Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Noynoy Aquino on Stamps

Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III (born February 8, 1960) also known as Noynoy Aquino, is the fifteenth and incumbent President of the Philippines and is concurrently the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Aquino is a fourth-generation politician: his great-grandfather, Servillano "Mianong" Aquino, served as a delegate to the Malolos Congress; his grandfather, Benigno Aquino, Sr., held several legislative positions from 1919–44; and his parents were former President Corazon Aquino and former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. Aquino is a member of the Liberal Party.

Born in Manila, Aquino graduated from Ateneo de Manila University in 1981 and joined his family in their exile in the United States shortly thereafter. He returned to the Philippines in 1983 shortly after the assassination of his father and held several positions working in the private sector. In 1998, he was elected to the House of Representatives as Representative of the 2nd district of Tarlac province. He was subsequently re-elected to the House in 2001 and 2004. In 2007, having been barred from running for re-election to the House due to the term limit, he was elected to the Senate in the 14th Congress of the Philippines.

Following the death of his mother on August 1, 2009, many people began calling on Aquino to run for president. On September 9, 2009, Aquino officially announced he would be a candidate in the 2010 presidential election, held on May 10, 2010.

On June 9, 2010, the Congress of the Philippines proclaimed Aquino the winner of the 2010 presidential election.

On June 30, 2010, at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, Manila, Aquino was sworn into office as the fifteenth President of the Philippines, succeeding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines Conchita Carpio-Morales. The new presidential residence of Aquino is Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams).

Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Cojuangco Aquino III was born on February 8, 1960 in Manila. Aquino is the third of the five children of Benigno Aquino, Jr., who was then the Vice Governor of Tarlac province, and Corazon Aquino. He has four sisters, Maria Elena (Ballsy) Aquino-Cruz, Aurora Corazon (Pinky) Aquino-Abellada, Victoria Eliza (Viel) Aquino-Dee, and Kristina Bernadette (Kris) Aquino-Yap.

From 1965 to 1981, Aquino attended Ateneo de Manila University from elementary to college. Eleven months after Aquino's father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., was arrested and detained for "advocating the overthrow of the government by force or violence", Ninoy was brought before a military tribunal in Moran Hall, Fort Bonifacio in August 1973. On August 25, 1973, Ninoy wrote a letter to his son, Noynoy from Fort Bonifacio at 11:10 p.m., giving advice to his son;
"The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.
There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.
Son, the ball is now in your hands."

In 1981, Aquino graduated from Ateneo de Manila University, earning a Bachelor's degree in Economics. Shortly after graduation, Aquino joined his family in Newton, Massachusetts, in exile.

In 1983, after two years in exile in the United States, Aquino returned to the Philippines with his family, shortly after the assassination of his father on August 21, 1983. Aquino had a short tenure as a member of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, working as an assistant of the executive director of PBSP. Aquino later joined Mondragon Industries Philippines, Inc. as an assistant Retail Sales Supervisor and assistant promotions manager for Nike Philippines, Inc. from 1986 to 1992, during the presidency of his mother, Aquino joined the Intra-Strata Assurance Corporation, a company owned by his uncle Antolin Oreta Jr., as vice president.

On August 28, 1987, eighteen months into the presidency of Aquino's mother, rebel soldiers led by Gregorio Honasan staged an unsuccessful coup attempt, attempting to siege Malacañang Palace. Aquino was two blocks from the palace when he came under fire. Three of Aquino's four security escorts were killed, and the last was wounded protecting him. Aquino himself was hit by five bullets, one of which is still embedded in his neck.

From 1993 to 1998, Aquino worked for Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the sugar refinery in charge of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita, as the executive assistant for administration from 1993 to 1996, then Aquino worked as manager for field services from 1996 to 1998.

The first day cover with stamp above were issued on Aquino's Inaugural on June 30, 2010. The Post Office made 2000 FDCs only, using the remaining Cory stamps; each cover has a serial number. On the day of the inauguration, which was a holiday, post office tellers went to the inauguration site and sold out 1,500 pieces to those who attended; the remaining 500 were quickly snapped up by dealers and collectors the next day.

On July 26,2010, two new stamps were issued which showed his oath-taking and inaugural at the Rizal Park.

"Tayo na sa Antipolo"

Antipolo Pilgrimage is a month-long celebration that brings devotees and pilgrims to venerate the "Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage" which is enshrined in Antipolo Church in Antipolo City. This is annually celebrated every month of May.

It is during the month of May when Filipino devotees to the Blessed Virgin from different parts of the country throng on the hills of Antipolo to make a pilgrimage at the shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). The folk song “Tayo na sa Antipolo” vividly captures the festive air of this season in this rural town some decades ago. 'Tayo na sa Antipolo' 'at doo'y maligo tayo' 'sa batis na kung tawagin' 'ay Hi-hi-hinulugang Taktak' 'at doo'y kumain' 'ng mangga' 'kasuy at balimbing' 'kaya't magmadali ka at' 'tayo ay sumama sa Antipolo.'

