Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • Philippines still a smoker’s heaven

    Emer Rojas

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    Engineer Emer Rojas is often described as a walking graphic health warning against smoking. Having lost his natural voice, he speaks only through an electrolarynx.

    In speaking tours he uses his robotic voice to illustrate the very real dangers of tobacco consumption. Unfortunately, many still choose to ignore his message.

    Information from the Department of Health indicates that about 10 people die every hour due to smoking-related diseases. Globally, the World Health Organization places tobacco-related deaths at one every eight seconds.

    Rojas was 44 years old when diagnosed with throat cancer. After smoking an average of 30 sticks of cigarette a day since he was 17 years old, the vice caught up with him. He had to quit a career with a giant telecommunications firm as he underwent treatment that eventually cost him his vocal cords.

    “I was lucky,” he described the trial that hit him at his prime. He now speaks with the help of an electrolarynx,

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  • Filipino tenor in Oper Leipzig’s ‘Don Pasquale’

    Arthur Espiritu (right) in a scene from Don Pasquale.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Photos from the Facebook of Arthur Espiritu

    At 5 degrees Celsius, Filipino tenor Arthur Espiritu sang the role of the love-sick Ernesto in a well-received production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Oper Leipzig, the third oldest opera house in Germany.

    Espiritu, the first Filipino tenor to sing at La Scala di Milan, said the opening night went well and the cast receive a very long and warm reception from the opening night audience. “I felt that we interpreted the piece quite nicely and everything geld,” added the tenor.

    The tenor said the Don Pasquale of baritone Jose Fardilha from Lisbon was fantastic and so were the Malatesta of Mathias Haussman and the Norina of Anna Virovlansky. “It was a solid cast and no one acted diva or divo which I loved so much. It was just a lot of fun and on the whole, it was just an amazing experience.”

    The opera directed by Lindy Hume was accompanied by the Gewandhaus Orchestra under conductor Anthony Bramall. One of

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  • Mesmerizing performance by violinist Chino Gutierrez

    Chino Gutierrez from Adoboriceterraces You Tube

    By Ellen Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Violinist Joaquin Maria “Chino” Gutierrez’s performance Saturday night at the Insular Theatre at the Filinvest Corporate City in Alabang was mesmerizing, just the right antidote to all the toxic reports that currently dominate the media.

    Gutierrez “Revelry” concert was a repeat of the successful concert he had last year at the Francisco Santiago Auditorium in Makati. With collaborating artist Corazon Pineda Kabayao in the piano, Gutierrez treated music lovers to Ysaye’s Sonata No. 2, Cesar Franck Sonata in A major, Suite Italienne by Stravinsky, Wieniawski’s Polonaise Brilliante in A major, La Deportacion by Dr. Jose Rizal-Kabayao and Tzigane by Ravel.

    His rendition of “Bayan Ko” (one of the several encores) was nakakatindig balahibo.

    Last Saturday’s concert is probably the last that Gutierrez will be giving before he leaves for Munich on March 3 to finish his Bachelor’s degree program in Violin Performance at the Hochschule fur Musik und Theater

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  • China to Aquino: We fought Hitler in WWII

    Pres. Aquino warns the world against China in NY Times interview.

    By Ellen Tordesillas, VERA Files
    China on Friday reminded President Aquino it had fought on the side of the Allied Powers against fascist Japan and Germany in World War II, after Aquino likened China’s encroachment into the South China Sea with Adolf Hitler’s hegemonic moves in World War II.

    In a press briefing, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said, “As an unwavering upholder of international justice, China made huge sacrifice and indelible historical contribution to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. It is inconceivable and unreasonble to place China-Philippines South China Sea disputes in the same category with the WWII history.”

    In an interview with New York Times Tuesday, Aquino had called on the international community to support the Philippine position of resisting China’s hegemonic moves in the South China Sea and not to make the mistake of appeasing the Asian superpower.

    The Philippines and China have overlapping claims over areas in the South China Sea

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  • The film education of Olivia Lamasan

    Director Olivia Lamasan (center) with Piolo Pascual and Toni Gonzaga.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    After eleven feature films most of them blockbusters, film director Olivia Lamasan admits her film education started from the time her mother (a Nora Aunor fan) would drag her siblings to the movie theaters to watch her favorite movie star.

    “I have no schooling in film theories, no exposure in intellectual things like cinema verite and the like,” she says. “What I have is simple growing up experience and I guess I was luckier than most because I was naturally fascinated about people. I observe them a lot and always ask myself why they behave the way they do. I don’t even have exposure to good films. In school, I guess I am known for skipping Fr. Nick Cruz film appreciation class.”

