Sunday, November 23, 2014


by Roger Pe
November 23, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In 1998, Filipino Nonoy Lanzanas and his “Sinika” (acronym for “Sining ng Katutubo”) group composed and recorded a nostalgic song entitled “Latong Cuyo” (seaweed from Cuyo).

When the album was launched, the song made many residents who have long left the island to come home. They were in tears hearing the song, which likened our culture and traditions to the special kind of “Lato” native to the town – that if we don’t take care of our seas, the “Lato” will die, and if we don’t transfer our native music to the next generation (like “Tipano” and “Toting”), they will all vanish.

The effect impassioned him to research and compose more songs even going to great lengths to promote Philippine ethnic music here and abroad.

During the recent Asean Cultural Fair held in Myanmar, Lanzanas and his group represented the Philippines and enthralled the audience with a repertoire of melodic traditional songs. Their performance, arranged the unique “Sinika” way was the most applauded and received a standing ovation from the Filipino community.

When not performing abroad, Lanzanas goes back to his roots and conducts out-reach programs to preserve the “Tipano” music, the Cuyono bamboo flute music now on the brink of extinction.

Lanzanas has been propagating native Filipino music, mainly the indigenous kind from Palawan since barely out of college, even while already working.

He and his group perform in events like anniversaries, fiestas and other cultural celebrations in the Philippines and overseas. Composed of family musicians, relatives and friends, the group has participated in most cultural festivals of the country sponsored by the Department of Tourism.

“Sinika” also performs in the different 5-star tourist resorts in Palawan like Amanpulo, Club Noah Isabelle in El Nido and Dos Palmas Island Resort. Among its notable performances: Finalist in the 1999 Metropop Song Festival, 2001 Asian Tourism Forum, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, 2006 1st Ethnic Jazz Festival, CCP Complex, and 7th Drum Festival Celebration, Trade Center, Malacca, Malaysia.

In 1992, the group got their major break when then Mayor Edward Hagedorn named Lanzanas Director for Culture and Arts Development Program of Puerto Princesa City.

Lanzanas remembers performing “Pamulinawen”, “Ilocana Anasudi” and other undying Filipino folk songs, entertaining dignitaries, ambassadors, businessmen, world-famous golfers, mountaineers and visiting tourists in the country.

When he left PAL and joined Hyatt Palawan Hotel, Lanzanas’ group provided entertainment to hotel guests with popular island folk songs. When economic instability forced the hotel to stop operation, he sought the help of then Governor Salvador Socrates to support a project he thought would excite the province’s domestic tourism program.

With the governor’s support, Lanzanas went around the province showing his own produced silent movies. He called it “Sine Boyon” - to inform and educate school children about the province and the Philippines’ tourist potential as a whole.

Along the way he met great Cuyono musicians that soon became his teachers in traditional island music. He pays tribute to Basilio Sarmiento, Poroy Calalin, Caring Abid, brothers Leonor and Gideon Felizarte, Mingoy Contreras, Esperanza “Feling” Guardiano Pediapco, Rodrigo Digo Felizarte, and “Banjo”, who is still playing with his group.

He spent many afternoons jamming with these native music stalwarts. Soon, he would learn and inherit their music and the “Tipano”, “Tambora”, “Ati”, “Sinulog”, etc. would enrich his cultural trove, an inheritance he would also pass it on to younger Filipinos.

Cultural transfer

Lanzanas produced a weekly radio program over the old radio station DYPR. The effect was immediate and caused many locals to feel nostalgic about their own music. His relationship with musicians from far-flung barangays also became closer.

His cultural program “Sa Kapoporoan” (in the islands) became a favorite of many and a channel of communication with island communities.

How “Sinika” was born

While preparing for his weekend program one day, Lanzanas called his young children Ela, Jericho and Kim (Picolo, the youngest was still a baby) to gather around him and asked them to sing with him old Cuyonin songs (“King King Anay Wa-wa”, “Tarinting”, “Layang Pasyak”) and other children songs.

The result was instantly electric. Lanzanas discovered inherent musicality in his children and the sessions would frequent to include another group of talented kids, his children’s friends: Lua, Corinne, Quddos and Anis from the Timbancaya-Padilla clan. They formed the first “Sinika” group.

