The Ultimate Breakup Playlist

roberta-sorge-125543.jpgPublished September 2009 on (defunct website)

When you break up with a significant other, all you want to do is stay in bed, curl up with some tissue, and listen to a good, sad song you can bawl your eyes out. Maybe you want a loud, angry song to sing your lungs out to, or a triumphant “I’m-glad-it’s-over” song you can strut to. However you feel, you need a song. Here are ten of the best, most anthemic breakup songs of all times (in no particular order).


  1. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

I will survive as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive I’ve got all my life to live I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive I will survive

 It’s the breakup song even your mom knows the lyrics of. It’s a classic, and great for singing karaoke to with your girlfriends. The upbeat tempo and campy appeal make this a great choice when breaking up means breaking free.


  1. Kwarto – Sugarfree

Mga liham ng nilihim kong pag-ibig At litrato ng kahapong maligalig Dahan-dahan kong inipon Ngunit ngayo’y kailangan nang itapon

 A beautiful, melancholy song for when a relationship has ended and all you are left with is a lonely room and box full of memories.


  1. Without You – Mariah Carey

No I can’t forget tomorrow

When I think of all my sorrow

When I had you there

But then I let you go

And now it’s only fair

That I should let you know

What you should know

This song captures exactly how you feel when you break up with someone and realize what a mistake you’ve made.


  1. All Out of Love – Air Supply

I’m lying alone with my head on the phone Thinking of you till it hurts I know you hurt too but what else can we do Tormented and torn apart

It seems that Air Supply has got breakup songs down to an art. They did the original ‘Without You’, and have done other breakup songs such as ‘Goodbye’. But this has got to be their best. It’s got a memorable melody and a chorus you can belt out to.


  1. Survivor – Destiny’s Child

Now that you are out of my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya – But I’m stronger You thought that I’d be broke without ya – But I’m richer You thought that I’d be sad without ya – I laugh harder

So what if you’ve broken up? It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s the beginning of a new chapter in your life. This is a song for all you strong, independent women out there who don’t want to waste another minute moping about your ex.

6. How do I live without you – Trisha Yearwood

Oh I need you in my arms, need you to hold You’re my world, my heart, my soul If you ever leave Baby you’d take away everything good in my life

This song captures quite well the feelings of helplessness and loss you feel after a breakup.


  1. You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette

’cause the joke that you laid on the bed that was me And I’m not gonna fade As soon as you close your eyes and you know it And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it…well can you feel it

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as the old saying goes. What better song to help release your anger? It’s got smart and biting lyrics. This song rocks, and so do you. Let him know that in no uncertain terms.


  1. Someday we’ll know – New Radicals

Ninety miles outside Chicago Can’t stop driving, I don’t know why So many questions, I need an answer Two years later you’re still on my mind

When it’s been ages since your breakup, but you just can’t get over him this song hits you straight in the gut with its bittersweet and heartfelt lyrics.

9. Before I let you go – Freestyle

I wish that it could be just like before I know I could’ve given you so much more Even though you know I’d given you all my love I miss your smile, I miss your kiss Each and every day I reminisce ‘Coz baby it’s you that I’m always dreaming of

 A huge hit in the late ‘90s with easy to remember lyrics for when you don’t want a breakup to happen, but have accepted the fact that it will.

10. One Last Cry – Brian McKnight

My shattered dreams and broken heart Are mending on the shelf I saw you holding hands, standing close to someone else Now I sit all alone wishing all my feeling was gone I gave my best to you, nothing for me to do But have one last cry

 This song is melodramatic, but in a good, soulful way. It’s infectious R&B rhythm and relatable lines make it one of the best breakup songs of the last few decades.


Power people choose Greenbelt Madison

Press Release, July 2009

Are you motivated, in control and determined? Then you’re a person of power and should have the finest that the city has to offer. The best place for you is Greenbelt Madison, the ultimate power address.

Greenbelt Madison is along Sotto Street and Salcedo Street in Legaspi Village, and walking distance from Ayala Avenue. This means that you are only minutes away from important corporate towers, banks and offices both local and international. Another major road nearby is Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, which can lead you to Makati’s major power points.

Some of these points include centers for postgraduate studies such as the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and Ateneo Professional Schools – perfect for that MBA you’re planning to take. Main commercial centers in the area are Greenbelt and Glorietta, as well as Landmark and SM Makati. With the variety and options available to you, shopping is both fun and challenging. You are also just a stone’s throw away from the latest restaurants and trendiest new bars.

Standing 31 stories high, Greenbelt Madison towers over the CBD and gives you a breathtaking view of the vibrant metropolis you belong to. Floors 8 – 31 contain both studio and 2 bedroom units, while the 7th level podium has 6 elite executive studios. All of the units are fully furnished. Each studio unit has a Sony 21 inch flat screen TV, Toshiba Washer/Dryer, Refrigerator, Air Conditioner, Microwave Oven, Dining Table Set, and Sofa, among other things. The 2 bedroom units have even more features, such as a kitchen cabinet set and entertainment cabinet.

Power people have busy days and need to maximize their time, which is why Greenbelt Madison has a laundromat and gym within the premises. There’s no need to travel outside to have your clothes washed, or do your workout. These amenities are both convenient, and time-saving. Other amenities include an indoor spa and 15 meter lap pool which is perfect for those who wish to keep fit, and a sitting area and playground for those with children.

For those who want to stretch their jogging legs and enjoy a bit of greenery, there’s the Legaspi Mini-Park and the Greenbelt Park close by. If you’re more into the arts and theatre, Onstage Greenbelt at Greenbelt 1 features both well-known and new plays, musicals included. The Ayala Museum and the Yuchengo Museum provide some culture and history in the midst of modern Makati. Other major landmarks in the area are Renaissance Makati City Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel Manila, and Makati Medical Center.

Greenbelt Madison has 24/7 security and strictly monitored entry points and CCTV, for your utmost safety. There are provisions for cable and internet, which means you can keep abreast of current events in various industries and send important emails from your home.  The 2-level basement parking and 5-level podium parking means that you never have to worry about parking your car in Makati.

Whatever you need, you can find in and around Greenbelt Madison. It’s not only the place for power people, but a place of power itself.

