Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maraming Salamat Po

The Empire State Building lights up for the Philippines;
photo taken by Noel Calingasan.
By Oliver Oliveros, Fil-Am Who's Who magazine editor-in-chief

The first time I visited the city of Tacloban, located in the northeastern part of Leyte island in the Philippines, was in 2009. At the time, I was handling publicity for international recording artists Christian Bautista and Sam Concepcion who were featured in a concert at the 5,000-seater Tacloban City Convention Center. The concert was packed to the rafters, and everyone had a great time!

I distinctly remember how the people of Tacloban were very warm and friendly. Two-term Councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez, who is married to Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, hosted a sumptuous banquet for our entourage. We even went to the “red beach” in Palo, Leyte to visit the historical “Leyte Landing” landmark, which is a tribute to General Douglas MacArthur, the American general who fought against the imperial Japanese army in the Philippines in the mid-1940s.

So imagine my shock when I saw on the news the massive convention center was gloomily transformed into a makeshift shelter for displaced people when typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) wrought havoc in Tacloban. On CNN, watching Councilor Romualdez in tears recounting her family’s ordeal with the storm was unimaginable.

For more than three weeks now, the Philippines has been the most popular topic in most international media outlets. Suddenly the world is paying attention to our island nation. Suddenly the world is on its toes sending humanitarian relief. Suddenly you realize that in times of crisis, the world is not jaded after all.

Apropos to recent events and to the thanksgiving season we are celebrating this week, allow me to sincerely extend my gratitude to fellow Filipinos and also to non-Filipinos — especially those who are based in the east coast region of the United States — who have donated funds and their time to countless relief efforts for my home country.

Philippine Consulate General-New York, Miss World Organization, Philippine Independence Council Inc., RDR Cargo, Lani Misalucha, Kirby Asunto, Kay Habana, Dennis Sy, Team United Maharlika Foundation Inc., Philippine American Chamber of Commerce, Ugly Kitchen, Jeepney, Maharlika, The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York, Fiesta in America, JCI Philippines New York, Filipino Legal Defense & Education Fund, Pinoy Pride Sa America, AFTA, Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Broadway cast of “Mamma Mia,” the Off-Broadway cast of “Here Lies Love” and many more…Maraming salamat po

Fil-Am Who’s Who on Facebook (facebook.com/FilAmWhosWho) will be posting upcoming fundraising initiatives in the New York Tri-State area as their announcements arrive.

We also invite our readers to contribute relevant articles, letters, comments or pictures.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Beyond the Glitz and Glamour

On the Cover: Drs. Fred and Florie Donaire, and
Ms. Nilda Jaynal (Photos by Rolan Gutierrez)
By Oliver Oliveros, Fil-Am Who's Who magazine editor-in-chief

I hold two editorial jobs right now: One is for BroadwayWorld.com, a theater news site that is visited by more than 3.5 million global visitors every month; the other is for this magazine, Fil-Am Who’s Who, which is read by more than 4,000 Filipino Americans in the New York Tri-State area. Both jobs come with many perks: all-expense-paid press junkets, VIP tickets, sneak peeks at the hottest events in town and the list goes on.

However, beyond the OVERRATED glitz and glamour that comes with the job, nothing can beat the simple things that make a difference, one of which is the opportunity of sitting down for an interview or prepping for a photo shoot with the most inspiring people.

For this September/October issue of your new favorite lifestyle magazine—thank you very much for all the positive feedback you sent via email or told us in person—Fil-Am Who’s Who has gotten more personal with two unarguably inspiring people: Nilda Jaynal, whose groundbreaking community projects, such as the prototype for the annual Philippine Independence Day parade along Madison Avenue and the dedication of the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Downtown Manhattan, have been ingrained in the Filipino New Yorker’s cultural and religious lifestyle until today; and Dr. Fred Donaire, whose utmost dedication to lead the construction of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Center in Jamaica, Queens—brick by brick, one ceramic tile at a time—is no urban legend at all.

Add to that the “not too old” and young generations of Katbaloganons, natives of Catbalogan, Samar in the Philippines, who share the enthusiasm for and responsibility of expanding their home organization, Katbaloganon USA—formed 40 years ago—by chipping in funds to support their parish church back home or by simply having a good leisure time in each other’s company.

Nilda and Dr. Francis Jaynal, Drs. Fred and Florie Donaire, and the Katbaloganons, the team behind Fil-Am Who’s Who is grateful for entrusting to us your life stories—both often told and especially the untold. We are confident that your stories will also inspire others.

We invite our readers to contribute relevant articles, letters, comments or pictures. Please email submissions to filamwhoswho@gmail.com.

