Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Walking in their shoes: The 3rd Annual Gawad Kalinga Walk

"I got you on my back"

Walking is one trait that distinguishes man from other species. By standing upright and walking on our two feet we are able to see farther, travel longer distances, interact, use our hands for other things, discover, and learn new things. Human society is based on language (the ability to communicate and think) and, as the late French anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan observed, the ability to walk. We walk to get around, stay fit, and relax.

For Gawad Kalinga, walking is one way of being one with the poor.

Last September 6, 2008, 28 cities in the United States and Canada participated simultaneously in the 3rd Annual Gawad Kalinga Walk led by GK’s Maggie Villanueva. This five kilometer walk sought to bring together Fil-Am communities in North America in a solidarity walk for the poor. The GK Walk generated greater awareness of the community development and nation building model of Gawad Kalinga (GK). GK provides Fil-Am communities with a meaningfully way to take up the cause of nation building via loving, sharing, and caring for the poor.

GK Walk also sought to inculcate the uniquely Filipino cultural trait of “bayanihan”- family and friends getting together to achieve something. This entails a foundation of friendship, trust, and cooperation. Walking with one another and for the poor enabled us to make new friends, spend time with each other, and get the family together in something noble and patriotic.

GK Walk Tucson

In Tucson, Arizona, with barely a month of preparation, the Fil-Am community got together for Gawad Kalinga for the first time. Close to 80 persons got up early on a Saturday morning and headed out to the beautiful Gene S. Reid Park in central Tucson to walk for the poor and for friendship. The successful walk in Tucson is significant, because it is quite difficult to get Fil-Ams together on an early Saturday morning to walk five kilometers in this high desert city of 350-sunny-days a year, during a scorching summer. Since Tucson is sprawling, it is also hard to get an agreement on where to hold community activities.

They came for Gawad Kalinga however. Fil-Am groups such as the Philippine Mabuhay Cultural Foundation , the Filipino-American Sampaguita Club of Tucson (FASCOT), the Fil-Am Club of Southern Arizona (FILAMCSAZ), and the Filipino-American Students Association of the University of Arizona (FASA) came together for the first time in a very long time for the GK Walk. We had representatives from at least two charismatic prayer groups and a Filipino priest to bless the participants. FILAMCSAZ members drove 80 miles just to join the walk. A picnic followed the walk with Pinoy Fast Food providing the pancit bihon.

Jessica Cox, a FASA alumnus, the first woman without arms to fly a plane solo, and motivational speaker, led the walk on her recumbent bike. Dr. Avelino Leal of FASCOT escorted her. When you have someone like Jessica and a health buff doctor leading, you end up walking more than five kilometers. I think they were training the participants for the GK Hero's Run (a marathon event)!

Jessica Cox leads the GK Walk in Tucson, Az

In other participating cities, GK Chicago stalwarts Robby and Donna Reyes reported 82 registered walkers and about 150 total attendees. They along with the GK folks in central Illinois led by the indefatigable Dr. Charlie Capati raised a significant amount of money for the GK programs. Panera Bread provided breakfast. They also had another six major sponsors.

Chicago GK Walk. Photo by Dr. C. Capati

In New Jersey, Beth Macaraeg reported that the inclement weather did not deter the walkers. In Tampa, Florida, GK lead Jess Roa noted that the gorgeous weather brought out more than 150 participants including the Associated Filipino Students of University of South Florida. In Boston, Eugene and Evita Florendo reported close to 200 walkers along the beautiful Charles River. They even had an ati-atihan group. They were blessed because their prayers for a stop to the rains and good weather materialized. They were also quite successful in their fundraising.

GK Walk, New Jersey. Photo by Joseph V. Tieng

The Oregon and Seattle GK Walks were well attended. They even had a multimedia presentation on GK and breakfast before the walk. In Milipitas, San Jose, GK point person Alfred Keen reported over 300 total participants despite the 100F temperature.

GK Walk, Seattle. Photo by Melissa

I estimate from 2,800-5,600 joined the GK Walk in the 28 cities in the United States and Canada. Also, quite a significant amount of money was raised. The unquantifiable benefits though, which are priceless, are the conversations held and the friendships newly forged. Fil-Ams are a busy people. A lot of them work at least two jobs, with many doing overtime. Doctors and nurses do extra shifts and are on-call. Most are truly devoted to their families and are active in church and prayer groups. Fil-Am students are busy themselves. Nearly all of them have a full-time school load and work at the same time. On top of this busy schedule are their club and socio-civic activities.

