Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Latvian National Anthem on Stamp

Dievs, svētī Latviju! (God Bless Latvia) is the national anthem of Latvia. The words and music were written by Kārlis Baumanis (Baumaņu Kārlis, 1834–1904), in 1873. Baumanis, a teacher, was part of the Young Latvian nationalist movement. It has been speculated that Baumanis may have borrowed part of the lyrics from a popular song which was sung to tune of God Save the Queen, modified them and set them to music of his own. Baumanis's lyrics were different from the modern ones: he used the term "Baltics" synonymously and interchangeably with "Latvia" and "Latvians", so "Latvia" was actually mentioned only at the beginning of the first verse. Later the term "Latvia" was removed and replaced with "Baltics" to avoid a ban on the song. This has led to the misapprehension that the term "Latvia" was not part of the song until 1920, when it was chosen as national anthem and the word "Baltics" was replaced with "Latvia".

The stamp above featuring the Latvian anthem lyrics and composer, Karlis Baumanis was issued on 2010, the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Latvia.

The UPAEP Symbols Series 2010: Suriname National Anthem on Stamps and FDC

"God zij met ons Suriname!" (God Be With Our Suriname, is the national anthem of Suriname. The anthem has its beginnings in a Sunday School song written in 1893 by Cornelis Atses Hoekstra called "Suriname's Trotsche Stroomen" (Suriname's Proud Streams). The song was set to a piece of music by Johannes Corstianus de Puy written in 1876. In 1959, after self-government was granted, the government asked the poet Henry de Ziel (whose pen name was Trefossa) to write lyrics for the anthem in the language popularly spoken in Suriname, Sranan Tongo. He also revised Hoekstra's lyrics of the second verse to remove the "negative tones" in some lines. Originally the anthem was song with de Ziel's verse first, but now it is performed with Hoekstra's Dutch verse first and de Ziel's Sranan lyrics as the second verse.

The stamp with FDC features the score and lyrics of Suriname's national anthem issued on September 2010 (UPAEP symbols series).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dangerous Running

I'm a nocturnal creature. My physical and creative powers are at its peak after the sun sets. In the country where I live, I always have difficulty waking up very early. It takes me some time before going into full gear; that usually occurs later in the day. It is a struggle for me to join morning runs because I always felt that I would fall back to sleep while running. There has always been this theory in my head that if I lived in the other side of the world, where it's daytime during our nighttime, then I would become a daytime creature. This was proven right when we visited the United States a few weeks ago. Upon awakening, I go into full throttle and hit the road for an early morning run. I never experienced jet lag since arriving in the Land of the Free.

I love running in the cold and in environments where the scenery is picturesque. These qualities were present in the nature preserve park adjacent to where we stayed. Running is supposed to be a safe, non- contact sport. It never occurred to me that you can run dangerously until I decided to do so at a nature park in Lincoln, California. Here, there.....the threat of death lurks while you run. A big sign is posted as you enter, "Be Alert!!! Expect the Unexpected. Watch for Rattlesnakes". I felt my face turn ashen for a while. Suddenly the treat of running became a threat. Still, I decided to run, positioning myself at the center of the smooth and well-paved cemented road, so I can easily spot an attacking venomous snake. I was told that some years back, a runner was bitten as the snake darted from a tree. So my eyes were focused up as I passed by the massive hundred-year old oak trees of this park which was formerly a ranch.

In the 1850's, William Moore and his wife Hannah and their three children established the first homestead ranch in this area- the New York Ranch. The ranch had an area of 160 acres and contained a small house, barn, and some other buildings. Life was hard for the Moore's, and after 10 years of ranching, they sold the property to George Whitney for US$ 1,500. In 1868, George and his sons moved to the area and acquired an additional 20,000 acres. He developed the property by building homes, roads and bridges and raising livestock. The Twelve Bridges community is named after the twelve granite bridges which he built. We can still see these granite bridges today but a mere 500 square meter piece of real estate now costs a million dollars!

