Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gangsa Style (not Gangnam Style)

With the help of BIBBAK Illinois members and family; we recently created the video, "Igorot GANGSA STYLE - PSY Gangnam Style Parody."  The following information expounds on its history, the filming process and its purposes.


Sometime in August, I received a facebook message from our present Vice-President of BIBBAK Illinois, Gerald Batanes, suggesting that we do the Gangnam Style dance at our BIBBAK-IL Christmas party.  The idea really didn't interest me at the time, but I kept it in the back of me head because we dads of BIBBAK-IL needed to come up with a performance that either met or exceeded last year's "Evolution of Dance" Christmas party performance.  Nearly three months passed and we still didn't have any ideas for the Christmas party, other than Gerald's suggestion.

On November 3rd, the officers of BIBBAK-IL had a meeting to begin finalizing our plans for the December 1st Christmas party.  Gerald brought up the idea of us fathers doing a Gangnam Style parody dance, but the timing was bad.  The dads who were part of last year's performance had conflicting schedules and we simply didn't have the time to adequately prepare for such an endeavor.

A week passed and we dads were still without a performance.  Then one day I sat down to watch the Gangnam Style video on Youtube.  As I watched it, ideas of us dads doing crazy things in our wanes / bahag (g-strings) danced across my mind.  With less than 2 weeks before the Christmas party, the dads who were available met at various times and locations to film footage for the video.


The first attempt to film footage was suppose to take place on the Metra train going to Chicago from the Naperville suburb, but only one person was there at the train station to meet me.  Needless to say, it was cancelled.  However, the Igorot in me refused to give up so I threw my wanes into my backpack, hopped on my bicycle, boarded the train by myself and headed out to downtown Chicago.  

It was 42 degrees at the time, but the lakefront winds made it seem much colder.  My first stop was at our famous Buckingham Fountain where I failed in getting strangers to participate in the video mainly because there were so few people out that day.  I biked 13 kilometer to the Jackson Park Pier where I changed into my wanes.

Only a fisherman and I were crazy enough to be out on the pier that day.  I set up the tripod and camcorder and waited for an opportunity to shoot some footage.  Eventually a man walked by me and I asked him if he had a moment to spare.  When I told him I would drop my pants down in front of him to reveal my native attire, his eyes opened wide as he looked at me like I was crazy.  Thankfully, he saw the humor in it and volunteered to stand there while I did my thing.  

The second attempt to film turned out much better.  Five of us dads, my son and his friend drove out to the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, IL.  When I asked staff member inside the stables if we could film footage, she had us wait until she could get approval over the phone from her superior.  When she asked me who we were and what we were filming, I told her we were a group of native Indians who were doing a short documentary.

Fortunately, they had no problem with it.  In fact, one of the staff members engaged one of the other dads and I in a short conversation about our "tribe."  

"Oh, I love the native Indians," she began.  "What tribe are you from?"

"We're not as well known as the Appache or Mohicans, but we're from a small scattered tribe called Igorot," I quickly responded.

The conversation eventually led to whether we rode our horses with saddles or bare back.  That's when I had to come clean and tell her we were actually native highlanders from the Philippines.  Luckily, she became more amused and wanted to know more about us.

After filming at Danada, we drove to the Navistar corporate building in Warrenville, IL.  Knowing there were cameras and security guards inside watching our every move, we quickly darted out our cars and ran to the front where we shot some short but funny footage.  We all laughed as cars passed us on the road and honked their horns.  The day ended at the Korean Chodung Tofu Village restaurant, where we enjoyed great Korean food and more filming.

Our third opportunity to film took place on Thanksgiving Day where we BIBBAK-IL members participated in the McDonalds Thanksgiving Day Parade in downtown Chicago.  It was another cold morning in the mid 40's and it felt even colder wearing my wanes.  It was an opportunity we didn't want to miss especially since we knew there would be approximately 400,000 pedestrians watching from the the streets and nearly 7 million from their televisions.  

