Saturday, February 17, 2007


Willie Nep still in Seattle? Struth! Wonder how he can travel the world with so many id’s;-)
I can imagine airport staff rifling thru his passport while Willie argues with them, insisting that he's the guy in the photo. Hahaha!

You bet guys, Willie Nepomuceno, the guy of a thousand faces (and voices), comedian extraordinaire,
top pinoy mimic; legend in his own time…his brutal yet spot-on mimicry of Marcos earned him the late dictator's ire and respect. Willie bursted into the scene initially during the days of student upheaval in the streets of Manila. Seen him a lot of times on TV mimicking Erap, Ramos, Lacson and I guess all the presidential candidates.
Has he tried doing the dimunitive majesty? Well I guess he won’t be a transvestite for Gloria. Hahaha! Willie “Nep” is also an actor and has made tv episodes with Dolphy.

In every country on this planet, there’s always a popular mimic or mime artist like in
France and for the world—it would be Marcel Marceu. The only difference (at least for me:-) between Marcel and Willie is for us to make a choice: a silent mime or a singing mime?

Please let me take you back right smack in the middle of Plaza Miranda early 70’s whereupon finishing my “fiery”, nationalist speech (he-he, yes I was a provocateur too :-) and delivering a “salvage”-inviting poem on top of Quiapo Underpass’ canopy, Willie was next in line! Now this changed the mood of the crowd. Many became excited like hardcore rock concert fans. Red banners with white acronyms swayed crazily. All one could hear was"Willie — yee-haa--Willie! Si Makoy-- gayahin mooh! (Willie, do Marcos!)

I was amazed; I thought was another provocateur who by his mere facial expressions and body language provoked laughter. People kept screaming for more. It was an awesome comedy feat. Radical (pun intended)! Boy everyone had fun but later on Willie got tired because of mimicking so many corrupt politicians. Hey Willie they want more! No More! He's tired! Now this made a lot of people upset so Willie came out with a song. People cried, tears welled up profusely, ouch..aargh, run! It's teargas! It was like the army of Darth Vader decided to have fun and check out their virgin truncheons on pubescent skulls. In minutes Plaza Miranda was a desolate place. I lost Willie but finally found him in Sydney.

Hello old friend repapips..long time. Sorry I had to bother you while in Seattle.. thanks to Rey Santos I caught you. Anyway I know you're so busy preparing for your Sydney gig so I'll just toss in a few questions. I had more problems doing your caricature because I didn't know which face to draw! LOL!

EA: You are rare bro. I think if you were a painter you'll be a Monet, an impressionist! Haha..err, let me rephrase that. Would you be the Philippine's Marcel Marceu?

WN: He-he, g'day my old friend! Good to see you! More than 30 years! Okay, to answer your question.. I have a great admiration for Marcel Marceau but I will surely pale and fail in comparison with him. I'd like to see the day though when I can also give free lessons and performances to those who are interested in the arts like he does as a form of social contribution .If he's able to share his art of 'pantomime' to the public, I’d like to share the art of 'impressions' in telling a story.

EA: Oh brother, i admire your humility. Do your comedy skits (with all the lampoon & comic mockery of players in Philippine politics) help politicize Filipinos? If yes… how?

WN: I guess they do. A snicker, a smile, laughter or even a nod of approval and applause is more than an indicator that my audience has an understanding of the issues at hand and the accompanying reaction is therefore a validation that we are one in sharing the same opinion on certain issues. I go beyond the props, costumes, make up and clowning around. You see, laughter may be the best medicine, but my 'impressions' are not merely only a laughing matter.

EA: 70's… you up on stage so many times, one at Plaza Miranda's Quiapo underpass during major nationalist rallies up to the present global gigs with the Filipino community... what have you learned in a single sentence?

WN: That we have always been right after all, despite being portrayed with an ugly label as coming from the left. We must stop calling each other names because the next struggle will determine not what is right... but what is left.

EA:, that’s a beauty. You sure shall upset Samuel Johnson whom I quote “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” The scoundrels are right! Hahaha! Sorry.
Er..I understand this is your second time in Australia? What do you think of our Oz-Pinoy community?

