Saturday, 14 February 2015

Concert Review: Only You: An Evening of Romantic Music

Matt Monro, Jr., Christian Bautista and The Fabulous Sounds Of …. The Platters 

(Excerpt from my article featured in

Aside from roses and chocolates, Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be complete without a touch of romantic music.  “Only You: An Evening of Romantic Music,” a special 4-in-1 Valentine’s Day concert held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Plenary Hall, provided this third requirement.  Featuring The Fabulous Sounds Of …. The Platters, English crooner Matt Monro, Jr. and renowned Asian singing sensation Christian Bautista plus the Kilyawan Consortium of Voices Children’s Choir, this concert was produced by Royale Chimes Concerts & Events Inc. 
Kilyawan Consortium of Voices Children’s Choir
Christian Bautista
The sizable audience that night was a mix of the old, not so old (where me and my wife Grace belong) and the young.  The concert promptly started at 8:30 PM with the Kilyawan Consortium of Voices Children’s Choir, an umbrella organization of choirs formed under the leadership of Mr. Mark Anthony A. Carpio.  They sang a number of Beatles’ songs plus John Lennon’s Imagine and George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.
Soon after, Christian Bautista, one of the most acclaimed Filipino balladeers of his generation (with a following in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand) entered the stage with his version of the Grammy Award winning, Joe Cocker song Up Where We Belong followed by Colour Everywhere.  

What followed next was a medley of his version of OPM songs (Nakapagtataka of Apo Hiking Society, The Way We Were of Rico Puno, You of Basil Valdez, Don’t Know What to Say of Ric Segreto, Be My Lady of Martin Nievera, Reachin’ Out of Gary Valenciano, Nandito Ako of Ogie Alcasid and So It’s You by Raymond Lauchengco) plus another medley of Jose Mari Chan hits (Beautiful Girl, Tell Me Your Name and Deep in My Heart). 

He capped his performance with the immensely popular The Way You Look at Me, the song that virtually catapulted him to stardom, and Hands To Heaven. Before exiting the stage, he did a duet with Matt Monro, Jr. as they performed Around The World. 
Matt Monro Jr.
Matt then worked the crowd, kissing ladies (one even took a “selfie” with him) as he sang Save the Last Dance For Me. He followed this up with a medley of songs including I Write The Songs (a Barry Manilow hit), the much requested Portrait of My Love and Walk Away

After singing For Once in My Life (a Stevie Wonder hit) and the Academy Award winning song Born Free (his dad Matt Sr.’s signature song), Matt brought in the Kilyawan Consortium of Voices Children’s Choir as he, with the choir as back-up, emotionally sang Softly As I Leave You (changing into a barong tagalog during an intermission).  

Matt then raised the tempo more than a notch with the Frank Sinatra hits New York, New York and the much requested My Way (the song that frequently results in fights and sometime deaths in karaoke bars). Matt saved the best for last, doing a video duet with his late father, made possible by the magic of digital technology, as they performed We're Gonna Change the World.
Matt Jr. and Sr. duetting via digital technology
Speaking of “Best for Last,” The Fabulous Sounds Of …. The Platters fits the bill.  Composed of lead singer Donne Ray Radford and back-up singers Bernardo Cassar, Reginald Carter, John Cheatdom and Savanna McClendon (the lone female in the group), the group regaled the crowd with nostalgic songs of the 1950s and 60s. 

Donne, a performer extraordinaire and tenor with a 5-octave range, thrilled the audience with The Great Pretender, Twilight Time, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Stand By Me, Heaven On Earth, Harbor Lights, Red Sails in the Sunset, (You've Got) The Magic Touch, Enchanted, My Prayer and last, but not the least, the much requested Only You (and You Alone), which reached No. 5 in the U.K. charts in 1956. 
The Fabulous Sounds Of …. The Platters 
Of course, what is a concert without all the major artists performing together on stage.   The Fabulous Sounds Of …. The Platters, Matt Monro, Jr. and Christian Bautista surprised the crowd as they closed the two and a half hour long concert with their rendition of My Girl and All Night Long, hits of The Temptations and Lionel Richie respectively. 
This Valentine show, a musical feast for all ages, proved that love, indeed, is an emotion that knows no space, time or age. It truly satisfied the concert-going crowd’s penchant for nostalgia and longing for the good old days when songs had lyrics that you could understand and recall long after the mania over the ditties has gone over to memory’s mist. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Georgian Consulate to Screen Oscar-Nominated Film “Tangerines”

The Consulate of Georgia in the Philippines, led by Consul (a.h.) Thelmo Luis O. Cunanan, Jr., in partnership with the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Georgian National Film Center (FDCP), will screen the Oscar-nominated Estonian-Georgian film Tangerines (Mandariinid in Estonia).  

