Saturday, November 14, 2015


Pictured with Filipino national artist, BenCab and Hersley-Ven Casero at CHROMATEXT Rebooted art opening. - Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero and Annabelle Lee Adriano
On Friday November 6, I attended the opening for "CHROMATEXT Rebooted" at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Manila with Hersley-Ven Casero.  Curated by Jean Marie Syjuco and Krip Yuson, "CHROMATEXT Rebooted" is a revival show from 2007, themed around visual representations tied to literature.  Joining 130 artists from the Philippines, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Singapore, featured a mix of collaborations between visual artists and writers.  Highlights include: rubbing elbows with renowned national artists, like BenCab and guest of honor, Cirilo F. Bautista; the live dance and percussion performance by Agnes Arellano and Billy Bonnevie; and the jazzy, spoken word acknowledgements by Krip Yuson.  Hersley was one of the few artists to represent Dumaguete among Kitty Taniguchi, Annabelle Lee Adriano, and Elle Divine.    This evening marked a pivotal moment in Hersley's art career, not everyone gets the opportunity to show at the CCP, especially those lying outside the Manila arts network.  This was Hersley's first time, which bodes well for his career and for the province.  Hersley exhibited current works from his Stone series, which stood out for their minimal quality and meticulous detail.  The curator's daughter hand-picked Hersley's Stones and placed them next to her artwork because she liked them so much.  The art opening was a refreshing way to travel outside of Dumaguete for a memorable night of art appreciation.  It was an honor to attend and be around the talented group of artists.

CHROMATEXT Rebooted runs through January 17, 2016. 

Read the post in PhilStar 
Krip Yuson

Standing next to Hersley-Ven Casero's artworks from his Stone series.  Hersley's series is inspired by the semi-precious stones I brought from the U.S. as gifts for Filipino friends. - Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero and Annabelle Lee Adriano
Pictured with Annabelle Lee Adriano and other art patrons. - Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero
Ribbon cutting with guest of honor, national artist Cirilo F. Bautista and BenCab. - Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero
One of the many collaborations featuring visual artists and writers.
Performing artist, Billy Bonnevie, was an opening highlight. - Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero
Interior view of the Cultural Center of the Philippines art venue.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Foundation University's Spirit of Bayanihan

Foundation University workers dismantle the platform from collapsed floating pyramid. - Photos courtesy of Hersley Casero
In less than a week, Foundation University workers went to the wreckage site of the collapsed floating pyramid.  Demonstrating the spirit of bayanihan, (a Filipino term referring to a community that comes together to accomplish a great task) 15 workers joined together to tow in the remaining platform and clear the debris washed ashore over the past week.  On Saturday the crew, led by Zorich Guia, the record architect, and Julie Mayoga, Estudio Damgo alumnus, borrowed an inflatable boat to determine the condition of the seaflex anchoring system and the remaining floating platform.  The crew checked all areas of the collapsed structure.  A volunteer diver who worked on the project, looked at the condition under the water and discovered that one of the ropes tied to the seaflex anchor had been severed from an unknown cause.  Above, it appeared the platform broke in two at a construction joint; one of the halves drifted ashore by the force of the waves, the other half stayed anchored to the seaflex.  After determining this, the crew set out on Sunday to tow in the platform and cleanup the debris that continued to wash ashore.  The fish wardens will dive later to take up the seaflex still anchored to the seabed floor.

At the end of the day, it is in the spirit of bayanihan and those returning faces lending a hand in the cleanup, that will be remembered by the community.  It is in the attitudes and dedication, like returning Estudio Damgo alumnus, Julie Mayoga, that reflects back on Foundation University's program saying,

"It's for everybody, I'm doing it on behalf of the Estudio Damgo 3 team that in despite of what had happened we're still committed to our beneficiaries, the barangay, and to the community for a long term partnership." - Julie Mayoga

The cleanup crew in the spirit of bayanihan. - Photos courtesy of Hersley Casero
Zorch Guia, Efren Disor, and two workers atop the floating platform, secure the ropes to tow ashore.
I (Anna Koosmann) assist the end of the human chain to fight the waves while towing in the platform.

Jumping to action, a man leaps from shore to assist the crew.

The spirit of bayanihan.
Platform arrives intact with workers guiding the efforts.
15 workers quickly dismantle the platform to haul off site.
The crew chips away at the platform.

Worker hands off a bamboo pole to Efren Disor.
Hauling off blue barrels that once were tied to the underside of the platform.
Workers swiftly take apart the platform.
A resident from the fishing community grabs an axe to pitch in.
Julie Mayoga, Estudio Damgo alumnus, and I (Anna Koosmann) team up to clear the wreckage from the beach.
All the washed-up mahogany ready to be hauled off site.
Zorich Guia holds up the severed rope that once secured the platform to the anchoring system.
Looking at three, intact ropes and rubber chords that held the platform to the anchoring system.
Zorich Guia, Efren Disor, and Nong Corro suits up to dive the wreckage site.