WN: Yes, this is my second time but I didn't really have the chance to immerse myself with the Filipino-Australian community, so I can’t share an opinion about them. I’m sure though that knowing the Filipino’s very pliant characteristic, they should be able to blend well living 'down under' as we likewise blend living in an underground economy down there back home.

EA: Salamat (Thanks) Wills baby. Good luck and I’ll catch your show for sure this September.. maybe somewhere in Melbourne, Adelaide or Sydney! Wow gagala ka pala talaga ah.
Pag nagkita tayo sana hindi kita mamukhaan
(So you're gonna tour around Oz, I hope not to recognize your face when I see you again) ..LOL!

WN: LOL ka rin (You, too).. Hahaha..See you alligater,lator

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My Mum is Hot!

Here's an illustration I did for an article I wrote for
Bayanihan News Sydney and Global Nation/
(Right click headline to view article in new tab or window).

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Friday, February 16, 2007

A Strange Kite for a Post-War Baby

Manolo Quezon, is he related to President Manuel Quezon? He's regular host of The Explainer and in his program yesterday I was confronted by archival footages shared by filmmaker Robin Jacob taken during the Second World War, most of which are found in his movie The Battle of Manila. Manolo also interviewed Peter Parsons, son of American war hero Commander Chick Parsons, a pre-war Pasay resident. Peter is brother of artist Mike Parsons who at one time worked with the late cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo. I remember visiting his home in Pasay with Nonoy, Pandy Aviado and other artist friends.

The boom tarat-tarat TFC ad finally ended and replaced by loud booms and tat-rat-tat-tat sounds of machinegun fire. It was as if I were watching again the invasion of Iraq only this time CNN was using an ancient television camera. First to roll in were some black and white footages of a peaceful cityscape; most prominent of which was a big white streamer that hung over the streets declaring Open City. Then it was followed by grainy but coloured film clips of army jeeps and collapsed government buildings; then followed by scenes of unimaginable horror, emaciated children crying on top of desecrated corpses.

                 Map showing Japanese offensives in Dec 1941   source: United States Army Center of Military History

Speechless, my eyes were bitterly fixed on these moving images of the destruction of the very city I was born in..Manila. The narration continued along with the film. I was horrified, was it really just a little more than 60 years ago when Japanese boots trampled with blitzkrieg fluidity every small alley of the peaceful prefectures of our city? Japanese soldiers slashed the strings that held high the white streamer, a bloodied rag peppered with bullets. It was as if to admit they're unable to read the gaijin's tongue. To them the sign must have read Open Season.

                                                               source: United States Army Center of Military History

Manila's majestic buildings were broken like styrofoam bits. Fragments of cultural legacies strewn around to capture fragmented armies. American artillery cocked with phallic pride pounded with complete indiscretion any walled shelter (even if it looked like the Legislative Building) to flush out stubborn Japanese soldiers keen to die for their recalcitrant Emperor. Collateral damage: more than 500,000 non-combatant Filipinos dead. What?! That's half a million of my countrymen killed by a strange, foreign war waged in our soil! Talk about body piercing and vicarious mutilations..Japanese soldiers were pro by all standards! Hitler would have high-fived Hirohito. And to add insult, the victims were mocked before being killed.

Japanese Type 89 I-Go medium tanks and troops moving toward Manila, Philippine Islands, 22 Dec 1941
source: United States Army Center for Military History

I would have asked my martial arts teacher..Sensei, why did your countrymen treat Filipinos so inhumanely? His answer would have been as blunt as a blood-stained post-war samurai sword. That's war, Sensei would have said. After which he'd have whispered..we'll move on. Manila reduced to rubble, surviving Manilans reduced to tears, war atrocities that reduced this author back down to a six-year old child again. This was at the part when the film doco mentioned the beheading factory, an area in Singalong (no, it's not Japanese karaoke) near St.Scholastica's College and De La Salle University. We lived there even before I was born. My grandparents (now gone) lived at Dagonoy St off Singalong, parallel to Maligaya St (another irony; there were massacres there, too.) Next to our cul-de-sac enclave was St. Scholastica's College compound.