The Difficulties of Cubicle Love

mahkeo-277047Published April 2009 on (defunct website)

Leona met BJ in the office. Today, they’re happily married and have a son. Jo was in an on and off relationship with an officemate. Now, they’re just friends. Sometimes office relationships work, sometimes they don’t. So are they worth it?

Like any relationship, there are pros and cons. One good thing is that your partner is nearby. “You’ll get to see him every day. If there are any emergencies you can contact him right away.” Leona shares.

More time together means you’ll get to know him better. How does he handle his responsibilities and treat co-workers? Being in the same office means you’ll get to see him in ‘real life’.

What about the downside? “Like I said, you get to see him every day,” Leona laughs. Everyone needs personal space. “Spending too much time together can breed boredom. We all need to retain some mystery.” Jo adds. Also, “office romances usually triggers gossip. Personally, I haven’t had any major problems as a result of being in an office relationship. I don’t know how my bosses view me, though.” She admits.

There might be a problem if your partner is your boss, or a subordinate. It could be bad for your reputation, or career. “If your loved one isn’t in the same department or team, it won’t be that complicated.” Leona says.

And if the relationship doesn’t workout, it’ll be harder to end. Others decide to resign if a relationship ends badly. Complications and conflict are bound to occur, especially in such close quarters.

So how can such conflict be avoided? The key is respect.

Respect your boss. Don’t let the relationship affect your quality or output. Show respect to your superiors by being a professional, and you’ll maintain their respect too.

Respect your officemates. Sure, your officemates are happy for you, but do they need to hear you gush about your guy nonstop? Too much information can be awkward for them. Plus, there is plenty of time to be mushy with your partner outside the office, away from the eyes of co-workers (who might find it embarrassing).

Respect your partner. Give your partner enough space to work. The occasional sweet email and having lunch together is fine, but checking up on him every 5 minutes isn’t just annoying, it’s scary.

Respect your relationship. For romance to blossom, it needs intimacy and privacy. If you keep revealing things to co-workers, pretty soon everyone will know what you argued about last night, and where you plan to have dinner. Where’s the romance there?

Respect yourself. Define your boundaries. You’re not required to cover for your partner, or do his work for him. Outside the office you can be his sweetie pie, but in the office you mean business.

“The number one rule in handling an office relationship is knowing when to act as a couple, and when not to.” Jo advises. Follow that, and the risk just might be worth it.

Journey of the Center

Cultural_Center_Philippines_TPPublished in Metro Society magazine, April 2009

As the CCP celebrates its 40th anniversary, it’s interesting to trace how the vision for the Cultural Center has evolved. The CCP was created as “a trust for the benefit of the Filipino people, for the purpose of preserving and promoting Philippine culture in all its varied aspects” (EO No. 30). It has hosted notable local troupes such as Repertory Philippines, and international artists such as opera star Placido Domingo and sitarist Ravi Shankar. The CCP Library and Archives is a special repository of music, arts and the performing arts – one of the first of its kind in Asia. During its early years, the CCP Museum also had a permanent collection of musical instruments, paintings, pottery, and the other artifacts. To acknowledge artists and their work, the National Artist Awards were formed in 1972. The first National Artist Award was conferred posthumously to Fernando Amorsolo, and succeeding awards have been given to artists within the fields of architecture, broadcast arts, dance, fashion design, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts. To accompany this, the International Artists Awards were created to honor foreign artists. Those awarded include pianist Van Cliburn and prima ballerina assoluta Margot Fonteyn.

Despite these accomplishments, the CCP had to overcome accusations of elitism and superfluousness even before its inauguration in 1969. Admittedly, the Center initially catered to the privileged and promoted ‘high culture’ and arts such as opera, ballet and classical music. It still does and will continue to do so. The CCP does not apologize for accommodating the upper classes or keeping its high standards of excellence. However, it acknowledges that popular arts and artists do not equal low standards. In the book “Cultural Center of the Philippines: Crystal Years” (1984), Visitacion De la Torre wrote that the Cultural Center “maintains a democratic, open, ecumenical stance… to attain fuller, richer results.” At no time has this been truer than today.

Nestor Jardin, the CCP’s current President, is proud of what it has become and is enthusiastic about its 40th anniversary. “We opened the celebration with the Pasinaya Open House Festival last February 1. It was attended by about 29,000 people. We had 100 performances for one whole day all over the complex.” The celebration was organized so that during the year there would be ‘peg months’: specifically, February, April, July and September. The month of February highlighted Filipino artists and original Filipino works. There was the Gabi ng Musikang Filipino last Feb 13 and the 40th anniversary gala production that featured masterpieces of Philippine music and dance last Feb 27. The 40th anniversary Visual Arts exhibit has already opened, and there are many more events lined up. The CCP’s achievements in the past 40 years will be the focus of this year-long celebration.

One major accomplishment is its discovery and support of Filipino artists, both established and emerging. Another is how it has helped build up an original body of works from Filipino artists, via commissioned work programs and grants. The CCP has also democratized arts and culture in the Philippines. Jardin stated that, “the CCP has that stigma of being for the elite, probably because the high profile events during the time of Mrs. Marcos were big social events. But through our outreach programs, arts councils and nationwide training programs, we have given opportunities for artists, artistic groups and cultural workers to take part in the development of the country.”

An example is the Sining sa Eskwela program. There are about 16 regional schools for the arts across the country, modeled after the Philippine High School for the Arts which the CCP supervises. Students in these schools can specialize or enter into art programs for college. The Sining sa Eskwela program helps these schools by providing training for teachers and helping them develop teaching materials. In addition, the CCP encourages the youth to appreciate fresh and innovative works of arts. There’s the WiFi Body Festival that showcases young, emerging choreographers; the Virgin Labfest, which features young directors, actors and playwrights and Cinemalaya, which supports new filmmakers. The CCP has also actively supported their resident companies such as the Madrigal Singers and Bayanihan Dancers in tours and competitions abroad. The CCP’s vision in the 1980s was to open itself up to more popular forms of entertainment to prove that it supported all aspects of Philippine art. Also, there was a desire to export more Filipino artists and arts abroad. Now, almost 30 years later, the CCP has succeeded on both counts.

