Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dear Sweet Filthy World

The title of this blog entry is appropriated from a coming artist’s talk of Patricia Eustaquio, an artist I admire from a distance, at the Silverlens Gallery on Pasong Tamo extension, Makati City. The title of her show comes from an Elvis Costello song.

The “A” word (appropriation) is big these days in the art scene. Discussions have filled the cyber highway on just where does copying begin and plagiarism end.

Call this a stream of consciousness sort of exercise, but at 5 a.m. that can only be one’s state of mind.

March is usually called Women’s Month (which again brings to mind a spoof magazine Amadis Ma. Guerrero, old comrade in arts and letters, once got hold of in the pre-martial law ’70s: Imelda’s Monthly). I didn’t realize this month was about to end until I turned on my cell phone upon waking up at my usual time of 5a.m.

Jeez, talk about how time goes by. My observant daughter, a follower of this blog, once asked, “Have you given up your journal for your blog?”

“No,” came my quick answer. I explained how I’ve managed so far to keep both an online journal and a diary where I handwrite all sorts of stuff. The latter is unfiltered, unexpurgated; the blog, well, it’s where I put what is still permissible but otherwise unpublishable (mainly because entries like this one are too personal) in conventional media.

Last week went by so fast that, as I texted another old gal pal asking if I was ready to meet about another book project, rest these days takes the form of trips to the bathroom. I summed up to her my mental checklist of unfinished interview transcriptions, writing and editing assignments apart from two large-scale paintings I was working on when her message came in.

“Yep,” she texted back, “just like you to take on a work load fit for a pack of wild horses. But enjoy!”

The adrenaline rush has kept me going these two weeks that when my phone’s alarm clock went off at 5 a.m. on March 24, Wednesday, my automatic move was to turn over to my left side, forgetting that I was lying on the hardwood bench on someone else’s sala in Munoz, Nueva Ecija. Three hours before I had just emailed my copy of a report on Cecile Licad’s outreach concert there. I fell hard on the marble floor, natch, a rude awakening, literally.

I managed to catch the van in San Jose bound for Baguio. I thought I’d make good time if it left on the dot at six. What I didn’t know was vans like this one that double as public utility vehicles don’t push off until it’s filled to capacity. The long Calvary had begun as I waited. The driver told me to stay put and be patient; the bus to Baguio was not air-conditioned and the trip longer (about five to six hours) with lots of stops. Once on its way, the van could be in Baguio in, oh, an hour and a half, he said.

Well, the van did make it to Baguio in that span of time, but it left Nueva Ecija at half past 10 a.m. by which time I was sticky, filthy and weepy from half-despair, half-exhaustion.

Meanwhile, I kept in touch with my one kith-kin in Baguio (long-suffering partner of almost 26 years) and Baboo Mondonedo and Toottee Chanco Pacis, the women who pinch-hit for me in helping organize a merienda meeting with Sen. Pia Cayetano. The compañera senadora was city-hopping in Northern Luzon to promote breast and cervical cancer awareness and the women’s agenda that has marked her career in the legislature. Trust women to be efficiency experts and not to be shy about introducing themselves to the senator and taking over.

My old partner, no matter how grouchy he can be, is right on this score: no one is indispensable. I was resigned to just catching the tail-end of a women’s meeting.

By the time the van was about to turn right on Gov. Pack road, I screeched, “Para!” Got down with my luggage, hopped into a cab, got to a dark house (city-wide brownout, wow, perfect timing). But this was one occasion when a curse became a blessing. Brownout meant cold shower. That was what I had. And it couldn’t have been more welcome when one was feeling filthy physically and weepy psychologically, the last from self-imposed pressure.

The women gathered at Café by the Ruins were frank and to the point with their questions just as the senator was with her answers. She hit it off with them so well that she vowed that after the whole hullabaloo on May 10 is over, she’d return for a longer visit.

Carol Brady said after the merienda ended, “This is so refreshing. I’m glad I came. This meeting gives me hope that not all politics is dirty. Please tell Pia I hope and I pray that she continues to hold her own in the Senate.”

Afterwards, the rest of the week went by in a whirl of laughter, tears, colors, paint brushes, meals downed in a hurry, errands and duties in different parts of town from the taking down of paintings at the Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum at the close of our latest Baguio Aquarelle Society exhibition to interviewing sources for another assignment on sustainable development. At each step, little acts of kindness meant the week could be made tolerable until duties were done away with.

After a dinner of reheated leftovers following an afternoon of painting in the company of my teacher Norman Chow and his son Chino, I did the last of my evening rituals: check my email for any urgent messages that need to be answered.

Lo and behold! Odette from the Population Center Foundation years was there, responding to my invite to a solo show next week.

She wrote, “Thank you for the invite. I hope to see you there! I remember you were just starting your art lessons when we went to Malabang, Lanao Del Sur in . . . does it surprise you that I can't remember when? I distinctly recall you picked a taro leaf from the path and drew it. Did you keep that one? I want that one.

“The lesson you taught me has stayed with me since: Pare everything down to the barest essentials.”

Thanks, too, Odette, I need to relearn that lesson again.

Photo of Patricia Eustaquio's installation by ARJAY BLANCO. Eustaquio's talk is set for April 17 at 3 p.m. at Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo extension, Makati City.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In the Silence

I have two daughters--the older one, Kimi, and the younger one, Ida. The older girl has always been chatty and "ma-PR," as the expression goes to describe a sociable child. The baby of my small family hardly spoke as a toddler so when my father learned that she was going to sing in the Christmas chorus of her class, he was flabbergasted. He took one look at my fair, quiet child and said, "What will she sing? Silent Night?"

This incident is recollected with warmth and laughter in my heart because once again it's Sunday, my quiet day, at least for much of it.

