Why the Ramon Magsaysay Awards matter

•September 1, 2008 • 1 Comment

By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:51:00 08/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines – The barometer of Asian greatness is supposed to be the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Manila-based recognition that, its organizers lament, is more famous elsewhere in Asian than in its home.

Now 50 years old, the RM Awards are considered by a greater part of the Asian population as the ultimate recognition in the continent. Not so much the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize as even greater than the Europe-based prize.

RM laureates, all 271 of them, including this year’s eight awardees, have been addressing a wide range of human development issues often amid very adverse circumstances.

This year’s winners are the Philippines’ Grace Padaca (government service) and the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (public service), Thailand’s Therdchai Jivacate (also for public service), India’s Prakash Amte and Mandakini Amte (community leadership), Indonesia’s Ahmad Syafii Maarif (peace and international understanding), Akio Ishii from Japan (journalism, literature, and creative communication), and Ananda Galapatti of Sri Lanka (emergent leadership).

They will be conferred on Aug. 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Padaca is recognized for empowering voters of Isabela province to reclaim their democratic right to elect leaders of their own choosing, and to contribute as full partners in their own development.

The CARD-MRI, meanwhile, has provided microfinance for half a million poor women and their families in the Philippines.

Jivacate has provided the poorest amputees with inexpensive, practical, and comfortable artificial limbs made out of recycled plastic.

Meanwhile, the Amte couple helped enhance the capacity of the Madia Gond tribe of India to adapt positively to the contemporary era through healing and teaching.
Maarif, a retired leader of one of Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organizations Muhammadiyah, has dedicated his life in preaching religious tolerance and insisting that terrorism is not the authentic face of Islam.

Ishii is cited for his principled career as a publisher and his attempts to put discrimination, human rights, and other difficult subjects squarely in Japan’s public discourse. He is the first Japanese to win in the category since 1973.

Galapatti is a Cambridge-trained psychologist whose spirited personal commitment brought appropriate and effective psychosocial services to victims of war trauma and natural disasters in Sri Lanka.

The awardees will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President Magsaysay, and $50,000.

RMAF president Carmencita Abella described the winners as pathfinders who chart new ways to address poverty, prejudice, politics, livelihood, and health in their societies but never losing faith in the tremendous potential of people and social institutions for renewal and reforms.

For its 50th year, the RMAF is doing an impact study. Cynthia Bautista, who heads the study project, said that the study would seek to trace the evolution of the awards and assesswhere the awardees are now and what further contributions they have made after being recognized.

Video series

A video series, Ripples of Change, documents the achievements of the laureates. It shows how awardees have been guided by the two “powerful truths” according to the Magsaysay vision: That making significant improvements require a sea-change in mind-sets, systems, and cultures in Asian societies and the region as a whole; and the humbling acknowledgment that all meaningful change begins in some very concrete and specific circumstance, often quietly and inconspicuously, until the initiative gathers force and momentum, resulting into larger and more profound impact.

The video documentary series, Democracy and Good Governance, has so far featured Aruna Roy of India (community leadership, 2000); Jesse Robredo of the Philippines (government service, 2001); Park Won Soon of Korea (public service, 2006); Kiran Bedi of India (1994); Sheila Coronel of the Philippines (journalism, literature, and creative communication arts, 2003), and Teten Masduki of Indonesia (public service, 2005).

Also for the 50th anniversary this year, the RMAF will hold Asia Forum: An International Conference (Changing Asia: Forging Partnerships, Building Sustainability) on Aug 29-30 at the Philippine International Convention Center. Magsaysay laureates from 21 Asian countries will participate in the forum, as well as senior business leaders, and representatives of international development assistance organizations, multilateral institutions, development NGOs, research and academic institutions, government, and media.

Another highlight this year is the first-ever Manila performance of Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theater (see related article).
Over all, the 50th anniversary celebration of Asia’s most important award is expected to reaffirm the vision of the award as glimpsed from the example of the late Philippine president after whom the recognition is named: greatness of spirit wills movement and change.
E-mail the author at dxmatilla@yahoo.com


The Bald Truth

•August 26, 2008 • 7 Comments

Three proven ways to restore your hair, the price to pay, and the truths you must accept now. DEXTER MATILLA lines up your options.