A mid-morning break, the workers cook up a pot of rice on the beach with canned sardines to keep their energy up for the rest of the cleanup.
Foundation University workers hauling away the blue barrels from the site.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nature Forces Collapse on Floating Pyramid

After the collapse, the raft structure is all that remains of the floating Marine Sanctuary Center, undergoing high tidal waves this past weekend.
The community's concerns that the floating structure would not hold up through typhoon season, were validated this past weekend.  On Saturday evening, October 31, the Marine Sanctuary Center collapsed.  Floating for a short five months since June, the structure was impaired by high tidal waves on Friday and Saturday.  The fishing community observed on Friday, that the waves were higher and stronger, and the tidal forces were putting noticeable strain on the structure.  By Saturday evening, the pyramid fully collapsed (unoccupied) and the pieces were dislodged and washed ashore.  The next morning, eight fish wardens (bantay dagat) collected the washed-up mahogany wall panels and bamboo framing.  On Monday, the director of research, Geraldine, and I went to the site to see the damage.  Upon our approach, Nong Corro, the fish warden president, was towing in the pieces from the collapse.  What remains floating and tied to the anchoring system is the bamboo and barrel raft; however, that too is likely to dismantle as the impaired structure continues to endure tidal forces.

This unfortunate event is evident that the forces of nature (most notably water) are powerful.  And in witnessing such an event, it is our duty as architects to work within our limits for the health, safety, and welfare to serve the general public.  It is important that we learn from this ambitious project; we must design and engineer our structures for lasting positive impact to the community, instead of relishing in short-term achievements.  Estudio Damgo III set out to design, build, and float their structure; and they accomplished just that.  It is in the wake of the aftermath, that we see the value in designing for long-term goals and understand the full objectives for whom the design serves.

Discussions in the university architecture department are underway to remedy this situation swiftly.  We're taking input from the community and salvaging the intact pieces in order to rebuild the structure on firm ground.  A reassuring response by Foundation University President, Victor Sinco, highlights our commitment and partnership with the barangay council and community members, stating:

"It’s unfortunate that the structure collapsed over the weekend. But let’s not despair, part of the project's priorities is to illustrate the sustainability aspects of each project. So let’s get the community to invest some labor while we can provide the materials." - Victor Sinco
Nong Corro, fish warden president, collecting the washed ashore debris from the collapsed structure.
Nong Corro towing in the mahogany wall panel.  Flattened structure remains anchored and floating in the distance.
Mahogany wall panels piled along the road.  Salvaged materials can be used to rebuild the structure on land.
Geraldine peeks inside one of the blue barrels, which had washed ashore.  She is a research biologist and sees that limpets have attached to the barrels where the caps once were, indicating that the barrels had lost there seal for a duration of time, and could be one of the causes of induced strain on the structure.
The photo shows a missing cap to the blue barrel.  Limpets have attached inside the opening, indicating the seals have been missing for a while and barrels would be completely filled with water, putting strain on the structure.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Panaghiusa Multipurpose Visit

Core Shelter residents honor the death of a community member by playing games, eating food, and sharing stories at the multipurpose hall.
Each time I visit Core Shelter community and the multipurpose hall, I learn something new.  Today, I happened to witness an unexpected event.  Foundation U. workers and I were visiting Core Shelter to assess the building condition for maintenance and improvements.  As we approached the community,  residents were gathered at the steps of the multipurpose, playing bingo and eating food.  It appeared as if we stumbled upon a fiesta celebration of sorts.  I soon came to realize after speaking with ma'am Johna David, that two elderly women had passed away within a weeks time of each other, and the residents were using the multipurpose to hold the wake and funeral services.

It is Filipino tradition to honor the death of a loved one by hosting a wake at the family's home.  The casket is typically placed inside the home where family and friends can commune and visit day and night.  Funeral wakes and visitations can last up to two weeks.  They believe in celebrating their life, by playing games and sharing food and conversation while also comforting family members, so that they are not alone.  It is a time of celebration and in this case, Core Shelter homes are very small and it would be cumbersome to have a casket inside the home for so many days.  The multipurpose hall is suited for the residents, friends, and families who will visit over an extended period of time.  The building design is open to receive many visitors, at all hours, without compromising the family's domestic life.  It's great to know that the building has served so many uses for very special occasions.

Funeral casket placed inside the multipurpose.
Foundation worker climbs the ladder to patch a hole in the gutter while the funeral wake activities pursue.
Anna Koosmann (myself) pictured with Johna David.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Buglasan Festival

Buglasan Festival parade and street performance.
Returning back to the Philippines after spending a week in Bali, we were able to catch the parade and fireworks display for the annual Buglasan Festival.   Each year, Dumaguete hosts this annual event bringing together the municipalities that make up Negros Oriental.  The province is the center of agriculture and one of the largest sugar cane growers in the Central Vasayas.  People travel from remote villages, from mountain and seashore, to represent their community.  Each municipality designs their costumes for a winning street dance competition.  Each town incorporates their distinct food or product that represents their community in colorful costume display.   Crowds line the streets to get a good view of these marching performers.  It's quite a show!

