Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Flicks and Reruns: Sonata Maria

Ramon and Maria are erstwhile bandmates, one day their former bandmate Eric is set to return home from Manila, the three agree to meet up at the local carnival (karnabal). During the meet-up Eric's homecoming is delayed, leaving Ramon and Maria to spend the evening roaming around the carnival.

This is the main setting of the Davao indie film Sonata Maria, the carnival provides a rich visual language which filmmaker Bagane Fiola wishes to convey. The carnival glosses over the characters' anguish particularly Ramon Bonifacio (played by Krigi Hager) of living a boring routinary life buried under the excesses of a corporate rat race. His dreams provides his only escape and so is his memory- his suppressed feelings for Maria, the movie's setting marks the whirlpool meeting of Ramon's reality, dreams and memories.

Maria sort of plays a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a cinematic character whose term was coined by film critic Nathan Robin.

According to Mr. Robin the MPDG “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

Among famous MPDG characters include Summer Finn of 500 Days of Summer (played by Zoey Deschanel), Penny Lane of Almost Famous (played by Kate Hudson), The Girl in My Sassy Girl (played by Jun Ji-hyun), Enid of the 2012 Cinemalaya indie film Ang Nawawala (played by Annicka Dolonius).

Maria played by PK Whittmer  existence in the story catapults the brooding Ramon out of his shell. The discussions between J.S Bach's music and poetry suggests a soulmate link between the two but there is a lingering distance between the characters and the wait for the dismantling of that gap between the two characters provides an engaging act for the audience, the filmmakers throws in a rich palette of visual, spoken and musical elements which makes this movie a class of its own among local indie films.

Sonata Maria will be shown on October 10, 11 am at Abreeza Mall Cinema 1. Rated R-16 by the MTRCB.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A visit to the newly renovated Osmeña Park

Osmeña Park is a small park located adjacent to the Sangguniang Panglungsod Building bounded by Magallanes, CM Recto and San Pedro Streets.

The area was once the site of the original Christian settlement founded after Don Jose Uyanguren's conquest of Davao in 1848. The park is wedged between the oldest streets of the city, Claveria (now C.M. Recto) and San Pedro

Recently the City Government was concerned about the deteriorating conditions of the park. At night the unlighted area became the haven of indecent activities and some mendicants had taken residence inside the park. In some portions of the park, vendors have taken over by putting up food stalls which have become an eyesore.

Last summer the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) poured in half- a million pesos to renovate the park that meant putting up lighting facilities, landscaping, fencing and rehabilitating the park's comfort rooms.

Last September 15, the newly renovated park was blessed with attendance of city government officials. A week after, I tried to visit the park and see the changes brought about by the renovation.

The park underwent relandscaping 

It is a shady oasis in the middle of a busy city.

Children's playground

Senior citizen's garden

among the plants at the park.

The park is now gated which prevents mendicants from taking residence in the park. The park is closed at night.

The chess club area was moved to a new nook inside the park

The comfort rooms inside the park were also rehabilitated.

Another attraction just across the park's Magallanes gate is Museo Dabawenyo (Davao City Museum)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Davao's rave party "controversy", seeing the other picture

I attended the session council last Tuesday, curious on the outcome of Kat Dalisay and the Manic Nightnings group particularly as she will be appearing on the proverbial lions den facing the body whom she criticized on Facebook.

Aside from curiosity, I was with my friend, Chocko- an event organizer, we were cooking up a music event for the Durian Jam radio show, perhaps issues tackled in the session could provide insights on how we would be mounting the event.

During a privilege hour granted to tackle the rave party controversy, Councilor Tomas Monteverde IV raised allegations of non-payment of correct taxes, which Kat was not able to satisfactorily refute. The privilege hour dragged on for hours.

What drew my attention in the proceedings were two important matters tackled which perhaps went unnoticed. The first matter was when Councilor Alejandre questioned the fitness of Kat’s capacity as a party organizer owing to her lack of training. Councilor Alejandre then declared that an event organizer must have the sufficient professional expertise so that he or she knows the intricacies of events organizing and the related policies of the city.

Another point was during the speech of Kat on the part where she said that these are not mere parties but are events that greatly contributes to tourism and business.