Lanzanas’ personal advocacy expanded beyond Palawan shores. He became a music teacher, taught talented employees wherever he was employed to sing regional folk music of Luzon, including those of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Baguio, Bicol, Mindoro, Romblon and Masbate.

But closer to his heart was singing popular island folk songs. His talent also brought him to many parts of Asia and the world, most recently in Brunei Darusalam, (ASEAN Forum, January 2002), Malacca, Malaysia, (Drum Festival, March 2006), Yangoon, Myanmar, (ASEAN Cultural Fair, September 29 – October 3, 2014).

Japan featured Lanzanas’ “Sinika” extensively with 4 episodes on NHK TV in 1996 for its cultural and environmental mission. His song “Basura” (“Gomi”) was translated to Nippongo and other foreign languages) by the same network so it can be used globally to educate people about proper garbage disposal.

Another important chapter in his music advocacy was being part of Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office. Funded by the European Economic Community, the group was tasked to teach environmental subjects to different tribal groups – the Palawán, Tagbanua, Bataks and the island communities.

“Music was my chosen media and I started to compose songs with different environmental themes and format,“ Lanzanas recalls.

“Salamat Inang Kalikasan” was a Palawán inspired thanksgiving song using the Kudyapi, the two-stringed sitar of the Palawán tribe, “Mr. Pera”, was a humorous song about greedy businessmen that exploited local natural resources.

While part of PIADPO, Lanzanas composed the music theme of a tree-planting program “Pista Y Ang Kageban”. Today, it is a vibrant, colorful, fun-filled full-blown annual festival celebrated in the verdant mountains of Barangay Irawan, the watershed of Puerto Princesa City.

Born sixty-five years ago in a remote southern Palawan town (Brooke’s Point), Lanzanas seemed to have taken his talent from his parents who are likewise musically and arts inclined. Both highly respected educators in the province, his parents Santos and Loreto wrote the “Grand Palawan March”, eventually becoming the official provincial hymn.

Lanzanas grew up in Puerto Princesa. His mother taught at Puerto Princesa Pilot Elementary School while his father was Division Superintendent of Schools for the entire province during the 60s.

He credits Joey Ayala for bringing “Sinika” to Manila in 1995 to perform with him in an international tourism forum sponsored by Philippine Tourism Authority and some of his most important concerts.

Throughout his musical career in espousing Philippine native music, Lanzanas has done research and study on ethnic arts and island music, wrote and composed songs with cultural and environmental themes, infused tribal instruments with island music, created outreach programs to distant communities and a lot more.

Presently in town, Lanzanas is focusing on El Nido, introducing and teaching school children in different barangays how to play the “Tipano” and developing a guidebook on how to play it.

The Lanzanas family has also converted its ancestral home into a school for traditional music with focus on “Tipano” and island music. ”If Sinika will be supported by our cultural institutions, we may level the situation and succeed in our mission. If not, the danger of extinction is at hand,” he says.

Lanzanas would like to give his heartfelt thanks to Chairman Jun De Leon of the National Commission of Culture and Arts, the highest cultural institution of the Philippines for choosing “Sinika” to represent our country in the Asean Cultural Fair. “We hope this is the beginning of a long endeavor in preserving some of our endangered native music and the promotion of our country through traditional music,” he says.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 2, 2014 issue

He could be the next matinee idol right now and give local heartthrobs a run for their money but he chose to pursue his dream of becoming a successful businessman abroad.

Bored from a year of doing nothing while vacationing with his sister in Baguio, Jay Acuzar was walking along Session Road when he saw this sign at a famous fastfood store: “Now hiring: service crew.”

He peeped through the window and liked what he saw. People were having fun while they worked and thought their uniforms were kinda cool.

He wasted no time, applied and was promptly taken in. Soon after, he was cleaning tables, mopping floors, running around for food orders and interfaced with customers at the counter cash register.

Acuzar immensely enjoyed his work, made a lot of friends, and being ‘artistahin’, received flaterring notes from random people who frequented his fun workplace. More importantly, the “clean-as-you-go” training he got at the establishment would stick on long after he left. He applied it to his daily routine when he started living independently in Makati until he migrated to the United States a couple of years ago.

Today, he is a successful entrepreneur based in the U.S. doing business with a multi-level marketing company that is ranked the 20th largest in the world. The company develops and manufactures high-quality nutritional supplements, healthy weight-management and personal-care products.

