Monthly Archives: April 2009

Opening Baguio’s Melting Pot

Last week, JFM participated in an exhibition called, “Baguio’s Melting Pot”, in celebration of the city’s centennial. It was to feature the many cultures and nationalities that make up the proud city of Baguio, and one of the most active is the Japanese community there.

The exhibit opened on April 18 at the Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum, located in the middle of the city (nearby the Convention Center, and a 5-7 minute walk away from SM Baguio).


During the opening, we were introduced to the many cultural communities that make up Baguio — the European, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Kalinga, Ibaloi communities were the ones present; not represented then were the American and the Korean communities.






The day before the opening, it was raining so hard that everyone was glad (and relieved) that the opening day was sunny and warm. There were the messages from the representatives of the different communities, as well as presentations. The Chinese community performed a lion dance, the Japanese community, an odori; the Indian community said a prayer; while the Kalinga and Ibaloi communities chanted and performed traditional dances. The host of the program was the European community and they did a good rendition of greetings from their respective countries.



The museum’s first floor chronicled Baguio’s history through a photo gallery of its mayors and various landmark events. The present mayor of Baguio, Mr. Reinaldo Bautista, was around to browse through the collections.



Present too, was the 94-year old curator of the museum, Ms. Leonora San Agustin, who is credited for establishing the museum and developing its collection.

The second floor housed the impressive permanent ethnographic collection of the museum. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photos. I had the chance the day before, during set-up, but we were caught in installing and setting up our own exhibit at the third floor that by the time we wound down, it was already late at night and I didn’t feel all too comfortable taking pictures of mummies and the like… Anyway, you have to see it to appreciate it fully.

The third floor contained the Japanese materials, collated from the Japanese communities in Baguio, the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation. All these were integrated into the installation made by artist-curator, Chit Ramirez.




The fourth floor of the museum featured the lively and informative Chinese exhibition.



I could understand the enthusiastic participation of the Chinese and Japanese communities in Baguio, as both have deep roots in the city. The earliest Japanese settlers were the literally the builders of the city, carving the mountainside, paving what we now know (and use) as Kennon Road. Their hard work and dedication was truly one of the cornerstones of Baguio.



The exhibition, while engaging and informative, could still be enhanced in the following years to include displays of the other cultures in Baguio, to really relay the message of the city as a melting pot.

I also heard that the museum has also future programs to engage the public. This is an interesting development as it has been some time since there were new displays in the museum. I also noticed that while the museum has strong ethnographic collection, however, it is all competing for attention as they are all on display. Maybe with the new, temporary exhibits, there will be a chance for the permanent collections to be rearranged or reconfigured.


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Koto Connections


The koto sounds very regal, I think.  Its sound invokes an image distinctly Japanese, where every stroke is rich and rife with restrained, yet taut (tightly wound up and ready for action) expression.

Like any musical instrument, it leaves the realm of the ordinary when played on by a master. In the JFM’s case, it was a female master– rather, mistress– who showed the passionate potential of the koto. Her name is Chieko Fukuda.

Ms. Fukuda has led an accomplishment-strewn career, having been the youngest winner of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Arts Festival Excellent Prize (1993), then receiving the same recognition in 1997. Her success can be attributed partly to genes — her father is Tanehiko Fukuda, the second headmaster of the Mitsunonekai, or koto-shamisen school– and mostly to her dedication to her art, which she honed since age 3. She is now the Headmaster for Mitsunonekai

Her program in Manila started at the UP College of Music where she held one-on-one coaching sessions with koto students who would like to work on their technique. We were told that it was a good time for the students as some of them were due to go through koto performance finals. Although it was unfortunate that an interpreter was present at these sessions, Ms. Fukuda and the Filipino students tried their best to hurdle language barriers and let their music communicate instead.  There were about 16 students she personally coached, most of them one after another.


Japanese tradition is steeped with hierarchy, and the world of traditional music is not exempt. It is unmistakable who holds the reins and controls the show, observing the dynamics between student and teacher. There is none of the casual buddy-buddy air that sometimes envelops the usual teacher-student relations, probably owing to the unfamiliarness of each other’s language and personalities. When the teacher speaks, the student listens. It seemed like an alternate world, where students bit their tongue instead of speaking their minds at the least provocation. Such order and discipline is refreshing.

Ms. Fukuda also had a full performing schedule while in Manila, performing during the Embassy Night of the 4th PIJAZZ Festival at the Captain’s Bar, Mandarin Oriental (February 26), at the UP Abelardo Hall on February 27, and finally at the SM Cinema 1 on February 28 for the 2009 Nihongo Fiesta.


While there were some uneasy shuffling during Ms. Fukuda’s set at the PIJAZZ Embassy performance (they were after all, expecting jazz), it nevertheless provided a calming intermission to the the energetic acts programmed that night.