This 650,000 euro film, which has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 87th Academy Awards, was also among the five nominated films at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards for best foreign language film

It will be shown in FDCP’s theaters all over the Philippines and in select colleges, universities and international cultural centers, as part of the 2nd Nationwide Georgian Roadshow in March and April. 

The annual Georgian film festival in the Philippines was conceptualized and founded by Consul Cunanan as a way of spreading awareness of Georgian culture and heritage to Filipinos. 

Aside from the screenings, the event also includes film donations to the libraries of the Georgian Consulate’s partner schools such as De La Salle University and College of the Holy Spirit Manila. The FDCP’s theatres are located in Baguio, Manila, Iloilo, Davao, and Zamboanga.

Tangerines has won numerous awards to date, including the Special Award of Mannheim-Heidelberg and Audience Award at International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg in 2013, the Best Director Award and Best Audience Award at the 29th Warsaw International Film Festival, Best Estonian Film at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2013, Best Director Award at the Tbilisi International Film Festival in 2013, the Crystal Phoenix for Best Picture and for Best Screenplay at the 32nd Fajr International Film Festival in 2014,  Best Picture at the Bari International Film Festival in 2014 and the Jury Grand Prix, War on Screen in 2014. 

The movie tells a story that takes place in an Estonian village in Abkhazia (Georgia) during the War in Abkhazia (1992–93) that displaced many Estonians who lived in the area but returned to their homeland during the war. 

However, two Estonian men, Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) and Margus (Elmo Nuganen) remain in a village in order to harvest the season’s crop of tangerines. While they are going about their business, they get caught in the crossfire between two small bands of rival soldiers. Two of the fighters survive - Ahmed (Giorgi Nakhashidze), a Chechen mercenary on the Abkhazian side, and Niko (Mikheil Meskhi), a Georgian. 

Both are badly wounded, but the two Estonians take them in and nurse them back to health. Although the two rival combatants vow to kill each other once they’re both ambulatory again, their time spent convalescing softens their belligerence.  

The movie, which carries a pacifist message and shows how to be humane, was directed, produced and written by Georgian film director and screenwriter Zaza Urushadze.  The filming, done in 52 days, took place in the Guria region in Georgia. The film was produced by Estonian film production company Allfilm and Georgian production company Cinema 24. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Restaurant Review: Casa Roces (Manila)

Casa Roces

Casa Roces, a pre-World War II, 2-storey, 600 sq. m. house (on a 1,000 sq. m. lot) in the Malacanang district, is a perfect example of adaptive re-use that respected the integrity of the structure but gave the place all the comforts of contemporary living.  

Formerly the beautiful ancestral home of the late National Artist for Literature Alejandro R. Roces, freedom fighter and newspaper publisher Joaquin "Chino" Roces and painter and essayist Alfredo R. Roces, it was converted by Roces descendants Mercedes "Peachy" Prieto and her daughter Bianca Prieto-Santos into a Filipino-Spanish themed casual dining restaurant and café cum events place that opened its doors to the public sometime in 2011.

Prior to its opening, it remained uninhabited for 15 years, save for caretakers who made sure that the house was well maintained. Casa Roces is just across the gate of Malacanang Palace and is also near the churches of San Miguel, St. Jude Thaddeus, San Sebastian and San Beda.

Kape Chino

Designed by Architects Bettina “Tina” Bonoan, Rey Ilagan and Al Carongan, its interiors are a combination of old and new, with old white wood-and-glass French doors, beige machuca tile floors and elegant vintage crystal chandeliers, with warm light, interspersed with modern, round halogen lamps and new pipes, electrical system, bathroom fixtures and roof. An old aparador serves as a divider and display counter for take-home goodies such as jams and spreads. 

The walls were done in champagne, ash gray, with golden yellow accents.  The furniture are said to be excess furniture from the interrelated Roces, Prieto and Legarda clan’s other homes.

