Monday, August 30, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (241-242): Lou Hilario

.:241/365: Lou Hilario:.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the king of Philippine magic as we know it.

Whenever Filipinos talk about magic, only one name transcends generations, and is revered and acknowledged as a pillar of magic both within and without the brotherhood of magicians. Indeed, Lou Hilario is the true household name for Philippine magic, and a veritable living legend because of his unique flair and charisma as a performer.

You can’t possibly have a shortlist of the who’s who in Philippine magic and miss out on this man. Earning a reputation through his sheer workrate, Tito Lou is a man who lives and breathes magic with every ounce of his being. From his early beginnings in magic thanks to learning how to do some tricks on television, to the countless guestings he has had on television, to the even more numerous shows he has performed everywhere, there has never been a shortage of demand for this man’s unique act. And I don’t throw the word “unique” around in a cavalier manner: you can search far and wide, but nobody has managed to pull off the combination of magic, ventriloquism, comedy, and trained animals the way Lou Hilario has.

I would have to admit that unlike most of my contemporaries, I was one of the few people living under a rock who saw Lou Hilario in action only a few years ago, when I was the designated street magician during a party, and he was scheduled to take the stage by storm. I just had to stop in my tracks and watch the master at work: there was no way my table-hopping was going to be able to compete with his top-of-the-line act, and besides, I wanted to watch the man perform.

After his show and after my walkaround, I approached him and his assistant, Jason, and they had very kind words for me, particularly since they noticed how I used the Shanghai Shackles as a close-up tool rather than a stage routine. I’ve been exceptionally fond of the Shackles for ages, and to hear such kind words from Tito Lou just a year and a half into my career at that point was truly a great honor.

As most people know, I consider Mr. Bing Lim-It to be my mentor, and lo and behold, the man, to this very day, will never hesitate to say that he idolizes Lou Hilario. And as I got to know him better over time through casual conversations with him, I developed a deeper appreciation for his importance to the industry not only as a performer, but as an inspiration to his contemporaries as well, all the same. The fact that he still joins (And often wins) magic competitions underscores his perfectionist attitude towards his craft, and with decades of experience under his belt, anyone who would just sit with him and listen to his stories on the road would certainly be blessed with his knowledge and wisdom.

And really, if you’re a parent, and you ever considered getting nothing but the best for your kid, if you really, really love your kid, you’d get Tito Lou for the party. If you don’t, then I guess you don’t love your kid enough. :P

.:242/365: Q And A With Lou Hilario:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? How long have you been into it?

No one. Magic was one of my many hobbies. I started when I was 7 years old. There was an instructional magic demonstration on TV called "Magic Hands" in between the Popeye cartoons. Just hands with white gloves and a black background and a close up mat. Magician demonstrated a trick, gave a list of materials to get then a commercial break, then the secret.

I am now on my 32nd year of "surviving" from this art.

2. What is magic? In your case specifically, what is mentalism?

Magic is an exploration of knowing the deeper darker secrets of mankind. Mentalism is the magic of the mind. Nowadays, for me, it is a form of entertainment.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

Anytime I have a good audience is the best experience.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

Worst is when you need to perform without an audience, like working regularly in some venues.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

Anyone who has a passion for the art.

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic or mentalism?

Watch all the shows, buy all the materials you can afford, make friends with magicians, get a mentor, spend all your time, money and effort on it. I guess this applies to everything else.

Project 365 (240/365): Leodini

.:240/365: Leodini:.

One of the trinity among mentalists in the country, a comedic genius, also a very active presence for magic online, and a dead ringer for Nur Misuari, the great Leodini attracts quite a crowd wherever he goes by sheer strength of personality and a look nobody could ever forget.

It’s a bit sad that I rarely cross paths with the Great Leodini, because I couldn’t quite tell him often enough how excellent his blog happens to be, as it is an excellent resource for magicians looking to improve their craft. The site is chock full of tips, ideas, and even funny anecdotes, all designed to push magicians into stepping up and becoming better performers overall.

The one time I’ve managed to really observe Leodini in action wasn’t even at one of his many shows. Instead, I caught him during a particular series of lectures about performances for the benefit of The Story Circle, and he discussed how to mix comedy with magic without inadvertently putting down magic along the way. Oh, if only we managed to get Bearwin Meily to sit in on that particular lecture, but that’s wishful thinking on our end.

Nonetheless, despite my lack of exposure to his performances, I have more than a few laymen friends who swear by him. Aileen Apolo, the recent birthday celebrant lady who took the video above, told me how entertaining and exciting Leodini was, and how nobody expected him to be so good because they let his looks fool them, which, in my opinion, should be a great compliment to the man, because it only means that the persona he projects onstage is one that is built upon breaking stereotypes or expectations.

I can’t get into his career in much detail, mainly because all the necessary biographical information can be found here. Nonetheless, I have to mention how important Leodini’s contributions to magic are, not only in being a community leader, having been the president of the IMC; but also in being a very audible voice for the Filipino magicians in the online community. What I try to do in terms of encyclopaedic knowledge about magic, he has been doing for practical applications of magic. Let’s not forget the fact that he also has quite a lot of facts and figures about magic over the many years he has been maintaining his blog as well, and my project lasts for all of only 365 days before I wind down my churning out of magic-related articles.

Personally, I enjoy his very different scripts for mentalism. The way he mixes comedy and mentalism works for him so well because of the character he has successfully mastered to a tee. Whether or not this is a mere extension of the real Leodini, the onstage Leodini’s stage presence and charisma never fails to make people chuckle at every joke and gesture that he makes, all the while casually and deliberately building to a stunning finish, as he catches his audience unawares.

If only for his being a great voice and ambassador for the Philippines in the online world long before I even so much as thought of going professional in magic, Leodini would certainly earn my greatest respect. The fact that he is also a multi-awarded performer who is more than willing to share his wealth of knowledge and experience for the betterment of Philippine (and even international) magic just puts him at a level that very few magicians, Filipino or otherwise, can ever hope to achieve.

In fact, he reminds me of a younger Aldo Colombini. If you've seen Aldo during his younger years, they have very similar hair, and even to this day, Aldo is still incredibly funny but his magic is so good that's not the first thing that comes to mind about him.

Anyways, his blog will be featured again sometime next month here, when we get to “Recommended Reading” month. Still, go ahead and get a leg up on checking out his blog, because there’s just so much useful stuff to find there.

I know you may not know me much, sir Leodini, but I was, and always will be, a huge fan of your work and more so your writing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


.:I Died And Went To Dumpling Heaven:.

The best thing about working with one of the top food bloggers in the country is that he, of all people, would definitely know where it’s good to eat at.

As the new country manager of Nuffnang Philippines brought the team to Makati Shang to try out their dimsum buffet, myself, Patty, Judd, Denise, Trixie, and Anne were all excited over the prospect of hakao, hakao, and more hakao until we couldn’t take it anymore. In fact, Judd and Trixie even had a little wager going on who would eat more, and well, Trixie won it handily.

It was great bonding with the Nuffies, really. Even if they tend to poke fun at me a lot (There’s a rumor going around that I’m gay. Yes. The rumors get pretty unfounded here.) and all, I wouldn’t trade these guys in for the world.

If they threw in a plate full of hakao though, I just might. Nah, I kid, of course.

Last Wednesday was extra amusing because to get over the hump day, we watched “One More Chance”, and I realized that makes two out of three movies from the collection I handed out on June 2, since we watched “500 Days Of Summer” the previous week. Overall, it was pretty fun times, even if the movie does hit a little too close to home, really...

.:Speaking Of Dimsum And Chinese Food...:.

Last Thursday, I was part of an awesome event held by Chow King. Now, I normally don’t go to events anymore due to my unbelievably busy schedule, but I thankfully squeeze this one in, and it was well worth the trip.

As a matter of disclosure, I am a very rabid Kimerald fan. When the invite mentioned they would both be there, wild horses could not have prevented me from getting to the event.

All that aside, though, in the world of marketing, people always tend to ask themselves who the personification of their brand could possibly be, and after some brainstorming, the answer Chow King ended up with was both enlightening and interesting.

You see, every single brand advocate of Chow King just so happens to have a very interesting story to tell. Whether it’s beating the odds for Kim and Gerald, or coming from the wet market for Jericho Rosales, or giving the gift of education for Efren Penaflorida, or the sheer adversity overcome by Bea Alonzo, it’s the taste of victory that is indeed the most delicious.

But really, all niceties aside, I must say that this particular commercial tugs at the heartstrings pretty well:

Seeing Kim Chiu up close and personal as I did, there was no doubt that I was giddy to no end. It was an awesome day all around, and I must emphasize that I especially like their new item, the Chow King Tender Beef Broccoli. Prior to this, their beef dishes were rather limited, and their most notable one was braised beef, so having Tender Beef Broccoli ready in a fast food chain is such a great thing. I kid you not: this is quality stuff we’re talking about, and considering my up frontness about other items and restaurants, when i recommend food, you know I’m not just shilling at this point: it’s good. End of story.