True, events like rave parties inject needed stimulus to the local tourism and business sector  and following Councilor Alejandre’s point.  Capable event organizers holding big events can be a beneficial impact to the tourism and economy of the city.

How about proposing an Events Ordinance in the city.  The ordinance can be goaled to develop the events industry in Davao City and provisions could include the following objectives and actions;

1.     Promote Davao City as a venue for events, or to make an environment conducive for event organizers. Perhaps create an investment-promotion arm for events investments.
2.     Provide a one-stop permit shop for events organizers
3.     Provide trainings, workshops and guidance for event organizers
4.     Make an inventory of city government properties which can be used as  grounds for events, develop these properties which can earn revenues for the city govt. (fields, covered courts, parks, gyms)
5.     Establish a coordination body for city government agencies like city mayors, city engineers, TMC, Police, barangay etc.
6.     The body can serve to accredit event organizers, which protect talents and suppliers hired by events organizers (some unscrupulous event organizers don’t pay their event personnel or reneged on suppliers, there are so many fly-by-night organizers in our midsts)
7.     The events in the ordinance will not just be limited to rave parties but can also include sports activities, film festivals, concerts and MICE.   

Since tourism is a major driving force of our economy, promoting events-based tourism such as party tourism as what Ms. Kat Dalisay is advocating will be a big help to our local economy.

I can cite Mati City. During the Holy Week, Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat hosted several bloggers and photographers, I was part of the lucky group.

During my talk with the Mayor he said that visitors in Dahican during the holy week were in record numbers. He said it must be the result of Summer Frolic, a rave party held a month before in Dahican organized by a private group named Frolic Fox.

“Siguro yung sa two-thousand na pumunta sa party lahat sa kanila may Facebook kaya kumalat at naging sikat ang Dahican.” He said to me.

Party (Events) + Social Media = Tourists. Mayor Rabat’s simple idea has saved the Mati City the resources intended for traditional tourism promotions.

Another example is Tagum City, during the time of former Mayor Rey T. Uy his wife Alma would always make the round of press conferences in Davao City promoting the countless events they had organized.

She said that since Tagum lacks beautiful tourism attractions it makes for it by creating events which people can visit. Among these include the Musikahan, the Santacruzan, the Gay Festival, etc.

Cebu’s Sinulog is complemented by Life Dance an outdoor electronic dance music (EDM) event which also attracts a large number of tourists in fact it is officially endorsed by the Department of Tourism.

Another famous example would be Medellin in Colombia, once the site of notorious drug cartels being the base of drug lord Pablo Escobar. After Escobar was neutralized the city transformed into a Party Town to entice the people and tourists back.

In Davao City, the perfect example of events tourism is Kadayawan. Apart from the street dancing and floral float parade there is an array of private sector led events like concerts and street parties. If you managed to stroll around Davao City during  nighttime on a Kadayawan weekend you will see a crowded city as people explore the varied festival nightlife.

Events like parties cater to a young and more mobile tourism market. According to an article I read in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Asian millenials or those Asians age 18-36  is a high growth tourism market, in fact by 2020 which is six years from now there will be an estimated 1 billion Asian millennial tourists spending half of the global tourism spending.

And Asian tourism leaders are finding of ways on how to attract these tourism millenials. One strategy would be the holding of events such as EDM parties  which is patronized by millenials. For example Singapore is heavily promoting its Zoukout, a rave party touted as the biggest beach party in Asia.

For domestic tourism, in a 2012 NSO survey, about 54% of the 35 million domestic Filipino tourists are ages 15-34, a big potential market for events or party tourism.

Davao City has enough creativity and skill to churn out one great event which can rival Life Dance or even Zoukout all it needs is a constructive engagement from a stern but supportive local government.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Torch of Davao

photo by Bapi Rivera

His name nowadays is synonymous with parties, DJ Torch Gacuma is currently in the thick of Davao’s rejuvenated party scene.

“Dabawenyo party goers are the best, We are all hungry here for parties since we have rules now..so whenever there are events Dabawenyos really go and party like there is no tomorrow.” DJ Torch describes the current local club movement.