So I'm taking a break from a week's toil and again sharing some quotations from the Facebook group MPAS (Music/Poetry/Art/Scribbles):

"True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment." ~William Penn

"Silence is the true friend that never betrays." ~Confucius

"An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind." ~Walter Bagehot

"Silence is a source of great strength." ~Lao Tzu

"Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment." ~Henry David Thoreau

"Accustomed to the veneer of noise, to the shibboleths of promotion, public relations, and market research, society is suspicious of those who value silence." ~John Lahr

"The Arctic expresses the sum of all wisdom: Silence." ~Walter Bauer

"Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation." ~Jean Arp

"I have often lamented that we cannot close our ears with as much ease as we can our eyes." ~Richard Steele

"Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation." ~James Thurber

"Now all my teachers are dead except silence." ~W.S. Merwin

"The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence." ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

"Everybody should have his personal sounds to listen for - sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive or quite and calm.... One of the greatest sounds of them all - and to me it is a sound - is utter, complete silence." ~Andre Kostelanetz

"All noise is waste. So cultivate quietness in your speech, in your thoughts, in your emotions. Speak habitually low. Wait for attention and then you low words will be charged with dynamite." ~Elbert Hubbard

"unplug iPod/music stops abruptly/cricket song instead"~Dr SunWolf

"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth." ~Mahatma Gandhi

"God's poet is silence! His song is unspoken,/And yet so profound, so loud, and so far,/It fills you, it thrills you with measures unbroken,/And as soft, and as fair, and as far as a star."
~Joaquin Miller

"Silence is a fence around wisdom."~German Proverb

"Silence is as deep as eternity; speech, shallow as time."~Thomas Carlyle

"You hesitate to stab me with a word, and know not - silence is the sharper sword." ~Samuel Johnson

"Silence is medication for sorrow."~Arab Proverb

"To silence another, first be silent yourself."~Latin Proverb

"Silence was never written down."~Italian Proverb

"Silence is exhilarating at first - as noise is - but there is a sweetness to silence outlasting exhilaration, akin to the sweetness of listening and the velvet of sleep."~Edward Hoagland

"Nature and silence go better together."~Astrid Alauda

"You can hear the footsteps of God when silence reigns in the mind."~Sri Sathya Sai Baba

"Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary." ~Peter Minard

"Silence is a text easy to misread."~A.A. Attanasio

"Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose."~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"Silence is more musical than any song."~Christina Rossetti

"Nothing is more useful than silence."~Menander of Athens

"Silence is a sounding thing, to one who listens hungrily."~Gwendolyn Bennett

"Silence is the mother of truth."~Benjamin Disraeli

"What shall I say to you? What can I say/Better than silence is?"~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"The deepest rivers make least din, the silent soule doth most abound in care." ~William Alexander

"Honk if you hate noise pollution."~Author unknown, as seen on a bumper sticker

"Her hearing was keener than his, and she heard silences he was unaware of."~D.M. Thomas

"We must have reasons for speech but we need none for silence."~Proverb

"All was silent as before - / All silent save the dripping rain."~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

"Silence is the secret to sanity."~Astrid Alauda

"Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute."~Josh Billings

"There are times when silence has the loudest voice." ~Leroy Brownlow

"Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts."~Margaret Lee Runbeck

"The best answer to anger is silence."~Author Unknown

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods."~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Silence is also speech." ~Proverb

"Words can make a deeper scar than silence can heal."~Author Unknown

"Spiteful words can hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart."~Author Unknown

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.... We need silence to be able to touch souls."~Mother Teresa

Photo shows "Tres Marias," a watercolor I did about a month ago. It is on exhibit at the Baguio-Mountain Provinces Museum, Gov. Pack road, Baguio City, along with the prize-winning works in the "Pine & Bamboo, Bamboo & Pine" contest and the latest watercolors of the Baguio Aquarelle Society members. Photo by LAARNI ILAGAN

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ka-womenan Para Kay Danny Lim

At first, I declined the invitation sent via my Facebook inbox—I wanted Wednesday (yesterday) devoted entirely to painting. The organizer understood and didn’t push me anymore.

A dear friend I see off and on (meaning, rarely and in short spurts) was attending, and she said I ought to go. The possibility that we can kick off our slippers and chat immediately after the official agenda of the meeting was taken up still wasn’t enough to persuade me.

But on Tuesday, Princess Nemenzo, activist for life, went on a texting brigade. That clinched it. I can never refuse this woman. I put the paints, brushes and pieces of canvas paper aside and prepared for the luncheon meeting at the home of lawyer Deng Cordero Tan.

Something electric happens when women get together. Literally, there’s more static in the air from all that energy (and these are women mostly in their 50s; Princess is 70—she has never hidden the fact). There’s more laughter, more irreverent humor that would make our partners and husbands jump out of their skin.

Deng detailed everything in her head to ensure everything was covered, including requesting the neighbors’ carpenters to kindly refrain from hammering from 12 noon to 2 p.m. while the meeting was going on.

Very briefly, Danny Lim is a political prisoner under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. In my head, he is simply Danny Lim because years of a spoiled, politicized military (no thanks to the Marcos dictatorship) have made me leery of men in uniform who have the impunity to run for public office like Butcher Palparan.

But political imprisonment in the Lim case is borne out of his belief in a just, civil, democratic society, not a longing for a banana republic where colonels and generals hold sway.

The idea that women of the caliber of Princess, Deng, Aida Santos, Mercy Fabros, June Rodriguez, Gou de Jesus, Susan Tagle, Marianita Villariba, Mari Santiago are keen on seeing Lim enter the Magic 12 in this year’s senatorial elections overturned my entire perception of what a military man is.

A personal note: My father Enrique Cariño Lolarga Jr., a physician surgeon, and his younger brothers Ernesto or Esting, an ROTC instructor, and Celso, a businessman-school administrator, were in the reserve corps of the military. But they belonged to the era of officers and gentlemen. Before they died, my father and Uncle Esting left instructions that they be garbed in their Boy Scout uniforms in their coffins. Uncle Celso chose to be in his Demolay or Mason outfit.

My perception changed with martial law and the military adventurists who tried to destabilize the Cory Aquino government in the 1980s.

Just who is Danny Lim, and why is GMA afraid of him that in his detention cell at Camp Crame, he is not allowed to read newspapers or magazines? There’s a TV set there, according to the women who’ve visited him, and he is allowed to have a cell phone but not to use it for patched interviews.

In earlier surveys, Lim had done well, earning as high as 16 percentage points. The sample size in these surveys shows that people know who he is and what he stands for: anti-graft and corruption, education, health care reform, peace and order, food, energy sufficiency, agricultural modernization, national industrialization and electoral changes.

He was among those who joined groups from different sectors in their call for GMA to resign because of electoral fraud and graft and corruption. He was thrown in jail for this after The Peninsula Manila stand-off where the Armed Forces showed its capacity for overkill by unnecessarily smashing one of the glass entrances to the hotel’s fabled lobby, sending scores of sharpshooters dressed to kill to arrest the protesters gathered in a function room, including the media covering the event.

Deng said, “DL (the candidate’s initials) has been consistently slipping down because he has no TV ads.” With her enormous capacity for fund-raising, she will try within this campaign period to find the P16 million needed to buy radio-TV ads to run in the major networks for 48 days at the rate of thrice a day. The P16 million is already an advertiser-supporter’s heavily discounted rate.

The short TV ad will present Lim as a sundalong matapang na di sinuko ang prinsipyo, sundalong sumalungat sa kasalukuyang administrasyon (a brave soldier who did not surrender his principles, a soldier who defied the current administration).

