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Weight loss and high protein diet

Posted in Diet, Nutrition by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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Obesity often goes hand in hand with the metabolic syndrome — a cluster of five factors that include high blood pressure, a large waist circumference, elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, and reduced blood levels of HDL cholesterol.

Weight reduction is one of the first lines of defense in treating the syndrome, and researchers from the University of Ulm, Germany, have found that increased amounts of protein in the diet lead to greater improvement in metabolic syndrome risk factors when compared to a standard level of protein.

The study, presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in Phoenix, enrolled 110 overweight subjects with the metabolic syndrome who were randomly divided into two groups and were followed for one year.

For the first three months — the weight loss phase — those in the high protein group were instructed to follow a diet that supplied about twice the protein obtained from a typical diet; they also replaced two meals a day with Herbalife’s European Formula 1, a meal replacement shake. The other group was instructed to eat a standard amount of protein from an all-food diet.

For the remaining nine months of the study — the weight maintenance phase — everyone used one meal replacement shake a day as part of their meal plan, and both groups maintained the level of protein intake in the diet they had consumed during the previous three months.

Everyone lost weight after a year, but the high protein group lost more weight (nearly 25 pounds, compared with about 14 pounds for the standard protein group) and more body fat, and preserved lean body mass. More significant, however, was the finding that at the end of the study, 64 percent of those in the high protein group no longer met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome, compared with 41percent who consumed the standard amount of protein.

“We knew that weight loss would improve risk factors for the metabolic syndrome,” said Marion Flechtner-Mors, PhD, one of the researchers on the study and head of the Obesity Research Group at the University of Ulm, Germany, “but we found that more subjects showed improvement in these risk factors when we increased the protein in the diet.”

Health and Family
Philippine Star

The Mediterranean diet: A recipe for long life and good health

Posted in Diet, Health, Nutrition by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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No matter where they live in our vast and wonderful planet, people are people. But if all humans share a common biologic backbone, the peoples of the earth display a remarkable diversity of cultural norms. Language, religion, family structure, governance, music, dance, sports, and clothing are all subject to amazing cultural differences. And the human diet is every bit as diverse as the other cultural traditions. All people eat to live, but the foods they choose depend on complex interactions between climate, geography, national resources, religion, and tradition. Each culture has its signature dishes; for example, Asians are noted for rice, noodles, and soy; Italians for pasta and bread; Germans for meat and potatoes; the French for wine and cheese; and the Latinos for corn, beans, and rice. As migration, travel, and the global economy shrink our world, dietary diversity has diminished. But before variety becomes an exception, we should consider adopting the best nutritional traditions from other cultures, not just for the occasional pleasure of ethnic dining but as a healthful pattern for everyday life. And one of the best patterns is the traditional Mediterranean diet.

A Mediterranean eating pattern was first identified more than 50 years ago as part of a study of health and habits in seven countries — Greece, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the United States, and Yugoslavia. One of its most intriguing findings was that people living in Crete, other parts of Greece, and Southern Italy lived longer and had the lowest rates of heart disease in spite of a high-fat diet and limited medical care.

What Is It?

Although the Mediterranean Basin occupies only a small fraction of the earth, there is considerable dietary diversity within the region. When nutritionists speak of the traditional Mediterranean diet, though, they refer to a centuries-old dietary pattern that has flourished in Crete, various rural regions in the rest of Greece, and parts of Southern Italy and France. And that pattern has 10 characteristic features:

1) An abundance of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and other plant foods.

2) An abundance of unrefined grains, such as whole grain cereals and bread.

3) Olive oil as the major source of fat.

4) Fish in moderate to high amounts.

5) Fruit as the typical dessert, with sweets containing honey or sugar consumed several times a week in low to moderate amounts.

6) Yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products consumed daily in low to moderate amounts.

7) Four or fewer eggs consumed per week.

8) Poultry consumed in moderate to large amounts and red meat in low amounts.

9) A reliance on locally grown, fresh, minimally processed foods.