Torch spent his elementary years in the Immaculate Conception College (now University of Immaculate Conception), by high school he went to Holy Child and took up a Hotel and Restaurant Management course in Philippine Women’s College.

photo courtesy of Manic Nightnings Productions

“I was already in love with music since elementary, in high school a friend of mine taught me how to spin music using the two turntables and a mixer.” Torch recalls his beginnings.

From a mere hobby, Torch or Tura to close friends took his love for spinning music seriously and became a professional DJ in 2006.

“It was Jingle Lanzona aka DJ Keelo, Mikey Aportadera and Patricia Joven to name a few who introduced and opened the doors for me to Davao’s club scene.” Torch reminisces his pro DJ’s early days.

His first club residency was at the defunct Liquid in Apo View Hotel (now the present Entrée) this was followed by residencies in Pops, Metro Lounge and Starr. Torch said he tried his best to learn from DJs to further his craft and this “education” is still continuing.

Among his mentors included Dj Marlon Tagalicud of Wave Manila, DJ Karl Ty of Superfly Manila and Mon Maramba, DJs Yancy Moncatar and Pong Orquillas helped guide Torch’s early years.

In his gigs Torch plays House music, mainstream hits, Top 40s and EDMs or electronic dance music.

Torch applies HRMesque analogy to his craft; “DJs are like restaurant chefs with the DJ booth as the kitchen, songs are the ingredients and the clubs are our restaurants, they may use the same ingredients but they all cook differently.”

For him what makes his gigs unique is the choice of materials and versions he uses, he tries to read the crowd and from there he cooks up his wicked concoctions of party music. A formula which makes him one of the favorite DJs around metro Davao.

He recalls doing an opening act for international house artist Bonnie Bailey during her Davao gig in 2011. “It was like a dream come true for me.”

Currently he is a DJ talent under Manic Nightnings Productions owned by his manager Kat Dalisay. Being under Manic Nightnings has afforded DJ Torch an opportunity to participate in Davao’s biggest club events in recent years.

Hamming it up with party-goers

with his manager Kat Dalisay

Among these included the massively successful Carte Blanche which was attended by about 10,300 partygoers and considered as one of the biggest EDM festivals in the country.

He also played in events such as Soul Sensations, Liberalia, Spectra and Reverie which were organized by Manic Nightnings. He also had the chance to go to Mati for Summerfrolic, a beachside EDM event. 

Torch says these events gave him the chance to work with the country’s top DJs, producers and remixers like Ace Ramos Funk Avy, Ron Poe, Deuce Manila, Katsy Lee, Surf The Topless DJ, Clyde Harris, X Factor Remix, Nina Saputil, The Zombettes.

with fellow Manic Nightning DJ Wacky and Republiq Club's Ace Ramos

His current favorite tracks include those from artists such as Alesso, Showteck, Avici, Martin Garrix, DVBBS, Hardwell, Dmitri Vegas, Zedd, Krwella.

Describing Davao’s party scene changing taste in music and trends, Torch says “People now are more open to different styles of dance music, which is very good. The lifestyle of people now have evolved too, they are more open to new things unlike before where people would only stick to what they know and comfortable to.”

As with the entry of new Dabawenyo DJs, Torch sums up his advice.

“Understand the craft, master it... aim high and follow your dreams... Once you're there, never forget where you came from and the most important of all "STAY HUMBLE" always keep both feet on the ground ... And for sure you'll be having a good ride”

photo courtesy of Manic Nightnings Productions

Friday, April 25, 2014


It's the tagline of Mati City’s new tourism campaign under Mayor Carlo Rabat.

The idea is for Matinians and visitors to fall for the charms of this idyllic city facing the Pacific, and that “love” could be quickly shared through social media.

And this marketing concept is reaping benefits to Mati, with visitors coming in huge numbers.

“Na-surprise kami sa development sa Mati.” (We were surprise in Mati’s development) says Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat.

our host Mayor Carlo Rabat

“When we spend holy week in Dahican City, there were just a few people, now it Is filled with people.” The Mayor recalls seeing the crowd at Dahican.

This writer was part of a select group of photographers and bloggers who were invited to spend the Holy Week in the city by the local government.

