Why Forbes ‘can’t be reached’; why BenCab, macho men, teared up | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

AFTER the show, Sandy Tan Uy, Annie Sarthou, BenCab and Virgie Ramos.
AFTER the show, Sandy Tan Uy, Annie Sarthou, BenCab and Virgie Ramos.




A controversy is brewing in Forbes Park: to allow or not the installation of outdoor distributed antenna systems (ODAs) all throughout the neighborhood.


The installation of about 76 ODAs in the gated villages of North and South Forbes in Makati, according to the “pros,” is to improve mobile voice and data services, in short the Internet connection and cell-phone signals.


According to a brochure distributed by the Forbes Park Association detailing the “pros” and “cons” of ODA, the proposal has been made by Smart and Globe as early as 2012.


ODAs are already in place in many gated villages and communities in Makati.


These ODAs are better, it is said, than having to rely on higher and bigger mobile towers in Forbes’ perimeter.


According to the brochure, ODAs are used worldwide, including in Singapore and Disneyland theme parks.


So who doesn’t want better cell phone/Internet signals? You’d think the issue is a no-brainer.


Not in Forbes. Two members of the Association are raising the alarm that these ODAs, no matter that they will be discreetly situated, are bad for one’s health—“possibly carcinogenic”—and will not help improve cellphone signals anyway.


Apparently the two members have succeeded in drawing attention to their cause, prompting the association to set a survey next month to get the community’s collective decision.


In the meantime, the information campaign for or against the ODA continues, with no less than Forbes’ prominent resident, Fernando Zobel de Ayala, writing a letter to the other residents to explain the issue and urging them to sign the proxy form allowing two members of the board to vote for the approval of the ODA installations.


Even the vote of business leader Washington SyCip is being wooed. Suspense.


Speaking of this most prestigious address in the country, we recall our funny conversation with a witty gentleman who had just bought a niche in the columbarium of Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes.


Guess what epitaph or tag he would like to read on his niche when his ashes are finally interred there? The forward-looking gentleman said he would put, “In Forbes, at last!”


Teary eyed


When the musical “Sabel, Love and Passion” was staged at Solaire Theater last month, its premiere and only night of performance so far, we expected it to be just a cursory staging of the imagined life of a vagabond woman that inspired the iconic masterpiece of BenCab, the National Artist (Visual Arts).


We were wrong, and perhaps so were many others who went to this primarily social event that kicked off the yearlong celebration of BenCab’s 50th year retrospective.


The experience wasn’t only a cocktail-elbow-rubbing gig. It was a stirring theater experience.


Toward the end, the audience was teary eyed, if not in tears, including BenCab and Swatch pioneer Virgie Ramos who were both seated beside us. One heard sniffling sounds around.


They were visibly touched by how the story took a surprising turn in the end. The story was, in moments, romantic, exhilarating, tragic, sad—and cathartic.


The story—the words, the music, the performance, the image or the production design—drew you in, making you forget for a moment that Sabel started as a one-dimension drawing of a castaway whom BenCab espied in his humble neighborhood in Bambang, Manila.


The vagabond he called Sabel became one of the most powerful visual arts icons, her tattered clothes morphing, through the decades, into strokes, lines and colors so diverse yet powerful that BenCab collectors could never seem to have enough of them.


“Sabel” the musical was directed and written by veteran theater artist Freddie Santos, with music by Louie Ocampo, another acclaimed artist. Iza Calzado had a dual role as narrator and, later on, as Sabel, a rare moment for Iza to show what a powerful, inspiring presence she could be onstage.


Theater stalwart Audie Gemora’s part was brief yet it reminded us how we’ve always been moved by his performance, and how he could sing!


Santos’ written word was succinct yet evocative and lyrical. The young artists of Philippine Ballet Theater also held the audience in awe, especially the young Sabel of Bianca Trocino.


The story was set in the cusp of World War II, when a girl was born to a young couple, her birth marked by the tragic death of her mother. She died giving birth to Sabel.


The war tore apart Sabel and her father, their lives taking diverse paths until in the end, fate thrusting them together in a gripping moment—and surprise, how a young artist (BenCab) would be in it.


The musical was an idea of staunch BenCab collector Rico Hizon, the awarded broadcaster of BBC. But that was more than a decade ago. It was obvious how the story that would be this musical had taken various turns, no doubt the result of countless hours of brainstorming among highly imaginative and hyperactive artists led by Santos.


As Hizon told the audience in brief remarks before the musical, it’s been a decade-long journey transforming Sabel into a musical. It “has gone beyond Twitter and Facebook. Now we already have Viber.”


Hizon beamed like a proud parent that night. His title in the credits: “Production advisor.”


“Sabel” will be restaged at Music Museum on June 26 and 27. However, it will not be a bad idea to produce it in the near future on the stage of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, no less, where its lush production design can be shown off.


Samurai warrior


The celebration of BenCab’s 50 years in the arts continues, with the opening on June 6 of “BenCab in Multiples: A Print Retrospective” at the CCP Main Gallery, and also the launch of the BenCab line of the Freeway Art National Artist Collection Series, also in the same event at CCP.


Last Thursday, over dinner hosted by Virgie Ramos, BenCab’s friends were still feeling elated by the success of “Sabel” the musical. It was a hangover well justified.


While it was a no-occasion dinner, “Tita Virgie,” ever the Nippon-phile, seized the occasion to surprise the National Artist with a samurai warrior suit—an ensemble that has always fascinated BenCab—which BenCab gamely tried on with the help of Gino Gonzales. It was—why were we not surprised—heavy and elaborate, BenCab said.


She also surprised him with a chiffon cake on which was imprinted his photo with his award-winning hibiscus bonsai. Bonsai has always been BenCab’s enduring interest, going back to his years in London.


His bonsai won the Best in Show at the recent Philippine Bonsai Society event, an exhibit/competition which has always drawn entries from here and abroad.


Interestingly, however, the evening wake-me-upper for the women around the table wasn’t Sabel, but Janice (de Belen) and the many good-looking guys linked to her through the decades.


How does she do it? It was an enjoyable evening that ended on a feeling of envy just as enjoyable.