Anyways, I’m still really flabbergasted over Thursday. In the meantime, all you really need to know is that Chow King’s Tender Beef Broccoli is awesome, I am a huge fan of Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson, and you can be sure that victory can taste even better when coupled with great food.

The Breaking Point

.:The Breaking Point:.

He has held his tongue and extended his patience for as long as he humanly can.

For the past year and a half, he has been through a living hell, and what everyone saw on the outside has merely been the tip of the iceberg. If there was one thing he tried so hard to do, it was to try to hide every single burden he was carrying within him from plain view. Many people may know or have an inkling that he was going through a lot, but next to nobody had any inkling how deep it went.

When you strip away all the fond nostalgia, it boils down to this: two years of being treated like a doormat, two years of being made to feel that you are absolutely insignificant, and two years of being made to believe that you are a terrible person and your very presence is a source of embarrassment. Brainwashing that does a number to any man’s self-esteem. A pain that ran so deep that he believed it was his fault things fell apart.

Despite that, he kept on keeping on. Smiling in the face of adversity, fighting the pain and the urge to just end it all because the pain, instead of diminishing over time, actually amplifies as the months go by. Nobody said it was easy, but there is merit to be had in triumph over such adversity.

And then, as if calling back to a time where you were worth even less than the most insignificant of insects, they come up with a way to make you feel horrible about yourself again. All your well-meaning, all your niceness, it all becomes twisted around and instead of recognizing that you are actually a good person, all that goodness is looked upon with suspicion. It is looked upon with disdain.

And day after day, you are harshly reminded of it.

Can’t you take a hint? When someone asks you to cut it out, is it just too difficult to stop being a douchebag for ten seconds?

And as if all that weren’t enough, the very reason you went through hell suddenly deigns to remember that you exist! Is this not momentous?

Except as if she wasn’t done making him feel even more insignificant than he already did, she remembered him because her friends wanted to ask him a favour.

Y’know, the same friends who said he was no good for her? Yeah, those ones.

There. Are. No. Words.

Let’s make it clear: she never loved him. She personified selfishness. True love means accepting someone despite his faults. She never did. She kept on hoping he’d walk this way, he’d be a little less geeky, he’d quit being a magician, he’d change religions, he’d be a little more Chinese, and maybe even lose weight.

In short, if he stopped being who he actually is.

The anger and the hurt, all that he has bottled up for so long, now erupts. He has reached his breaking point. After years of being made to feel insignificant, of being taken for granted, of being remembered only when he’s useful for something, after deluding himself that he was actually loved for so long, the painful truth rears its ugly head.

He deserved better than any of this. And now, he knows it. The breaking point has been reached.

Project 365 (239/365): David Elefant

.:239/365: David Elefant:.

David Elefant is often considered one of the three best mentalists in the Philippines, alongside Rannie Raymundo and Leodini. However, if we had to give awards based on cornering the mentalist market based on looks alone, David Elefant would be the runaway winner, hands down.

Having built a name for himself over three decades of magic and mentalism, David Elefant’s reputations precedes itself. Of Jewish-American descent, David’s intense eyes and striking looks never fail to get the attention of anyone who finds him in their line of sight.

Specializing in a variety of different mentalist phenomenon, but overall placing emphasis on the bizarre and the occult as his visage certainly lends to the effect very well, David Elefant has practically been a household name in the realm of mentalism for so long, it’s pretty hard to imagine this man doing children’s parties. Yet you’d be surprised, because in a rare magazine issue, the man himself has actually been photographed dressed as a clown, complete with makeup. Word has it that he is actually fairly qualified to be one, as shocking as the idea might seem.

Now that you’ve picked your jaw up off the ground over the sheer implausibility of it all, let me tell you that if I ever do find a copy of that picture somewhere, I’ll add it to the Project 365 at some point. I think it’s actually a compliment to say this, but that picture is pure grade nightmare fuel, to say the least.

All the affection for the man’s imposing presence aside, David Elefant’s storied career truly is marked by his devotion to the art form, as well as his unmistakable passion to the image he portrays. His character carries him through, but there is no doubt that his technical skill is remarkable and is often found to be impressive, especially given his wide knowledge base, using various effects and principles that are virtually unused by any of his other contemporaries in the Philippines. The combination of his stage presence, skill, and arsenal make up what is undoubtedly the backbone of one of the most spellbinding mentalism performances anyone can ever watch.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (237-238): Anthony Billan Co

.:237/365: Anthony Billan Co:.

I don’t know about you guys, but I personally find that having Anthony Billan Co as, to date, the only Filipino magician ever featured on Ellusionist or even Theory 11 definitely makes him a very key figure in Philippine magic in this current generation.

Unlike pretty much every other magician I have ever featured in this blog so far, Anthony is different by sheer virtue of never having been a professional performer at all. He is, through and through, a hobbyist, and has managed to create numerous different effects, the most famous of which is the Mindbender, wherein he demonstrates how a card could bend through sheer concentration while right there in his hands. He is passionate about magic, but is also known as a professional photographer, as you can see in his website.

An avid fan of magic since he was ten years old, the first time he ever saw a magician brought him an incredible measure of amazement, wonder, and joy. Admittedly, the pitfall of being a magician is that some of the sheen of the mystery wears off once you know the workings behind the magic, and that explains why not a day goes by that he yearns to feel that sense of awe and wonder a layman can get when watching something magical.

From watching the greats like Henning and Copperfield, he discovered an aptitude for discovering the secrets behind magic through sheer observation. It was with this rare aptitude that he developed a way to perform magic, starting out with his family, then his classmates, and then total strangers. He was practically self-taught in that regard.

Coming from an age where the secrecy behind magic was at an all-time high, it was a true test of patience and resourcefulness for Anthony to gain the magic knowledge that he has now. Scouring bookstores and libraries for books like “Fun With Magic” by Joseph Leeming could not have been an easy thing to do at all. He felt so compelled to uphold the integrity of magic that he borrowed and re-borrowed the book so that others can’t get their hands on it so many times that the librarian had to step in and ban him from ever borrowing the book again! To this day, “Fun With Magic” is still part of his collection.

It was a bit ironic that with the instant fame that came with “Mindbender,” majority of the criticisms that came his way were from fellow Filipinos. As the good book says, “A prophet is not welcome in his own town,” and this realization was in full force. Despite all of the flak he received (Which is probably brought about more by jealousy than anything else, in all honesty.), “Mindbender” is still an amazing routine, and one that I would never hesitate to personally use whenever the opportunity presents itself. Quality mentalist acts are few and far in between, so having Mindbender in your arsenal is definitely an amazing boon.

A true card magic aficionado, Anthony has had a lot of experience in that department under his belt as well. While most magicians use card magic as a stepping stone (Myself included.), he decided to focus on it and his passion for the art form is definitely hard to rival.

With an excellent Philosophy that drives his passion for magic towards goodness, with his willingness to carry on the magical tradition to the next generation through his children, and with a brilliant mind and an eye for detail both in front of and behind the camera lens, Anthony Billan Co is one of the most important figures in magic who has never done a professional show in his entire magical career. And that’s saying a lot.

.:238/365: Q&A With Anthony Billan Co:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? how long have you been into it?

I would have to say that they were the TV greats... from Doug Henning to David Copperfield and Mark Wilson. Everything always stopped for me when there was magic to be seen on TV. No DVD, No Internet nor regular live magic shows that time. I would record magic TV specials on Betamax tapes and rewound it over and over again just to analyze the trick and try to decipher the methods. I never really knew if I was right or wrong..just so long as I had a solution. This was my very own learning process.

How long have I been in magic? Probably got bit by the magic bug around my early teens. Greg Wilson’s Magic show was still on Channel 13. So you do the math 

2. What is magic? in your case specifically, what is mentalism?

Magic for me is an art... (how many magicians did you actually interview and got this same boring answer? Haha!) Well, to get more into it...for me Magic is more than that... it is the only craft I can think of that uses all kinds of disciplines in life. Be it psychology, public speaking, theater (stage management, audience management, blocking etc), body language, science, mathematics, art and construction (making DIY props because you don't have enough dough to buy expensive “magical items”), music, dance/choreography, ethics and whatever else that I didn't mention that is listed in any typical academic transcript of records. It instills in you virtues like perseverance, temperance, endurance, logic and humility. I can go on and on but I think I am starting to bore your readers. Simply put, after all that has been said...magic for me is life.