As the women who’ve visited him described his simplicity and his off-the-cuff remarks to them, a catchy sound byte emerged. At one point, Lim told them after he was asked what he would do if he was freed and allowed to serve in a public position, “What I started, I will continue. I’ve been consistent all my life. Kung ginto ako, itapon mo ako sa putik, ginto pa rin.”(The last sentence in Filipino loses its strength in translation.)

As the campaign heats up this long hot summer, Lim will have to learn to say more palpable things on issues close to our hearts such as human rights, including lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender rights, strengthening the economy so it is not buoyed mainly by dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers and the call center industry, the neglect of cultural workers, the best of whom we are exporting to, among other countries,"Hong Kong Disneyland," in Gou's words.

Another woman friend, Mia Protacio, a lighting designer and singer, wrote me after Cory Aquino's death this observation. We hope Lim will take these words to heart: "For me, the greatest outcome or effect of Cory's passing away is that it has made Filipinos embrace genuine and lasting values such as simplicity, spirituality, humility and purity of heart as opposed to the other qualities of supposedly successful or 'high-powered' individuals whom we normally idolize. A paradigm shift has occurred in the way we Filipinos revere greatness. Great now means simple. Great means humble. That is her true legacy."

And, if he will heed the women's suggestion, Lim will have to dump his general's uniform and change into civvies in his campaign pictures.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ahoy There, Women!

Saturday began at 3 a.m. when a cab picked me up, and we motored down to pick up friend Toottee Chanco Pacis’s assistant Carol (Toottee was scheduled to meet with a quilting instructor later in the morning and could not join us). It was smooth driving down EDSA all the way to the vast SM Mall of Asia by Manila Bay.

Jun Calamba, the experienced driver, found the Esplanade Sunset Strip despite the dark hour and the street lights that were not enough to illuminate the directional signs. We were guided by the line of cars and vans, women and men unloading tables and assorted events paraphernalia. This was it—the site of the Pinay in Action 2010 fun run that was to be led by runner 0001, Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Her staff were there. Like us, they were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and excited. They set up our table under a white tent right beside the Giant Carousel. A cloth was whipped out to cover the table. It was too early to bring out the goods of the Benguet ladies who crocheted assorted items from creamer covers to giant gym bags.

So Carol and I watched, fascinated, as the runners, mostly women, arrived in droves and limbered up. When the sky lightened, Carol brought out sample goods, and we displayed them with at least one of each item from the luggage.

The day was a first for me in many ways. I’ve always patronized bazaars, but this was my first time to be a volunteer seller. No pay, no personal gain. Just a believer that women should have their own money as it empowers them to help their own families and make choices in their lives.

Toottee and I had come down from Baguio at our own expense, lugging down the goods at the back of her car last Wednesday. The night before, we had staged a pictorial at her house with good results. INQUIRER’s Tina Arce Dumlao of the Business section understood the Benguet women’s cause and hurried me up with my deadline. On Thursday, I composed my article in a friend’s café with Wifi after early coffee with Toottee. By noon, my piece was done, and I emailed it quickly to my editor. By afternoon, I used my leftover notes for a blog entry.

So Saturday, there we were—Carol and me, the novice tinderas. Sen. Cayetano stood out in the crowd although they wore uniform hot pink t-shirts. Comfortable with the description “feminist,” she told the runners to run for their health, for the cause of the indigent patients of cervical and breast cancer (thus, the color pink), for women’s rights, etc. And she spoke into the mic in a calm, measured way without resorting to motherhood statements.

That women’s rights, especially reproductive health, remain high on this young legislator’s agenda is proof that Pinays of my and Toottee’s generation cannot still say with the sweep of conviction to Carol and our daughters that we have indeed “come a long way, babies.”

Carol and I couldn’t be passive sellers. So after we decided she’d be bantay and treasurer, I called out to anyone who passed by our booth, “Towels from Benguet, come see the towels from Benguet.” At one point I placed hand and bigger towels along the length of my two arms and went from booth to booth, asking the other sellers and exhibitors to visit the Benguet women’s livelihood project booth and showing them our wares. Girl pal Ana Calimbas Santos also hopped from booth to booth, handing out flyers for her cause, the women's reproductive health website called

I think my kumare Gigi Duenas de Beaupre, self-confessed tiangge queen of the French West Indies, would’ve been proud of us. At the close of the run, when the sweaty participants crossed the finish line and lined up for the freebies from Nesvita, Summit Media and the other sponsors, they passed by our booth. Of course, the towels crocheted at the edges, were the best-sellers followed by the bedroom slippers, the bonnets and a tissue box holder. The lanky senator passed by everyone’s booth, thanking the women for their participation.

She dropped by our booth and as I explained what the project was all about, she smiled and said, “You know who loves to crochet in our family? My ninety-year-old lola! Help me choose something for her.” We brought out the purple and white Afghan throw and others in colors of green and ochre. She right away went for the purple, the color of women.

Meanwhile, Karen Kunawicz, who won for Best Runner in Costume, also came by and saw the square-toed bedroom slippers which I like to call footsies. “Wow!” she exclaimed, “Pirate slippers!” So she’ll be wearing them to be warm, I guess, on cold nights when the blessed rains fall.

When the tents folded up by past 9 a.m., Carol, who was visiting this large mall complex for the first time, got up, brought out her cell phone camera and with a skip in her heart, took shots of the now lighted up carousel and Manila Bay which, because she is a mountain girl, was seeing again for the first time in her young life.

Karen’s girl pirate banner says it all for us: “Women who behave rarely make history.”

Photo of Karen Kunawicz in pirate costume shared by fellow exhibitor SING DE LEON of Kababaihan Laban sa Karahasan (Kalakasan) and Women's Media Circle Foundation Inc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Not-So-Secret Vice: Soledad by Any Other Name is Solitude

About two years ago, I joined a Facebook group called MPAS (Music/Poetry/Art/Scribbles). It hasn't been active lately, but early today I received in my Inbox two messages from the group: one on silence, the other on solitude.

It is that time of the week--Sunday; that time of the year--Lent. And so I retreat temporarily to the bliss other men and women describe about the state of being called solitude.