Why is it that when a man starts to lose hair, it’s seen as some form of weakness, a loss of virility, of youth? Thus, with every strand of hair that goes down the drain, so goes a portion of his self-esteem.

According to a survey, over 5 million Filipinos suffer from male pattern hair loss or MPHL (the medical term is androgenic alopecia). Around the world 50% of all men will have MPHL by the time they reach 40. Even teenagers can start experiencing hair loss and it will only progress as they age.

The presence of specialists in the field of natural hair restoration and even of word-of-mouth testimonies on the effectiveness of home-made treatments is proof that men-and women—who suffer from natural hair loss will do anything to make sure their self-esteem remains intact—and rooted deep in their scalps.

Most studies confirm what we’re all likely to know (and fear). Men who start losing their hair experience negative socio-emotional events such as getting teased by peers, feeling they look old, self-consciousness, and envy at good-looking men. Another set of studies, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology adds that men who experience hair loss claimed that they had a less attractive appearance and decreased sexual confidence.


Dermatologist Dr. Adolfo Bormate Jr., Clinical Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), cites the case of worldwide heartthrob Prince William who was reported to be in fear of losing his hair. It is visibly thinning and it runs in the family.

The doctor says, “Here is a man who has everything, royalty, fame, fortune, adoration, yet he is worried about losing his hair.”

Dr. Bormate notes the equation of hair with potency seems to be timeless, as the tale of Samson and Delilah indicates. Whatever its roots, for some men, the onset of hair loss produces a real emotional catastrophe, a source of genuine anguish.

Dr. Bormate was key speaker at the recent launch of ProHAIR (www.prohair.com.ph), an advocacy campaign insighted by MSD, an international pharmaceutical firm that manufactures Propecia (generic name Finasteride), one of two medications proven to re-grow hair. The website aims to provide those with MPHL the proper information and support they need. Think of it as a community of MPHL sufferers who can interact with one another by posting questions and solutions in a forum made especially for them. The website also has a list of accredited doctors who support ProHAIR’s advocacy if ever a member needs to get in touch with a specialist.

A primary point of the advocacy is to prevent men from self-medicating, which is just going to lead to frustration, is a waste of money, can aggravate the condition, or worse. With so many old wives’ tales and snake oils on the Internet and shopping channels, the desperate are easily misled. According to informational material given out during the launch, “Only 216,000 Filipino men with MPHL out of a massive 5.4 million sought treatment options, with ultimately 21,000 receiving medical treatment. It is an alarming statistic, considering that MPHL is a progressive condition, making its sufferer lose 5% of hair each year if it isn’t correctly diagnosed and properly managed.”


Dr. Bormate emphasized that, currently, there are three medically accepted ways to restore hair that have been proven effective: hair transplant surgery, the topical solution Minoxidil, and the oral pill Finasteride. Surgery is the surest way to put back lost hair, however, cost and fear may prevent some men from opting for it. Some men have found Minoxidil tedious to apply; success is dependent on correct application. Dr. Bormate says it requires a twice daily application on a completely dry scalp and must be left untouched to absorb for two hours before any product is applied. This means no blow drying, too. This daily regimen must be strictly observed for as long as you want to keep results. Finasteride turns away some men who like pill popping. It is unsafe for women, particularly pregnant women who are warned from even touching a crushed poll.

However, Dr. Bormated did show us dramatic results from treatments combining both medicines on some of his own patients. On an average of a year’s usage, a much thicker crown is seen. Even on a scalp in an advanced stage of alopecia, a smattering of hair was grown. The patients were happy with the results and were particularly excited when hair started to grow. The doctor sets it straight, however—a person losing hair will never be able to recover completely what he had when he was younger.

“It’s more of improvement and stabilization of the hair loss,” he says. “Would you be able to restore it completely? No. Hair recovery reaches a plateau, which means that after about two years of undergoing treatment, whatever hair you’ve gained since, you just have to maintain it. If you stop the treatment, then the hair goes, too.”


According to the doctor, roughly 35 to 50 percent of users will have a relatively good response to Minoxidil.

