Friday, February 28, 2014

Welcome to the family!

I met the two newest members of the Cuevas family early in 2014. :) 

Biboy married Barbara in January. I didn't attend their wedding because the date was smack between the day I arrived from Hong Kong and the day I was flying to Singapore. One of the reasons I visited over Christmas and New Year was to meet her... Before then, I hadn't talked with her yet so that was a good opportunity to get to know my brand new sister.

Biboy and Barbara at the beach while the rest of us were in Bataan.

Elise is Ate Grace and Kuya Nat's daughter... and the clan's new baby. :) Their family is based in Canada so this is also the first time that many of my US-based relatives were meeting Elise. She is Tita Ising's and Tito Sibing's first granddaughter... I could just imagine how thrilled they were to meet her at the airport!

Three generations: Lola Bats, Ate Grace, and Elise

Thursday, February 6, 2014

my favorite paintings

The Holy Grail 'neath ancient Rosslyn waits
The blade and the chalice o'er her gates
Adorned by the masters' loving art she lies
As she rests beneath the starry skies.

-- Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

The first time I remember seeing the huge painting was when I was in nursery school. I was---still am---amazed by the bright pinks and vibrant blues... all connected by the undulating white ribbons. Because I'd normally expect masterpieces at this level only accessible when I visit the Philippine National Museum, I always get a kick out of the thought that this is what greets me as I eat lunch at the cafeteria of the International Rice Research Institute:

This painting, and its "twin" which I see on rare occasions, were created by the Philippine National Artist Vicente Manansala. These two paintings has set my bar when I look at paintings by contemporary artists in different museums I visit when I go on new adventures. I always think, "This is what they call art?!? It's falls short of the IRRI Manansala painting!"

These are two of the very few paintings that I like to look at. Probably it's because I love the stained glass feel of the paintings. In technical arts speak, I think they call it "transparent cubism". 

So just guess how excited I was when I heard that an event in honor of Vicente Manansala was in the works. I wanted to sit through the symposium about the maestro's life and works but it's an invitation-only event; I had considered watching from outside the room but luckily got invited on the day itself... I didn't need to set up camp on the lobby after all!

But wait, there's more! 

I was asked to prepare a presentation to acquaint invited artists before the painting sessions in the morning before the symposium... basically, I was asked to do a shortened version of my talk at the Asia Society HK event. Cool! The Presentation Zen student in me, however, insisted that I needed to adapt my slides to the new audience. So, I prepared a brand new slide deck (using many slides from the Asia Society HK presentation), taking into consideration the time limit, the lighting in the venue for the color scheme (it was pretty dark), and the audience.

After my talk, one of the artists asked me, "Are you an artist?"


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

for my first no-safety-net presentation

I can't say I haven't been warned.

Last year, after my presentation at the International Rice Festival, I was told that there is a possibility that I'd do this type of presentations more often. A few months later, I found myself on a plane en route to Hong Kong to attend the Asia Society HK's food program entitled "In a Grain of Rice: Food and Culture for South and Southeast Asia". I was one of the speakers during the morning session on January 12.

I was very excited because talking about science to a non-technical audience is one of the most challenging assignments for me... it's the most enjoyable too. I dream that someday I'd be able to speak with the confidence of Al Gore and the charisma of Steve Jobs. But since I need a long time to prepare and a great graphics team to be at that caliber and I just didn't have that time or the team, I settled with not fumbling over what I was supposed to say AND a slide deck with beautiful pictures.

(Photo by Chill)

Yeah, if I thought the Eastwood talk was tough, I spoke too soon: for the Asia Society HK event, I was the only speaker from IRRI and there were only two of us in the team (Chill Sapiandante and I were to take care of the IRRI exhibit in the afternoon session).... and there won't be any familiar faces in the crowd the way Matty, Val, Nikos, Gerard, and a few others (including my sister, Anna) just popped in at the Eastwood event to show their support for the IRRI team then. Aside from the presentation, I also had to prepare myself for any media coverage (interviews and such) and out-of-this-world questions. Thank goodness for the media skills training last year! Andy and Dan would've been proud!

I digress (yet again). 

Though I was alone for the first time in an event like this, I felt very much supported: before Chill and I flew out, I've already had several rounds of discussions with the communications and partnerships teams to come up with a plot and to get the slide deck approved by no less than Bruce Tolentino, the IRRI deputy director general who always proves to be a great study in public speaking. Tony Lambino, who heads the communications group, also lent me his copy of Nancy Duarte's Slide:ology to help me prepare. I couldn't believe I got my hands on that book! That, my electronic version of Duarte's Resonate, and my copy of the Presentation Zen series (yes, the same ones Garr Reynolds sent to me) were my main references. I really appreciate everyone's help!

At the end of the morning session, I think I a good run. The audience got engaged and interested, based on the type and number of questions I fielded. There were lots of follow-up discussions with Chill and me during the afternoon session too, when members of the audience dropped by the IRRI exhibit.