There are many types of magic that people watch and enjoy. It may be all the same to them but there are clear divisions between these genres. One of them is Mentalism. It is the kind of magic where, as the word suggests, deals with anything mental or with the mind. Predictions, mind reading and telekinesis are just some of the things that are closely associated to this art form. In my case specifically, since I am 90% a card worker/magician, I always project myself as a card shark, a sleight of hand artist or a cheat, Mentalism is a way for me to get out of that mold and create a more mystical and magical image, transcending from mere dexterity to more of the supernatural.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

When I was a contestant during a close-up magic competition. I was in the zone, everyone was reacting, cheering and applauding throughout the routine. And I could see the judges eyes light up trick after trick. I got to see the score sheets afterwards and saw almost perfect scores. It was a big achievement for me to be able to impress not just laymen but my own peers. I even got a special award that night given to me by one of the few people I look up to in the magic community -- Mr. Rannie Raymundo.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

When I was a contestant during a close-up magic competition.  Basically everything opposite of what happened during my best experience. It was a silent and cold day for me :) Oh! If I may add, anytime I perform for anyone and I don't get any reaction or feel that I wasn't effective enough to bring out amazement and awe in the spectator, would also count as an apt reply to this question.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

That would have to be...either Ariel Ureta. He has a very distinguished, debonair and quite gentlemanly look on him when he is on stage hosting. He looks and sounds like the formal classy magicians of the old days. I just hinted on my age right? Haha.

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic or mentalism?

Stop! Don’t do it! Imagine the repercussions... hours of alone time practicing with playing cards, coins and what have you. Going through a hardware store/bookstore/stationary store and scouring through everyday items and thinking of "other" ways you can use them. Being looked upon as a freak of nature. Always going out loaded with things that are most unlikely to be found in pockets of almost any regular guy: Playing cards, small red hankies, little red balls, manila envelopes, permanent markers and a lot of loose change. Being asked to do a trick every time you are with your friends. Being asked a lot of time to go to their kid's birthday parties not as a guest! Hear these words every time: "How did you do it?", "Can you do that again?", "Bilis ng kamay mo eh! (You’re hands are too fast)" But most of all, being able to do something you truly love and bring out sheer amazement, pure joy and innocent wonderment to people you hardly even know. Still want to become a magician?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Haphazard Recap...

.:Belated Congratulations!:.

Moments like these do the heart good.

Belated best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Carlo Ople! The nuptials were a blast, and I'm happy to have been a part of it. I can't gush enough about how amazing that day was, considering how despite the inclement weather, the rain stopped at the moments it had to stop...

.:Gathering My Thoughts:.

There will be jokes about today's Ms. Universe, and tasteless jokes about yesterday's tragedy, but I decided for now that you wouldn't find them here in this blog.

My prayers go out to the affected victims of yesterday's horrible atrocity, and my heartfelt congratulations go out to Ms. Venus Raj, because being 4th runner-up is no mean feat, no matter how you put it.

But I just can't bring myself to go all manic-depressive and write about both topics in this blog just yet. I want to critique, to point out where things went wrong, to play armchair CSI/SWAT.

But I recognize that won't bring those victims back.

I will just simply say that this was indeed a tragedy, but my sympathy for the hostage-taker evaporated the minute he decided to use a bus of innocent people to further his own agenda. The ends never justify the means.

Project 365 (236/365): That Magic Shop In Megamall Everyone Has Seen By Now

.:236/365: That Magic Shop In Megamall Everyone Has Seen By Now:.

Whether it be Anders or Suzuki or Erna running the store, there’s no denying that out of all the magic shops in the Metro Manila area, this is probably the most popular one, mainly because of its accessibility.

At some point, I’ll take a picture of the shop, but anyone who’s Filipino and reading this knows the place I’m talking about.

In the third floor of SM Megamall, you will find a small kiosk that sells magic items. Obviously, while you can’t expect a venue as small as that to sell full-scale illusions, it’s the perfect place to get close-up and even parlor magic material. That shop has been there for longer than I can remember, and it’s taken on different forms over the years, whether the classic “Macky and Wacky” stuff from A&L, or of course, the legendary Suzuki, who only recently came back into the country, from what I’ve heard, or the current lady running the shop, Erna.

A lot of memories can be found in that magic shop. I remember having purchased the A&L magic set from Home TV Shopping in the mid 90’s, only to discover that the items were actually available for a much cheaper price in SM Megamall. I forgot the white guy’s name, but he sure knew how to hype magic back in the day, and to this very day, I still make sure to swing by and support that shop every now and then, simply because that little kiosk right there has a lot more magic history than I could ever hope to contain in one article.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Project 365 (235/365): The Tavern

.:235/365: The Tavern:.

Known really as one of the hotbeds for the finest minds in magic, The Tavern refers to the place where many great Filipino magicians have come together to share ideas and generally just have a good time on a given night, often on a weekend.

Many magicians have emerged from the hallowed halls of the Tavern, suddenly replete with amazing ideas and insights into their craft, thereby taking their career to heights they have never before reached. To say that the Tavern, which, if you look very closely is a makeshift magic room in a music room, is a place where magic happens, is so cliché it’s true. Magic does happen here, and this is where people come in, empty their cups, and have it filled by some of the most brilliant minds in Philippine magic.

I speak about the Tavern with much fondness simply because I had the honor of going there last Saturday night, and finally having a chance to sit down and pick the brain of The Boss, Rannie Raymundo, in person. That night, many other amazing people were there, including JB dela Cruz and Jeffrey Tam, and a few other people whose names I recall but am afraid of misspelling. I went there, not knowing what to expect, and left with a heightened sense of appreciation for magicians in general, allowing me to once and for all cast off some level of wariness that I have been, well, trained to put up around people in general, and not just contemporaries.

The Boss was very cordial and welcoming as I walked into the Tavern, and when you step in, you just simply feel the magic in the air. This was a place where people really put their heads together to come up with things so brilliant, so impressive, or at times, so downright insane, that they just had to get back together the following week and do it all over again.

The casual atmosphere I was treated to when I entered the Tavern was nothing like I imagined. I visualized, before setting foot there, that the Tavern was literally a Tavern, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I was sorely mistaken. It didn’t take too long for me to feel at ease, particularly because everyone in the room was welcoming of me, considering I felt like a deer in headlights right there, not knowing what to expect, and knowing that I was not a magician’s magician, which is one of the most daunting realizations you will ever have as a magician once you are surrounded by a lot of your contemporaries.

In any case, this room has indeed had its memories and moments, and for last Saturday, I managed to be a part of it. I can’t thank everyone last Saturday night for their kind hospitality, but more importantly, I can’t thank them enough for the hilarious road stories (Imagine acknowledging the presence of Mommy Dionisia, only to find out that the person you acknowledged was not Mommy Dionisia.), and even pointing me in the right direction to learn new effects that fit my persona, or even allow me to rediscover some classics I foolishly ignored for some reason or some other in the past.

For any magician out there who happens to be reading this, consider it nothing short of a great honor for The Boss to actually invite you in the Tavern. As a performer who has nothing but the utmost esteem for fellow performers, it doesn’t matter if I were doing this thing for four years or forty: an honest and genuine invitation from a contemporary just because he wishes to enjoy your company is one of the greatest shots in the arm that could be levied upon you. And for that, I am certainly deeply honoured.

I went home at around four in the morning that night already, and I must say, it was well worth being sleepless on a Saturday night to meet these amazing people, to be able to hear their stories, listen to their ideas, watch their performances, and even just share laughs over anything and everything. Of course, the part where I got lost en route to the Tavern was a tad of an inconvenience, but it wasn't the end of the world...

Project 365 Two-Fer (233-234): Sonny Minoza

.:233/365: Sonny Minoza:.

Sonny Minoza is one of my favourite people in the whole world, and easily makes the top five of my personal list of Filipino mentalists of note.

As a performer, sir Sonny has the chops necessary to be a mentalist, given his ability to communicate clearly and his control over audience members at any given time. I’ve seen the man at work, and I can’t help but appreciate the strides he has taken to establish his credibility as a mentalist, given how the need to set himself apart from the triumvirate of David Elefant, Leodini, and Rannie Raymundo meant that he needed to bring something different to the table.

If I were to look at the great triumvirate and liken each of them to one of the top mentalists in the world, I would say that David Elefant is to Max Maven as Leodini is to Kockov (Or Luke Jermay, if you will.) as Rannie Raymundo is to Derren Brown. While these are admittedly very lose comparisons (Excluding Mr. Elefant, who is every bit as terrifying as Max Maven is onstage.), these comparisons only show the kind of work cut out for Mr. Minoza, as he needed to etch a name for himself without pretty much being a carbon copy of these three luminaries.

