Friday, December 28, 2012

IN EXHIBITION | "Garden of One World" installation on view at "LaMaMa Family Show"

NEW YORK CITY |  Thanks to LaGalleria's director Matt Nasser, I am included in "LaMaMa Family Show," which runs December 19th through December 30th at La Galleria. If you like my photos, please consider purchasing them for your home or office.

I submitted a photography installation, an excerpt from a larger installation called in the garden of One World.  My artwork consists of a portrait, "Ode to a Farmer in Umbria," and a six-panel photograph installation called "Ripped," which juts out from the wall to the floor. All of these photographs were taken near Trevi in central Italy.

 "Ode to a Farmer in Umbria" by Randy Gener, 16 X 20 (2008)
The farmer is the owner of a vineyard whom I met while I was exploring the area near Ellen Stewart's international arts center LaMaMa Umbria.

"Ripped" is set of six photographs and is part of a larger installation "Garden of Solitude," in which I imagine a garden path where you can find alone or me time. I took those six photos in the springs of the River Clitunno, situated near the town of Trevi and the city of Spoleto.

"Ripped" by Randy Gener. Each photo is 11 X 17 (2008)
The springs of the River Clitunno are immersed in an enchanting oasis of peace which has inspired generations of poets from Virgil to Carducci. In ancient times there was a greater abundance of water, and the river was deeper. Emperor Caligula could go the river with boats when he came and consulted the oracles of Clitunno, the god of the river. There is a small Etrusco-Italian temple made from chalky limestone nearby.  There on the river banks, every year, took place religious feasts with competitions, theatrical performances and gladiatorial matches.

While I was visiting the springs, I learned that this very same pristine spot was once referred to as Caligula's baths. By incorporating a jock strap, a dumb bell and a flower, "Ripped" is my naughty response to the very notion that this oasis was once a site of great decadence.

40 LaMaMa artists are featured in the "Family Show." In a previous post, I talk about some of my favorites.

A post in contains a special slideshow where you can view images from the group exhibition.

La Galleria hours are Wednesday through Sunday 1:00-7:30 PM. La Galleria is located on 6 East First Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery.

Happy holidays!

"in the garden of One World" by Randy Gener at LaMaMa LaGalleria

Thursday, December 20, 2012

IN EXHIBITION | LaMaMa Family Show dazzles at La Galleria

NEW YORK CITY |  Last night was the opening reception of LaMaMa Family Show at LaMaMa LaGalleria where you can enjoy (and buy) original artwork by La MaMa's large and talented group of current and alumni artists. The evening doubled as a holiday party, which meant many LaMaMa artists came out to enjoy each other's company.

Me and Eugene the Poogene, actor, performers and member of the Great Jones Repertory Company
Thanks to LaGalleria's director Matt Nasser, I am included in the Family Show, which runs December 19th through December 30th.

I submitted a photography installation, an excerpt from a larger installation called in the garden of One World.  My artwork consists of a portrait, "Ode to a Farmer in Umbria," and a six-panel photograph installation that juts out from the wall to the floor. All of these photographs were taken near Trevi in central Italy.  The farmer is the owner of a vineyard whom I met while I was exploring the area near Ellen Stewart's international arts center LaMaMa Umbria.

This latter set of six photographs is actually a portion of a larger installation "Garden of Solitude," in which I imagine a garden path where you can find alone or me time. I took those six photos in the springs of the River Clitunno, situated near the town of Trevi and the city of Spoleto.  The springs are immersed in an enchanting oasis of peace which has inspired generations of poets from Virgil to Carducci. In ancient times there was a greater abundance of water, and the river was deeper. Emperor Caligula could go the river with boats when he came and consulted the oracles of Clitunno, the god of the river. There is a small Etrusco-Italian temple made from chalky limestone nearby.  There on the river banks, every year, took place religious feasts with competitions, theatrical performances and gladiatorial matches. Sometimes the spring are referred to as Caligula's baths, and my piece incorporates a jock strap and a flower. It is called "Ripped" and is actually a naughty response to the very notion that this oasis was once a site of great decadence.

To be honest, I have to revisit LaGalleria this week to take in the original artworks at LaGalleria at my own pace and in solitude. The party overflowed with wonderful people, so I could barely see the work at hand.

I will say that I did get to catch a number of pieces which I found enchanting or inspiring.  Federico Restrepo, the Colombian designer and puppeteer, has a wiry beast sculpture that may be one of the most intriguingly titled pieces in the show.  It is made of aluminum wire and acrylic on canvas, and it is called "Ellen." Also, on a brick wall, Potri Ranka Manis shrouds her painting with a swathe of mystery and mythic lore. She calls it "Hope for the flowers."

Me and Potri Ranka Manis in front of her shrouded painting
Several pieces are directly about the holidays. Ozzie Rodriguez contributes "Winter-Light Xmas," a beautiful painting of blue shapes on a large white canvas that at first strikes the eye as imposing and then becomes more contemplative in mood. As you walk into the space, you immediately see David Adams's "Christmas Tree." And Valois Mickens puts forward a wonderfully executed "Nativity 2012" near the church pew.

And how could you miss Volodymyr Klyuzko’s dazzling "Photo Patterns" from Carpathians? This Kiev-based artist took photographs of everyday scenes and figures of life in the Carpathian Mountain villages during Yara Arts Group's research trip to the Ukraine in August 2012. And then he transformed these photos into a series of visual patterns that that wrap the edge of a gallery wall. You have to see it for yourself. It is so gorgeous.

Some 40 LaMaMa artists are featured in the Family Show. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday 1:00-7:30 PM. La Galleria is located on 6 East First Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

ACCOLADE | At a Poinsettia Grand Ball, I received an award and painted the town red

Outstanding Filipino American Achievement Award 2012 

NEW YORK CITY |  I received an invitation via email several days ago.  Completely out of the blue.  I was busy installing a new installation at LaMaMa La Galleria.  The email stated: "I am Nena Lozada Kaufman, NaFFAA-NY State Chair. This coming December 9 will be our 5th Annual Poinsettia Grand Ball, and it is also NaFFAA's 15 years of advocacy. I'd like to invite you on Sunday, 1pm to 6pm, Astoria World Manor, Astoria, NY, to grace the occasion. We are honoring Fil-Am achievers like you. Hope you will accept this accolade. Regards!"

I was not sure what to make of the email.  Several days later I find myself in what looks like a Cinderella Ball at Astor World Manor.  A sea of intense reds and black tuxes. I joked that it was like going to the prom.

NaFFAA stands for the National Association of Filipino American Associations.  NaFFAA Region 1 honored me with a 2012 Outstanding Filipino American Achiever Award. At a Poinsettia Grand Ball held at Astor World Manor. It happened tonight.

It was a surreal evening. I sat at a Presidential Table. On a dias. In front of everybody. The rest of the people were sitting on tables on two sides of a dance floor. The Consul General of New York, Mario De Leon, and his wife were present at the party.

What was the award for? It was a Recognition Award for "your dedication and steadfast commitment to the Filipino American community at large. Your invaluable contribution and support will be your undying legacy to the community as well as a permanent imprint earned as one of the outstanding Filipino American achievers 2012 to all you serve in particular and the Filipino community in general."

