Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Presentation at the Conference and Half Day Tour of Old Manila

Saturday, January16, 2016

Up and Awake:
     I am still keeping Indian time so jetlag continues to keep me fast asleep in the small hours of the morning. I awoke without setting an alarm for 7. 15 am, washed and went down for breakfast in the lobby of Lotus Garden Hotel which was basically a repeat of yesterday--omlette with ham and pineapple, coffee, fresh fruit. I hop into the Shuttle Bus at 8.45 am that takes us to the Manila Hotel, our conference venue and am there by 9.00 in time to listen to a plenary session on nations that are troubled by issues of terrorism. I learn a lot about the recruitment of young people by ISIS from countries like Indonesia. There is a session about the Muslims of the Philippines--Islam reached this nation before Christianity did. Hence, in the south of the country, Islam is a very vigorous presence and most of its practitioners are farmers. The Q&A session that followed was predictably contentious but did not get too uncomfortable. A Coffee break followed--little fruit tarts were served with it and they were both very welcome as I started to have serious nervous pangs in preparation for my session which followed at 11.00 am.

Making My Presentation:
     My presentation was at 11.00 am and by 10. 45, I was up in the room in which it was to be held. I met the Chairperson, Channay Sak-Humphrey from the University of Hawai'i, and the three other panelists of which one was from China and two others from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.  There were about 30 people in the audience and several walked in and out as the presentations continued. I was the second presenter and, as often happens, once I got to the podium, my nerves calmed down and I was quite confident as it progressed. I got quite a few laughs as I had inserted several jokes into my talk and since I was speaking directly to the audience rather than reading from a paper, it seemed somehow rather more interactive than most conference presentations are. The other participants used Powerpoint--I did not as I still believe that it can be very distracting.
     At the end of the presentations, there were questions and I had a few addressed to me. I have to say that overall I felt the audience were able to relate to a lot of what I said about preparing American students for jobs in the Asian work place by acculturating them to Oriental social expectations and norms. When the session ended at 12. 30, in time for another one of our humongous lunches, I had the great pleasure of being seated with a man who attended my session. We were able to continue our discussion during lunch and it was while I was eating that another couple came up to me. They too had attended my presentation. The man introduced himself to be as the Director of the International Education Program at Hong Kong Baptist University and he gave me his card and invited me to come to his university and give a series of talks on the subject I had covered. I was really and truly gratified and thanked him very sincerely. It might definitely be something I would consider doing in the next year.
     Lunch was finished by 1. 30 pm --another buffet affair with an abundance of dishes and really tempting desserts. And then it was time for those of us who had signed up for the sight-seeing tours to go out into the lobby to meet our tour guides and board our respective coaches.  Three different tours had been offered: Old Manila, Modern Manila and Technological Advances in Manila. Being the history buff I am, I had chosen the Old Manila Tour and since there were about 100 of us on this tour, we had three coaches that followed each other as we departed at 1. 45 pm.

On ATour of Old Manila:
     The tour guide on our coach was called Tom. He introduced himself and told us that our tour would begin at the National Museum where we'd be met by another guide who would give us a Highlights Tour. As it turned out, he led the driver to the wrong place--to the National Museum of the Filipino People (the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology) when, in fact, he was supposed to take us across the street to the National Museum of Fine Arts. Needless to say, I was thrilled that we ended up in the Fine Arts Museum where we spent the next hour.