10) Alcohol consumed in moderate amounts, usually as wine with meals.

Although the farmers of Crete did not analyze the nutrients in their diets, modern scientists have run the numbers. The traditional Mediterranean diet is high in complex carbohydrates and fiber but low in simple sugars, moderate in unsaturated fat, moderate in proteins, and moderate in alcohol. It’s also tasty, but does it work? Yes, it does, if we base it on the many research studies done previously in Europe.

Studies In Greece And Europe

And here are some recent studies that further prove the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet:

• A study of 22,043 adults in Greece found that people who adhered to the traditional Mediterranean diet enjoyed a lower mortality rate than those who did not. Compared to people with the least traditional diets, people with the best diets were 33 percent less likely to die of heart disease and 24 percent less likely to die of any cause during the 44 months of the study. And benefit depended on the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern rather than any individual nutrients; olive oil won’t help unless you include the other good stuff in your diet.

• A study of 74,607 men and women, aged 60 or older, in nine European countries found that following the principles of the Mediterranean diet was associated with increased survival and longevity. Protection was consistent in Mediterranean as well as in non-Mediterranean countries.

• A study of 2,339 people between the ages of 70 and 90 in 11 European countries linked the Mediterranean diet to a 23-percent reduction in the overall mortality rate. And when exercise, moderate alcohol use, and avoidance of tobacco were added to the diet, the death rate was reduced by more than 50 percent.

• A study of 1,302 Greek patients with heart disease found that greater adherence to the traditional Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower death rate during nearly four years of observation.

• A study of 1,926 Greek adults found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet enjoyed a 27-percent decrease in the likelihood of acute coronary artery syndrome.

• A study of 11,323 Italian heart attack survivors found that patients who succeeded in adopting a Mediterranean diet were only half as likely to die during 6.5 years of observation as patients who did not succeed in improving their diets.

More Support From U.S. Studies

There was more encouraging news a little more than a year ago, when the Archives of Internal Medicine issue of December 10/24, 2007, published results from an American study. In a long-term investigation of 400,000 men and women, the results confirmed the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet. Those whose eating patterns closely matched the Mediterranean diet were about 20 percent less likely to have died of heart disease, cancer, or any cause, over a five-year follow-up period.

In addition, a Mediterranean-type diet seems to be as good for treating heart disease as it is for preventing it. In the Heart Institute of Spokane Diet Intervention and Evaluation Trial (THIS-DIET), heart attack survivors following this type of diet were less likely than their counterparts on a more typical American diet to have died or suffered a second heart attack, a stroke, or an episode of unstable angina over a two-year period. The study was published in the June 1, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Are you trying to lose weight? A Mediterranean diet trumps a low-fat diet. Results of a two-year head-to-head comparison study, published in the July 17, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the Mediterranean diet yielded greater weight loss and was better at easing low-grade inflammation, a process linked to heart disease. Among the volunteers with diabetes, the Mediterranean diet yielded better fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.

How It Works

The Mediterranean diet works because it has lots of the things that can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses; the list includes dietary fiber, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, and fish, as well as the moderate amounts of alcohol that also appear to protect the heart. At the same time, it shuns items that are harmful, including saturated fat from animal sources, trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, salty processed foods, and rapidly absorbed simple carbohydrates. The net results include lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, lower levels of blood sugar and insulin, and lower blood pressure readings.

In addition, a randomized clinical trial of 180 patients with the metabolic syndrome, a major precursor of cardiovascular disease, found that the Mediterranean diet reduced body weight, improved arterial function, and lowered levels of C-reactive protein and other markers of vascular inflammation. Researchers have also demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet produces similar risk factor improvements even in healthy adults.


When doctors prescribe the Mediterranean diet, they are advising the traditional diet present in Crete and certain other rural areas in Southern Greece, Italy or France. But with globalization, the traditional dietary pattern is eroding. In the Mediterranean, as in much of the world, the Western preference for processed foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and calories but low in fiber, is taking hold. Olive oil and wine are still in vogue, but exercise is not. Over the past 30 years, the Greek waistline has expanded drastically; the prevalence of obesity is now as high or higher than any area of the world except certain Pacific islands. Diabetes is also rampant, and an epidemic of heart disease may just be a heartbeat away.