You may also engage with us on facebook/FilAmWhosWho.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

About the August 2013 Issue: FIL-AM WHO's WHO Magazine

We Pay Homage to Educators Way Ahead of World Teachers’ Day 

By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

For the August issue of Fil-Am Who’s Who, we devote the major sections of the magazine honoring some of the most passionate and tireless Filipino-American educators we know: we take our hats off to the first 200 members—circa late 1980s—of the Association of Fil-Am Teachers of America (AFTA), whose legacy is still the organization’s moving force today; and to health care consultant Jona Jane Tajonera—our covergirl—who flies across the Pacific more often than ever to put up a school of allied health professions in the Philippines.

The World Teachers’ Day is due in about two months, on October 5, to be exact. However, I vividly remember one of my favorite teachers at New York University telling me, “Never do tomorrow what you can do today.” I myself am a teacher. I teach the basic tenets of public relations and communication at De La Salle University-Manila. And honestly, it gives me pure joy to hear from my students that they can never be thankful enough for the practical knowledge I impart into them.

Hard work should be rewarded, especially among teachers whose job could be really difficult, and at times thankless.

To AFTA’s educators and Ms. Tajonera: We can never be thankful enough. For us, everyday should be World Teachers’ Day!

Also in this issue, we pay tribute to outgoing Deputy Consul General of New York Tess Dizon De Vega, whose commitment to Filipino-Americans in the Tri-State area, especially in the immediate aftermath of recent natural disasters, e.g. Hurricane Sandy, is truly outstanding and most importantly, genuine. 

Furthermore, health advices from our resident doctor, Dr. Prospero A. Lim, M.D., and columnist Ollie David are included in this month’s issue.

We invite our readers to contribute relevant articles, letters, comments or pictures. Please email submissions to filamwhoswho@gmail.com.

You may also engage with us on facebook.com/FilAmWhosWho.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

BWW Interviews: MiG Ayesa, On The Road Between WE WILL ROCK YOU And ROCK OF AGES Again

MiG Ayesa at Jeepney, Filipino Gastropub;
photo by Rex Romero

By Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com 

"Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen until now are very hands-on. They're very instrumental in putting on 'We Will Rock You' [WWRY, a jukebox musical featuring the immortal songs of the rock band Queen]. They like quality control. They want to make sure that they're happy with the presentation of their music onstage. WWRY is their baby." - MiG Ayesa

New York, June 27, 2013--Prior to MiG Ayesa's, "Rock Star: INXS" finalist, Broadway and London's West End actor, reprising his lead role as the Bohemian rebel Galileo Figaro in the first leg of the 10th anniversary world arena tour of "We Will Rock You" (WWRY), and Ayesa's revisiting the delicious role of Stacee Jaxx in Atlantis Productions' (Manila) restaging of "Rock of Ages" (ROA) next month, BroadwayWorld.com had a laid back, sumptuous lunch with the continually traveling actor at Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub, on First Avenue that passes through the East Village.

While being served a round of Jeepney's "Subic Bay" drink--a concoction of mango, sili, grenadine and club soda--we were caught off guard to start the conversation on a rather personal note. We just found out that Ayesa has been literally hitting the road for personal reasons. "I'm a single man now. Unfortunately, my wife and I separated a year ago. We were married for 10 years," he admitted.

"We're very amicable. We're very good friends. But it's time to move on. I'm very blessed to be able to focus on my work--it's been a very great distraction. I'm based in New York for five years now. I feel that New York is where I need to be. But right now, being on the road is perfect. I'm looking forward to doing WWRY and ROA again," he said.

Born in the Philippines, but raised in Australia, Ayesa packed his bags and flew to London eleven years ago to pursue his first love: songwriting. However, the theater bug, which first bit him when he saw a performance of "West Side Story" in Australia, and a performance of "The Sound of Music," featuring a young Lea Salonga, playing Brigitta, in Manila way back in the 1980s, had instead lured him to play a part in "Rent"--not Roger Davis or Mark Cohen, but Angel Dumott Schunard, a transvestite with AIDS.

MiG Ayesa at Jeepney Gastropub;
photo by Rex Romero
"When I landed in London, I needed to earn some money. I got an agent, and 'Rent' came along the way for a limited season. I was going for the part of Roger or Mark. But the casting agents said, 'You know what, can you read for the part of Angel?

"But the funny thing, on the second last week of 'Rent,' Brian May of Queen, with Mike Dixon, WWRY's musical supervisor, saw 'Rent' that evening and came to me and said, 'You're auditioning for WWRY, aren't you?' I said, 'Yeah. Let's see what's out there.'"

