Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dragonfest (Body Combat Marathon)

In celebration of Valentines Day and the Chinese New Year, Fitness First MetroEast organized the Dragonfest Body Combat Marathon last February 15, 2007. It was a 2-hour long (lasted from 6PM to 8PM) non-stop Body Combat event. Body Combat is Les Mills' "fiercely energetic program inspired by martial arts and draws from a wide array of disciplines such as karate, boxing, taekwondo, tai chi and muay thai." A normal scheduled class usually lasts an hour, but events like these lasts longer, so think of it as 2 back-to-back combat classes in one straight run! Of course, I am not one to miss this event, especially since it's been quite a long time since such an event has been organized.

Training for the event was no problem for me since I've been attending combat classes almost regularly, and if I fail to attend a class, a video and downloaded music is enough guide for me to do the classes at home. The recent release of combat really triggered an upsurge in the number of participants in the classes, and combined with its wonderful musical tracks and new martial art moves (first introduction of the capoiera!), my love for Body Combat, became already an obssession. Yes, I have memorized the choreography for most if not all of the tracks of the recent releases already. Also, I have also been faithfully rowing the ergs at the gym, this time increasing my regular distances to 10,000 meters per run (that's around 42-45 minutes of indoor rowing), training up for a half-marathon (21, 097 meters) and eventually a full marathon (42,195 meters!).

Of course, what I have been truly preparing for was the opportunity to wear and design a new combat attire attuned to the theme of the event: Dragonfest! Some of you would remember the combat attire I designed in my previous post "If you're gonna be sick, be sick with this!" where I also mentioned I bought my new Nike Free 7.0 shoes. I thought of brewing up a design built around the base colors of my shoes, which has become my regular shoe of choice whenever I attended combat classes: red and black. I drew this design, again, during an EXECOM Meeting, and as he did before Mitch also drew his own version (Igorot!) of my idea:

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Now, Project Runway... The details in the costume would basically revolve around the concept of my earlier tattoo design entitled "Dragonfire". The pants and the top would be easy to acquire but the major challenge for this costume was how to put the detail on the apparel. Initially, I thought of having the design emboidered, but this would cost a lot, considering that this is a customized design. So that was out of the question. I thought of doing the embroidery work myself (and of all the faculty in CAMP who would teach me emboidery, it would be Sir Bal! Sir Bal knows how to do embroidery!), but the time constraints did not allow me to do that. So it all boiled down to basically spraypainting the design over the shirt, and have the design stitched on the pants using colored fabric. Of course, cost has to be kept to the minimum.

Pants were bought from Plazafair for P500, sale price, and the red cotton shirt was bought from SM Department Store for P199. Spray paints used were already acquired at home (originally going to be used to repaint my laptop), and the fabric was recycled from an old portfolio envelope. Here's the process, until the final product:

I had to run from Montalban so I could reach Fitness First MetroEast in time for the scheduled Dragonfest Body Combat Marathon. I had to register, freshen up and prep... I was more or less prepared for the 2 hour long exercise, except for deep inflicted bruises on my left biceps and right deltoids (don't ask why...). The event was well attended, the gym hall was at full capacity. Somehow, I was fearing that people might hit each other... I was afraid I might kick another participant unknowingly. The gym hall was jumpacked, I had to position myself near the back, among the "titas" and "newbies". My combat addict friends were all positioned at the front. I brought my camera to get pics of the event, however, I wasn't able to get action shots of the event itself since I myself was the participant. I was hoping my gym buddies Aimee and Jun would be there to cheer me on, pero they were either sick or busy at that time. Oh well, I was on my own and I did my best, I think. Here's the before and after (winners) of the event:

The marathon ended promptly, and somehow I wasn't that exhausted at all... I was even looking for more action! Anyway, I didn't win anything... my costume was shunned in favor of the cliche fatigue look, and since there would only be a champion (1 winner) for each category, I wasn't good enough. But you know, one of the judges/organizers actually approached me after the event and showed me the scorecards. If there was a 2nd place, I would be the unanimous 2nd place winner for the male junior division. That was enough consolation for me, even if I didn't receive any prize or trophy. The knowledge alone that I finished 2nd place is enough prize for me.