The old aparador

The art and family heritage gallery (Galeria Roces), formerly the receiving area, at the second floor, shows off an impressive collection of art that includes a small portrait by Juan Luna and paintings done by contemporary artists. It is a venue for art exhibits, poetry readings and live sketching sessions. Hung on the walls are prints of La Vanguardia and the old Manila Times news papers, photos and memorabilia from the 1950′s, 1960′s and 1970′s, all reminders of the family’s heritage.
Galleria Roces

The 100-pax ground floor dining area, called Kape Chino (after Don Chino" Roces), is run by the Cravings Group, the official food concessionaire which also runs the mall-based C2 Classic Cuisine restaurants. 

Its wooden tables come in different sizes, with 6 and 4 chairs for big groups; and 2 chairs for couples who want a cozy meal, and chairs that are a quirky mishmash from different styles and periods. Some chairs are reupholstered wood painted silver-gray while others are in traditional brown varnished wood with sawali seats. The inner cafe area has a more traditional restaurant set-up while the garden/ patio, an extension of the dining area, is where most people eat, al fresco, their dessert with coffee (it also serves doubles a smoking area). Out front, there’s a water feature with a big Imelda "Impy" Pilapil sculpture.

Water feature with a big Impy Pilapil sculpture

Its excellent menu includes heirloom recipes that would fit the Spanish-Filipino theme, picked and tweaked a bit by Chef Jose Amadeo S “Menoy” Gimenez (the executive chef of the Cravings group) from the Roces family cookbook. For breakfast, you can have comfort food like beef tapa chicken-pork adobotinapang banguslongganisa Tuguegarao, bacon and eggs with garlic rice or pan de sal; or a rich serving of champorado and danggit.

For lunch and dinner, start off with Bacalao Caviar Pate (creamy salt cod and potato pate with black caviar served with toasted baguette), Truffle Mushroom Puree soup and Crispy Lengua Caesar Salad (classic salad with deep-fried ox tongue croutons).  Entrees good for sharing include Callos à la Abolita (tripe stew with chorizo and chick peas), Ox Tail Kare-Kare, Bouillabaise de la Casa Roces (seafood in rich tomato broth) and Oven-Baked Salmon Wellington (baked cheese and salmon in pastry crust).
For those who prefer pasta dishes, there’s Fettucine with Bleu Cheese and Roasted Mushrooms; Fideos with Spanish Chorizo à la Diablo; and Spaghettini Gambas à la Jillo (angel hair pasta in sautéed shrimps and garlic).  Casa Roces also has a bar,also with mismatched furniture, for drinks, coffee and desserts (Malacañang Frozen Soufflé, Leche Flan Brulee, Basque Apple Tart, Baked Cherry Walnut Cheesecake or Crepe Suzette à la Mode), plus Filipino merienda such as Vigan longganisa empanadapancit palaboktapsilogguinataang halo-halotokwa’t baboyarroz caldopan de sal with kesong putihamon and Spanish sardines; turon à la mode; and fried suman with mango sauce and Spanish chocolate.
The second floor has chandeliers, steps and floor boards made with long, refinished wooden planks, and intricately carved, heavy hardwood chairs and tables.  It is divided into five private banquet rooms for meetings, functions and other gatherings, all designed after the Commonwealth Era and named after the periodicals and newspapers that were or are still handled by the Roces clan
Liwayway Room
The Tribune Room
Daily Mirror Room
The La Vanguardia Room (PhP10,000 - 4-hour room use only) has its own restroom. For bigger parties, the Liwayway Room (PhP5,000 - 4-hour room use only), formerly a master bedroom, can be combined with the Tribune Room (PhP3,000 - 4-hour room use only), a former bedroom. 

The Daily Mirror (PhP3,000 - 4-hour room use only),  also called the Terrace Room is, according to the staff, a favorite of Pres. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III when he dines here from time to time. A table was set up in the enclosed azotea or terrace.  

The Manila Times Room

This restaurant will truly transport you back in time as it speaks volumes of the heritage of this clan of journalists and social icons and the many people that have come and gone here through the past decades.
La Vanguardia
Casa Roces: 1153 J.P. Laurel cor. Aguado St., San Miguel, Manila. Tel: (02) 735-5896 and 488-1929. Email: Website: Open daily, 7 AM – 11 PM. Reservations (especially for large groups) are highly recommended. There are packages for private parties that can be personalized for one’s taste and budget. Valet parking is available.