Friday, August 29, 2008

Give Us This Day Our Daily Whine

Restless fashionista daughter whines almost daily that she wakes up with nada ahead of her.

Her Tatay says he wakes up every morning grateful that he can still see, this after a cataract operation and six- hour working days, much of them spent in front of the computer cleaning up copy and at least two hours of his sleeping time broken so he can correct students’ papers.

I’m somewhere in between—a glorious (if sun is out) morning ahead with nothing planned save for a class in web design, and the rest of the day stretches on punctuated by nibbles of popcorn, peanuts, turrones de casuy, whatever I can graze on. Some days I paint, other days I scribble in my notebook. I don't mind doing all those things until the day I croak.

I’m tempted to tell my daughter, “Doesn’t coordinating what you’re going to put on your body and feet excite you anymore?” If she's looking for a purpose to get up, I think anything is worth it rather than the mini angst she's going through.

Then I overhear her Tatay’s colleague talk about a line from a Radioactive Sago Project song penned by Lourd Ernest de Veyra that goes something like: “Naghihirap na ang bayan, fashionista ka pa rin.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Writing for Their Lives

One of the nice things about First Draft, women friends writing as if their lives depended on it, is the giving of presents whenever a member’s birthday falls within the range of the bimonthly meeting. The pleasure of being a recipient of their generosity can only be matched by the glee (and greed) of a child tearing the wrappers off her Christmas gifts.

As we take our seats at a reserved area in Greenbelt 3’s Bizu, Rita hands over to me a small bag with the subtle scent of mainly handmade bars of bath soap wafting from it, Peng an embossed envelop in old rose with the propitious figure of the Hindu god Ganesh (inside is a tiny packet of powder sheets—quite convenient compared to the old-fashioned pressed powder housed in a compact with mirror), Lorna a slight, squarish book (Elizabeth Spires’ The Mouse of Amherst) wrapped in yellow Japanese paper and Chit a mini hibiscus-shaped bookmark. Edna, whose birthday is coming up at the time of the get-together, gets her fair share of loot, too.

The gracious gestures are like a ritual served straight up from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. We miss the three members who suddenly cannot make it: Gilda, whose driver announces that the car is about to run out of gas in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, necessitating a trip back to home base on Panay Ave., Melinda, who is stuck at her office, and Karina whose flight back from Cebu is delayed.

There are two high points in these meetings: an aural feast (the reading of our works) and the actual feasting.

Before we head for home, Mariel invites me to try the soft-serve yogurt at her daughter’s ice cream house on Joya Drive at the Rockwell Center area. It is an occasion for us to send good vibes to Gilda, who is again complaining of chest pains, and to be critical of our essays (as if the Bizu meeting isn’t enough).

Nearly a month has passed since all this happened. I can still see the plush purple and yellow banquettes of the café-patisserie, savor the sour aftertaste of the yogurt as it goes down my throat, hear everyone exhort Peng to catch the movie musical Mamma Mia! and exchange stories about magic Meryl and her bravura performance of “The Winner Takes It All.”

I cannot wait until our next meeting in September when, apart from reading our required homework, we transform into dancing queens. Drawing by CLAIRE A. NIVOLA from The Mouse of Amherst

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bedside Reading

Same fashionista daughter must be credited for her eagle-eyed observation about how her parents, at least her father, are slowly morphing into: almost-there senior citizens. She took a look at the book by his bedside nook and could hardly contain her laughter. No, it wasn’t anything at all suggesting porn. It wasn’t Playboy. Nor was it FHM. It was Lovebirds: A Pet Owner’s Manual.

On my side of the bed was the February issue of Vanity Fair with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the cover together with the actor who plays his son in the movie. At least I’m keeping the flame alive for someone who can crack a whip, not for some, ummm, feathered thing.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h Pants

I was putting away some stuff with my behind on my fashionista daughter’s face, effectively blocking the television screen from her view, when she asked, “Do you wear those pants when you go out?”

