Category Archives: History

Basco Balikbayan Project: Rediscovering Filipino Heritage

The Basco Brothers and of course, their sister Arianne

How much of our kasimanwas have gone abroad to settle in a faraway land? For most of us, if we have relatives abroad, they are most likely in the United States. In the United States alone, there are close to four million Filipino-Americans which first settled in the United States at the height of the Martial Law era. Filipino-Americans are spread all across the United States in various terrain but most settled in California like my aunt and her family.

A June 2008 photo of my Filipina-American cousin's visit to the Philippines

My cousins are first generation of immigrant families there but they are characteristically American and does not speak a single sliver of any Filipino tongue other than “Mabuhay!” and “Kumusta?” Last month, I was invited to the press conference of Basco Balikbayan, a documentary project of the second-generation Filipino-American Basco Family to visit the best places in the Philippines and rediscover their uniquely Filipino heritage.

Filipina Actress, G. Tongi explains the gist of the Basco Balikbayan Project

The project is jointly produced by Giselle Tongi and Michael Carandang, an Emmy Award-winning producer for the Tyra Banks Show and America’s Next Top Model. Basco Balikbayan Project was born in the realization of Ms. G that there has been a lack of creative production that features the Philippines specially geared towards the Filipino-Americans who have never even seen the Philippines. They will part of the journey of actor Dante Basco with siblings Darion, Derek, Dionisio and Arianna to rediscover the homeland never seen before with its culture and richness of life.

Producers Michael Carandang, G. Tongi with host Tim Yap

Philippines’ Department of Tourism will be very much part of the production, taking the Basco siblings to  Palawan, Davao, Cebu, Ilocos, Naga, Pangasinan, Zambales and Baguio, as far as I have asked them, Negros Island was part of their interest list. In a jam packed but fun schedule, they will be going to key natural and historical places, savoring the local cuisine. The low-cost carrier Airphil Express will ferry them to the destination of choice.

The Basco Brothers and Sister with producer G. Tongi

While in part it is a documentary, it will also be featured as a series that will be pitched or is planned to be pitched in This project will pitch in with  Travel, A&E, Bravo, History, Discovery, Own, Tru TV, TLC, Current TV, Biography, DOC, and the National Geographic Channel. With much hope, the project will be a magnet for other Filipino-Americans to take the same path as well but in my own opinion, will be also a tool for us Filipinos left in the Philippines to actually travel around and discover the richness of our own country for – It’s More Fun In The Philippines!


Imeldific Night at Livin’ La Vida Imelda

Last February 4, 2012, a Saturday, I woke up from slumber and immediately opened my Facebook. I was not expecting much since my friends would most probably be out somewhere. Seeing my contact’s recent statuses, I suddenly noticed an announcement from Carlos Celdran that he will having a Blogger’s Barter for Livin’ La Vida Imelda (The Performance). More than caffeine, this jolted me awake and I immediately opened my blog email – to send in my intentions to watch the show. I was not expecting to make it to the first twenty (20) bloggers to make it but I felt that it might be a lucky day.

Just as I thought that I did not make it to the cut off since there was no immediate reply, I resigned to seeing this performance on another day as a paying guest. However, last February 5, 2012 (Sunday), I woke to good news! I was one of those who made it to the cut-off. I was thrilled that I even posted it on my blog’s like page which drew comments from other bloggers who also made it for the Blogger’s Barter. Just as my fellow bloggers already had something for the barter, I was still basically arguing with myself with which to give. I realized that since Carlos is a “Bacólod-addict” of sorts, I gave him a box of Merci Pasalubong.

From my little niche in Ortigas, I commuted to the venue at Yupangco Building in Chino Roces Avenue or what we popularly know as Pasong Tamo. From the MRT’s Shaw Boulevard Station, I took the train to the Magallanes Station which always give me funny smiles. I decided to cool down a bit at Alphaland Southgate Tower to update my blog with an article about PUREZA’s film director Jay Abello. After eating my early dinner, I decided to go to Silverlens Gallery by taking a tricycle. I did not have a hard time finding the building. At the entrance I met a fellow blogger, Cristina Raposa of Style Espresso who also availed of the barter.

I was just in time for the opening of the venue at 7:30pm and did not have to wait. Entering the venue, I immediately noticed some minimalist renderings of Imelda-commissioned structures in the CCP Complex using electrical tape! What made me happier is the fact that the artist is also of proud Negrénse heritage. I took the last seat of the third row for me to have a good vantage point of the performance. Minutes before the performance, I noticed steady streams of foreign guests who also came to see the show. Somehow I think that a Carlos Celdran in any show would always draw good crowd. I am privileged to be one of them as well.

The show started with a video that summarizes parts of Philippine history. Indeed, the Philippines is one curious case from nearby Southeast Asian neighbors. Series of colonizers like the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese have since passed by and ruled island after island yet we seem to have an unbelievable obsession for our colonizers, particularly the Americans, among neighbors that so hate their former colonizers still. Much of Imelda Marcos’ time revolves around American influence from the liberation to the times of recovery to the Presidency of his husband. Everything has to do with these Americans and their ultimate interest.