I had a good time. People were nice. I took some photos, which you see here. I hope the official photos are nicer. Thank you, NaFFAA for the nice recognition.

Me and Dr. Alicia Alemdral. She is Mrs. Philippines International 2013

What is The National Federation of Filipino American Associations?
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is a private, non-profit, non-partisan tax-exempt organization established in 1997 to promote the active participation of Filipino Americans in civic and national affairs.  NaFFAA is composed of 12 regions with a national office in Washington, D.C. that monitors legislation and public policy issues affecting Filipino Americans.  NaFFAA partners with local affiliate organizations and national coalitions in advocating for issues of common concern.

NaFFAA was born out of a need for the Filipino American community to take its place in the American mainstream and participate in decisions affecting its interest.  There was a need to harmonize the diverse voices of our community into one clear, powerful voice that could be heard by government, business, media and the American public.

When NaFFAA was formed in the 1997 Empowerment Conference in Washington D.C., the nearly 3 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans did not have a visible presence in the national capital. An office was immediately established with an executive staff running the daily operations.

Since then, NaFFAA has built strategic relations with policy makers on the federal level, including the U.S. Congress and the various agencies of the executive branch. As well, NaFFAA has forged partnerships and alliances with coalition partners in the civil rights community to promote their collective interests, particularly on such issues as immigration, voting rights, discrimination and racial stereotyping in the media, and equal opportunity in education.

The national office has also coordinated and guided the local work of its 12 geographic regions by institutionalizing regional conferences and other events. National empowerment conferences, now held every two years, provide opportunities for assessing the organization’s programs and structure, and charting NaFFAA’s future directions.

NaFFAA Region 1 represents an area covered by: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hamsphire,  New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Each state is represented by a State Chair.

Me and Nena Lozada Kaufman, NaFFAA-NY State Chair

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ANOTHER OP'NIN' | Curating America: How to manifest a cultural re-imaging of the U.S. for a world art event

NEW YORK CITY |  Tonight is the opening reception for a unique art-installation project...and a uniquely American one.

For me, this installation has been the culmination of five years of sustained work: an invigorating process of manifesting a cultural re-imaging of American theater for a world audience. Today we get to share the work to other Americans.

Our installation directly tackles with how U.S. artists responded to presidential transition in the White House (between 2007 and 2011) and the awful economic recession, from which we are still struggling to emerge. We hope to bridge the abyss between the white box (museums, galleries) and the black box (traditional theater spaces). We alert Americans of the profound significance of international cultural exchange to force the world to re-examine its hard-to-budge assumptions of what it means to be an American.

We call that this installation FROM THE EDGE: PERFORMANCE DESIGN IN THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA. Click here to read my curatorial essay.

Vibrating within a new discipline that is up for grabs, From the Edge proposes one approach toward an American version of performance design. Future curatorial teams will really have to find the courage to contend with the challenge of displaying the U.S. anew — of re-envisioning U.S. design creativity within a competitive international design environment. --rg

Bold, daring works from a United States national exposition of theatrical designs assembled for the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space will be exhibited in December at La MaMa La Galleria in New York City.  An opening reception is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, December 6, 2012, with many of the featured designers, theater artists and curators in attendance.

FROM THE EDGE: PERFORMANCE DESIGN IN THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA is a one-of-a-kind installation of photographs and work processes from 37 politically compelling productions from across the country.  Commissioned by USITT with additional support from Carnegie Mellon University and in association with LaMaMa E.T.C. and my media project, From the Edge represented the United States at last year's Prague Quadrennial, the world celebration of performance design and theatre architecture held every four years in Prague since 1967.  This showing in New York introduces this exhibit to a new audience.

Tennessee Williams's THE DAY ON WHICH A MAN DIES

This exhibition is both a formal experiment and an expensive public commission. Because the U.S. plays such a dominant role in cultural globalization, we were intent on curating and creating a theatrical installation that would force the world to re-examine and revise its hard-to-budge assumption of the American theater. We have gathered works that are uniquely American yet largely new to the world stage. We also identified how performance artists and theatre companies grappled with sociopolitical issues that consume Americans today including war, ecology, political polarities, race, gender, and religion.

From the Edge spotlights the country's boldest performance works and edgiest design processes from performance-makers and young ensembles.  These innovative productions were selected from 360 submissions by artistic director Susan Tsu and curators Chris Barecca, Linda Cho, Don Tindall, and Allen Hahn.  I acted as curatorial adviser during the selection process.

From the Edge richly exemplifies the visceral blurring of performance and theater.  Rock musicals, live-art events, irreverent performance art, devised theater, digital theater, immersive environments, site-determined works and genre-defying works have stretched traditional definitions and pushed the limits of performance design as imagined in the U.S.  The period in consideration, 2007 to 2011, was a deeply politicized environment for U.S. artists.  They responded in complex ways to societal and political concerns. 'From the Edge' spotlights how U.S. theatremakers wrestled with core American values during the intense unraveling of the Aught Decade — a period that coincided with a painful economic recession and a dramatic presidential transition in the White House that brought about the rise of an African-American as our country’s 44th president.

Eugene O'Neill's DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS from Goodman Theatre of Chicago
Among the featured works are Tony-award winning designer Kevin Adams’ ground-breaking lighting and Chrstine Jones's arresting scenery for the Broadway show American Idiot, Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, and scenes from Hell House, a New York take on the Evangelical Christian “haunted houses” that aim to scare teens with depictions of pregnant cheerleaders and gay men dying of AIDS.  Also on view are director/designer Nancy Keystone’s fantasia on rocket history Apollo and her arresting production of Suzan-Lori Parks's The America Play, Rob Roth’s Screen Test, Neil Patel's set for This Beautiful City by The Civilians, Brian Sidney Bembridge’s wrestling stage for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, and Basil Twist’s Arias with a Twist.
Joey Arias in ARIAS WITH A TWIST (Design by Basil Twist)

Special recognition is given to companies considered to be founders of innovative and political theatre.  Tribute is also given to American theater greats August Wilson and Ellen Stewart.

Originally displayed in an environmental design of a garage designed by William Bloodgood, the U.S. pavilion reflected the workspace of seminal performance groups such as the Wooster Group and La MaMa E.T.C.  The outer walls were defaced with graffiti, while the interior was furnished with sawhorses and makeshift furniture, and splashed with paint in the frenzy of creativity.  Jutting out on the roof's edge was a fanged dinosaur-type monster engorging the figure of Uncle Sam, a playful inflatable structure by performance artist Pat Oleszko entitled WarUSaurus.  A model will represent the exhibit structure.

The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) has organized and sponsored the American participation in the PQ since the USA began participating in 1975. "From the Edge" is the 10th exhibit representing America in this singular world event dedicated to design for performance.

Founded in 1984, La MaMa La Galleria is a nonprofit gallery committed to nurturing artistic experimentation.  As an extension of the internationally acclaimed La Mama E.T.C., La Galleria encourages an active dialogue between the visual arts, new media, performance, curatorial, literary and educational projects.