I was in mustard-colored stretch pants and a Tintin t-shirt that was one size smaller, and I answered, sounding offended, “Of course not! If I ever did, I wore a long loose top over this pair of pants. Why?”

“Well,” said Miss Size Small to Medium, “don’t ever wear them outside the house again. Because, Nanay, you have a fat ass.” Boy, could I hear the font style on that phrase going from normal to bold and italics.

Which reminds me again of Padma’s self-deprecating reference to herself as not being a poet but a puwet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mandala in the City

Padma Perez wrote a more spirited diatribe in defense of public art espoused by Kawayan de Guia, Kigao Rosimo et al when the powers-that-be not too recently decided to break up the sidewalk mosaics that the visual artists and some members of the community had laid out on Session Road.

Yesterday I took a slow walk from Chuntug Street down to Burnham Park, noting the piles of trash on a corner of Lake Drive. The weeklong rains suddenly stopped that same morning, and it felt different to stride normally unlike the past days when I gingerly avoided cataracts of water and mossy spots. Upwards my feet took me to Calderon Street; the same newspaper and magazine stands were still there, but I had stopped being their suki after I decided years ago that I would just monitor the local mags at the UP Baguio Library.

I made a right on Session Road and noted how wobbly some of the new “cobblestones” on the sidewalk were. Did someone try to save City Hall a few pesos by not laying on the cement glue in thick enough proportions?

At the entrance of La Azotea building I paused before a circular remnant of the mosaic. I have passed that way a number of times since the new sidewalks were put in place. This time I took a good look at the mosaic and marveled at the artists’ stubbornness in retaining it and not letting it be jack-hammered to bits. Talk of a sacred circle in the middle of downtown. Photo by BABETH

Friday, August 8, 2008

For the Love of Words

The SMS from Ed Maranan read: “Hey, BUTCH! CONGRATULATIONS! Wow! Painom!” In a flash I thought it was a missent message. I returned to the work we were doing in our web design class. On my way out of the UP Baguio campus, who should I see coming up the covered walk but Butch Macansantos himself with that cat-ate-the-canary look on his face?

“Did you just win something? What is it?” I cried without so much as a salutary “Hi!” He nodded and said telegraphically, “Yes. First prize. Palanca.”

“Poetry?” I asked, a question that on hindsight stated the obvious. He nodded, and it was as if the clouds parted and the long-missed sun shone on his face. (We’ve been having six days of rain.) We shook hands, I managed to pat his back, and I rode to town with two packs of peanuts to chew on while thinking how fortunate these two chaps, Ed and Butch, have been in the last few weeks.

After the second Baguio Writers Group (BWG) workshop for the youth in July, Butch, the main panelist, could have been borne out of the Pine Room on the shoulders of the participants, mainly college students from all over Baguio and Benguet. I’m not exaggerating because I keep the feedback forms. (He is shown wearing his trademark pullover in a photo above taken by EV ESPITIRU and awarding a book on contemporary poetry to workshopper Sacha Weygan after a raffle.) In last Tuesday's “Tanghal Panitikan 1” at UP, he gave impassioned readings of “Balsa” in his native Chavacano and “Raft” in English. There’s no other way to read one’s work, except the way he did, which was feelingly.

Ed has been tucking one prize/recognition in his belt after another (the Writer’s Prize followed by the Balagtas award). And he has been generous in sending us links to interesting websites he visits, including where to find in YouTube a video of the Puppini Sisters who popularized “Mr. Sandman.” If he can trawl all those sites, one BWG member surmises he must be online all day and most of the night so where in heaven’s name does he find the time, and how in heck does he get into that reflective mood, to compose so much poetry and prose with all the distractions the Internet offers?

I know the answer before Butch and Ed can say the “D” words: discipline, dedication. The former is hardly computer savvy and writes all his drafts in a spiral notebook (the Golden Gate brand when I last peeked in early 2007). There’s a lesson here somewhere, but strike me with lightning first before I proceed to my next paragraph.