My grandpa, Lolo Julian Aragon is first cousin of Aurora Aragon, wife of President Manuel Quezon.

Japanese soldiers discovered our neighborhood and unfolded their plan like a 2-fold kill and burn.Their gun barrels were like modern probing cameras which penetrated basement floorboards that hid most of my relatives. My "Mamang", Leonora Angeles Aragon was unfortunately hit at the hip and bled profusely. When the devils were gone, my dad scanned the chaotic Manila streets desperate to find money to buy her anti-tetanus drugs. He found a discarded guitar lying on the street and was able to sell it for a small sum which bought him medicine. He finally brought Mamang to an improvised hospital. I can't believe a guitar saved my grandmother's life! Not so for a great number of relatives, friends and neighbors who perished under the Japanese soldiers' murderous campaign. Our biology class frogs had a better fate. Current NatGeo docos alleged that Japanese and Hitler's armies were under the influence of drugs, particularly methamphetamine.

    A Japanese soldier passing by American propaganda, circa 1942                                 Source: Japanese Army

A number of Benedictine nuns who ran the college were raped and murdered. In La Salle eighty people were lined up and shot dead. My aunt survived by hiding under a pile of corpses at the basement of the house. Babies were hidden but their crying couldn't be so their tiny mouths were muffled by their mothers' unforgiving hand as footsteps were heard above the floorboards.
The war ended in 1945 and in the summer of '49 I was born. Thank God I missed the action! I was one of the post-war babies who first saw the white ceiling of the newly-rehabilitated Philippine General Hospital. The doctor who pulled me out into this world was Dra. Gloria Aragon. She was a relative afterall. In the 70's I learned she was a personal doctor of Mrs. Imelda Marcos.

Ten years after the war, Mother enrolled me at St. Scholastica's College at the very young age of five. Until 1985 the school offered kindergarten and primary education for free. Thanks for the heads up, Benedictine guys. All's forgiven now after your
 traumatized predecessors traumatized  our little class of wretched, emaciated post-war children. I have to tuck in my white shirt. It shouldn't be open! I was never allowed to speak in Filipino even if in verbally expressing stinging pain when woolly caterpillars drop on you from the tall acacia trees that canopied the schoolyard. Prayers before classes, it was like "hi God" in your heart and higad on your head. I had to give my monetary allowance (10 centavos) as penalty when I forget. Upside was I, even at a very young age, had the terrific luck to look admiringly at young "St. Scho" girls at the school ground before the morning class prayer.

Current generation of St.Scholasticans, smart and vibrant
Image Source Page:

Back then,  I'd walk to school almost daily and touch the pock-marked walls of St. Scholastica's College; each missile shell scar i know like a good friend. Each one I named. There's Uka, this one's Butasyo, and that one is my favourite Wakwak. Most are round but each unique both in depth and diameter.

Once my red crayola traced the wall while walking to school, dodging the holes up to the schoolgate. I had the sense of wanting to redesign the wall, not to deface it. And why won't anyone bother to patch it up? I was six and didn't understand why people have to design concrete fences with holes on them.

Anyway Lolo Julian was my friend when i lived with them when i was about 7 in order to get enrolled in a Manila public school. I was back to my roots. My parents used to live there until they bought a house in Pasay just a few blocks away from Vito Cruz boundary line.

One day I asked Lolo Julian about the recent war. He looked at me wide-eyed "Don't worry about it my child.." and started telling me about design and craft and how to look at things with capricious excitement and hope. He made Christmas lanterns out of wires, bamboo and papel de japon. Once he made a perfectly round globe lantern. It was immaculate, no silly tails and frilly things. But I thought it's a pity using a material named after a war enemy. Lolo Julian was an artist/designer and was just retired from his work at a Philippine government printing office.

I'll never forget the day when Lolo and I visited my Dad in Pasay for a weekend of kite-flying competition down on the sandy beaches of Manila Bay (now reclaimed). This is the area just near the U.S. Embassy where the Philippine Cultural Center now stands. He brought Dad a strange kite which he made himself, the design of which had a military function during the second world war. He said lots were invented and designed by the US army for communication like dropping messages out to the sea or to relay a signal. It's also like a satellite kite. To make it fly, first a big mother kite (called a gurion) is flown up and stabilized. The string is threaded initially through this satellite kite which looked like twin white stars hinged together (see image above which I drew from memory).