The La Galleria exhibit, located at 6 East 1st Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue, will be on display Wednesday through Sunday between 1 and 7:30 p.m. from December 6 to December 16, 2012.

Ellen Stewart, founder of La MaMa E.T.C.

Monday, November 26, 2012

DIARY | Lectures and Teaching at Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague in Czech Republic

PRAGUE |   Every morning I wake up in Dejvicka, a quiet residential district located northwest of the city center of Prague, and my first thought is that I have to go teach today.  There are several colleges nearby where they teach architecture, civil engineering, chemistry and theology.  I look out my window, I see huddles of Czech students either going to their classes or heading toward the dining hall, and the second thing in my mind is, "How can I, an American who does not speak Czech and (most important) who is interested in the arts and in aesthetics, connect with them?"  After grabbing coffee and running out to the Metro Line A, I head out to Staromestske, and the next thought I have is, "Might there be anything useful for me to share to the Czech students of the Faculty of the Arts, Charles University that would actually be helpful in their unique situation here in Prague?"

Charles University in Prague
I momentarily forget my worries, anxieties and questions as I walk up the stairs of the Staromestske station.  The city of Prague is well known as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Its central location makes traveling to other parts of Europe quite easy, especially to the neighboring countries of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.  

The archway of the main building of the Charles University on Jana Palacha square looks grand on this cold, grey morning. When you hit the top of the stairs, you see the Vlatava River and beyond it the imposing Prague Castle. Around noon, the sun creeps out, and the sight of all of it is epic. Every time I walk into the classroom, I sneak a peek out the window to see the red-shingled rooftops and impressive vistas. "I could get used to this," I joke to myself.

It is November. Unlike in the summer when you have difficulty seeing this charming city for the swarms of drunken tourists and party-hardy visitors, the fall in Praha enchants.  There are mornings when I feel like I have Charles Bridge all to myself. And there are shadowy evenings, the air filled with fog and lit only by the dull-yellow streetlights, when I begin to glimpse the melancholy labyrinths that must have fired Franz Kafka's imagination. A number of world theater figures from Asia have been invited to visit Charles University, a traditional center of Czech scholarship since 1348 and the most important Czech educational institution oriented toward the humanities. Prior to my arrival, the Prague university's Faculty of the Arts has hosted Gao Xingjian, the Nobel Prize winning Chinese émigré novelist, playwright and critic; Stan Lai, the influential U.S.-born Chinese playwright and director Stan; Shigeyama Motohiko, the Japanese kyogen actor; and Galina Sinkina, Russian playwright, director and founder of Teatr.doc.

I was asked to lead a series of workshops on American theater and criticism and to offer a lecture on what it is like to practice theater criticism in New York. The audience is composed of young writers, emerging scholars and students of theater studies, Anglo-American studies, film studies and other disciplines. We take in Czech productions in the evening: a Czech production of David Mamet's presidential comedy November at MeetFactory and German writer Katharina Schmitt's Sam, staged by Studio Hrdiny Prag at the National Gallery. 

On Tuesday, I present a formal lecture on the present state of criticism at a time when the media is transitioning from print to online. I worry that for the Europeans, who are more steeped in theory and more addicted to state-government funding than the more practical-based Americans, my talk might not be too engaging. It might be too much about the media business. But I have no choice but to specifically discuss how critics need to become entrepreneurs in the digital age. The future of the art of criticism is what's at stake. 

On Wednesday, I had hoped to focus on new trends in contemporary American drama, but I was informed that except for a few famous names like Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams and David Mamet (and even then they knew only their most famous works), the students who were present did not have a strong knowledge of how American theater has historically evolved into its present state. No critic can begin to offer authoritative opinions on new drama without grasping the apparatus, so my lecture which I originally designed to center on new 21st century American drama explodes to become a survey of 20th century U.S. theater,

On Thursday, it is my turn to learn. Prior to arriving I had made a strong point that the Czech students should prepare to give a short presentation on who they personally think is an important Czech artist of the moment. I asked them to tell me what this artist's most significant work is, and what is their least significant, and to outline whether they think this artist should be known internationally. Setting aside the fact that I am clearly also fishing for insider knowledge about Czech theater artists, this session, I feel, is the most successful, because I get to see, hear and learn from the students and the other people present what their values are in terms of art and aesthetics.  You cannot write criticism out of a vacuum, and you certainly cannot discuss criticism without a context.  So focusing specifically on how the students viewed their own Czech artists provides a glimpse on how I was about to approach the next session.

On Friday, the session focuses on how to write great criticism.  Originally, I had intended to provide a lecture on "Narrative Architectures: How New Advances in New Technology Has Changed the Way We Shape Theater," as well go deeper into a sundry of topics like hip-hop theater, theater by women, African American theater (August Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle in particular) and Latin American Theater. But I have to change my m.o. so that I could specifically respond to the expressed needs in the room. By now I have learned that the students were all interested in writing strong reviews and criticism.

All throughout my stay in Prague, I keep repeating that I would give a lecture on American musicals. And so I do on Saturday in what I feel was one of the most entertaining lectures I have ever given. I have given this lecture before on musicals in other cities in Europe, notably the International Festival of Musical Performing Arts "Life Is Beautiful" in Bucharest, Romania. But this lecture in Prague is great fun because it doubles as a listening party. At the back of the room sat a Czech guy who simply loves musicals — his name is Patrick Fridrichovsky, a dramaturg at the Vinohrady Theater and a noted radio producer — and so it was a special challenge to also have another musical theater lover in the room.  For the most part, I tie the evolution of musical history to shifts in American society and culture. I pay special attention to the elements of a musical and its anatomy.  I have to say that I never felt more American than after spending nearly four hours in Europe lecturing on American musicals.

It is now the weekend: I will plan to visit the MeetFactory again in Smichov where I will renew my acquaintance with two hip-hop-loving Czech painters who have a studio on the top floor of that former slaughterhouse, now owned by David Cerny, the bad-boy of Czech sculpture. (If I am lucky, maybe I will meet Cerny again, and he will grant me an interview or show me to his studio!) Meanwhile, the violence in the Gaza Strip flared anew while I have been here, and I am sad that I was not able to delve deeper into Middle East American dramaturgy, even though I gave the students scripts by the Egyptian-American playwright Yussef El Guindi and the British-based American writer Naomi Wallace. We discussed their plays, but if I had more time, I would have asked the writers to write even more extensively on the Israel/Palestinian conflicts on stage.

Coming to Prague, I was filled with worry and trepidation. I don't know for sure if what I had to offer as an American is useful to the Czechs I met, but now those feelings are mixed in with guarded optimism and, well, hope. As Vaclav Havel once said, "Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH & VIDEO | Distinguished Alumni Award during a centennial anniversary celebration

This year, Paco Catholic School celebrates 100 years (1912-2012) of quality academic education and Christ-centered moral formation.  

From humble beginnings, with a handful of students in a small chapel in the Peñafrancia section, Paco Catholic School (PCS) has grown leaps and bounds. A co-institutional private school operated and managed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, the school is located in the district of Paco in the City of Manila, Philippines. It is now home to more than 5,000 students who are formed to excel in academics and are striving to live the school motto, "Noblesse Oblige."