WWRY, which opened a year earlier at the West End's Dominion Theatre, originally starred Tony Vincent (Galileo), who recently competed in NBC's reality TV competition "The Voice."

Ayesa initially joined the cast to understudy Vincent's role and Nigel Planer's Pop, an elderly librarian--the oldest character in the play, for six months.

"But during the second week of my contract, Planer had a slipped disc. So I was Pop for months and months and months. I was alternating between playing Pop and Galileo. So I had to age myself and get young again the next day then age myself the next night. I was kind of schizophrenic for a while," he recalled. "I did WWRY in London for two years--until I had to do "Rockstar: INXS" [CBS's reality TV competition] in Los Angeles."

However, his seemingly unending reprises playing Galileo--similar to Stacee Jaxx--continue after "Rockstar: INXS." Ayesa joined WWRY's first world tour, which travelled to New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand, in 2007.

In the show's 10th anniversary world arena tour, whose first leg of performances was held in humongous arenas, fit for a big rock concert, across Europe--Finland, Scandinavia, Denmark, Amsterdam, Bulgaria, Prague, Czech Republic, Istanbul, Turkey, Croatia, Ireland, and the UK--from last February to this month, Ayesa once again plays the young protagonist.

"I was there in London last year for the show's 10th anniversary performance. I saw Ben Elton, the show's book writer. I saw Brian. Oliver Tompsett was playing Galileo. Rachael Wooding, the girl playing Scaramouche [Galileo's love interest], was phenomenal.

MiG Ayesa at Jeepney Gastropub; photo by Rex Romero
"Ben said to me, 'You haven't aged. That was years ago, and you should be old. Basically, you're not yet. Would you be interested doing Galileo again?

"I said, 'I would love to.' True enough, a couple of weeks later, I got a call from the casting directors.

"Brian [whom Ayesa considers as his greatest inspiration--a quintessential ultimate rock star--that he could possibly ask for] and Roger Taylor of Queen until now are very hands-on. They're very instrumental in putting on WWRY. They like quality control. They want to make sure that they're happy with the presentation of their music onstage. WWRY is their baby."

WWRY, which plans to tour the United States this year, possibly a stop on Broadway, is set in the future, where independent, free-thinking music is not allowed--it is illegal. Everyone listens to the same type of music, and buys only corporate-sanctioned music. Galileo, together with his friends, wants everyone to know that it is OK to be different and to express your individuality.

It dawned on Ayesa, "'I personally think that WWRY would be great here. They [producers] haven't realized how popular Queen is here in the States. I was speaking to Brian recently, and I asked him, 'Why is the show not coming to New York yet?' And he said, 'I don't think we're as popular in the States as we're in Europe.' And then the next day, I was in Ariba Ariba--the Mexican restaurant on Ninth Avenue--there was a DJ playing music there. Next thing you know he was playing 'We Will Rock You.' People were dancing, dancing up on the chairs and cheering, 'We will, we will rock you!' I called Brian, and told him, 'Brian, I just want to let you know that I'm in a Mexican restaurant in New York, and you have to listen to what's going on right now. There was just chaos.'"

He added, "However, I think maybe Ben would need to rewrite it for the American audiences. Ben likes to change things depending on where it's playing. I think WWRY would do very well here."

Would Ayesa be playing Galileo when the show toured the United States? We are not sure of that just yet. 

In the meantime, he is back in Manila to reprise Stacee Jaxx, which he also played on Broadway, for a limited repeat performance of Atlantis Productions' take on ROA at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium from Friday, July 12 to Sunday, July 28.

"I'm so impressed with Atlantis Productions. There's a rebirth in theater interest in the Philippines. People are actually realizing how great it is to go to the theater. In a big way, Atlantis has been a part of this revolution. The theater company brought all these shows that were new on Broadway like "In the Heights," "Aladdin," ROA, "God of Carnage," and "Nine"--all those things that were big hits here also opened in the Philippines.

"When I started rehearsals for ROA, I was totally blown away by the cast. The Philippines has such pool of talents to draw from. I don't think the country will ever get short of talent there. I'm really excited about that," he said.

However, between Galileo and Stacee Jaxx, Ayesa, can relate more to the young Bohemian hero.

"Galileo, the character, and I grew up in a time where I found myself wanting to be understood. A lot of times, I fought to get my act or art expressed--trying to become an artist. And trying to be a recording artist is something really hard for me--to get people to notice what I do," he admitted.