“With Finasteride, it’s roughly 60 to 65 percent. But stabilization of hair loss would be about 70 to 90 percent.”

He says his patients are happy with results because he’s very clear to them that the medications won’t filly restore the lustrous mane of their youth and that they are no instant potions and require patience.

“You shouldn’t expect results until about a year,” he says.

Some of the men who attended the launch said in an open forum that they gave up on Minoxidil because they didn’t notice any growth after a month or so of use. The medications cannot spring up new hair follicles but it can rejuvenate hairs lost through alopecia, making them grow thicker and longer. The growth will help with scalp coverage, says the doctor, and the best results are “cosmetically acceptable,” but satisfaction is dependent on realistic expectations.

Finasteride costs P65 per pill and must be taken once a day. According to Bormate, a month’s supply of Minoxidil will run from P700 to P1,000.

A small number of men (under 2%) who take these medications may suffer from the loss of sex drive or even experience erectile dysfunction.

According to hair transplant expert Dr. Andrew Pineda, who lends his services to Belo Medical, these medications don’t grow hair to a substantial length.

“It doesn’t go very long, just about a half an inch to an inch then it stops growing,” he says. “But it gives you a semblance of a hair.”

Minoxidil was initially used as an antihypertensive drug, to lower blood pressure. But patients complained that they had hairs growing out of their ears. So the manufacturers thought that if hair growth is an offshoot of Minoxidil, and then maybe if it’s used on the head, it would grow hair. True enough, hair grew. Likewise, there’s Propecia, a drug usually used for prostate cancer. People who took it noticed that they started having more hair, too.


Dr. Pineda states that the medications do not cut hair loss. They only slow it down.

“If you’re meant to lose hair at 30, if you use both Minoxidil and Propecia, then you’re probably going to start losing hair at 35,” Dr. Pineda says. “But that means you have to keep using those products for the rest of your life and it’s a very expensive thing to do.”

“What are the other options?” Dr. Pineda continues, “There are hair piece. But its life span is just two to three years. You’d have to get a new one again. Plus, it’s just a hair piece. When you take it off, you know you’re still bald underneath.”

For those who want a permanent solution, Dr. Pineda suggests hair transplantation. Since, as mentioned earlier, progressively balding men will still have hair in the back and the sides, these “donor” hairs are used and redistributed to the thinning or balding area.


Local anaesthesia is used on the donor site from which strips of hair are removed and dissected into 1-3 hair grafts. This procedure takes around 3-5 hours to perform depending on the size of the bald area. After the procedure, the patient is instructed to follow post-operative measures, but Dr. Pineda says they can even start washing their hair after eight hours and resume normal activity the next day. Lifting heavy weights for one week, however, is not advised as well as swimming and going to public steam or sauna baths to avoid infection. After two weeks, the patient needs to have the sutures removed.

Hair transplants are very natural, Dr. Pineda says, and people won’t even know that a person has undergone it unless he mentions it himself.

“The only problem with hair transplants is knowing when to start,” Dr. Pineda explained. “Because if, for example, you’re 28 and you’re only balding in front, I can put hair in there. But when you grow older and you start losing hair in other parts, you’d have to come back and have those done as well. It’s easier if a patient has completely lost his hair in front and at the top because I will only have to do the procedure in one go instead of doing one part initially then doing the progressively balding parts years later.”

Dr. Bormate says some hair surgeons recommend hair medications even with a hair transplant, “not to stimulate transplanted hairs, but to stimulate susceptible originally miniaturizing hairs, and also to somehow hold down the progression of their thinning.”

Hair transplant procedures can range from P70,000 to as much as P300,000 according to Dr. Pineda but he says that it’s going to be worth it since it’s a permanent answer to baldness.

“Average cost per procedure would be P150,000 to P180,000, but we can sometimes offer discounts to help patients,” Dr. Pineda says. “I’ve had a patient who is a taxi driver who was very depressed but he spends P2,000 a month on hair products to stop his balding. You’d be surprised at what people would to try to hold off their balding. I told him to save his money for two years and come back to me and we’ll see what can be done.”

