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. =)