Holy Redeemer Charistmatic Prayer Group

All were happy with the turn out, the diversity of the participants, and the opportunity to socialize with fellow Fil-Ams. The GK Walk showed that Fil-Am groups can get together for the country and for the poor. Already, the walk has led to further networking. The four Filipino priests in Tucson led by Fr. Miguel Mariano and Fr. Les Niez have gotten the Fil-Am groups together to a organize big Christmas dinner of at least 600 Fil-Ams, their families, and friends with the intended beneficiaries being Gawad Kalinga and a seminary in the Philippines. FASCOT wants FASA to help them in manning the Filipino booth in the annual and wildly successful get-to-know-your-neighbor festival, Tucson Meet Yourself.

Filipino-American Students Association, University of Arizona

The GK Walk preparations enabled me to meet the different Fil-Am groups in Tucson. The FASA students were a joy to talk to and work with because of their energy. It’s hard not to be proud that many of them are in cutting edge studies such as biosystems engineering, microbiology, and optical sciences among others. Rev. Virgilio "Jojo" Tabo, Jr. of Our Mother of Sorrows Parish walked the Walk with us and gave the blessings. I even attended a few prayer meetings. In one prayer meeting, I got to meet and hear the insightful talk of new Filipino priest Rev. Mario V. "Ricky" Ordoñez.

Mrs. Inez Cox and Fr. Jojo Tabo

It was Fr. Ricky who inspired us with his advice on prayer;

“Make every breath, a prayer of thanksgiving.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IMAGES IN STONE: Art in Fossils from the Larry Gotuaco Collection

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Images in Stone-Art in Fossils from the Larry Gotuaco Collection

Tucson, Arizona is known for a lot of things, but every third week of January until the second week of February, it plays host to the “Greatest Show on Earth” in the mineral world (Wilson 2004). This is the annual Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase, going on its 55th year. Popularly known as the Gem and Mineral Show, the Tucson Show, or simply “The Show,” the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase has all the elements of commerce, earth sciences, paleontology, archaeology, technology, art, curating, culture, and crafts. Many of the world’s top private collections and public museums have exhibited here. The fellowship, networking and learning experiences generate so much social and cultural energy amidst the high desert scenery of Tucson. To Bob Jones who has attended it more than 40 times and who wrote about its 50 year history in 2004; “it is the “single most important gem and mineral event in the world.”

The Tucson Show is simultaneously a show, museum tour, exhibition, market, bazaar, swap meet, convention, conference, workshop, party, fiesta, pow-wow, food-fest, and tourist destination that brings together over 50,000 unique visitors, collectors, curators, dealers, buyers, scholars, enthusiasts, tourists, students, artists, even hippies to this three-week event. In 1969, then curator Paul Desautels of the Smithsonian Institution and one of the most active supporters of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show called it “The New York Stock Exchange of the (mineral) world”. Bob Jones quoted him saying “the price of mineral specimens for the world is more or less set at this show.”

If you want to see the latest mineral find, some of the most exquisite gems, or newly unearth mammoths, the Tucson Show is where you should be. Do fossilized dinosaur molars or coprolite (dung) pique your interest? How about petrified wood? Have you seen a meteorite weighing more than 600 kgs.? How much exotic seashells and corals are from the Philippines? Do you want to know and see what ammonites, crinoids, or trilobites are? There is no other showcase like the Tucson Show and it is something an enthusiast should experience even once.

The recent 2007 Tucson Show had 5,079 exhibitors in 49 individual shows, the most ever not counting the unofficial ones. This year the numbers dipped because of the U.S. recession and the housing meltdown that hit Arizona hard. Nevertheless, these shows were scattered all over the city in banquet halls, foyers, and bedrooms/ suites of hotels, convention centers, parking lots, warehouses, or any available space, security permitting. Most shows are open to the public. An economic impact survey-assessment of the Tucson Show by FMR Associates (2007) estimated total gate attendance at 362,816 buyers, each of whom attended an average 6.6 shows. They estimated unique persons attendance at 55,056, the highest ever and 59% more than the 2000 estimated figure of 34,618 persons. Exhibitors came from 42 states of the United States and 38 countries, while buyers came from 43 different states and 24 different countries. If you want to see globalization localized, the Tucson Show will make for a good study.