For those who have fear of surgical procedures on the other hand, Svenson offers programs such as Laser Cell Accelerator, one that they recommend for those with weak, slow-growing hair. It introduces vitamins and nutrients, revives limp strands, and boosts hair cell regeneration.


“Svenson specializes in treating hair loss and associated scalp problems,” says trichologist Ma. Teresa Cruz, head of Svenson Makati. “The focus of our treatment is the early detection and elimination of certain conditions that may lead to hair loss and to provide the correct environment on the scalp and within the follicle to allow for optimum healthy growth. If baldness has already occurred, we provide the latest and most appropriate hair replacement methods.”

Another treatment involves administering a Trich-DHT Inhibitor, which counters dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the male hormone known to be responsible for hair loss. Ms. Cruz adds that it can speed up the hair’s re-growth process and restore its natural thickness.

Depending on how severe the hair loss is, Svenson gives its clients a customized program to specifically solve their problems. And since hair follows a growth cycle, Svenson says that the treatments must be undergone on a regular basis so as not to disrupt the hair production and to regain hair’s thickness and health faster.

For those who are in an advanced baldness stage—bald areas have substantially inactive roots—and wish to have a full head of hair instantly, there’s the Transdermal Cosmetic Reconstruction. According to Ms. Cruz, “It is the most advanced non-surgical skin-graft hair replacement technology. It’s a super fine synthetic skin with natural hair that is seamlessly bonded to your scalp. It gives you a full head of hair in an instant without the hassles of wigs, hair donors, painful transplants, and worries of dislodging. TCR is so secure that you can even swim, sleep, and engage in rigorous sports.”

And since it’s non-surgical, there is no pain and no long recovery periods. Patients do need to visit Svenson every two weeks or so for hair maintenance, something that can be likened to having a regular haircut.

Svenson declined to quote a price for their services, saying each treatment is individualized and so the prices vary.

There are viable solutions to hair loss, each comes with a set of pros and cons. For some men who experience it, it is no problem at all. And if it isn’t a problem, it is advised that it shouldn’t be made into one. It never killed anyone. For those however, who are bothered by it, there are avenues open that can be explored.

Published in the August 2008 issue of Metro HIM Magazine

omg.. my Wimbledon 2008 prediction (dream/vision) for the men’s finals came true!

•July 7, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Last night, around thirty minutes before the game started, I posted this in my Multiply blog:

Wimbledon 2008 prediction: I think i’ve seen the future

Nadal will win.
I’m a die-hard Roger Federer fan and nothing could be sweeter than a 6th straight Wimbledon title but..
Nadal will win.
Here’s how it’s gonna happen, at least how it happened in my dream (or was it a dream?):
Nadal will win the first two sets.. then Roger will win the next two.. in the fifth set, it will be as close as it will ever get..
But then again… I’m experiencing a whole lot of mixed emotions the past few weeks and the future I’ve seen may have been a result of it. haha! Go Roger! Go for that 6th Wimbledon crown! Vamos Rafa!

(VJ on the spot) <— best segment

Here’s the link:


And true enough, the game ended the way I saw it would! Down to who would win which sets!

Heritage Month feast to focus on epics

•May 5, 2008 • 1 Comment

By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:02:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Tales as old as time—about beauty, truth, freedom, and love—highlight this year’s Heritage Month celebration in May.

The National Heritage Month opens tomorrow in Cagayan de Oro City. Focus of the celebration is the epic.

According to experts, the most authentic Filipino epic is the Darangen ni Bantugen. One of 43 declared “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the Darangen commemorates the adventures of mythical heroes and charts the early history of the Maranaos.

“For this year’s festivities, we will re-open a treasure trove of oral traditions that talk of life, death, love, and heroism,” Filipino Heritage Festival director Bambi Harper, also the new head of the Intramuros Administration, said.

“By presenting these epic chants, we will also showcase the traditional beliefs and values systems upon which these literary forms are founded.”

Since the inception of the Heritage Month celebrations five years ago (born out of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 439), the FHF has been steadfast in keeping alive Filipinos’ awareness of and pride for their culture, history and heritage.