We toured around the City Hall, the Baywalk, Carmelite Monastery, Subangan Museum, had an ultralight flying experience over Dahican, an island tour in Waniban and strolling at the famed Dahican Beach.

The group caught the Mayor frolicking at Waniban beach along with his family. During holy week he makes it point to spend the days around the beaches and islands of his city.

Waniban Island

Mayor Rabat says the secret to the recent successes is maximizing exposure in Mati, these means putting up or supporting events that will attract visitors.

He recalled that the city began getting national attention when a group of  celebrities had a pictorial in Dahican for a glossy magazine. These included actor/athlete Enchong Dee, Miss World 2014 Megan Young and sultry actress Jessy Mendiola.

Enchong Dee's cover for Metro Magazine Summer Edition
2013, shot in Dahican

The City then began supporting events particularly massive Electronic Dance Music parties, Sembreak in last year’s Sambuokan and the recently-held Summerfrolic.

The Mayor attributes the recent arrivals as an offshoot of those parties. “of the thousands who attended Summerfrolic almost all of them has a Facebook account." The Mayor explains the power of the social media as an effective marketing tool.

The place has become some sort of a Mindanao’s Palm Beach, where young people converge during school breaks. It has attracted throngs of adventurous beachgoers drawn to the long coastline of Dahican.

Dahican Beach

Renowned skimboarder Sonny "Aporbo" Bayogyog in action

The local government and private businesses are also inviting celebrities to Mati, these has a double-edged purpose, celebrities entertain constituents and also these social media savvy artistas can spread the beauty of Mati thru their social media accounts which are heavily-followed.

Fine examples include Kathryn Bernardo and Jessy Mendiola who snapped shots of Mati and uploaded it on their social media accounts like Instagram.

With increasing number of visitors Mayor Rabat says they need new investments from the private sector particularly rooms and accommodation facilities particularly in Dahican.

Currently they are building a water system in Dahican to attract more investors, Mayor says this is a partnership between the Mati Water District and the City. Dahican has no water system and is dependent upon wells.

The City is continuing with the Dahican Beach Strip development started by the previous administration. The DBS contains a visitor information center, day-time cottages and comfort rooms.

The Davao Oriental Provincial Capitol

The Centennial Garden with clock tower and pathway of leaders.

The Mati Baywalk

Bayogyog running to skim, at the background is the home of the Amihan Boys, a group of local skimboarders

The Mayor says they are waiting for the contractor to complete the project and turnover the facility to the government so that they can introduce new developments. However he discounted the possibility of building overnight accommodations, as they would not want to compete with the private resorts.

The City is also developing a property as a tent area for visitors; they will be constructing comfort rooms and putting up lights.

Mayor Rabat says the plan for Dahican is to develop the area without destroying the pristine natural environment. Its waters are home to dugongs, dolphins and whale sharks. It is also an important sea turtle nesting site.

Two months ago, the City convened the Task Force Dahican to study the eco-tourism of the place.

One firm plan the City Mayor is bent on keeping is to keep the eight-kilometer beach barrier free,  jetties, breakwaters and barriers are not allowed to be constructed in the area.

Aside from Dahican the Mayor is also exploring the potentials of Mt Hamiguitan as an eco-tourism destination. The protected area known for its bonsai forests is shared by the towns of Governor Generoso and San Isidro it is being submitted for listing as a World Heritage Site.

They are also waiting for the private owners of Pujada Island to enter into partnerships with investors, the 156-hectare island is home to fine white sand beaches. Waniban Island’s ownership is still under court litigation. The caretakers with the support of the barangay tourism council have set-up huts for daytime visitors.

The city government also wants to put ultralight flying as part of their itinerary for Mati. The Mindanao Saga Flying Club the operator of a ultralight facility in the airport offers Trial Introductory Flights for P1,600, a 15-minute ultralight ride which takes you above the scenic Dahican coastline.

Ultralight flight in Mati

There are perhaps a thousand reasons why someone would love Mati, and through these initiatives the city government is trying to add many reasons more. 

Special Thanks to Mayor Carlo Rabat, City Tourism Staff; Yon, Mel and Mel, the Mindanao Saga Flying Club

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flying above Mati

In the 1970s President Marcos built an airport in Mati complete with a 1.6-kilometer concrete runway and a small terminal building. 