This year's winner for best street performance, Sandurot Festival of Dumaguete City.  Dancers with crabs on their backs and open hoop skirts, as crab pots, represents Dumaguete as a fishing port community.
Bright orange and green seahorses were seen bouncing down the streets.
Sea urchins, all in a line, proudly showing their spikes.
Glittery costumes, dance around in the afternoon golden light.

And what better way to end a three-day festival other than with a fireworks display?  Like the street performances, the fireworks shows competed for a grand prize.  An interesting way to get a line up of fireworks display, where the community benefits and the city doesn't have to pay.  For two nights, four separate displays lit the sky on Saturday and Sunday, marking the grand finale to the annual Buglasan Festival, over Dumaguete City's port.

The first batch of fireworks on Saturday night along the Boulevard.
Last batch of fireworks on Sunday night over the port.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Semester Break in Bali, Indonesia

Two Balinese women en route with offerings for a traditional ceremony in Ubud, Bali's cultural center.
For a week, Hersley and I traveled to Bali, Indonesia during Foundation University's semester break.  Finding time to relax and explore another part of Southeast Asia was enriching for both of us.  My interest in Bali perked after seeing Elora Hardy's (founder of Ibuku) inspiring TED talk, "Magical Houses, Made of Bamboo", highlighting their progressive structures and sustainable methods in sourcing, treating and building with bamboo.  Being so close to Bali in the Philippines, I made it a point to see Ibuku's facilities in person with the interest of bringing that knowledge back to FU's architecture program, and a chance to meet Ms. Hardy in person.  The latter never happened, but I was able to take a tour of the facilities, including; Ibuku's bamboo factory and two, Green Village homes.  Unfortunately, no photographs were permitted during the factory tour, nor one of the village homes.  However, you can view their professional photos online at:  

Looking through the circular entry door at Ibuku's central office and visitor's center.
Looking up at a village home interior, features a curvaceous roof and spiral stair.
Looking up inside the spiral stair.
Looking up at a bamboo pendent light fixture.

Green Village inspired our trip, but after discovering Bali's vibrant culture and rituals, our short visit exceeded our expectations. We saw a lot in six days.  Highlights include: exploring Ubud, the cultural center of Bali; attending the Negara Makepung (water buffalo) races; witnessing the annual ceremony at Rambat Siwi Temple; and catching waves in the Indian Ocean.  After absorbing all these events and vibrant places, Bali lingers in my memory on all five senses.  The sights, tastes, smells, textures, and sounds are magical; they stimulate your mind and soul into a transcendent state. I never anticipated to experience a place quite like this, where 80% of the Balinese people authentically practice daily prayers of Hindu origin.  It is common among the Balinese to offer blessings in form of flowers and incense, for all human kind to stay healthy, protected, and prosperous.   These rituals set the tone and permeate throughout Bali and they manifest into a seemingly more peaceful and harmonious lifestyle.  It inspires me to incorporate more beauty and rituals into my life, and generate a positive mindset on a daily basis.

Ubud Traditional Market
Residential entry gateway.  Traditional Balinese homes are designed as an open-air complex; defined by a perimeter wall which clearly separates the public and private spaces to create sacred space.  Balinese people view their homes as temples.
The woman features traditional markings of crushed rice on her forehead and a flower tucked behind the ear.  They are symbols of blessings which are placed after a daily prayer.
Fresh flowers, like hibiscus, are common to see placed on statues and small temples at all corners of the city.  The flowers are a symbol of blessing for the place.
Ubud Palace, a historic place to catch nightly, traditional Balinese performances.
Ubud Palace traditional Balinese performer.

Negara Makepung (water buffalo) races.  The buffalo handler waiting to race.

Thousands from the Negara region assemble along the well-worn path, set in open rice fields, to view the Makepung races.

Charioteer and buffalo racing in action.

Buffalo racing towards a dusty finish.  The winner is determined after two rounds of racing for the shortest time.

Rambat Siwi Temple annual ceremony.  We were very lucky that our hired driver directed us to this ceremony.  There were no other tourists here at this three-day event celebrated only once in a Balinese calendar year, and at only six temples throughout Bali.  This temple was located on the Indian Ocean cliff shoreline.
A grandmother and her grandchildren, playfully posing for a picture.  The girl in yellow, second from the left, was ecstatic upon seeing me (a white American), as if she met a celebrity. Many who made a pilgrim to this temple, came from remote regions, which may have provoked a strong reaction from this young girl.
Xylophones and bells ring a delightful melody throughout the temple complex.  Traditionally, men play the instruments and women perform a dance.  It is uncommon to see a predominant-woman band, like in this image at Rambat Siwi Temple.

The sacred water at Holy Spring Temple in Ubud.

People line up to purify their physical and spiritual well being.

A wall of curling, white waves crashing behind me at Seminyak beach. My first time to dip my toes into the Indian Ocean.  Photo courtesy of Hersley Casero.

Surfing is popular on the West side of Bali and the open waters of the Indian Ocean.

A clean, sandy beach stretches on for miles in Seminyak.

The famous Tanah Lot Temple at dusk during low tide.  One of the top ten tourist destinations of Bali.