Sunday, February 28, 2010

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE ] Robert Alejandro opens his personal space to Swank


"I collect clocks. I especially like retro-esque clocks. One of
my favorites is the giant 26" clock. I'm not sure why I collect clocks
but I do know I like being on time."

Robert Alejandro has designed numerous award-winning books, magazines, retail shops, theme parks, and graphics for public spaces. As part of the family behind the enduring gift shop Papemelroti (he puts the “ro” in Papemelroti), he has also designed products, memo pads, calendars. But, when it comes to his personal space, it seems the artist has taken to a more organic way of designing, nay, evolving a look for it—filling the room with his favorite things and allowing the mixture of collectibles and personal mess create a unique, endearing world. "Yes, I know my room is a mess," he tells us. "I've meant to clean it for years!" We like it just fine.


LEFT "I also collect mobiles. I have LOTS--from bird mobiles to fish
and everything in between. It's easy to know when there's an
earthquake." RIGHT "My favorite papier maché piece is my 'moon--he is two-feet high and has a GREAT smug expression!"


"This is where I sleep. My room is in the attic which makes me
hit my head on the ceiling quite often. Keeping me company above my
bed is Jack Skellington (doll) given to me by my friend Karen (We
both love Tim Burton)."

Robert Alejandro
is also an avid traveler. Two years ago he went around nine countries in Southeast Asia and parts of China in 10 days with a P50,000 budget. He writes about it and, more importantly, sketches the places and vignettes he encountered in The Sketching Backpacker, available in Papemelroti outlets for P390.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

IT TAKES AN ISLAND ] Tammy David trains the camera on herself


Tammy David is a 27-year old photographer. Her series of self-portraits called It Takes An Island is currently on display at the Silverlens Gallery in Pasong Tamo Extension along with two other shows, also documentary works, by Jake Versoza and Veejay Villafranca. TheSwankStyle interviewed Tammy David recently, albeit only via Facebook, on the occassion of this, her fourth group show, and her first for Silverlens.

You photographed yourself. Why?
I joined a portraiture workshop last September under German photographer Espen Eichhöfer. My original class project was to produce serial portraits of people experiencing quarter life crisis. That didn't work out so I had to resort to my back up which was self-portraits. I had to do it cause I didn't want to fail. Surprisingly, this is the project which got the most positive feedback. Personally, it turned out to be a terrific learning experience since, as what a young American photographer said, 'How can he take intimate photographs of other people when he can't do the same to himself?' I can now understand my subjects more.


This is like telling the world you have a weight issue, which isn't something a lot of people would do.
I have always been vocal about my weight issues from writing about it in the paper to tweeting about my 6-course merienda. In the past I have been invited to model in magazines as a person of size but refused because I know the impact is different when it's visual. So when the time came to do my self-portraits, I had to remind myself I had to produce a damn good job. My goal was to please myself as a photographer and not attract a potential husband or a talent scout. Self-portraits are supposed to reveal things about the subject and with me, it includes late night eating in a parking lot and wearing spanx. I was consoled by the fact I only have to show it to the instructor and eight other students. I just didn't expect Silverlens to give me the opportunity to make it into a show six months later. Even during the opening reception I got myself a bit drunk since it still felt uncomfortable seeing people look at photos of me in my bathrobe. But it felt good seeing people laugh at my photographs instead of feeling sorry for me or worse, look away.

What camera did you use for the works in the show?
I used a Canon EOS 30D with a Sigma 17-70 lens


Can you describe to me the physical work involved in setting up these photographs? Were they shot at home, etc, was there anyone else in the room?
They were shot at home, office, my gym's locker room and inside the car. All photographs were taken with the self-timer function. There came a point I got used to taking pictures that I would even leave my gear in my car trunk just in case. One of the best compliments I got was from my cousin who refused to believe I took the photographs when in reality, I was alone the whole time. It means I am a pretty good actress or despite the set up, it feels authentic.

What drew you to photography?
My dad is a hobbyist and would pass on his old cameras to me. When I was 16, I was writing for the youth section of a national broadsheet then and I got paid more with photos compared to text. For a teenager, extra cash was always good. Around the same time I was exploring journalism, I was moved by the works of photojournalists Romeo Gacad, James Nachtwey, Dan Eldon and the Magnum photographers. I realized I was able to express more through photographs and used photography as an introspective tool so I stopped writing and focused more on photography.