However, the CCP’s vision has evolved to take into account not just cultural, but economic issues. De la Torre wrote, “The CCP is not expected to earn like a bank or any financing institution because its investment is in culture and the arts which are hardly quantifiable.” True, the CCP is not expected to earn like a bank, but part of Jardin’s personal vision is to see the CCP become self-sufficient: “We hope to develop the CCP into an artistic, cultural, tourism and commercial complex that will earn enough funds to operate independently of government support, and fund each program nationally and internationally more actively.”

In this day and age, it appears that almost everything, such as the effect of the arts on the economy, can be quantified. “Few people know that the creative industry contributes 11.1 % to the GDP, and that contribution is with minimal government support. In countries like China, Australia, and England, where the government has recognized the creative industry alongside mining, agriculture, and health as a major sector of the economy, there are programs that support it. I think with more such programs, the contribution to the national economy will increase.” Jardin said.

Aside from this, the CCP intends to emphasize the arts as being relevant to the everyday lives of Filipinos. Jardin explained that, “The common perception of the arts is that it is peripheral to our lives, and is mostly for aesthetics and beauty. Many people do not realize that the arts can play a transformative role in society.” First, local arts help to establish a national cultural identity. Second, the arts can help in improving our economy via the creative industry, which employs artists, designers, writers, cultural workers and the like. Lastly, Jardin noted that “the experiential nature of art, whether looking at a painting, listening to a concert, or watching a play, can have a deeper impact in instilling positive values”. Exposure to the arts and culture can complement and even enhance lessons taught within the formal education system.

Jardin was quick to add that he was not criticizing the ‘art for art’s sake’ stream. But to him, “an artist cannot detach himself from his surroundings. An artist, as a person, must interact with his environment. Given the gift of talent, it is his responsibility to react to his community – its concerns and issues – and reflect these in his works so that the community can benefit. In so doing, he will produce works that say something.” This view goes beyond Mrs. Marcos’ ideology of ‘art as beauty’ that the CCP was partly a result of, and the prevailing postmodern slant of many artists today.

As De La Torre commented, “the Center is a human institution manned by people, by artists who have their own imperfections, even idiosyncrasies.” As such, it is not perfect – nor is it static. In order to survive, the CCP had to undergo a re-visioning, achieving a delicate balance between the ‘art for art’s sake’ and ‘art as an instrument for social betterment’ streams of thought, and keeping their commitment to excellence without alienating the multitude. Will it be able to maintain this elegant, and at times, precarious position even as it tries to reach its goal of financial autonomy and promote the transformative power of arts and culture? One can only hope that the CCP proves to be a prima ballerina assoluta in this regard.

Mona Lisa Smile

Published in Metro Weddings, January – June 2009

For my wedding photos, I was thinking of doing a Mona Lisa smile – mysterious and tight-lipped. Years of drinking too much coffee and tea had left my teeth less than pearly white. As much as I wanted to flash a gorgeous smile on my wedding day, I was just too self-conscious. That is, until I met Dr. Cecile Infantado.

Dr. Cecile specializes in Cosmetic Dentistry and is part of Smile Designer Co. Inc. and has been in the practice for 21 years. During our consultation her warm and ladylike demeanor quickly put me at ease, as she explained the concept of a ‘designer smile’ and how she first got into dentistry. At the age of 12, she knew she wanted to be a dentist and even made her own set of “play teeth” using materials such as clay, paper and glue from her parent’s school supplies store. She may have started out with humble materials, but she realized early on that not everyone was born with a nice smile, and that she had the ability to make smiles great, given the right tools and training.

Her desire to create beautiful smiles led her to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where she took advanced studies in cosmetic dentistry. She is an active participant in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which is the largest dental organization committed to advancing excellence in the art and science of cosmetic dentistry. “My training and experiences at the AACD trained my eye to look at the better picture.” She revealed.

The number one service brides ask for is, naturally, teeth whitening or bleaching. I knew I wasn’t the only bride-to-be who was conscious about the shade of my teeth, but it was comforting to find out that a number of clients availed of this service, celebrity and non-celebrity brides alike. I was also happy to hear that it was a quick, painless process (roughly 45 minutes), and that my teeth could become 3 – 5 shades lighter. I wasn’t so happy to hear that I would have to lay off the coffee, tea and other colored substances and foods two days after the procedure. Still, I suppose not getting a caffeine fix for two days is worth a whiter, beaming smile. Other common services offered at Dr. Cecile’s clinic are adding porcelain veneers and cosmetic bonding.

The process of bonding makes use of enamel-like material that is sculpted and polished into shape to help fill in chipped edges and gaps between teeth. Porcelain Veneers are custom-made thin porcelain shells bonded directly to one’s teeth. As these veneers become part of the tooth, they are mostly used to close unsightly gaps, repair chipped or broken teeth, and alter the alignment of teeth to make them appear straighter. The best thing about veneers is that they don’t stain. Often, this procedure is done in two sessions, and with proper maintenance, veneers can last for years.

Dr. Cecile’s mentor was one of the former presidents of the AACD, and she trained with him in Hawaii, where she got her own veneers. “I realized that my teeth weren’t perfect of course, and I wanted to enhance my own smile. But more than that, I wanted to see how the procedure was done and feel what having veneers were like so that I could empathize with my patients.” It’s good to know that Dr. Cecile has first-hand experience with this service, and can say with conviction that bonding and veneers offer total smile enhancement.

Dr. Cecile’s hands-on experience and conscientious approach ensure that each patient gets the personalized treatment they deserve. The fact that her clinic is located in the Dusit Thani Hotel is not only convenient, but pleasant as well. The luxurious and elegant setting helps to prepare your mind and body for a day of pampering and relaxation. For our initial consultation, Dr. Cecile did a bit of cleaning, pointed out two cavities and suggested some bonding and bleaching. Bonding would ensure even, perfectly proportioned teeth and bleaching would give me a celebrity white smile – the perfect bridal accessory.