Dad hooked up the kite well enough, gave it a slight push then the wind caught it and briskly sailed towards the heavens. It stopped just before contact with the mother kite, then collapsed and released wads of paper money my Dad's friends initially wedged in the kite. The ocean breeze blew inward and a mob of children ran after the small bills which my Lolo said reminded him of the "Surrender or else" leaflets dropped by American airplanes for Japanese stragglers to read. Tough luck! These Japs would have rather read their Manga.

The satellite kite has now collapsed and slid its way down to my Dad's hands. Then Lolo Julian took over, he looked at me with a smile on his clean-shaven face, then proudly announced to everyone that it was my turn to hook up the climbing kite.
A number of kites flew that windy summer day until they all slowly became dark sillhouttes against the beautiful Manila sunset..
I made a vow..when I fly back home to Manila my friends and I will send up a white double-star kite bearing the words Open City.
War photos in this link if you can bear looking at them. Lest we forget:
other links:

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A Brush with Air - February 06, 2007

It was Abner Peeler who invented the first airbrush in 1879 in Iowa, USA. Then in 1980 I discovered it in Mr. Rupert Murdoch's art dept while i was working for The Australian newspaper. Every guy has one ready for use, not for drawing but to retouch radiophotos (what's that?:) That was before the days of fax machines and email.Then offset printing arrived opening a new era of high-resolution images on newsprint. Overnight letterpresses became dinosaurs. I was one of 2 or 3 artists who tried to use the airbrush for newspaper drawings.
I now extensively use the airbrush to give 3D effects and enhance line drawings, caricatures and illustrations for the Sydney Morning Herald . Although tedious at first I really enjoy doing this type of illos (short for illustration). I could also rightly claim I was first to coin this word when I asked for an "illo" board to use for drawing from our art supplies manager. It was Paul Leigh in 1980 who asked me "Is that what you call it, Edd?". I said "Yes; because I've just found out that you Aussies love to use nicknames that end with an "o" like Robbo for Robertson, Jacko for Jackson and generics like garbo for a garbage man." Illo is now a commonly-used word between journalists and artists in the Australian newspaper industry.
Here's a sample airbrush illo I've enjoyed doing (see above image). I've scanned the original and then buffed it in a paint program by enhancing the highlights and shadows..
The drawing was published in The Spectrum, a supplement magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald.
I've forgotten what the article was all about but it's got something to do with writing while being guided by some mysterious forces;-)

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Sketches in a Thai Restaurant - Dec. 1986

As I've mentioned I've worked in the art department of NewsCorp which publishes The Australian newspaper.

T'was 1980! First week working in the art dept as a culture-shocked Pinoy was not at all traumatic. Artist guys took me out to a local RSL club and taught me how play snooker. Man it was like playing billiards in a golf link. Then it's the pokies where I won $500! Beginner's luck. I've reciprocated by treating my workmates at a discreet no-names pasta house off Riley St that provided free lolly water. Then boys lit up...and then my first encounter with the Midnight Oil;-)

Back in1986 the art department had a memorable christmas party at a Thai restaurant in Surry Hills, Eastern Sydney. My late wife Gigi ordered her favourite pla lerd and tom yum goong while I pulled out a tiny notebook and sketched all present with a fine felt pen washed over with water (from my drinking glass;) to achieve middle tones. Some of these artist friends have already passed away. Oh I'll forever cherish the fun moments with these mad artists;-)
The drawings were done in a single notebook; scanned and put together in photoshop.

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MiG Ayesa Rocks! - February 07, 2007

Miggy Update/Oct 30 '07

MiG Rocks the Kiwis!

Rock Star INXS finalist Miguel Ayesa blew away his first Kiwi audience in Auckland today.

The star of the TV talent quest joined Kiwi pop princess Annie Crummer in the media call for the Queen and Ben Elton musical We Will Rock You at Auckland's Civic Theatre.