So, here’s the take-home advice: When in Greece, do as the Greeks used to do!

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By Tyrone M. Reyes, M.D.

Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM

Your daily health checklist

Posted in Health, Tips by Erineus on February 21, 2009
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If you’re an organized person (bordering on being OC?), you probably draw up a daily checklist of things to do at home and at work, so that your life runs like clockwork. Without your checklist, your multi-tasking life could go haywire. Or you could go bonkers.

On top of our daily checklist, we must have a (mini) health audit every day, according to Handbook for Life (how to make friends, beds, love, tea, money … and the world a better place) by Caroline Righton (available at National Book Store).

Right on, Caroline! Listen up, everyone: “Whoever you are and whatever your age and general state of health, the key thing is to ask yourself if your body easily meets the demands made on it by the life you lead, and whether, if you would like to have a different sort of life, you might need to raise your game to improve your health …”

So, what are the things you need to ask yourself when you do your mini health audit? Here are a few questions and some answers:

1) Do you sleep well?

I guess for most of us who work such looong hours, the answer is a yawning no. Yes, says Caroline, “Most people need between seven and eight hours’ sleep a night … Sleep is needed by your body and brain to recharge and stay healthy. Too little and your immunity can decrease and your concentration suffer. Too much and you may feel lethargic and even depressed.”

What to do?

Take a few tips for a night of bedded bliss:

• Don’t eat or drink too late, yes, and say no to spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol.

• Take a warm milky drink. Milk does help as it contains brain-calming tryptophan.

• Don’t do any strenuous exercise close to bedtime. Allow your body several hours to relax and cool down before getting some shut-eye.

If the problem persists, says Caroline, go and see your doctor. For sure, you won’t be the only insomniac in the waiting room. Zzzz you there!

2) Do you feel stiff or have creaky joints when you wake up?

If your only form of exercise is stretching a point or bending your principles, you could be in trouble. “This (having creaky joints) is probably a reflection of your level of fitness,” writes Caroline. “… If you are worried about it, of course see your doctor, because it can be an indication of medical problems, but first try stretching out and gently flexing the offending creaking parts while lying in bed … Even gentle exercise, such as swimming, can help if it’s carried out regularly.”

3) Does your tongue look less than rosy pink?

Now, that’s no tongue-in-cheek question. Caroline has a mouthful to say on that: “Tongues really aren’t at their best in the morning, but serious badger’s bum furring is most likely to indicate that you are dehydrated and so, drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day and not overdoing coffee and booze should help.”

4) What color is your urine and does it smell?

Don’t get pissed off now, but your urine has a lot of story to tell about your health. For instance, smelly pee means you might have a urinary tract infection. And the darker yellow it is, the more likely you are to be dehydrated. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body so your urine may be dark after a night of boozing it up. Rehydrate, but if your problem persists, see a doctor.

5) Is your waist size over 94 cm. (man), 80 cm. (women)?

As the experts say, “The broader the waistline, the shorter the lifeline.” For an overall picture, says Caroline, look at your body fat percentage, your blood pressure, resting heart rate, and cholesterol levels.

6) Have you got your stress levels under control?

Caroline’s book can’t stress this enough: “Stress is a killer, which is ironic given that it was once a lifesaver as the body’s front-line defense mechanism.”

Today, you are probably stressed if you feel guilty when you relax — yup, you’re stressed because there’s no stress in your life.

Here’s an antidote to stress, according to Caroline: “Get the stress in perspective … Count your blessings and accentuate the positive in your life …”

It’s a fact, as proven by medical tests, that optimists respond better to medical treatment. Indeed, a dose of positivism keeps ill health at bay.

7) Do you eat a sensible diet with restricted fatty or sugary foods?

Once more with feeling: A high-fat, high-sugar diet puts one at high risk of heart disease and diabetes.