For her performance at the UP Abelardo Hall, Ms. Fukuda introduced a musical collaboration between koto and saxophone in a piece called “Haru no Umi”. Ms. Fukuda played the koto, while a UP Music student, Igie, played the sax.   


All throughout her stay, Ms. Fukuda’s enthusiasm and passion for koto and traditional Japanese music always shone. That energy is enough to inspire and motivate the younger musicians , we hope. 

While Ms. Fukuda is now back in Japan, she still looks over the UP College of Music and recommended a koto artisan to repair its koto collection. Keen on promoting Japanese art and music and deepening exchanges with its partners, JFM will support the rehabilitation of the UP College of Music’s koto collection — hopefully allowing more generations of UP students to connect to Japanese culture and realize the importance of their own traditional musical traditions.

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Japan World Heritage Goes Round the Philippines


The traveling exhibition panels and materials are a lucky lot. Most of them have all gone round the world (as in the case of the Asian Cartoon Exhibition and others) and of course, here in the Philippines.

Tomorrow, we bring the Japan World Heritage Sites series to the Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum and I’m happy to note that this would be its 16th local exhibition.

It first opened at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Intramuros, Manila – May 22 to June 30, 2006.



Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City – July 25-31, 2006

Iligan Capitol College, Iligan City – August 4-15, 2006

Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku (MKD), Davao City – August 16, 2006

Butuan City Library, Butuan City – September 2 – 15, 2006



University of Talamban -San Carlos, Cebu City – September 19-30, 2006


West Visayas State University, Iloilo City – October 3 -13, 2006


Leyte Normal University, Tacloban City – October 16-31, 2006

Museo Iloilo, Iloilo City – November 8-24, 2008

BIT International College, Bohol – December 4-15, 2006



Yuchengco Museum, Makati City – August 10- September 30, 2006

National College of Science and Technology, Cavite City – September 21 – October 19, 2006


Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City- October 26- November 12, 2006

Lyceum of the Philippines University,  Intramuros, Manila – December 8-15, 2006

Eco-Products International Fair 2009, SMX Convention Center, Pasay City – March 19-22, 2009



If you notice, it made most of its rounds in 2006 as we then commemorated 50th anniversary of Philippines-Japan Friendship. There have been displays after 2006 (which I haven’t taken note of — yet), but this year it’s being revived and incorporated into a new installation by artist/ curator Chit Ramirez.

The installation in Baguio will be similar in concept to the SMX set-up but larger in scale — double–  and all on Japan World Heritage Sites. Rather than a conventional hanging display, the photos will be set up on multilevel stands which will be viewed as one walks across elevated wooden planks, which are assembled into some kind of meditative zen garden.

We’ve gotten some queer comments when we brought it to the SMX, as some visitors were expecting a massive exhibit like those beside our area, and were even asking what product the Japan Foundation was selling. (We’re selling the idea of cultural heritage appreciation, by the way.) But most visitors, got it right away, and that was pretty cool.

The Baguio exhibit, however, is not entirely on Japan, but all the other cultures which have contributed to the city, as Baguio looks back into it’s colorful past as a melting pot. Hope you can catch it. 🙂

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A Night of Cello and Illumination


Here is a good idea for a balmyThursday night: a free cello concert and light show.

  • When: April 16, Thursday; 7:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Where: Zen Garden, Asian Institute of Management Building (AIM), 123 Paseo de Roxas Avenue, Makati City

Mr. Herrick Ortiz of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra will play Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1”, while Mr.Roman Cruz, a lighting designer and member of the Sinag Arts Foundation, will provide the artistic lighting effects of the evening. 

Ms. Tomomi Ishiyama, the organizer, put together this event to gather a music-loving public in a relaxing environment. The night will be interesting as there will be be times when there will just be a light show, with no music. This is rather novel as we are more accustomed to having lighting as a background to whatever activity is on stage. Something to look into…

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Baguio Hosts Japan World Heritage Sites Exhibition




The Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM) and the Kakehashi Foundation, in celebration of the Centennial of Baguio, bring to the City of Pines Japanese photographer Kazuyoshi Miyoshi’s Japan World Heritage Sites series at the Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum from April 18 – June 30, 2009. The photographs will be displayed within an art installation by Mr. Chit Ramirez.




April 18- June 30, 2009

3rd Floor Mezzanine, Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum

DOT Compound, Gov. Pack Road, Baguio City


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A Backstage Pass

To the audience, the true measure of the success of an arts/ cultural event is if they enjoyed it. To organizers, it is the journey of bringing this experience to the audience.

This journal will be a chance for the Japan Foundation, Manila (JFM) and the audiences of its events to share their insights on past, present, and upcoming activities. There will be announcements, for sure, but there will also be photos, videos, and even music from its projects and programs — Arts & Culture,  Japanese Language & Education and Japanese Studies and Cultural Exchange.

Consider this your backstage pass!

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