So where we have a Maven, a Kockov/Jermay, and a Derren, Mr. Minoza pretty much pegged himself as an Osterlind: that funny uncle you could relate to, but happened to be gifted with mentalist abilities, as opposed to being the demon himself, a shocking and disarming performer who uses humor to his advantage, or suaveness on crack respectively.

Thanks to this, Sonny Minoza has certainly given rise to a kind of mentalism that is every bit as credible as it is “family-friendly” in the way only Sonny could do it. The exercise in contrasts has been nothing short of amazing, as I have certainly tried observing each of these esteemed gentlemen, and the way they wildly vary amongst themselves is a thing to marvel at.

Having said all of that, here’s me tipping my hat to Sonny Minoza: one of the best names in mentalism, a charter member of the Psychic Entertainment Network (Along with David Elefant, Nomer Lasala, Lei Sarmiento, and yours truly.), and a swell guy all-around. His very casual approach to mentalism allows him to just connect with audiences in ways nobody has imagined possible. The fact that he practically avoids an onstage persona and uses the real him to get himself over is just... unique, really.

.:234/365: Q And A With Sonny Minoza:.

By now, you know the six questions I ask, right?

1) Watching the TV series' "Wonderful world of Magic", "Magic of Mark Wilson" & Bill Bixby's "The Magician". All in the 70's...been interested since I was 7 or 8. Couldn't really remember the exact age.

2) Entertaining people by performing psychic/mind power demos/feats.

3) Everytime I see my audience well entertained is always the best experience.

4) When my briefcase (where my whole show is placed) didn't open & I was already on stage. Had to improvise half of the show until my wife was able to force it open backstage.

5) Couldn't think of one right now.

6) Do it for your love of the art & not just because it's the "in" thing right now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Project 365 Backlog (232/365): Magfi

.:232/365: Magfi:.

Y’know, all things considered, I’m somewhat tempted to make my Project 365 about Philippine magic two months long, particularly since I haven’t settled on a theme yet for September, to begin with. Or maybe just eliminating themes altogether until December, where I can talk about issues in magic that need to be tackled for the new year or something.

Either way, even after the end of August, I would still definitely be having some topics about Philippine magic, since these stories are really riveting and interesting, to say the least.

Anyways, speaking of riveting and interesting, today’s topic is the group known as the Magician’s Foundation, Incorporated. Founded by businessman David Lim through other charter members like Wanlu, Danny Luchavez, and Domenico Tapiador, this group was the first glimpse of a continuing crusade by magicians in elevating the art form and looking out for each other.

Many magicians have been in the country for far longer than the lifespan of Magfi, but only in 1990 did a group by magicians for magicians truly come into fruition, and Magfi was it. Working as a valid organization under both Philippine law and even the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Magfi earned its stripes in the art by assembling a who’s who of magicians out there, including current luminaries such as Jeffrey Tam, Ronnie Moraleta, and a host of other names out there.

While the MCP was mostly a coming together of closeup magicians in its initial stages, Magfi was housed in the tradition of great stage acts, and to this day, even if it has opened up to welcome a few other performers in other genres, it is still the fabled stage acts devised by Magfi members that tend to be etched in everyone’s memories.

In 2004, under Doc Ronnie, Magfi earned the coveted Superior Quality Ring Award from the IBM, thereby cementing its status as one of the most prestigious congregation of magicians not just in the country, but perhaps even in the world.

It’s groups like these that really assure the magic world that the Philippines will continue being a country of note in the world of magic. It’s hard to imagine Philippine magic without IMC or Magfi being there at the forefront, giving the world a chance to take notice of just what we have to offer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Project 365 Backlog (231/365): Realigning Our Numbers

.:231/365: Realigning Our Numbers:.

Okay, this is weird.

While doing the whole Project 365, I realized that for some weird reason, I am waaaay ahead on schedule. Today is supposed to be day 231, but according to my count, I’m already all the way up to 241, when I posted my Q and A segment with Mr. Rannie Raymundo.

In any case, I do believe I haven’t particularly missed any days at all, so I’m just going to go ahead and realign our calendars at this point, by coming up with a Project 365 megapost here that should put me up to speed. I completely lost count, so I guess the easiest way to pull this stuff off correctly would be to clear out my backlog here, and then just do things correctly from hereon.

Anyways, I need to talk about two topics today to make the grade and send us back to proper numbering, so for now, let’s discuss more stuff about the Philippine magic industry by opening up with this demotivational poster...

And with that one and hopefully only demotivational picture out of the way, why don’t we introduce you to the toast of the town today, this man known as Ruther Urquia?

Ruther Urquia is currently the toast of the town, being one of the most popular ventriloquists in the country today, along with other remarkable individuals such as Rael, Ony Carcamo, and Wanlu. While it’s true that Wanlu has won “Talentadong Pinoy” on TV5 in the past, it cannot be denied that Mr. Urquia’s impact as a grand finalist in Pilipinas Got Talent is also certainly worthy of mention, considering the man’s very storied quest to the top of the heap.

While many have gotten to know Mr. Urquia only this year, most of the magic community recognizes Ruther as a veteran, who has been performing for the longest time, both as a magician and as a ventriloquist. Through his efforts, he has established himself as one of the premiere performers of the country, even having taken part in the much-hyped show called “Illusive,” where he took to the stage with fellow magicians like JB dela Cruz, Nap Perez, and even young crooner Charlie Green. The man has paid his dues, and is certainly no new kid on the block.

With a wide arsenal of puppets and a very varied set of characters going with each puppet, Ruther took the country by storm when he made his way into the hearts and minds of the Filipino audiences through Pilipinas Got Talent as one of the grand-finalists, losing out only to Jovit Baldivino. Since then, Ruther’s stock was on the rise, as he made his presence felt on TV shows like Showtime, and finding himself more and more surrounded by opportunities to take his craft to even newer heights.

I hope to meet this man before the end of the month, so I can write even more about him by then. For the moment, I guess it would suffice to say that I’m a fan, considering how much I respect the very challenging art of ventriloquism.

Retropost: Project 365 (229/365)

For some reason, this old post didn't show up in my blog, so I'm showing it again...

.:229/365: Q and A With Ony Carcamo:.

For now, I will split up individual profiles and their subsequent Q and A sessions, unless I find the need (for space) to combine the two in one entry due to the sheer number of people I get to interview. That way, in case I feature a personality and their Q and A comes in after they get featured, I can just post the Q and A session with ease afterwards.

If I find the need to have more personalities featured, not to worry, I’ll just jampack a day or two with two or three performers, just so I wouldn’t waste the space. :P

I wanted to ask “why do magic?” Maybe I’ll ask them all and compile *that* into one post in the future...

For now, here are the questions I asked sir Ony (And the questions I’d be asking everyone else, actually.), and his answers...

1. Who influenced you to become a magician? How long have you been one?

My father was my first influence. He was a magic afficionado. I remember when I was in grade 1, our teacher asked us what we'd like to be when we grow up. I said I wanted to become a magician. That was my first dream. My father gave me a gift when I was 11--a magic set! That started my magical journey. I've been doing magic until now.

2. How do you define magic? As you are also a mentalist, how do you define mentalism?

For me magic is an entertainment art form that mixes illusion and reality and puts the audience into a dreamland. Mentalism is a branch of magic that demonstrates the power of the mind.

3. What is your best experience while performing?

My best experience? Everytime I tried a new act and it killed my audience. I feel great when I do something very well the first time.

4. What is your worst experience while performing?

My worst? When I "accidentally" revealed a trick's secret because of a bad manipulation.

5. Which layman celebrities do you think would make great magicians?

Politicians are great magicians.

6. What advice can you give to those who want to become magicians?

Just do it!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (238-241): The Doc and The Boss

.:238/365: Dr. Ronnie Moraleta:.

Doc Ronnie is often regarded by most young magicians as one of the biggest influences in the local community, and with good reason.

A general medicine practitioner by profession, Doc Ronnie arguably had magic on his mind long before medicine, having been influenced to get into magic as early as nine. His emphasis on fundamental soundness has always been one of the most important first lessons most aspiring magicians learn from him, and he certainly exemplifies his own principles and standards in magic.

Having been interested in magic for the longest, time, it didn’t take long before he shifted back into the art with a lot more gusto when, after becoming a doctor, he read the Usbourne Complete Book of Magic and Magic Tricks in 1994. As he went through this book, flashbacks to classic magicians like Paul Potassy went through him, and his interest in magic was rekindled and it has never been put out since.

A former member of the hallowed albeit now-defunct Magician’s Circle of the Philippines in 1995 and one of the charter members of the Inner Magic Club, Doc Ronnie’s contributions to Philippine magic, in being a very powerful and reliable ambassador to the mainstream world in an industry often derided as a haven for outcasts and misfits, his mere presence has added an air of legitimacy about the art. His desire to expand magic across the nation has also led to him being one of the leading people to consult and approach for magic items and resources.