I asked when would be the best time to go for a consultation, in general. “It all depends on what you want to have done, but go for an initial consultation 2 months before the wedding so that you know, more or less, what you need.” She advised. “For example, if you need dental work that requires laboratory support, then we’ll have enough time to send the plates to the lab. However, minor work only takes a couple of hours.” My only regret was not meeting the good dentist sooner, as my wedding is just a month away.    

Bleaching ranges from P15,000 – P25,000. Veneers are about P26,500 inclusive of everything; temporary crowns, smile design, and so on. “You don’t do veneers right away,” Dr. Cecile explained. “The smile design is very crucial. We take an impression, study the model and do a mock-up. That way, the patient will know what their smile will look like.” Bonding costs about P10,000 per tooth, but Dr. Cecile has a special price for brides as well as good package deals, so it can go as low as P7,000 per tooth. What’s more, bonding only takes a few hours. “You can be done in 1 – 2 hours, depending on how many teeth we do,” Dr. Cecile estimated. This was the best part of the deal, for me. Like most brides-to-be, I work full-time and despite having a wedding planner, find that there still aren’t enough hours in a day to finish all the things I need to do for work, the wedding, and other things. Not having to worry about what my teeth would look like in my wedding pictures is an immense relief. All I have to do on the day is brush my teeth, gargle, and beam at the photographers.  

Teeth aren’t the only elements that make for a dazzling smile though; our lips and gums are also part of the deal. That is why Dr. Cecile also does gum sculpture, cosmetic contouring and ‘smile lifts’. Gum sculpture can help correct certain soft tissue problems and produces a more symmetrical look, while cosmetic contouring can develop a better width to length ratio of teeth, and create a softer, more pleasant shape. It is also one of the easiest procedures done today.  Smile lifts make use of various procedures and materials to “improve facial contours and muscle structure through tooth and bite alignment”, as explained in Dr. Cecile’s website. Smile lifts can help future brides attain softer, elegant, and more importantly, healthier smiles.

You can learn more about the art of cosmetic dentistry and the services that Dr. Cecile offers by visiting her website: or by dropping by her clinic on the third floor of the Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati. The clinic is currently going through some expansion and renovation, so expect a wonderful ambiance and state of the art dental technology. While going to a cosmetic dentist may sound pricey, the results are definitely priceless: instant glamour, renewed confidence and a charming smile that your groom will fall in love with again and again.

So Many Stars

Published in Metro Society magazine, October – November 2008

It’s hard to imagine that the handsome man in front of me, with his firm handshake and ready smile, has gone through more loss and death in a few years than one should have in a lifetime. “2003 to 2005, those were difficult years,” he shares. His name is Robert “Bobbit” Suntay, a man with a degree in education – both academic and real. “My wife, father and father-in-law were all diagnosed with cancer within six months of each other. They all died within a year of each other.” Despite, and because of, his experience with loved ones taken by cancer, Carewell was created.

The Cancer Resource and Wellness (Carewell) Community was founded by Bobbit and his late wife, Jackie in 2005. It was fully operational by 2007. They took their inspiration from The Wellness Community (TWC), an international, community-based psychosocial support organization in the US. At the moment, Carewell is currently the only International Affiliate of TWC in Southeast Asia. Like TWC, they provide free resources, support and various services to people and their loved ones who are living with cancer. This foundation is nonprofit. They only have one paid employee, an office secretary, and the rest of the staff and key members are all volunteers.

The resources and services vary. There’s a Library and Resource Center with materials from their partners abroad (such as the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society). On their shelves are books that range from Philip Yancey’s Where is God When it Hurts? to Italo Calvino’s Numbers in the Dark.  They provide support groups, counseling and medical consultation, international referral programs, wellness activities, and facilities for meetings and workshops at the S & L Building in Makati, where their office and resource center is located.

“Our flagship program is the support groups. That’s what a lot of people really look for,” Bobbit states. Carewell runs support groups in various venues, from the café in the building their office is located at, to hospitals such as Veteran’s and Asian. Aside from the lovely Carebelles, the women’s support group, there is also something for the men. “We have the Husband’s Happy Hour. You can’t call it a support group because the husbands don’t like it,” He jokingly warns.

As a husband who cared for someone with cancer, Bobbit knows how difficult it can be, and wanted to offer the same support he received to other men. “We started advertising it as the husband’s support group. No one ever showed up.” So they began to call it the ‘Happy Hour’, complete with free beer and pika-pika. That’s when the men showed up.  “I thought these guys would come, drink and talk about basketball, or something. But then they actually talked about the experiences of caring for their wives.” They also have mixed groups where spouses, caregivers, other family members and doctors can come together to discuss, share and reflect on the illness that has changed their lives so dramatically.

Carewell also hosts a number of annual events to bring the community together and raise awareness. This October, they will be celebrating a benefit concert, the Carewell Star Night. It will be held on October 2, from 6 – 9 pm at the Manila Polo Club. “When someone is ill with cancer, the spotlight is on the person who has the disease. But cancer isn’t a disease that affects only one person. Everyone is drawn into the cancer journey. Those relegated to the sidelines, despite being very much part of this journey, are the caregivers and family members; there’s also the best friend who brings them to chemo, and the office colleague who drives them to work. These are the people who help someone with cancer continue living their life. We wanted to do something for them too.”

14 cancer survivors were selected; men and women, old and young, all with different cancers and at different stages. They were asked: Who is your star? Who walked alongside you every step of your cancer journey, when you were at your worst, sickest, and most desperate? The answers varied from husbands to best friends, and the Carewell Star Night is dedicated to all of them.

The main part of the event will be a fusion of photographs, music and videos. Photographer Wig Tysmans shot portraits of the cancer survivors and their respective stars, while renowned cinematographer and cancer survivor Marilou Diaz-Abaya, made videos of the stars and the survivors who chose to honor them. Bobbit explains that, “We’re going to present these to our greater cancer community and say that while we know that the people who really need attention are the ones with cancer, we’d also like to acknowledge and recognize these people who’ve faithfully stood by them every step of the way.” About 500 people are expected to attend, and light dinner and cocktails will be served. “The second part will be fun too. We got Ryan Cayabyab and the RCS Singers to do a show.” They also plan to launch the Carewell Hub Project, a comprehensive development plan that aims to link a network of individuals, organizations, resources, programs and activities for the Philippine cancer community.