We were lucky to have had the opportunity to film footage with the well renowned Jesse White Tumblers, Barefoot Hawaiian dancers, a Star Wars Stormtrooper from the 501st Legion Midwest Garrison and fellow Highlanders from Poland; not to mention pictures with Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White.

We eventually made it to Buckingham Fountain to film more footage.  Other places included the IKEA store in Bolingbrook, IL, Bolingbrook Public Library and the VFW Hall in Berwyn, IL.

Music & Video

A couple weeks prior to our first filming of footage, I watched many Gangnam Style parodies on Youtube.  One after another, people were using the original Korean version of the song.  I really began scratching my head when a group of southern men, who calls themselves Rednecks, were also using the Korean version.  It just didn't seem right to be wearing our wanes / bahags and dancing to a Korean song. 

I contacted my cousin's son in California, Sam Malabato, to ask if he would create the lyrics of a new song in our native language, Kankanaey.  He not only wanted to do the writing, but he was also excited to sing.  According to him, it was a difficult task.  One night he messaged me on facebook saying, "Uncle it's hard!!!"  This didn't worry me because I knew he possessed the Igorot in him to persevere as he does in football. 

While Sam worked on the lyrics and vocals, I tried contacting a local friend, who is a professional sound engineer, to help with the music and sounds.  He was unable to help so I reached out to my son, Josh, to help.  He's only a senior in high school, but the things he can do with sound, video and graphics  just amazes me!

Not Just a Parody

If you watch all of the Gangnam Style parodies on Youtube, you won't see any that actually promotes something with substance; something that sends a good message out to people that will help them become the best they can be.  The closest one I saw was the one done by the U.S. Naval Academy.

I wanted to do something that can help people connect to their heritage, especially us Igorots.  All too often, I see young Igorots here in America get too caught up with trying to be "American" that they either forget or never connect to their heritage.  Those of you who know me by now, know that I feel strongly about drawing from the intangible and tangible qualities of our ethnic origins so that we can become the best we can be in all aspects of our lives.  

Even though, our video is filled with querky and funny footage, I hope it sends a message out to all Igorots that we have a wonderful culture that we can learn from and incorporate into our everyday modern lives.  I also hope it does the same to all ethnic groups.  

Igorot GANGSA STYLE (click on lower bottom right corner to watch on Youtube/full screen)


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Outreach to Donna

Northeast America was recently pummeled by Hurricane Sandy.  New York and New Jersey continue to suffer greatly.  According to Reuters:
"At least 121 people have perished in the storm, which caused an estimated $50 billion in property damage and economic losses and ranks as on of the most destructive natural disasters to hit the U.S. Northeast."
People from as far as California have left their hometowns to help those devastated by the storm.  When I hear about these acts of love & compassion, I am reminded about what ties many of us Americans together - our citizenship as Americans.    I am also reminded of how little my personal challenges in life are compared to the thousands in the Northeast.  With all of the havoc Sandy has caused, it's hard to think about others in need elsewhere.

Well, just this evening I received a message from a fellow writer/blogger, Christian Aligo, back home in the Philippines about a young lady in need.  I didn't take it seriously at first.  In fact, my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss it because it seems like everyone is in need these days.  Then I read the post he wrote and suddenly I felt like a Californian wanting to help a New Yorker thousands of miles away.

I say this because she happens to be Igorot, and her family is from Guinzadan, Bauko, Mountain Province in the Philippines; the same place my parents and relatives are from.  I don't know her or her family, but there's that sense of citizenship that compels me to write this hoping that it will reach others who are in a position to help this young lady.