    Having said that, the director felt that her movies probably look more real and very in touch because everything she did and executed was based on real people and real emotions. “I guess you become an effective director if you have natural interest in people. That’s where I

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  • Filipino pianist, flutist shine with Sumi Jo

    Sumi Jo at Samsung Hall in SM Aura . Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Photos by Anna Leah Sarabia and Janice Dee

    Many years after her debut at La Scala, Metropolitan Opera and at the Salzburg Festival, Korean diva Sumi Jo made her triumphant Philippine debut last night at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura with a rousing standing ovation and endless cheers from the teary-eyed audience.

    The good news is that Filipino pianist Ismail and flutist Raymond Sarreal did equally well in an evening devoted to the works of Henry Bishop (Lo! Here The Gentle Lark), Antonio Vivaldi (Sposa son disprezzata) and Adolph Adam (Ah, Vous dirais Je, Maman), among others.

    Her opening number, “Lo! Here The Gentle Lark,” set the tone for the recital even as she coped with the drone of the air-conditioning system and the bad lighting that obviously hurt her eyes.

    The air-conditioning was later turned off.

    Here you see three excellent artists at work, the soprano with her amazing and secure coloratura and the pianist flowing spontaneously with the piece

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  • ‘Hello, angels, I’m a singer’

    Jo experiences Filipino gesture of respect for elder when boy kisses her hand.

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Before she could even sing one note in tonight's much-awaited concert, operatic sensation and Grammy award-winning crossover artist Sumi Jo already promised over 200 children and teenagers saved from the mean streets that she would return to the Philippines to be with them.

    During her visit yesterday to Tuloy sa Don Bosco Streetchildren Village on Alabang-Zapote Road, Muntinlupa City, to turn over a donation and her music CDs to Tuloy Foundation Inc., she watched a short musical program in the gym. She swayed from her seat and applauded appreciatively.

    She addressed the children with her lilting "Hello, angels!" They sang and mimed a welcome song, David Pomeranz's "In Your Hands," but when they got to "You Raise Me Up," an inspirational song popularized by John Groban, she rose spontaneously and finished the chorus with them. Technically speaking, that was her Manila debut.

    Rocky Evangelista, SDB, the foundation's president and founder

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  • Enter the Wood Horse


    Photos by Little Wing Luna, VERA Files

    Text by Mitch Meñez

    Kung hei fat choi!

    Chinatown was ablaze in red Friday as it welcomed the Year of the Wood Horse.

    People wore red, the children held red envelopes which contain money, the lanterns that line the strees and shop fronts were all in red..

    Red symbolizes fire, which the Chinese believe drive away bad luck and evil spirits.

    The Chinese calendar follows the lunar cycle and as such, start with the darkest day. The culmination at the end of the month, when the moon is at its brightest, brings forth the celebration which welcomes good fortune and blessing. Dragon dancers were in the streets and welcomed into business places to drive away evil spirits and bring in good luck.

    Chinese astrologers see a lot of outbursts, conflicts, and clashes in this Year of the Wood Horse. The London-based “Independent” said some astrologers “see wood as providing fuel for the energetic horse sign.”

    There’s a lot to watch out for in this year of the Wood

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  • Voice from heaven as human as anyone else

    Sumi Jo stresses that it's not just the voice that matters in expressing, she uses her hands and body too.

    By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Photos by Anna Leah Sarabia

    In her next reincarnation, Sumi Jo, Korean lyric coloratura and toast of the opera world, would rather be "something else." What she is today still entails battles with loneliness, caring for and covering up her throat ("Winter is hard for singers"), the discipline of sitting, studying, practicing 30,000 times in her head just to produce a song.

    She debuts in the Philippines as part of an Asian tour Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. at SM Aura's Samsung Hall, Bonifacio Global City of Taguig, with collaborating artist Najib Ismail, in a program of love songs to be sung in different styles and languages.

    The woman whom the terror of the operatic world, Maestro Herbert von Karajan, described as the "voice from above" that comes in 100 years, said the concert is "exclusively dedicated to the victims and survivors of Haiyan. I believe in the power of music to heal hearts."

    Jo, Unesco International Artist for Peace, announced that concert

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  • Music festival to honor baritone Gamaliel Viray

    Baritone Gamaliel Viray a special tribute on February 22 with a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    This year is the 4th death anniversary of baritone Gamaliel Viray and Santa Isabel College Conservatory of Music will pay special tribute to him with a performance of Mendelssohn’s monumental oratorio, “Elijah” on February 22 at the school’s Santo Cristo de Tesoro Auditorium to be conducted by Dr. Raul Navarro.

    The presentation will also launch the Gamaliel Viray Music Festival, a bi-annual event to commemorate the life and art of the late beloved bass-baritone. The concert will also celebrate the 150th presence of the Daughters of Charity in Santa Isabel College.

    The soloists include Santa Isabel music faculty, alumni, guest performers and students, led by Viray’s protégé, baritone Joseleo Logdat, Grand Prix Winner of the 6th Yokohama International Music Competition and currently finishing his studies in Elisabeth University of Music in Japan.

    Points out Logdat:“Mr. Viray has always been my inspiration. I am glad that I was the first and the last

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