Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brothers & Sisters of the Travelling Pants (a.k.a. Summer Workshop on Writing & Creative Living)

The third day of the six-day "Writing and Loving It: Summer Workshop on Creative Living" ended at 2 p.m. today with the boys (Rudolf, Rex and Milo) and gurlz (Nina and Babeth) inspired by a story-telling session with Mila D. Aguilar, poet, essayist, filmmaker, Web designer and professing servant of God and country.

To me, she remains the Mila who wrote such deeply moving poems as "A Comrade is as Precious as a Rice Seedling" and "Why Cage Pigeons?"
Mila, who lives not too far from the current workshop venue of Kiss the Cook Gourmet at 65 Maginhawa street, UP Village, Quezon City, informed the 12-year-old participant Milo that their names (Mila and Milo) mean "grace" in the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe.

Milo, who has been ribbed since Day One that his nickname may have been derived from an energy drink that is the color of his skin and which might explain his high energy level, grinned widely on learning another new thing today.

The workshop participants put into practice some interviewing techniques they had just learned this morning. By tomorrow, they will be able to write on the spot a full-length personality profile of Mila based on the sharing she did while she dug into a dessert of truffette and sipped a cup of cappuccino.

From my own notes, I found Mila's advice to young writers:

"If you're a writer or an artist, you have to have roots. Your roots are where you were born. There is no such thing as an international writer or artist. Every writer has a nation.... The thing he/she writes about, the thing he/she paints about is the culture of the nation. So you have to love your nation and express the soul of the nation. If you can do that, you can become a great writer; if you cannot, you'll be nowhere. Dostoyevsky was like that--he thoroughly knew his Russian culture, he expressed that culture in his works. So did Goethe. Shakespeare was like that, too. You must grasp your culture to become a great writer, a great artist.

"Your culture was not formed in and of itself. Somebody created it. It's a creation of Whom? Who created the nations? God creates not only individuals but nations. A nation exists for a purpose, God's purpose. You have to grasp God's purpose for the nation. There is a 'trialectical' relationship between the individual, the nation and God, and once you grasp that relationship, you'll become not only a great writer, a great artist, but an immortal one."

Like any true cultural worker, Mila espouses many causes, among them, organic farming, particularly shifting from miracle rice and the like which are
"hurting us and making us sick"; adoption of solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy; Bangon Pilipinas, a political party put up for God and country, and so on.

Tomorrow, Thursday, our fourth day, the kids report back to the venue to write about their afternoon with Mila.

May there be more moments of grace in the next leg of "Writing and Loving It: Summer Workshop on Creative Living" scheduled May 2-7 at Daisy Langenegger's Green Daisy at 20 Maginhawa st., UP Village, Quezon City. Workshop fee of P4,000 covers snacks and lunch, writing and art materials, certificate of participation and encounters with other moments divine. Text or call the facilitator Babeth at 0916-242-1637 to reserve or confirm a slot.
Top photo shows Rex quizzing resource person Mila Aguilar. Lower photo shows the first workshop participants with Ms. Aguilar (seated center). From left are Nina Victoria Araos and Babeth Lolarga while standing (same order) are: Rudolf, Rex and Milo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Slumming with Rene & Salvador on a Monday Afternoon

Does a poem have to make sense at all? Well, the Anon. who wrote about that cat and the fiddle and the cow jumping over the moon sure wasn't making sense in the logical, analytical sense. Yesterday, a group of "youngies," including this blogger, played with the stuff from the pockets, backpacks and bags of the three males in the group. From that point on, it was, shall I say, downhill and laughing all the way. Long live the surrealist movement!

inside a red clearbook
that comes wrapped in a two-color scarf,
a folded iPhone
an apple-green cell phone
rings & says on loudspeaker mode,
"hand me my blue Kiss the Cook Gourmet receipt.
i left it on a thin vinyl cloth
spread over a square table."

an orange handkerchief
weeps & moans,
"where are my white 100-peso bills,
my 50-peso bill made of cloth cut from the Shroud of Turin?"

the single USB in Rene's pocket
dwells there with a leathery coin
& a dull coin purse
his clean wallet
lies in one of many manila envelopes
along with his new journal

as for salvador's brown Nokia cell phone
hanging from his necklace with a metallic dog tag
& pressed against his shiny t-shirt
it thinks it would rather be a thin sheet of intermediate pad paper
held by crisp human hands
attached to Gala's floral elbows

have you ever seen a man with a colorful wallet, ever?
but Rene & Salvador want nothing more than
a blue keychain with mini mer chairs
singing each to each