PCS ushers in the centennial celebration with numerous activities from November 5 to 10, 2012.  On November 8, the school holds its Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony and a Centennial Dinner. I am honored to be unanimously chosen as one of this year's Distinguished Alumni Awardees by the Committee on the PCS Search for Distinguished Alumni. 

What follows below is my thank-you speech:

Magandang hapon po.  My name is Randy Gener, an editor, writer and artist in New York City.  I deeply regret that I am not able to return to the Philippines this year. It is just not in the cards.  I regret I am not able join my fellow Paconians in this most significant occasion: the 100th anniversary of the founding of PCS.  Unfortunately, a series of life events has made it tougher for me to return for a brief stay.  A week ago, when superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast, I couldn't even ride a subway train to reach downtown New York, where there was a power outage and where some areas remain flooded.

Two years ago, I returned to a PCS reunion for the first time.  I remember entertaining a hopeful thought; perhaps someday I might be able to return to the PCS campus.  During that Christmas reunion, I was reminded that I had been away for far too long.  I renewed old friendships, rekindled great memories and wondered how different my life would be had my family chosen not to permanently leave the Philippines for the United States.  What I did not realize then was that PCS would ask me to return so soon.  What I could have never anticipated was that the impetus for this invitation would be this grandest of PCS occasions.  What surprises me is that I would be selected to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award.

My time at PCS meant everything to me.  It formed and determined the person I am today.  About 6,600 miles and a couple of decades separate the young student that I was at PCS and the older (and not much wiser) New Yorker that I am today.  Yet in an utterly profound way, most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in the sandbox at PCS.

The other day I was interviewed on a talk show on satellite radio.  The radio host asked me, in a voice of incredulity, how was it possible that a boy from the Philippines would one day grow up to become an award-winning New York writer, let alone be associated with arts and culture. It was not the first time I was asked this question.

I gave the radio host my standard answer.  I have always felt, when I first arrived in the U.S., that I had unfair advantage on other young Americans: I was blessed that I studied at PCS.  In high school, I read great literature — Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, Melville, Shakespeare, Dostoyesvsky, Francisco Balagtas, Jose Rizal — and learned to appreciate learning for learning's sake.  I recalled the first time I went to Norway. In Oslo I blithely pointed out how fascinating it was for me to see the two statues that stood in front of the National Theater: one of Henrik Ibsen and another of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.  "You know who Bjørnson is?" my surprised Norwegian friends exclaimed.  I replied, "Of course. In high school, I used to read the folk stories Bjørnson had written."  I wasn't kidding.

Sandee Masigan holds up the award
Thanks to my PCS teachers, I received what amounted to an early Ivy League-type education.  To this day, my command of Tagalog is strong, thanks to Mrs. Emma Olila-Sison.  I trace my love of American and English literature to my time at PCS.  Ms. Olivia Demingoy was one of advisers of the PCS Gazette, and to this day, I am proud to be able to say I had my early start in journalism as news editor of PCS Gazette.  A chemistry teacher, Miss Evelyn Navarrete, pushed me to do well academically and drilled me after classes so that I could hold my own during national spelling bees, science contests, debates and math competitions.  These teachers, along with many others, believed in me as a young person.

I would like to thank my dear friend Sandee Masigan for accepting this Distinguished Alumni Award in my behalf.  Asking Sandee could not be more appropriate and personal. You see, Sandee was the features editor of the Gazette.  Here in the United States, I am blessed to be still the best of friends with other former Gazetteers — Helen Formanes, our literary editor; Kimlou Conigliaro, our poetry editor; and Mark Santos, our associate editor — who, as destiny would have it, moved to the U.S. at roughly the same period of time.  We have kept in close touch over the years.  We visit one another’s homes.  We spend holidays and marriage ceremonies and baptisms. We’ve seen one another grow and mature; some have children.  So we remain the dearest of life-conspirators forever linked by this strong and lasting bond called Paco Catholic School.

I would like to thank the members of the PCS Search Committee for selecting me to receive this award. I especially thank Mrs. Helen S. Orbino for her good cheer and persistence in tracking me down. Maraming salamat po, Mrs. Orbino.

What an incredible honor it is to receive this lovely award during PCS's Centennial Anniversary year!

I look forward to seeing all of you the next time I am able to return to Manila. Maraming salamat po, PCS. Maligayang kaarawan, PCS. At magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

October 08, 2012

Randy Gener
New York, NY



We are pleased to inform you that you have been unanimously chosen as one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awardees by the Committee on the PCS Search for Distinguished Alumni.

We are greatly honored to invite you to grace the Awarding Ceremonies to be held on November 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm at the Jaime Cardinal Sin Auditorium on the occasion of the Centennial Anniversary of PACO CATHOLIC SCHOOL in order to receive your award.

Please come in formal attire and prepare a two–minute response. Kindly send us your latest picture(s) for AVP presentation.

Sincerely in Christ.
Mrs. Helen S.  Orbino
Human Resource Management and Development Officer

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

DIARY | What it is like to be a guest on Sirius XM Satellite Radio

NEW YORK CITY |   She is as classy as she is beautiful.  I was interviewed this morning on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The interviewer was Pia Lindström, the award-winning host of "Pia Lindström Presents," an exclusive weekly interview show on Sirius XM Book Radio, where she gives listeners a glimpse into the world of books, plays, movies, and current issues. 

Pia Lindström and me.
Every week Pia talks with guests from the world of books as well as film directors, producers, literary insiders and more.  Previous guests have included best-selling authors Danielle Steele, Lorrie Moore, Anne Rice; playwrights like David Mamet; musicians such as Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Webb, Judy Collins; Forensic Scientists, Stuntmen and Mystics.  For her first show, Pia sat down with her sister, Isabella Rossellini to discuss Isabella’s new book, Green Porno, based on her Sundance Channel web series. 

I was nervous, but she made me feel at ease. I was anxious, because she wanted me to talk about the world of performing arts, as well as the present state of democracy and the arts in Europe, Asia and Africa, but she wanted me do this in a way that would clearly communicate to a broader audience. Pretty esoteric subjects, I suppose, in our mainstream-only U.S. media. To be honest I lost sleep at the mere thought of losing the interest of her millions of listeners while I had to describe and expound on global experiences and international encounters. After two cups of strong coffee, I dared to go on the radio anyway. I kept breathing to myself my mantra: "Transform your passion into a pop-culture conversation."

My favorite moment was when I got to say "Pussy" on air. I said it twice. In what context? Pia was interested in discussing issues of censorship and repression of artists, and she mentioned Putin. So there it was: my opening (no pun intended). I described the Pussy Riot debacle in Russia as one example of the repression of artists in illiberal democracies after the so-called death of Communism.

Pia Lindström, the first child of actress Ingrid Bergman and Dr. Petter Aron Lindström (a Swedish American neurosurgeon), couldn't have been sweeter and nicer.  It helped that she is an accomplished movie and theater critic, so we shared a common lingua.  I was most especially struck by her anecdotes about what it was like for her when she was starting out in broadcasting. 

