Published September 23, 2018, 12:35 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

By Deedee Siytangco

‘Every Artist was once an amateur.’ —Ralph Waldo Emmerson

‘Creativity takes courage.’ —Henri Matisse

On another “rare night out” for this grandma, we went to Solaire for “The Best of Aliw” concert.

The gaming tables were full as with slot machines. We glided past them to have dinner with September celebrant, Alice de la Cruz, her husband Joel, Cecile Patricio of the SM Group, and Beth Sison Tagle, with another September celebrant, Charo Yu and her son Jay.
Then on to the musical, which we learned, was a collaboration by Aliw Awards Foundation, Inc., the Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines, District 381, and Solaire Resort and Casino. Solaire, it seems, likes encouraging OPM performances, so we had a first class theater.

Established in 1976, the AAFI started the practice of bringing together its top awardees in one show called the Entertainers of the Year in 2006, to give the public the opportunity to watch great entertainment.

This year, Elizabeth Sison Tagle, 381 District chairman of the Inner Wheel Clubs of the Philippines and former AAFI president, agreed to co-produce the project, thus hitting two birds with one stone by helping the two organizations close to her heart raise funds for their projects and providing the public with the best entertainment possible in one magical night. Beth was very millennially dressed that night, shimmering in her denims and her sequined rubber loafers—talk about bling!

Solaire Resort and Casino, in line with its objective of promoting OPM and Filipino artists, offered The Theatre as a venue for “The Best of Aliw.” Since this was a first for all three, it turned out to be not so much a financial but an artistic, creative success.
Freddie Santos, Aliw Hall of Famer, is to be credited for the innovative presentation of combining song, dance, instrument, and poetry in a single show. From the start, he wanted this concert to be different from every other concerts presented in the Philippines. And he succeeded. So, kudos, Freddie!

The talented cast enthusiastically agreed to recite the poems chosen by Freddie in different dialects and languages. Stars of today and yesteryears took turns in reciting the poems Direk Freddie assigned to them. The concert was truly unique, with the lovely young dancers of the Halili-Cruz Dance Company performing between the stars’ numbers and Merjohn Lagaya playing the violin.

Who were these top performers? Pilita Corrales, the first Entertainer of the Year, was joined by Entertainers of the Year Celeste Legaspi, Martin Nievera, and Dulce, and Lifetime Achievement Awardee Spirit of ‘67, who celebrated their 25th year in 2017, Hall of Famers The Angelos and Merjohn Lagaya, and Special Awardee Halili-Cruz Dance Company.

Aliw’s Alice Reyes in red gown and Beth Sison Tagle, far left with some members of the Inner Wheel Club district 381 in 'The Best of Aliw.'
Aliw’s Alice Reyes in red gown and Beth Sison Tagle, far left with some members of the Inner Wheel Club district 381 in ‘The Best of Aliw.’

Aliw Awards Foundation, Inc. (AAFI) is the first and only award-giving body that recognizes performers of all forms of live entertainment. Singers, dancers, instrumentalists, emcees, comedians, stage actors, musical and non-musical directors, and even festival participants compete annually for the prestigious awards. AAFI has no counterpart here or anywhere else in the world. The Grammys are for recording, Oscars are for films, and Tonys for stage.

And to think that AAFI started 42 years ago as an offshoot of the National Press Club’s Socials Committee, which handled the Friday Celebrity Nights, chair by Alice Hernandez Reyes, then of Daily Express, under NPC presidents Ben Rodriguez, Neal Cruz, Louie Logarta, Pat Gonzales, and Tony Antonio.

Alice tells me she was prompted by a desire to give back to the entertainers that performed gratis et amore. I remember, being an NPC member, that even Matt Monro performed for the Celebrity Night bashes for free!

“It has been a long and hard journey, sometimes heartbreaking for lack of support of those who could help, and we have not lacked detractors, knowing the Filipino crab mentality, but we have survived,” Alice told us. “Thankfully, there are friends like Beth Tagle, Herbert Bautista, PAGCOR, PCSO, San Miguel Corporation, DOT, and our media partners The Manila Bulletin, Manila Times, Philippine United News, Philippine Star, and the Journal Group of Publications, who have given us their support. God be praised!”

There was also a special surprise number by former senator Joey Lina, president of the Manila Hotel, who recited and sang patriotic songs!

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On the political scene, we think it’s time to put Asec Mocha Uson somewhere she can’t insult more people. Truly.
And, not so fast, warns Senate Minority leader Frank Drilon on the 2019 National Budget.

It seems that thousands of government nurses and other health personnel that are deployed in the country’s far-flung barangays from Batanes to Jolo, stand to lose their jobs due to the Department of Budget and Management’s move to cut the budget of the Department of Health, according to Drilon.

“If we will just follow the proposed budget [for] the Department of Health, about 15,000 nurses and health professionals will lose their jobs,” Drilon said after grilling officials during the Senate hearing on the proposed P71 billion budget of the DoH.
“This is a vey serious concern. I have never seen in my 20 years in the Senate that a budget is slashed this much and the budget of the DoH, at that,” Drilon said. “This is injustice and I will not allow the budget to be passed unless this injustice is addressed,” he added.

At the hearing, Drilon grilled a representative from the DBM for cutting the budget of the DoH by P36.2 billion from P107.3 billion in 2018 to P71 billion in 2019, particularly for health human resources deployment (HHRD), which was decreased from P9.59 billion in 2018 to P1.17 billion next year.

Jane Abella, a representative from DBM, argued that the budget was just transferred to Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) pending a review by the department and the Commission on Civil Service.

“Fifteen thousand nurses and health professionals will be on the streets while we are evaluating. Can you imagine the effect of this on our 15,000 workers and their performance? What kind of planning is this?” Drilon asked. He added that that it is not correct to transfer the funds of active government health personnel to MPBF, fearing it will not be released “without Malacanang’s clearance.”
Instead of reducing the number of health personnel, Drilon said that the DBM should regularize the 26,000 health workers, who are on job order status. “You cannot have an ‘endo’ situation in the DoH, because the services will be affected. Let us regularize them so that we can provide stability to our health system,” Drilon said.

But DOH Secretary Duque says their budget is good enough for them! The slashed amount won’t take care of the 26,000 health workers, he added.

Drilon proposed that an errata be submitted by the DBM “in order to correct this injustice,” saying that it should not be the Senate scrambling to look for funds to restore the budget, which can be vetoed by the President. Where to source the funds?
The minority leader claims that the budget is there and if they can’t be found, some other items in the budget can provide the budget for the DoH.

Drilon is also alarmed by the DBM’s reduction of the DoH’s budget for health facilities enhancement program to P50 million in 2019 from the current level of P30.26 billion. But the DBM representative pointed to the DoH’s underutilization of the budget to justify the budget cuts.

And Drilon wanted to know why there are so many Chinese nationals working in the country when Filipinos also have their expertise? The 25,000 Chinese nationals (more underground than above, we fear) are mostly in the casinos and leisure areas. Their presence means that there are that number of less jobs for Filipinos, Drilon pointed out. True. Sad.

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Did you know that Sept. 20 was the 120th birthday anniversary of Josefa Llanes Escoda? She was a Filipina woman leader, educator, and founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. I didn’t, until I saw it on Google, who honored her by depicting her in their logo for that day.