--Babeth Lolarga
April 26, 2011
Third version, 10:20 a.m.
Kiss the Cook Gourmet
Summer Workshop on Creative Writing & Living

Photo above shows Rene Magritte's "Son of Man"; below is Salvador Dali and a cub from the feline family

Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Found Poems on a Friday that Feels Good

I can almost hear the musician Chuck Mangione play "Feels So Good" as I serendipitously stumble on a link that brings me to a website that carries three poems written over the last few years.

And the word "serendipity" does have a nice ring to it apart from it being the name of a coffee chain that began in New York City and where Andy Warhol used to settle his food bills with sketches.

Gee. Thanks for the force guiding these old hands to serendipitous locations like

Open Letter of Resignation from Housewifery

i can't come down in a low-cut peignoir
on a sunday, wallace stevens notwithstanding.
instead, i flounce around in this loose
violet housedress printed with
yellow orange, emerald & tangerine triangles
you bought from me in far zamboanga.

with effort i whip up a spanish omelette
for your breakfast but before i serve
the dish, how i wish for a magician
to replace me, one who with a theatrical wave
of her hand can transform the greasy stove & kitchen
counters into a showcase worth of ethan allen

i burn unintentionally the sausages from lucban, quezon,
the ones you have been looking forward to eating at dinner
you rage rage rage at my undying clumsiness
& the absent-minded air i wear all day
i blame my clogged nose & having mistaken
the smoke for monsoon mist slipping through the windows

in college my one big ambition
was not to turn into a stay-at-home wife.
the law of bad karma has caught up
with me apparently that i must learn, relearn
lessons on servitude & humility.

all i now know is
at the merest wisp of a chance
i shall stand surefooted once more
on the workforce's flat terrain
far from the mountain gorges
that i thought i loved.


Miranda Far and Near
For my youngest daughter

my skinny satin doll,
my faint moonbeam,
the struggling thing impatient to be born
i could have named you Anastasia
after the Russian imperial princess
whose docu-drama i was watching
the night the quick contractions came

you arrived squealing like a piglet,
angered by the bright, unforgiving
lights of the delivery room
since then by my chest you slept
suckled when hungry
threw up when full
cried loud enough to rouse the neighbors
until wearily i handed you over to my mother
& she crooned "que sera sera" to your ears

never one to leave you, dear one, to chance
on your sixteenth year i entrust
you to your grandmother & aunts
they tell me of your swinging moods
your pouting mouth
your finicky appetite
how upset you can get over a zit

but nothing prepares us for that day
on your twentieth year when pain blooms
like a poisoned flower in your right breast
a tumor is the doctor's prognosis
what has befallen my grown Barbie
whose simple joy it is to shop at the Top Shop?
before i can point an accusing finger
at an unheeding universe
i decide soberly, yes, doctor
let's have it out two days from now

having lost faith in rote prayers
i turn to my mother while her fingers
run through decades of a rosary
my impious eyes gaze at a friend who looks heavenward
my youngest born comes out
of the fog of anesthesia dizzy, wobbly,
nauseated, begging to be returned
to the operating table so she can
curl up to sleep some more
the surgeon describes the tumor's size
the unexpected pus pouring out of the breast
i wonder what toxin has touched her
has slipped through our cordon of protection

for close to a week i rise at midnight
& daybreak to bring you a glass of water
& an antibiotic
you tell me you have no memory
of getting up at those hours
can it be that the angel i taught you
to pray to as a child puts you back
to sleep & draws up the light blanket
of forgetfulness?

what can i tell you now, my grown doll,
my full moon with the wounded breast?
non-malignant means free of cancer
you can now traipse in Boracay in your two-piece
you can find and fall for the love of your life
& together have an adventure in Tawi-Tawi,
Uzbekistan or outer Mongolia
you can bear, breastfeed a child, baptize it Anastasia
pain will not entirely disappear
but until then i want to whisper
like a prayer
"what will be will be."