This year is no different as Harper, along with FHF president Armita Rufino and finance officer Araceli Salas, has organized an array of cultural activities that will bring the Filipino people to a new awareness of their age-old traditions, cultural practices, songs, dances, poetry, and centuries-old architectural wonders.

The celebrations are not limited to Cagayan de Oro as all over the archipelago, the diverse wonders of Filipino heritage will be felt all month long.

At the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Ballet Theater will perform the Darangen ni Bantugen, as choreographed by Gener Caringal.

Music will be provided by Jesse Lucas while set and costume design are by National Artist Salvador Bernal.

In Last Piñas, excerpts of the epic will be staged.

In Manila, activities include the Patawa exhibit (evoking laughter through poems, jokes, photos, and memorabilia) at the Metropolitan Museum; an exhibit focusing on the Filipinos’ Chinese roots in Binondo; the 4th Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) painting competition; Flores de Mayo at the Malate Church; and Santacruzan staged by veteran fashion designer Ben Farrales.

At the SM Mall of Asia and SM The Block, Sinauna, a showcase of Filipino home artifacts, will be featured.

There will also be a photographic exhibit of American colonial bridges at Greenbelt 3 as well as a display of the photo collection by Donal Tapan of famous Philippine festivals at the Robinsons Manila.

A poster exhibit of Spanish colonial bridges will be held in Marikina and Laguna.

Meanwhile, a poster exhibit of Spanish colonial lighthouses will tour Manila, Ilocos Norte and Bohol.

An exhibit of Muslim antiques will be hosted by Rustan’s while old Philippine maps will become the focus of an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum.

“Kisame,” a photo display of Bohol’s magnificent painted ceilings, completes the roster of exhibits.

The Intercontinental Manila will feature the best of Bicol cuisine. At the Cafe Jeepney, guest chefs will serve up Bicol delicacies such as laing, pili nut desserts, and sweet pineapples from Daet.

Filipino street food such as the balut, penoy, green mangoes with bagoong, boiled corn on the cob and peanuts and grilled delicacies will be served at the Sol y Sombra poolside restaurant.

The hotel lobby will have floral installations by “floral architect” Rachy Cuna. Titled “BayanCuna: Unity in Philippine Artistry,” the exhibit will feature local materials such as twigs, driftwood, and dried leaves which are tweaked and given new form as only Cuna can.

“Culture is always the greatest emulsifier,” Cuna said. When people are divided in thought and spirit, what brings them closer is culture. Our own culture teaches Filipinos to love one another.”

E-mail the author at dxmatilla@yahoo.com

The good, the bad and the ugly haircut (No Country for Old Men review)

•April 15, 2008 • 1 Comment

By Dexter R. Matilla

MANILA, Philippines – If ever a man’s hair were indicative of a person’s character, then Anton Chigurgh, Javier Bardem’s character in Ethan and Joel Coen’s “No Country for Old Men,” would have to be pure evil.

Chigurgh is the cold, philosophizing and seemingly unstoppable bounty-hunter on the trail of Llewelyn Moss, a good-natured welder and Vietnam veteran who has chanced upon $2.4 million of drug money in a land teeming with dead bodies—the aftermath of a deal gone wrong—in the movie version of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same title. (The movie won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture, as well as Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Bardem.)

Although described in the book as someone without a sense of humor , it’s hard not to chuckle every time Chigurgh engages his would-be victims in a discussion.

The combined effect of funny and fear only intensifies as the exchange goes on. The anticipation that Chigurgh could at any time use his weapon of choice (the captive bolt pistol) on his innocuous victims can be quite disturbing.

But in some form of twisted logic only he understands, Chigurgh offers salvation via a flip of a coin.

Call it right and Chigurgh grants you clemency. You get to go on with your life, having just had the most interesting and ridiculous conversation ever. And, of course, the lingering thought of what could have been if you had made the wrong call.

Moss, however, is not afforded the same privilege. After disposing off the same police officers who hired him to follow the trail of the cold cash, Chigurgh doesn’t take long to figure out that Moss has the money. Like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Chigurgh sets out to hunt him.