He continued, "People tell you to be so many things: 'Oh, we're looking for a new Ricky Martin, can you do that kind of stuff?' Or, 'We're looking for a boy group.' I don't want to be the second Ricky Martin. I want to be the first MiG. That's something that I always thought about. Galileo is very much like that, 'I don't want to be anybody else. I want to be me.'"

Ayesa, on the other hand, thinks that Tom Cruise, in last year's movie incarnation of ROA, is the perfect Stacee Jaxx, a decadent rock star of the 1980s. "I thought he captured Stacee Jaxx in a beautiful way. He was the kind of guy who took an acid trip once and never came back. I saw in his eyes that he played the role so truthfully--his eyes were vacant. You looked into his eyes, and he wasn't really there--I mean this guy is spaced-out. And I loved that element," he said.

At that point we wrapped up our small talk with Ayesa.

Over a round of drinks, we finished Jeepney's popular Kapampangan suman--head-on king prawn, glutinous rice and manteca in banana leaf with green mango relish, pork fluff and crispy dilis--neatly served at the table.

Photos: Rex Romero | Location: Jeepney, Filipino Gastropub | Special thanks to: Nicole Ponseca

Saturday, March 02, 2013

HTG Presents the World Premiere of THE SKY OVER DIMAS, 3/21-23

By Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

New York, March 2, 2013 -- Campus-based theater productions in the Philippines such as Dulaang UP's "Collection" and Ateneo Blue Repertory's "Spring Awakening" are giving mainstream theater productions a run for their money -- a competition that is healthy. So hearing a word from De La Salle University's (DLSU) resident theater company, Harlequin Theatre Guild (HTG), that the company will be presenting the world premiere of the book-to-stage adaptation of National Book Award and Palanca winner Vicente Garcia Groyon's "The Sky Over Dimas," written by playwright Tim Dacanay, I am extra-thrilled.

Mr. Groyon and I used to work together: He taught film theory and criticism; while I taught public relations and issues management at DLSU's Department of Communication a few years ago.

Mr. Dacanay is a friend of my dad's family.

And "The Sky Over Dimas" is one of my favorite novels by a Filipino author.

In "The Sky Over Dimas," Mr. Groyon brings his readers (audiences) to his real-life hometown, Bacolod, the capital of the province of Negros Occidental, where the Torrecarions, members of the upper-middle class, dwell in dark secrets filled with greed, deceit, and betrayal that their kin members cannot escape on their own.

Amidst all the secrets, there is but one person who will do anything and everything to end the cycle that continuously haunts his clan: George -- to be played by theater actor Redjie Jimenez, and television actor Toby Alejar -- who is fed up with all the lies.

George exiles himself to Hacienda Dimas in Bacolod where it all began, and exposes the skeletons in the closet that delve into his family's past.

This stage adaptation of "The Sky Over Dimas" features musical score by Dodgie Fernandez ("Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan," "Haring Lear"), set design by Joseph Duran ("Sudhaya," "Si Tonying at ang Mahiwagang Aklat ng Kasaysayan"), lighting design by Katsch SJ Catoy ("La Revolucion Filipina," "Ibalong"), and stage direction by Romualdo Tejada ("Unang Ulan ng Mayo").

Ace Gutierrez (Margie) and Jose Rufino Dy Buco (Raffy) will join Jimenez and Alejar on stage.

I wish you all the best, Vince, Tim, and HTG!

Performance Schedule: March 21 (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m., and March 22 and 23 (Friday and Saturday) at 10:30 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. at Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium, De La Salle University-Manila 

Ticket Price: PhP 200.00

For additional information, contact Kyle Bulut at (63) 917 896 2239 or email harlequintheatreguild@gmail.com.

Like "The Sky Over Dimas" on FB.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Adam Jacobs, Ali Ewoldt to Star in A HEART FULL OF LOVE at Town Hall, 2/23

By Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com

New York, January 24, 2013 -- Broadway's "Les Miserables" alumni Adam Jacobs, last seen as Simba in Disney's "The Lion King," and Ali Ewoldt, last seen as Tuptim in Baayork Lee's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I," are poised to reunite on stage in A HEART FULL OF LOVE, a concert at The Town Hall on 43rd Street on Saturday, February 23 at 8 p.m.

Conceived by Victor Lirio ("Suites by Sondheim," "Two Rooms"), featuring direction by Adam Fitzgerald ("Friends and Relations," "Killing Women") and musical direction by David Dabbon ("Secondary Impact," "She Loves Me"), A HEART FULL OF LOVE will showcase Jacobs and Ewoldt, both of Filipino descent, singing an array of musical theater favorites, including selections from "Les Miserables," "West Side Story," and "The Lion King"; a sampling of contemporary pop songs and kundiman (traditional Filipino love songs); and an inspiring repertoire of new works by emerging musical theater writers and composers.