The pilgrimage is a month-long celebration that sees devotees trekking up a much-trodden path leading to the religious shrine, more popularly known as the Virgin of Antipolo. The image is believed to be already three hundred years old and is said to manifest miraculous powers. According to historians, the venerated icon had on more than one occasion saved her galleon from wreckage by Dutch and British blockades, as well as pirates, while it sailed between Manila and Acapulco.

It is every 30th of April, the eve of May 1, that pilgrims make the trip. Afterwards, the usual side trip would be to Hinulugang Taktak, a waterfall just outside of town. It was made a National Park in the 80s.

The most stereotyped Antipolo-pilgrimage scene was that of a woman lying comfortable in a hammock or duyan while in her Maria Clara dress. Hammock was the Antipolo Transportation System. There were no roads to Antipolo –only footpaths. The most fashionable way to traverse the seven hills to Antipolo was in these primitive hammock-carriages. They were the original Philippine pedicabs. However, the extinction of the hammock came when the railway transportation in the Philippines extended it line all the way to Antipolo in 1908. By the 1920s the trip could be made by car in a couple of hours, but he nine-day stay in Antipolo was still a de riguer. So the family took along supply of clothes, beddings, food and liquor; rented part of a house and crowded into one or two rooms.”

The stamp above is a painting by Carlos "Botong" Francisco, Pilgrimage to Antipolo. One can also see musical notation of the song "Tayo na sa Antipolo" composed by German San Jose (Gerry Brandy) in 1929.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra on Stamp

The Manila Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Asia. Founded by Dr. Alexander Lippay in 1926, the orchestra has played a major role in Philippine history. Through the years it has hosted artists Montserrat Caballé, Yehudi Menuhin, Igor Oistrakh, Eugene Istomin, Fou Ts'ong, Barry Tuckwell, Paul Badura-Skoda and Rony Rogoff, as well as conductors Andre Kostelanetz, Arthur Fiedler, Mendi Rodan, Robert Feist, Gareth Nair and Helen Quach.

MSO has instituted two main programs intended to develop Filipino musical artistry and showcase Filipino musical talent, the "Young Artists’ Competitions" and the Luneta Concerts (known as “Concert in the Park”). The Manila Symphony Orchestra today has young musicians who are trained by the Philippine Research for Developing International Soloists (PREDIS), which was founded by Basilio Manalo and Sister Mary Placid Abejo at St. Scholastica’s College. Filipino conductors have taken the helm of the MSO, including Francisco Santiago, Basilio Manalo, and (currently) Arturo Molina.

In 1931 the Manila Symphony Society (MSS) with Mrs. Filomena Legarda as its president was formed to support the MSO’s regular season concerts. During the 1940s until the 1960s the orchestra was led by the Dr. Herbert Zipper who led the orchestra to perform major symphonic works, ballets and opera productions, giving Manila a significant place in Asia’s cultural landscape. Aside from performing in major concert venues in the country, the MSO was also visible to a great number of Filipinos through its televised performances in Concert at the Park series, an initiative of MSS president Mrs. Carlyn Manning.

The MSO was originally housed at the Metropolitan Theater in the 1930s, then in the FEU theater in the 1950s, Philamlife Auditorium in the 1960s and then in the 1970s and 1980s at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and back to the refurbished Metropolitan Theater. Unfortunately, severe financial difficulties caused the original orchestra to be disbanded in 1989.
In 2001, the Manila Symphony Orchestra was resurrected by its long time concertmaster, Prof. Basilio Manalo by elevating into professional status the Manila Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) which he founded in 1995. The members of this new group of musicians were mostly trained under the Philippine Research for Developing Instrumental Soloists (PREDIS), a special music development program founded by Prof. Manalo and Sr. Mary Placid Abejo of the St. Scholastica’s College.

At present the MSO is composed of around 60 musicians under the music direction of Prof. Arturo Molina. Many of the members of the MSO are professional musicians who, in addition to their leadership roles in the orchestra, are also active participants in the cultural life of the country as soloists, music educators, music arrangers, chamber music performers, entrepreneurs, bandmasters, and choir conductors. A significant part of the orchestra also composed of young music students who represent the best crop of young musicians enrolled in the different colleges and conservatories of music in Metro Manila. Many of these have been winners in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) and have represented the country in various international music festivals and workshops.

The stamp above was issued on January 27,1976, the 50th Anniversary of the Manila Symphony Orchestra.

The Kudyapi- The Philippine Two-Stringed Lute

The kutiyapi or kudyapi, is a Philippine two-stringed, fretted boat-lute. It is the only stringed instrument among the Maguindanao people, and one of several among other groups such as the Maranao and Manobo. It is four to six feet long with nine frets made of hardened beeswax. The instrument is carved out of solid soft wood such as from the jackfruit tree.

Common to all kutiyapi instruments, a constant drone is played with one string while the other, an octave above the drone, plays the melody with a kebit or rattan pluck (commonly made from plastic nowadays). This feature, which is also common to other related Southeast Asian "boat lutes", which were influenced by varying degrees by Indian concepts of melody and scale via the Malay archipelago.