Most of his biography can actually be found here, but I certainly feel compelled to mention that in the magic world, Doc Ronnie is one of the people I am most grateful to, because he has always been a voice of reason and encouragement to me throughout my magic career. He has been nothing but supportive of me, and has a good eye for detail, being able to determine a person’s strongest suits as a performer and finding the right words at any given time to help them play to their strengths better.

Having said all of that, I guess it’s easy to say that I think very highly of Doc Ronnie. There’s no reason for me not to. And just because I figured it would be cool to do so, the video I included above highlights something about Doc Ronnie that doesn’t involve magic, and it’s his insatiable love for toys, particularly from Thor of the Avengers. Having been a consistent figure in ToyCon since 2007, I have met the man in toy conventions about as often as I have met him in magic conventions.

.:239/365: Q And A With Dr. Ronnie Moraleta:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? How long have you been into it?

It could have been my uncle, who eats balled up torn pieces of paper, which he magically reappears in between his buttocks and the television show “The Wonderful World of Magic” hosted by actor Bill Bixby. I started probably between 8 or 9.

2. What is magic? In your case specifically, what is mentalism?

For me Magic is making the impossible possible. I was introduced to Mentalism through Melbourne Christopher's Magic Book and during that time Mentalism for me was all about Mind Reading and Predictions.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

The best would always be when people applaud, laugh and tell you how they enjoyed your show, how amazed and amused they were and when they give you a big tip! :)

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

Nothing really, except I feel bad when I make a mistake, but I make sure the mistakes are minimal and unnoticed as much as possible.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

Eddie Garcia with a mustache. A very convincing Magician in my opinion.

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic or mentalism?

Start reading the basics first then go into videos. Try everything first then specialize as to which branch of Magic you belong. You can do the other branches for pleasure, but the one you specialize, you do it professionally. Then do as many shows as you can.

.:240/365: Rannie Raymundo:.

Often known as “The Boss” and “The Manila Enforcer”, the man known as Rannie Raymundo is equally famous for being one of two or three most revered Filipino magicians in the worldwide magic community, and for being the man responsible for the monster hit song “Why Can’t It Be.” An artist and a performer through and through, most people would be surprised to know that he has been into magic for almost as long as he has been musically gifted.

Mr. Raymundo exudes class, mystery, and sheer charisma when you see him performing. As a very esteemed lecturer who has taught and demonstrated his magic in international conventions through the years, it’s easy to see that The Boss has made his mark as a Filipino magician in more ways than one, and has certainly earned his accolades through sheer talent and a very passionate work ethic. This is one man who is not afraid to emphasize that he is quite the perfectionist, and doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind when it comes to magic.

In doing so, the Philippine magic world is all the better for it. As one of the most vocal pillars of the industry today, Rannie Raymundo has successfully proved his longevity as a magician with the sheer number of people who can actually look past the fact that he wrote “Why Can’t It Be,” which, in my opinion, was the OPM song of note in the year it came out. If the average person can remember that The Boss wasn’t only the singer and composer of such a timeless hit, but even recall that he is one Hades of a magician, then there is nobody who can possibly deny how influential Rannie Raymundo is, whether it be among his contemporaries in the magic or music industry, or even in the mainstream.

Despite all of these, and despite whatever anybody else may say, The Boss’s success has always reflected back upon Philippine magic as a whole, as through his life experiences as well as his being one of the founding members of IMC, as well as one of the most prominent names in Magfi (An organization I hope to bring up next week or so.), he has always used it as an opportunity to harness the talents of other magicians. If there ever was a glass ceiling in the world of magic, The Boss took every opportunity to break it in favour of a deserving performer.

For that, and so much more, the Manila Enforcer will always hold an important place in Filipino magic history, and inevitably, magic history throughout the world as well. Not too shabby for a man who is undisputably a Renaissance man, being very much capable of “doing it all”, so to speak.

.:241/365: Q And A With Rannie Raymundo:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? How long have you been into it?

My father! I started magic when I was 7. I was very lucky to have travelled around the world at that age. I went all around Europe and the U.S. The first stop wold always be the magic shops. My father was an amateur magician. He was always the life of every party. He had incredible chops with a deck of cards. He did gambling routines. Probably my first recollection of its kind. He was also great in body loading. Later in my magical life, I found out that The Great Raydu (Manila's finest magician in the 40's) was my great grandfather. I was bound to become a magician.

In the mid 80's there were less than a handful of close up magicians and a handful of stage magicians. In the early 90's we were already a handful. We used to meet in an obscure apartment in Makati. We then formed MCP..MAGIC CIRCLE PHILIPPINES, then later became IMC. Then magic just started to grow.
I will be 43 so that would make me a magician for 35 years now.

2. What is magic? In your case specifically, what is mentalism?

Magic is an art! Just like music... it is a language that all can understand. Magic could be many things from the shallow to the very deep. An escape from reality, alteration of reality, distortion of reality, ENTERTAINMENT. Making the impossible possible and the possible impossible.

Mentalism- a branch of magic that uses the power of the mind as the theme. Pseudo mind reading and the likes. It is also one of the most abused branch of magic in many ways. In the advent of Derren Brown's popularity.... every Juan, Pablo and Harry, wanted to do mentalism. It takes character, perhaps age and wisdom to make this believable. Having a wise ass kid with no presentation skill and wisdom to do it, perform such magic, really ruins this art. It becomes just a puzzle.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

Every performance is a wonderful experience. From the good and the bad. I do have some memorable performances though. There is nothing like seeing wonderment in the eyes of your lay audience... but there is a different kind of satisfaction to fool and amaze a huge room of magicians.

I was in a magic convention abroad.... Someone asked me off the cuff to do my "Boss Ultimate Mind Reading". I obliged.. I pulled out a single card and laid it on the floor.. I said name a card... The magician said 5 of spades.... I told him to pick up the card and lo and behold it was the 5 of spades. Cut to the chase.... i did it again and again four more times with the same result.

Another great experience was having the Great Tommy Wonder watch my RAYTRIX act from behind me. It was also great to have greats such as HOward Hamburg, MIckey Silver, Curtis Kam, Roberto Giobbi, Rafael Benatar, Chris Kenner etc... watch my lecture and performances in Vegas.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

I can't recall one honestly. I always manage to turn things around to my advantage. It is something the "Old dogs" talk about. We hardly talk about new sleight and those stuff... we always talk about situations. Having that knowledge and experience... we can always work things out. The only bad experience I can muster to remember had something to do with the aircon or the humidity problem of the performing venue. It affects the sleights as well as the deck.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

Best lay celebrity who would make a great magician... no one from this generation I'm afraid.

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic or mentalism?

Research all you can. Know the history of things. Meet the masters. Be humble and know that you have a lot more to learn. Be original!

Regarding mentalism..... don’t just learn the trick... research on actual facts, learn to act the part. Add some years perhaps. Take your time!p

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Project 365 (237/365): The Inner Magic Club

.:237/365: The Inner Magic Club:.

You know what? To absolutely do justice here, allow me to pretty much quote one of the charter members of this group, Dr. Ronnie Moraleta:

It was on the fateful night of September 25, 1996 when a group of officers and members of Magic Circle Philippines held a meeting at Lou Hilario’s former residence at Dita St., San Antonio Village, Makati. Present then were Ferdinand Flores, Cris Castro, Ronaldo Moraleta, M.D., Marcelino Alviz, Laurence Chew, Ibarra Deri, Leo Domapias, David Elefant, Ramon Ello, Lou Hilario, Rannie Raymundo, Renato Samson and Jose Luis Valenzuela. The group discussed on the formation of a more efficient and better Magic club with the main objective of uplifting the standard of Magic in the Philippines.
Lou Hilario suggested the name Inner Magic Club, thus the birth of IMC.

The club was formally registered, through the efforts of Attorney Cyril Regalado, as a non-stock, non-profit organization with the Securities and Exchange Commission on January 31, 1997 with SEC # A199701908.

Initiated primarily by Ronaldo Moraleta, M.D. with the help of then President Ferdinand “Chubby” Flores and Cyril Regalado, Inner Magic Club became Charter Ring No. 328 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians on July 30, 1997. Charter members of Ring 328 are: Herman Gil Aquino, Ronaldo Moraleta, David Elefant, Rosauro Julio, Renato Samson, Edison Chua, Ferdinand Flores, Cyril Regalado, Marcelino Alviz, Jesus Elbinias, Leo Domapias, Mark Soriano, Emily Miranda, Vincent Hugo and Napoleon Perez. It was also on this month that Filipino magicians gained worldwide recognition in the realm of Magic as IMC represented the Philippines for the first time at the 20th World Congress of Magic, more popularly known as FISM, in Dresden, Germany. Cyril Regalado even competed in the Close Up competition.