In a press statement, Jacobs said, "The last time Ali and I sang together on a concert stage was at a tribute show for musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim at Lincoln Center ['Suites by Sondheim,' directed by Lirio] two years ago. We sang 'One Hand, One Heart' from 'West Side Story,' and that was it. But for our show at The Town Hall, not only will we have the chance to perform excerpts from 'Les Miserables' for the first time since our Broadway debuts; but we also will have the opportunity to do other popular tunes from shows we haven't done yet (which reminds us that Jacobs has been wanting to do the male lead role in 'The Light in the Piazza'; could 'Love to Me' be part of the concert program?)"

Via email, Jacobs told BroadwayWorld.com that featured guest artists at The Town Hall concert will be announced shortly.

Proceeds from A HEART FULL OF LOVE will go to the 3rd The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York (TOFA-NY) Awards, an annual award ceremony that recognizes exemplary Filipino-Americans in the New York Tri-State held in October; and to Mindoro Healthcare Consulting's current research to find a cure for multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

Elton Lugay of TOFA-NY and Jona Jane Tajonera of Mindoro Healthcare Consulting, LLC, together with media partners GMA Pinoy TV, GMA Life TV, and The Filipino Reporter, are producing this Valentine's month concert.

For tickets ($40-$100), visit Ticketmaster.com.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

BroadwayWorld PH Receives an Award for Promoting Original Filipino Plays and Musicals

(L-R) Elaine Coronel, marketing associate and member of the Board of Trustees, PSF; Chris Lim, marketing director, board member and founder, PSF; Vincent Evangelista, spokesperson, BroadwayWorld Philipines; Atty. Vincent Tanada, president and artistic director, founder, PSF; Jeffrey Ambrosio, production manager, board member and founder, PSF; and Anna Bautista, executive secretary, and member of the Board of Trustees, PSF
by Oliver Oliveros, BroadwayWorld.com 

Manila, Philippines, January 3, 2013  BroadwayWorld Philippines, the country's premier online news source for everything theater, received an award for promoting original Filipino plays and musicals from the Philippine Stagers Foundation (PSF), a non-profit, non-stock theater organization that has produced multi- award winning musical "Cory ng Edsa" and the Palanca Award-winning play "Ang Bangkay."

Vincent "Enteng" Evangelista, an original member of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers and BroadwayWorld Philippines's regional editor Oliver Oliveros's official spokesperson, accepted the award from Atty. Vincent Tanada, PSF's founder, president, and artistic director, on December 20 at the theater company's annual Christmas Ball at Pan Pacific Hotel in Malate, Manila.

PSF also handed out awards to the Philippine Department of Education, the Philippine Department of Tourism, and Tanghalang Pasigueno.

"BroadwayWorld is our partner in promoting original Filipino plays and musicals in the country. We both believe in the unlimited power and giftedness of Filipino artists to create their own musicals and reach a myriad of audiences  young and old, rich and poor," said Tanada.

In his acceptance speech, Evangelista, on behalf of Oliveros, said,"Similar to theater news publishing, working on a theatrical production is a communal effort: we have editors, writers, and photographers; you have directors, actors, and production designers. We all play varied, interdependent roles; however, one thing binds them all together: that is our collective passion for creating magic on an almost empty stage, every night, which we all have come to know as the allure of live theater."

"We dedicate this award to the hardworking news team behind BroadwayWorld Philippines, and to all Filipino theater artists, whether based in the Philippines or on Broadway or in the West End or elsewhere, who always strive for excellence in their chosen craft no less."

BroadwayWorld, whose head office is located in New York City, is the largest theater site on the Internet covering Broadway, the West End, and beyond to 100 U.S. cities, and 35 countries worldwide. With more than 3.5 million monthly visitors, BroadwayWorld delivers complete up-to-the-minute Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theater news, in-depth interviews, extraordinary photo coverage, entertaining video features, lively message boards, ticket discounts, reviews, and more.

In the past year alone, BroadwayWorld's Philippine Theater coverage included original Filipino plays and musicals "Katy," "Care Divas," "A Fire in the Soul," "Joe: A Filipino Rock'sical," "Noli Me Tangere," "Bona," "Walang Sugat," "Prison Dancer," "Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure in Neverland." "Ang Bagong Harana," "Anting," "Walang Kukurap," "Orosman at Zafira," "Umaaraw, Umuulan, Kinakasal ang Tikbalang," and "Rama Hari."