Before leaving Carewell, our photographer points to a felt paper doll taped to the bookshelf. “I’m seeing this everywhere,” he comments. It’s a smiling girl with her hands raised up, wearing a bandana, red shirt, black pants and boots. “Ah, that’s our logo. Here, I’ll show you how it came about.” Bobbit goes into his office and comes out with a framed photograph of a smiling woman on a beach, with her hands up in the air. “This is a photo of my late wife.” He explains how she was about to undergo very sensitive surgery while in the US East Coast, and the day before the procedure they went to one of her favorite spots, Crane Beach. “That’s where the picture was taken. As you can see, she was still pretty upbeat.” Jackie’s younger sister Lara conceptualized the logo from a self-portrait that Jackie had done, based on that photo. “So Jackie became our Carewell girl.” He looks at her picture fondly. After that, we say goodbye and Bobbit continues a busy day of interviews and coordination.

I wonder about Jackie, Bobbit, the Carebelles and the husbands who meet in the midst of pain and chemotherapy, but could still laugh, go to events and enjoy long weekends. “Try to find humor wherever you can, because laughter always helps.” Bobbit said. If there’s anything I want to keep with me from that brief visit, it’s the strength and steadfast hope that the Carewell community seem to embody as they continue to expand, stretch their arms skyward, and smile.


The gift of pleasure at Manhattan Garden City

liliane-limpens-66333 (2)Press Release, January 2009

Experience the luxurious lifestyle inspired by New York’s famous upper-East side in one of the prime spots of the Araneta Center: Manhattan Garden City. This exciting venture between Megaworld Corporation and the Araneta Center is the country’s foremost transit-oriented, garden- themed community.

Both of the residential blocks, the Manhattan Parkway Residences and the Manhattan Parkview Residences, are composed of three towers each. Multicolored lights illuminate not just these, but all 20 towers of the picturesque development. Views of Manila Bay and the Araneta Center skyline can be enjoyed from suites with large windows and balconies.

Aside from the executive studio and one bedroom suites, residents are given the choice to combine suites to create roomier living areas and two to three bedroom suites. Multi-level parking, 24/7 security and a backup power generator make your home safe and convenient. All the towers in the area are linked to the 729 meter long garden walkway which leads to the transit stations.

The development’s distinctive aspect is its direct link to the LRT-2 and MRT-3 train stations. There is no other residential condominium that has this extremely advantageous feature. You can reach various parts of the city within minutes, such as the Makati and Ortigas business districts, Quezon City, Manila and Marikina. Also, both the LRT-2 and MRT-3 are connected to the LRT-1 so you can even travel all the way to Paranaque while avoiding the traffic.

The amenities and facilities of the Manhattan Parkview Residences are particularly impressive and wide-ranging. “We have more than 20 different amenities at Manhattan Parkview Residences, the second phase of Manhattan Garden City. All of these provide a different relaxation experience for our residents, from the passive to the very active pastimes,” says Anthony Yu, the President of Megaworld Central Properties Inc.

Whether you want to invigorate your body and mind at the outdoor spa, or manage sudden business needs at the function room and business center, you’re sure to find a specific amenity for your every need at the Parkview Residences. Residents who are into sports will appreciate the basketball and tennis court, complete with bleachers. Youngsters and those who are young at heart are sure to enjoy the game room.

The garden plaza is perfect for a bit of yoga, meditation, or just relaxing with a good book. There is a delightful circular fountain plaza and sculpture water feature, both of which have unique paving patterns. Other places where one can rest and enjoy the peaceful scenery include a cabana with a fabric roof, and an inviting pergola on the trellised canopy walkway. There are also tree-lined sitting areas near the transfer pavilion.

Sun worshippers can get a tan while resting at the pool deck or landscaped sun deck, then cool off at the 20-meter lap pool. Further additions include a shallow water foot bath and palm court. There is also a bubble pool for children, and a water play pool. At the Manhattan Garden City, you can give yourself over to the pleasure and beauty of your surroundings while still staying fit and healthy.

Within the neighborhood there are numerous diversions and malls that are easily accessible. There is the Gateway Mall, Araneta Coliseum, and Shoemart Cubao to name a few. And since there are pocket gardens scattered across the walkways and footbridges, moving from one location to the next is a soothing visual treat. For those with vehicles, there are multi-level parking areas per tower and strategically located entry and exit points to ensure that traffic goes as smoothly as possible.

Yu is enthusiastic about the ongoing progress of this exceptional community. “Even more amenities await residents at the upcoming phases of Manhattan Garden City. They can expect more innovative and much better amenities from the leading residential condominium developer – Megaworld.”

McKinley Hill to host BMW car show

patrick-tomasso-363779Press Release, August 2008

Watch out for the BMW Product Experience at McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio from August 11 – 17, 2008. During the week-long exclusive BMW car show, guests will marvel at the wide range of luxurious and dynamic automobiles, including the world’s first Sport Activity Coupe – the all-new BMW X6.

BMW AG Product Trainer Herbert Grünsteidl, arriving all the way from Germany, will be supervising driving exercises where “participants will get to drive the latest models in a specially designed track, which highlights the dynamic driving characteristics of each model, as well as BMW’s innovative technologies such as xDrive and Dynamic Performance Control,” (Lia-Marie Guerrero.)   Participants will also be able to experience the Sheer Driving Pleasure of the BMW 1, 3 and 5 Series, as well as the BMW X3 and X5 models.

“The BMW Product Experience aims to give drivers a hands-on understanding of technical parameters and driving physics in various situations. This is a fantastic opportunity for participants to apply textbook knowledge into practical application, experiencing first-hand what Sheer Driving Pleasure is truly about.” (Lia-Marie Guerrero)

McKinley Hill is the perfect place to appreciate the driving capabilities of the latest BMW models. “McKinley Hill is an ideal venue for the BMW Product Experience. Its strategic location right in the heart of the city makes it extremely convenient for our participants to reach us, while the area’s smooth, open roads are conducive to driving exercises. Mckinley Hill is also an ideal partner of BMW as both our companies cater to an elite target group.” (Lia-Marie Guerrero)

The site of the event will be where the Venice Luxury Residences will soon rise. One of MegaWorld Corporation’s loveliest and most ambitious projects to date, these Italian inspired residential towers are set to capture the hearts of potential residents.