Oozing with enthusiasm, the club’s first public performance directed by Rannie Raymundo on October 17, 1997 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Little Theater entitled Salamangka Atbp. – A Journey to the World of Magic was a huge success! After this it was apparent that IMC would grace TV and charity shows continuously up to this day.

In 2003, IMC together with other Magic clubs in Asia, founded the Asian Magic Association, an alliance, which aims to unite the major Magic societies in Asia. Cris Castro who most of the time was present during the meetings eventually became and currently seats as one of its directors. Another good news came during the First Asian Magic Convention held on September 24 – 26, 2004 at Fuyong, Shenzhen, China, as Marcelino Alviz bagged second place in the Close Up competition.

Inner Magic Club was focused on forging ahead in reaching its goals as it marked another page in Filipino Magic history on September 24, 2005, on the launching of its second major and highly successful Magic show entitled “Magic ‘To!!!” at the Philamlife Theater, U.N. Avenue, Manila. Indeed, IMC’s future is looking extremely healthy and the best is yet to come!

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Well, needless to say, the IMC is one of the most esteemed and hallowed groups of magicians to this very day, and it is one that has gained so much worldwide recognition not just because of its illustrious members, but also because of the many steps they have, as a group, taken to assure that Philippine magic will continue to live on.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

DK-Oke Fun And The Follies Of Facebook Und Friendster (With Fascinating Alliterations!)


Wotta night, wotta night!

Thursday night last week was a historic night for the Disenchanted Kingdom and the rest of 99.5 RT as they took over 121 Bar and Grill in Pasong Tamo extension to bring to their friends and listeners “DK-Oke,” an awesome night of music and drinking, where you get to go onstage and perform with a live band and you on lead vocals.

I got there fairly early, fully prepared to sing one song and only one song: “Nobody,” by the Wondergirls. Prior to that, though, seeing Lou Skywalker, Anna Q5, Marf, Cleo, and of course, King DJ Logan, was quite a sight for sore eyes. Everyone was in a festive mood, and this was going to be quite a night for the show, its listeners, and the station as a whole.

I sang first, and lowered the bar sufficiently for the rest of the night, but with Cleo singing “Alone” at top form, it was rather difficult to keep the bar low, although Ms. Nancy Jane and her friend CJ did have fun singing “Torn” and “I Touch Myself.” Overall, it was an insane night, and hearing Logan belt out “With Or Without You” and Marf sing “I’ll Be” with gusto definitely drew a lot of reactions.

At some point, the King asked me over onstage to perform a bit and entertain the audience with my magic and mentalism act, and I happily obliged. I decided that doing the Michael Finney classic, the Lady and the Rope, would be most suited for a wonderful volunteer as Ms. Nancy Jane herself...

I love this routine.

Overall, I must say this was a pretty awesome night, and I can’t complain about how things turned out. With the DK hoping to do this on a monthly basis, and with the show just firing on all cylinders as of late, and the couple of days a week I’ve been guesting with them, I must say that the Disenchanted Kingdom is looking towards exciting times en route to its first anniversary.

It was pretty hilarious what happened last week, though...

KDL: So, if we guys all ended up trapped in the Amazon, and we had no choice, who would we be gay for among the four of us?

Lou Skywalker: Kel looks like a softie. I think I can take him. I ain’t gonna be a pitcher.

Marf: I think I’d go for Lou. He’s hairy.

Cleo: Marf, you’re Chinito! I guess that means Kel will go for you!

KDL: Wait, dammit! Why is nobody gay for me?!?


.:For The Lulz:.

Remember this infamous picture from when Facebook controversially deleted Alodia Gosiengfiao’s accounts?

Gasp! How could they?!?

This was always why I believed in Friendster far more than Facebook, no matter what everybody else says. After all, they’d never delete an account for no reason at all, would they?

Would they?

Double gasp! How could they?!?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (235-236)

.:235/365: Richard “Trycks” Gutierrez:.

Richard Gutierrez (Not to be confused, again, with the douchebag actor.) is not a legend in the strictest sense of the word. Neither is he a pillar of Philippine magic.

But I’ll be damned if anybody could say he isn’t one of the best at technical execution anyone has ever seen.

Trycks, as he’s fondly called by his friends, is often regarded as a machine. The things the man can do with his hands are simply jaw-dropping, and nobody can deny that his technical execution is always on top form. I’ve known Trycks for about four years already, and every single time I see him, I can’t help but respect his skill and dedication to his craft. Hands as adept as his cannot be human hands. They just can’t.

He’s been doing magic on and off for twelve years. He started learning magic through books from bookstores in Manila. Cheapskate that he was at the time, he couldn’t afford the books and read them in the bookstore. Then again, he chose his influences well, as he patterns himself after Dai Vernon and Ed Marlo, and he is a big fan of pure sleight of hand magic, especially with cards and coins. He practices rigorously, and through his practice, he manages to master amazing feats of sleight of hand over time, and his tenacity at mastering sleights is nothing short of amazing.

While many would notice that Richard’s weakest suit would have to be his patter, he can get away with it because he’s really a sleight of hand expert. This is the kind of guy Penn would kill for if he didn’t already have Teller: someone who is a master of sleights, and has the physical attributes necessary for telling a story without using words. He is also an excellent instructor of magic, and this is why he dreams of having his own magic book or video published when the time comes.

Trycks has a lot of faith in the Filipino’s ability to compete in magic, especially in the close-up world. With guys like Jeffrey Tam tearing it up in the international circles, Trycks’s observation about our capabilities is spot-on and betrays his familiarity with our local community.

I don’t know who originally said this, but when asked for a quotable quote, Richard volunteered this gem: the greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say is impossible. Another gem he offered up was: practice your material until it becomes boring. Then practice it until it becomes beautiful.

For someone as immensely gifted and skilled as Trycks, this man can definitely go places if given the opportunity to. I’m sure of it.

.:236/365: Q and A With Richard “Trycks” Gutierrez:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? How long have you been into it?

I've been fascinated with magic since i was 6 years old. I watched Mark Wilson every night on channel 5, and tried to catch any other magic-related shows on TV. The one who really influenced me to get into magic is my cousin when he performed to me a classic trick called the "jack robbers" and a simple card reversal effect. So all in all I’ve been learning magic for 12 years now, I’m 24, going on 25 this September. I await your presents, readers of this blog! ;)

2. What is magic for you?

Magic = Life. My life revolves around magic, so magic is my life.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

My best experience performing magic was when TSC appeared on Drew Arellano’s show, AHA. I performed magic for celebrities like Rhian Ramos and Mark Herras, and even got featured on Chikka Minute after all that!

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

My worst experience performing magic is anytime I perform for my relatives. They’re all hecklers, and they’re uber-suspicious even if you haven’t even moved your hands yet. I bet even David Blaine or David Copperfield would fail to impress my cynical relatives.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

If by “layman celebrity,” you mean anyone who knows nothing about magic, I’m guessing Angelica Panganiban, Angel Locsin, Heart Evangelista, and Maria Ozawa would all make awesome magicians – but I need to be the one teaching them all. No, really. ;)

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic?

Don’t rush and try to learn everything right away. Start slowly. Let your passion carry you through. If you want to be remembered, pick your favourite routine, and master it. Make it your signature act. Strive to be the best guy out there who can do it.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (233-234)

.:233/365: Jeffrey Tam:.

Jeffrey Tam is one of those rare breeds of performers who can do it all. He can sing, he can rap, he can dance, he can do magic, and he can be funny. Some people often compare him to Bearwin Meily because like Bearwin, Mr. Tam is also quite the comedian. Except unlike Bearwin, Jeffrey Tam is actually good. Except unlike Bearwin, Jeffrey Tam doesn’t have just an extensive filmography to his name, but even several wins in national and international competitions alike. He has an extensive resume that you can check out for yourself in his site.

Jeff’s history as a performer is stuff of legend. With a meteoric rise in magic and a level of skill and presentation that is stuff of legend, he took the magic world by storm with his mastery of close-up performances and his amazing command of language, whether in English or the vernacular. Doing all of this has earned him many accolades, and few people can dispute that Jeffrey Tam is certainly one of the most popular names in Philippine magic today.