The title of today’s blog is from Butch’s dedication written on the flyleaf of my copy of his book The Words & Other Poems (University of the Philippines Press 1997). I attended the mass launching of books by UP Press at the National Book Fair on Sept. 9 that year. I was seated beside poet Luisa Igloria. Butch came in, limping slightly, sat on our row and said he had just gotten off the bus from Baguio, crossed the EDSA overpass and walked to get to SM Megamall. I presented my book for signing. Without missing a beat, he wrote: “Dear Babeth, Yours for the love of words—and of mountains. The gusty gout, Francis ‘Butch’ Macansantos”.

When we next ran into each other months later, he half-laughingly told me I was the very first person to present his first book for autographing. He waited a long, long while before another buyer of his book followed suit. Ah, poets, where art thy readers?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Like Water for Baguio

Because I found the medium difficult (even the experts say so), I thought I had completely turned my back on watercolor after I submitted my final-exam plate to my instructor in my Painting 2 class in 2006. It’s a pity, I thought, because I’ve always loved water media’s softness, blurriness and the high probability of accidents even if it’s Antipas Delotavo wielding the brush and his subject is as hard-edged as the news aired on “TV Patrol.” When my plate was graded and returned, I was so in a hurry to dispose of it that when Mercy Fabros, my former Lamaze teacher, a feminist and an art collector, expressed interest in women’s self-portraits, I gave my work to her without rue.

There’s a Pinoy saying that goes: “Huwag kang magsasalita nang patapos.”

Over the past several weeks, I have been reviewing watercolor techniques under the supervision of the most exacting and yet patient painting teacher I’ve ever met—Norman Chow. Before I finalize a work, he would make me paint several small versions on unevenly cut sheets of Strathmore paper (master watercolorist Francisco Pellicer Viri dismisses that brand as “practice paper,” he being loyal to Arches all these decades).

Another watercolorist, Roland Bay-an, was right when he said you sometimes wind up more satisfied with the practice version than with the final piece. I wonder if this is the same with concert pianists. The comparison with music is a bit of a stretch, but that is how I feel about this “practice painting” I did of the old stone market of Baguio.

This is an early plug for the newly formed Baguio Aquarelle Society which will hold its first exhibition at The Manor of Camp John Hay. “Baguiong-Baguio” (to mean “very Baguio” and not a wish for rain on our parade) opens Sept. 10 and runs for two months. Apart from Bay-an, Chow and this perennial student of the arts, the other participating artists are Baboo Mondoñedo, who brought us all together for this activity, Jenny Cariño, Toottee Pacis, Merci Javier Dulawan, Patric Palasi and Rishab. More about each of them in a future blog. Abangan! Photo by ELMER KRISTIAN DAUIGOY

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Lioness in the House

Many things happened on the fifth of August. My youngest of two daughters Miranda Bituin Fernandez turned 21 so the first SMS I sent off on that stormy morning was to her. She answered back, saying she would take the 1 p.m. bus to Baguio and was just waiting for the rain to stop a bit.

That left me time to work on my contribution to “Tanghal Panitikan 1,” a spoken word event presented by the Department of Language, Literature and Arts, College of Arts and Communication, University of the Philippines Baguio (that’s a mouthful) that same afternoon.

After doing a raw translation of Jose Garcia Villa’s Lyric 14 (and feeling that the late Mang Larry [Hilario Francia] must’ve done an earlier, a better and a more polished version true to the spirit of the original), I texted my retired professor pal, ending my message with “Viva Villa!” (It was Villa’s birth centennial, too.)

She replied with a gentle reminder that Aug. 2 was lyric poet Angela Manalang Gloria’s 101st birthday. “Mabuhay ang Makatang Pinay!” the words on the tiny screen read.

So I turned to the collected poems of Ms. Gloria and worked on rendering her “In the Shadows” in Filipino. Here, Miranda, is my late birthday offering, a few degrees of separation from the matriarch of Philippine poetry in English.