The show has become a global sensation with more than six million people around the world seeing the show in five years.

Teen heartthrob Ayesa plays Galileo, a role he made his own in the West End, while Crummer is the Killer Queen, a part she has played in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Japan.

We will Rock You features 24 of Queen's greatest hits, including Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions, Another One Bites The Dust and Crazy Little Thing Called Love.


Here's a higher resolution of MiG Ayesa's caricature I did & was published in Bayanihan News Sydney and Global Nation/ (follow link below)
MiG is a very lovable and honest person. Here's incisive;-) interview of him:

MIG AYESA - Fil-Australian Rock Star
By Edd Aragon
Last updated 02:57pm (Mla time) 01/24/2007

This young Filipino-Australian was one of three finalists in an international competition Rock Star INXS held last year, in a search to replace Michael Hutchence. MiG has definitely scored international stardom. Blame the power of TV.

MiG Ayesa has ruthlessly competed with the best in the rock
industry and he's back in Australia to launch his self-titled album “MiG” this month before the US launch in March.

EA: Hello, MiG. Can you still speak Filipino, mate?

MA: Hindi. I can speak a little bit in pieces, like I know the difference between mabaho (stinky) and mabuhay (long live), baduy (bad taste) and baboy (pig, piggish), kulangot (snot) and kulelat (laggard) . That's about the extent of my Tagalog, but to be honest I surprise myself. Suddenly I'm saying these phrases coming out from my dila (tongue) – these phrases that are like pretty galing (cool).

EA: That's cute MiG. So you were just two years old when you came to Australia and have only have vague memories of Manila?

MA: Yeah. Well, I was a kid then - but my grandparents fly me and my brothers home for Christmas and New Year in Baguio and Manila. The celebration, the big dinners – it's always a wonderful party because it's always holidays. My cousins and I, we're very close. That's one thing my lolo definitely wanted for us.

EA: Looks like you're at the peak of your energetic life, but how do you see yourself say, ten years from now?

MA: Well, you know, ten years from now hopefully I'll have children by then, and I would love to actually be back in Australia, buy a dream home somewhere in the northern beaches in Sydney, and have the kids go to school in Sydney.

EA: Would you rather be on stage acting and singing or just concentrate on singing?

MA: I would rather…ahhh, I could do everything. I don't know which one I love more. I just have to focus on one at a time. At the moment my focus is recording and singing and music. I guess that's my greatest love.

But I guess if they were to ask me to do something on Broadway, I would really consider it. To answer your question about ten years form now, hopefully I'd have a few albums under my belt, nice to have a Grammy and even an Oscar - one step at a time. You gotta dare to dream, mate.

EA: My, you’re quite prolific. Do profit and being prolific go together in this industry?

MA: I'm not really big on being rich, rich, rich. I'm just keen on not having to worry about money - the freedom that would give you, I think would be a load off the mind. I just wanna be able to know that everything's gonna be ok, my kids have a nice home, and I have not wasted my time.

EA: So you'd rather concentrate on Australia?

MA: I know I'd have to be in the States at the moment, the market at the moment is in the United States and that's where I got a crack. That's where I've been signed from and to break that, everything will sort of fall into place, hopefully. I miss London. I'd love to go back and work in London again.

EA: You became popular in Australia because of the musical “Buddy”?

MA: I played the part of Richie Valens.

EA: Have you come across Filipinos while doing these gigs and things?

MA: Yes, I think I've been more in touch more with the Filipino community ever since Rock Star INXS. They have been so vocal in their support for me – and because they could vote, they felt like it was their duty to make sure that this Filipino made it till the end. They became emotionally involved in the whole process so I'm very proud. I became like a long lost prodigal son of the Phil – the famous prodigal son – so I've done concerts in the Philippines – and made connections with the Filipinos in the US and Australia.

EA: That's terrific, mate. What would you say about a dream to have here in the Fil-Aus community a Pinoy Rock Opera with maybe MiG Ayesa helping out in a rock theatre workshop? There's actually one on the drawing table.