Whenever people wonder how comedy and magic could mix, people normally cite Mr. Meily when they really should be citing Mr. Tam as an example. One thing I really appreciate about Jeffrey’s performance style is that while he is unbelievably funny and outrageous, he never lets his comedy overshadow his magic. His magic always remains to be the centrepiece of his act, and he doesn’t distract from his own repertoire while he performs. In doing this, he has managed to do magic, mentalism, and put his unique twist on the act. Even though I also do comedy, magic, and mentalism, one only need look at how we each perform the Russian Roulette routine and automatically see how distinct his style is from mine, putting him in a class all by himself. It also doesn’t hurt that unlike me, Jeffrey can actually sing. I was not blessed with nearly as many talents. :P

In any case, inasmuch as I try to be an ambassador for Philippine magic in the online world through this blog, Jeffrey Tam has been one of the literal ambassadors because of his many travels abroad as a competing performer. Unless I’m mistaken, only The Boss, Rannie Raymundo, could possibly rival Jeffrey Tam in terms of international exposure, albeit Mr. Raymundo is an established lecturer, rather than a competitor, in most cases. Apples and oranges in that respect.

With youth, talent, and sheer chutzpah on his side, there’s nothing Jeffrey Tam can’t achieve in the magic world. He is limited only by his own imagination, in my estimate.

.:234/365: Q and A With Jeffrey Tam:.

1. Who influenced you to get into magic? How long have you been into it?

It was David Copperfield. I’ve been doing magic for almost 21 years. Professionally, for 9 years.

2. What is magic? In your case specifically, what is mentalism?

For me, magic is an art. Mentalism, on the other hand, is a belief that some mental phenomena cannot be explained by physical laws.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

In 2008, in Bristol England. I was the only Asian magician to have performed in UK’s only magic bar, the Illusions magic bar.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

My worst? When I won the 2009 international magic extravaganza in Malaysia. I won first place, but while performing, I had six mistakes during my routine. Coins fell off the table, my microphone fell down, and I even left my chop cup backstage.

5. Which layperson celebrity, local or foreign, do you think would make a great magician?

Next question, please. Hehehehehehehe.

6. What is your best advice to everyone reading this who's interested in getting into magic or mentalism?

Three magic words: practice, hard work, and focus. (Okay, make that four, but you know what Jeff means.)

Project 365 Two-Fer (231-232)

.:231/365: Jay Mata:.

This bit features Jay and yours truly, but it at least opens with Jay, so it’s a lot more appropriate than any of our other tandem vids online. For some weird reason, I can’t find his old website online, either, but once he reads this, I’m sure he’ll fill you guys in.

Anyways, Jay Mata, who is totally not related to Erik Mana, is a professional mentalist who has recently decided to give up on Children’s Parties and almost all mainstream appearances (Because he refuses to be a sellout like yours truly. LOL.) in his quest to achieve some measure of “street cred” as a serious mentalist. One of the biggest followers of Derren Brown in terms of performing style, he is also one-half of the tandem known as “Kel and Jay” (Mel and Jay are not amused.), having performed multiple times as a tandem in various shows, albeit still maintaining very divergent individual careers.

The reason I’m featuring Jay Mata here despite his ready admittance that he is far from a pillar or magic in the local industry is twofold: one, he was the one who helped me turn pro in 2006 by giving me ideas about routining, and what it means to be a performer rather than just a guy who does tricks; and two, he’s my partner in crime in the magic world, and by writing about him and mentioning myself in the background, I get to avoid the uncomfortable situation of actually making an article about myself here. In not writing an article myself, I thereby underscore the fact that I don’t recognize myself as a pillar of anything in the industry, either.

But enough with the vestigial attempt at modesty. Let’s talk about why I think Jay plays a significant role in the magic industry today, and sneak in some shameless self-promotion along the way.

As a performer, Jay takes after the likes of Derren Brown. He utilizes humor, but acts in a very dry, deadpan manner, providing an immense contrast to most of his contemporaries whenever they also try being funny. This style is wholly British in nature, and he has committed himself to it. Jay’s character is an extension of himself, and his quasi-serious approach at performing often engenders comparisons between him and Erik Mana, especially since they have similar family names. Nonetheless, he has an approach that sets him apart from his contemporaries, and ensures that he never visibly overlaps with anyone else he goes with onstage.

In the tandem of Kel and Jay, many people consider Jay to be the “Teller” of the equation, mainly because of his height, and because he talks significantly less than his more boisterous, overbearing associate. Nonetheless, while they are often called “The Penn and Teller of the Philippines,” such a title is clearly only a hook to help people understand what they’re up to. Very little about their shows scream “Penn and Teller” particularly because they both talk. What keeps their performances very interesting, though, is how their very diverse styles meld together to form a coherent unit. Kel slides back from his mentalist persona and becomes a neo-classical magician with Vaudevillian influences. Jay steps up his serious persona and becomes a curious mix of David Blaine and Derren Brown. From color schemes to vocabulary choices, everything about the tandem is delineated by an invisible line that sets them apart, but also inexplicably holds the act together.

Having said that, I’m especially grateful to Jay because four years ago, he reignited a passion for magic in me that has allowed me to be doing this Project 365 now. Ironically, I’ve been into magic longer than he has, but it only goes to show that when one wants something bad enough, they will work harder at it than most anybody else. One thing Jay has made clear through his professional years is that at the risk of coming off as very haughty, he maintains a dignity as a performer that refuses to allow himself to demean the art form in the same way some unscrupulous performers may have in the past. He loves and respects the magic industry far too much to allow its name to be sullied through him, and as such, if you would liken him to a movie, he is less “Titanic” and more “Memento”. This very indie charm is what holds him in high regard: few performers would look at a lucrative booking and turn their nose up because they believe it is demeaning to the art form, but he does it more for the sake of magic, than for his own sake.

Despite his less-than-mainstream approach to things, he has still gained a lot of respect and recognition over the years, as his off-the-wall ideas often bear fruit and inevitably spill over into the public consciousness. His glass walking routine has always been a much-talked about performance, to the point that we felt compelled to have him do it again at last year’s “Bound and Gagged”, after already having it in “Laughs and Gasps” the previous year. He has lectured, taught, and overall imparted his knowledge and his rigorous sense of discipline onto other budding magicians, and most of those who heeded his advice have gone on to have respectable careers as performers both in and out of the magic industry.

For that and more, while nowhere near as historic as majority of the other figures we will be talking about this month, Jay Mata surely deserves a spot in Project 365. After all, when one has already written about Criss Angel and Bearwin Meily, anyone else is bound to be a fit in Project 365. ;)

.:232/365: Q and A with Jay Mata:.

1. Who influenced you to become a magician? How long have you been doing it?

I got into the art after watching David Blaine’s TV specials for the 1st time. I wanted to do able to do what he did.

2. What is your definition of magic? And since you’re also a mentalist, what is mentalism?

Magic is the art of entertaining people by giving the illusion that you have superhuman abilities. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be mentalist and I realized that it really is no different than magic… Mentalist just re-packaged it to be more intellectual and less… cartoony. It has more basis in Science than it this in smokes and mirrors but the end goal is still the same… entertainment through wonder.

3. What was your best experience while performing?

I once performed at a debut in Clark. It was the best reactions I’ve every gotten… lots of gasps and approvals both during and after the performance. It was also the best experience in the sense that that particular gig taught me that the simplest tricks are often the best… I don’t need complicated routines to be the best.

4. What was your worst experience while performing?

You already know that. Guest spot in (TV show that we both guested in recently.). Never have I seen so little regard or respect for a performers art. I’ll leave it at that.

5. Which celebrity do you think would make a good magician?

Most local celebrities are too flashy and “good-looking” to be a magician. Their focus becomes too much selling themselves than the effect that they are supposed to highlight. A magician should have charisma but it shouldn’t overshadow the magic. I’m not that in tune with the local celebrity scene but I would say Vic Sotto back in his prime could do it. Not when he is doing slapstick comedy mind you but when he is subtle like when he hosts noontime shows. The guy manages to exude the right amount of star charisma and humility.

6. What advice can you give to those who want to be magicians?

Know what it means to perform. If you are only getting into it to impress people or be cool you will never get to the deeper levels of the art. It is about the audience not the magician. Also please for the love of god practice the trick a hundred times before you try it on real people… not five minutes after you learn the secret. It is more than just knowing how to do it.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Project 365 (230/365): Erik Mana

.:230/365: Erik Mana:.

Often drawing comparisons to David Blaine, the man known as “The David Blaine of the Philippines,” (A title he may or may not be happy about, but in my book, that’s a compliment.) Erik Mana is a 38-year old phenomenon who grew up in Canada and then proceeded to take his act to the Philippines, meeting much success and adulation from the public. With his penetrating eyes and his very deliberate way of speaking, very few people don’t take Erik Mana seriously once he hits the stage, or the streets. From his first two TV specials “Stranger” and “Mastermind”, it was very clear that Erik was meant to bring magic to new heights in the mainstream with his practically Western take on the art, and indeed, drawing comparisons to David Blaine himself, who does employ a similar style.