"Man loves company even if it is only that of a small burning candle." ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

"I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers." ~Henry David Thoreau, "Solitude," Walden, 1854

"Language... has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone. ~Paul Johannes Tillich, The Eternal Now

"There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall." ~Colette

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau, 1854

"When the superficial wearies me, it wearies me so much that I need an abyss in order to rest." ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least - and it is commonly more than that - sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements." ~Henry David Thoreau

"We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart...and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together.... I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude." ~Helen Hayes

"It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts." ~K.T. Jong

"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think." ~Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

"By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear." ~George Herbert

"Only in quiet waters do thing mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world." ~Hans Margolius

"Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are." ~Robert Cecil

"The great omission in life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit." ~Marya Mannes

"In solitude, where we are least alone." ~George Gordon, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

"Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that's where I renew my springs that never dry up." ~Pearl Buck

"What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice." ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"A large, still book is a piece of quietness, succulent and nourishing in a noisy world, which I approach and imbibe with 'a sort of greedy enjoyment,' as Marcel Proust said of those rooms of his old home whose air was 'saturated with the bouquet of silence.'" ~Holbrook Jackson

"With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves. For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves." ~Eric Hoffer

"When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death-ourselves." ~Eda LeShan

"No matter how reclusive we tend to be, we picture the after-life as a community of souls. It is one thing to seek privacy in this life; it is another to face eternity alone." ~Robert Brault,

"I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls." ~Henry David Thoreau

"Solitude never hurt anyone. Emily Dickinson lived alone, and she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known... then went crazy as a loon." ~Matt Groening, The Simpsons, spoken by the character Lisa Simpson

"The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude." ~Voltaire

"True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment." ~William Penn

"Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you." ~Harold Bloom

"No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength." ~Jack Kerouac

"We visit others as a matter of social obligation. How long has it been since we have visited with ourselves?" ~Morris Adler

"Loneliness can be conquered only by those who can bear solitude." ~Paul Tillich

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." ~John Muir

"Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul." ~Marcus Aurelius

"It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky... a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe." ~Victor Hugo

"For those uneasy with the world, solitude is the only guarantee of confidence." ~Terri Guillemets

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself." ~Ruth Stout

"You will not find a soulmate in the quiet of your room. You must go to a noisy place and look in the quiet corners." ~Robert Brault,

"I owe my solitude to other people." ~Alan Watts

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion." ~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Froyo: The planet’s new ice cream

The sign is atop a heap of other signs: Dave’s Yogurt Bar. I swiveled from where I was seated at the back seat of a cab, sometime in May last year. I was en route to an out-of-town assignment, but I promised I would return to that clean, well-lighted place at 16 United Street, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City. The bar-café is behind other eating places that serve steaks and barbecued meat products.

And for those from outer space, yogurt is this planet’s new ice cream.

Return I did for an initial sampling of the plain yogurt. If Oprah has had her Aha! moments, I have had mine every time I go to Dave’s. First time I went there was with my kumare Anna Leah Sarabia, then with hard-to-please Kiss the Cook caterer Waya Araos, followed by my sisters and daughters, ex-colleagues at a now defunct media office, Gilda Cordero Fernando, spiritual worker Bong de la Torre, and Club Nostalgia singing host-emcee Lincoln Drilon.

Once I brought cups of different-flavored yogurt to freelance writer Gou de Jesus's pad for an afternoon of catching up, and she just mewed in delight while taking a few teaspoonfuls of the stuff so the supply would not run out quickly.

Unanimously, they say, they’ll go there on their own the way I always do to try the regular flavors on the line-up like passion fruit, everything from the berry family (strawberry, wild berry) grape, mango, vanilla bean, dark chocolate and coffee. Dave’s now has a premium line: macadamia, pistachio, dark decadent chocolate, among others. Coming soon is mangosteen (the word itself makes me salivate).

When franchise owner David Onstott, a Filipino with American-Bavarian roots, says, “Our yogurt cakes are awesome,” you’ve got to believe him. This guy is a living testament to what diet awareness can do to alter one’s life for the better. Born with a form of skin asthma, his parents tried different medications on him. As they sought other cures, they learned that a diet leaning more on fruits and vegetables alleviated David’s discomfort.

Today David can pass for someone in his late 30s. I could scarcely believe it when he said he’s 50. No botox. The man detests anything artificial, starting with his own products. His motivation for making yogurt is “to make a healthier frozen treat than ice cream,” he says.

Few people read labels on ice cream containers, and it’s high time that more do. The label declares the usual ingredients, namely, water, sugar and milk solids. The last can include some hazardous chemicals for preserving the ice cream’s color, for guaranteeing shelf life (preservatives), for stabilizing to keep the other ingredients together instead of breaking apart when they’re frozen. There’s artificial flavor, too (only 2-5 percent fresh fruit; everything else is unreal).

Perhaps the worst ingredient there is white sugar, the most destructive kind.
But back to Dave for less scary news. Fresh yogurt, which is the base, is made from scratch. It takes him two days from the time he gets the milk (pure cream) to the time he turns the stuff into frozen yogurt. He uses as much as 40-50 percent fresh fruits so he finds no need to artificially color his products. The color comes from the fruit. David doesn’t compromise taste and texture.

“So how good can this possibly be for you?” he challenges me as I dig into a cake.

He is keeping prices “as low as I can. It’s important that people get their money’s worth when they come by. That means something to me,” he says.

For the salad he makes for me, which he calls “just a salad,” he throws in on the spot lettuce leaves, sugar beets, cubes of multi-grain bread, tomatoes, sesame seeds and pours a vinaigrette and olive oil dressing. It’s a huge bowl, but he assures me it will be finished in no time and I will feel light, with room enough for another round of yogurt.

Next on his personal menu is to start a class on how to feed an ailing loved one at home and how to help them recover, again through a good diet.

He’s moving out of his charming “hole in the wall” in Barangay Kapitolyo; his products will soon be found in more than 10 outlets in Metro Manila malls.

Dave’s Natural Premium Yogurt is open for franchising. Email or text/call 0905-219-8961. He has a fan page in Facebook.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Toottee and Laarni, Julia and Ana

Tuesday night my friend Toottee Chanco Pacis and I were in panic mode. While crochet trainor Teresita Coloma busied herself repairing products for selling at Sen. Pia Cayetano's Pinay in Action fun run exhibit scheduled this Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia, Toottee and I anxiously waited for freelance photographer Laarni Ilagan.

Laarni works fulltime for the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) and has been detailed outside Baguio City. She has been reliably documenting the activities of the Baguio Aquarelle Society and always says, "Any time, Ma'am Babeth, Ma'am Baboo (Mondonedo)" when we thank her for her free services.

So when the opportunity to write about the Tublay-La Trinidad women's crochet project came on that same Tuesday, Laarni was foremost on my mind. She called to say she had to do work from nine to five but would be available after five. Toottee thought of possible models for the ladies' products. "The mestizas!" she cried. She meant Julia "Laney" De Raedt and daughter Ana (Mika to us). Mother and child are part of our Greenhouse Christian Fellowship (Bible studies on Saturday evening at the Pacis greenhouse in Happy Homes, Baguio City).

The De Raedts showed up on time, but we didn't know Laarni's cell phone went dead and that she had lost her way. It was dark when she finally found the Pacis residence. She didn't have time to take deep breaths or drink a glass of water; I sort of art directed her, gave her an idea of the product shots we needed.