Among the T'Boli, Manobo and other Lumad groups, the instrument (known as Hegelung, Kudyapi or Fedlung) is tuned to a major pentatonic scale. Among groups like the Bagobo, the Kutiyapi (Kudlung) is also used as a bowed instrument and is generally played to accompany improvised songs.

A characteristic difference between Mindanaon Moro Kutiyapi and the non-Islamized Lumad equivalents is the style and set up of vocal accompaniment. Among the Lumad groups, the kudyapi player and vocalist are separate performers, and vocalists use a free-flowing method of singing on top of the rhythm of the instrument, whereas among the Maguindanao and Maranao, there are set rhythms are phrases connected with the melody of the kutiyapi, with the player doubling as the vocalist (bayoka), if need be.

Also called: Kutyapi, Kutiapi (Maguindanaon), Kotyapi (Maranao), Kotapi (Subanon), Fegereng (Tiruray), Faglong, Fuglung (B'laan), Kudyapi (Bukidnon and Tagbanua), Hegelong (T’boli) and Kuglong, Kadlong, Kudlong or Kudlung (Manobo, Mansaka, Mandaya, Bagobo and Central Mindanao), Kusyapi (Palawan). Similar instruments played throughout the region include the Sape of Sarawak and the Crocodile lutes of Mainland Southeast Asia. Although they share a similar name, the Kacapi of Sunda on Java is a zither, and not a lute.

Las Piñas Bamboo Organ of the Philippines

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ, in the Parish Church of St Joseph in Las Piñas City, Philippines, is a nineteenth-century church organ made almost entirely from bamboo; only the trumpet stops are made from metal.

The organ, the church and the surrounding buildings have been restored to their 19th century state by Architect Francisco "Bobby" Mañosa and partner Ludwig Alvarez, making a trip to the site a popular excursion for Filipinos and foreign visitors alike.

The builder of both the church and its organ was Fr. Diego Cera de la Virgen del Carmen, a priest under the Augustinian Recollects. A native of Spain, he served as parish priest in Las Piñas through many endeavors. Historians portray him as a gifted man-natural scientist, chemist, architect, community leader, organist and organ builder.

Having previously built organs in Manila area with some organ stops made of bamboo he chose bamboo for most of this organ, and only the trumpet stops are made of metal. The choice of bamboo was probably both practical and aesthetic - bamboo was abundant and used for hundreds of items, both a practical and an artistic nature.

Fr. Cera began work on the organ in 1816, while the church was still under construction, and the organ was completed in 1824. During Fr. Cera's lifetime, disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons damaged both church and organ and Fr. Cera himself was the organ's first "restorer." Down through the years, natural disasters continued to take their toll; the organ was unplayable for years. Somewhat unexpectedly reassembled early in the 20th century, partial restoration took place from time to time up through World War II.

In recent years, several concerted attempts were made to save the instrument. In 1972, a contract for total restoration was awarded to Johannes Klais Orgelbau KG in Bonn, Germany, and it was shipped there in 1973. While the restoration of the organ was taking place in Germany, a massive project was completed at the church. With the help of the community of Las Piñas and many others in the Manila area, the church grounds were restored to its original state.

The restored organ returned home in March 1975, to a joyous welcome by the people of the Philippines. The joint restoration of church and the organ was a triumph of local and international cooperation. Since then the scene of many concerts and festivals, the Bamboo Organ is described by many international organ masters as one of the finest old organs in the world. Its construction of bamboo is noted as being one of the major factors that gives it a truly unique and lively sound.

The National Museum of the Philippines officially declared the Las Piñas Bamboo Organ a 'National Cultural Treasure' on November 24, 2003 for its uniqueness and significance. To retain a high standard of quality and reliability, the Bamboo Organ underwent a general overhaul from September, 2003 to November, 2004. This time, the work was done locally by Europe-trained organbuilders of the Diego Cera Organbuilders, Inc. who are also tasked to maintain the instrument so that future generations will be assured of hearing and experiencing the unique sound of a Philippine treasure.

From 1992 until present, Prof. Armando Salarza is the Titular Organist of the Bamboo Organ. Currently, he is also the Artistic Director of the International Bamboo Organ Festival. The 34th International Bamboo Organ Festival was held last February 2009 and is considered to be the longest-running International Festival in the Philippines.

The parish belongs to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Parañaque. Its present parish priest is Rev. Msgr. Albert Venus. Msgr. Allen Aganon, parish priest from 1999 to 2004, is currently serving his missionary work in Peru.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The National Anthem of the Kingdom of Tonga

Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited. The Kingdom stretches over a distance of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in a north-south line. The islands that constitute the archipelago lie south of Samoa, about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Tonga also became known as the Friendly Islands because of the friendly reception accorded to Captain James Cook on his first visit there in 1773. He happened to arrive at the time of the ʻinasi festival, the yearly donation of the first fruits to the Tuʻi Tonga, the islands' paramount chief, and received an invitation to the festivities. According to the writer William Mariner, in reality the chiefs had wanted to kill Cook during the gathering, but could not agree on a plan.