Each of the seven towers is modeled after a férro – the distinctive iron ornament found on the front of a gondola. Paolo Marioni Architetto, an architectural firm in Rome, was consulted to ensure a seamlessly classic Italian touch.

To complement the residences is the Venetian Mall, a magnificent shopping complex with its own waterway – the Grand Canal, where a romantic gondola ride can be enjoyed along with the latest stores and sumptuous dining establishments.

Right across the mall is another residential development; the Woodridge Residences, perfect for the stylish and exuberant crowd of young professionals and students. Woodridge is a set of six-story buildings with numerous service outlets and 24 hour convenience stores on the ground floor area.

Other residential developments include McKinley Hill Village, with Mediterranean themed single detached homes, and a number of low to high rise condominiums such as McKinley Hill Garden Villas, Tuscany Private Estate, and Stamford Executive Residences. What’s more, the community’s business district, Mckinley Hill Cyberpark, contains 30,000 square meters of prime office space and is a PEZA-accredited ecozone.

Well-orchestrated architecture, comprehensive facilities, and verdant nature parks beside state of the art amenities and a promising top BPO site will make the 50-hectare McKinley Hill the best integrated township development in the country to date.

Those interested in attending the BMW Product Experience may sign up at the BMW Pitstop – a display area located at the Bonifacio High Street from August 16 to 17, 2008. Participation is limited on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Sense and Eccentricity

2008 FeatureSyjuco1-2Article published in Metro Society magazine, May 2009

A bright neon sign spelling AVANTI backwards. A discreet brick garden wall.  A panaflex of Hitler’s picture. An antique apothecary cabinet.

What do these things have in common? Nothing – until you realize that you can find all these at the home of avante-garde artists Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco. The Syjucos are experts at ostranenie, a technique where disparate elements are juxtaposed, allowing people to see a common thing in an uncommon way. This technique (also known as defamiliarization) is a fundamental idea in 20th century postmodern art. It helps people recognize art in places where they least expect to find it.

Art infuses the Syjuco household with dramatic energy, from their numerous installation pieces scattered about the living room, to the strategically placed pots of basil by second-floor landing of their spiral staircase. It also fills the lives of their children Michelline, A.G., Trix, Maxine and Jules. In Hindu-Buddhist literature and visual arts, one can find references to apsaras, celestial nymphs that dance to the music of gandharvas, skilled musicians who played for the gods.  If the Syjuco women are apsaras of performance art, practicing the steps of some graceful yet chilling waltz known only to them, the Syjuco men are artists whose experiments with music and other media result in works that perhaps only pagan gods could fully understand.

A musician, visual artist and experimental poet, Cesare A.X. Syjuco has created what his website describes as ‘visual literary transmedia’ – pieces that merge poetry, visual art, sound, and so on – that have won him numerous awards and acclaim. So many things have been said and written about him that adding anything more would be redundant. He’s both an iconoclast and luminary of the Philippine art and literary scenes. His reputation as a reclusive genius has been further cemented by his refusal to be interviewed and his short, yet polite, answers to emailed questions for this article.

Jean Marie started out doing paintings, and then gradually shifted to installations, performance art and sculpture. While our crew is busy setting up, she’s also at work serving food and drinks, and chatting with our managing editor about art, culture, gardening and cooking. It’s hard to imagine that this gentle and talkative woman is a pioneer of the performance art scene in the Philippines back in the 1980s, with performances so raw and disturbing that her daughter Maxine couldn’t go near her for days after seeing her perform. Despite this, two of her daughters have followed her footsteps and both are now distinctive performance artists themselves.

In the course of their marriage and careers, Cesare and Jean Marie have created new spaces that have allowed experimental art to grow within the country. Cesare created his literary hybrids, fusing words and visuals in startling ways, while Jean Marie’s performances in the CCP and other places brought performance art to the fore. Both are also pillars of installation art in the Philippines. In the 1990s, they had the Art Lab in EDSA, a key venue for conceptual and experimental art at the time. Cesare and Jean Marie have been married for 30 years and in celebration of this milestone, they had their first collaborative art exhibit last year at the Mag:net Gallery in The Columns, Makati. Last year also saw the Syjuco children (now adults) further establish themselves in the worlds of art and literature. They did this on their own eccentric merit, and in their chosen fields of art.

Michelline, or Mickey, is the eldest of the Syjuco siblings. She was the lead singer for the now defunct art-rock band Faust! and one of the youngest painters exhibited in the juried Annual Exhibition of the Art Association of the Philippines.  She launched her first show called Armadillion last year at Mag:net Café and Gallery, Bonifacio High Street. It featured a large mixed media installation that showcased both her large and miniature pieces. Mickey is both a sculptor and jewelry artist, creating arresting sculptural jewelry made from brass, steel, pearls, sterling silver, pyrite and other contrasting materials. After Mickey is A.G., the eldest male sibling and resident techie of the clan. He graduated Summa cum Laude and is currently a systems analyst at a Fortune 500 company and self-confessed ‘odd man out’ due to his regular job. His preferred medium of expression is music, and at 18 he was the guitarist and composer for Faust! Now, he is the guitarist for Utakan, an experimental art band composed of his wife Mica on synths, and sister Maxine on vocals.

Despite being the middle child, Trix is the one that the siblings agree is the most responsible. She comes across as soft-spoken and reserved, a far cry from her disturbing yet memorable performances. She is also the one with the widest range of interests. She has done performance poetry, photography, sound art, TV hosting, and acting. She also did back-up vocals and played bass guitar for Faust! Her primary passion right now is video, and she is currently doing some video editing for her father. She graduated Magna cum Laude from San Beda, with a degree in Communication and Media Studies. Next in line is the loquacious Maxine. At 24, she is already a well-known performance poet whose first book of poetry, A Secret Life, was published late last year. She is also a musician; at the age of 12 she was the youngest member and drummer of Faust! and now fronts Utakan. She has also done photography and commercial modeling. The youngest is Jules, who has just turned 19. He’s fresh out of high school. He also plays the guitar and sometimes helps A.G. compose for Utakan. Like most boys his age, he enjoys music and playing RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights. But unlike most boys, Jules has that Syjuco passion and strong artistic inclination. “All I want to do is play my music and be heard. I want to make good music.  Ever since I was a boy that’s all I ever wanted to do.” He asserts.

