Sunday, January 24, 2010

Among My Souvenirs

My adult children will cringe when they read this and see proof of their make-believe activity (running a carinderia). Either that, or they will demand that I look for writing subjects elsewhere. Their father and I have been cleaning out closets, sorting out piles of old papers stacked in folders, bags and boxes and removing as much clutter as we can. This “spring cleaning” has been going on for almost a month. We’ve tried to be hard-hearted in deciding what should be kept, what ought to be thrown away for good.

Each time I see one of the children’s scribbles, my heart flips over, and I’m a time-traveling mother all over again. I cannot date this “menu card” I found, but I think it is from the BT (before television) years. Our family of four managed without TV during our years in my grandma’s house in Lower Brookside. So my girls found other ways to occupy themselves.

In an old journal, I found this entry I wrote in August 1996 when Kimi, my eldest, was 11 and Ida, my youngest, nine:

Kimi wasted a small box of hotcake mix when she poured one and a half cups of water instead of just half a cup. We had to throw away the batter. I showed her the line for one half in the measuring cup. Well, she is at least learning the rudiments of cooking.

Ida is wearing my pink lacy hat. My printed magenta and blue scarf is tied around her neck like a cape. She is playing with small rectangles of paper that she cut out herself. She’s handling them like a deck of cards.

I love it when they’re quietly absorbed in play, their heads bent over a coloring book or a drawing. And then I can sneak to my bed and read some more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where Have All the Christmas Cards Gone?

A few days ago, I received the one, the only genuinely printed Christmas card of 2009, if you don’t count the little tags that accompanied gifts and the virtual cards from family members and friends that I picked up from various Internet sites (American Greetings, Jacqui Lawson cards, etc.) and Facebook.

Did I just miss the passing of an era? Or is the old-fashioned Christmas card, whether store-bought or hand-made, the one you slip into an envelope, seal, address to the intended recipient and travel to the post office to mail, dead? Not while I’m around, I say.

I normally have my Christmas mail done by the end of November of each year to avoid the rush. Sometime in the 1990s, when there were still no corner Internet shops, I sent off 40-plus cards, each with a personal, handwritten message.

Friend Gladys Lyn Lapuz, who now designs cards with so much panache from her iPhone application, shared the information that Elizabeth Bishop, one of my favorite poets, wrote nearly 50 letters in a day while living as an expatriate in Brazil. That tidbit must have sunk deep in my subconscious when I fired off all those cards.

During the endless sorting and filing of old papers my partner and I have been doing this month, I came upon a huge bag full of Yule cards I saved over the years. These moved with me from our Santa Ana, Manila, apartment to the new house my parents built in 1975 in Pasig, then to Antipolo where I began my own married life and family, and finally to Baguio. These survivors were the ones I did not get around to pasting on the pages of my scrapbooks. A number were addressed to my parents. The salutations in some are very telling of how women were regarded in the ’60s. “Dear Dr. Lolarga and wife” is an example.

To reduce the amount of paper we’ve decided to keep, I’ve cut off the half where the greetings are printed, thrown them away, unless the sender was someone particularly special, and kept the half where the picture/design lies. I mean to recycle this “new” batch of Christmas postcards.

I may not receive the same amount of snail-mailed cards in return as in the past (the efficient email has seen to that), but I so look forward to another November of handwriting reflections on months just past, recording highs and lows in my family’s life and visiting the city post office where the lady who hands me the stamps I need smiles at me for I am to her a familiar face.

My one Christmas card of 2009 shows Chicago-based cousin Tessie Lolarga Romero, her children and grandchild.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My, My, My Beautiful Sunday

We bloggers have a way of inspiring each other. When my former classmate Chesca Roces-Brillantes revived hers,, a couple of days ago, it was my cue to get up from my couch, cut short my avid, almost non-stop reading of food books for the meantime and write another entry.

Apart from reading, my mind has been replaying the melody of what I think is a track from the movie Black Orpheus; it’s called “A Day in the Life of a Fool.” I heard friend Anna Leah Sarabia, once a whiz on the classical guitar, faintly strumming the bossa standard on a guitar lying about in Sintang Lupa, Mendez, Cavite. The place is the Philippine home of environmentalists Christoph Ranzinger and Agnes Calda who stay in Germany most of the year. Their house has an eco roof (a garden) that can withstand typhoons and monsoons.

I dozed on and off on a lounging chair, enjoying the breeze after a breakfast of congee cooked in lots of ginger and sprinkled generously with chopped spring onions. For more substance, we each had a hardboiled egg.

Elsewhere, Anna’s daughter Sinag de Leon and granddaughter Raya explored the orchard, part of which is planted to coffee. Sinag’s toddler son Dakila was on the grass, grasping tree trunks to hoist himself up and practice his tentative steps under the watchful eyes of Beth.

I was fighting off the first signs of a bad cold by trying to sleep it off with not much success. Anna plied me with homemade tea. She plucked fresh mint leaves from the garden, I washed them and put them in a mug of hot water to steep. I must've refilled the mug thrice until the water lost its weak green tint.