The run was very satisfying. The vast oak woodlands and riparian vegetation were unique to someone from the orient. And so was the fauna. I saw a jackrabbit, a squirrel, an eagle and several species of birds, but none of those venomous snakes- Thank God! " You've run 7 kilometers", the sweet female voice of my iPod conveyed. I had to stop, not because I'm exhausted but because the sun was beginning to scorch in spite of the cold wind.

I took a deep breath and smiled, glad to be alive after the run.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Non-Boxer Boxing Personalities I Met at Gaylord Texan

In Dallas, we stayed at the hotel where the PacMan was staying, the luxurious Gaylord Texan at Grapevine, Texas. It is centrally located between downtown Dallas and Fort Worth and about 30 minutes from Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the venue of the the fight between multi-divisional champion, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao and the larger "Tijuana Tornado", Mexican Antonio Margarito. We arrived the day before the fight and our Sudanese cab driver, Jamal told us that a lot of Filipinos had been arriving at Dallas since 2 days ago. Several boxing personalities were spotted around Gaylord- these are some of them, starting with the non-boxers (writers, commentators, promoters, relatives, etc).

Wakee Salud. At first I thought he would be an intimidating andboisterous personality but I was gravely mistaken- he is a gentle giant. The long time Pacman friend and promoter is really a kindhearted person, always willing to share his thoughts about his ward's fights. When I first saw him, he was limping in pain and I quickly asked him, "What's the problem"? He told me that the incessant walking since he arrived caused the pain which he thinks is muscular in origin. I asked permission to examine his legs, queried a few more questions, and gave him some analgesics after wards. He was very thankful. He kept on commenting that she is very "buotan" (kind), referring to my younger sister, Mary.

Another personality I encountered was Mr. Elie Seckbach. He is sports writer for Fanhouse and a prominent You Tube personality. I love watching his videos and reading his commentaries at Philboxing.com because he is a certified Pacmaniac. In one of his many interviews at the Gaylord lobby, he ask me who's gonna win the fight, and of course, I said the Pacman. He is a very likable person with a charming smile; he looks better though with his cap on due to hints of alopecia. He was also kind enough to give me an autographed picture after I asked for one.

At first I didn't recognized him because he looks too American. But, on closer inspection, I knew it was Michael Marley, the "White Gorilla". Mr. Marley is a sports writer of the Examiner.com and also a Pachugger. He loves Filipinos and knows more about Philippine culture than most Filipinos. An ardent follower of his column, my first impression of him was that he was a Filipino pretending to be an American writer. But I was mistaken, he really is an American with an American face and accent. He was having some pictorials with a Philippine celebrity when I approached him. "You should have pictures with her" he quipped, "No, Mr. Marley, I wanna have pictures with you". I told him I was from Cebu and is a regular follower of his column. He thanked me and wished me well. After I had photos with him, several of the fans followed suit. I was a little proud that I was the first one to recognize him.

We were fortunate to have dinner with Wakee Salud and his companion, Rowel Pacquiao, Manny's younger brother. He was shy and seriously quiet. We had dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at Gaylord. The steaks were very expensive and not extraordinary. The best steaks in Dallas, for me, is the Ranch Steakhouse located downtown. He was seated far from me so I was not able to strike a decent conversation with him. I wanted to ask him how Manny was as a kid and if they ever had a fist fight? I was quite sure who'd win if ever they had one.

At the Gaylord store, my wife got a Pacquiao-Margarito official T-shirt. I got a limited edition poker chip (only 500 copies made) and the official event boxing glove for US$60. When we had our lunch at the Mexican restaurant, we saw Mr. Freddie Roach and had the gloves signed. I expected Manny to sign the other side of the glove the next day, however, I was disappointed that he had to fore-go with the signing due to his painfully swollen hands. Roach was smiling and was very accommodating in spite of the bodyguards. I also had a picture taken with him. As he walked down the corridor, an young American fan was shouting at the top of his lungs "the trainer of the greatest boxer in the world, Mr. Freddie Roach" He just walked on.

The day before the fight, we attended the mass with Manny Pacquiao. After the mass, we approached Buboy Fernandez, Manny's long time buddy and assistant trainer, for a photo op. He was very busy packing all of Pacs belts that were blessed during the mass. He then smiled and lifted Manny's boxing shoes, for a perfect shot. He has remained humble through all these years.