Born in Stockholm, Pia began her career in San Francisco at KGO-TV, co- hosting a two-hour morning talk show.  A long time trustee of the Theatre Development Fund, the largest arts service organization in the country, she is also on the Board of Trustees of the American Theatre Wing and a member of the Tony Award Nominating Committee.  Lindström worked in television journalism for three decades in California and New York. She received two Emmy Awards and the New York Associated Press Broadcasters Award for news reporting.

Looking back, I wish we had more time to dig our heels deeper into discussing contemporary Swedish performing arts. Perhaps there will be another time. Who knows?  If our conversation sparks true and deep interest, we might broadcast about performing arts direct from Sweden in the near future. It could happen.

Stay tuned to Sirius XM Radio.  --rg

Saturday, October 13, 2012

THANK-YOU SPEECH | Accepting Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Award at LA City Hall

Tonight there is a party in Los Angeles that I am sadly unable to attend.  I am being honored as one of the country's first-ever recipients of the Filipino-American Heritage Achievement Awards. This national recognition honors Filipino Americans who, in the estimation of the Los Angeles Filipino Association of City Employees (LAFACE), "helped shape the last 425 years of Fil-Ams in United States." 

Headed by Cora Aragon Soriano, LAFACE is the only Filipino-American employee organization in the City of Los Angeles. LAFACE's Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Awards are being formally presented (right now!) at Los Angeles City Hall during an all-day celebration called "425 Years of Filipino-American History." 

A second before posting this, I received a text from LA. It says that each awardee actually receives five awards: a Heritage Achievement medal, one plaque from LAFACE, and one plaque each from the State of California, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Los Angeles.  I tell you: New York does not treat people as well as L.A. has toasted me tonight.

This is the thank-you letter I composed for the occasion.

Dear Cora Aragon A. Soriano
Dear Board Members of LAFACE
Dear Councilmembers Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar, Richard Alarco
Dear Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay Jr.
Dear Acting Philippine Consul Daniel Espiritu
Most of all, Mga Kababayan of the Los Angeles Filipino Association of City Employees:

Sayang talaga. Sayang na sayang. Nanghihinayang ako. Kasi narito ako sa New York. At lahat kayong mga nagpupuri at mga itinatanghal ay nasa Los Angeles.

This is a letter from Randy Gener in New York. How I wish I could celebrate with you tonight!  How I regret that I am not able to express my tremendous gratitude in person. This lovely gentleman reading this letter is Mark Santos. He is my best friend from Paco Catholic School.  We grew up together.  We performed and sang in school shows. We served as editors for our high school paper.

I kid you not, but on this very beautiful Friday evening, this very moment that Mark is reading this letter now in LA City Hall, I am standing on a stage, performing my own original piece of writing at Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan. This dramatic work was inspired by the historical legacies of Fil-Am farm workers and union organizers in California and Seattle. I have been collaborating with a group of young Fil-Am writers and performers to open a theater piece about Filipino identity. Had tonight's celebration happened a week earlier or a week later, there would have been no problem for me to come to LA. I am deeply moved that, despite my absence, you decided to publicly honor me anyway.

What a stunning award! What significant event tonight is! If you consider that Filipinos first set foot on the coast of California 425 years ago, tonight's gala is remarkable. This is still a society where we exist on uneven playing fields. As long as this is the case, we need groups like LAFACE to help recognize the achievements and contributions of people of color in this country.

Johnny Itliong, who received a posthumous award for his late father, the legendary Larry Itliong.
With Bernardo Bernardo, Heritage Awardee. | Photo by Paul Consignado
Among the 21 awardees tonight, five of them are being awarded posthumously. This record is completely unheard of. This LAFACE event serves as a model for the U.S. national scene. I join everyone here to salute the late Larry Itliong, whom you have recognized with a posthumous award. An important Filipino labor organizer, Itliong died 35 years ago at the age of 63.

I am jumping for joy that tonight you are honoring the late Gladys Celeste Mercader. A virtuoso pianist with international credentials, Mercader was a hidden treasure of the American music and ballet world. She had worked in the shadows of Jerome Robbins, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She died in 2008.

Heritage Achievement Awardees
With these posthumous awards to Itliong and Mercader and others who are no longer with us, LAFACE sends an important message: that we Filipino Americans truly value and acknowledge the excellence of our own people, especially those performing artists like Mercader whom the larger U.S. culture had overlooked.

I sing the praises of Bernardo Bernardo, Heritage Awardee, also for Music/Entertainment.  Ever since we first met at Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, Bernardo has amazed me with his lacerating wit, his joie de vivre, his acting talents, and his community leadership.

I salute Cora Aragon Soriano and the Board Members of LAFACE.  What you have created here tonight is to build an instrument of legitimacy for our people. I thank you for allowing me and Mark to play a small role in it. I thank whoever it was who nominated me for this award.

I grew up in the slums of Santa Ana river, studied near the outdoor markets of Paco church and immigrated to America with aspirations of becoming a writer. This award blows my mind. You have given this kanto boy something to treasure, something to live up to. Whenever I receive yet another rejection or life deals me another terrible or unfair hand, I will remember your munificence tonight: Once upon a time, in California, on the 425th year of Fil-Am historical presence in America, there was an association of LA city employees. These wonderful people, these kababayans, bless them, they took a look at the body of my work so far and said, "Job well done."

To be a success is about being happy with what you’re doing, constantly growing as an individual, and contributing to other people in measurable and meaningful ways. I will work hard to live up to your astounding generosity. I will find hope and good cheer and perseverance in this lovely gesture from LAFACE.

Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay kayo! At magandang gabi sa inyong lahat.

Randy Gener
Friday, October 12, 2012
New York City

Thursday, October 11, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT | Heritage Achievement Awards given out at LA City Hall

LOS ANGELES |  Two important Filipino American artists will join the country's first-ever recipients of the 2012 Heritage Achievement Awards.  These Fil Ams will receive national recognition in an unprecedented event that takes place October 12 at Los Angeles City Hall.

In the estimation of LAFACE, these Filipino Americans "helped shape the last 425 years of Fil-Ams in the United States" through their "major contributions."

LAFACE stands for the Los Angeles Filipino Association of City Employees. Headed by Cora Aragon Soriano, LAFACE is the only Filipino-American employee organization in the City of Los Angeles. The historic event is called 425 Years of Filipino-American History.

For the first time in Los Angeles City Hall, there will be a celebration of 425 years of heritage and culture of Filipino Americans in the United States. The day-long event consists of three parts: an official recognition from Los Angeles City Hall, a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the historical exhibits of Filipino Americans in the USA; and a formal evening gala, by invitation only, which will gather together LA City Council members, Filipino local elected officials, LA City employees, Filipino community leaders, members of the Filipino community, and 2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Awardees.

At the gala, LAFACE will hand out the first-ever 2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Awards to "exceptional Filipino-Americans, organizations, and posthumous awardees" in a number of categories. At the end of this note, you will find LAFACE's announcement in Asian Journal and a complete list of its 2012 Heritage Achievement Awardees.

I would like to give special mention to two Filipino Americans. They are the late Gladys Celeste Mercader and Bernardo Bernardo.

