Thursday, September 5, 2019

How the week was won

Guess how? Through the inevitable lunches with friends the most recent and undocumented of which was a meeting at Mary Grace Robinsons Galleria with old pal Jenny Llaguno. We exchanged stories, she gave me a book for my husband Rolly's collection and before we knew it two hours had passed. What a lift after the gray morning weather.

Earlier in the week, on a Monday, it was sunny and dry, perfect for the now yearly reunion of our unnamed group of amigas y amigos. The amigos, Pablo Tariman and Isah V. Red, were indisposed (subtext for rushing to meet writing deadlines). But I was just too glad to take a break from writing and editing and stretch my lumbering body a bit.

Meeting place was Cafe Juanita in Kapitolyo, Pasig, the kikay resto in my 'hood. I thought I'd make it ahead of everyone, but Joy Buensalido's car was parked outside--I recognized her driver. Next came Jingjing Romero who pulled a roll-on luggage behind her. She had just come from a staycation at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila with Margie T. Logarta. But where was Marge? She was still taking a shower when Jingjing checked out of the hotel.

Clockwise: Ester Dipasupil, Babeth, Joy Buensalido and Jingjing Romero

Our usual Do Re Mi picture. I like the "prints" on Margie's dress. She's standing at the bottom of the stairs (left).

Second to the last to arrive was Ester Dipasupil wearing what Margie described as a Dennis the Menace outfit (denim overalls with striped red and white tee underneath). We were almost done with lunch (ampalaya salad, puso ng saging sisig, beef ribs adobo, callos, fried fish whose exact name I've forgotten not being a fan of anything beyond bangus) when Margie strode in with her own bag on wheels.

Generous Joy had a bag of Maya goodies for everyone (Pablo, you still have to pick up yours at our house). She also had a printed voile blouse for Jingjing. But the latter was still in mourning for her mother so she didn't want to wear something so colorful. I claimed the blouse for myself when I saw how roomy it was. Sorry, too much girl talk and gestures.

Much of the content of our conversation deserves to be heard in a confessional box so I will fast forward to a Thursday lunch at Victorino's Restaurant on the intersection of Scout Rallos and 11th Jamboree streets, Kyusi. My reasons for going there was to interview Anton Juan and to meet up with another group of friends. And to wear, nay, flaunt the gift blouse from Joy and Jingjing.

With ageless enfant terrible Anton J. Photo by Niña Simunek

After we finished with official business, I was taken aback by Anton's question: "So, Babeth, did you ever marry?" My girlfriends, including his niece Niña Simunek, all burst out laughing. I put to rest his wrong impression, saying, "I am married and have two children and one grandchild."

He clung to his impression, adding that "you look pure and virginal. I cannot imagine you having that look of desire."

At this point, my girlfriends started agreeing with him, saying, "It's because you're hardly seen together with your husband."
Anton's Manang Jenny agreed and in all seriousness said, "It's because, Babeth, you never seem to be in a rush to hurry home to cook for anyone. But your nurturing side is very strong."

Well, after 35 years of marriage to Rolly, this is just about the second time someone like Anton mistook me for a singleton, much less a virgin (sabay ilag). The first ones who thought I was single, and this was only a few years ago, were Nympha Sano and her hubby Stef. I also had to correct their "misimpression."

Later, as we had our picture taken together, I told Anton pointedly, "My husband happens to be tall and handsome." His eyes grew wide. Somebody piped up, "He wears a beard, too, and he's a good provider."

I hope that settles that. Love you, Anton. Working on my follow-up questions but please get over your jet lag first.

Textures and patterns

There was a time I brought my Canon digicam everywhere I went and trained my eye on anything interesting I saw. Such were these photos I took while we were having a bienvenida lunch with old friends Myriam and Steve Benito, now based in New Zealand.

Friends used to ask how I kept myself busy in Baguio. Well, here's evidence from years past--not yet erased by the need to create more gigabyte space in the computer.

Location: Iggy's Inn and Bonuan Seafood Restaurant

Myriam and Steve Benito, plus Del Tolentino and Babeth at Iggy's Inn and Bonuan Seafood Restaurant

Except for the last picture, all photos by Babeth

Thursday, August 15, 2019

My Huckleberry friend

These are my Throwback Thursday thoughts and photos as I deal with another foggy and chilly day in my adopted city. Call this my intermission number while I take a break from line editing some manuscripts.

It's bonnet weather up here, but I've misplaced mine while Kai, now eight and in school (surprisingly, the school bus came by to pick her up and she was ready and warmly dressed as she boarded it), has outgrown hers. She now wears a hoodie.

Booboo Babeth and Kai wearing bonnets

Yesterday classes were suspended so she stayed by my side all day long while I faced the computer. She played with her dolls and stack-up toys. When she grew weary of them and while I was taking a siesta, I overheard her take over the YouTube shuffle list and listen to different versions of "Moon River," her current favorite. I let her be, secretly pleased was I that she liked the songs I liked.