The only sovereign monarchy among the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, Tonga - uniquely among island nations in the South Pacific region - avoided formal colonization. Tonga plans to become a fully functioning constitutional monarchy after legislative reform and a more fully representative election take place in 2010.

The Tongan National anthem is "Koe Fasi Oe Tu'i Oe Otu Tonga". The words were written by Prince Uelingatoni Ngu Tupoumalohi and music composed by Karl Gustavus Schmitt. The anthem was adopted and first performed in 1874, although probably was in use earlier.

The above stamp is an imperforate plate proof of Tonga 1992 Coronation with King and lyrics to the Tongan National anthem. Only ten of these proofs currently exist.

The stamp below is a specimen set in 1992 during the 25th Anniversary of the King's Coronation.

The National Anthem of Palau

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau , is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles (800 km) east of the Philippines and 2,000 miles (3,200 km) south of Tokyo. Having emerged from United Nations trusteeship (administered by the United States) in 1994, it is one of the world's youngest and smallest sovereign states. In English, the name is sometimes spelled Belau in accordance with the native pronunciation. It was formerly also spelled Pelew.

The National anthem of Palau is "Belau er Kid" (Our Palau), composed by classical musician, Ymesei O. Ezekiel and the lyrics combined from several authors. It adopted its anthem in 1980 when independence was first requested. It gained independence from the United States in 1994.

Bag-ong Hinan-aw (New Perspectives)- A Contemporary Cebuano Figurative Painting Exhibit

Figurative Art in Cebu owes its sense of realism and classical ardor to the late Martino Abellana and those he mentored, particularly Romulo "Molong" Galicano. Since the eighties, Galicano has taught and encourage a band of Cebuano artists to excel in the academic techniques of figurative painting, and who has since emerged as the leading edge of a new generation of figure painters. They include Boy Briones, Pepe Villadolid, Carly Florido, Dodong Tallo, Jun Impas and Jonathan Galicano.

Bag-ong Hinan-aw (New Perspectives) is a brief survey of this new movement in Philippine art that combines academic technique with contemporary vision that combines tradition, innovation, and Cebuano creativity to a new degree of excellence.

Publio "Boy" Briones (b. 1949) originally graduated with a BS and MBA from UP before learning how to paint during landscape sorties by fellow Cebuanos in the provinces. He subsequently took watercolor workshops and sketching classes at the National Academy of Design in New York (1987-1994). Mentored by Romulo Galicano, Briones focuses on interior scenes of churches and figurative genre with a dramatic chiaroscuro effect.

Carlos "Carly" Florido (b. 1940) is a self-taught artist who has been guided by Romulo Galicano upon returning to the Philippines from the United States. He has been a member of Kolor Sugbu since 1993 and has participated in group shows in New York, Washington D.C. and Germany (1993-1994). He participated in the "Homage to the Masters" at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (2002) and "Ode to the Pasig River" exhibition at the Ayala Museum (2006).

Jonathan Villanueva Galicano (b. 1978) finished Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2003. He was recognized for his innate artistry since his elementary student days at Our Lord's Grace Montessori School, where he was hailed Artist of the Year. Jonathan has participated in nine group exhibits, and has done several mural projects throughout the country. He is a member of the Portrait Society of America, and the Ugnayan Filipino Arts Foundation.

Romulo "Molong" Galicano (b. 1945) studied as an apprentice to Martino Abellana in Carcar. He subsequently took Fine Arts Studies at the University of the East. He became a member of the Dimasalang Group of Artists, and is renowned for his Manila streets capes, portraits of Manila's elite social circles, and his recently developed semi-abstracted style of figurative painting.

Florentino "Jun" Impas is a consistent winner in art competitions since his high school student days in Surigao del Norte. His most recent awards include: the Excellence Award at the China- ASEAN Youth Artwork Contest (2008), and 2nd prize at the GSIS National Painting Competition (2009). Impas has held five solo exhibits, the last being at Art Center, SM Megamall (2009). Currently based in Cebu City, his specialty is in portraiture and rural figurative genre subjects.

Facundo "Dodong" Tallo Jr. (b. 1952) was a self-taught artist in Carcar, before arriving in Manila in 1979 to study under Romulo Galicano. His first exhibition was an all Cebuano Artist Show in 1980, followed by "Habagatang Arte" (1985) and "Kolor Sugbo" (1989). He specializes in still life and interior scenes.

Jose "Pepe" Villadolid (b. 1946) first learned to paint from his uncle Diosdado Villadolid. He met Romulo Galicano in 1991 who taught him more pointers. Pepe then took up painting professionally in 1998. He has participated in several group exhibitions at Casa Gorordo Cebu (1998 and 1990),: Rustan's Cebu (1989); San Diego, California (1991): Cebu City Museum (1992); New York (1993); Cebu SM Art Center (1996, 1997, 2006); Metropolitan Museum Manila (2002); Ayala Museum (2006) and Vargas Museum (2006). Pepe Villadolid won the Grand Prize for the Martino Abellana Painting Competition in 1996.