With such an artsy-intellectual background and numerous accomplishments behind them, one might assume the Syjucos are the aloof and pretentious sort, a postmodern Von Trapp family before the entrance of Maria. But one would be sorely mistaken, as they are warmhearted and unassuming, as well as surprisingly firm in their adherence to certain traditional family values. Like most Filipino families, they have a ‘family day’ once a week. Each member has a specific task; Jean Marie comes up with a theme (i.e. Mexican food), Trix cooks one dish, A.G. comes up with a new cocktail, and so on. They are so used to being together that when A.G. was in Chicago during the holiday season, they had him on webcam for Christmas Eve, with his own seat at the dinner table. They value communication and openness. “I don’t think there are any secrets in this family,” Maxine reflects. “We all know what’s going on with everyone else and sometimes at night we all hang out in my parents’ room, just talking. Usually at the dinner table everyone’s talking at the same time and there’s an overflow of ideas and thoughts. That’s how close we are.”

The affection and closeness shared by the siblings is evident from the way they interact and naturally continue each other’s sentences during the interview. Trix goes, “you see sibling rivalry a lot on TV and in movies, but we’ve always been supportive of each other. We know the goals, dreams and passions of each one; the strengths, as well as the weaknesses. We’re support systems for each other. We’ve always been.” Mickey adds that “When we have performances, we end up staying until 4 am and it’s just us, drinking and talking about what happened during the night.”She recounts that during their teenage years, none of them ever felt the urge to rebel as their parents were so loving, open and (in the words of their friends and classmates) “so cool!” The fact that both Mickey and A.G. are married, and the others express a wish to have children and be with someone in the future, show that being part of a family is just as important to them as creative freedom.

However, becoming artists isn’t something that all the Syjuco siblings planned to pursue. Trix says that she was torn between doing the arts and something that would be taken more seriously, but by the time she reached college, she realized that art was what made her truly happy. Mickey relates that “Growing up, I saw my parents struggle, so I didn’t want to be an artist. That’s why I took Business Management. But I discovered that it was inevitable, and I also ended up doing something art-related.” A.G. on the other hand, wanted to take English Literature but ended up doing Computer Science. Still, he admits that, “I always have that creative itch that I just need to scratch. I guess I scratch that itch with my work with Utakan”. Maxine never wanted to be anything but an artist. In his e-mail, Cesare admits that “I’ve always imagined I’d have doctors and lawyers for children.  I’m still hoping they come to their senses and leave the arts to me.”

As the siblings speak of their father, their voices take on a warm tone, full of loving respect. They all agree that he is the most intelligent person that they know. “He knows everything!” Mickey and Maxine chorus. “He’s like a sponge.” During their growing up years, their father took the time to learn about and share their interests. A.G. recounts that when he would get into a new music genre as a teen, such as industrial rock or death metal, his dad would listen as well. In a short time, his dad would end up knowing more than he did about the music. And when Trix went through a phase where she wanted to make her own clothes, Cesare got really into it, even helping her tatter and distress her own jeans.

In past interviews, Cesare calls Jean Marie his anchor and inspiration. When the girls have a new poem or artwork, most of the time their mother is the first one to see it. Jean Marie was once a teacher, and can be very honest and objective in her assessment. Maxine and Mickey say that sometimes her honesty can be a bit hurtful, but it’s good for them. But, “When it comes to music, the person I bounce everything off to first is my dad,” A.G. says. Jean Marie and Cesare played a large part in the development of their children as artists and musicians. “One has to balance an artist’s ego with a father’s sense of responsibility.  I imagine few people can maintain that balance.  And so I think it makes my family somehow special.” Cesare wrote. In 1992, after years of living a very public and hectic artistic life, he abruptly withdrew from the whole art and literary scene, becoming a recluse for about 12 years. “Everything was so public already,” Jean Marie recalls, “and we had to raise our family. We felt that we had to focus on guiding our kids.” During this time they continued to do their art steadily and discreetly. Meanwhile, their children began their own artistic journey, one of their highlights being the formation of the band Faust! which Jean Marie and Cesare managed. Faust! was the youngest commercially signed and recorded band in the history of the Philippines, and though short-lived, it won the 1997 MTV/Philips Asian Band Search and was dubbed by one writer as “one of the most progressive and exciting bands in Asia”. Their second album was launched on the internet, the songs in mp3 form. This was an extremely bold and innovative move, in the days of dial-up connections and wav files.

Past projects aside, this year seems to be busy for everyone, as each Syjuco is currently involved with or setting up some projects. Cesare will be launching his CD album/book A Sudden Rush of Genius. He also has a one-man multimedia show at the Metropolitan Museum in July. Jean Marie is involved in a ‘travelling show’ program that brings experimental art to different high schools in Manila. Mickey is planning another exhibit in October at Firma, Greenbelt. Maxine is having her first one man show in August at the Mag:net Gallery in the Columns, and Utakan started recording their album this summer, tentatively entitled Who’s Listening to Van Gogh’s Ear? Trix is working on a series of youtube videos for their father, as well as a video montage of the Electric Underground Collective – a mix of various avant-garde musicians, poets and performance artists who have collaborated with Cesare. Aside from playing with Utakan, A.G. is also working on their father’s website and new album. Their progressive and oftentimes controversial art is tempered with a tranquil home life.  “Though our art is avant-garde, we still have traditional family values. People notice that we’re always all together. We eat dinner together, pray together and think of experimental performances together.” Jean Marie shares.