But wait, why do I always have to settle for 2nd place (as I remember, the last time I joined the semis for the Ultimate Body Combat Marathon, I was also 2nd... and so it goes for most aspects of my life) I not good enough? So what's next? Body Combat Instructor auditions on Feb. 24, 2007 at Fitness First Ortigas. Hoping to pass, but if not, it will surely be a good workout anyway.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The 50 Ambigram Project

Ambigrams (or inversions, as others would call them) are graphical representations that spells a word or words not only in the form it is normally presented, but also in another direction or orientation. They have gained a boost in popularity after having been featured prominently in Dan Brown’s novel, Angels and Demons, as cover design elements and essential visual objects in the story. There are many types of ambigrams, most common of which are the rotational, where the same word would be read when the ambigram is rotated in another angle (usually 180 degrees). Other types include the mirror, chain and 3-dimensional ambigrams, among others.

Y'know, I make ambigrams! I consider it a great exercise in graphic design, a “play in optical illusions, symmetry and visual perception,” to the point that I consider it a challenge in undertaking every ambigram project. I call each ambigram a “solution”, the problem of which is to figure out the optimum configuration of the graphic presentation of the letters of the word or name even when it is rotated at another angle. It can be very easy to make one, as some words or names are already natural ambigrams by themselves (eg.: "ella" and "suns") but a lot of effort is placed into making a very good ambigram. An ambigram is considered superior in construction if it is not simply "line work" or a "mishmash" of shapes or strokes. It should be legible enough to be read in all its intended configurations.

I never considered making ambigrams before, but I was always fascinated by them (especially after reading Dan Brown’s book). My friend Anj, asked me if I knew about ambigrams after seeing an ambigram tattoo on one of her patients. I told her that I knew about them but I have never attempted making one, but I will try to make one for HER… I then studied the work of John Langdom, and considered various approaches into constructing ambigrams, and finally made my first convincing ambigram:

And it all started from there… I have been making ambigrams for friends who request them (and clients who actually pay to have them). I have yet to consider whether I should write my own tutorial on making ambigrams (although there are already many online tutorials out there). But sometimes I wonder whether making ambigrams can actually be taught at all. Here's an ambigram of my FULL name:

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Anyway, recently I undertook a massive undertaking which I call “The 50 Ambigram Project”, which was a collaboration with Anj (my special birthday gift for her too). The 50+ ambigrams was constructed in a span of 2½ - 3 weeks and was finally set into pins and given to her friends as birthday treats. You would notice that each ambigram was constructed with the character and personality of each person in mind. This was done through careful selection of font style, illustrative embellishments, background and colors used. Nice idea, isn’t it? I’ve been making all sorts of graphics but never thought of setting them into pins. Anj does have the creative knack in thinking up these unique ideas. Impressively, she has already developed her own skill in making ambigrams (good and powerful suggestions!) Seeing the final product, I couldn’t help but feel proud, like a dad seeing how beautiful his “babies” are.

The 50 Ambigram Project 03

For those interested, I accept commission work for ambigrams. Not only will it be a special personal property, but it has the potential of being a unique and valuable gift to your friends and loved ones. Only you or your loved one will have that ambigram. My ambigrams usually cost around $25 to $150, depending on the difficulty level of the word/s or name/s provided, so please contact me first so I can quote a reasonable price (Of course, I’m open to friendly considerations and discounts). The basic package includes the electronic file of the artwork saved in various versions. You can provide your preferences when it comes to font style, background, colors and other special elements used for your ambigram. Special requests are also accepted if you would want to set your ambigrams into pins, frames, mugs, T-shirt or other merchandise.

My ambigrams can be seen in my DeviantArt account at Detailed pictures of "The 50 Ambigram Project" pins can be seen at my Flickr account.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Logo Design: The Practical Framer

Although the concept I submitted for the logo of The Practical Framer, a company that manufactures and sells picture frames, was not accepted as their primary logo, the premise behind my design is quite clever.

The client wanted a logo whose style is modern, whimsical, of alternative craft... a little retro, but not too stuffy. Since The Practical Framer was established as a separate identity for an online store of the Saline Picture Frame Company, they wanted the logo to represent an accessible "practical" feel, competent, affordable, easy and sophisticated. Also, the company requested that no mitered picture frames be used in the logo... the company seems avoiding the old fashioned, obvious "what-we-do is represented in our logo" type of design.