Starting at the bottom he now consistently ranks among the top ten associates in North America. Most recently, he ranked number 22 in the world by the company that was among the Top 20 on Forbes’ 200 Best Small Companies List for third straight year in a row.

The company he deals with was also voted one of “50 Best Places to Work” by a business magazine for third year in a row and official supplement supplier of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) in 2011.

In 2012, the company undertook massive rebranding and received several industry, design, and communication awards. In the Philippines, it is operating with a dynamic and fastest growing workforce, providing money opportunities to people with a large people network base.

Travelling businessman

Acuzar’s work allows him to travel frequently and enjoy unlimited income potential. His target: to barge into the business’ “MDC” (Million Dollar Club) soon, a feat not too hard to achieve because he is just as hardworking as those who have already made it.

As a businessman given the privilege to represent a company known for its integrity and instilling good values, Acuzar is more than happy to share his success story to fellow Pinoys.

But first, a little background on how he started in the U.S., a country whom he had so much fascination, even when as a kid.
“I wanted to be in an environment that will cultivate and mold me to be globally-competitive. It was always been my dream to become not only financially independent but rich, to be straightforward about it.

The U.S. wasn’t such a tough place to adapt to for Acuzar. He spoke English like a native. As a kid, he watched tons of English movies and since his dad was an English professor, he got to fit in really quick.

His mindset when he first set foot in the U.S. was to be on the same level as the locals. Born competitive and naturally curious, Acuzar always thought about the future and kept searching on how to become that one thing he wanted to be: a rich businessman.

“People who live their dreams and make the most out of life make things happen,” he says. “People who see the positive in every situation, bring the best out of other people by inspiring them to be the best they can be for themselves and for other people inspire me the most,” Acuzar intimates.

Acuzar was born in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. His mother was a Bicolana and his father a Batangueno. He studied elementary and high school in Saint Louis School of the same town and went to college in Northwestern University, Illinois.

The boy who fancied about big houses, cars and abundant life for his family has made them a reality at a young age. His business is doing well and he credits that to his being competitive in a positive way.

“Being a Filipino in a foreign country is awesome,” according to Acuzar. “You just have to understand each other’s ethnicity and every person you meet. Respect them and their culture and you should be just fine,” he says.

Acuzar notices the fact that Filipinos excel in anything they do. “We dominate and we are easy to love,” he says. “Filipinos are hard to ignore, we are awesome,” he proudly mentions in a long distance interview.

How is it like being in a far away country and missing Filipino things he used to enjoy?

Acuzar looks at it as an upgrade without being condescending to his fellow Pinoys. “At first, you miss the things you do back home, but my perspective on this is to be able to learn new stuff, things I can add to the wonderful things I have learned from the early stages of my life in my homeland,” he says.

Acuzar is one Filipino who will always speak positive about fellow Pinoys. “When Filipinos see their kababayans around, they entertain them well and make sure they have fun. They generally go out of their way for them to experience a wonderful time,” he says.

While he was in Utah last August for a 4-day convention organized by a company he does business with, he noticed a group of Pinoys staring at his group. In no time, they made contact and the group offered to tour them around the city, even made a fiesta-like buffet for them as a welcome treat. “Filipinos are so welcoming,” he narrates, that must be our world-renowned hospitality trait,” he says.

But there will always be negative people around, how does he deal with them? “I have met some who do not acknowledge where they come from and keep on griping about their own country. What I usually do is I let them say what they have to say and then I do my part by saying nice things about the Philippines. I think most people who see the Philippines negatively are those who watch too much tv news,” he says.

Inspite of having been away from home for a long time, Acuzar has never forgotten his roots. He makes it a point to always keep in touch with fellow Filipinos wherever his hectic schedule takes him. He also enjoyed meeting other people with different backgrounds. For him, it’s always great to be learning new things from people from all walks of life each day.

For those who’d want to pursue the “American Dream”, Acuzar has this advice to his countrymen: “The world offers many choices and opportunities. We just have to believe that we deserve it.”

He says Filipinos just need to learn to identify great opportunities from the bad. “Dreams are just there waiting to be fulfilled. Keep on dreaming, keep on believing, for a good future awaits those who seek greatness. Just believe you can make it and always have faith in God,” he says.