Symbol of good

Closely behind the two is Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). Already way past his prime, Bell represents all that was good—or remains to be good—in his town. It can probably be said that his point of view of how things have changed in his beloved side of West Texas is what the title of the story alludes to.

Somewhere along the way, Bell realizes that to act despondent and disillusioned in the constantly evolving face of crime would merely be an exercise in futility.

The Coens, who wrote and directed the film, chose Jones for the riveting and reflective character because they saw the actor as someone who would be able to understand Bell’s role as the soul of the movie.

That would make Moss, played by Josh Brolin, the heart. Living in a trailer with wife Carla Jean (Kelly McDonald), Moss portrays what most well-meaning husbands would do to provide for a better life.

Faced with a choice, he decides he could probably get away with the cash with very little consequence to think about.

But then Moss finds out soon enough how wrong he is, as Chigurgh, obviously the cerebral of the three, provides just the right dose of conflict like most great villains do. His hair style and the chill in his voice add to a very powerful unnerving presence.

One can’t help but wish Chigurgh was on the screen all the time as the story seems to move forward only when he does.

And while Bell and Moss are real people with a past, Chigurgh just seems to have appeared from out of nowhere, his story never revealed to add to the mystery of a man who leaves death and destruction wherever he goes.

“No Country for Old Men” is a stimulating reflection of how good and evil go hand in hand in an ever-changing landscape of violence bereft of all hope.


At once a modern legend and a literary maverick, Cormac McCarthy was already renowned for his extraordinary stories set against the changing American West when he published “No Country for Old Men” in 2003. The book, featuring one of his most visceral, multi-layered and contemporary stories, was an instant success.

At the heart of the story lie some of McCarthy’s most evocative themes, which he has explored in 10 novels that have become classics: the fast-approaching end of an entire way of Western life; the last stand of honor and justice against a broken world; the ongoing human struggle against the sinister; the dark comedy and violence of modern times; the interplay of temptation, survival and sacrifice; and, added in the mix, a touch of sustaining love and a sliver of hope in the darkness.

Following the acclaim for “No Country for Old Men,” McCarthy did a turnabout for his most recent novel, turning to a setting even more stark and biblical than the New West—a post-apocalyptic world of ash and devastation in which a father and son struggle for survival.

The new novel is “The Road,” which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

“The Constant” (Lost’s Season 4 episode 5) review

•March 13, 2008 • 2 Comments

Desmond finally gets to call Penny

I don’t think I’ve been moved to tears by any other television show the way Lost season 4’s fifth episode, “The Constant”, just did.

Desmond and Sayid, along with freighter guy and pilot Frank Lapidus hit some turbulence while on their way to the ship. This causes Desmond to (spoiler alert) jump back in time—to the year 1996 to be exact. The eight-year jump causes Desmond to find himself back at the Royal Scots Regiment in Scotland. At first you’d think that Desmond is simply reliving the past but when he remembers the events in the Island (which happens in 2004), you’d realize that he may just be being at the two places at the same time.

Desmond remembers holding a picture of him and Penny while in the helicopter and decides to call her. She picks up but she says that Desmond shouldn’t be calling her after leaving her (this happens during another Desmond-centric episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes”) and that she has already moved on.

The scene switches back to the ship where Desmond and a doctor are in the clinic along with a patient who’s strapped to a gurney. Sayid convinces Frank to bring him down to the clinic and says to Desmond that Daniel Faraday (another freighter guy who was left on the island and a physicist) needs to speak to him via the satellite phone. Daniel asks Desmond what year he thinks it is and he says, “1996.” Then Daniel asks again where Desmond thinks he should be at this moment in 1996, to which Desmond answers that he should be at the army base.

Daniel gives Desmond instructions that if it happens again, the jump, he should go to Oxford University and find the 1996 version of Daniel. The physicist gives Desmond some numbers and a phrase that would help convince his past self that Daniel from the future did indeed have Desmond seek him out.

