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ANY POET can write and recite metered rhymes. Some poets can perform free verses. But not many poets can craft, read, perform and capture at the same time all the imaginative, healing, synergizing and inspirationally-moving essence of Filipino poetry the way the Thai royalty’s 1995 Southeast Asia (SEA) Write poet laureate Teo Antonio from Bulakan, born and bred in Manila, does it.

Specially during these times and age that cynics in society believe “poetry is dead,” the plato de moda (fashionista with the mostest hats and caps from many countries) Teo Antonio, since the Eighties through the 21st century, has been weaving through important poetic mileages in Tagalog that publishing houses of substance in The Philippines {University of Santo Tomas (UST) Press, University of the Philippines (UP) Press, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Press, Dela Salle University (DLSU) Press, Anvil, Adarna, among others} cannot take for granted, because his books are not written in English.

The diminutive and quintessential Teo Antonio was able to transcend all barriers in communication and technology to put the dot-commic Tagalog poetry in the mainstream of Asian and world literature and onto the worldwideweb map, that can only be dreamt about by, perhaps, Francisco Baltazar, father of Balagtasan (a Filipino moderated discussion in literary form on opposing views with two debaters arguing on the merits and demerits of an issue using rhythmic, metered or freewheeling discourse, with a beautiful muse, the lakambini, as inspiration, and judged by the liveaudience).

Teo Antonio was able to level up Tagalog poetry to the sole domain of the public in various format, i.e., print media (newspapers like DiyaryoFilipino, and the three biggest broadsheets Inquirer,Star and Bulletin; magazines like FilipinoMagazin, PilosopongTasyo and various weeklies; and books of 14 titles and counting), broadcast media (TV like Agrisiyete with important comic the late Bert “Tawa” Marcelo as co-host, and radio), live stage specially in Filipino communities abroad and, recently, in indie films, like the Cinemanila best film “Tribu,” by direk Jim Libiran.

Google “Teo Antonio,” and you will find the Pinoy public poet’s own brand of performance poetry that you can use had penetrated even the soul of Asia,in its innermost sanctum. The public poet is a National Artist of genuine potential. #

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Mel Cortez: Don’t Shoot!


I FIRST met photographer Miguel Cortez more than 30 years ago.He was introduced to me by also a lensman  common buddy (Lito Divinagracia) who was into what used to be sexy star (un)glamour(ous) photography and who eventually published a bold magazine, before he flew to Los Angeles, California, for keeps.Mel and his buddy were bosom friends also of another seasoned photographer (Gil Nartea) who is now with Malacanang Press, and I had the chance to work with the three of them in the newspapers or magazines that I edited in the past.

Mel, as he is fondly called by hislensman colleagues, was not into shooting skins. He was out of Manila most ofthe time. His favorite assignments back then were the boondocks, where rebelsand revolutionaries thrived.

He was and still is a photojournalist, for all intents and purposes. I remember, he shunned doingfiring-squad shoots for corporate and showbiz launch publicity.

I had the opportunity to reunite withMel in the late-2000s when he was trying to cross another fence in photography:spatography (shooting health spas,medical or holistic). I was covering health and wellness back then and we gothim in as chief photo editor of theMAGAZINE.

By then, Mel Cortez already had hisown studio up-and-running for many years already, DecisiveMoments, alongKatipunan Avenue.

Mel was shooting weddings atDecisiveMoments. His brand and style of wedding photography was not the usualKBL or kasal (wedding), binyag (baptism) or libing (funeral) coverage in stills and moving images. He tookpride in what he dubbed as “covering weddings in the vivid eye of a photojournalist.” He was nurturing budding lensmen and videographers atDecisiveMoments. As such, mentor Mel and his protégés at DecisiveMoments hasbeen as if doing real documentaries on TV for affluent lover and friend clientswho can spare from PhP100,000.00 to P0.5 million to P1 million for weddingcoverage alone, for some romantic reasons that intellect may not comprehend. Therefore,Mel observed, some sultans, datus, princes or princesses of indigenous orethnic minorities in Northern to Southern Philippines whose Bontok or Manobo orMaranaw sons, daughters or kins are marrying become DecisiveMoments’ principalclients for his cultural photography.

In effect, Mel Cortez has beenpreserving the cultural heritage of our indigenous peoples that not everyFilipino cares to protect!, I concluded. Good for the historical memories ofour children and their generations, he added. Not only that.

Mel’s proactivistic flame ofyesteryears was rekindled when all of a sudden, he popped out of the socialmedia sphere, and was seen leading elder and younger photographers marching onthe streets to protest the “Don’t Shoot” out-of-the blue “policy” that wastested on Luneta or Rizal Park, Malacanang Palace, US Embassy, and otherhistorical heritage sites supposedly to boost Philippine tourism. The Don’t Shoot experiment got lots of flak rightsmack off the faces from the general public – from the cyberspace to real lifeof real people in Manila, photographers or not, Filipino or foreign. Thanks, inpart, to Mel Cortez’s intervention!

