Monthly Archives: July 2008

A Melting Pot

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
When singer Lea Salonga kicked off the first ever Global Pop Series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall two weeks ago, it was a spectacular performance by a great Philippine artist for the Filipino community for many. But for the execs of The Music Center, it was the culmination of a long-awaited experimental project.
The Music Center’s Vice President of Programming and Planning Josephine Ramirez had waited four years for the Global Pop Series to come into fruition.  The idea was to attract immigrant communities to watch their country’s top artists and more importantly, the funds from the shows would go directly to the Music Center’s non-profit Active Arts programs.

Ramirez and Music Center President Steven Roundtree had long wanted to bring in popular foreign artist to perform at the famed Music Center’s houses including the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

“We wanted to do something new for Los Angeles that would be both attractive to us as an institution and give immigrant communities in LA to come and have a great time,” she said to the Asian Journal. “We wanted to start building up a revenue-generating concert series that whatever profit goes to fund a free program we started four years ago.”

Active Arts at the Music Center provides over 55 to 65 free or low cost events a year. Some of the Active Arts free events include Dance Downtown, where attendees could dance the night away under the moonlight, Drum Downtown, Get Your Chops Back, and Friday Night Sing-a-longs.

“We needed to find a way to fund it besides donated income,” she said.

But with limited resources and lack of aptitude of the given culture for the planned Global Pop Series, Ramirez had to take a systematic approach.

After getting grants from the James Irvine Foundation, Ramirez spent a few years commissioning research on the largest immigrant groups, their financial power and the communities concert market. They conducted demographic and market research before narrowing the ethnic groups. The last step was researching on their pop stars.

The report found that the Latin market had the vast audience and market appeal. But for the inaugural Global Pop Series, Ramirez said they to wanted to reach out and target other ethnic groups not known for visiting the Music Center venues.

Ramirez said, generally speaking, that there is a perception among many ethnic groups that believe the Music Center is only for the elite and high-class residents of Los Angeles.

However, that shouldn’t be the case.

“The answer is complicated it could stem from physical barriers because of the amount of traffic to get to downtown, to emotional barriers,” she said. “A lot of people think of the old music center [as having] to pay a lot of money to watch a show– but that’s not true either. Many are just not aware of the Center’s free activity. We want to change people’s perception…we want them to know this is their music center as well.”

Ramirez said that Filipino community was among the six or seven ethnic groups that they had chosen for the inaugural Global Pop Series.

To further cement their choice, they brought in advisors from the Filipino community.

Search to Involve Pilipino American (SIPA) Joel Jacinto and Public Relations Executive Winston Emano were among the consultants.

“We’ve known Joel Jacinto for centuries,” she said. “We wanted to get in touch with them and not only host them and other leaders of the Filipino community but they were brought in a way so we could go through this hand and hand.”

They chose Lea Salonga because “it was a no-brainer.”

“She’s a huge star in the Philippines and a Broadway star,” said Ramirez. “Her selection was not as scary.”

The final piece of the puzzle arrived when the Blue Ribbon, a philanthropic group of women, made a substantial financial contribution to sponsor the event.

With the first performance being a hit, Ramirez hopes to continue the Global Pop Series and bring in other Filipino artist to perform at a Music Center venue.

She said that after the Salonga performance, attendees were given a survey to fill out and asking for people’s advice.

“We’re interested in looking to see whom they wrote down as the next Filipino star to perform here,” she said.

About Active Arts

Here is a list of upcoming free events available at the Music Center:

August 8 – Dance Downtown Zydeco featuring TLou and his Superhot Zydeco Band

August 9 – Drum Downtown

August 15 – Friday Night Sing-A-Long 80’s Night

August 22 – Dance Downtown Cha Cha & Salsa

For more information about upcoming events or to contribute to the Music Center and Active Arts please go to


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Stephen Rountree’s Passion for the Arts

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The Music Center of Los Angeles County is one of America’s three largest performing arts centers and Los Angeles’ premier cultural destination, welcoming over 2 million visitors annually. Centrally located in downtown Los Angeles along Grand Avenue, the Music Center is composed of four venues – Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theater and Mark Taper Forum. But, in total program space, it includes Grand Avenue itself, Disney Hall’s entrance steps, two performance spaces and park area on an upper patio, and even the main plaza with its fountain – as well as outdoor theaters, plazas, and gardens. And the main man in charge of it all is Music Center President Stephen D. Rountree.

A native Angeleño and fourth-generation Californian, Rountree is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he was formerly director of personnel and assistant executive vice president. He received a master’s degree in management from Claremont Graduate School.

Before Music Center, Rountree was with J.Paul Getty Trust for over two decades.  He started there in 1980 as deputy director of the Getty Museum. In 1984, he was appointed director of the Getty Center Building Program, with responsibility for managing all aspects of project development, design, and construction of the Getty Center in Los Angeles. In 1989, Mr. Rountree assumed additional responsibility for planning and management oversight of central administrative and operations functions. He was named Vice President of the Trust in August 1997 and the following year, served as executive vice president and chief operating officer till he joined the Music Center in 2002.

“I’m passionate about music and theater, but my background is actually in leadership and management within the non-profit arts sphere,” said Rountree.