Who are your influences?
When people look at my work, they feel I am heavily influenced by Western photographers which I can't really deny. It's the Western photographers who flooded National Geographic, Time, World Press Photo awards, Phaidon books plus had a strong presence in the Internet. I have a couple of influences who I am blessed to consider as mentors as well. Renowned Filipino photojournalist Romeo Gacad of Agence France Presse (AFP) is one. I was only seven when I came across the book 'Bayan Ko' and it made me want to be on the frontline of history as well. Another is Jose Enrique Soriano who in my opinion is one of the best documentary photographers ever. The depth of his work on mental patients affected and inspired me to do more stories instead of the single image. Lastly another big influence in my life as a photographer is Peter Bialobrzeski. Taking his workshop in January 2008 at Silverlens taught me professionalism and to be more open to other work. I'm self-studying now on German Photography and I'm excited to get a copy of Dusseldorf School.


Are there particular subjects that are most attractive to you?

I like to do documentaries that are offbeat which is not a lot of blood or poverty. I credit my curiosity to two of my personal projects namely Beauty Queen Boot Camp and Fat Acceptance in America. Most of my work is about women because I obviously have an advantage in terms of access and a lot of people want to know more about women! I also like stories that are very positive that will leave the audience with a smile instead of a heavy feeling in their chest.

Tammy, Jake and Veejay give a free talk today at 3pm at Silverlens on documentary photography.

Friday, February 26, 2010

THE WEEKEND IDEA ] If you're not watching The Backstreet Boys

fortransitiofinalThe invite to Manila Transitio 1945 via

In February of 1945, the City of Manila was completely destroyed in a battle between the United States Armed Forces and the Japanese Imperial Army. An estimated 120,000 people were lost and our beloved City of Manila was never the same again.

Tomorrow February 27th, To mark the 56th Anniversary of the Battle of Manila,Intramuros Administration and Carlos Celdran, will present the 2nd TRANSITIO MANILA 1945. This art event hopes to become an annual commemoration/memorial where we as Manilenos may reflect upon the passing of this event in our history. The evening will start with a sunset fundraiser tour of Intramuros at 6:30. Art installations and performances will follow at the Fort Santiago at 8:30pm. The evening will be highlighted by the release of spirit balloons by the gates of Fort Santiago. A reasonably priced buffet and refreshment will be available. Picnic baskets are allowed.


I will be holding a SPECIAL sunset tour of Intramuros. It will be a bigger show than the usual. The tour will be followed by a special party at Fort Santiago. Ticket holders to the tour will enter the party/picnic for free and recieve a free glass of wine. Tour starts at 6:30PM - Please arrive earlier than that. Tour ends at 8:30PM

Assembly point is Plaza Roma in front of Manila Cathedral.
Proceeds will go towards the procurement of scooter bikes for the Intramuros Kabayan Security Force (An NGO).

Gates open by 7:30PM
The evening proper will start with readings about the Liberation of Manila curated by Mabi David and a performance by Donna Miranda, it will be followed by music by Junjie Lerma, Caliph8, and P.G. in the gardens fronting the moat. Flamenco music by Yerbaguena will follow. There will be an exhibition of art installations by Denis Lagdameo, Dranreb Belleza, Reg Yuson, Tad Ermitano & Team Manila. Current artists in residence at the Living Room Vince Galvez and Alex Felipe of Kapisanan Toronto will also present a video work specially made for the evening. The evening will be capped by the release of spirit balloons at the gates of Fort Santiago (video above).

Feel free to pack your own picnic basket and set up a blanket in the grass to watch the performances. A reasonably priced buffet (Php450.00) by Ilustrado Restaurant will be available for those who do not bring their own food. Vuqo Vodka will be available and a wine bar by PREMIER WINES & SPIRITS. and Frenzy Condoms also supports the event.

Entrance to this event only is Php250.00 with a free drink.

Text 920 9092021 to make reservations (Lesley)
or email

Please indicate on text whether you are reserving
for TOUR alone or TOUR/PARTY or PARTY only.

artinthepark-copyStall map of Art in the Park in Salcedo Village.

Or take a stroll at Art in the Park this Saturday 27 February 2010 at the Jaime Velasquez Park at Salcedo Village, Makati City from 2PM - 10PM.

NOVA Gallery shall be participating this year taking with works by Norma Belleza, Jayson Oliveria, Trek Valdizno, William Gaudinez, Nunelucio Alvarado, Raul Agner, Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi and a lot more.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MISSING A PAIR OF SOCKS ] Is that, like, crazy?

Is this where it all began? JLC was photographed--sans socks--by Steve Tirona for a 2007 cover story in Metro hiM.