Now, any one with cameras, cellular phones, tablets or any tech gadgets can shoot anything their visions can see and explore without state interference, as creatively and imaginatively as they can get, because, as Mel argued, freedom of expression is an inherent right guaranteed by the UN Declaration of the Bill of Rights and the Philippine Constitution. Professor Mel Cortez now teaches professional photography at Dela Salle College of Saint Benilde tobeginners, enthusiasts, hobbyists and serious practitioners. He has lots of knowledge, knowhow and know-why on the photography of life and love to teach and share with the young photo (or selfie) buffs who have great potentials to become the next Miguel Cortez’s league, now: Don’t shoot! #

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The sweet success of sound


The Sweet Success of Sound by Marc Guerrero – Philippine Star 2001

The International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI), representing the recording industry worldwide, has elected Dyna Music Philippines patriarch, James Go Dy, to represent the Independents of Asia and the Pacific in the IFPI Board. Sixteen of the 19 member countries voted for Dy, according to Giouw Jui-Chian, IFPI regional director for Asia, in his communique to board members. The Dy delegation flew to Shanghai, China, recently to accept the honors.

Why is Dy acknowledged by his colleagues as a founding father of the Philippine music and recording industry?

Hard work and discipline are ingrained in James G. Dy since he was a kid. He was as self-driven as his grand old man. He hardly waited for his adolescence to be productive. But in every beat of his heart, music has been there.

James was enamoured with the harmonica at 11. He joined a school band at 15. He tinkered with other musical instruments and was hooked on the saxophone.

Living and breathing music in a land whose soul vibrates with singing, dancing and praying, Dy decided in 1959 to put up the first independent music and recording company in the Philippines, Dyna (Music) Products Inc., now popularly known as Dyna Music.

With meager resources and lean-but-mean staff, the company first held offices on Raon Street, the Tin Pan Alley in Manila with a cassette manufacturing plant in a suburb.

In its early years, it had scored major national and international coups.

Under Dy, Dyna gave birth to many of the hottest Filipino talents, then and now, and established their singing careers for international stardom: from the so called “mystery singer,” to Perry Como-sing-alike Diomedes Maturan and Asia’s Queen of Songs Pilita Corrales and Carmen Soriano, to 30 other pop and country artists such as Jose Mari Gonzales, Fred Panopio, Armida Siguion Reyna, Pauline Sevilla, Jose Mari Chan, The Reycard Duet, Nonoy Zuniga, Vernie Varga, Martin Nievera, Pops Fernandez, Claire dela Fuente, Joey Albert, Efren Montes, Miriam Pantig, Sampaguita, Keno, Dingdong Avanzado, Willie Nepomunceno and a few live bands (Afterimage, Introvoys, Second Wind).

In the international scene, the track record was even bigger: Dyna acquired the rights to distribute ABC-Paramount, Cadence, EMI (Parlophone, Capitol and Liberty), Polygram, A&M, Arista and other record-breaking labels. By any standard, the “coup” was equated with striking “oil”. Among the top artists under license were Teddy Randazzo, Paul Anka, Glenn & Joan Campbell, Al Martino, Connie Francis, Anita Bryant, the Platters and Chubby Checker. The hottest selling stars of the era were also covered: the Beatles, Bee Gees, Lettermen, Sergio Mendez & Brazil 66, James Last, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Al Caiola, Carlos Jobim, Matt Monroe, Cliff Richard, Barry Manilow, Dave Clark 5, Jerry & the Pacemakers, Herman’s Hermit, Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

While indulging in his “(music) hobby,” Dy made sure he was not remiss in his social responsibility. Taking from the inherent benevolence of his forebears who churned out philanthropic deeds in style, without publicity and fanfare, Dy also helped the needy help themselves. His own brand of selflessness, however, was described as “double-impact.” As he lent a helping right hand to his fellow Filipinos in order to weather fire, earthquakes, storms and all other calamities, the left hand of Dy is “clenched,” so to speak.

It was up in the air, and fighting hard.

As founder and president in the 1970s and 1980s of the Philippine Association of the Record Industry (PARI), Dy professionalized the local music industry and developed Philippine music to its current most-admired status.

Dyna’s leadership inspired and synergized the business acumen of his associates, surprisingly including his friendly competitors, together with likeminded Filipino composers, authors, publishers and artists to “get our acts together, for the protection of intellectual property rights.” Not just music, but allIPRs, including the movies, computer software, books and other works of art.

The anti-piracy program PARI had implemented under Dy minimized music piracy to a substantial level. This elicited the support of the press and the media. It compelled the law enforcement agencies to take more decisive action. Bills were initiated and laws passed. Everybody was happy.

During those times, Dy had also inspired the foundation of ASEAN Music Industry Association (AMIA).

As founding father of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations industry organization that deals with music concerns, Dy was responsible for advancing the causes of Asian spirit as epitomized in and by music “without blacklisting foreign music in the region.” It also let the Filipino talents shine in Asia. His inspired leadership of the AMIA strengthened Dyna’s advocacy versus piracy in the Asian bloc even more, which prompted a commendation from Ian Thomas, then director-general and Chief Executive of the International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI).

All the Dy-inspired music companies, under the Dyna Group (topbilled by Dyna Music now run by son Howard Dy as Managing Director), accounted for a considerable share in total Philippine music market, according to official figures.

His is a living example to his children and grandchildren and leads by inspiration to his people – that is why he commands respect from three generations of Filipino-Chinese in the Philippines: from the trailblazing Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, to the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In 1999, he was conferred a doctorate degree in Humanities.

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