Source: Christian Lizardo Aligo Blog

The name of the young lady is Donna Canuto Cuaresma, but rather than tell you about her myself, I will share what my friend Christian Aligo wrote about her in his blog post.  It reads:
"Donna Canuto Cuaresma, 20, was once a dance trainer of the youth in Isabela, Philippines. She was also president of a religious youth organization in her community.
"Donna was an active athlete in the field of dancing while high school," added Rufina Canuto Kilip, Donna's aunt, on crowd-sourcing site Indegogo. 
However her liveliness turned gray when she was diagnosed with Stage 5 Chronic Kidney disease secondary to Lupus Nephritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks normal body tissues.  The illness has already affected her heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Donna's kidneys have deteriorated and a transplant is needed to save her life.
She is having a regular dialysis at St. John Biocare and at the Dialysis Center in Quezon City.  She also does workups for the needed transplant at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.
According to her aunt, Donna is undergoing dialysis three times a week and each session costs P3, 400 [$82.67].  Moreover, she needs P20,500/month [$498.48] for her medicines.  For her kidney transplant, she needs at least P150,000 [$3647.41]. 
Donna's mother Maximina Babtoog Canuto-Cuaresma is originally from Bagnen and Guinsadan, Bauko, Mountain Province.  She teaches at Quezon Public High School.
"We have spent all our savings and not to mention of the number of debts we have, shared Rugina who manages the online fund-raising event.  We also solicited financial help from friends and relatives."
In an update posted November 12, rufina narrated that "Her sister is the one with her now in the hospital to look after her while it's her school semestrar break for her mom is going back to work starting today.  When Donna's sister goes back to school next week, their dad will take over to look after her."
I come to knock at the door of people with open heart to give," appeals Rufina. 
For more information, including where to send financial support, please go directly to Christian Lizardo Aligo's original blog post at:  http://goo.gl/Qy2J9

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tim Tebow: Understanding the Spin and Seeing the Bigger Picture

On the morning of February 03, 2012, ESPN aired an interview that featured Tim Tebow. In it, ESPN's Skip Bayless did not focus on Tebow's highly criticized throwing motion or his ability as an NFL quarterback. Given the limited amount of air time the interview was allotted, he knew he needed to cut through these superficial topics and get right down to what has made Tebow the most polarizing athlete of 2011. Next to politics, there's nothing more that polarizes Americans than the topic of religion. Recognizing this fact, ESPN chose a snippet of the interview in its thirty one second teaser commercial that featured Skip Bayless asking Tebow, "How much of a role does God play in winning or losing a football game?"

In the interview, Tebow responded by saying, "That's a good question. I think for me . . . when I'm praying before games and during games, when I get on my knees in what's become Tebowing . . . I'm asking the Lord for strength whether I win or I lose, whether I'm the hero or the goat; I'm still gonna be the same person. I'm gonna treat others the way I want to be treated. I'm gonna do my best and I'm gonna do what's right and regardless, I'm gonna give Him the glory, and part of taking a knee is humbling yourself and it's a form of showing humility where you're putting someone else first and putting the Lord first, and that's why I do it. . . More than anything, more than asking for wins and losses - I'm asking that I have a platform to honor Him."

Bayless went on to say, "So bottom line, you don't think that God decides football games," and Tebow responded, "You know, I think God is involved in every aspect of our life." Bayless continued, "Or is it beyond you to know?"

"It's absolutely beyond me to know," replied Tebow. "I think God's in every aspect of our life, regardless, and I think the greatest thing is if we are honoring Him with what we do."

This was the best piece of media I've seen about Tim Tebow all year. Skip Bayless did a remarkable job, especially with the way he conducted the interview with a sense of fairness that hasn't been given to Tebow since entering the NFL. Rather than talk about all of his great attributes, mainstream society has preferred to surround him with controversy, which has been spearheaded by the media. Nobody understands controversy better than the media. Instead of taking an objective look at Tebow's admirable character traits and promote him as a great role model for people, the media chose to bask in the controversy surrounding "Tebowmania" and "Tebowing."