However, all comparisons end once you recognize that Erik Mana is his own man, and that he has a unique flavour all his own whenever he’s performing. He has run the gamut of mentalism, sleight of hand, and grand stage illusions. He has experienced road stories that would make people laugh, cry, and beg for more. He has performed in venues that he probably wishes he has never gone to. And even though he actually does children’s parties at times, I can only imagine how annoying it gets when he gets asked after performing something downright freaky, “Hey, do you do kid’s parties?”

Currently, as far as the mainstream is concerned, the first name that comes to mind when they hear the word “magician” is indeed, Erik Mana. Nobody even comes close, simply because he attacked the mainstream in ways nobody else has before, although this could only mean that there would end up being more room in the future for other mainstream magicians, which is precisely what the shows “Talentadong Pinoy” and “Pilipinas Got Talent” are amply demonstrating. What legends like Tamplin, tito Lou Hilario, and Rannie Raymundo have done for magic credibility within the community, Erik Mana has done for the mainstream, and as such, makes him worthy of recognition as one of the movers and shakers of the Philippine industry today.

I’ve known Erik from when I started in WAVE 89.1 as a jock, and I wasn’t really a professional magician yet until towards the end of my tenure there, where I really was just starting off, and nobody cared too much about what I was doing, since, hey, Erik Mana was already in the station. But instead of envying the man, it certainly made me look at what about him makes him command that kind of esteem. Of course, other more veteran magicians also command respect as performers, but more often than not, the respect they command would be among colleagues and a select few people who are not in the industry but in the know. Erik transcends that and commands respect from nearly everyone he comes in contact with.

The moment you see him, there’s just something about his demeanor that screams “legit”. It’s pretty much the same thing with David Blaine, except he doesn’t need to slur his words to seem mysterious (He’s a DJ! He’s not supposed to slur!). He does whatever he fancies to do, talks in the very deliberate but clear tone that he always does, and from there, people just can’t help but feel downright mystified, at times, even intimidated by him.

Personally, I feel that the gravitas Erik Mana possesses is his strongest suit. I can try to duplicate his material if I insisted on doing so, but I will not ever achieve the effect that he does whenever he performs his effects, especially his signature mentalism act, the drawing duplication. I recognize that my character takes my performance in a different direction from his, and as such, I can only watch him in fascination when he is at work, because unlike Penn and Teller or Derren Brown, there is no way I can attempt to emulate his style as he has truly mastered his command over his own reputation in a fashion that only he can.

So Erik, I know we don’t see or hear from each other much lately, but here’s my salute to you! Thanks for being one of the key people who put magic into the mainstream consciousness of this country more than it ever has, and know that in my personal opinion, anyone who has ever criticized you as “boring” clearly has never watched you at work. You are anything but.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Soooo Excited About Tonight's DK-Oke!

Yeba! It's gonna be happening at 121 Bar and Grill tonight in 2284 Chino Roces avenue Ext! So come on down, ready your worst singing voice, and get with the Disenchanted Kingdom and all the Disenchantlings!

And expect most of us to be drunk on the show tomorrow morning!

Project 365 (228/365): Ony Carcamo

,.:228/365: Ony Carcamo:.

I was going to feature the bit that sir Ony did for “Bound and Gagged” last 2009, but decided that his award-winning commercials were better highlighted for this particular article.

Now, as sir Ony is not only a magician that I know of, but someone whom I’ve worked with numerous times already, I think that what I would have to say would be less a biographical look into the man, and more about my general experiences involving the guy.

I met sir Ony way back in September, 2008, when I hosted and did magic for a party by Ms. Ayn Monserrate. Immediately, I hit it off with the veteran ventriloquist, as I expressed my wide-eyed admiration for his craft, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he actually also happened to be a mentalist.

Known as the “Premiere Ventriloquist of the Philippines,” sir Ony is a true artist, who has created many different characters over the years, from the ineffable Mr. Parley to the knee-slap inducing Sampaguita, the multi-talented pig. His very unique approach and undeniable charisma has allowed him to perform both for children and for adults, and one could tell the difference between his kid shows and his adult shows, considering the wealth of material he uses.

Out of everything he has done, sir Ony is very popular because of his finale, which involves taping his mouth whilst his puppet demands for more and more tape to be stuck to his mouth, all the while earning a louder and louder applause each time the puppet barks out the order for more tape. It truly is a sight to behold, whenever he does this, and nobody can question the man’s skill at ventriloquism. In my book, when I try to think of American ventriloquists, probably only Terry Fator could be comparable to him as being on a whole differentlevel, as he writes his own material much like Jeff Dunham, and he has a wide variety of ventriloquism “tricks” like Kevin Johnson.

Overall, in the two years I’ve known this man, I’ve had nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for him and his skills as a ventriloquist, and I vividly recall catching his show, “Amagikomedinayt,” featuring himself, Brod Pete, and Jeffrey Tam in 2009. I just sat there, stupefied at how amazing that entire show was, and resolved to have him in “Bound and Gagged” in the same venue in the same year, which certainly made my show even more memorable than it already was.

But then, this is magic month, and while I can sing all the praises I want about his ventriloquism, that’s not officially considered magic. All the more reason why I was simply amazed at the fact that aside from ventriloquism, sir Ony is also a very accomplished mentalist, having performed some really amazing feats of mind-reading, and even incorporating his puppet into his routines, such as when he did a blindfold routine involving his puppet.

As of late, though, I have had the great honor of performing with sir Ony and of course, Stanley Chi, on a monthly basis in Taumbayan, and we consistently get a good crowd and rave reviews of our performance there. I’d be happy to let you know about the next gig once we have a date set for it.

So to sir Ony, here’s a toast to you, for being an excellent performer, and more importantly, an excellent human being! For those who would like to contact or book this man, you may reach him at this website.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Project 365 (227/365): Bearwin Meily

.:227/365: Bearwin Meily:.

I wanted to put this first because I mostly wanted to get this out of the way, and given how things are, Mr. Meilly may very well be the only magician from the local magicians I intend to feature whom I might be completely unable to interview.

Now, let me preface this whole thing by saying something honest about the man: I am not a big fan of Bearwin Meilly as a magician. There are many things I could say to explain my stance at this point, but I won’t speak ill of the man, because I personally resolved that outside of Criss Angel, there will be no outright bashing of contemporaries in this Project 365.

Of course, if you really wanted to hear some stories, feel free to ask Mike Unson. I’m sure he has a mouthful to say. As a contemporary, I’d rather focus on what Bearwin has brought to the table and to the overall perception of magic in the Philippines, rather than outright slag the guy.

Anyways, Bearwin Meily has been generally known as a comedian, starting in show business in the late 90’s, and earning a name for himself because of his nice mix of intellectual and slapstick comedy. He wasn’t quite your Dolphy-type comedian, but he was no Tim Tayag, either. This healthy mix allowed him to have crossover appeal for both the masa and the so-called elite audience.

Then, like lightning, he struck, when he started being heavily featured in the TV show “Naks” on GMA-7 around 2004. At this point, he unveiled a side of his that we haven’t seen before, and all throughout, the Bearwin Meilly everyone knew never took a backseat to this new facet of his. He was still his old comedic self, and he managed to win over a lot of people with his abilities as a magician, culminating in two specials, “Stealing Minds” and “Thou Shall Not Blink,” both aired on QTV11, and garnering acclaim, attention, and haters, all in one fell swoop.

It was during “Thou Shall Not Blink” where Bearwin feature The Story Circle, which partially explained the increase of awareness about the fledgling group, although that alliance was short-lived for reasons outside of my privilege to disclose. Needless to say, while Bearwin has earned quite a following because of his magic, he has also earned quite a few detractors at the same time.

In terms of technical skill and liveliness, there’s nothing you can say about Bearwin here. He is solid and knows his way around a deck of cards. He talks circles around people, unless you ask him to speak in English, which should be fine, since he’s a Filipino, not an American. He can do excellent magic at the drop of a hat, but there is one honest observation I have of the man that prevents me from fully appreciating him...

You see, because of his comedian background, he inevitably kills his own credibility whenever he performs onstage. His finale in “Thou Shall Not Blink” was supposedly an act of teleportation, and yet, it was the most eye-rolling act in the entire show, pretty much ruining everything he built up throughout the special. There is also the supposed rivalry between him and Erik Mana, and even the inevitable comparison of how “dry” Mr. Mana performs as opposed to the obviously lively banter that Bearwin would bring to the table.

There is no question that Bearwin does great magic when given the opportunity. The burning question is: does his reputation as a comedian get in the way of people appreciating his talents? Unfortunately, based on the number of people I’ve casually polled over the years, the answer is “yes.” And that’s a crying shame, really, seeing how Bearwin is certainly not wanting of skill, variety of effects, or even presentation.

Only time could tell if Mr. Meily could break out of his own shadow.