During their meeting at Oxford, Desmond watches 1996 Daniel do an experiment with a rat and a maze. Using the numbers Desmond gave, Daniel was able to calibrate his experiment, expose the rat to a bright purple ray and the rat was able to finish the maze quickly. Desmond asks what’s so amazing about the experiment and Daniel reveals that he had just finished building the maze the morning before and he hasn’t taught the rat to run it yet. Daniel had just sent the rat’s consciousness into the future. After jumping back to the future (present time in the freighter), Desmond and Sayid are surprised to find the man on the gurney awake. He introduces himself as the communications officer George Minkowski (whom the Losties have spoken to as early as the end of Season 3). George explains that he also experiences what Desmond is experiencing. He was strapped to the gurney as a result of this. He also reveals that prior to this, the freighter always receives an incoming call but they were on strict orders not to answer it. The call, he says, is from Desmond’s girlfriend Penny.

Desmond then finds himself back at Daniel’s Oxford experiment room where he finds the rat dead, bleeding from the nose. Daniel explains that the rat’s brain probably short-circuited from the jumping to and from the future. He explains that it probably got confused because it didn’t have a “constant”, something familiar from both times. An anchor, he explains, that the rat can hold on to. And the same thing could possibly happen to Desmond to if he didn’t have that “constant”. Desmond asks if his “constant” can be a person and he tries to call Penny but the number no longer works.

Jumping back to the ship again, George offers to bring Desmond and Sayid to the communications room so Desmond can call Penny. However, he doesn’t know/remember the number and finds himself starting to bleed from the nose. Back to 1996, Desmond finds Penny’s father, Charles Widmore and asks for her address. Desmond finds the place and Penny still doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Desmond finally convinces Penny to give him her number and promises never to call her until eight years later—on the exact time that he wakes up once again inside the communications room.

Desmond is finally able to call Penny using the phone Sayid put together using items found in the room to fulfill his promise, saying among other things, “you believed in me… you still care about me.” Penny promises to find Desmond and they exchange “I love yous” before the battery runs out. Sayid apologizes because that was all the battery left but Desmond says that it’s enough before answering “I’m perfect” to Sayid’s question if he’s all right.

The scene where Desmond and Penny finally get to talk really got to me and I’m sure anybody who sees it would really be moved as well. Especially if you know all the things Desmond and Penny have been through just to find each other again. The way the story unfolded was really amazing. In a matter of minutes, from the time Desmond convinces Penny to give him her number and the time he calls her from the boat’s communications room, and to think that it is actually eight years apart, really says about believing, destiny, and more importantly love. Just goes to show that as long as a person is anchored to something, as long as a person has something to hold on to, no matter how long it takes, that person will be anything but lost.

Kenneth Cobonpue: Designing the Future

•March 12, 2008 • 5 Comments

By Dexter R. Matilla

Combining traditional materials with eco-friendly, innovative methods and a modern aesthetic, Cobonpue is, once again, ahead of the curve.

“The day I stop dreaming is the day I stop breathing,” Kenneth Cobonpue admits. To describe him simply as a dreamer would be doing a grave injustice, to the person who was referred to in the International Herald Tribune as the “poster boy” of Cebu’s vibrant furniture manufacturing industry.

Fame followed multiple awards, and pretty soon, the Kenneth Cobonpue label surpassed the mainstream and graduated into the realm of signature pieces.

A lot has been written about him. We all know about how he woke up to the sound of nails and the songs of carpenters working while his mother Betty made furniture in the backyard of their house in Cebu.

“I remember my mom giving me picture books as a kid whenever I was sick in bed. Those books were a window to the world and I actually looked forward to being confined in bed where my mind could fly without boundaries,” he relates. We have heard about his Industrial Design years at the Pratt Institue in New York, his awards, and of course, the Brad Pitt angle.

Design awards, meanwhile, keep landing in his lap. In the last two years alone, recognitions came from as far as France, Germany, India, and the United States. His distinctive works appeared in exhibits, restaurants, award shows, and even music videos.

“Although I get praise from many people who come across my work for the first time, it’s fascinating how many different answers I get when I ask why,” he says. “The answer can be anything as simple as color and shape to the ecological impact of the materials I use. First impressions are always visual and emotional in nature. But to me, a design is never finished until somebody starts using it. And that’s the ultimate test of my labors. How does it work? Is it comfortable? Does it make my life more enjoyable? Design is intelligence made visible.”