“You have this image in your head of what a perfect family is supposed to be, and when most people see us they don’t think we fall under that conventional family. But our family is just so close and all of us grew up feeling so loved,” Mickey explains. Maxine adds that “In my family, we were taught that Art exists everywhere, and it’s just a matter of being able to recognize how it can be brought to life.” And that, in essence, is what the Syjuco family is all about: Living Art. The integration of art into everyday life, and the transformation of objects into art – be they words, chords, rusted metal, plastic or one’s own body. This is a family that seeks to fill itself to the brim with art, but more importantly, it is a family bursting with life and love. One that has dinner together, looks out for each other, and watches American Idol every week, rooting for Adam Lambert. Here, the domestic and artistic spheres do not clash. Instead, they strengthen and collaborate, producing a family where creativity and unity can thrive.

Eastern Promises

Profile1-2Article published in Metro Society magazine, December 2007 – January 2008 issue.

It’s a Tuesday morning, and the Principal – or the President, rather, is in her office. The slender, graceful woman behind the desk is a far cry from the stern headmistress one would expect at an elite Chinese school; an international Chinese school, at that. Felicia ‘Feli’ Atienza, wife of TV personality Kim Atienza, is the President of the Chinese International School Manila (CISM) in the upscale community of McKinley Hill. She launches straight into a discussion of the school; its origins, curriculum and what makes it unique.

“I think what’s important about the school is that we try to demystify the stereotypes that people can have, or do have, about the Chinese. A lot of people say ‘Why do you call it a Chinese International School?’ ” She enumerates the most common misconceptions. “It’s strict. The math is hard. It’s full of geeks. It’s not sports-oriented.”  Then she smiles, amused. “Part of my vision when I established this school was to break those stereotypes by offering the best of everything to the students.”

CISM combines an American curriculum with a meticulous program for learning Mandarin efficiently at all levels. This unique approach also takes into consideration the Philippine cultural context, which makes it an excellent institute of learning for both local and foreign citizens. The school follows the American standard of education, and participated in last year’s ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), with admirable results.

There are five core subjects, with the first four being the standard Math, English, Social Studies, and Science. The fifth is the main Chinese language, Mandarin. “Some schools have an ESL program (English as a Second Language). We will be launching a CSL program (Chinese as a Second Language) soon.” Feli says. “A lot of people, myself included, believe that Mandarin is the language of the future, particularly in the business arena.” All the Chinese language teachers are native speakers, and one is from Taiwan. “Extra-curricular programs are also very important to us because I think that aside from nurturing the intellectual aspect of a student, we want them to touch base with the whole right side of the brain. We offer a full range of extra-curricular activities. We have a Lego Club and a Drama Club, to name a few.”

When asked if she’s always been involved in education, Feli shakes her head and reveals a different background altogether. “I was actually in Finance.” She explains. She has a B.S.E. with a dual major in Finance and Multinational Management from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She worked for JP Morgan Fleming for 5 years then Merrill Lynch for 5 years. Her interest in education was a direct result of motherhood. “I had my first child, a son. When he turned two, my natural instinct as a mom was to look for a suitable school. I wanted an international school, and I wanted my child to be fluent in Mandarin when he graduated. I looked around and wondered, ‘Why is there no Chinese International School?’ I couldn’t believe it when the Chinese are probably the largest minority in the Philippines. I was actually quite puzzled considering there’s a Japanese School, a British school, and even French and German schools. On one side you have a whole range of international schools, and on the other there are local Chinese schools. But I wanted an international curriculum with a Chinese element as well.” Her eldest, who is now 6 years old, is enrolled at CISM together with her other two children. They pass by, giggling and energetic, as Feli walks out of her office for a bit, into the hallway.

On the ground floor of CISM are the Pre-Kindergarten classrooms, a multi-purpose hall and music room. “We’re pretty much fully-equipped. We have a bi-level library, an arts room, an audio-visual room, a music room,  five science labs, a basketball court, a volleyball court, and six Chinese language labs, because we take our Chinese seriously here.” Feli grins. Her passion for both the school and its language program is evident.

CISM also takes its teaching very seriously. The school had a two-day Teacher Training Workshop last August for the faculty. This was followed by a one-day in-service seminar in September, October, and November.  All workshops were handled by former ISM teachers with a minimum of 35 years teaching experience, from the SAGER Learning Institute. “We’re very proud of our faculty. Our teachers all come from international schools.” She boasts.

It’s wonderful to meet a woman whose origin in education is inextricable tied with her being a mother. After all, children will be in school almost everyday for the greater part of their formative years. Where better to place them, than in the hands of someone who is a parent herself? Feli also understood the importance of excellence, in whatever field. “I knew I had to have the best educators by my side when I started.” So she searched long and hard for someone who not only had outstanding credentials, but also shared her dream of teaching students Mandarin. “I was fortunate to meet Lulu, the sister of a good friend.” She introduces her partner, Maria Luisa Que Sian.

Maria Luisa, or Lulu for short, is CISM’s Superintendent. Her qualifications are exceptional, with an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University, an Elementary Teaching Certification from the US, and 15 years of teaching experience in various international schools here and abroad. Lulu had been working in Brent for about 9 years when Feli approached her with plans for the Chinese International School. From the start, she sensed it was an excellent plan. “Once I said yes, I knew it was a commitment.” Lulu explains. She helped create the distinctive academic program, and chose which textbooks from abroad were most suited to the elite academic standards and particular approach of CISM.

“Our goal is to make learning really more experiential. The knowledge becomes a part of the students. By the time they get tested for a certain skill, they don’t even have to study for a test, because they already know how to do it. It’s not about memorizing; it’s about understanding and experiencing the topic. That’s really what learning is about.” Lulu states. She is also a mother, and her children study in CISM as well, one in Grade 5 and the other in Grade 7. “Learning has to be fun. That’s one of the things we try to do; we combine academic excellence with making learning fun for the kids.” She adds.

CISM was three years in the making, and it continues to expand steadily. “Right now we have Pre-kindergarten to Grade 8. Next year we roll out Grade 9.” Feli shares. At full capacity, the school has ample room for 600 students. They expect to reach that figure in about 6 years. “We’ll be working on pre-University – some people also call it college level – courses, such as the IB (International Baccalaureate).” CISM is the first of its kind in the country, and seems to be well on its way to achieving its vision of becoming one of the leading international schools in the world, with its high academic standards, and effective integration of tradition and innovation for the next generation of learners.