Friday, June 25, 2010

March to the Front, The National Anthem of Vietnam

Nguyen Van Cao, a noted Vietnamese writer and composer, composed "Tien quan ca" (March to the Front) in 1944 while working for an independence group. It was published in a newspaper and was well-received by the citizens, and was sung often during demonstrations and meetings of the revolutionary council. The provisional government adopted it as the anthem in 1946, becoming the anthem of North Vietnam. In 1976, when unification with South Vietnam occurred, "Tien quan ca" was adopted as the anthem for the entire nation.

Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea, referred to as East Sea, to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.

The people of Vietnam regained independence and broke away from China in AD 938 after their victory at the battle of Bạch Đằng River. Successive dynasties flourished along with geographic and political expansion deeper into Southeast Asia, until it was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. Fighting between the two sides continued during the Vietnam War, ending with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

Emerging from this prolonged military engagement, the war-ravaged nation was politically isolated. In 1986, the government instituted economic and political reforms and began a path towards international reintegration. By 2000, it had established diplomatic relations with most nations. Its economic growth had been among the highest in the world in the past decade. These efforts resulted in Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization in 2007.

The stamp above features the original score of the Vietnamese National anthem, issued in 1980. There are several of these stamps, some with perforation errors available in the market.

The Anthem of St. Kitts and Nevis

The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis), located in the Leeward Islands, is a federal two-island nation in the West Indies. It is the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas, in both area and population.The capital city and headquarters of government for the federated state is Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. The smaller state of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called "The Narrows".

Historically, the British dependency of Anguilla was also a part of this union, which was then known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. Saint Kitts and Nevis are geographically part of the Leeward Islands. To the north-northwest lie the islands of Saint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten. To the east and northeast are Antigua and Barbuda, and to the southeast is the small uninhabited island of Redonda, and the island of Montserrat, which currently has an active volcano.and Nevis were amongst the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean.

The National anthem of the island is "O Land of Beauty" composed by Kenrick Andersen Georges and adopted in 1983. The royal anthem is "God Save the Queen".

The stamp above features the original score of the island's national anthem which was issued after the country's first Independence Anniversary in 1984.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Chinese Puzzle Box

The puzzle box is my second favorite mechanical puzzle (after entanglement puzzles. A puzzle box (also called a secret, or trick box) is a box that can only be opened through some obscure, and sometimes complicated, series of manipulations. They are usually made of wood and in various complexities. Some puzzle boxes may require only a simple squeeze in the right spot, whereas others may require the subtle movement of several small parts, to open the box. This puzzle box from China belongs to the former category. It took me less than 15 minutes to open the box and by accident after I squeezed the right spots.

Some boxes, especially those from Japan, consist of several moves with a variety of twists to trick the person trying to open the boxes. But the real trick is finding the correct series of movements that can range from 2 to 300+ moves.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Self Assembled Puzzles- Variations on a Theme

There is fun in assembling puzzles, sometimes even more challenging than disassembling it. Recently, I created some replicas with variations of existing puzzles using materials from Wizard's Workshop and my children's toys. The first one is similar to the "Easy Does It" puzzle (1). The object of the puzzle is to separate the two loops of rope. In the original puzzle, a wooden ring which snugly fit the pole was used instead of the metallic ring that I'm using.

The second one is a variation on Dilemma Games, Ring and String puzzle, Lord of the Rings (2). The object is to release the ring. In this puzzle, another metallic ring was used instead of the wooden ring and a block and string from Wizard's was used to secure the "other end" of the puzzle.

The third puzzle is another Ring and String puzzle (3 and 4). The object is to release the ring which can only be done if you separate the two interlocking ropes. I made two these- a complicated-looking one (left lower most pic) using a screw block, crescent/ half circle block and two yellow square block form my toddler's Smart Cube toys, and a simpler-looking one (right upper most pic) using fewer materials.

The fourth puzzle I made is similar to Kirill Grebnev's "Attached Ring" (5) or Forest puzzle (because the original wood was handmade from branch of a tree). This time I used a stretchable string used to tie name tags in conventions and a pole and block from Wizard's Workshop.

The Enigma and Chain Metal Puzzles

The enigma is one of my favorite mechanical puzzles. This puzzle was invented by Eldon Vaughn and patented in America in 1975. and manufactured and distributed worldwide by Hanayama, a toy company based in Japan. The object to dis-join the three somewhat swirled pieces of this puzzle and then to put them back together again. Basically, the technique to solve this puzzle involves several sequences of sliding through, rotating, overhanging and a tricky move at the end to dis-join the two remaining pieces. Separating the last two pieces is already challenging in itself. Putting it back is more difficult than the first task of disassembling it. I really had a fun time with this puzzle. Once or twice a week, I toy with the moves so I will never forget the sequences (more than 8). I also love the feel of this puzzle, so stern yet docile, so lustrous and fusible.