8) Do you keep your salt intake low — to less than 6 g. a day?

How low should you go? Here’s the lowdown on salt from the life audit handbook: 6 g. is about the same amount as one level teaspoon. Too much salt raises the blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack. You better watch out, too, for processed foods, bread and cereals that contain salt.

9) Do you drink enough water?

How much is enough? Answer: Eight or more glasses keep the immune system healthy. An added bonus is that it helps you lose weight, too. But that’s another weighty issue that deserves another lengthy discussion.

So, how did you fare in this life audit?

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We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at ching_alano@yahoo.com.
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Updated February 17, 2009 12:00 AM

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Tagaytay’s next big thing

Posted in Modern Living, Tourism by Erineus on February 21, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Robinsons Land, one of the country’s premier property developers, recently opened the Promenade of Summit Ridge Hotel Complex in Tagaytay City.

The promenade is part of the 2.17-hectare property, which will include a hotel and a recreation center. Its major component, the full-service and fully amenitized nine-story hotel, will be completed and expected to open by middle of 2009.

“With the success of the Promenade, we just couldn’t be more excited once our hotel opens,” says Dollie Bufu, Summit Ridge Group property manager.

The Summit Ridge Promenade is an open-air lifestyle and commercial center featuring prominent retailers and food players. Offering dining, pampering and shopping, this newest one-stop haven in Tagaytay promises a whole new experience.

“The coming together of local and national tenants here made our center more dynamic and exciting because it offers a perfect mix of our favorite retail and food, and of course, introduces what Tagaytay has to offer — fresh air and lush scenery,” adds Bufu.

Anchor stores Robinsons Supermarket and Handyman Do-it Best are already open, offering great finds and value, so are the Sun Shop, HBC and Zen Zest kiosks.

Casual dining restaurant Shakey’s is always filled with customers enjoying all-time favorite pizzas, chicken and mojos.

The Cravings Group will be opening two outlets here, C2 Classic Cuisine and Cravings Cafe. C2 Classic Cuisine is known for redefining traditional dishes while Cravings offers coffee blends, pastries, cakes, and restaurant fare.

Local pasalubong store Amira’s Buco Tart Haus is a must-visit, offering tarts in pineapple, mango, ube, coffee, blueberry and peach flavors.

Sanctuario, one of Tagaytay’s famous dining destinations, also finds a home in this promenade. For coffee, head to Starbucks, fast becoming a favorite hangout of local residents and motorists along the busy Aguinaldo Highway.

Kids and adults can enjoy endless fun and games at the Fun Time Amusement Center located on the second level. For beauty, pampering and health treatments, go to Godiva Skin Station and Tapawan Dental Clinic.

Watch out for the opening of Giligan’s, Bacolod Chicken Inasal, Rey’s Kitchen, Sizzling Pepper Steak, Galileo Enoteco, Razon’s, BPI, Robinsons Savings Bank, and Atin Ito.

Updated February 21, 2009 12:00 AM

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An ecclesiastical museum in the Walled City

Posted in Art and Culture, Church, Intramuros Administration, Museum, Tourism by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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Abandoned” and “homeless” best describe the artifacts, sculptures, and numerous works of art procured by the Intramuros Administration (IA) nearly three decades ago. It’s such a pity that the priceless pieces, which consist of busts and sculptures of saints made of ivory, silver, and gold ornaments and the 19th-century piña collection, are just cramped in the IA office and bodegas. Sacred to both the pious and the nationalist, the treasure trove ought to be displayed in a museum for all to see and admire. So when the Intramuros Administration announced its plans to build an ecclesiastical museum amid the ruins of the San Ignacio Church in the Walled City, everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

The ecclesiastical museum, to rise on a 3,190-sq.m. area, will house an impressive collection of antique items procured by former Central Bank governor and IA’s first chief, Dr. Jaime Laya. According to avid antique collectors Ramon Villegas and Antonio Martino, this is the best collection under one entity.