John Lloyd Cruz would inevitably find himself in this blog, but for now just about the pressing issue of his exposed ankles. The guy, certainly one of the few stylish chaps in the entertainment business, has been going around town for awhile sockless, whether for a formal occasion or in a less dressy one. At the last Star Magic ball, at the Swatch event that launched him as the watch brand's endorser (see photo below by Cecile Zamora). He came to the YES! 10th anniversary party (dress code: smart casual) and his movie premiere in a grey suit with abbreviated pants and patent slip-ons. And yes, sockless.

Personally, I find it cute and refreshing, as most of his decisions tend to be (I’m a JLC fan, if I have not made it clear to you yet.). Personally, too, I have yet to be adept at wearing socks. Mostly I don’t. I usually just wear a pair to the gym or when running. Everywhere else, nothing comes between me and my choice of footwear. Except when I am quite aware that the shoes will be a bit of a discomfort given a few hours of wearing them—in this case, I have several pieces the eminent stylist Michael Salientes calls ‘socklets,’ which I have come to define as cutting the sock in two and wearing only the part that the shoe itself covers.

Maybe I just have to get accustomed to how socks look on me. Or maybe I just need to buy some. Two of my friends, however, have formed, shall we say, more evolved opinions on this matter of traipsing about sockless.

J. Lee Cu-unjieng, the other JLC in this story, and certainly one of the most stylish guys in town, says, “First, I think it depends on the shoe. Driving shoes, boat shoes, espadrilles and of course, any kind of slide or sandal, should be worn without socks. Penny loafers also may be worn sockless.

“And then it depends on the look. If you've embraced the ankle- grazing pant leg look (or shorter, like Thom Browne’s), that automatically signals going without socks, no matter the shoe. And any sort of walking short should be worn without socks. And I find it acceptable to be sockless in your khakis, too.”

Carlo Tadiar, another stylish bloke, has a more exacting, if more perplexing, take.

“In my view it is rarely acceptable for a man to wear leather shoes without socks unless he is a fashion model appearing in a fashion editorial,” says Carlo, editor of the dearly departed Metro hiM. “Nothing could be more embarrassing (and I suppose I exaggerate for emphasis) than being handsome, tall and thin and taking off your sockless shoes to reveal a woman's nylon socks on your feet. This happens more frequently than you might imagine in shoe stores in New York, and I would think in other fashion capitals. We all know that men's shoes are uncomfortable without socks, and the only way to achieve the fashion is by cheating. Nothing could be more un-stylish than straining for effect. If you were something out of Carlos Bulosan, in an ill-fitting suit and fedora and brogues without socks, that might be chic. If you're from Greenhills with a Gucci tote and John Bartlett oxfords without socks, that is not.”

Maybe going for no-socks, as the two JLCs would have it, is easier. Now about those orange shoes, that’s another story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

GANGLAND ] Veejay Villafranca shoots the gangs of Baseco


In 2007, photographer Veejay Villafranca began toiling on Marked: The Gangs of Baseco as part of his final portfolio in his photojournalism class at the Asian Center for Journalism of the Ateneo. It took him two years before he could finally wrap up work. “During the first year and a half of the project, I would be there almost every day,” he says. “It also came to a point where I was already looking for a small space in the compound. Then the succeeding year I would make it a point to visit at least twice a month.”

Baseco is, of course, not the swankiest of places to live in. Situated in Port Area, Manila, it is made up of 52 hectares of reclaimed land and there are more than 47,000 families living in shanties standing on stilts rooted on swampy grounds. Occasionally, the polluted waters of Manila Bay would even find its way to these ramshackle homes. “It was purportedly built as a world class resort by former First Lady Imelda Marcos,” says Veejay, “but turned out to be the town where dreams of greener pastures have perished.” Baseco actually stands for Bataan Shipping and Engineering Company.


While the entire former shipyard was certainly overwhelmingly throbbing with various unsettling subjects, the young lensman zeroed in on the gangs, particularly the Chinese Mafia Crew.

“You know one person recently made a comment about my photos,” Veejay tells Swank. “She said she works daw as a nurse in the compound and she was asking, inspite of my 'brave' efforts to document the gangs, why not tell the story of everything 'good' that was happening and that has happened in the area. I said, ‘You see when I met these people, they were hostile. They didn’t want to talk and they were very apprehensive to be photographed. When the time came that they opened up na and accepted my intrusion, I was greatly humbled and thankful. As I continuously documented their lives, I grew as well. From the dangerous nature, tattoos and drugs, I saw that they are young hopefuls longing to get out of the vicious cycle. I have learned that one by one they have been disappearing from the slums because most of them are already working. This was the same reason I documented this story. Another story of poverty and struggle, but a new story of hope and change.”


