• SHIRLEY HALILI-CRUZ AND HER BULACAN

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    A true blue Bulakeña, Shirley Halili-Cruz was born to businessman Rufino Halili of Santa Maria, Bulacan and soprano and costume designer Rufina Casanova of Pulilan. Now an accomplished artist, artistic director, and dance educator, she recalls growing up in an environment that blended discipline and creativity.

    She started dancing at the age of nine under Bonnie Weinstein-Calagopi, and was not only an outstanding ballet student and lead dancer, but also a natural teacher. At 15, she was made to run the dance school by teacher Bonnie; and later, the Dominican sisters of Sienna College encouraged her to manage their dance school where she taught Hawaiian, jazz, and ballet.

    In 1974, she went to dance as soloist and principal dancer of the dance Concert Company, where she performed various roles in different dance concerts. One of her most memorable performances was when she danced in the Nutcracker Suite, trained and directed by American Ballet Theater ballerina Gelsey Kirkland and Michel Chernov.

    Much color was added to Shirley’s life when she married Eric Almeda Cruz, who comes from a family prominent in the construction industry and the arts.

    In 1984, Shirley stopped dancing after she gave birth to her second child and decided to dedicate herself to sharing her knowledge, talent, and time through teaching young aspiring dance artists. She took courses in the American Academy of Ballet, Dance Educators of America, Jeoffrey Ballet School, American Ballet Center, Neubert Ballet Institute, New York Academy, and Conservatoire of Dance to equip herself with the tools necessary to create a school of dance.

    In 1986, she founded the Halili-Cruz Center for the Arts, later known as the Halili-Cruz School of Dance. Starting with 85 students, she has today more than 2,000 aspiring dancers in the Halili-Cruz main dance studio and six other branches.

    Having produced so many excellent ballerinas, Shirley realized the need to establish a performing group for her advanced students, giving rise to the Quezon City Ballet, the performing group of the Halili-Cruz School of Dance in 1988. Since that time the QCB has engaged in countless performances both in the Philippines and abroad. They have also participated in numerous international festivals, competitions and dance tours, gaining the distinction of being the “Most Outstanding Ballet School in Asia” from 2000 up to the present.

    Today, the name Shirley Halili-Cruz carries the mark of excellence in the field of culture and the arts affirmed by the awards and recognitions conferred on her. These include the Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award in 2010; the NCCA Ani ng Dangal Award in 2009, the Most Outstanding Bulakena in Arts and Culture in 2007, the Asia Pacific Achiever Award for Arts and Culture in Osaka, Japan in 2003, the Rajah Soliman Award in 2002, and the Grand Millenium Award for Excellence in 2001.

    Although her gift of dance has brought her and her troupe to many places in the world, Shirley remains a Bulakeña at heart. Here, she takes us around her Bulacan, her SM.

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    Shirley Halili-Cruz shares with us why she is proud to be a Bulakena during the My City, My SM launch at SM City Baliwag.  She is shown on stage with daughter Anna Kathrina Halili Cruz, SM City Baliwag Assistant Mall Manager Andrew Cristobal, SM VP for Marketing Millie Dizon, Bulacan Provincial Board member Michael Fermin and the Halili Cruz dancers.

    “What I like most about Bulacan is the Bulakenos, who are admired for their talents and values. I am proud to be a Filipino artist . . . I am proud to be a Bulakena. And I like to think that my name is an acronym for Bulakeno values.

    S- stands for simple and selfless, H is for humble and hardworking, I is for integrity, R is for respectful and respectable, L is for loyal and loves what they are doing, E is for excellence, and Y is for young at heart.”

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    Ballet dancers performing

    “Ballet taught me discipline. With this discipline, you will be able to manage your time, your activities, and level of energy. It also taught me to strive for excellence because, with its precise movements, ballet has no room for mediocrity. With ballet, you develop your personality, self confidence, and creativity.”