“The good news is it belongs to the Filipino people,” enthuses Intramuros Administration chairman Anna Maria “Bambi” Harper.

The museum tops the list of Harper’s many projects for Intramuros as part of IA’s project to relaunch the Walled City as a tourist destination. This despite allegations by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the lady chief was responsible for the cutting of 29 full-grown trees in Plaza Roma fronting the Manila Cathedral on Andres Soriano St. in Intramuros (formerly Aduana) which Harper vehemently denies. Harper was sworn in as the new chief of the Intramuros Administration on March 24. With a job coterminous with the current administration, Harper is optimistic that the Walled City will assume its rightful place as the centerpiece of Philippine tourism in no time.

“In the past 11 years, nothing has been done to Intramuros. It’s tragic because the Walled City is the only heritage site in Manila. I proposed this plan during IA’s first board meeting and got a favorable response. We have to finish everything in a year and a half so we have to hit the board right,” Harper says.

Here’s the catch: The construction of the museum alone is estimated to cost a whopping P400 million! The budget of IA has not changed in the past 15 years. Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano has pledged his support and so has the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

“Together we can make this happen,” the optimistic Harper adds.

Also on the drawing board is the proposed adaptive reuse of the Almacenes Reales ruins at historic Fort Santiago.The Almacenes Reales or Royal Warehouses (where the Spaniards stored the goods brought in by the galleons) is now being spruced up to provide an indoor function area at Fort Santiago.

Harper ordered the strengthening of the break walls, the installation of antique windows, balusters, and doors in each storage chamber to enhance the old charm of the structure. Roofing was also set up so guests can enjoy a leisurely walk at Fort Santiago even during the rainy season. Smack in the middle of the historic walls is the Museum Shop brimming with souvenir items patterned after the genuine relics of Intramuros. On the stone wall, we spotted tastefully designed merchandise such as the Letras y Figuras souvenir tees in bright hues, table runners, tote bags, key chains, coffee mugs with the Intramuros insignia, table napkins, table runners, tissue and umbrella holders accented with willow design inspired by the blue-and-white ceramics that abound during the Galleon Trade.

In a bid to attract more investors and tourists, new structures and establishments will also be built in the Walled City without destroying its historical and heritage component.

“For scheduled tours, visitors are encouraged to park their cars and board a horse-drawn tranvia (which Sarao made for IA) to decongest traffic in the area,” notes Harper.

Peace and order is another story. “We’ve already discussed this matter with the city government. We also see to it that the walls and alleys are properly lighted to shoo away lawless elements. How can we attract investors and tourists if there is no peace and order?” she adds.

IA also formed the Intramuros Homeowners and Businessmen Association to help address the problem. “Again, I can’t do it by myself. I need the cooperation of everyone to make things happen for Intramuros because there are still a lot of things to be done,” stresses the IA chief.

As they say, dreams come true to those who work hard while they dream. Well, Harper is doing just that and we hope will continue to do so long after her tenure is over.

“The Walled City is just too precious to be abandoned,” Harper says with a sigh.

* * *

To know more about IA’s other projects, visit its office at the fifth floor of Palacio del Gobernador corner General Luna and Aduana Sts., Intramuros, Manila.

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By Lai S. Reyes Updated September 20, 2008 12:00 AM

SM City Annex: The mall that started it all

Posted in Malls by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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The new 92,832-sqm., six-level Annex at SM City North EDSA is located on the site of the old Annex building.

MANILA, Philippines – The recent opening of SM City North-EDSA’s Annex Building gave shoppers a first look at the exciting redevelopment and expansion of SM’s first supermall.

When SM City North-EDSA first opened in November 1985, the country was in the midst of a major political and economic crisis brought about by the death of Ninoy Aquino.

Despite conventional wisdom, SM founder and chairman Henry Sy Sr. pursued his dream of bringing the shopping mall concept he had observed during his visits to the US to the Philippines. And as they say, the rest is history.

As SM wraps up its 50th anniversary celebrations with 33 supermalls all over the Philippines, it returns to its roots with the redevelopment of the mall that started it all. The new Annex highlights the initial phase of the mall’s redevelopment, which began with the opening of The Block in 2006.