Nobody knows the havoc that goes on behind a pictorial. Laney and Mika had to go through Toottee's dresser for lipstick and blush. I flung open Toottee's aparador to air the Aghan throws and throw pillow cases.

Meanwhile, Oscar Pacis arrived from his Bauang, La Union, farm, and said, smilingly, on seeing all sorts of crochet products strewn in his living and dining rooms: "Am I in the right house?"

This morning, in Mandaluyong City, Toottee and I sat down for coffee to recall how the crochet project got started. No thanks to Typhoon Pepeng.

She said, "We practice transparency. This is not my one-woman show. The ladies involved run the project. They know how much is put in and how much they take home. They know the financial aspect because they do the purchasing themselves."

Toottee did a trial sales run at a Brent School Christmas bazaar. Sales were enough that she was able to give bonuses to the very active women in the project.

Not one to take credit, she said, "We have a self-sustaining project, but we will be remiss if we do not thank the original donors who started it all like Auring Bautista, her daughter Gemma, Prof. Victoria Rico Costina, Team Cafe, journalist Nonnette Bennett who has been supportive from Day One."

Toottee is studying the possibility of re-introducing other crafts like quilting in Baguio.

“What’s more,” Toottee said, “when the ladies of Benguet get their net profit, it’s
like they had invested in their own business, giving them fulfillment and adding to their self-worth.”

What wonderful things happen when women get together!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why Women are Used as Calendar Girls

Primarily, this is why. The images of men with bellies have been circulating in my email addies, and it's how my women friends are getting back at all those manufacturers of rum, brandy and beer and publishers/editors of men's magazines for using vulnerable women, mainly girls not yet out of their teens, to endorse not just alcohol but a host of other products. Even a woman senator running for re-election confessed how she'd scurry down the campaign stage, embarrassed and angry at her male colleagues who condone this practice of allowing Wowowee dancers (all females, of course) to gyrate in the flimsiest of clothes to draw crowds and voters' support.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Delightful Shoko-san

She is our Melbourne-based friend who visits the Philippines every other year, sometimes more frequently, depending on how homesick she is.

Homesick for the Philippines? Yes, she is one of those rare global citizens who appreciates this country—her ties of friendship here are deeper and stronger than in anywhere else in the world where she has lived, including Japan.

Shoko Mafune, 54, is a ceramics artist who can do reliefs, sculptures and tiny utilitarian objects like chopstick rests and bird flutes. She gave us the last on her last visit to Manila in February.

We met up at the lobby of the Peninsula Manila, then moved to the Spices Restaurant for a long, talky dinner with our other friends, Noel Cuizon and Mariano Garchitorena, the hotel’s public relations manager. Garch, as we call him, entrusted the choice of the evening’s meal to Spices’ maitre d’ so we didn’t have to waste precious minutes deciding on what to eat.

Except for the flecks of white on her hair, Shoko is the same, still wishing for that elusive love. I think she is my only friend who can state clearly what she wants on that score, and I admire her for that. I can only say I wish good health for myself so I can spend most of my time painting or looking at pictures and things and thinking how I can turn them into a work that has something to say. My wish is far more modest than Shoko’s.

She is back in Melbourne, Australia, conducting pottery classes. On weekends, she drives to different towns to join craft fairs at churchyards and barns. She sets up a table and puts up her wares. She makes friends this way, too, but admits the quality of her friendships in the Philippines is less superficial.

We agreed to put up a two-person show, she doing bigger works, me doing huge paintings. It was Noel’s idea, actually. He wants to act as curator for this dream show, and he’ll be issuing us the guidelines anyday. He is toying with the idea of correspondence.

Here is Shoko in her own words from her website

“Working with clay has been closely associated with me at almost every major stage of my life.

“I have played with clay since I was a child. My techniques were developed from learning under a traditional Japanese ceramics master for five years. However, my style has evolved and has been affected by living in different countries and encountering different cultures. Every new confrontation, every new challenge in my life has been translated through my medium of clay. My intention is to attract people to touch (not only look) and interact with my work, and in return I want my ceramics to connect the people together. I hope my art can, even for a slight moment, inspire feelings of delight in people.”

Photo shows Shoko's bird flutes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Red Queen versus White Queen (Or Why I Hesitate When a Movie is Billed as 3D)

In the first place, I feel the additional weight of the newfangled eyewear when I put them on. I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was 10 and only take them off when I shower or when I sleep. I need them to see clearly, and thank goodness for lightweight, narrow-framed glasses for being in vogue. Imagine if Jackie O glasses (without the dark tint) were still around, and you have to put on the 3D thing.

But Johnny Depp—I’d walk a mile for him. I’ve admired the characters he has portrayed since he became a recognizable name, characters on the dark end of the psychological spectrum, always edgy, the push-the-envelope-further type of actor. From “Edward Scissorhands” to “Benny and Joon” to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy—you feel you’re paying to watch him have a romp and a jolly good time.

As the green-eyed (literally, not as in envy) Mad Hatter in this year’s 3D spectacular “Alice in Wonderland,” we now understand why he’s filmmaker Tim Burton’s all-time muse, not his partner Helena Bonham Carter who was equally effective as the red-headed, swell-headed Red Queen. His face, even under tons of make-up, vacillates between tenderness and righteous anger. His being mad is both guise and reality, a way of subverting the authoritarian order of the conjugal dictatorship of the Red Queen and her paramour, the one-eyed Knave of Hearts .

You know who’s out of place in this wonderland, no matter how accommodating the place is for all the underworld weirdos? Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Even my eldest daughter Kimi says so:“Nanay, pinagpilitan niya lang sarili dyan sa movie. She wasn’t in the short list in the cast.” This is the daughter who has followed Hathaway from “Princess Diaries” to “Brokeback Mountain” to “The Devil Wears Prada.” Now , if it had been Amy Adams who was wonderful in “Enchanted.” Hathaway’s thick, bushy eyebrows were distracting to say the least.

I don’t mind wearing those 3D goggles again just to be able to witness the fight scene between Jabberwocky and the sword-wielding Alice played by Mia Wasikowska who looks like a young, pale Gwyneth Paltrow.

Oh frabjous Thursday.

Photo shows a pair of xpand Active 3D Glasses provided by Shangri-la Plaza.

Brenda Fajardo's Brillig Day

When you’ve got Johnny Depp as reward waiting towards the close of a busy day, anything that happens between breakfast and 4 p.m. is tolerable—even a moment of grief.

