Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vickie's Turn

Prof. Victoria Rico-Costina of the University of the Philippines Baguio gave me another few minutes of fame at the opening of my second solo show at the Cafe of our affections. She was partly my inspiration in coming up with a title and a poem (in lieu of the traditional artist's statement) for my show--she has consistently shown compassion for God's little creatures, adopting stray cats, cleaning and fattening them up. I must really be a bundle of insecurities to cajole friends to go onstage and say these few words about a struggling painter:

My husband happens to work at the Camp John Hay Manor and so after Babeth Lolarga and the Baguio Aquarelle Society she is affiliated with set up their exhibit at the Hotel, I asked Ruel if he had seen Babeth’s works. He said that he had seen them, and commented: “Kasla nga ubing.” By then I had come to see some of the paintings, collages, pottery and other art projects that Babeth had been submitting for her Fine Arts classes at UP Baguio. True enough, one would see that the distinctive mark of a Babeth Lolarga work is happy: a generous, large-hearted, and intentional choice to see the colors, the imaginative possibilities, and telling details of things and subjects that surround her life as a journalist, poet and artist.

We at UP Baguio are proud of her work and the example that she has set among our fine arts students and faculty: that of disciplined and inspired work. Her work ethic is hard to equal--- while she has had to meet the demands of fulltime studies--- she has also continued to write essays, poetry, features and daily entries for her voluminous personal journals. She has kept a Baguio writers group going, doing writers workshops in various venues in the city.

We thank her then for sharing her many talents with us here in Baguio and at UP, and we especially thank her for the warmth and generosity of spirit that lights up her canvases. Of course, on a personal note, I must say that I couldn’t miss this exhibit because of the cats in her paintings.

We congratulate Babeth and we want to say that we look forward to more exhibits like this, here at the Café by the Ruins. We also congratulate her teachers Liza Ilagan, Fara Manuel, Manolo Sicat and Norman Chow. And not least: kudos to Rolly Fernandez, Babeth’s hardworking “wife” and financier.

To Babeth we say: may the cats in your fruit salad increase! Photo by EV ESPIRITU

That’s What Friends Are For

I could almost hear Dionne Warwicke singing that hit while friends Auring Bautista, Vickie Rico-Costina and Chit Roces “opened” the painting exhibition “Cats in My Fruit Salad” at Café by the Ruins Monday.

It also felt like I was alive, listening to eulogies at my own wake.

Here’s Chit’s little speech:

For love of you, Babeth, Vergel and I are here on this grand occasion, when once again, the writer demonstrates she is a painter, too, ignoring the warning from our mentor and our idol, Gilda Cordero Fernando who sent you this message:

Dear Babeth, you are really a good writer so why do you want to be a good painter? It’s bad for the health to be a good painter. Mas okay tayo as we are. You paint an eggplant or an apple as though you created the idea yourself – from the etheric soup, no similarity to reality. Aren’t you glad some people can’t stand us?

Gilda handpicked nine of her writer-friends to form a group called First Draft. Babeth and I are privileged to be part of it. And for over five years now, we have been meeting every other month in each other’s home or a nice restaurant where we enjoy a good meal and read our “homework,” the draft of an essay or something, to one another for friendly critiquing. Babeth makes it a point to come down for our meetings, and so we thought it would be a nice gesture if we all came up for this occasion, but circumstances kept everyone except me from coming – my husband, Vergel, was not hard to convince to come along. But the girls send their greetings:

From Fe (Peng) Arriola: Kudos on your new creative endeavor. May you one day reach the stature when like Gilda you would say ‘Award na naman?

From Mariel Francisco: Mabuhay ka! Your inner and outer beauty, your wit and humor radiate in your art. A big hug!

From Karina Bolasco, sending her message from Tokyo: Congratulations and very good wishes! Continue expressing your poetry in strokes and colors.

From Lorna Kalaw Tirol: I am endlessly amazed by the diversity and breadth of your talents and your generosity in sharing them with others less gifted.

From Rita Ledesma: Babeth, writer-painter, what a great artist you have become! Congratulations!

From Edna Z. Manlapaz: Go, Girl, go!

We would all have been here. We would have stayed at Edna’s condo. We even had visions of a pajama party and lots of fun, although most likely matutulog lang tayong lahat.

Babeth is second to Gilda as the most published in the Inquirer, although I probably have more articles submitted but still waiting for precious deserved space.

I usually read Babeth’s articles to my editor-husband. Invariably he points out to me her eye for detail, how she has put in all the elements of a good story, how she doesn’t say more than she needs to, and then concludes, ”Nag-reporter kasi si Babeth.”

So why do writers like you and Gilda and, for that matter, Vergel, who himself sketches and caricatures, digress from writing. But looking at your art, I see that you are still telling a story – “Nagkukwento pa rin kayo” – but what comes through is your sense of humor and your almost irreverent view of life, more subjective and personal. You have been set free from the disciplines of writing.

I have asked Vergel, and he says, simply, without attaching any philosophy to it, ”Because some of us can”.