Another cast puzzle which I like is the Chain puzzle which was invented by Oskar van Deventer. His creation won an honorable mention in the International Puzzle Competition in 2002. This puzzle is made up of three interlocking chains which can be dis-joined by several maneuvers. Proper placement of the chains is necessary to release them apart. The final move demands placing one chain on gutter to enable one of the chains to pass through. I had fun with this one, and putting them back was also a challenge.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The National Anthem of Macedonia

The Macedonian National Anthem is entitled "Denes Nad Makedonija" (Today Over Macedonia). The anthem of Macedonia (referring to the former Yugoslavian republic, and not the neighbouring Greek province of the same name) was created in 1943 by Vlado Maleski, a poet from Struga. The music was composed by Todor Skalovski, a famous Macedonian composer, chorus and orchestra conductor. It was adopted as the anthem of the Republic of Macedonia upon its establishment after World War II for a few months, and continued to be the anthem of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia while in Yugoslavia. The song was later selected to be the anthem of the newly independent Republic of Macedonia in 1991.

Todor Skalovski (born 21 January 1909, Tetovo, Ottoman Empire – died 1 July 2004, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia) was a famous Macedonian composer, chorus and orchestra conductor.

He was the founder of the First Macedonian State Symphony Orchestra, (1945. - 1948) and was editor in chief of Radio Skopje and chief conductor Radioorkestra (1948 - 1954). He directed and conducted the Skopje Opera, since 1954 and later became the director and conductor of the Philharmonic Republic of Macedonia. His compositions were mostly vocal works. Other works include October Cantata II, Suite Baltepe, Macedonian Oro, 2 rhapsodies, Zalez, The size ANIJA (on John Kukuzela), Prispivna song. He is best known as the composer of the Macedonian anthem "Denes Nad Makedonija".

The envelope above is a Special Cancel of the First Performance of the National Anthem (2001), 10 years after Macedonia became a newly independent republic in 1991.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Manuel H. Bernabe on Stamps

Manuel H. Bernabe (1890-1960) “King of Balagtasan” in Spanish was a poet, linguist and politician, Manuel Bernabe was born on February 17, 1890 to Timoteo Bernabe and Emilia Hernandez of Paranaque, Rizal.

At the age of 10, he already started writing verses. He studied at the Ateneo de Manila where he finished his Bachelor of Arts degree with high academic standing in 1907, and then took up law at the University of Santo Tomas, but not able to took up the bar exams. In 1910, Manuel’s first poem was published in the Renacimento Filipino. In 1912, he translated Virgil’s Aenid from Latin to Spanish. In 1913, he received an award for his poems: “Himno al Sagado Corazon de Jesus (Hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus), “El Zapote,” and “Espana a Filipinas”.

In 1912, he joined the staff of La Democracia and in 1918, of La Vanguardia of the Roces Publications. He was a columnist but from time to time he also published poems and short stories in the magazine Exelsior.

Manuel also excelled in the balagtasan, where his stalwart adversary was Jesus Balmori. In 1927, he published Balagtasan a compilation of his three poetic joust against Balmori; “El Recuerdo y el Olvido” (Memory and Forgetting), “El Hombre y la Mujer”(Man and Woman), and “La Ilusion y el Desengano” (Illusion and Deception). His other works were: “Cantos del Tropico” ( Songs from the tropic) in 1929, which contains poems. He translated into the Spanish the English version of Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which was praised as the best Spanish translation of that masterpiece by Blasco Ibanez, a Spanish novelist, and also Perfil de la Cresta.

In 1925, he won the Premio Zobel for his translation of Rubaiyat. In 1926, for his and Jesus Balmori’s Balagtasan, “El Hombre y La Mujer.” For high academic and excellent performance, Manuel was chosen a member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language in the Philippines in 1931 and was named poet laureate in Spanish (National Poet) on February 25, 1950. For his untiring efforts in the propagation and conservation of the Spanish language, Bernabe received two decorations from Spain - El Yugo y las Flechas in 1940 and orden de Isabela la Catolica in 1953. In 1964, he was also awarded the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinagan Award by the City Government of Manila.

He taught Spanish in different schools such as: Far Eastern University, Philippine Law School and Institute de Espanol at Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In 1951, he accompanied President Elpidio Quirino on the latter’s state visit to Spain. He joined the world of politics, as a representative to Congress of the first district of Rizal.

He retired from politics and once more joined the journalistic profession in the La Vanguardia. He was appointed professor of Spanish at the University of the Philippines and a technical assistant for Filipino-Spanish Relations at Malacañang from 1943-1947. Bernabe died of coronary thrombosis on November 29, 1960, at barrio La Huerta, Paranaque, as he was having conversation with his friends, he collapsed and never regained consciousness.