Besides fundraising and managing Music Center’s annual operating budget of $50 million — derived from county funds and private donations — Rountree oversees the day-to-day business of planning, publicizing and putting on Music Center performances.

More than 1,000 performances take place at the four theaters every year. In addition, some 3,000 events are held, from the story telling and World City outdoor concerts in Disney Hall’s garden, to crafts projects to a Friday night dance series on the Plaza and occasional wedding parties.

Education programs, free for the most part, draw big crowds. The Very Special Arts Festival attract some 18,000 students, teachers and caregivers. Pillow Theatre for tots are also drawing big participants and World City’s demonstrations of various international cultures are always full.

“During the 1960s and ‘70s, Downtown was not a place to be,” the native Angeleño admitted. “Now, however, we use all possible venues to bring people Downtown.”

Rountree has said that his goals as president of Music Center include providing more diverse and engaging performances while creating enough momentum to draw an audience from around the world. Considering that the Music Center now draws around 2 million visitors yearly, Rountree seems to have achieved his goals.

The Music Center’s contribution to the city –and to the world-has not gone unnoticed.

“The Music Center is a tremendous cultural and educational asset for all Angeleños, young and old,” said Gary L. Toebben, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The programs held at the Music Center enhance and inspire creativity, which is one of LA’s most significant assets,” Toebben said. “The Center’s expanding series of programs also brings people Downtown to experience the new vibrancy in residential housing, restaurants and retail. We are fortunate to have this world-class venue in LA.”

People with money also recognize Music Center’s significance. For several years now, additional grants coming from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Parsons Foundation, and other companies and individuals have been substantially donated to the Music Center.

As funds have increased, improvements have been done to make the 40-year old complex more modern and attractive, beginning with the major renovation of Mark Taper Forum, the 745-seat theater that holds newer works and is programmed by Center Theatre Group.

The $30 million project includes a major expansion of the back of house area that has been a crowded jumble of dressing rooms with costume and property storage.

The Taper backstage “has been too small, although the artists like performing there because the audience is so accessible,” Rountree said. Dressing rooms will be added on a second level to be reached by new elevators. New restrooms and a lounge will be constructed for the theater in the parking garage below. The theater is a designated historic site, so the exterior will be unchanged, Rountree said. The Taper will reopen in September.

A second phase major improvement being planned is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

“The building is 44 years old and needs upgrading. There have been many innovations in technical equipment, lights and sound, since it opened,” Rountree said.

Planning for what is expected to be a substantial project will take five to seven years, Rountree said, estimating that the building will be closed for the 2012-13 season.

He said the renovation will cost more than $100 million, which has yet to be raised. The pavilion will retain its historic 1960s look, but the interior will be ‘freshened up,’ and the acoustics and backstage facilities will be updated.”

“Dorothy Chandler’s vision was to create a cultural center that would always remain relevant to the city,” Rountree said. “The Center is a living, breathing artistic entity that has remained a mirror of Los Angeles’ cultural diversity over its 40-year history, and we continue keeping pace with the city, making great strides in providing culturally-rich programs that speak the universal language of creativity.”


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The Heart of Art

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

TIME Magazine praised it as “perhaps the most impressive display of virtuoso money-raising and civic citizenship in the history of US womanhood.” Newspapers around the world acclaim it as altering the cultural trajectory of Los Angeles. They’re referring to the exemplary efforts of Dorothy Buffum Chandler in giving birth to the Music Center of Los Angeles County.

As the wife of Norman Chandler, whose family published The Los Angeles Times since 1883, Dorothy Buffum Chandler became active in Los Angeles cultural circles. Seeing the importance of building a home for the arts in Los Angeles, Dorothy Chandler forever changed the city when she agreed in 1955 to head a citizen’s committee to build a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Chandler championed the cause and expanded the goal to include a performing arts center.

On March 17, 1955, Chandler, along with Mrs. Henry Salvatori and Mrs. Lemuel Bancroft, co-chaired a benefit concert at the Ambassador Hotel featuring Dinah Shore, Danny Kaye and Jack Benny. Known as the famous El Dorado party (named for the Cadillac El Dorado which was auctioned at the soiree), the $1,000-per person event raised $400,000, launching Mrs. Chandler’s historic Music Center fundraising crusade. This fundraiser began a nine-year crusade that raised some $20 million of the estimated $35 million total cost; the remainder was paid through private bond sales.

“Chandler… almost single handedly raised a staggering $18.5 million to build the Music Center, and organized a company to float another $13.7 million in bonds to finish the job,” TIME magazine reported when it featured Mrs. Chandler on the cover of its December 18, 1964 issue.

The County of Los Angeles provided the site and architect Welton Becket designed  the original complex. Construction began March 12,1962.

Chandler realized that one building would not be enough for the Center to showcase a rich array of performing genres. She determined the complex would be more culturally-relevant if it housed space not only for symphonic music and opera, but chamber music, and traditional and experimental theater. She soon found many donors for her expanded goal, among them Mark Taper who made the first $1 million donation in November 11, 1962 and Howard Ahmanson and the Ahmanson Foundation, the donors of $1.5 million in December 28, 1965.

The Los Angeles Music Center was dedicated on September 27, 1964 as “A Living Memorial to Peace,” becoming one of the most significant cultural accomplishments in the post-World War II history of Los Angeles.  It held its first performance on December 6, 1964.

