this time. That's 60,000 pesos worth??? Hmm... I shopped a lot. LOL.

AND... the Emir gave me a Pierre Balmain swiss watch as a gift!

The manager of Chinese Taipei also gave me a USD 100 as tip. Not bad isn't it? LOL

Of course, Filipina Broadway and West End Star Lea Salonga sang at the Closing Ceremony. The only performer on that rite.

My next target? The 2012 London Olympics. =)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome to Doha, Qatar

It never crossed my mind that I would be visiting at the same time working with this Middle Eastern Kingdom in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. The rumours I've solicited from my friends, that fair-skinned guys like me with a hairless body would be chased and tantamount to some form of rape etc. etc. They were wrong.

My Departure

My Mama was aware that I would be leaving the country soon anytime. She knew that at any cost. Being an only child reputed by friends and neighbors as much pampered by her and my two single Aunts from London. I can't help but remember Jose Rizal when he was itching to leave the country for personal and professional reasons.I am no Rizal. Yet, the difference between us two is that, I have no brother nor a father to support my financial needs. I was on my own. I wasn't a luxurious traveler like Rizal, I am no ilustrado, but I've had with me my Armani clothes intact in my luggages in case of special functions to attend.

Mama cried loudly when I bade goodbye. I told her not to send me to the airport but instead took with me my two cousins to carry my luggages and just took a taxi. We were okay before I left the house but when I embraced her to bid adieu she broke down in tears. I hate to remember that scene. I am a strong boy but everytime I see my Mama cries that makes me weak. I told her not to worry and I can take good care of myself. I left immediately by not looking at her.

The Flight to My Own Hegira

Eight hours of long overhauled flight. I flew with Qatar Àirways slowly consuming my P30,000 of airfare. I looked back at Manila hoping that when I return the view of Pasay and Paranaque would be much better. I searched for our house in Las Pinas while in the air but to no avail. I was excited for my new teaching job this time with an International School.

Marhaba... Welcome to Doha! said the security officers to me. I left Manila by 4 pm and arrived by 8 pm in Qatar. The Philippines is 5 hours advanced with Qatar. It was a small airport but in tip top shape and squeaky clean. I can't help but compare again. I am now in one of the richest countries of the world. Maintaining the world's second largest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) income.

I intended to wear an orange shirt so my friends could easily identify me with a gray blazer and jeans. I was just hoping that no placards would be waving or I will be ashamed much. I have noticed that Qataris looked somewhat like some Europeans. The male security officer could be an instant movie star in my country. I took my things from the conveyor and went out of the building. WTF! It was sooooo hotttttttttt. 45 degrees Celsius they told me minus the humidity. And that was a night time indeed take note. So there... experiencing my very first desert climate. I felt I was a roasting chicken while walking. But there was one thing amazing I've noticed I wasn't perspiring.

I hurriedly went inside the van to escape from being broiled by the hot weather.