After dinner, she brought out her blank notebook that she uses for her doodles.She asked me to dictate the lyrics of the theme song from Breakfast at Tiffany's while she carefully wrote them down on a page, mindful of her spelling and placement of apostrophes. Then she began to sing a capella. Over and over until I wanted to cry.

Here Cecile Licad skims over the poetry book of Marne Kilates while Booboo Babeth and her Kai look over her shoulder. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Who would have thunk it--that the kid I used to carry in my arms to meet such personages like our goddess of music CL would fall for a Mancini ballad?

Kai, don't rush, don't age too fast. You'll have a long time being a grownup, but childhood is such a fleeting period.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rain, food, books and work

Today's weather was not an improvement on yesterday's. We woke up to ceaseless wind, rain and fog. At least, I did wake up ahead of everyone else in our small household; Rolly, who is usually an early riser, got up reluctantly at 9:30 a.m.

Nobody was in the mood to cook although we were all famished and wished for hot soup, arroz caldo, fried rice and tuyo--you know, rainy weather fare. But who was gonna prepare them?

Not I, said this housewife who has never gotten the hang of running a house. I had too much writing and editing work, chief of which was a book manuscript, on my plate, and deadlines were a pitiless lot.

So I said, I'm treating everyone to lunch at HOY (short for House of Yolo Yogurt) on Marcos Highway, a few minutes drive away from our place. Rolly couldn't be parted from his bed and blanket so Kimi, Kai and I dressed warmly and each carried an umbrella to the car.

I told Kimi to drive carefully through the zero-visibility fog, fearing she might bump into a stray dog or a human. We reached HOY without incident. Hardly had we sat, then the place began to fill up despite it being way past the lunch hour. Then we realized today was a holiday--Eid Mubarak!

Hot choco for my grandchild Kai

Daing na bangus with red mountain rice and fried eggs

Booboo Babeth looking ghostly amid the thick fog. Photo by Kai

Kai back in the warmth of Rolly Fernandez's room/library. Photo by Babeth

I settled for my favorite daing na bangus with mountain rice and two well-done fried eggs. Kimi had the bulalo which was for sharing. Kai had a little of my viand and her mother's, paired with a cup of rice and another cup of hot choco.

While Kimi was driving home through the zigzag road, I told her to slow down because I had a very full tummy and didn't want to throw up.

We brought home takeaway food (sirloin tapa with rice and sunny side up eggs) for Rolly. In all, it was a blessed day, the weather notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Meeting Damodar Das Castillo

Young cellist at the PPO Youth Concert last week

Experience has taught me to be wary of prodigies. Sometimes they don't live up to their early promise.

But I am a grandmother who dotes on her only grandchild, a violin student in Baguio. So when the opportunity to watch a free young people's concert at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater presented itself, I didn't want to let it go. The featured soloist was 11 going on 12 cellist Damodar Das Castillo whose instrument still looks huger than him.

I first heard him play at the 2016 Baguio Summer Music Festival, dubbed by Jeffrey Solares as Summer Out There. The boy was Maestro Jeffrey's pride and joy.

Damodar needed a special diet which the kitchen of the ICM House of Prayer was just willing to accommodate-- he was a full vegetarian. Even his table was set apart from the other members of the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra.

On the last day of the week-long summer camp, the boy played solo in the chapel which had perfect acoustics since it was built with wood, bricks and glass. Sister Perla Macapinlac, then head of the House of Prayer, was part of the attentive audience.

I would have other occasions to listen to Damodar, mainly at the Ayala Museum And particularly when the MSJO returned from its triumphant performance in the Summa Cum Laude Youth Music Festival in Vienna, Austria. It was at the homecoming concert that Maestro Jeffrey announced that Damodar was accepted at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg.

The good news is our Ilonggo countrymen and women will have a chance to listen and watch as this young talent performs with assisting artist Dingdong Fiel at Nelly Garden on Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m. This outreach project is made possible through the herculean efforts of Pablo Tariman, he who made it his mission to chronicle the rise and rise of another former prodigy, pianist Cecile Licad

Post-concert meet and greet with Damodar Das Castillo, third from left, Pablo Tariman, violinist Adrian Ong, me and little Kai

Photos by Babeth Lolarga and Kiko Cabuena

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Saturday afternoon in Baguio

As Saturday afternoons go in these parts, the clouds were gray. Weather was drizzly, but that didn't deter my grandchild Kai and I from having a good day. We had it all planned out. She would document the day in pictures, I would describe it in words.

We started off with a late dimsum lunch at the fairly new King Chef Dimsum Kitchen on Legarda Road with long-time friends Jenny Carino and Karen Hizola. My daughter Kimi drove us afterwards to a nearby Korean grocery so we could enjoy frozen yogurt popsicles, the Lotte brand, then onto Mt Cloud Bookshop at No. 1 Yangco Road. There I saw, after many, many years had passed, Ani Rosa Almario of Adarna House at the registration table.