Performing Chopin

let me run my weathered fingers
down & up your spine
the way the hands of Cecile Licad
spiral down the keyboard
to Etude No. 12 in C Minor

let me do it the way she does
con brio & with so much vim
one gasps at the sheer force
of poetry coursing through her veins

how can you lie silently on your belly?
do you not hear me thundering
allegro con fuoco on the bones
fanning out of your back?

you turn your face from the depths of the pillow
nudge me to turn off the CD player
i wring my hands worriedly, say sotto voce,
"sorry, my sweet, but the Russians have overrun Poland."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Statement of Church Café on the Janjan-Willie Revillame Controversy and the Role of Media and Advertising

Church Café, a group of cultural workers that enjoys studying the Christian faith and finds ways to get engaged in the world, is one with the Filipino and the international communities in expressing extreme disgust over the worship of the culture of money.

This kultura ng pera is best exemplified by the recent exploitation of a minor named Janjan by television host Willie Revillame in his noontime show "Willing Willie."

We are also appalled at perpetrator Revillame's reaction of filing libel charges against credible people like our fellow cultural worker John Silva, who wrote an open letter addressed to Mr. Manny V. Pangilinan, head of television network TV-5, where "Willing Willie" is shown, and National Social Scientist Lourdes "Honey" Carandang whose expertise as a clinical psychologist was brought to bear on the case in assessing the damage done to the child.

Dr. Carandang is a rightful protector of children. She has spent much of her life teaching generations of students how to protect the Filipino family. Upon her retirement from the academe, she put up an institute that promotes the cause of women and children living under stressful conditions. Janjan and his parents are no exemptions from Dr. Carandang's upholding of the rights of children as people.

In his blog, Mr. Silva mentions what Revillame represents: "74 women and children trampled to death on his dangling-money TV show. Or him sneering at President Corazon Aquino’s funeral. Or now, making a little boy cry while coaxing him to macho dance. "

Recently, Mr. Silva has written another open letter, this time addressed to businessman Ben Chan of Bench, for hiring Revillame to endorse a new cologne and putting up a billboard along EDSA with Revillame's face: "…(Y)ou’ve decided to cast your sales fate with a guy riddled in scandal and whose show has been slammed by the country’s social welfare department and Human Rights Commission as having committed serious child abuse."

In his blog, and the Church Café members agree with him on this point, Mr. Silva notes that "no matter how much you’ll spray his cologne on that set, we have the abused crying Janjan on YouTube and on rerun and the smell of sleaze isn’t going away soon. Why don’t you just realize the serious pickle your company is in and withdraw your support for the slimiest show in the world? You must have some smarts to make money elsewhere without having to use bullies that abuse boys."

Mr. Silva challenges the clothing and perfumery magnate: "Ben, listen: MACHO DANCING IS PROSTITUTION WITH A DANCE BEAT. And in our country with pedophilia around, it’s bad enough that a boy, somewhere at this very moment, is actually doing the dance FOR REAL. What’s the point simulating it on national TV? To make more call boys? Is that your company strategy of what the youth market should be? See how low your empire has stooped to for the bucks?"

Church Café is profoundly saddened by a country apparently suffering from a low self-esteem. This national self-esteem has fallen into an abysmal low that many of our people have forgotten the dignity inherent in hard work. At the hint of a few thousand pesos being dangled in front of their faces, they tumble, roll, split on the studio floor, crush balloons with their asses, dance provocatively on national TV, bare their souls and personal tragedies in order to be made fun of.

Luis V. Teodoro, a respected columnist of Business World, thinks that Revillame can never be a legitimate member of the press whose freedom of expression is being curtailed by the public censure and advertising boycott his show is suffering from.

Teodoro points out, and Church Café again agrees, that "not by any stretch of the imagination is Revillame part of the press. He belongs instead to the nether world of TV entertainment and noon-time shows, where professional standards and ethics are unheard of and/or habitually ignored…While press freedom is therefore not at issue, we can grant that free expression -- specifically Revillame’s--is. Is Revillame’s right to free expression then under threat from the public demand that his advertisers withdraw from his program?

"It isn’t: what’s under threat is his abuse of that freedom, to the extent of doing harm not only to such individuals as the six-year-old whose exploitation he encouraged and abetted, but also to Philippine society, to whose debasement programs such as his contribute via the long reach of television. Society can--in fact, it should--hold Revillame to account for both offenses. All forms of free expression are subject to public accountability. As precious as it is, the exercise of press freedom… is, by common agreement and the consent of practitioners themselves, subject to scrutiny and censure. Any editorial writer, columnist or reporter can be held to account for bias and inaccuracy, doing harm to the subjects of a report, subjecting them to ridicule, stereotyping them or encouraging discrimination against vulnerable groups..."