MA: Actually I'd love to do that. I really would. The problem is time. At the moment we're still concentrating on working on the US release in March – we are in the studio writing all the time and recording new stuff. I would love to do so many things but time is just the problem. But if there was a break in the schedule and there was actually time for me to come here and do that, and I get invited to help, I'd love to help.

The reason why I perform and why I do this is because I love it – I don't consider it work – for me it is playing – everything I do is playing. I wanna play for a living. I'm like a kid in a candy store – playing.

If you love what you do you can never consider it as work. You gotta love it. The moment you put a stigma on it, it’s work. We're born to express ourselves – to enjoy what we do. Sometimes we may not enjoy our work, but as long as we know that we work to enjoy something that we like, for example saving money to buy a house, then at least you know what the work will do for you - something that you enjoy.

I'm proud to be a Filipino. People may think that I don't really speak Tagalog or I don't really look Filipino. That's not my fault. I'm actually inspired by other artists who are proud to be Filipino like APL from Black Eyed Peas.

EA: Very heartwarming, MiG. Hey, what are you listening to now?

MA: “Continuum” by John Mayer… and Butch Walker. I'm in the process of song writing at the moment and I find that my weakest point is my lyrics. I can write the melody and music. It's the lyrics that I find that I'm falling into the same pattern. So I'm listening to these people and say, wow these are clever I should be hanging around with poets, just like my Tito Ding (Roces) - that's what I've been neglecting.

I’m reading a biography of Queen, the early years - all four of them. It's not really about them as Queen but as school kids, being normal kids. It’s fascinating how it all starts - we all start very humbly -, what makes someone great, what in their life clicked the switch and got into the next level.

EA: How would you describe the late rock star Freddie Mercury?

MA: Outrageous, eccentric, just like me on the stage. I'm a natural show-off. Running around – doing things like take my jackets off and shirt off and throwing them off the stage. The stuff that I used to do is fairly energetic rock and roll. What I'm doing in this album is quite different – I gotta control my wild onstage antics just for this project. You reinvent yourself as you go along. I'm no longer a teenage rock and roller. I'm a mature adult contemporary musician now.

EA: Your rock hall of famers?

MA: My favourite rock and roll artists: Queen, Leny Kravitz, Jimi Hendrix, Bono, and U2.

Filipinos are so talented – it's no secret that Filipinos are great
musicians. You see all these bands – it's in our nature, our blood, to sing. Karaoke, you see, is part of our culture, of who we are.

EA: Education background?

MA: High school in St Patrick’s College, and Mass Communications at Macquarie University.

EA: Immediate plans?

MA: Write, write write. In the studio, record, record, record. There’s a lot of work to do.

EA: how would you describe your new album?

MA: Velvety, luxurious, passionate, elegant and emotional.

EA: Have you acknowledged being part of Fil-Aus state of mind?

MA:, I'm proud io be part of the Fil-Aus community in Sydney. It's a growing community. To young kids, the world is an oyster. The great thing about being in Australia is that you can develop and grow freely without fear of censorship or being told what to do. You have a sense of total individualism in Australia. If you take that and share it with the rest of the world, that would make you very special.

EA: Can't help but admire you MiG. You've run through the audition gauntlet and tedious rehearsals, shifting standards, gaining wisdom in the process. What do you think is the secret to survive all these?

MA: I think what you need to do is just to have faith in yourself – otherwise no one's gonna believe in you. You gotta really believe that what you're doing is the right thing because people will always tell you it's wrong and if you listen to everybody, you'll do nothing. So just listen to yourself – find out what it is.

EA: Thanks for your time MiG. Really nice to meet you.

MA: Same here Edd, good luck to you and a very Happy New Year to your readers and everyone in the Filipino-Australian community!

Google search MiG Ayesa or visit his official website: You can also check out his music on YouTube

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Pinoy Rock Icons in Sydney Oct06

It was like a minute ago, Wally Gonzalez and Pepe Smith
(of the legendary Juan dela Cruz band) were in my home/studio horsing around
while signing my chinese-made Fender strat (now it's worth something;-). Photo
taken before they left forManila the next day. It was an awesome gig in Sydney last
Oct 13 '06.
..and hey look at these old guys;-)

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