Well, Babeth, you have shown us you definitely can, and just did. Congratulations!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chiqui’s Park

Chiqui Torres has been part of the Lolarga family’s inner circle that I’ve come to think of her as blood kin. She is my cousin Telly L. Valdellon’s best friend, their friendship dating back to their high school days at the former Holy Family Academy.

Chiqui ran for Baguio City councilor once but lost—another loss for the city. I thought that she could’ve injected some of her irreverent humor into the council’s staid proceedings and her honest-to-goodness compassion in child and youth programs.
Nobody quite knows the city’s streets better than her (maybe second to another curiosity seeker, Frank Cimatu) so when she told me yesterday to stand between the Rizal Monument and the new Clean Comfort Rooms at Rizal Park at exactly 5:10 p.m, my own curiosity was aroused.

But I had my answer as I sat on the edge of a flower border earlier than the appointed time. An owner-type jeepney parked on Otek Street. Out came a huge kaldero and containers of assorted sidings that went with street side-prepared lugaw (rice
porridge). The kaldero went into a pushcart attached to an LPG.

While Chiqui descended from the top of the park’s stairs, I counted 15 heads already beginning to take spoonfuls of the piping hot lugaw from individual disposable bowls. The number of customers would double as the hour went by.

For P10 a bowl, you get a fair-sized amount of the porridge Top it with as much toasted garlic and chopped spring onions as you like. Add five pesos and pick from any of the assorted toppings like fried tofu cubes, chicken livers, chicken adobo, boiled egg.

If after you clean up your bowl, you still don’t feel satiated, tell the lady vendor, “Hirit pa!” and she’ll give you another serving of lugaw. Just add another five pesos.

This spot on Fernando Bautista Drive and Otek Street has become Chiqui’s after-five office (her day job is teaching at the National University Baguio). Her grandniece already calls it Lola Chiqui’s Park.

Chiqui is impressed by the success of this “unbranded” lugaw kariton which she discovered three months ago. It couldn’t have picked a better location (and isn’t location the key to the success of an eating place?). I get her point as she waves at the willows, pansies and the rest of Baguio’s soothing flora: Food for body and soul.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Bargains Galore

Everybody loves a sale, but nothing gets a writer's or bibliophile's mouth watering than the prospect of scoring books without hurting the pocket.

The Baguio Writers Group will hold its first book sale of what president Padma Perez calls "pre-loved books" at bargain prices. Proceeds will fund literary workshops for students, writers and teachers of the Cordilleras.

Remember the date: March 22, 2009, from 10 a.m. onwards at the dap-ay of
Café by the Ruins on Chuntug street, Baguio City.

Email or text/call 0908-361-2844 for details.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sagada Calls Out to Cordi Writers

My dear dean and tokayo (namesake) Elizabeth Calinawagan requested me to help drum up publicity for the second Cordi writing workshop. Not only are there slots still waiting to be filled, the setting of this gathering is Sagada. All expenses paid. Sakay na! What follows is the official announcement:

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) will hold the second Cordillera Creative Writing Workshop from April 27 to May 1 in Sagada, Mountain Province.

Organized in association with the University of the Philippines Baguio, the workshop is open to aspiring young writers writing in any of these Cordillera languages: Ibaloi, Kankanaey, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kalinga.
The requirements are: original and unpublished works with translation: either three poems or one short story; application letter; endorsement from a supervisor (teacher, school paper adviser or institution head); and brief biodata.

The entry packet format must be a hard copy and soft file copy in CD sealed in a long brown envelope, sent or delivered to: 2nd Cordillera Creative Writing Workshop, College of Arts and Communication, UP Baguio, Gov. Pack Road, Baguio City 2600.
Deadline for submission of entries is on March 27 at 2 p.m..
The grant covers board, lodging and transportation from UP Baguio to Sagada and back.

The panelists include: UP Baguio Chancellor Priscilla Supnet Macansantos, poets Francis Macansantos and Herminio Beltran Jr. Lecturers are: Elizabeth Lolarga, Victor Emmanuel Nadera and Ventura Bitot .

For inquiries, contact telefax (074)444-8393 or email

Photo by ELMER KRISTIAN DAUIGOY shows some of the kids who were in the pioneering Cordillera Creative Writing Workshop at UP Baguio in 2007. They've become the suki of the Baguio Writers Group in its own workshops and other activities.

The Heat Is On

The last two weeks have been maddening for this student nearing the finish line of my snail-paced trek to a second undergrad degree. After defending my thesis on “Photographer Tommy Hafalla and His Documentation of Cordillera Life Ways: The Making of a Book,” my classmates and I literally cobbled together a group show called “Lucky 9 in ’09” last Tuesday.

There are nine of us in that thesis class: Cecil Singaloa, the two Karens (Nono and Marquez), Louise Ignacio, Donna Estrellado, Johanna Ponce, Maco Sales, Edmund Andrada and myself. Try to catch the exhibit at Galerya Kordilyera at the University of the Philippines Baguio. It runs till the end of the week. Good luck with finding the person who holds the key to the gallery’s gate.

And as the temperature in our still fair city begins to rise, I am haunted by visions of palm trees, lounging chairs where I can stretch out with a book, sand and sea beyond my feet, quaffing cold beer and nibbling grilled tuna while watching the dusky sky turn pink, magenta, violet and finally indigo.