Yesterday began with a side trip to the 50-year-old Lopez Museum at Benpres Bldg. on Tektite Road to purchase its commemorative book for the bibliophile waiting in Baguio. While the cab drove in circles as I made my purchase, there was a window of time to text some friends who had been giving me updates on the condition of our ailing friend and professor, Brenda Fajardo.

La Gaga, a reference to one of Brenda’s major paintings using a Pinoy Tarot card series and also a fond nickname for her, is still being prepped for a major surgery, a heart bypass, and a fund-raising dinner for her cause has been scheduled by tireless and younger colleague at the University of the Philippines Department of Art Studies, Eloi Hernandez. Going around Facebook is this appeal:

“Brenda Fajardo recently had an angiogram which revealed four blocked arteries. She will need a bypass operation as soon as possible and if everything is in order, it will happen in the last week of March. The recent advice from her doctors in Cardinal Santos Medical Center approximates that she must prepare between P300,000 - P500,000 for the operation, even if she will be accommodated as a charity case. Additionally, 30 units of blood will be needed during the operation (which translates into 30 donors).

"Brenda has approved of the following fund-raising efforts:

"1. Check or cash donation can be given at the UP Department of Art Studies through Cecille de la Paz ( and Cherryl Navida (

"2. Straight donation to her bank account at BPI Kamuning branch (SA# 3146 1400 63), account name is Brenda V. Fajardo. For monitoring purposes, e-mail Eloi at the amount of your deposit and date of transaction.

"3. Buy Brenda’s work at Tin-aw Gallery through Dawn Atienza or email:

"4. Dinner for the Heart of “Ang Gaga” on March 16 at 7 p.m. at the Upper East Restaurant in Makati City, P5,000 per plate. More information will be forthcoming in the next few days through Eloi, but if you have questions, you may contact her at 0918-908-8224.

"5. For blood donations, contact Eloi or Mary Joan Fajardo ( tel. no. 721-0091) to coordinate with the hospital that you are donating blood in her name. Brenda ‘s blood type is B+, but anyone can donate as long as you are cleared by the hospital.

"Brenda has given a major portion of her life in serving the Department, the College and UP with great dedication as artist, educator and administrator. She has tirelessly dedicated decades in educating, organizing and serving the visual arts community through various organizations such as Kasibulan, Philippine Art Educators Association, PETA, CCP, NCCA and BAGLAN. I hope the visual arts community can rally support for Brenda in whatever way possible."

I knew Brenda was temporarily bed-ridden, but nothing prepared me for the emaciated, frail being who greeted me with a voice coming from a distant place when I opened the curtain separating her from other ward beds.

She had been my teacher in an advanced humanities course, an elective I took in the 1970s. It was Modern Art, a memorable class where I “played” with the likes of Ana Crisostomo (now Sobrepeña) and Lina Castrence. Lina used to bring her toddler son along to class who’d parade up and down the classroom aisle stark naked, and Brenda continued with her lecture, not at all distracted.

We have friends in common so I’ve sometimes joined them in their trips to her Rolling Hills subdivision home in Quezon City where she’d host a merienda buffet , then complain, “You know, my current weight is 180 pounds. Should I work to hit 200 which is closer or start losing? Hirap na ako tumindig nang matagal.”

Even with the extra weight, she carried herself with elan, wearing flowing skirts that look more like the native tapis and loose blouses that guaranteed she stayed cool. And cool chick she was for I had never seen Brenda flare up nor speak meanly of anyone.

That’s why after my brief visit yesterday, I rushed out and headed for the canteen where I felt comfortable enough to weep openly among strangers, weep for what once was.

Surely, Brenda deserves more.

Photo shows Brenda's work, "Baraha ng Buhay Filipino," courtesy of Tala Gallery.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Playing with Russians, Winton Marsalis

Once again I give this space to my colleague, former editor, drinking and guffawing partner, Pablo A. Tariman.

At one of Cecile Licad's concerts in the provinces, I told the emcee to introduce him this way--Pablo CARUSO Tariman. The emcee thought that was his full name and introduced him as such. He was so flustered when he came onstage with his script, he stammered that Caruso wasn't his middle name but Arcilla.

So here then is the Neruda of music reportage in the Philippines--Pablo Tariman.

by Pablo A. Tariman

In 1992 when I travelled with Cecile Licad for the first time in Cebu, she was heard by a Polish poet and music critic named Christopher Jezewski. He told Mrs. (Rosario) Licad he heard a Chopin concerto on radio in Paris and told himself, “Only a Filipina pianist could play that Chopin the way it was beautifully molded.”

True enough, the announcer said it was the F Minor Concerto played by the London Philharmonic under Andre Previn with Licad as soloist.

On our second visit to Cebu in 1994, she played Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 for her finale number. For several seconds after the last notes had ended, the audience remained unmoving. I myself had so absorbed the piece one thought it would break the trance if one applauded.

The Chopin B Flat Minor Sonata is referred to as the Funeral March because of the third movement which is the most celebrated elegy in instrumental music. I froze after the last note as Licad’s interpretation was like confronting death itself, in a beautiful, if, dignified manner.

Later at the CCP, I heard Mrs. Marcos told Cecile, “After that Chopin sonata, I am not afraid to die anymore. Cecile, you are a sorcerer of an interpreter.”

The three-page finale of this sonata which is about sorrow giving way to torment was described by Schumann thus: “This great movement is perhaps the boldest page which has been written in the whole of music.”

Among those who raved over Licad’s B Flat Sonata was National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin who passed away two months after that concert.

Speaking of the Polish poet-critic one mentioned earlier, he actually wrote to ask if Licad can do a recital for the Polish Institute in Paris to honor the great Polish pianist Mieczsyslaw Horszowski who happened to be one of Licad’s teachers in Curtis.

In the same breath, he complained that it was hard to get Licad’s all-Chopin recording in France where he found one through the Internet.

He wrote to Licad thus: “Your Chopin is absolutely marvelous, it’s like listening to him resuscitated! You should record as much as possible of his works! Please, you must do it for humanity! It’s so terribly rare to hear such an interpretation, absolutely adequate to the message of the music.”

Meanwhile, music lovers all over the world share the Polish poet-critic’s frustrations in not being able to find Licad’s recordings. Her last Chopin recording contains Ballade for piano No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23; Nocturne for piano No. 4 in F major, Op. 15/1, Etudes (12) for piano, Op. 1 and Scherzo for piano No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31.

Said a music lover complaining to a record store by internet:”I love this recording by Licad as much as I loved her Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 recording almost 20 years ago. I agree with the first two reviewers that Licad's recordings must be made more available. I also would love to see her making more recordings, but she seems to be very picky and does not make records as much as other contemporary classical artists today.”