Gladys Celeste-Mercader, a deceased Fil-Am musician, rehearsal pianist and performance soloist at American Ballet Theatre, will finally receive long-delayed national recognition in the USA. Her children will be coming to Los Angeles to pick up a posthumous 2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Award in the category of Music/Entertainment.

Celeste-Mercader had worked with the world's most elite dancers: Rudolf Nureyev, Carla Fracci, Cynthia Gregory, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland and Julio Bocca. She is also associated with the most notable choreographers of the 20th century among them, Jerome Robbins, Agnes DeMille, Eliot Feld, Mark Morris. Her career in the ballet world spanned over 40 years (ABT, Feld Ballet, Cleveland Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Ohio Ballet). With these companies she has performed piano concertos by Prokoviev, Shostakovich , Mendelsohn and piano solos by Debussy, Brahms and Strauss at New York's Metropolitan House as well as theatres throughout the United States as well as some famed International theaters, like the Paris Opera House and Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To this day, her ballet-music recordings are being taught in ballet school all over the country.

Bernardo Bernardo is a performing artist par excellence. He is a mover and shaker in the Filipino American community in the United States. Most recently, he was awarded the L.A. Weekly Theater Award for Best Direction for the 2012 productions of The Romance of Magno Rubio and Ang Romansa in Magno Rubio. The two versions of the same play ran in repertory at Inside the Ford Theatre, from November 4 through December 11, 2011. Bernardo is a triple threat: a host, singer and stand-up comedian. He is an actor of stage, film and television. With his wicked sense of humor, piercing intelligence and seductive singing voice, he wows audiences in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Juneau, Las Vegas and New York. He is a complete entertainer.

Although I have known about him for years through his film and television work, I first met Bernardo in Juneau, Alaska, when I wrote the cover story, "Alaska Is In the Heart," for the July/August 2005 edition of American Theatre magazine. He appeared in two Perseverance Theatre productions there: the musical THE LONG SEASON and the documentary play VOYAGE.

Congratulations to both the Mercader family and Bernardo Bernardo.

A Personal Note: In late September, I received a letter from LAFACE. It stated that I was nominated and selected to receive a 2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Award in the disciplines of Arts/Literature and Media/Entertainment. 

I would like to publicly thank Cora Aragon Soriano and the LAFACE Selection Committee for including me in this historic "425 Years" event. Not the least of which because it happens during the Filipino American History month of October. What a gorgeous honor!  Maraming salamat po.


ANNOUNCEMENT by Cora Aragon Soriano

LOS ANGELES |  We are honored to announce that we are recognizing the following exceptional Filipino-Americans, organizations, and posthumous awardees, who by their outstanding achievements and contributions have made historical presence and exceptional contributions to the Filipino heritage, culture, humanitarian efforts, progress and development, and professional contributions in the United States of America (USA).

The celebration in Los Angeles City Hall has been rescheduled to Friday, October 12, 2012.

Formed in 1982, LAFACE currently represents over 2.500 Filipino City employees. In addition to fostering advancement of Filipinos and its members in the City, LAFACE’s objective is to promote the economic, educational, social, and cultural advancement of Filipinos in the community. According to the LAFACE website, "We believe this celebration is the perfect opportunity to celebrate 425 years of Filipino-American achievements, contributions, and historical presence in the United States."

2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Awards
Eliseo Art Silva
Arts/Literature (LA/Philadelphia)

Randy Gener
Arts/Literature/Media (New York)

George Gange
Cultural Preservation – Rondalla (Daly City)

Jose Omila
Cultural Preservation – Filipino art/music/dance (Florida)

Dr. Fe Ludivico Aragon & Dr. Enrique Aragon
Education (City of Irwindale)

David Tupaz
Fashion & Style (Woodland Hills/Las Vegas)

Cora M Tellez
Health/Medicine (Oakland, CA)

Grace Mercado Ouano
Health/Philanthropist /Entrepreneur (La Canada)

Donald Plata
Historical Contributions (Washington, DC)

Francine Maigue
Humanitarian/Arts/Community Service (San Diego)

Cora Oriel
Media (print) – LA

Jannelle So
Media (TV) - LA

Dr.  Michael W. Cruz, MD
Medicine/Health, Public Service, US Military (Guam)

Bernardo Bernardo
Music/Entertainment (LA)

Lt. Colonel Shirley S. Raguindin, USAF
US Military (Maryland)

Posthumous Awards:
Helen Brown
Cultural Preservation (LA)

Remedios “Remy” V. Geaga
Community Service (LA)

Larry Itliong
Historical Contributions (Delano)

Agripino Mallado “Pinoy” Jaucian
Historical Contributions (Philadelphia)

Gladys Celeste Mercader
Music/Entertainment (New York)

Organizational Award:
Filipino Community, Inc., State of Alaska
Community Service (Alaska)

CONGRATULATIONS to all our awardees!

425 Years of Filipino-American History
at Los Angeles City Hall
Let us celebrate 425 years of heritage and culture of Filipino Americans and their achievements, contributions, and the historical presence of Filipinos in the United States.

(“On October 18, 1587, 33 years before the pilgrims arrived in New England and 20 years before the founding of Jamestown in Virginia, Filipinos were a part of the Spanish Unamuno’s Expedition that landed on the coast of California.”)

Councilmembers Eric Garcetti (CD 13, Jose Huizar (CD 14), and Richard Alarcon (CD7);  and The Los Angeles Filipino Association of City Employees (LAFACE), sponsored by TFC Filipino Channel, cordially invite everyone at our celebration of 425 Years of Filipino-American History at Los Angeles City Hall.

Mayor Jejomar Erwin S Binay Jr., Mayor of the City of Makati, Philippines, Sister City of the City of Los Angeles, will also be joining the celebration.

This event honors the many contributions of Filipino Americans to the United States and will include local dignitaries, community members, 2012 Fil-Am History Awardees, and an official recognition from the LA City Council.  The celebration is comprised of the following components:

Friday, October 12, 2012
Members of the Public are invited at the morning event

10:00 a.m.  Los Angeles City Council Proclamation, Filipino History Month in LA; Resolution to be presented to LA Consul General, Local Elected Officials and Filipino community,  at LA City  Council Chambers. 3rd floor, LA City Hall, 200 North Spring St., LA, CA  (use Main Street entrance)

11:00 am  Ribbon Cutting of Filipino Historical Art Exhibits in LA City Hall Bridge
(Filipino Art One-Month Exhibit:   October 2nd to 26th, 2012)

11:30 Light Reception at the LA City Hall Rotunda

RSVP/Parking To determine amount of food to order, please RSVP by emailing; for free parking, email Alex car info, i.e.: model, license, make, color
Suggested Attire:  Filipiniana/Barong or Business

Evening Event (by invitation only to 2012 Fil-Am Heritage Achievement Awardees)

6:00 pm GALA Event to honor Fil-Am History Achievement Awardees,
Tom Bradley Towers, LA City Hall (formal event – Filipiniana/Barong or Formal)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Performances | Taking the New York stage at Nuyorican Poets Café, Oct. 12 and Oct. 13

NEW YORK CITY |  I am raising my voice and performing my own work to my community.