Keeping in mind the client's set limits, I wanted to represent their business in a creative, indirect manner. How would you represent a picture frame without using a picture frame? Use something to suggest the idea of a picture frame! I sought to look for a relevant symbol drawing on my fondness of taking pictures, reading a lot of manuals and guides on photography and observing amateur and professional photographers. Whenever we see a beautiful view, or see a beautiful face, but have no camera around, we instead try to imagine what it would look like as a photo. What do we do? We do this, don't we?

We create a virtual frame using our hands, adjusting the subject within the set limits of the perpendicularity of our index fingers and thumbs and sigh "If only I could take a picture of this (or paint this), how beautiful it could be!"

Developing this experience into a concept, and infusing the concept into an actual logo graphic was an interesting process. I came up with a colorful design and as shown here, can be used as a standalone graphic without the accompanying text. The graphic is fun, but not silly... memorable and distinctive... and most importantly, clever.

The logo also works in simple colors, and can work on light and dark backgrounds.

The logo concept features a graphical symbol that is not a direct representation of their nature of work, but works on a different level, increasing the semantic power of of the client's name ("practical" - "hands", "framer" - "the frame formed by the hands").

My other logos can be seen at my deviantART site.

At the Gates of the Tagalog Titan

The Gates of the Tagalog Titan 3, originally uploaded by revcruz.

Every journey back from the regular group reflection activities I facilitate with my interns at Wawa in Montalban, Rizal is like emerging from a fantasy world rich with mythological, spiritual and historical significance. The sight of the dam waterfall flanked by the towering limestone walls is enough to leave anyone in awe at its beauty. The vista of the magnificent gorge, combined with the soothing ambient notes of the rushing waters creates a contemplative atmosphere, being humbly enveloped within a virtual hug from Mother Nature.

This is the home of Bernardo Carpio, a legendary figure in our rich Philippine Mythology. Although numerous versions of his story exists, owing to the fact that Filipino folklore is mainly traditional - that is, handed down from generation to generation through oral accounts, the basic form of the story recounts of a local lad with superhuman strength and abilities being trapped between two great rocks in the mountains of Montalban, Rizal. A version depicts Bernardo Carpio as a giant, as supported by the presence of enourmous footprints he is said to have left behind at the mountainside (One of the caves there houses a unique stalactite formation that locals claim to be the teeth of this giant). This version of his myth is etiological in nature, as this provided early Filipinos an explanation for the occurences of earthquakes. The area in which Bernardo Carpio is said to have been trapped is interestingly the same site where the Marikina Valley Fault system runs through.

The name 'Bernardo Carpio' is obviously Spanish, showing perhaps that the myth did not originate from Pre-Spanish times in Filipino history. If it did, it may have been modified from is earliest forms during the Spanish occupation. In another version of the legend, Bernardo Carpio is said to have been born of ordinary parents. As expected from the basic form of the story, the boy demonstrated unusual strength, which prompted the parish priest to christen him with the name of a Spanish legendary hero, Bernardo del Carpio. Interestingly, this is a foreshadowing of the type of life that Bernardo Carpio would lead. As he grew up, the atrocities of the Spaniards became more and more unbearable leading to the formation of the early revolutionaries (Note that the Spaniards occupied the Philippines for 400 years, so do not confuse this with the Katipuneros' time). Bernardo Carpio would be invited by the revolutionaries to be part of the rebellion. His strength was dreadfully feared by the Spaniards, and in order to neutralize him, they conspired with an enkanto, a local shaman, to trap him through supernatural means. Setting up a meeting for a truce, the Spaniards lured him into the caves where he woul be magically trapped by huge boulders and chains. Attempts to save him would prove futile and fatal to the rescuers. It has been said that he is still living beneath the rocks, and eventually when he will be free and last chains that binds him are broken, "the enslavement and oppression of the Filipino race will be replaced with freedom and happiness." - a Filipino Messiah of sorts.