The complex was completed in 1967, comprising three venues: the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre. The Chandler Pavilion served as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 39 years, from 1964 until 2003. In that year, the Music Center celebrated another historic milestone: the debut of its fourth hall, the $274-million Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. This became the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Through the years, the Music Center has become an international performing arts venue and tourist destination. Today, more than forty years since its birth, the Center continues to celebrate its position as one of the world’s leading, iconic cultural centers for the performing arts.

The Resident Companies

Centrally located in downtown Los Angeles along Grand Avenue, the Music Center is home to four internationally acclaimed Resident Companies: The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Center Theatre Group, LA Opera and Los Angeles Master Chorale. Additionally, the Music Center offers the largest presentation of dance in Los Angeles, tours of all four venues, participatory arts activities, exciting programming for children and families throughout the year and nationally-recognized school education programs.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic

Founded in 1919, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is led by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen (since 1992) and President Deborah Borda (since 2000). Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel was recently appointed to become Music Director in 2009.

The Philharmonic has won two Grammy awards and other honors.

Nearly 10 million people have been served by the Philharmonic’s educational and community programming. Each year 85,000 students and teachers participate in activities including the School Partners Program, the Kent Kresa Symphonies for Schools, Toyota Symphonies for Youth and Summer Sounds: Music for Kids at the Hollywood Bowl. In addition, the Philharmonic Association presents and produces more than 100 non-classical concerts at both venues, including jazz, world music, holiday concerts, and numerous others.

Center Theatre Group (CTG)

The CTG is one of the largest and most active theatre companies in the nation, programming year-round to a total audience exceeding 750,000 yearly at the Mark Taper Forum, and the Ahmanson Theatre, and also at the new 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

Founded in 1967, it is led by Artistic Director Michael Ritchie (since 2005) and Managing Director Charles Dillingham (since 1991). Gordon Davidson is the Founding Artistic Director.

CTG has won 34 Tony Awards and three Pulitzer Prizes, and numerous other local and national honors. A leader in the development of new plays and new voices in theatre, CTG has served more than one million Los Angeles County residents with programs for students and teachers. P.L.A.Y. (Performing for Los Angeles Youth) reaches more than 35,000 Los Angeles County students annually.

Los Angeles Opera

The Los Angeles Opera was established in 1986 and since then has become a world-renowned company with a repertoire of perennial favorites and rare masterpieces in innovative productions, starring internationally established performers and promising new artists. Celebrated tenor Plácido Domingo is the Eli and Edythe Broad General Director (since 2003) -and regularly performs with the Opera as both singer and conductor – and James Conlon is Music Director (since 2006). Most recently, Los Angeles Master Chorale Director Grant Gershon was named LA Opera’s new Associate Conductor / Chorus Master.

The company has served nearly one million students, senior citizens, and other audiences through its internationally recognized Education and Community Programs and maintains a talented roster of Resident Artists – young singers who perform regularly in main stage productions as well as the Company’s community programs.

The Los Angeles Master Chorale

Founded in 1964 by the legendary Roger Wagner, the Los Angeles Master Chorale is led by Music Director Grant Gershon (since 2001) and Executive Director Terry Knowles (since 2000). One of the nation’s largest independent choral organizations, the company is in residence at the Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and has released five recordings. The Chorale has presented educational programs to more than 700,000 Los Angeles County residents. Each year 14,000 students and teachers collaborate in educational programs including the High School Choir Festival, Master Chorale Chamber Singers performances Voices Within, and artists-in-residency songwriting program for fifth-grade classes.

Recognized as one of Los Angeles’ cultural treasures, the Chorale has received accolades for its innovative programming and its commitment to commissioning new works. In June 2003, the Master Chorale received the prestigious ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming. The Master Chorale performs about fifteen times per year in its own season, as well as appearing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic from time to time.

Supporting The Arts

As a privately-funded, non-profit institution, the Music Center relies on the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations to sustain its goal of providing the most diverse cultural experiences to the widest possible audience. There are various ways one can support the arts thru Music Center.

Individual Gifts

Individual gifts support the Music Center’s efforts to present educational and cultural programming of the highest quality. Unrestricted gifts are among the most valuable to the Music Center, because they allow the Center to allocate funds wherever the need is greatest. Designated gifts allow donors to direct their gift to a specific program or priority area that is personally meaningful to them.

Corporate Gifts

Corporate giving provides valuable support to Southern California’s premier cultural organization and includes many valuable benefits that businesses can pass on to their employees.

Planned Gifts

A planned gift, such as a trust or charitable gift annuity, helps to ensure the continued prosperity of the Music Center while providing donors with significant tax benefits.

Commemorative Gifts

A commemorative gift to the Music Center is a wonderful way to honor a family member or loved one.

Matching Gifts

The Matching Gift programs allow supporters to double or even triple their gift to the Music Center. They simply send their gift along with a completed matching gift form.

Gifts by Mail

Contributions may also be sent by check to The Music Center, 35 North Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

To remain at the forefront of artistic excellence, the Music Center continuously looks for innovative ways that are culturally relevant to the community. Perhaps Dorothy Chandler said it best in a 1964 Los Angeles Times article: “The Music Center will stand forever as a symbol of what creative man can accomplish when he sets high his standards and has a vision far beyond our present horizons.”