Teodoro concludes, "The decision of Revillame’s sponsors to withdraw their ads is a right they’re exercising in behalf of the public’s call for accountability…But will the withdrawal of Revillame’s sponsors in behalf of the public clamor against Revillame’s abuse of his right to free expression set a precedent? One hopes that it will--and it should, toward the making of a discerning public able to distinguish between authentic public service and mere self-indulgence, trickery, and deceit."

Church Café believes that radio-television networks and producers like TV-5, ABS-CBN, where Revillame originally came from, and GMA-7 and traditional print media like tabloids are just as, or even more, guilty than Revillame for allowing this kultura ng pera to prosper at the expense of a country's moral backbone.

Here we are, supposedly the only country in Southeast Asia with a Christian majority, and yet, our leaders are helpless in turning a powerful medium like TV around so it can educate and ennoble our citizens.

The advertising revenues that fuel inane programs that capitalize on the scandals in the lives of celebrities or the absurd lows the poor are made to stoop to for a few thousand pesos can already get the country's development program going.

Our movie and TV celebrities can use their fame to endorse worthy causes like education on our national heritage or the universal vaccination of children, the raising and eating of organically grown fruits, vegetables and livestock rather than promoting the consumption of processed food.

We call on the advertising industry to pour more funds on efforts to improve the environment like recycling at the home and barangay levels, waste management contests, planting and nurturing of trees.

The Philippines is primarily an agricultural country. We reiterate the call for more advertising funds and media support to go to meaningful community development projects like Sloping Agricultural Land Technology for provinces blessed with hills and mountains but deforested by heartless loggers and clueless kaingeros.

Church Café is made up of cultural workers with their individual advocacies, among them, the promotion of our national heritage, art and music education for all, early childhood development through overall health and sound nutrition of mother and child, safeguarding the well-being of honest-to-goodness writers and artists who have contributed much to the growth of national pride.

We stand firmly behind the Philippine law that states, "Every child has the right to a wholesome family life that will provide him/her with love, care and understanding, guidance and counseling and moral and material security." Our laws are also emphatic about what is physical and psychological violence, the abuse, exploitation and maltreatment of children.

Let us continue to be watchful of mass media. By its easy availability and capability in molding minds and shaping opinions, media is accountable to these children and to the future of our nation. What we all do with these innocents speaks volumes about us as a people.

Please keep up the pressure on our government by writing on their websites or on their Facebook accounts, by sending them e-mail messages to let them know we are watching and that we support the full application of Republic Act 7610.


Bernie Aquino
Simoun Balboa
Aba Lluch Dalena
Imelda Cajipe Endaya
Simplicio Endaya
Linda Hallili
Pambie Herrera
Fred Liongoren
Norma Liongoren
Jenny Romero Llaguno
Julie Lluch
Elizabeth Lolarga
Fe Mangahas
Rogelio Mangahas
Alma Cruz Miclat
Chester Ocampo
Letty Paler
Pablo Baens Santos

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Summering by Writing, Drawing & Generally Laughing All the Way

"Writing and Loving It," a summer workshop on creative living, opens April 25 and runs till April 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Kiss the Cook Gourmet, 65 Maginhawa street, UP Village, Quezon City.
Kiss the Cook Gourmet is across from Holy Family School. It has a function room where the workshop will be held.
The workshop is open to children who can read, write and understand instructions, tweens, teens, young adults and the young at heart. There is a maximum of 20 slots, first come, first served.
Exercises will show writing is not an angst-filled thing nor is it the exclusive terrain of the gifted among us. The workshop aims to show that writing can be fun, funny and part of one's life, as easy as inhaling and exhaling if done with persistence and diligence.
Workshop facilitator is Babeth Lolarga, published poet, fictionist, painting hobbyist and high school creative writing teacher, who will be assisted by Nina Victoria Araos. Babeth has been conducting summer writing workshops since 1988 in various parts of the country.
She has twin degrees, a BA in journalism from UP Diliman and a bachelor of fine arts from UP Baguio. She helped revive the Baguio Writers Group and is a founding member of the Baguio Aquarelle Society.
Nina is a recent graduate of Diliman Preparatory School and incoming comparative literature major at UP Diliman. She is also a member of the Philippine team to this year's Southeast Asian Games.
Workshop fee covers venue rent, healthy snacks, lunch and materials.
The venue accepts credit cards (Visa and Mastercard). Call or text these numbers to reserve a slot: 0916-242-1637 or 0920-989-0227.
From May 2 to 7, the workshop moves to Green Daisy, owned by Daisy Langenegger, at 20 Maginhawa st., UP Village. The same facilitator and assistant will conduct the same workshop with another batch of 20 participants. The price will be the same, inclusive of morning snack, lunch and materials.
Each workshop will be capped with a closing program on the last day that includes giving of certificates of attendance and a short talk on eating healthy by the respective owners of Kiss the Cook Gourmet and Green Daisy. To reserve a slot for the Green Daisy workshop, text or call 0917-814-8262. Ms. Langenegger accepts checks in her name.
Bringing of own baon in the workshop is disallowed at both venues as the workshop organizers also aim to promote good nutrition among the young and young at heart.
Photos show (from the top): Kiss the Cook Gourmet logo, blogger's self-portrait, workshop assistant Nina Victoria Araos and Daisy Langenegger of Green Daisy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Despicable Amnesia'