Manila's National Museum of Fine Arts:
     Our guide at the Museum was a very young boy who turned out to be amazingly competent for his age. He had his work cut out for him as he had to introduce us to the museum's highlights in one hour. There were two floors and he started at the ground floor with two monumental paintings in a single room--one on the Assassination of Governor-General Bustamente by Hidalgo--a really huge painting with the most dramatic realism as to be deeply stirring. It depicts a very historic event in Filipino history (the murder of the Spanish Governor-General who was sent by the King of Spain to find out what the Catholic Friars were doing in the Philippines and to report to him. When Bustamente found out that the friars were a corrupt bunch and when he attempted to set them right, they murdered him in cold blood together with his son who tried to defend him. Did I mention that these were Catholic priests?) Well...
     The second painting is by Juan Luna, considered one of the greatest classical painters of the country. He studied Art in Paris during the mid-19th century and painted the Spoliarium, a depiction of the manner in which slaughtered gladiators and their remains were treated in the Roman Colisseum after their fights with wild animals. This painting won the first place in the Art Exhibition in Madrid and made Luna a celebrated name. The Filipinos are justly proud of him and on the upper floors of the museum, there are a vast number of examples from his repertoire--all of which I found very appealing.
     The tour then took us to the upper floors where we saw more contemporary works in the Cubist style--vast series of them that were spread out over several galleries that encompass the lives of the people and their history. We also saw sculpture and although the guide moved quickly, it was a very good introduction to these artists and their contribution to the cultural life of the country.
     Finally, the tour ended with a visit to the main room which was once occupied by the Senate of the Nation. It had marvelous bas-relief carvings on the crown moldings at the top that depicted international figures that have contributed to Law and Legal Studies. I found this room and their artistic achievement quite stunning.
     Our tour ended and we re-boarded the bus and made our way to the most historic part of Manila known as Intramurros--which, in Spanish, means 'Within The Walls'. Indeed, we passed through extraordinarily thick stone walls of the city--apparently built of baked volcanic ash--and entered the area know as Fort Santiago ('Fort St. James' in Spanish). Incidentally, the patron saint of the Philippines is the Virgin Mary.
Discovering Fort Santiago:
     Fort Santiago is the very heart of Intramurros and is a lovely sprawling space filled with greenery, tall tropical trees and lilting fountains. The general history of the place was explained to us and then we were told to await the arrival of a young Filipino man named Carlos Cedran who has gained a sterling reputation in these parts as an actor who gives walking tours for which one has to sign up well in advance as they fill us very quickly. We were fortunate then to have been able to get him to take us on a walking tour of the area.
    The idea is simply that he presents a multi-faceted act that includes a rather brilliant monologue based on a script that he has probably written himself. It is a very witty script and includes a great deal of humor. He acts, he sings, he shouts, he dances, he laughs, he mimes. Meanwhile, he literally 'walks' you through the history of the country by taking you from one section to the next of the Fort,wearing various hats and using various portable props to boost his performance.
     He is irreverent about everything and spares no one. He begins in 1521 with the arrival of the first Spaniard Ferdinand Magellan on his circumnavigation of the globe--he was eventually killed in the Philippines--and the role of Lepgazpi which gave rise to the Spanish Galleon trade. From there he moved on to  rebellion against the Spaniards especially by Jose Rizal who wrote anti-Spanish novels such as Noli Mi Tangere and was imprisoned and executed for his pains. He is considered the national hero of the Philippines and there is a national monument to him in a park that is named after him, Rizal Park, which is very close to our hotel and which we pass by each day. His remains are now interred at the base of this monument. The monologue then moved on to the 400 years under Spanish rule when the country is said to have lived in a convent. This Christianization of the nation has made it the third largest Catholic country in the world after Brazil and Mexico--and probably the most devout.
    The act then moves on to talk about the arrival of the Americans especially the role played by General MacArthur. I learned that it ended with the near-destruction of Manila by the Japanese who attacked the city at the same time that they attacked Pearl Harbor. Hence, almost all of Manila today is a post-World War II reconstruction. The Americans brought rock and roll and jazz, modern electricity and appliances and public school education--which is why although the Philippines was never a British colony, English is spoken here very widely (not Spanish). Eventually, the Filipinos got their independence from the Americans and asserted their own identity despite a history marked by bloody wars and insurgency.
      Carlos ended his act at the Church of San Augustin, the oldest church in East Asia which is still standing and was spared destruction by war bombs. The city also has the oldest university in the East, UST or the University of San Thomas which was founded by the Jesuits in the early 1500s--which makes it older than Harvard. Saturday evening mass was going on by the time we arrived there --together with wedding nuptials--and we could not enter. I decided I would go there for Sunday Mass tomorrow.

Finishing with a Halo-Halo:
     Needless to say, I was thrilled that Carlos finished his tour with a Halo-Halo (which literally means Mix-Mix) at a very cute period restaurant where he used the national dessert to talk about the inter-racial mixing that has occurred in this country amongst the Chinese, Spanish and Americans resulting in a mestizo or population of mixed racial descent. He pointed out why there is no such thing as pure Filipino blood and why all the Filipinos look slightly different--different shades of skin, differing prominence of slanting eyes, etc. It was all very interesting and this bit of the act was accompanied by the consumption of a Halo-Halo that was served to each of us as we made ourselves comfortable on seats in a typical Spanish hacienda sort of inner courtyard garden attached to a restaurant that serves traditional Filipino food.
     Overall, Carlos' act was marvelous and I thought we were very fortunate to catch it--although it lasted almost three hours, we did not find it too taxing (and there were some very elderly people among us). We piled back into our buses at which point I hooked up with Jessica, a Professor at the University of Oklahoma, whom I have just gotten to know. She mentioned that she too would like to go to Mass at the San Augustin Church and we made plans to meet at 9. 30 am tomorrow in the lobby of the Manila Hotel.
A La Carte Dinner at Ilang-Ilang Restaurant:
     Meanwhile, because our conference did not include dinner this evening, I joined Jessica and another delegate from San Diego named Claire to have dinner at one of the restaurants attached to the Manila Hotel. I decided to try something typically Filipino and ended up with a vast dish of thick rice noodles with pork and shrimp which was flavored with a small sour lime called Kalamassi and Chinese chili sauce. It was okay--nothing to shout about. Best of all was the opportunity to interact and get to know other delegates and get their impressions of the Convention, the walking tour and their work as scholars.

Back to my Hotel to Bed:
 I left my friends still at dinner at about 9.00 pm and asked the concierge at the Manila Hotel to get me a taxi that then took me back to my hotel where I went straight to my room, had a shower and to bed. It had been a long but very fruitful day and I was quite pleased to sink under the covers and go straight to sleep.
     Until Tomorrow....     

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