Still there is nothing like a live concert to judge Licad’s interpretation of Chopin.
When Licad first played Chopin’s Twelve Etudes Op. 25 in Washington D.C. some years back, the Washington Post critic paid tribute to Licad as a supreme interpreter of Chopin: “The complete Opus 5 set of etudes offered similar mix of lyricism (Nos. 1 and 2), muscularity (Nos. 10,11 and 12) and recreative spark (the gnarled and galumphing treatments of Nos. 4 and 5). Licad could certainly conjure Chopin’s performed salon side, as in her delicate and simply stated Op. 57 Berceuse. Throughout the evening, Licad’s fierce intelligence illuminated the emotional core of Chopin.”

But nothing beats the erudite words of Philadelphia Inquirer critic Daniel Webster in his review of Licad in February last year entitled “Chopin Evokes Substance of Style.”

Wrote Webster:”We hear a different Chopin from what our elders heard. The music is more direct, edgy, and muscular. The poetry is there, but the urgency of it is even more clear-eyed, more intense. The subtle differences have emerged as all the elements of life have changed around the music.Cecile Licad made that point in her recital Friday at the Philosophical Society.The pianist exemplifies the style. Her focus is the instrument. If Licad's listeners want to join her, they are welcome, and on Friday were assured glimpses of passion that colored her highly objective playing. She skirted excessive freedoms in the Scherzo No. 1, and rattled some thunder in its landscape. The Scherzo No. 4, just before the Liszt closer, replaced thunder with grandeur and some delicacies that caught the solidity of her approach. Her playing carries the weight of authority and the absence of doubt. This is the way it is, that last scherzo proclaimed. “

Licad recently played Chopin No. 2 with Syracuse Symphony Feb. 12-13 and earlier did a Mostly Chopin concert in San Antonio, Texas, and an all-Chopin recital in Ohio consisting of the 24 Preludes and four scherzos. In the Texas audience were Filipino music lovers, Dr. Omar Zantua and Ching Zantua-Allan and her son, Anthony and Dr. Monette Regalado.

Said Ching Zantua upon hearing Licad’s Chopin Scherzos and 24 Preludes: “The concert was spectacular and the pianist nearly ran out of encores. That was how well-received she was. It was an experience of a lifetime.”

Last week, Licad figured in a special fund-raising concert at the Philippine Center and drew raves not only for her Chopin but also for her Buencamino numbers.

Wrote Nelsie T. Parrado to the Philippine Center staff in New York: “ The music I heard last February 24 at your concert still reverberates in my consciousness. Indeed, you are a National treasure! The sound coming from the Steinway piano is something I have not heard from ordinary persons playing it.I do not usually listen to Chopin, but at the concert, I gained a lot insight on his music.”

After her Chopin recitals in Asia and the United States, Licad will play in a special series of concerts involving cinema and American masters with Winton Marsalis in Cannes and other destinations. She will also be soloist in Brahms No. 1 with the Russian State Orchestra at the Tchaikovsky Hall in April next year after her triumphant appearance in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with another Russian touring orchestra in Germany last year.

Licad is one of the leading Filipino artists highlighting the Chopin Manille 2010 Bicentennaire sponsored by the French Embassy, Alliance Francaise and the ROS Music Center with a solo recital on March 27 and a special performance with the Manila Symphony playing Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor on March 29.

Before her is the Philippine debut of French pianist Dana Ciocarlie on March 19, the March 24 all-Chopin recital of Raul Sunico and the closing recital of Cristine Coyiuto on April 8.Call 3573811, 7484152 or 0906-5104-270 for tickets.

Lola Mad Hatter

She called on a Sunday on learning I was in town. “Come over and meet this young artist. He’s going to interview me. I don’t know what for. But please come.”

So while the rest of the city stewed under the heat, Joey Cobcobo, his wife and I enjoyed the cool shade under the canopy of greens in what was once Atty. Marcelo Fernando’s garden (now taken over by daughter-in-law Lilli-ann) while La Gilda Cordero Fernando (a.k.a Lola Mad, short for mader, to her nine grandkids and her help) sat for her portrait.

She wasn’t dressed for a conventional portrait. She wore jeans, socks, slippers, her Darna bracelet and a black and white sleeveless crocheted top. She put on a thin scarf for the occasion, earrings and a dash of lipstick, but like her, Joey wasn’t following rules, either. Very respectful, he asked her if she didn’t mind being portrayed as an aswang, her distorted face on a piece of piña-saba sheet of paper handmade from Sagada. She was thrilled at the idea, needless to say.

Joey has started on an ambitious Lola project. He will do 100 portraits of 100 living grandmothers on the paper earlier mentioned. The paper has the quality of cloth, and he plans to engage in a collaboration with his mother to embroider the work like a handkerchief of olden times.

To get his subject to relax, he would video them first. I was amazed that Gilda agreed to a video. She always turned down invitations to TV talk shows for fear of freezing in front of the camera. But she didn’t mind this time because “I’m just one of a hundred lolas. Who’d be able to tell it was me when these videos are shown simultaneously?”

Joey and I got her to talk about how different she is from other grandmas. She said, “I’m more liberal. I lead my apos through meditation and body movement exercises. It’s so much easier to get a child as young as three to meditate deeply than an adult. When they were about two years old, we’d take a bath together in my sunken shower. This practice stopped when one day, one said, ‘Lola, bakit may buhok?’”

She’s proud of the fact that her grandchildren consider her their friend more than a person they should defer to. “But now I feel that they can teach me more than I can teach them.” Especially in matters of technology, Gilda being known among our writer friends as incapable of typing or encoding her draft. Her apo or help turn on the computer for her, encode her essays (she’s working on a long one on the topic of the señora) or search the Web for esoteric visuals to guide her in her new painting subjects on the fight of good versus evil.

She began painting in earnest at age 70, but has always been supportive of visual artists. Her home is a living museum of the best and the brightest: Leandro Locsin, Onib Olmedo, Julie Lluch, Karen Ocampo Flores, Danny Dalena, Roberto Feleo, Mark Justiniani, Elmer Borlongan, Gabriel Barredo, Impy Pilapil, etc. And she spots them way before they become critical and commercial successes.

She told of how a pert apo went up to Emong Borlongan while he was working on a mural in Gilda’s house. The kid told him, “Hindi ganyan mag-paint!”

Lola Mad was mortified but didn’t shush him. Freedom of speech is allowed in her compound. Her husband has been known to be her severest critic. During the GCF Books years, when she and her collaborators were almost done with a book project, she would present this to him for his opinion. When he gives the thumbs down, she knows the book will sell well. If he likes it, she knows it needs retooling.

She uses the same criteria when buying him pasalubong after a day well spent out of her airy Panay Ave. home. In a bakeshop or patisserie, she’d choose the pastry or ice cream flavor that she won’t touch with a long pole and bring that home. He is so grateful that he’d exclaim, “Mommy, you really know what I want! You must really love me.”