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Green AIDS walk

by Miko Santos/AJPress
SAN FRANCISCO – More than 25,000 people (and dogs!) marched through Golden Gate Park Sunday, June 20, 2008 in the 22nd annual AIDS Walk San Francisco and helped raise $4.5 million, a few thousand shy of the event’s fundraising record last year.

AIDS Walk San Francisco has never been so important,” said Mark Cloutier, Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Each year, the AIDS Walk brings together the best out of our diverse communities and shows the world that the Bay Area remains at the forefront in combating this disease.”

He cited the fact that more people in the Bay Area are living with HIV than ever before, including nearly 19,000 in San Francisco alone. Nonetheless, almost all local AIDS service organizations are facing cuts in government funding at all levels.

The 6-mile walk from Sharon Meadow to the park’s western corner and back featured appearances by Loretta Devine, Roger Reese, former American Idol contestants and cast members from the broadway musical “A Chorus Line.”

The theme of this year’s walk was thoroughly green, and it included composting, better recycling and the introduction of Green Walkers, who opted not to receive any printed or mailed materials.

“With the Foundation’s focus on the overall health of our community, as well as our commitment to preventing new HIV infections, ‘greening’ AIDS Walk made great sense,” said Cloutier. “Every person who participates will walk towards a future where people and our shared environment are both healthier.”

Since 1987, AIDS Walk San Francisco has raised over $65 million for HIV /AIDS programs and services in the SF Bay Area. In 2007 alone, 25,000 participants, many of whom were members of more than 800 corporate and community teams,  raised a record sum of $4.6 million for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and more than 40 Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations.

Funds generated from AIDS Walk San Francisco benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF). For 26 years, SFAF has provided direct services to thousands of people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.  (

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A winning shot for Filipino Hospitality

SAN FRANCISCO – Last Thursday, July 17, The New York Times published an article, A Filipino Embrace, about NBA and Washington Wizard franchise player, Gilbert Arenas’ recent Adidas tour to the Philippines.
Most of us would think that the article couldn’t really be that significant, with the number of more important issues happening.   Also, the Philippines already had a number of NBA stars flocking for exhibition games and product endorsement tours. But this piece made the hoop, as the 26-year-old Arenas spoke somewhat affectionately about his whole experience, as well as his appreciation for the Filipinos.

A treatment fit for a president

Being the Washington Wizards’ franchise player, he often jokes about being “the black president.” Of course, he hasn’t realized the magnitude of his popularity in the Philippines, one that gave him the taste of presidential life.

Just as he landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the media followed him until he left three days after.  Booked at the elegant and opulent presidential suite of The Peninsula Manila, Arenas even took pictures of his room to prove he was there.

His store visits and press conferences is a strategic process, short of bringing the Secret Service – police escorts, bomb-sniffing dogs, brawny Adidas-clad security guards with earpieces, to make sure he was safe from the crushing clamor of his fans.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I’ve seen crazy fans all over the world,” according to his blog.  But the most touching line in The New York Times was when he gave this advice to his fellow NBA players, “If you’re having a bad day or you’re having a bad career, go to Manila.  They’ll bring your spirits up.”

The basketball hoopla

Arenas and other foreign basketball players may be surprised how fanatic Filipinos can be about the sport, but it is a well-known fact to sportswear companies.  In the past years, big brands like Adidas and Nike have been sending American stars to Manila.  Aside from Arenas, Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets (also for Adidas) and LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (endorsing for Nike), have been to Manila twice in the past year.

Being among the world’s first basket-playing nations, as well as avid followers of the sport, big companies like Nike and Adidas have been competing on who gets the bigger share of the court.  Thus, the bigger star they can bring to the fans, the bigger noise (and revenues) they can possibly get.

In fact, even the local Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) enjoys almost the same popularity. Asia’s first professional basketball league, the PBA has helped shape the history of Philippine basketball. Another factor that really defined the relationship. Even competing teams are now supported by non-athletic companies with corporate-themed names like the Sta. Lucia Realtors, San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Beverage Masters.

The competition also extends to local Filipino players and imports – either foreign, part Filipino, or US-born Filipinos, paving the way for great players like Norman Black (who used to play for San Miguel), Billy Ray Bates (Ginebra), Michael Hackett (Ginebra), and FilAms Vince Hizon, Mark Caguioa (Ginebra) and Danny Seigle (San Miguel).

However the ball rolls, both NBA and PBA (and even the Philippine Basketball League and college basketball teams) can be assured that Filipinos will continue to watch their games, support their teams and accept them warmly any time in Manila. (

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The New York Public Library honors Jose Garcia Villa’s works

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
NEW YORK – Filipino poet, literary critic, short story writer and painter Jose Garcia Villa is the only Asian poet among a group of modern literary giants in 1940’s New York that included E. E. Cummings, Mark Van Doren, W.H. Auden, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. Known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village,” Villa stepped past his ethnicity and became a global poet.

Villa introduced the “reversed consonance rime scheme” in writing poetry, as well as the extensive use of punctuation marks – especially commas, which made him known as the Comma Poet.