Wherever there is controversy, be sure that a trail of money follows it. For the media and profiteers to create a win-win scenario for themselves, they knew that it is as simple as igniting controversy by creating a love-him or hate-him attitude toward Tebow and fueling it with anything they can dig up on him. Knowing that there needs to always be a catalyst provoking both extreme feelings, the media remains relentless on spinning the public's mind. The more people they can spin to either extreme, the more money there is to be made.

Whether people realize it or not, they fuel the media's spin cycle by choosing either sides of the Tebow spectrum. Even I realize that by writing this article; I too am feeding the flames of controversy. In order for people to keep from fueling the media's spin, they would have to totally cut themselves off from the media or find the middle ground. Neither is something the media would like to see happen, especially the latter. When someone chooses the middle ground, they realize that there is neither hate nor love, but rather a sincere appreciation for the man and his character. This can be damaging for the media because they and their ulterior motives are exposed, and when this happens, their flaming profits begin to smolder; all the more reason why they continuously need to find good and bad things to spin.

Take for example, Tebowing, which is one of the biggest things fueling their spin. Just so you know, Tim Tebow isn't the first football player to kneel and pray in public or on a football field. During his February 01, 2012 appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, he made this same statement to everyone watching. Interestingly enough, NFL.com also released recent a video called "The Book of Tebow," which clearly points this out.

Personally speaking, I have seen players do this long before Tebow. My first recollection of this happening was sometime during the 1978 NFL season when I saw Roger Staubach kneel and pray on the sideline during one of their games. As an elementary school kid, I was captivated by the sight of number 12 praying. There was something about seeing one of the best quarterbacks of that time praying on the field that shed a positive light on the act of praying. I remember how my love for the Cowboys immediately shifted to my admiration for Roger Staubach because of it.

From that point on, I made it a point to always look for magazines that featured Staubach whenever I was at a grocery store with my parents or at the public library. One day, I scrounged up a dollar and some change to buy my first and most memorable magazine - the September 04, 1978 edition of Sports Illustrated that featured Staubach on its cover with the words "Roger Staubach, Straight Arrow of the Cowboys."

It was the first thing I had ever read that made an inspirational impact on my life. I read it over and over again. I admired the kind of man he was because of how he always went to church, performed good deeds for others, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was a Heisman Trophy winner and one of the better quarterbacks at the time who kept winning games, often times coming from behind in the last quarter. Sound familiar? As a kid, I wanted to be like Staubach. When my friends and I played street football, I always pretended to be Staubach. Although football never became a vocational occupation for me, the image of Staubach and what he meant to me as a kid still resonates with me today.

When Tim Tebow was captured on film doing what Roger Staubach and many others before and after him did on their knee, such as Reggie White, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees (to name a few), Tebow was unfairly deemed as the creator of the popularized "Tebowing" act. I use the word unfairly because Tebowing, as most people understand it, is probably far from what Tebow would like it to be portrayed as. On the recent Jimmy Fallon show, he admitted that he is flattered by the sight of people imitating him on his knee, but I seriously doubt that it was his intent to make it into the novelty it is today. Kudos to those who actually pray when Tebowing in a picture, but I seriously doubt most people whose Tebowing pictures appear in the media and internet are actually praying. Also, I highly doubt that the people who coined the term and image of "Tebowing" were trying to encourage and promote prayer. There's a big difference between the conversations Tebow has with God on his knee and the superficial act of imitating him for any other reason than to pray.

The controversy surrounding Tebowing is unparalleled in the sporting world because it not only provokes controversy from non-believers, but it also rubs many Christians the wrong way. It's not unusual to see comments from Christians who attack and chastise Tebow with scriptures like Mathew 6:5-6, which speaks against public prayer. Such attacks are an added bonus for the media. After all, what could be better than having Christians and non-believers going at it? That's right, Christians fighting amongst themselves. Again, people tend to miss the bigger picture when they're caught up in the spin.