There were several other boxing personalities I met and had a photo op with. These include Chino Trinidad, a boxing writer and commentator, Mommy Dionisia, Pacman's mom, Alex Ariza, Pacman's conditioning coach and Mayor Bing Leonardia, Bacolod mayor and an avid Pacman supporter. I was looking for Mary Dumon and Dennis Guillermo, boxing writers, but unfortunately was unable to spot them. I'm so glad to have met these people and will forever cherish these encounters with them. Come to think of it, I never had a picture with an entertainment celebrity- except perhaps Mommy D?

Pictures above- with the mentioned personalities and my brother-in-law, Lyndon S. Uy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Van Gogh, Cezanne and Beyond and my Art Cube

Does too much excitement make you forget...or am I getting old?

A few weeks ago, during our visit to San Francisco, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream in my life- to see the works of the great Masters of Art- Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin. and the rest. While my wife was shopping at Costco, I saw an advertisement that the works of the post-impressionist masters are displayed in the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park. My wife was unable to come with me; she had to pack our things for our flight back home later that night. Good thing that my newly married sister, Mary Elizabeth, who also loves art, was kind enough to accompany me to the Musee d Orsay exhibit.

The Musee d Orsay is a strain station created for the Paris International Exposition of 1900 which was transformed into a museum by world renowned architect, Gae Aulenti. It first opened to the public in December 9, 1986 with its goal to highlight the art of the western world from the period 1848 through 1914. Its collection, one of the world finest, is composed of paintings, sculpture, drawings, decorative arts, furniture, photography and architectural work from this period consolidated from the collections of the Louvre, Jeu de Paume and Modern Art Museum in Paris as well as major gift from private collectors, artists and their heirs. Their collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings represents the finest survey of its kind in the world.

The museum was full when we arrived late in the afternoon. One has the option for an audio guided tour, but since we were pressed for time we skipped this one. The exhibit was entitled, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Beyond: Masterpieces from the Musee d Orsay, which was the second part of the two part exhibition, the first showcasing the Birth of Impressionism.

In this exhibit, eight signature paintings by Cezanne, such as the Bathers, were shown, illustrating his pioneering exploration of pictorial structure. Great works of Van Gogh were also featured, including, a Self-Portrait, the colorful Bedroom at Arles and my sister Mary's favorite, Starry Night over the Rhone. I kept trailing a learned "art critic" who was avidly explaining the paintings to her friends. I learned so much from her, like how the chair in Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles was blocking the door, the simplicity of the floor and the who the pictures were in the frames. She said that Van Gogh was in depression during this times and ostracized himself from the world which led to his eventual suicide.

One of my favorite pointillist painters, Georges Seurat was also featured. My favorite was Model in Profile. His paintings are light and dreamy from afar, but when you go near the painting, you'll notice that all the strokes are in dots. It must have taken him a long time to finish one painting considering that a hundred thousand dots would be required for one work. Paul Gaugain's influential position is also represented through ten of his superb works like the Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ and the Tahitian scene Arearea. Toulouse-Latrec also makes an appearance with bold The Lady Clown Cha-U-Kao and the contrastingly intimate, The Bed.

Other artist prominent artists featured in the exhibit include Monet, Signac, Denis, Moreau, Bonnard and Vuillard (the Le Nabis), and Henri Rosseau. His Snake Charmer was mystifying. Expansive canvases by the Nabis created a tapestry-like environment, filling the gallery space with the gaiety painted light and flat patterned color. It was truly a visual treat.

Riding a cab on our way home, I saw Ludwig van Beethoven's statue in front of the California Academy of Sciences building. We told the cab driver to stop cause I need to have myself pictured beside my musical idol. We alighted, and my sister took some pictures- which brings us back to my first statement. At the back of the life-like statue, I placed the Art Cube which I purchased from the Museum store before posing for pictures. I never got it back.

On our way to the airport for home, it suddenly dawned on me that the Art Cube was left at the Golden Gate Park. I sat at the pre-departure area dismayed and rode the plane for 16 hours thinking and dreaming about life, my wife and kids, the paintings and the Art Cube.