On August 6, 2008, Doveglion, a collection of poetry, including rare and previously unpublished material, will be presented at the Jefferson Market Branch of The New York Library as part of Penguin Classic Centennial Celebration. Doveglion is Villa’s penname (derived from “Dove, Eagle, Lion”), based on the characters he derived from himself.  These animals were also explored by E. E. Cummings in Doveglion, Adventures in Value, a poem dedicated to Villa.

Born on August 5, 1908 in Manila, Villa first took medicine and then pre-law before realizing his passion for the arts.  Considered as the leader of Filipino “artsakists,” a group of writers believe that art should be “for art’s sake.”

His tart poetic style was considered too aggressive in his time that in 1929, he was fined for obscenity when he published Man Songs, a series of erotic poems.  He later on won Best Story of the Year from Philippine Press Magazine, and then migrated for the US using his prize money.

Granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in creative writing by American writer Conrad Aiken, wherein literature, Villa was also awarded s a fellowship from  Bollingen Foundation. He was also bestowed an Academy Award for Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1943.  A National Artist for Literature in the Philippines, Villa’s brilliant pieces had lifted the standards of Filipino writers.  He is still considered as a powerful literary in the Philippines throughout much of the 20th century, although he has lived most of his life in the US.

Jose Garcia Villa died in 1997, at the age of 88 in New York – but his words, his poems continue  to live on. (

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Police identifies suspect in hit-and-run killing of Filipino family

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
TEMECULA, CA – California Highway Patrol officers have identified the driver, who allegedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run crash that left a Filipino family of three dead.

Officials on Monday identified that 30-year-old Chad Isaac Huber allegedly drove his GMC pickup truck on the wrong side of the road before crashing head-on into the Malibu sedan driven by 48-year-old Andres San Agustin. Andres and his wife 36-year-old Maribeth San Agustin died at the scene. Their four-year-old son Angelo passed away a few hours later at a local medical hospital.

Huber fled the scene and remains at large.

“The subject is still at large,” said CHP Spokesperson Ron Thatcher to the Asian Journal. “He may be North or South of the border. Investigators are still following leads to his possible whereabouts.”

Thatcher said that officers have detained 23-year-old Jarred Benjamin Abatti, who allegedly helped Huber flee the scene after the crash.

Police arrested Abatti on July 1, three days after the crash. He is currently being held at the Riverside Sheriff departments Southwest Justice Center. Police have charged him with felony vehicle hit-and-run that caused death, accessory, and battery with serious bodily injury. His bail is set at $200,00, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

“He’s waiting for a preliminary trial scheduled for August,” he said.

In an interview with the Asian Journal, Maribeth’s brother, Ariel Pagaspas, said he was informed that after the fatal car crash the alleged suspects fled to a nearby gas station. The two suspects were seen on a surveillance video removing the get away car’s license plate, according to Pagaspas.

“We received word from a CHP investigator that they have the driver of the get away vehicle,” said Pagaspas before flying with the bodies of his sister’s family to be buried in the Philippines. “I really don’t know all the details yet. This is just stuff I’ve been hearing.”

Thatcher said that witness statements and physical evidence from the crime scene lead to Abatti’s capture.

Last week, the Navy held a memorial service for Andres San Agustin, a former Navy hospital corpsman. Pagaspas said the bodies are being buried in the family plot in Rizal, Philippines.

Thatcher is asking for the public’s help in locating Huber. If you have any information on Huber’s whereabouts, please call the CHP Temecula office at (951) 506-2000. (

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Isang Libo’t Isang Tuwa: The phenomenon that is ‘Eat Bulaga!’

by Nickee V. De Leon/AJPress

Now celebrating its 29th year, Eat Bulaga! (EB) is the longest-running noon-time show on Philippine television. It is, without a shadow of doubt, the epitome of Pinoy pop culture.

The name Eat Bulaga! (bulaga is the equivalent of peek-a-boo in Tagalog) was coined by Joey de Leon himself. In a Q&A session with, Joey shared that he considers this as a monumental achievement.

EB does live up to its name — it’s a crock-full of surprises with an ever-evolving collection of games, jokes and formula song and dance numbers that more than satisfy every giddy Pinoy’s fix for showbiz personalities.

The Bulaga factor

The concept behind EB is the brainchild of Malou Fagar and Tony Tuviera and a production of Television And Production Exponents Inc.(TAPE). The noon time show aired in different networks before it finally settled in GMA-7 in 1995.

The show premiered on July 30, 1979 in Radio Philippines Network (RPN-9). At that time, the comic troika of siblings Tito and Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon was getting rave attention. Together with Chiqui Hollman and Richie Reyes (aka Richie d’ Horsie), the threesome were hired as hosts for the show.

Their co-hosts may have come and gone, but the formidable trio of Tito,Vic and Joey is still going strong. Tito left the show when he was elected to the Senate in 1992 to fulfill his obligations as senator. He did manage to appear on the show in special occasions. Tito served two terms in the senate, from 1992-1998 and 1998-2004. After the last year of his term, he began to stage a comeback on the show on a weekly basis. He has since reverted back to more regular appearances on the show.

The late Helen Vela and Rio Diaz, Tessie Tomas,Coney Reyes, Sharon Cuneta, Pops Fernandez, Plinky Recto, Christine Jacob and Aiza Seguerra were some of EB’s mainstays in the past.