After the interview first aired on ESPN's First Take show, Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and Jay Crawford had a discussion in where Smith, a huge critic of Tebow, came close to seeing the bigger picture, but managed to miss it in the end. After sincerely stating his appreciation for Tebow, Smith went on to say, "They're using him. When you talk about Tebowmania and the critics per say, what they're talking about is - you want us to be just like him. And a lot of people ain't. They could feel their love for God is sincere and it's deep, but they ain't him . . . When you look at a guy like Tim Tebow, you understand that he is legitimate with how he approaches it, but you fear that the public at large that supports him, support him not just because they like him, but because they want to use him as an example of what they want the rest of us to be. . . and so when Tim Tebow is out there and he's Tebowing and things of that nature, I'm not faulting him for it, but I don't want him to think that he has critics because of him. He has critics because of what his supporters want everyone else to be, and that's where the resistance comes because a lot of people on their best day cannot be that young man. They can't be him."

Then almost instantly, Skip Bayless brought Smith closer to the bigger picture by quickly responding, "But he is a pretty good role model." At which Smith replied, "Yeah great - fantastic - no doubt."

Only when one removes himself or herself from the spin of it all can one come to a middle ground, which is an understanding about Tebow that earns a true sense of appreciation, no matter how one feels about him as a football player. In order to come to this level of appreciation, all one has to do is learn more about him as a person, and people can do this by simply reading his book, "Through my Eyes." Those who have read it will see why people like Chuck Norris, Tony Dungy, Urban Meyer and Darius Rucker have rave reviews for it, but most importantly, they will come to know that there is much more about him than what the media portrays.

Times have drastically changed since Roger Staubach's days. Back then, families weren't as fragmented, role models were much more sought after, social Marxism and political correctness were at its infancy stages and a person's faith wasn't attacked in such a frequent and hostile manner as these days. If Tim Tebow were to have played in the NFL back then, he wouldn't have had the level of controversy surrounding him because of Staubach. The similarities that they share would not have diluted Tebow's uniqueness.

Both are known for their fourth quarter comebacks (Staubach was nicknamed "Captain Comeback" and the Broncos' fourth quarter is known as "Tebow time"); both ran headfirst into their opponents, both of their lives don't end at the goal line, both have a global perspective on life thanks to their experiences oversees (Vietnam for Staubach and Philippines for Tebow), both are incredible humanitarians and most importantly - they both are strong in their Christian faith and they aren't afraid to share it with others. These similarities would have likely resulted in the absence of Tebowing and what is now known as the Tebow phenomenon. Also, Tebow would have probably been surrounded with miniscule controversy compared to that which surrounds him today. At the most, he would have been placed alongside Staubach as another NFL quarterback that contrasted the womanizing and overly egotistical likes of Joe Namath.

Unfortunately for Tebow, he isn't afforded such luxury of playing football in the 1970's. Instead, he has to live in an era where Christian values are constantly threatened, and greed, vanity and selfishness are at an all time high.

If more people would step outside of the spin and remove their love-him or hate-him lens; they will realize how wrong the media is for trying to get people to think that they have to be just like Tebow to be a good person and how wrong they are for attacking him because he tries to honor God in whatever he does. They will also see that the scriptures used to persecute him actually share the same realm with the likes of Mathew 5:14-16, which tells us to be the light, and Mathew 7:1-5, which tells us not to judge. Without the tainted lenses, controversy can be replaced with clarity.

Clearly, not everyone is suppose to be just like Tebow by doing goodwill acts of grandeur, such as missionary work oversees or building hospitals, but it doesn't hurt to strive for such things. The bigger picture about Tebow has to do with heart and character - something the world needs more of. True appreciation for him comes when we realized that the world can become a better place when people, especially children, have someone to look up to as a role model who inspires them to choose good over bad and to use their own God given talents and gifts for the greater good.

In the end, everyone has their own platform; there are those who have much smaller and simpler platforms and there are those with bigger platforms than Tebow's. The most important thing about Tebow is that he is helping people discover their platform and then encourages them to use it to help others by living an exemplary life.