When we arrived two days later, my sister posted on her FB wall- "dorky brother, we found your cube"....

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Sixth Floor Museum, JFK and Assassinated Composers and Lyricist

Today marks the 47th anniverary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, which took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding with his wife Jacqueline in a Presidential motorcade. God bless his soul...

I was fortunate to have visited the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas which is located on the sixth and seventh floors of an early 20th-century warehouse known in 1963 as the Texas School Book Depository. Opened on Presidents Day 1989, the Museum has since welcomed more than 6 million visitors from around the world—people of all ages seeking information and understanding about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The museum tours are self-guided. After the tour, JFK memorabilia is sold at the museum store near the entrance. I was able to get a sticker magnet which showed JFK on a postage stamp.

An assassination is the targeted killing of a public figure, usually for political purposes. Assassinations may be prompted by religious, ideological, political, or military reasons. Additionally, assassins may be motivated by financial gain, revenge, or personal public recognition. Assassination may also refer to the government-sanctioned killing of opponents or to targeted attacks on high-profile enemy combatants.

In figurative language usage, the word assassination may also be used in colloquial speech as a hyperbole, as in the phrase "character assassination", meaning an attempt to impugn another character, and thus kill ("assassinate") his reputation and credibility.

The word assassin is derived from the Arabic word Hashshashin, referred to the Persian designation of the Nizari branch of the Ismā'īlī Shia under the instruction of Hassan aṣ-Ṣabbaḥ during the Middle Ages. They were active in the fort of Alamut in Iran from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries. This group killed members of the Arab Abbasid, Seljuq and crusaders élite for political and religious reasons, but mostly targeted the knights Templar and the ruling Sunni kings in the name of the Fatimid Shia Sultans of Egypt. Later, after Egypt became Sunni during the campaigns of Saladin, Assassins continued on their own account.

The earliest known literary use of the word assassination is in Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605).

Some of the anthem composers who were killed, shot or assassinated include Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), Amilcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissau), Juan Jose Landaeta, Nie Er of China (suspected- drowning) and Barthelemy Boganda of Central African Republic (suspected- plane crash).

The stamp above was issued by Niger in 1998 to commemorate John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Falling for Napa

A week ago, my wife and I were in California to attend the wedding of our beautiful youngest sister, Mary Elizabeth Avanzado (Tambis). One of our side-trips was a visit to quaint yet intoxicating Napa Valley, a grape-growing region located in Napa County, California, USA. Considered one of the top wine regions in the United States, it is one of only nine Great Wine Capitals on earth, with a history dating back to the nineteenth century.

After a smooth hour and a half ride from Sacramento, we were taken to the picturesque countryside of Napa, a place vibrant with colors of amber, green and crimson. The shades of the flora were changing, and the leaves falling fast, signifying that winter is around the corner. The air was sweetly aromatic and the temperature comfortably cool. We arrived around 2 pm and had a late lunch at a/k/a Bistro in downtown St. Helena. We were greeted in a bustling bar area and comfy lounge serving up handmade cocktails which won them Diner's Choice award last year.

The setting is sophisticated yet casual with butter-cream walls, concrete floors, twig-wrapped light pendants, an eco-friendly fireplace and a soaring wall of wine. a|k|a Bistro also features one of the most compelling wine lists in the Napa Valley, with 50 wines by the glass and 500 on the list. "The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.", read the front page menu. I feasted on the succulent steak, crispy portobello fries with basil aioli and calamari. After the sumptuous meal, we visited some wineries and nostalgic vineyards for posterity. Four types of wine were tasted at the BV winery. My favorite was the one grown at the Creek. The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography and geology of The Valley are conducive to growing quality wine grapes.

John Patchett established the Napa Valley's first commercial vineyard in 1858. In 1861 Charles Krug established Napa Valley's first commercial winery in St. Helena. Viticulture, the science of grape-growing, in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine - equal to that of Old World wine regions.

Napa Valley is a very popular tourist destination in California with almost 4.5 million visitors yearly. It is also "The World's Best Wine and Food Destination" as awarded by Trip Advisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards. You don't have to be a wine lover to love this place. If you love beauty and you love life then you'll surely love this enchanting place- I surely did.