With Karen Hizola sporting her new hairdo and Jennifer Patricia A. Cariño

I used to see her as a child when her parents Rio and Lyn Almario would visit SV and Nieves Epistola of the University of the Philippines Diliman. I think she even drew a portrait of me wearing my lace-up ballet shoes (I was thin then and studying jazz at the Julie Borromeo Dance Arts Studio).

Kids had to each pay P100 to get into the story-telling event. Adults accompanying them got in free. Kai had time to roam around the shop, clicking the digicam, a well-worn Canon PowerShot A2300 HD.

She picked out the book edited by Neni Sta Romana Cruz, Don't Take a Bath on a Friday, asking if I could purchase it. I told her we had a copy at home, and she only had to ask her grumpa Rolly to retrieve it from one of our bookshelves (he's only our librarian apart from being house manager). Nonetheless, she sprawled on the throw pillows and mat that Marisol Michele Montilla's staff had laid out on the floor and began reading said book.

Marisol Montilla introduces story-teller Rey Bufi.

Then she perused the shelf for knitted stuffed toys and took down the whale shark with a pleading look in her eyes. I looked at the price tag and shook my head. She went to the "bookstore within a bookstore" (as Marisol called the children's book room) and chose Alamat ng Ampalaya by Augie Rivera with illustrations by Kora Dandan Albano. At P100 a copy, it was most affordable, and Kai now has it on her shelf.

Rey Bufi of The Story-telling Project captured the children's attention with his expressive narration of two titles: Candy Gourlay's Is It a Mermaid? in its Filipino translation and Padmapani L. Perez's Shelah Goes to a Da-ngah.

Kuya Rey gathering all the children on the mat

Ice breaker

Even if there were kids as young as three years old in the audience, they weren't restive at all and were putty in Kuya Rey's hands.

Immediately after the story-telling, Ani came up front to distribute mini red velvet cupcakes to the young audience and their parents and guardians.

Two cupcakes: Kai and the red velvet cupcake from Ani Almario

The Adarna and Mt. Cloud teams pose by the Adarna House van

Baby pine trees

While we awaited Rolly to fetch us, Kai roamed the kid-friendly store and grounds and took more pictures of the pine saplings and the Adarna and Mt. Cloud teams posing by the Adarna van.

Except for my portrait of Kai with a cupcake, all photos are by her.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Kai's shelfie

We live with an eight-year-old reader, Kai, who is also adept with gadgets but isn't addicted to them (yet). Her time with her video games is limited by us. She doesn't whine for extended time with her electronic toys.

In fact, she still plays with old plush toys and Disney dolls--that means conversing with them, laying them out on my bed, seating them on my pillows and covering them with my shawl or a short blanket.

When she sees me reading though, she imitates me, gets her own book and quietly settles at a corner. Sometimes she falls asleep as I do, too. When she wakens, she asks how long she was out. When I say an hour or two, her eyebrows meet and she worriedly says, "I may have a hard time sleeping tonight." I just advise her to read or reread a favorite book again.

For many years, Old MacDonald's Had a Farm was her favorite. These days, she rereads Roald Dahl's titles for kids and watches on Netflix the film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I don't know how many times she has sat through it.

On the foreground is the feminist storybook Prince Cinders by Babette Cole, a favorite of my own children, Kimi and Ida, when they were as old as Kai.

In the summer of 2018, her grumpa Rolly Fernandez built for her her own shelves for her books and toys. The shelves were made of recycled materials--two old cabinet doors that the carpenters cut up to Rolly's specifications.

Sometimes Kai and her cousin Max, seen in second photo at last night's premiere of The Lion King at Ayala the 30th Mall in Pasig, swap books.

Cousins Max and Kai at a movie premiere

As poet Luisa A. Igloria once wrote in her FB status, don't show us your selfies. Show your shelfies!

To Kai and Max I only wish a Happy National Children's Book Day every day.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Space of my own

I was in Mega Manila for 10 days and came back to my Baguio room and adjusted to the new changes my husband Rolly Fernandez made on our shared space. We used to have a small table between our single beds and shared a lamp for night reading between us.

Now he moved my work table between our beds and put my growing pile of books half-read, unread and intended to be read on our grandchild's table. (Wait till we hear what she has to say about this when she herself arrives from her Manila summer break.)

This is where all the writing action takes place. The blue comb is there for the purpose of running through my hair to help me think.

I like where he shoved my old bed--nearer to the window where I can have more natural light while reading or writing in my journal. As for the work table's new space, I now have windows with a view of the neighbors' greenery. I can take 20-minute breaks from computer chores and rest my eyes on said neighbors' green roofs, the pine trees and plants whose green colors are sharpened by the rain.

That he doesn't ask my permission to move things around in our room I don't mind. Rolly knows best--whether it's housekeeping, drawing up a menu, picking out items to put in the grocery cart or gardening.

As you can see, I'm not good for anything in terms of decorating space. Gosh, he even fixed my table where everything is now in place and there's a place for everything.

Grateful Wednesday!