Tulad ng balingkinitang dahon ng kawayan, nanginginig ako
sa hangin, sa loob ng maulap na umaga;
Tulad ng lupaypay na palmera sa tabi ng daan
Binubulong ng kaluluwa ko ang iyong pangalan—ikaw na napakalayo.

In the picture is Miranda, now a full-fledged adult and still looking fresh despite the six-hour trip, and her Tatay about an hour after she arrived in our drenched city. We headed for Mario’s for her birthday dinner. Born under the zodiac sign of Leo, she must have some traits of the dove and eagle somewhere, gifts from the Pope of Greenwich, the Anchored Angel, the inimitable Xoce. Photo by NANAY

When We Were Very Small

I remember the morning this snapshot was taken on Lola’s lawn. It was on April 1, 1962. The frisky baby in Mommy’s arms is Suzy who for some reason came to be called “Rototeng” by Daddy. He loved giving us strange names, but Suzy’s was the weirdest of them all. I imagine it must have been the way she sounded at that time, her sucking noises as she drank her milk or the way she wailed for something. At least I was just Babset to him, which is close to my nickname. Seated is my brother Junic (“Junric”) with a toy automobile. Dad holds Dennis (“Densis”). Junic works as a graphic designer in cold, cold Calgary; Dennis, an ophthalmologist, practices in Manila; and Suzy rotootoots it with her preschoolers at the Philippine Montessori in White Plains, Quezon City. Mommy is still renowned for her morcon and rellenong bangus, but if you ask her, she’d rather play mahjongg. Daddy is up there, probably teasing the archangel Gabriel and calling him, uhm, Gobleth.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fearless Eggie

Here's the entire article on Ms. Eugenia Apostol, founding chairperson of Philippine Daily Inquirer, part of which appeared in today's issue of the newspaper. The piece was cut due to space limitations. Chelo Banal Formoso, editor of PDI's Learning section, gave me permission to reprint the piece in this blog.

She kept her speech short and sweet the way she once wrote the breezy headlines and captions on the newspaper and magazine pages she closed. She went about the task briskly and snappily in the same way she decided to open the publications (Mr. & Ms. Special Edition, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pinoy Times) and start advocacy work (the Education Revolution) that would alter this nation’s life.

This year’s recipient of the Ateneo Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan (public service award), Eugenia D. Apostol, 82, looked back during the awards ceremony on a make-or-break moment in her early childhood.

Apostol said when she was around three or four years old in Sorsogon, her mother left for church and her physician-father for work. When she saw the coast was clear, she decided to follow her mother, somehow losing her way. A kind woman offered her candy. Touched, young Eugenia followed the woman to the Albay-bound bus and sat with her. The conductor recognized the child as the daughter of the sanitary inspector and hauled her out of the bus, returning her to her father.

“Where would I be now without that alert bus conductor?” Apostol ended her spiel with the audience in stitches.

Vicente Tirol, whom she invited to be Pinoy Times publisher, asked her this before considering her offer: “Do you have any sacred cows?”

“Should I?” she shot back.

He said, “True enough, she never asked me or any of Pinoy Times’ editors to treat anyone in that manner. She was one for issues and causes, like the levy that (former President) Marcos imposed on coconut farmers. She not only wanted a story done on the issue right away, but she asked for follow-ups and expected the editors to stay with the issue until action was taken on it. Principle and persistence—these were her hallmarks as a journalist.”

Inquirer art director Lynett Villariba’s first encounter with Apostol was a case of mistaken identity. Her University of the Philippines professor told her to go to the Chronicle Bldg. where, she said, “the displaced (by martial law) news people were setting up a tame women’s magazine right under the noses of the military guards who were securing the place to ensure the printing plant was only taking commercial, not subversive, jobs.”

She went past labyrinthine corridors and checkpoints before knocking on a door. A gentle voice asked her in. She found a petite lady behind a big desk covered with papers and magazines.
“I am looking for Mister Eddie Apostol,” Villariba announced.