The show definitely had the boom that I always see with Carlos Celdran’s performance. This boom is a unique class of its own and I call “Carlosian”. How do you know? Imelda Marcos’ very own identity and birth is already a center of controversy. This beauty of Leyte definitely carries even now a mysterious charm and some rumors that we may never confirm. Imelda herself was initially not accepted in the mainstream alta-sociedad even with her Romualdez roots. Her marriage to an Ilocano politico, their rise to powers is as mysterious as the rumors that surrounds them but one thing’s sure, they changed the country so much forever.

By how the show was run, it was well thought and prepared with the concept packaged well. You can never go bad with Carlos for he himself is a performer. The show was pretty much derived from the Livin’ La Vida Imelda tours he gives at the CCP Complex but this time fuller flavor of sing, song, more acting and dance. I was surprised that I was even pulled into the performance. I was very shocked at first but this is what made the show special, the audience very much has a part on it. I sat back on my seat pretty much blushed but happier. The performers and Carlos himself pretty much captured the crowd not just well but full well.

Learning history, both factual and speculative, has never been this fun. Who would not have fun with comedic relief that is spiced with hard history? Truth, the underlying rumors, mysteries, destructive gossips and conspiracies forever hounds this archipelagic country of ours but we do not need to bump our heads with them. Perhaps people should learn from history and take in to consider what Ferdinand and Imelda’s though misguided aspirations were for, a nation of equality, free from the rule of the oligarchs once and still does rule nation. What change did our country have after the almost three decades since Marcos’ rule end?

More than the laughs, it makes us think deeper into the story of this power couple who will forever captivate the imagination of our people. It disturbs us but at the same time entertains us and with that I give a loud Kudos! to Carlos Celdran. The show was worthy indeed of my time and so as yours too. Livin’ La Vida Imelda will have another show tomorrow at 8pm and on February 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 to March 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10. The tickets to the show is worth P800 which is actually cheap for a good show but students get it half at P400. What are you waiting for? Catch this awesome performance in a date most convenient for you.

Celebrate Thanksgiving @ the Refuge

What is Thanksgiving Day? Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated in Canada, United States and Liberia in various dates between October to November. Though they differ in dates and origins, the essence is the same, it is a celebration of thanksgiving by their respective immigrant forefathers for a safe travel and bountiful harvest. Among the Thanksgiving-celebrating countries, the most popular is that of the United States which the country was once a Colony and a Commonwealth of.

For that matter, Thanksgiving is gaining popularity in the country either trivialized into turkey-eating celebration with mall sales or ingrained in a deep sense of faith by thanking God for a wonderful year he has given as the year is drawing to a close. For the latter, my growth group in Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF), Refuge, celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Refuge is home to a number of transient Americans and expats who found a spiritual home in GCF Ortigas through Refuge.

Starting with a call last Monday by Sam, Refuge was able to gather other people to bring in Thanksgiving food (their innovations) for us to enjoy. You sure know by now that Refuge people really loves food and the fellowship bonding it brings. This Thanksgiving reminded me of how God has been blessing me and working by me even in my afflictions. Indeed, we must be reminded of His faithfulness not just in bad times but in good times too. The closing lesson on the story of Ruth was a reminder that no matter how things go against us, we should never be bitter for God is a witness to our sufferings and will always find a way to redeem us from the debt of our hearts in his best time.

After offering our thanksgiving to God, everyone had a sumptuous dinner. Cranberry “sauce” will always be present in every Thanksgiving celebrations but the turkey had a different twist. Instead of being stuffed with bread crumbs, this turkey was stuffed with pesto rice. Though chicken and turkey are both poultry products, turkey has a more distinctive taste with red meat parts on the legs and the wings which is my personal favorite.

Since our group has a resident vegetarian, we ought to bring vegetable-made food too. For me, it was a good break from all meat to have a healthy siding. Despite limitations and time constraints, Christina was able to bring a string bean cream topped with… crackers? I’ve seen string beans in cream of mushroom but that being topped with crackers is a new thing to me. The best of innovations do come out when ingredients are at its least, something I am happy seeing. Since Paolo did not have time to cook, he brought vegetarian pizza which I gladly feasted on. I love it!

Dessert was a filling treat too when Kuya Micah brought his “pumpkin” pie innovation. Pumpkin in the Philippines? Not really for it is a mix of pumpkin’s closest tropical relative, squash, and sweet potatoes. Pretty ingenious of an idea to add a traditional thanksgiving pie into the food mix. Pauline did her touch with mango pie with a kick of cinnamon which made it extra special. I wish I could’ve had more. RJ brought buco pandan for more of the Filipino twist to Thanksgiving. I could’ve made a debut of my peanut butter piaya there but my hands were too tired to mix more dough so I brought them piaya.

Apart from the food, what matters is the fellowship of friends and siblings in Christ that live a life of thanksgiving in the light of today’s celebration. Above all, I am thankful that God led me to a growth group that cares, understands and shares. Refuge is a cosmopolitan group of Singles/ Young Adults from various fields and professions meeting every Wednesday, 8pm at BM02 at the Mezzanine Floor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.