The caretaker brought us brown bags of bread Anna earlier ordered in the evening. Inside were what the locals called loaves of kano and smaller-than-a-fist boleng. Kano takes its name from pan Amerikano, but this one is not sliced. You ate them by tearing chunks off. Since there was a hefty wedge of cheese with caviar, we spread that on our kano (talk of high brow and low brow). Anna said boleng, whose shape is like the other raisin-studded bread bonete (for bonnet?), might be named after the English bowler hat.

When I took my slow walk towards the orchard, there was that tune embedded in my head, playing over and over, fighting for space against the cold bacteria. How did the lyrics go? “I walk the avenue, and hope I run into the welcome sight of you coming my way.” Nobody came my way on the gravel path, except a bent branch at the end of which was a foot-ball size, ready-to-fall guyabano screaming "Pick me! I'm ripe and juicy!"

With a gem of a Sunday such as this, I felt strengthened for the challenges of (groan!) another working Monday.

In photo are Sinag and Raya up on the roof. (Photo by ANNA LEAH SARABIA)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Food Journal of a Sort

Reading Julia Child’s My Years in France early in the year prodded me to begin a food journal just to keep track if I’m staying on the safe side and not over-indulging when the season for that has passed.

I once wondered aloud what is it about my kids’ generation. It is almost SOP for them to take pictures of the food set before them before they dig in. Good friend Gou de Jesus surmised people like us prefer to chew on the thought, that is, savor food first, then reconstruct the flavor, texture, presentation, etc., with words. We liked to have our memory do the work, not the digicam.

Which is why I don’t have food pics for this remembrance of a recent repast I had on the first Sunday of this year, the Feast of the Three Kings.

My other gourmand friend Cynthia Alberto Diaz and I have kept a January tradition of visiting the Sieverts (painters Federico and Grace, their son, our godson Gabriel). At their former residence in Baesa, Quezon City, we used to pile on mismatched dishes and drink and be jolly till way past Gabriel’s bedtime. Now that they live with Grace’s mother somewhere near Project 6, we felt we had to be more subdued.

My box of empanada matched Cyn’s pansit Malabon and pichi-pichi. Grace prepared something I had craved for all year round, ginataang halo-halo. We set the modest feast in their backyard, by the tool shed and not far from the coop of Gabriel’s hen.

Federico brought out a bottle of red wine and set it before Cyn. And we “talked stories” all afternoon long while I made repeated trips to the makeshift buffet table, refilling my bowl of ginataan until I had to unbutton my pants so I could breathe and sigh the sigh of the satiated.

The secret, Cyn and Federico agreed, was not only to have all the cubed ingredients present in the pot (ube, langka, saba, kamote, bilo-bilo, sago and coconut milk) but to let the whole mix boil slowly until it is of a thick, sticky consistency. Malapot is the word for it.

Cyn, the true-blue Navotas girl, had a forkful of pansit and quickly noted it lacked salt. A bottle of patis was brought out to remedy the situation.

Then Federico brought out his presents for us. Lo and behold, colorful paper mobiles with twirling tails and doily-like cutouts. So colorful and reminiscent of the southern sarimanok. They were each attached to a string so we could hang them. Somewhere below was a separate rectangular paper with a cut-out of the name Jesus; behind it was an abstract cut-out of a fish. I’ve always addressed Grace “Grace of Jesus” when we were colleagues at a media office. (De Jesus is her maiden name.)

Federico also handed us a bookmark—just a length of white paper with two diagonal red ribbons pasted on one side. He said, “If you have faith, you will find him.” I raised my bookmark against the light, and there it was: the name Jesus.

Photo shows one of Federico's birds in the making (from his Facebook profile)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stud Service

My kid sister Gigi, Bruno's owner, was upset when my daughter Kimi described him in Facebook as "smooshed face." We love Bruno Lolarga dearly and want his breed to increase so if there are pug owners out there looking for a stud muffin, he's your guy. Guaranteed big balls!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Precious Life

Maybe the title should be "some precious sheaves of paper." The short piece below I saved from mounds of paper and assorted files my packrat partner and I hoarded over the years.

Before the New Year dawned, we reclaimed some space, brightened a spare room by getting rid of cartons of paper. I applied a simple criterion for what should be kept: those of heart value stay, those of head (work-related) must go.

This poem, sent by a friend last Easter, stays in the saved files. Alongside the English text written by Mary Oliver is my handwritten translation into Filipino. In the translation venture, Merci Javier Dulawan of the Baguio Writers Group helped me, and I read this at the closing program of the second Cordillera Creative Writers Workshop in Sagada last year.

This is my way of greeting one and all a very good year, one where every bit of life is valued.


I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?


Hindi ko tiyak kung ano ang panalangin
Alam ko kung paano magpatihulog
Sa damo, paano lumuhod sa damo,
Paano tumunganga at mabiyayaan, paano maglakad-lakad sa kabukiran,
Na siyang ginagawa ko buong araw.
Sabihin mo sa akin, ano pa ang dapat kong ginawa?
Hindi ba't lahat ay namamatay, at biglaan?
Sabihin mo sa akin, ano ang balak mong gawin
Sa iyong iisang mapangahas at mahalagang buhay?