Currently, veterans Jimmy Santos and Ruby Rodriguez; Pia Guanio, Toni Rose Gayda, Anjo Yllana, Michael V, Francis Magalona, Keempee de Leon, Paolo Ballesteros, Allan K, BJ Forbes, Julia Clarete, Pauleen Luna, Jose Manalo, Lougee Basabas and Wally Bayola make up EB’s brady bunch of ‘Dabarkads.’

Because of its out-of-the-box innovations in noon-time show programming, EB has become a template for rival shows. EB earned its share of accolades from both local and international press and other organizations.

Fond memories

EB was an integral part of my childhood years — a fixture on our TV set during the lunch hour. It was an after-school delight that paired well with my dad’s very Pinoy home-cooking.

When I heard that Eat Bulaga! was coming to Los Angeles, the first thing that came to mind was Little Miss Philippines.

I was swept by a rather vivid memory. I remember sitting beside my aunt as she furiously and relentlessly dialed (I think it was) TAPE’s number on the rotary phone at my cousin’s house. She was going to make an inquiry so that my little cousins could join the pageant. All she got was an annoying and resounding toot-toot of a busy line. Apparently, thousands of other callers had the same mindset.

I also remember how EB launched Aiza Seguerra’s lucrative career in showbiz. She was one of the contestants for Little Miss Philippines in 1987. Because of her innate wit and charm, Aiza won the hearts of EB’s viewers and soon became one of the most sought-after child actors of her time. She also became a regular on the show.

Now in her twenties, Aiza has since found a new passion as a recording artist.

Another flagship feature of EB is their game segments. Hands down, I think one of EB’s funniest and most memorable game segments was the Hybrid 5 Cooking Chicken contest. Here, contestants were asked to recite Hybrid 5’s lengthy tagline (it’s funny that it remained stuck in my head all these years) — “Hybrid 5, the cooking chicken, malasa, malaman, makatas, malambot, malusog,“– without faltering, for as many times as they can within a certain time frame . The winner gets a cash prize and moves on to earn even bigger bucks from the final round where, blindfolded, the contestant is placed inside a chicken coop to catch as many live chickens as possible. Each chicken had a monetary value. The amount of winnings was dependent on the total cash value that they obtained from all the chickens that they caught.


is, perhaps, the most enduring segment in the show. Here, Tito, Vic and Joey and their other co-hosts do slapstick comedy sketches. A young and playful Aiza used to do her famous “duck walk” as an intermission between every skit.

EB is also well-known for its dance contests. Not one popular dance tune escaped them, possibly because Joey de Leon began his career as a radio disc jockey and was also a co-host in the now-defunct show, Discorama. He is also a noted composer of songs which are now considered as OPM classics — Ipagpatawad Mo, Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko, Boyfriend Kong Baduy and Iskul Bukol.

An archive video from (EB’s official website) features a special presentation from past dance contest winners during EB’s 10th anniversary in 1989. Dance hits as Xanadu (1981), Macho (1980), Breakdance (1984), Rico Mambo (1986) and Supersonic (1988) were all part of the spectacle.

Pageants that cut across genders were another main fare in this ninth wonder of a TV show. Beautiful Girl, Maid in the Philippines Mr. Pogi and Super Si Reyna gave the masses a chance to live their dreams.

Dance and sing-alike contests like Lola Madonna and Doble-Kara opened doors for celebrity fanatics to emulate their idols. EB was (and still is) on a roll in coming up with fresh and crowd-drawing concepts for the show.

In his November 23, 2004 column in Star Bytes, Butch Francisco shared a bit of trivia about EB.

“In the early ’70s, the only performers on TV who wore undershirts colored sandos, actually – were dancers like Lito Calzado (father of the great beauty Iza Calzado). The gentlemen who came out on TV that time wore mostly suits – especially the hosts of talk and variety shows. (Imagine Eddie Ilarde on Student Canteen or Archie Lacson on Penthouse 7). But if they were feeling a bit informal, they donned long-sleeved shirts with or without a tie. Tito, Vic and Joey changed all that.”

“On Eat Bulaga!, they freely wore the very casual collarless T-shirts and jeans. If I picture a scene on Eat Bulaga therefore, the images that come to mind are of T-shirts and jeans – very, very relaxed. Obviously, it took Tito, Vic and Joey to revolutionize the getup on TV,” he added.

Butch also recounted the “endless trailers of movies from Regal Films. Back then, we still enjoyed watching sneak preview of forthcoming films (something we find intolerable now that there are so many of them during intermission in mall theaters). In the early days of Eat Bulaga!, there were hardly any commercials coming in and the show had to accommodate instead films trailers that paid much, much lower than the regular 30-second TV advertisements. The show, however, is eternally grateful to Lily Monteverde for supporting a small program like Eat Bulaga! back then.”

TVJ – TV’s Jokers

Perhaps as equally institutional as EB would be the formidable comic triumvirate of Tito, Vic and Joey (TVJ). Siblings Tito and Vic Sotto went through humble beginnings before striking it big in showbiz. Vic began his career as a folk singer and guitarist. Tito also began with musical roots. Joey started out as a radio disc jockey in the 60’s for top FM stations. He worked for a couple of radio stations and was writing songs and scripts for gag shows on the side.