When completed, the new SM City North-EDSA will have a gross floor area of 425,000 square meters, making it the third largest mall in the world.

The new 92,832-sqm., six-level Annex is located on the site of the old Annex building. It has been designed to create an enjoyable and festive shopping and entertainment environment, while becoming an iconic symbol in Metro Manila’s rapidly changing and growing cityscape and community.

The exterior of the Annex consists of a simple block clad design in undulating perforated aluminum panels. In the context of the total redevelopment, the façade treatment is carried over to the Main Mall and The Block. The façade is interspersed by either glass or metal cubes with the undulations of the cladding panels creating a dynamic composition.

The eastern end of the Annex overlooking the park will consist of a monumental glass wall. This creates a grand shop front from which the atrium, its scenic lights, as well as various other retail outlets and restaurants can be seen from the park, thereby merging indoor and outdoor experiences and integrating these two components of the mall.

The choice of aqua suggests an affinity to the other SM malls — Megamall and SM Mall of Asia. In all, a dynamic composition is created to give the mall a distinct architectural identity with a balance of dynamism and elegance.

In the Annex interiors, tenants are arranged along the ribbon-like atrium with vertical circulation provided by escalators and lifts at the opposite ends of the so-called ribbon.

Interiors are clean and modern, and centered around a curvilinear atrium, which stretches its length. Daylight is provided through a series of circular glass cones set into the ceiling, giving the interior a light, airy feeling.

The new Annex’s tenant mix includes high-end retail and dining establishments, a Cyberzone, a games arcade, and bowling center.

Its lower ground floor includes leisure shops, while its upper ground floor consists of general services. Nourishment and indulgence shops are located on the second floor, while specialty shops and fashion finds complete the third floor. Cyberzone is the attraction of the fourth and fifth floors, while an upcoming call center will be placed on the sixth floor.

The Cyberzone at SM City North-EDSA is the largest tech center in all the SM malls, and a one-stop haven for tech-savvy shoppers. With over a hundred shops and tech services, it will include tenants offering hardware and software solutions, mobile communications, Internet, and gaming services.

With the opening of the new Annex as well as the upgrading of its popular main mall, SM City North-EDSA is all set to establish new benchmarks in the shopping world.


Meralco Theater turns 40

Posted in Culture, NCCA by Erineus on February 21, 2009

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February is National Arts Month and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has planned activities that will no doubt be a refuge from the global economic storm as well as from the constant irritation of local politics.

These activities are being held in various cultural venues and my thoughts turn to the fact that although we have seen three building boom cycles in our lifetime, there has been no major construction of theaters in the last four decades. Culture has played second fiddle to commerce in the last 40 years.

This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of two of the city’s cultural landmarks. The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin is the first that comes to mind for most people, but it was actually another edifice by another gifted Filipino architect, that opened first.

The Meralco Theater by Jose Maria Zaragosa was inaugurated on March 22, 1969. The theater forms part of the larger Meralco Building, which was completed a little earlier. The 14-story building, theater and adjoining buildings form a landmark in the Ortigas district. Its elegant silhouette remains uncompromised mainly due to the fact that the posh Corinthian Gardens’ low suburban spread surrounds it.

I literally grew up in and around the complex. My father moved us to Barrio Kapitolyo two years earlier for him to be nearer to work and us to our schools. Now a few years retired from the Meralco, he was one of the head doctors at the John F. Cotton Hospital right behind the building and under the shadow of the theater.

The Meralco Theater was and still is one of the most modern and fully equipped theaters in the country. It seats a thousand, half the capacity of the CCP, but arguably with better acoustics. My old professor and former dean of the UP College of Architecture, Aurelio Jugillon, was the acoustic designer and he used the theater as an example of good acoustics. He also did the acoustic design for the studios at the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN studios in Quezon City.