The latest convert to his design principles is the high profile car manufacturer Lexus. A pioneer in luxury hybrid cars, Lexus began its Hybrid Living program to explore new ideas of how life can be experienced in such a way that minimizes the impact on the earth without sacrificing comfort and luxury. The campaign focused on people who are living testaments to the cause. Kenneth joins an international panel that includes Coyuchi’s Christine Nelson, Soho Restaurant’s Peter Hoffman, clothing designer Linda Loudermilk, and artist Paul Hayes.

Kenneth’s reputation has grown much wider in the last few years. A Google search carries much of the same things—awards and validations of dynamic designs that are distinctively unique. Which is not to say that he has no opinions on the immediate world around him. On mentioning the recently concluded ASEAN Conference in Cebu, he suddenly became critical and we saw a different side.

I wish I could have designed the street lights which were hastily erected for the ASEAN meeting in Cebu that are now the subject of a graft investigation,” Kenneth says. Coming from him, they would have been original, unique, and something we could be proud of. Best of all, it would have been made locally. “How can we even trumpet our design and manufacturing prowess against our Asian neighbors when we have to import ugly glow-in-the-dark poles masquerading as street lamps from China! I wish designers had a say in the planning of our cities. Tourism is such an important component of our nation’s recovery. In the end, we are subject to the tastes and whims of our politicians whom we elect to pass laws, not design monuments.”

It is refreshing to note that even in his immaculate atelier, the artist in Kenneth did not remain isolated. In what can only be termed as frustration, he shows his mettle first and foremost as a local citizen, not the international persona that so often robs people of their own identity.

“I am working on a car made of bamboo and carbon fiber,” Kenneth continues his civic musings. “The next frontier in design will be the intelligent use of ecological and man-made materials.” An avid car enthusiast, one can only wonder where this new road will take Kenneth the designer.

To describe him as avant-garde, someone who consciously rejects tradition, puts into question his practice of using rattan and other materials that are traditional in nature.

“I am experimenting with new high-tech materials and injecting color into my work,” he says. “Working with natural materials confines you to the colors found in nature. I am trying to go beyond that and use bold reds and yellows.”

“It’s a welcome change to the usual design standards,” he says. “It’s fun turning my child-like sketches into grown-up objects. I enjoy designing and seeing my ideas come to life. That others and I can live off it is a blessing indeed. The awards validate my belief that design and branding make good business sense.”

Having a good business sense certainly helped him realize his visions.

“It challenges you to dig deeper into your mind and come up with ideas that are new and fresh,” he explains. “On the other hand, you have people who think that the designs you come up with are the only things the market wants nowadays. That’s why you have copycats.”

He dreams of starting a design school, if he could only find time for it.

“I will grab the opportunity when it comes,” Kenneth, who currently teaches at the University of the Philippines in Cebu, said. “I have a teaching methodology which I feel is appropriate to our country’s condition. I believe that we are on this earth to live for one another. Teaching and sharing what I have is my own little way of giving back what I am blessed with.”

When he finally decides to take it easy, contented with all that he has accomplished, Kenneth probably deserves some accolade to personify what he has achieved. A street named after him wouldn’t be too far-fetched.

“Calle Cobonpue? Even the potholes should have a unique style,” he jokingly responds.

“My dream is to create a city that is modern, organic, ecological and visually unique that people all over the world come to associate with today’s Filipino,” Cobonpue says. “I want to do other things besides furniture. I want to go into making interior spaces, architecture, sculpture and transportation. What I have is a unique design aesthetic that is applicable to many fields.”

So it goes back to how to best describe Cobonpue. A visionary perhaps? Cobonpue offers a simple answer: “A brand with a soul at the forefront of natural, ecological, and stylish living.”

However he is described now or in the future, one thing is certain, Kenneth Cobonpue has left an indelible mark in the local design world that’s sure to be the standard for those who wish to follow a similar path. But the next generation may have to wait a little bit longer as Cobonpue still continues to awe the world with his grown up objects dreamt out of child-like sketches.

Originally published in the Feb-March 2008 issue of ZEE Lifestyle Magazine