TVJ’s collaboration officially began in a gag show called OK Lang in IBC-13. Other mainstays of the show included the APO Hiking Society, Val Sotto and Ricky Manalo, Jr.

In 1975, Joey was invited to become a co-host in Discorama, alongside Bobby Ledesma. At that time, the show was getting poor ratings and was on the verge of being axed. Bobby Ledesma went on vacation and asked Joey to take charge of the show. Joey then asked the Sotto brothers (Val, Vic and Tito) to join him, but only Tito and Vic took the offer. The chemistry between the three was undeniable. Comedy newscast segments combined with Joey’s Top 40 hit song parodies gained Discorama new attention from televiewers.

TVJ also became regulars in Student Canteen, a noon-time show hosted by Bobby Ledesma. However, it was their antics in the sitcom Iskul Bukol that fully launched the trio’s career in showbiz and brought them to EB’S door. The rest, they say, is history.

In 1989, TVJ had their first show at the Shrine in Los Angeles entitled The Three Kings of Comedy. Together with their EB crew, Tito, Vic and Joey brought fun and laughter to Pinoys in the city of Angels. The show was produced by Sam Adelan, Lito Ocampo Cruz and Pat Reyes.

Angeleños will have another chance to see the comic trio when Eat Bulaga goes live on July 19, Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Famous Pinoy celebrities like Judy Ann Santos, Ryan Agoncillo, Marian Rivera, Dingdong Dantes, Pia Guanio, Allan K, Francis Magalona, Julia Clarete, Anjo Yllana, Pauleen Luna, Wally Bayola, Jimmy Santos and Jose Manalo will grace the event. (Sources:, Philstar, and


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Close Encounters of the Pinoy kind

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

In 1991, on the eve of his historic concert at the Universal Amphitheater, I met Gary Valenciano while he was doing one of those promotional appearances at the couture shop of fashion designer Boy Lizaso. Lizaso’s shop was then located on Vermont St., in a strip mall that was also the location of several FilAm establishments, including a Filipino supermarket and a Goldilocks Restaurant.

Already a sensation in Manila, Gary was almost an unknown in the US when he performed a sold-out concert at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1985. Gary’s Universal Amphitheater gig was shaping up to be another milestone for a Filipino artist about to hold a concert in an important mainstream venue. Just three years prior, another Filipino superstar, actress-singer Sharon Cuneta, had made history as the first Filipino artist to perform in and completely sell out the 7,000-seat Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

“Sharon is the first Filipina artist to sell out at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium first in 1988 and her latest June 11th, 2005 concert. Her poster is enshrined in The Shrine’s Hall of Fame next to stars Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She created a traffic jam in the 90’s and puzzled the former Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley. After hearing of her success, the mayor attended the concert and awarded Sharon with an Honorary Key to the City of Los Angeles,” says

Although Gary V’s concert established another milestone for a Filipino performer in Los Angeles, the highly successful concerts that the Apo Hiking Society had done in New York City’s prestigious Carnegie Hall and the Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada in 1987 had predated it by four years. Not only were they the first Filipino pop artists to have performed in those venues, both shows were also officially sold out. Those Apo concerts came in the heels of the Apo’s international recognition for Jim Paredes’ anthem on the 1986 People Power Revolution, Handog Ng Pilipino sa Mundo, which was performed by 15 Filipino artists in April 1986.

There would be a succession of Apo concerts in the United States and all over the world where there are concentrations of Filipinos. The trio had performed in 50 key cities in the US and Canada, in Singapore, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Guam, Australia, England, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Japan.

During the waning years of the 80s, just a couple of years after the Filipino nation’s delirious celebration of the People Power revolution had waned, a 7-year-old Filipino musical prodigy — Banig — joined the amateur singing contest, Ang Bagong Kampeon and became champion for seven consecutive weeks. Two years later, Banig, born Josephine Roberto, broke into the US entertainment scene, competing in the International Star Search talent competition at the age of 10, and reportedly beat Christina Aguilera, becoming the only Filipino champion to date.

Banig’s Star Search victory led to numerous guest appearances in the day’s popular television and radio shows, including the Arsenio Hall Show, Maury Povich Show, Into The Night with Rick Dees, then the pre-eminent radio DJ of KIIS radio, Super Osborne Show, Good Day LA, Am Los Angeles and more.

“She’s got the vocal range of Whitney Houston and Patty Labelle combined. Watch out Whitney, careful Janet. We got a 13-year-old singing sensation!” exclaimed DJ and host Rick Dees in his show after watching Banig’s performance. “What a voice! We want to come back as the next Whitney Houston, the next Mariah Carey, and better than that, the next Banig Roberto,” said Maury Povich. More shows followed suit in 1989. A concert in Manila, which was attended by a half-million people; sold out shows in the Atlantic City Trump Taj Majal; solo concerts in the Wiltern Theater, the Roxy and the Palladium in Los Angeles’ Cow Palace in San Francisco, City Center in New York, San Diego Convention Center and Copley Symphony Hall and many more. In 1994, Banig finally released her first US album, entitled Can You Feel My Heart? Perhaps still unknown to many, Banig doesn’t only dance and sing, she also plays musical instruments and collaborates with her younger sister, Jhoanna, in writing songs.