Aside from its mythological significance, Wawa is also bestowed with an abundant historical heritage. The familiar Wawa Dam was actually constructed by the Americans on 1909 to serve as a water reservoir and pumping facility to boost the capacity of the waterworks system of the growing Manila city. During Japanese occupation, the gorge and the dam area became a strategic holding point. The site became a battle field with the Americans attempting to retake the area amidst fears of the Japanese blowing up the dam (This would be very disastrous, as this would cause destruction and flooding of neighboring towns). The mountains would then become the grave of numerous fallen Japanese soldiers, and a marker was actually placed on top of the cave paying homage to the bravery of these soldiers. Numerous holes within the caves and mountainside can be seen and locals claim that these may have been sites where the rumored Yamashita treasures and golden buddhas may have been hidden.

But in terms of history, the most important of which would be the legacy of the Pamitinan Cave. It has been said that Andres Bonifacio along with his revolutionaries (Katipuneros) would seek refuge in Pamitinan Cave as a clandestine meeting place. This would be the notable event in which Bonifacio and his katipuneros would shout the KKK's (Kataastaasang Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) first cry of freedom. This was on April 1895, almost more than a year earlier than the more popular "Cry of Balintawak" on August 1896. On the walls of the cave was written in charcoal the phrase "Viva La Independencia Filipinas!". Andres Bonifacio (an admirer of Jose Rizal, who was reportedly to have made a pilgrimage earlier to this same cave) was often considered by historians and critiques to be rash and impulsive, in comparison to the military strategists of the rebellion (like Aguinaldo). But it has to be said that Bonifacio may be quite deliberate and deeply thoughtful of the selection of this refuge. Why of all possible hiding places did he choose this particular cave tucked within the mountains of Montalban, Rizal?

Consider these points. The katipuneros met in Pamitinan Cave on April 1895, particularly on a Good Friday, which in Christian tradition, commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Calvary. In Filipino culture, it is a day of the "penitensya", where Filipino Christians do penance even to the point of self-flagellation and real reenactments of the crucifixion. A cave in Filipino culture is a rite of passage, where successful emergence and survival signifies the integrity and purity of the devotee. The katupineros met in Pamitinan Cave, not only to talk in secret about plots of revolts, but also to undergo a spiritual purification process, an eventual preparation for leadership. The cave according to myth, is the site where Bernardo Carpio, the "imprisoned King of the Tagalogs" is struggling to break free from bondage. Bonifacio apparently was telling the Filipinos and his katipuneros that they should be ready to face sufferings if the Katipunan was to play the role of redeemer of the people from their centuries-old yoke. He was obviously paying homage to Filipino folklore, that is deeply embedded in the psyche of the locals; devotion to Christan traditions, that is also reflected in the deep spirituality of the converts; and advocacy to political freedom from Spanish oppression and atrocity. The Katipunan would later emerge from the cave, purified and devoted to their roles, infused by the messianic spirit of Bernardo Carpio. History books fail to highlight the deep spirituality of the Katipuneros, and this would just be accounted for as an attempt of the Katipuneros to hide and escape. But it seems that Bonifacio had a lot more in his mind... and heart.

Myth and spirituality is deeply infused in the Filipino psyche. It is still evident nowadays in our people's attempts for freedom from corruption and poverty. The apparent lack of spirituality of our leaders and respect to our Filipino heritage would seem to compound our nation's fast plummet to mediocrity. The ancient Filipino concept of “pamathalaan” (a conjunction of “pamahalaan” or government, and “bathala”, God or creator) or God-centered governance has been evident in the Katipunan's beliefs. Ancestral spiritual movements (Rizalista cults, and present derivatives of Katipunan) are seeking for the adoption of such form of governance as a solution to our nations' problems. Perhaps, they are right. Perhaps, our leaders should go to the caves (they act like cavemen anyways) for purification and instill within themselves the true spirit of leadership.

Interesting, isn't it?

I will be conducting another group reflection activity to Wawa, particularly a climb to the Pamitinan Cave on March 1, 2007, 1-6 PM. It will involve an hour hike to the cave (if the waters are still deep enough to be crossed) and an hour walk within the cave. Please contact me if you're interested in joining the interns in this climb. My photos of our previous activities in Wawa can be seen in my Flickr account sets: Montalban Magic, 3rd Batch Pictures and 4th Batch Pictures or my Multiply photo set: Montalban Magic. Be part of the 5th Batch Pictures.

(Sigh... I miss PI100...)