Date of Issue June 1, 1990

Claro M. Recto on Stamps

Claro Mayo Recto, Jr. (February 8, 1890 – October 2, 1960), was a Filipino politician, jurist, poet and one of the foremost statesmen of his generation. He is remembered mainly for his nationalism, for "the impact of his patriotic convictions on modern political thought".

He was born in Tiáong, Tayabas (now known as Quezon province) of educated, upper middle-class parents, namely Claro Recto [Sr.] of Rosario, Batangas, and Micaela Mayo of Lipa, Batangas. He studied Latin at the Instituto de Rizal in Lipa, Batangas from 1900 to 1901. Further schooling was at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón of Don Sebastián Virrey. He moved to Manila to study at the Ateneo de Manila where he consistently obtained outstanding scholastic grades, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree maxima cum laude. He received a Masters of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás.

Claro M. Recto, Jr. is considered the "finest mind of his generation". Through his speeches and writings, he was able to mold the mind of his Filipino contemporaries and succeeding generations, a skill "only excelled by Rizal's".

He left a mark on the patriotic climate of his time and a lasting legacy to those who succeeded him. Such icons of nationalism as Lorenzo Tanada, José Diokno, Renato Constantino, Jovito Salonga, refer to him as a mentor and forerunner.

Teodoro M. Locsín of the Philippines Free Press, defines Recto's genius, thus:

"Recto is not a good speaker, no. He will arouse no mob. But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish. His sentences march like ordered battalions against the inmost citadel of the man's arguments, and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary. The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista senator Zulueta's conception of sound foreign policy was a shattering experience, the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done... Recto cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken."

Date of Issue: June 1, 1990

Santiago Fonacier on Stamps

Santiago A. Fonacier was born in Laoag, Ilocos Norte on May 21, 1885. He took his elementary education in his town and secondary education in a high school accredited by the University of Santo Tomas and the Liceo de Manila. He studied for the priesthood in a seminary of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and was ordained priest in 1902.

After his ordination, he taught for two years. However, being inclined towards journalism, he left teaching and founded and edited Spanish periodicals, among them La Lucha, which survived from the 1900’s to 1941. Thereafter, he became a reporter of La Democracia and El Grito del Pueblo. He did translations into Ilocano of Rizal’s two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

In 1912, Fonacier was elected to the first Philippine Assembly as representative of the first district of Ilocos Norte. He served in full his four-year term. In the following election, 1919, he ran and won as senator for the first senatorial district, composed of the provinces of Abra, Batanes, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Isabela.

Aside from being an assemblyman and senator, he served the government as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, the Philippine Independence mission to the United States, the Institute of National Textbook Board, and served as a military chaplain.

Fonacier was one of the original followers of Msgr. Gregorio Aglipay, the famous Filipino clergyman and revolutionary who founded the Iglesia Filipina Independente as a renegade Catholic sect free from the jurisdiction and rules of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican itself. He succeeded Aglipay.

Bishop Fonacier died at the age of 92 on December 8, 1977. He was married to Carmen Jamias with whom he had eight children.

Date of Issue: May 21, 1985

Julian Felipe on Stamps

Felipe, the composer of the Philippine National Anthem also won many awards for his many nationalistic compositions, He wrote "Un Recuerdo" for the thirteen martyrs of Cavite (Trece Martires). He was appointed by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo as Director of the National Band of the Philippine Republic with a rank of Captain.

Julian Felipe was born on January 28, 1861. He was the youngest son of the twelve children of Justo Felipe and Victoria Reyes. Julian inherited his talent in music from his father who was also a musician.

He studied at a public school in Cavite and Binondo, Manila for his primary education. At an early age, he showed his talent in music. He also learned how to play the piano and the organ. Later, He became an organist in St. Peter's Parish Church. As an organist, Felipe was given the chance to hone his gift. Soon after he was composing songs.

Among his early popular compositions were Moteti el Santesisimo, Sintos y Floras Rogodones and Amorita Danza. He impressed many music enthusiasts with the said pieces. Though still young, his works were already at par with the seasoned musicians. In recognition of his remarkable contributions in the field of music, he was given awards and accolades.

When the revolution broke out, Julian joined his fellow Cavitenos who fought against the Spaniards. He was arrested and jailed at Fort San Felipe in Cavite. When freed, he again joined Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's troop. He composed nationalistic songs that inspired his compatriots to continue fighting against the Spaniards. Gen. Aguinaldo asked him to provide a stirring composition to be played in the historic proclamation of Philippine independence. His composition Marcha Nacional Filipina, played on June 12, 1898 in Aguinaldo's home in Kawit, was adopted as the Philippine national anthem on September 5, 1938.

Julian and his wife Irene Tapia had four daughters and a son. Julian died on October 2, 1944.

Date of Issue: June 26, 1972

Edilberto Evangelista on Stamps

Edilberto Evangelista (b. February 24, 1862 - February 17 1897) was a civil engineer trained in the University of Ghent, Belgium. He returned to the Philippines shortly after the start of the revolution and quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Philippine Army. He died in 1897 at the Battle of Zapote Bridge.