In 1998, I attended the APO Hiking Society’s concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Back then I had a column in a magazine where I described the trio of Jim Paredes, Danny Javier and Boboy Garovillo: “As funnymen, they have a gift of gab and sense of perfect timing. They have the sharp wit of an experienced debater and the confidence of a tightrope walker. The only changes I noted were the graying hair and the receding hairlines. Perhaps, the Apo is good for another thirty years, and we sure hope so. For the Apo is unique in our history — not only for their longevity — but also for their extraordinary intelligence, artistic sensibility and patriotism.”

In the same magazine, entertainment writer Jackie Regala had this to say about them: “Any Filipino music enthusiast would tell you that they grew up listening to the music of the Apo Hiking Society. And why not? This very popular and successful trio, who has been in the entertainment biz for almost 30 years now, is considered a pioneering exponent of Original Pilipino Music. Nothing can compare to their music, original compositions, with and humor — which is the best representative of the Filipino lifestyle.” (


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A Shining, Shimmering, Splendid Evening: Lea Salonga performs at Disney Hall

by by Gale Gatchalian/AJPress

Something beautiful lit up the glorious stage of the Walt Disney Concert Hall last Friday night. Kicking off a series of new shows called ‘Global Pop at the Music Center’, Lea Salonga, the multi-award winning Broadway star now with a platinum album under her belt, truly lived up to the concert’s tagline: isang gabi, isang bituin.

Leaders from the sponsoring Blue Ribbon group welcomed the excited guests. Blue Ribbon is a support group of women leaders who serve the Music Center, its resident companies and its art education programs.

A landmark event, Lea is the first solo Filipino performer to grace the stage of the esteemed Disney Concert Hall. No other honor is worthy of the artist who displays the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Ovation and Theater World Awards on her mantle. The love for her in that room was palpable, and not just because of the dominant Filipino contingent that came out to support her. She was able to use her utter talent to draw the audience closer to her and make them feel open to the deep emotion she infuses in every song. Plus, she was just downright cute. Years of experience have made her a flawless performer, slipping jokes and fun silliness in between her songs.

Her powerful opening could leave no doubt in anyone’s mind: Lea’s voice is a finely tuned instrument the years have only served to perfect. Its character changes with every song, reverberating, caressing or teasing the listeners accordingly. Her role as the singing voice in two Disney movies, Aladdin and Mulan, made this night a sweet homecoming of sorts as she performed select songs from the multitude of projects she has been involved with, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, her upcoming role in Cinderella and of course a smattering of her OPM hits, among others.


While each number was riveting to be sure, impressing long-time fans and making new ones, several stood out as truly remarkable.

I Dreamed a Dream

from Les Miserables was a veritable showcase on its own, demonstrating her pin-point control and vast range.

The rearranged Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal was the first of her Filipino songs, an updated version that sizzled with a little more pop but still had the crowd singing like it topped the charts only yesterday.

Honoring her fellow countrymen who, she said, she would be nothing without, Lea offered Ha-hanapin Ko to “all those away from home who kept a pearl of the old country in their hearts”, over time and across the miles.

Dedicated to her mother (who unfortunately was stuck with babysitting duty that night), Lea rendered The Way You Look Tonight with a cool, jazzy feel that made one feel warm inside.

Lea revealed that in many of her past roles, she couldn’t quite get the feel of what the lyrics were saying. The recent onset of motherhood however, has self-confessedly brought her closer to the words she sings. She was able to animate the unconditional love felt by mothers in a sonorous ephemeral moment. The gravity of emotion weighed down on the hall as she went a cappella for I Give My Life for You from Miss Saigon.

A surprise to even Lea herself, Cliff, an American who volunteered to duet with her for A Whole New World proved a worthy Aladdin, reversing all expectations one would have for audience participation numbers. Generous in her praise, Lea revealed that she had “dreamed about this moment at least three times”, reinforcing the much deserved standing ovation Cliff received.

Reminiscent of Julie Andrews, There’s Music in You provided a sneak peek for her upcoming role in a Broadway Asia Entertainment international tour of Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This song, along with Everybody Says Don’t and John Lennon’s Imagine uplifted the audience with its purposefully motivational and inspirational tone.

Her double encore, composed of Annie’s The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow and Someone’s Waiting For you embodied the brightness she brought to life in this fantastic show that left nothing to be desired.

The rest of the performance included: Sana Maulit Muli, a tribute to Starbucks baristas,Taylor, the Latte Boy, the full version of Reflection from Mulan, the celebrated Someone to Watch Over Me and On My Own, the song that got her the job as Éponine in Les Miserables and became her audition piece for Miss Saigon.

The siren’s setting

The Walt Disney Concert Hall can inspire true awe in all those who see and enter it. Its outward visual grandeur belies the auditory spectacle found within its walls. The acoustics of the hall wrapped the audience with Lea’s melodious voice from all sides. Accompanied by an impressive and highly skilled orchestra of 19, the intimate, wood-paneled interiors of the Frank Gehry structure in downtown LA could only perfectly complement the historic show of that night.

Somewhere in the middle of her performance, Lea thanked the exuberant crowd, saying “you make me feel like a rockstar.” Lea, that’s because you are.


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