    Through her ballet training, Shirley developed lots of grace – in her dance and in her life. She has clearly passed on this gracefulness and graciousness to her students, who are seen performing during the My City, My SM launch.

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    Shirley with the Halili Cruz School of Ballet dancers

    “I want to be simply remembered as a teacher. While I get a high when I perform on stage, the level of happiness and fulfillment that I feel as teacher is priceless. “

    Shirley with some of her dancers from the Halili-Cruz School of Ballet – Gabby Quinto, Regine Magbitang, and Julimae Barrios at SM City Baliwag’s Event Center.

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    Barasoain Church

    “If I would bring guests around Bulacan, I would take them to the Barasoain Church because of its rich cultural and historical heritage. Its architectural design is also very beautiful and I would consider it at par with European churches.”

    A national shrine, the historic Barasoain Church was the site of the Constitutional Convention of the First Philippine Republic, making the Philippines the first Asian government to promulgate a constitution. It was the seat of the First Philippine Republic on September 15, 1898 to the last week of February 1899 under the presidency of Pedro Paterno.

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    Pastilles, pastilles wrapper, pandesal, and chicharon

    “I would also let my guests taste our food – Baliwag’s chicharon and pandesal, and of course, pastillas de leche.”

    Bulacan specialties – smooth, rich and creamy pastillas made from carabao milk’ special pastillas wrapper made by artisan Nanay Luz M. Ocampo, Pandesal de Baliwag from Fernando’s Bakery, and Baliwag Chicharon.

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    Fireworks made in Bulacan

    “I’m also proud of the fireworks made in Bulacan. With its quality, I am sure it can compete internationally.”

    In the Philippines, the pyrotechnics industry had its roots in Bulacan, when Valentin Sta. Ana first learned the craft of making fireworks from parish priest of Santa Maria in 1867.

    Today, Bulacan is the leading manufacturer of pyrotechnics in the Philippines, and it is estimated that there are about 500 manufacturers today in Bocaue, Santa Maria, Baliwag, and other nearby areas. Some of them have already joined the Macau International Fireworks competition.

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    Bulakeno talent shines in the Balagtasan – a verbal joust among poets or makatas

    “When we have forums and conferences abroad, I always tell participants that I am from Bulacan. The people in Bulacan are simple, humble, hardworking, but also very talented. During their leisure time, they like dancing, singing, and doing arts and crafts. That is why I think there are many national artists from my home province.”

    Bulakeno talent shines in the Balagtasan – a verbal joust among poets or makatas. The Balagtasan was named after Francisco ‘Balagtas” Baltazar, who is considered the Prince of Tagalog poets. Three participants usually take part in the Balagtasan – two debaters and a debater moderator called the lakambini or lakandiwa.

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    SM City Baliwag

    “SM is very relevant to the needs of the people. It is not just about shopping, dining, and watching movies, but it now also educates people by promoting culture and the arts. Our group has been to 15 different malls in the country, and we could see how the mallgoers appreciated the art of dance.

    SM also helps in the local economy by providing employment and business opportunities.”

    SM City Baliwag has raised shopping, leisure, and entertainment standards in Bulacan.

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    Shirley and Anna at Homeworld 

    “We are a family of shoppers. Shopping is part of our bonding every Sunday. We go to church, eat out, shop, and go to a restaurant for dinner. Our favorite stops in SM include Homeworld, Ace Hardware, National Bookstore, and the clothes section of the Department Store.”

    It’s bonding time for Shirley and daughter Anna as they go over the stylish linen at the Homeworld section of the SM Department Store at SM City Baliwag.

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    Shirely and Anna at the SM Appliance Center

    “At SM, they’ve got it all – its slogan is so true. The mall is complete and has everything for you – from large furniture pieces to the smallest things, from high end to low end items. The assortment is amazing and you have a lot of choices.”

    Shirley and daughter Anna take time out to shop at the SM Appliance Center at SM City Baliwag.