Edilberto was a native of Sta. Cruz, Manila, who received his early education with his uncle at Dulumbayan, Luneta. In 1871, he studied at Colegio de San Juan de Letran where he excelled in mathematics. At the young age of 16, he finished degree in A.B. in 1878. Later studied at the University of Santo Tomas where as a medical student, was able to support his studies by buying and selling carabaos for slaughter and engaged in tobacco business.

He went to Spain and studied at the Polytechnic School in Madrid, where he met Jose Rizal and suggested him to take a civil engineering course at Ghent, Belgium. After finishing his study, he returned to Manila , he arrived a month after the outbreak of the revolution. Edilberto joined the Katipunan in Cavite, where he was made director-general of the engineering corps and later was promoted to Lieutenant General for the Magdalo faction. He died in defending the Zapote Bridge against the Spaniards.

Date of Issue: November 27, 1973

Jose W. Diokno on Stamps

Jose Wright Diokno (February 26, 1922 - February 27, 1987) was a Filipino nationalist, human rights advocate, lawyer, senator and government minister.

Born to Ramon Diokno, a former senator and associate justice of the Supreme Court, and Eleanor Wright, an American who became a Filipino citizen, Jose "Pepe" Diokno graduated from elementary school with distinction, and finished his secondary education at De La Salle College in Manila as Valedictorian in 1937. In 1940, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Commerce Degree summa cum laude from De La Salle. He topped the Certified Public Accountants (CPA) Board Examination the same year with a rating of 81.18 percent. In 1944, without finishing his Bachelor of Laws Degree, he took and topped the bar examination, with a rating of 95.3 percent.

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, which effectively ended Marcos rule and was pivotal to Corazon Aquino's election to the presidency, Diokno was appointed to the chairmanship of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, with the rank of minister, and led a government panel which tried to negotiate for the return of rebel forces to the government folds. However, after the “Mendiola massacre” of January 22, 1987, where 15 farmers died during an otherwise peaceful rally, he resigned from his two government posts in protest of what he called wanton disregard of human lives by an administration he had helped install.

At 2:40 a.m., on February 27, 1987, the day after his 65th birthday, Jose Diokno died at his home in New Manila, Quezon City. The cause of his death was acute respiratory failure due to cancer. Diokno was married to Carmen Icasiano, by whom he had 10 children.

President Aquino declared March 2–12, 1987 as a period of national mourning for Diokno. February 27 is celebrated in the Philippines as Jose W. Diokno Day. Although not a public holiday, on February 27 the flags of Filipino government buildings and installations throughout the country are flown at half-mast in his honor. Expressing her grief over the passing of Diokno, then-President Corazon Aquino stated that "Pepe braved the Marcos Dictatorship with a dignified and eloquent courage our country will long remember."

Stamp above issued on February 26, 1995.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The National Anthem of Israel

The origins of "Hatikvah" (The Hope) far predate its use as the Israeli national anthem, in use since soon after its founding as the first Jewish state in modern history. The music is based on a folk song of unknown origin, but appears several times in European folk songs and religious music. The arrangement by Shmuel Cohen from 1888 is probably based on a Romanian folk song he heard during his childhood in Romania, most likely "Carul cu boi" ("The Ox Driven Cart"). The melody also somewhat resembles Smetana's symphonic poem "Ma Vlast", which in turn was based on a Swedish version of the Romanian song.

The lyrics of the anthem were taken from the first verse and chorus from Naftali Herez Imber's 1878 poem "Tikavatenu" (Our Hope), which had nine stanzas. At the first Zionist congress of 1897, it was adopted as the anthem of Zionism. The lyrics (primarily of the chorus) underwent a few changes between that time and the creation of the Jewish state of Israel some 50 years later, primarily a change where the song once spoke of a hope to return Zion, it now speaks of a hope to live as a free nation there.

Above is a souvenir sheet with the Israeli national anthem lyrics issued in 2008.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bungler's Block (aka the Chinese Pendulum) Puzzle

I got this puzzle from eBay from a very good seller who was kind enough to give me some freebies. I don't know if he was really kindhearted or this was done to compensate for some little rusty elements on the metals, well anyway, I do appreciate his gesture. I definitely received more puzzles than I deserved- a whole box with no less than ten puzzles! I'll feature the other puzzles included in the box in my next blog.

The Bungler's Block, aka the Chinese Pendulum Puzzle, looks deceptively simple, but it is really a tricky puzzle involving several coordinated movements that's guaranteed to twist your brain. The long delay in my solving the puzzle ( 2 days) was attributed to a maneuver which I totally missed out. The opening and closing loop has two movements--this is the key to solving it. The other moves include coursing the rings through the movable loop and passing the ring over the big hump- a maneuver thats only possible if you are aware of the movable loops other movement. To finally release the ring out, one has to position it before the chained ring, so that it can pass unobstructed. A very good puzzle- a real brain teasing entertainment indeed!