Just recently, Veejay found himself back in Baseco, although for an assignment not related to the gangs. “I dropped by in one of the gang members’ houses. The mother was there, but the guy wasn’t. She said he was working and would only go home during weekends. That made me smile.”JG

In 2008, Marked: The Gangs of Baseco won for Veejay the Ian Parry Grant. Ian Parry was a young photographer who died in a plane crash in Romania. As a tribute, his friends and editors set up this award in London for young emerging photographers every year. Marked is part of the ongoing three-man photography show (with Jake Versoza and Tammy David) called STRIP 2010 at the Silverlens Gallery in Pasong Tamo Extension.

Images courtesy of Silverlens. For more of Marked and Veejay's works, click here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

COMMUNAL IDENTITY ] Jake Versoza photographs the not-so-everyday

IvatanIvatan by Jake Versoza.

"Communal Identity" documents the different faces of the indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia--faces the world seldom gets to see, much less get to know about. Bearing witness to the living cultures of the region, Jake Verzosa’s work records the details of the people’s everyday lives, from their clothes and chores, to their homes and landscapes. His ethnographic theme is strong, but is not limited to documenting the ‘other’. Also looking inward, Verzosa’s documentary makes it clear that the differences between people are circumstantial, and therefore not prime in understanding human nature. Everyday life is the same everywhere. There is routine; there is a need to make a living; and there is a want for expression.

IgorotIgorot by Jake Versoza.

Communal Identity, which Versoza has exhibited last year in Paris, is one of three collections of works included in STRIP, a new annual photography show by Silverlens Gallery. STRIP features three young photographers who are all about documenting the here and the now. In a time when photojournalism has been replaced by video and live coverage of world events and everyday news, Tammy David, Verzosa and Veejay Villafranca (David's and Villafranca's works will appear in the following posts) hold on to the power a photograph has in telling a story. Their stories are still about bridging the gap between subject and audience, but this time with more emotion and revelation.

HmongHmong by Jake Versoza.

STRIP 2010 will be shown alongside Malikmata by Mark Orozco Justiniani at SLab and Saucerful of Secrets by Mariano Ching with Haraya Ching at 20SQUARE, SLab. STRIP 2010 Artists, Tammy David, Jake Verzosa and Veejay Villafranca will have their Artist Talk on February 27, 2010, Saturday, 3-5 pm.

Images courtesy of Silverlens.

Friday, February 19, 2010

WHERE WILD THINGS ARE ] Mark Justiniani explores unfamiliar territory

malikmata2Justiniani's studies for Malikmata.

Celebrated painter, Mark Orozco Justiniani, veers his latest work away from the medium he has long been associated with and instead takes it to the world of sculpture where corners and frames cannot bind. This world, entitled Malikmata, is one where night and day converge, and folklore and reality abandon their distinction.

Justiniani’s keen interest in Filipino society and tradition takes the sculptural route to present Filipino folklore in a form that is multi-dimensional, concrete and tangible. Not only do the eyes find the splendor of the earth as the sun sets and shadows creep in; this in-between too awakens the other four senses, and at the same time stirs the imagination. Meant to heighten every sensation, Malikmata, Justiniani explains, involves a lot of ‘ “looking through” with peepholes and lenses with several angles and different vantage points’. With viewers’ participation, the world Justiniani creates is sculptural commentary infused with physical interaction.

malikmataTwo more studies for Malikmata.

Malikmata opens tonight, February 19, with two other exhibitions at Silverlens.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

ERAP BEFORE ERAP ] My favorite scene from Quijano de Manila's Reportage on Crime

b1With Boots Anson-Roa. Photo from

About a month ago, Joseph Estrada went nightclubbing with a girlfriend and another young man. At about four in the morning, they went to a Dewey Boulevard restaurant for a breakfast of arroz caldo. As they entered, two men at a table whistled in admiration at Estrada's girlfriend. Estrada seated his party at a nearby table, put his gun on the table when he saw the two whistlers displaying their artillery. The waiter arrived with the arroz caldo. When Estrada next looked at the neighboring table, the two men there, he says, had their guns pointed at him, daring him to draw. "Don't draw!" screamed his girl companion. "There are others behind you!" Estrada glanced around and saw three or four other men standing behind him, their pistols at his neck. The other folk in the restaurant were meanwhile fleeing to the exits, shrieking like mad. Estrada, believing his last hour had come, picked up not his gun but a spoon and began to eat the arroz caldo. Suddenly he felt as if the ceiling had crashed down on his head. He was pistol-whipped unconscious, had to be hospitalized for a week.

---From "Gun Duel at LVN," Reportage on Crime, Quijano de Manila, reissued by Anvil Publishing, 2009