Ms. Apostol’s assistant put the young applicant in her place. After a brief exchange, the lady behind the desk told her to get started right away.

“That was how I was initiated into a media guerilla operation which marked Ms. Apostol’s ventures,” Villariba said. “She required a name plate, logo design or layout started on the spot, right after discussing how she wanted a publication projected in street sales, how it would be held in commuters’ hands on their ride to work. She waited for your creative juices to flow, telling you ‘No rush,’ but actually meaning in an hour's time, ora mismo, or the next day.”

Villariba said the Apostol publications (Woman’s Home Companion, Mr. & Ms., Philippine Daily Inquirer, the EDSA books) where she participated in are marked by “a spontaneous look, no feasibility study, just social sensitivity. She had a keen instinct. Her instant critiques were capped by generous praise, a warm pat on the back for a job well done coupled with a bonus. She made me know that she was happy with my work. That to me is the mark of a great life coach and career mentor.”

Lorna Kalaw Tirol, another baby of Tita Eggie (colleagues’ endearment for Apostol), said, “I met her when I was a senior journalism major at St. Theresa’s College. Bibsy Carballo, my teacher, told my class that the editor of Woman and Home magazine, Sunday supplement of Manila Chronicle, was looking for young contributors. Whoever was interested could go see her at the Chronicle building in Intramuros. I was the only one who was interested. I went to see Eggie (with my mother!), she asked me a few questions, then gave me an assignment.

“That first assignment led to others,” Tirol continued. “When I graduated, Eggie took me in as an apprentice. I was hoping to be hired as a staff writer. But the apprentice’s pay was measly (P25 or P50 a week) so I left after two months to teach at STC high school. I started writing for Eggie again when I went back to the Chronicle as a desk editor. When Vic and I got married in 1971, she was a logical choice to be one of our ninangs (godmothers) because she was my first media boss. Vic got Johnny Mercado, his first media boss.”

She said Apostol was “an out-of-the-box thinker even then. That’s why she gets along with Gilda Fernando. She’s a real maverick who likes to explore, blaze new trails and see how far she can go. A fearless risk taker, she dared take on Marcos and then Erap, no matter what doing so cost her. She just laughed off threats of libel suits, prison and being fed to the crocodiles.”

Tirol said, “She was also exacting and demanding but never arrogant and mean. She was thoughtful and considerate of her staff. Pusong mamon (soft-hearted). She would give generous help to those with sob stories. Pero nakaka-tense at nakakaloka kung minsan kasi makulit (she could make you tense and crazy from her demands). She wanted things done right away. Or started yesterday and finished tomorrow.”

From Apostol she learned “how to work with heart and soul; with integrity and an independent mind and courage. Her whole professional life, as a journalist, and now as an advocate of people power and of every Filipino’s right to an education, has been a priceless gift to the nation. Ateneo must be congratulated for having chosen wisely."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Retro Chic

One summer morning in 1970, three cousins, all in high school, got ready for Sunday worship at the United Methodist Church. As they waited for their lola and guardian to come out of the house, they struck a pose in her garden before an unknown photographer. The fourth cousin (in shorts) apparently planned on skipping church. Notice how she’s outfitted here. From left are: Allyn Valdellon, Tessie Romero, Embeng Lolarga and Telly Valdellon. Allyn was the first among them to leave the Philippines and settle in Virginia. Tessie is in windy Chicago, Embeng remains in Bagbag, Novaliches, Quezon City (good for you, sis!), and Telly has made it in New York. Luv those skirt lengths, sandals and shoes!

Miss Hawaii

She herself cannot recall how she managed to cross the brook and clamber up the rocks behind my grandmother's house in this outfit. But my sister Evelyn has been known to do anything for vanity's sake. Proof of it is here--another snapshot of Miss Skinny Maginny, taken in '68 or '69, in a mumu. Where's the luau, sis?