On October 12th and October 13th at 7:00 pm, I will perform a new piece I've written in Tagalogue, a night of original creative works and theatrical pieces about Filipino American identity, at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Café on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

This two-performance evening belongs to the calendar of official events supported by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)'s Metro New York chapter in commemoration of Filipino American History Month of October 2012.

I will perform a monologue from a new work still-in-progress. It is an original piece of writing, inspired by the research I did in the the FANHS archives  in Seattle and Asian American labor-union archives which reside in the University of Washington. Prior to Tagalogue, I workshopped this new piece while I participated in the 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Immigrant Artist Project.

The cast of Tagalogue, Volume 2
Tagalogue will be performed on Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13, 2012. Doors open 6:30pm. The show begins at 7pm at the Nuyorican Poets Café (236 East 3rd Street, New York, NY).

Dubbed "Volume 2," this second edition follows a first edition of Tagalogue which was presented this past summer. Both Tagalogue projectd share with the audience the Filipino experience within the United States, through creative original works and the voices of Filipino Americans.

Tagalogue is a platform to unify and strengthen the community through performance art and education.  In celebration of Filipino American History Month, these original works document and write history as these are stories that question being Filipino, American, Filipino American, and more.

Tagalogue brings to the stage, a line from Jose Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo: “While a people preserves its language; it preserves the marks of liberty…”

Tagalogue is a play on words suggesting a collection of monologues and dialogues speaking of the Filipino identity, which if spoken in their native tongue would be spoken in Tagalog.  Add the “ue” to the end of their language (turning Tagalog into Tagalogue), and you have a colorfully expressive theater piece that tells the stories of recent generations as their culture and identity merges with American culture.  They are defining who they are and rediscovering the commonalities of who we are all striving to become.

Performers/Writers: Jessica Abejar, Joelle, Abejar, Anton Briones, Alfretz Costelo, Andre Dimapilis, Leslie Espinosa, Philippe Garcesto, Randy Gener, Maria Gregorio, Erika Pineda, Julian Pormentilla, Precious Sipin, Lorely Trinidad and Robert Wolf.

Their stories create a snapshot of what it is like to be Filipino American in New York City in 2012.  The performers relive experiences, share ideas, and pose meaningful questions while they celebrate their heritage.

Tagalogue is created and produced by Leslie Espinosa. Other producers are Precious Sipin and Kilusan Bautista. Grant Thomas is the evening's director.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe presents groundbreaking works of literature, music, theater, performance art, poetry slam, hip hop, visual art and champions established as well as rising artists from every background imaginable.

Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13, 2012
Doors open 6:30pm and Show begins at 7pm

At the Nuyorican Poets Café
236 East 3rd Street
New York, NY

Tickets are $15
Find tickets online at and also available at the door

For more info go to or email

In performance at Tagalogue, Volume 1, in July 2012 | Photo by  Chauncey Velasco

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thank-you Speech | Delivered in acceptance of FANHS Outstanding Artist Award

Delivered on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at the Philippine Consulate General in Manhattan

Maraming salamat po. Maraming salamat sa Metro New York chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society for this lovely piece of recognition. This award comes at a very challenging period of my life. A moment of change. A time of reckoning. Hopefully a shedding of old skin. Definitely a confrontation with old demons. A brand-new test of wills. I have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What I have not been doing is that I have not been waiting. I have been renewing my artistic relationships and revisiting my theatrical friendships. Where does art seed and grow, after all, but in the fruitful soil of real friendship? I have been spending time observing and listening to others so that I can learn and figure out how my talents can best be of service to the various communities in which I move.  If it seems like I am always too busy and doing too many things, this is not out of raw ambition or out of empty striving. To be honest, I would be more than happy to find myself confined in a room with a little income and just write [as Virginia Woolf has posited: "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction"].  I have been longing for that simple day when I can function in the world only as a writer. But I have found, based on my experiences in the nonprofit arts world, in the publishing realm, in the tumultuous age of digital media, among the international circles, and in the beleaguered field of criticism, that I cannot remain a passive and reactionary agent. We have to become the change we wish to see in the world, as an Indian guru had once proposed.

I was struggling in New York to write a play when I first heard that a group existed called the Filipino American National History Society (FANHS).  I was curious about it, so I checked the FANHS website. Eventually I was corresponding with Dorothy Cordova who had co-founded FANHS with her husband Fred Cordova in the basement of a church in the suburbs of Seattle. We started talking over the phone. We collaborated on publications and art projects. When I learned that Theatre Communications Group, the service organization that publishes American Theatre magazine, was going to hold its annual national conference in Seattle, I realized that this was the chance I had been waiting for. That I could put two purposes together. One of our most important roles as artists is to trust that the dots, however disparate, will somehow connect. ["Only connect," E.M. Forster states.] I realized that if I could come to Seattle several days before the conference, I could use my vacation time to research that play, and I could have TCG reimburse me for my plane fare, since I would also be working and assisting in that national conference.  So I am thankful to TCG for opening up the way for me to explore the FANHS archives and to examine the Asian American labor-union archives which reside in the University of Washington.

At the time I was conducting historical research on Filipino Americans before the 1950s.  I was struggling because the books and newspaper accounts were woefully inadequate in terms of offering me what I really needed as a writer.  What was daily life like for the manongs?  How did they conduct their migrant lives beyond the sociopolitical constructs that historians and academic scholars had imposed on their lives?  What everyday dramas arose during their Sunday days off when they dressed to the nines while hanging out in the parks?  Certainly the Mexican immigrant experience has been greatly explored. We have the realist novels of John Steinbeck as testaments to the Okies lifestyle and journey to California. What about the lives and loves of Filipinos during that same Dust Bowl era?

At FANHS, I saw the rows of untranscribed tapes and the piles of black-and-white photographs of the manongs. Emotionally I was so deeply moved by what I saw with my own eyes during that special pilgrimage to the Seattle church where the Cordovas are headquartered. Soon after I found myself working to create two theatrical installations based on the oral-history research I had found and the photographs that the Cordovas were willing to lend to me.  One of them was installed at the Long Wharf Theatre lobby in New Haven, Conn.  The other one was placed on display at the Culture Project as part of Ma-Yi Theatre Company's production of The Romance of Magno Rubio. Moreover, I felt compelled to write many essays and articles in American Theatre magazine and elsewhere about the Filipino American experience in the United States, all of which were continually fed by the research I did in Seattle.

Today I have returned to writing the play that was the original reason I visited FANHS in Seattle.  Thanks to producers Leslie Espinosa, Kilusan Bautista and Precious Sipin as well as director Grant Thomas, I will be able to share a monologue from that play, still-in-progress. I will perform this piece in TAGALOGUE, an evening of theatrical performances about Filipino identity that a group of us actors and writers will present on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Please come see our wonderful work.