Mati Airport runway

The Marcos-era  Mati Airport Terminal

The airport never realized its commercial viability and is barely used for what it is intended to be. It has become sort of a park where people come to jog during early mornings and late afternoons, sometimes during fiestas the runway hosts drag racing events.

But in 2012, Ret. Col. Sammy Afdal aka Saga  established the Mindanao Saga Flying Club. Using ultralight planes, club members gets the chance to fly these lightweight recreational aircraft based at their hangar in the Mati Airport, nowadays the airport is humming with the sound of ultralight propellers.

The CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) has given permission to the club to utilize the seldom-used airport, one of the conditions is that the ultralights will not stray into the airspace of the Davao International Airport in Davao City. With the consent MSFC has built a hangar and club facilities in the area.

MSFC hangar

Together with a group of photographers and bloggers we got the chance to ride one of those ultralights up above the skies of Mati.

Ultralights makes up the bulk of aviation activities in the Mati Airport

I was the first one among the group to fly, piloting the ultralight is Peter Heilveil who is also a member of the Angeles Flying Club in Pampanga. 

Peter Heilveil piloting the aircraft

Ideally flights are scheduled from 5:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. the time of the day when winds are not that strong, a perfect time to fly over the coast and plains of Mati 

As a precaution before flying, a rider must divest all his belongings in his pocket, phone cameras are discouraged, your cameras must be secured to your body by a strap. Objects flying off from your pockets can hit the propeller at the rear of the aircraft.

In ultralight planes there is really no enclosed canopy and the pilot and passenger are exposed to natural elements particularly winds. One has to really fasten or secure his belongings, bring only what is really needed.

Iñaki piloting the ulralight with the Mayor's son Sito at the

The flight takes you to the lush coconut plains over Dahican, above the coast, the famed eight-kilometer white-sand beaches. Some pilots will take you over the edges of the mountains, the Pujada Bay and even reaching the famous small peninsula locals and visitors call the Sleeping Dinosaur.

Flying above Dahican coast

Coconuts all over, Davao Oriental is a top coconut-producing province in the country

The City Government-developed Dahican Beach Strip.

The airport is surrounded by coconut and mango plantations

Iñaki Sievert, MSFC president says that Mati is a scenic area to fly, with mountains and the sea forming a very panoramic vista. 

The MSFC is a membership flying club, annual fees costs around P9,000. There is a trial introductory flight of P1,600 which is a 15-minute flight around Mati. 

The MSFC has five aircrafts in the Mati hangar, according to Iñaki, they are expecting four ultralight more to come. An ultralight kit costs at a range of P600,000 to a million pesos. These planes use unleaded gasoline as fuel. 

The ultralights are safe planes to fly with a 100% safety record and each plane is equipped with a BRS or Ballistic Recovery System, a parachute which can be deployed during emergencies. 

A pilot trainee undergoes theoretical instructions and flight simulation in Davao City, the actual flying is conducted in Mati. During our visit, Doc Vic Salvado made his first solo flight.

Doc Vic Salvado is dunked with a pail of water by Peter, a rite of passage for those who just went solo flying for the first time.

The blogger/photographer/media group with Iñaki

The ultraflight club is slowly gaining popularity,  Iñaki says that weekends are starting to get busy for the club. Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat  says that they would want ultralight flying to be included in their itinerary for visitors coming to Mati but first he would ask permission from MSFC.

How to Get There:

The Mati Airport is located a few minutes ahead from the Subangan Provincial Museum. From the poblacion you can hire habal-habal motorycycles or tricycles. The City is a 3-hour ride from Davao City. There are buses and commercial vans that regularly ply the route.

For inquiries about the ultralight flights you can contact the City Mayor's Office at 0929-3118554 and look for Mel or you can directly contact the Mindanao Saga Flying Club at 0915-4901977.

Special thanks to Mayor Carlo Rabat, Ms. Candice Protacio, our guide Yon, Mel and Mel of the City Tourism Office, the MSFC (Col. Sam Afdal, Christine, Tjader, Jimmy, Peter, Iñaki, Atty. Heje and the staff of the MSFC Hangar)