Economic Impact

The FMR study (2007) noted that the Tucson Show is an economic juggernaut conservatively contributing over $100 million in direct expenditures to the local economy, up from $76.4 million in 2000. Lodging, food/beverage and in-town transportation expenditures alone amounted to $49,549,718. The estimated tax revenue from the show was $9,057,217 in local taxes paid on $90,206,326 of taxable expenditures. This is an increase of 51.2% from the year 2000 figures. In terms of likelihood of return to Tucson, majority of the majority of exhibitors (63%) and out-of-town buyers (78%) indicated that they will return and/or attend the 2008 Tucson Gem Show. These figures do not include the sales and trades made during the three week period. Further, as many of these sales are wholesale, the multiplier effect of retail sales as well as conversion into artistic pieces or jewelry for sale worldwide are not accounted in this study.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society itself has long been active in community affairs, which also helps the local economy and education sector. Proceeds from the Show have assisted the Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona Mineral Museum, the Southern Arizona Regional Science Fair, the Southern Arizona Rescue Association, the American Federation Scholarship Fund, the Tucson Special Olympics, the Arizona Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, the Arthur I. Flagg Memorial Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, Mineralogical Record magazine and Rocks and Minerals magazine. Significant amounts of money have funded scholarships to the Advanced Studies Earth Science Programs at the University of Arizona according to Bob Jones.

Tucson show in Manila!

From Downright with Ammonites

For the last five years, we’ve been fortunate enough to host our godparents who are avid collectors of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals. This couple, Larry and Pat Gotuaco, of San Francisco and Manila, are well-known and highly regarded in the seashells, Chinese blue and white ceramics, and now minerals and fossils collecting worlds. Tito Larry along with Rita Tan and Allison I. Diem are the authors of the much sought after coffee table book, Chinese and Vietnamese Blue and White Wares Found in the Philippines (1997). After assembling a fantastic collection of seashells and Chinese ceramic, he has now focused his attention on the what he calls “God’s Art.” Afterall, he says, “in Chinese blue and white ceramics you can endlessly debate on the age of a ceramic piece, which is of a time period of a few decades to a few hundred years, but in fossils and petrified wood, we’re talking tens to hundreds of millions of years ago.”

Exquisite ammolite up close from Downright with Ammonites"

What really caught the eye of the Gotuacos on their worldwide search and collection of fossils, minerals, and petrified wood is the natural color and beauty of these specimens. No artist, living or dead, can surpass the color combination, structure, and composition of each piece, whether it is a mammoth’s tusk, fossilized dinosaur dung, or the most colorful Arizona petrified wood. Indeed there is beauty in nature that is simply breath taking. Even the processes of fossilization and petrification, wherein organic matter such as bones, felled trees, or even dinosaur dung get buried in sediment for millions of years, with their organic material eventually being replaced by minerals and silica/minerals respectively, are short of awe inspiring.

These specimens though give you another surprise. Get a camera and take a “macro” or close up shot of a small part of the piece and you see the complexity of colors and structure. It is even more beautiful and majestic.

Words, however, will never be able to describe the fiesta atmosphere of the Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show. Worse, words do not let you see and feel what these tens of millions of years-old specimens are.

The Gotuacos though are a very generous couple. They are also stalwarts of experiential learning. Since they started collecting, they’ve always dreamed of bringing the Tucson Show to Manila. They saw the value of an exhibit engendering interest in geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy (yes, meteors!), and the natural sciences. Filipinos need and deserve these kinds of learning experiences. Thus, despite, initial setbacks, they managed to convince Ayala Museum to exhibit part of their collection.

Images In Stone

Entitled IMAGES IN STONE: Art in Fossils from the Larry Gotuaco Collection, the exhibit opened on 16 September 2008 at the Third Floor Glass Lane, Ayala Museum and will run until November 30. Workshops are being scheduled for macro photographers and even a kids session on collecting this coming September 27. This is a precursor to the book he is writing on petrified wood.

This is one exhibit the family should not miss.

Give yourself an hour or two for the exhibit. Better yet, give yourself half a day to explore the other exhibits and collections at the new Ayala Museum. The Crossroads of Civilization is a must see. For the politically inclined there is the I am Ninoy exhibit.

Bring the family, learn something new, and learn more about your country.