One of the costs of being a Filipino-American artist in the U.S. is that you have to find new and creative ways to make art happen.  You have to create the opportunities for yourself and for others so that as artists we will be allowed to play: to earn our place on the American table. (If the journey has not made you too disillusioned or too desperate or too bitter, you then have to switch gears so that you can play from a state of joy.) Interestingly, this situation, I have found, is the same with young writers and emerging artists in the Philippines. Many Philippine artists are struggling, too, to make their art seen and their voices heard. Because, for sure, artists in the Philippines cannot depend on their leaders, especially the government.

Do you know what is driving the Philippines' strong economic growth right now? As emerging markets slump and the euro zone continues to struggle, the Philippine economy has made a surprising surge in the first part of this year. The growth surge is driven by the money sent home to the Philippines by the country's overseas workers, known as remittances, and the rise of outsourced call centers. These factors, according to economists and analysts, have served as the long-term stabilizers relatively unhindered by a sagging global economy. As a U.S.-based artist, I have to frequently ask: How much of that new economic surge, driven by remittances, will be used to invest in the development of Philippine arts and culture? Will the businessmen, entrepreneurs, society leaders, heads of institutions and of course politicians truly integrate and parallel the process of nurturing, encouraging and promoting Philippine arts as part of their social, education and philanthropic programs, as opposed to the typical approach of treating art as an add-on and an afterthought?

I am very thankful to the Metro New York chapter of FANHS for this Outstanding Artist Award.  I thank you for your generosity, because my contributions and advocacy have been modest and intimately tied to my desire to give theatrical life to a larger history that the manongs have left as our creative capital. As I actively search to find new ways to make my own life sustainable for the future, I see this award as a totem. That I should never waver from the real task of the artist today. That task is to work to build our capacities for self-reflection, for critical thinking, for problem solving, for inventive self-expression, for tolerance of difference, for seeking commonalities, for making fresh intuitive connections, for creating bounty in the life of the arts. Struggle and pain are our woe. Peace and survival are our quest. Art is our medium. -- rg

Saturday, September 29, 2012

FANHS to present 2012 Outstanding Artist Award at "Opening Ceremonies"

I was struggling to write a play when I first heard that a group existed called the Filipino American National History Society (FANHS).  I was curious about it, so I checked the FANHS website and eventually corresponded with Dorothy Cordova who co-founded it with her husband Fred Cordova, both of whom lived in Seattle.  

At the time, I was conducting historical research on Filipino Americans before the 1950s.  I was struggling because the books and newspaper accounts were woefully inadequate in terms of offering me what I really needed:  what was life really life on the ground, how did they conduct their lives beyond the sociopolitical agenda of the historians, what did they eat, where did they hang out, how did American life taste like for these people (mostly men) who were neither citizens of the United States nor citizens of their own country, which was a colony of the U.S.

A couple of years later, I met Fred and Dorothy in the Seattle church where their community-based organization was located.  I made a special pilgrimage there. Soon after I found myself creating two oral-history/photography installations that re-presented from the historical photographs that the Cordovas were willing to lend to me.  

Imagine my surprise when about a month ago, I received a letter from the Metro New York chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society.  It stated that I will be receiving a honor from this New York-based group: the 2012 FANHS Outstanding Artist Award.  The award will be presented on Wednesday, October 3 at the Philippine Center in an evening co-sponsored by FANHS and the Philippine Consulate General in New York.  The evening is called "Opening Ceremonies," the kick-off event for Filipino American History Month of October.

FANHS organizer Kevin Nadal, who issued the press release copied below, had asked me to present a 5-10 minute performance/presentation at the "Opening Ceremonies" event.  Interestingly, I will perform a monologue from the play-still-in-progress that I was working on when I first met the Cordovas at an evening of performances called Tagalogue which takes place Oct. 12 and 13 at Nuyorican Poets Cafe.  Please come to either "Opening Ceremonies" or to Tagalogue. Thank you to the Metro Chapter of FANHS for this unique honor. -- rg




NEW YORK  |  For the third year in a row, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will sign a resolution that will declare October as Filipino American History Month in New York City.  Filipino American History Month (FAHM) has been in celebration since 1982, when it was first declared by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) to commemorate the first Filipinos that landed in Morro Bay, California, on October 18, 1587.  In 2009, the U.S. Senate passed U.S. House Resolution 780, which recognized October as Filipino American History Month across the United States. In 2010, the governor of New York also proclaimed FAHM in the month of October. 
To commemorate the historic month, the Metro New York Chapter of FANHS is hosting and co-sponsoring several events in New York City throughout October. First, the Philippine Consulate General and FANHS are hosting an “Opening Ceremonies” at the Philippine Center in Manhattan (556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY), on Wednesday October 3rd from 6-9pm.  At the event, there will be a photo exhibit entitled “Filipino Americans in New York” featuring Filipinos in various time periods, including students at Columbia University in the 1920s, military personnel in the 1940s, immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s, and even indigenous Filipinos who were “displayed” at the Coney Island Amusement Park in 1911. 
At the opening ceremony, FANHS will be presenting community awards to several individuals who have demonstrated commitment to the preservation of Filipino American history and the promotion of the Filipino American community of the Metropolitan New York area.

Two “Contributions to Excellence” Awards will be presented.  One will be given to Rhodora Ursua, MPH, a cofounder of Kalusugan Coalition and the director of Project AsPiRE in New York University’s Center for the Study of Asian American Health; Mrs. Ursua has worked diligently with several partnering organizations to promote health in the Filipino American community in New York for over ten years.  The second will be awarded to Rio Guerrero, Esq., a partnering attorney in the law firm Guerrero Yee, LLP. Attorney Guerrero is a co-founder of Collaborative Opportunities for Raising Empowerment (CORE), is an expert in immigration law, and has provided countless hours of pro-bono legal service to the Filipino American community in the greater New York area for the past decade. 
Two “Outstanding Artists” Awards will be presented to Kilusan Bautista (spoken word artist and activist) and Randy Gener (author, director, and visual artist) for their ability to promote Filipino American identity and experiences into their respective artistries. 
One “Youth Leadership Award” will be awarded by Jackelyn Mariano, an officer of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) and a research assistant in the Physical Activity and Pilipino American Youth (PAPAYA) project.  The young person being recognized is Alex Adapon, an officer of the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND) and the current New York City Regional Director for Filipino American Civic Engagement (FACE). 
In addition to a number of events that will be held throughout the month, a Closing Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 from 6-9pm at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (524 W. 59th Street).  At this event, a Lifetime Achievement Award will be bestowed to Mr. Joe Bataan, also known as the “King of Latin Soul.” Joe Bataan, whose given name was Bataan Nitollano, was born and raised in Spanish Harlem in 1942 to an African American mother and Filipino father.  As a musical pioneer, he has credited as one of the innovators of SalSoul (Salsa and Latin Soul), Latin Funk, Latin R&B, Latin Jazz, and Boogaloo. 
Other events throughout the month include a Tagalogue, a theatrical performance at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Café on October 12 and 13 -- featuring FANHS award winner Randy Gener -- as well as “Universal Self,” a one-man show starring FANHS award winner Kilusan Bautista on November 2 and 3. A complete list of events can be found on the FANHS Metro New York website at
For more information about the event, you can contact Kevin Nadal knadal [at] or (212) 237-8795.