Once, he told a grandson to choose another color because the boy showed a preference for pink. He said, “Boys should like black, blue, brown or gray.” When he was out of hearing range, Lola Mad told her grandson, “It’s okay to like pink. It doesn’t make you less a boy.” She ensured that this next generation of Fernandos wouldn’t have gender biases. And so the boy kept on drawing pink volcanoes, pink fishes, etc.

These days, Gilda described herself as being in a “cocoon stage,” resting after overworking herself preparing for two major exhibitions last year. She painted 42 watercolors for a Le Souffle show and another 32 for SLAB.

Joey, a multi-awarded painter with several grand slams from major prize-giving bodies, was astonished at Gilda’s accomplishments and activities. While we sat down for some cool buko pandan salad, he wondered aloud why she’s extraordinary.

She waved aside the compliment, saying, “There are some women who just grow old but are still immature and stupid until the day they die.” As she enters her 80s, she makes sure she is aging not only gracefully and with so much wisdom to share but with enough of her innate wackiness/naughtiness retained.

Photo shows three weirdos enjoying an atypical Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Party-loving Fernandezes

What I like about my in-laws is they're big on togetherness, i.e., when they find those rare moments they can be in one area of the globe. Whether it's Alabang, Subic, Baguio, Torrance, Riverside, Las Vegas, any time the four brothers and three sisters and their respective partners are together, you can't get a word in edge-wise. Sometimes I don't even utter a syllable and just sit there taking in the non-stop gabbing that can last from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. I would go to bed, come down and find them still at it.

I suppose it is because we leave far apart from one another. I enjoyed similar reunions in my childhood and adolescence with The Rowdy Bunch (TheClan Lolarga on Facebook).

Today, the sweltering heat of the metropolis has kept me indoors. To keep cool, I go through my daughters' posted pictures of our last reunion in the US of A.

We're thinking of doing a Subic edition of this at the Moonbay Marina Villas (also found on Facebook). But we don't know if the kith and kin on the other side of the ocean have already saved up for this event.

Hurry! Don't wait for another tsunami.

Photo by KIMI FERNANDEZ shows the Fernandez family in Riverside, California, after a dinner party celebrating Lucy F. Fernando's 73rd birthday.

Coming Soon at a Bookstore Near You

In time to catch the tail-end of the annual Panagbenga Festival and to welcome the summer--perfect reading for a hammock--is BAGUIO CALLIGRAPHY, the first, the only anthology so far of contemporary poetry and fiction from the Cordilleras' premier city. Edited by Butch Macansantos and Luchie Maranan, this Anvil book will be launched on Sunday, March 7, at 4 p.m. at the National Bookstore branch at SM City Baguio. Cover and interior art is by Rishab, the same guy who just won the Baguio Aquarelle Society's first on the spot water media contest. Rishab also has a contribution in this book--a prose poem about bubbles.

The launching comes seven months after the successful launch of the companion volume THE BAGUIO WE KNOW, up there in Anvil's best-selling list. The publishing house's officers were impressed by the Baguio launch party. After the crowd thinned, there were just 3 dozen copies left.

So this Sunday they'll make sure to bring up the first 250 copies off the press and are accepting pre-orders from the writers and their guests. So hurry and reserve with Anvilpublishing Weshapeminds, the long name of Anvil's Facebook account.Copy costs P375.

Missing the Cold

I never thought I would get homesick for the cold, but I am during this blistering time in Metro Manila where announcements of power outages make you grind your teeth and cause cancellations of any plans for the day.

I just reviewed the photos my children took of our East Coast sortie in the fall of 2009 right before the heavy blizzards and snowstorms came in, and I thought what I’d give for a hint of a breeze or the swish of wind that comes from what they call the canyon effect when you’re standing on a street corner surrounded by skyscrapers and this wind from nowhere lashes at you and sends you scurrying indoors.

Ella Fitzgerald has a beautiful song “Autumn in New York” extolling the colors of fall and the canyons of steel. I love it. I played it in my imaginary soundtrack as my daughter Kimi and I wandered in Central Park as we stepped out of the Guggenheim Museum one noon after viewing the Kandinsky retrospective. We walked alongside the rails of the Jacqueline K. Onassis reservoir and watched squirrels running up and down trees. I never got to Bow Bridge which is immortalized in several movies as my legs began to get numb. At some point, we walked to the nearest bus stop, got into one that brought us to the New York Public Library where I found reassuring warmth again.

My young friend Lyra Garcellano, who’s on an Asian Artists Council grant in NYC, dislikes the slush of winter (no hint of spring as of yesterday, she said as we chatted online), but she’ll take winter cold anytime, too, after I described how tormenting this drought-aggravated, early Philippine summer is.

Here Kimi the photographer and Ida catch me buttoning up in a heavy-duty jacket at the Rockefeller Plaza.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In the Garden of Eva

A dozen or so camera bugs and this curiosity seeker dropped in on former Sen. Eva Estrada Kalaw at her old family manse on Loyola (formerly Lepanto) street in Sampaloc, Manila, the heart of University Belt. She was all smiles, dressed casually in an all-peach attire complete with genuinely gold jewelry.

She spoke in a raspy voice that I couldn’t help asking if she used to smoke. “Yes, I was a chain smoker when I was a senator,” she said. “The sessions were so exciting that I couldn’t help but light up. At some point, I told myself, ‘Girl, you’ve gotta quit.’” She quit cold turkey.

Her hearing is sharp at age 92. I didn’t have to increase my voice’s volume for my questions to be heard. She spoke about how today’s senators can be divided into: good, puwede na and just in there for the prestige of being called “Senator.”

But she is happy with the performance records of the women senators, even Miriam Defensor Santiago. Of the latter, she said, “They call her loka, but she makes sense. She has never hidden the fact that she’s a little loka and claims that she got it from her mother.”

Sen. Kalaw is saddened that some members of the Upper House are not aware that a senator’s position is equal to that of the President. “During my time, we were keenly aware of that. We knew we were the checkpoint. If a President overreaches, we were there to call his attention.”

Of course, our parents’ and our own generations are aware of what an authoritarian did to his perceived enemies like Kalaw. She was one of the victims of the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971. She suffered shrapnel wounds on her legs. But last Saturday, except for the black and white picture of her being borne by men out of the collapsed miting de avance stage in Quiapo, she walked with wings on her feet. She even boasted of how she entered Grade One at age four because she won a dancing contest in a provincial contest.

The Estrada house on Lepanto looks like it is caught between a vanished world that heritage conservationists are trying to save and high-rises to accommodate a growing population. Despite this, Eva Estrada Kalaw is unhurried and unfazed.