I got my first taste of musical theater, ballet, and opera at the Meralco. The building’s inauguration was marked by performances of the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow with renowned dancers Raisa Struchkova, Alexander Lapuri, Boris Khoklov, and Vladimir Levashev. The four were ably supported by the corps de ballet of the Hariraya Dance Company of the Philippines, products of the rigorous training of Totoy de Oteyza and Inday Gaston Mañosa. The music was rendered by the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the Bolshoi’s Mikhail Bank. I caught one of the matinees; the lack of a tux prevented me from attending the gala.

Then First Lady Imelda Marcos attended the performance and was promptly mesmerized by the Bolshoi and the new theater. Her CCP still had a few months to go so she requested Don Eugenio Lopez for performances by the Bolshoi at the amphitheater in Rizal Park (also designed by Leandro Locsin).

In the next few months, also in celebration of the Meralco company’s 66th year of operation and the inauguration of the Ortigas complex, there was a slew of world-class offerings at the theater. The Hariraya Dance Company mounted a ballet concert with British ballet star Robin Haig. A few evenings of beautiful classical music were offered by the Manila Symphony Orchestra led by guest conductor Helen Quach (the theater has an orchestra pit that can accommodate a full 60-piece orchestra). The operas La Traviata and La Boheme were staged by the Philippine Theater of the Performing Arts. Finally, right before the CCP’s opening, the Meralco brought in Beverly Sills, the famous American coloratura soprano.

Between that year and my entering the university, the Meralco Theater was a regular venue for these performances as well as movie premieres. One evening in September 1972, I watched my first musical performance. It was Mass with Chinggoy Alonzo in the lead. I was overwhelmed by the experience and would probably have ventured into theater if not for the imposition of martial law the next day.

Musical theater’s loss was architecture’s gain. The theater and the building were and are still one of my favorite landmarks of modern Filipino architecture. Zaragoza created work in a hybrid international style that utilized elements of the movement like sunshades or brise soleil and large expanses of glazing, but he also imbued his compositions with vestiges of art deco and pre-war abstract decorative styles. The trim he used in the massing of the theater was pure art deco while the use of curves echoed the work of contemporaries like Eero Saarinen.

The original landscape design of Dolly Perez was also an inspiration as her large expanses of lawn and lush shade planting design complemented Zaragoza’s architecture. Subsequent over-planting by others has since obscured the architecture and cluttered the composition.

I loved the Meralco building during Christmas. They used to turn on all the lights. Zaragoza’s vertical sunshade fins (reportedly inspired by an automobile grill) were lit from behind, making the whole 14-story façade glow like a lantern. The lighting design won raves from the magazine International Lighting Review.

Philippine architecture was getting noticed in international circles. Locsin’s CCP came later in the year (I’ll feature that iconic structure in a later column). The building boom of the ‘70s saw more modern structures come up but after the Folk Arts Theater, all that followed were of other building types.

Since the late ‘60s, we have seen little come up in the way of cultural venues, theaters or auditoriums (except for some school ones). We have lost many others to the wrecking ball or changes in company policies. The San Miguel and Insular Life auditoriums, the Rizal Theater, the downtown movie houses, the old Metropolitan Theater, even the Folk Arts Theater are sorely missed.

New York’s Broadway district has over three dozen theaters with close to 20,000 seats and nonstop presentations. The CCP complex and the Ortigas district, each of which can swallow Broadway, have less than 4,000 seats between then, sporadic seasons and no venues specific to theater (musical or otherwise), opera or dance — all being multipurpose theaters, which leads to design compromises.

We laud the commitment of companies like the Meralco to keeping its venues available to a public starved for cultural nourishment. Imagine just how many theaters or cultural venues can be built from just one “bukol” of any of the recent corruption scandals. Maybe that’s our lot in life — we have to suffer the never-ending drama of our politics, the inane comedy antics of our government officials and, alas, the tragedy of living in a soulless city built only for commercial profit.

* * *

Feedback is welcome. Please e-mail the writer at paulo.alcazaren@gmail.com.
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By Paulo Alcazaren

Updated February 21, 2009 12:00 AM