Oh, the treasures you unearth in forwarded email. This came in today. It contains the chronology of the plunder committed by Ferdinand E. Marcos and family.



In these critical times when efforts are being made to re-write history and sanitizing the record of martial law and the Marcoses, let us cure ourselves of this "despicable amnesia" and get back our sense of righteous indignation!

Charlie Avila, who has not forgotten what the Marcoses did, reminds us, in his CHRONOLOGY OF THE MARCOS PLUNDER, that in…

September 1976: The Marcoses bought their first property in the US--a condo in the exclusive Olympic Towers on Fifth Avenue in New York. Five months later, they would also buy the three adjoining apartments, paying a total of $4,000,000.00 for the four and using Antonio Floirendo's company, The Aventures Limited in Hong Kong, as front for these purchases.

Oct. 13, 1977: Today, after addressing the UN General Assembly, Imelda celebrated by going shopping and spending $384,000, including $50,000 for a platinum bracelet with rubies; $50,000 for a diamond bracelet; and $58,000 for a pin set with diamonds.

The day before, Vilma Bautista, one of her private secretaries, paid $18,500 for a gold pendant with diamonds and emeralds; $9,450 for a gold ring with diamonds and emeralds; and $4,800 for a gold and diamond necklace.

Oct. 27, 1977: The Marcoses donated $1.5 million to Tufts University in Boston, endowing a professorial chair in East Asian and Pacific Studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. The students and professors discovered this and forced the school to reject the donation. To save face, the Marcoses were allowed to finance several seminars and lectures.

Nov. 2, 1977: Still at her shopping spree, Imelda paid $450,000 for a gold necklace and bracelet with emeralds, rubies and diamonds; $300,000 for a gold ring with emeralds and diamonds; and $300,000 for a gold pendant with diamonds, rubies and 39 emeralds.

July 1978: After a trip to Russia , Imelda arrived in New York and immediately warmed up for a shopping spree. She started with paying $193,320 for antiques, including $12,000 for a Ming Period side table; $24,000 for a pair of Georgian mahogany Gainsborough armchairs; $6,240 for a Sheraton double-sided writing desk; $11,600 for a George II wood side table with marble top, all in the name of the Philippine consulate to dodge New York sales tax.

That was merely for starters.

A week later, she spent $2,181,000.00 in one day! This included $1,150,000 for a platinum and emerald bracelet with diamonds from Bulgari; $330,000 for a necklace with a ruby, diamonds, and emeralds; $300,000 for a ring with heart-shaped emeralds; $78,000 for 18-carat gold ear clips with diamonds; $300,000 for a pendant with canary diamonds, rubies and emeralds on a gold chain.

After New York, she dropped by Hong Kong where a Cartier representative admitted it was this Filipina, Imelda, who had put together the world's largest collection of gems-in 1978.

May 1979: The Marcos couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in a party that cost $5,000,000.00 There was a silver carriage drawn by eight white horses.

Nov. 23, 1978: A house was purchased at 4 Capshire Drive in Cherry Hill, New Jersey (actually near Philadelphia where Bongbong was taking courses at that time) for use by servants and Bongbong's security detachment. The Marcoses did not neglect their annual real estate purchase. During this year and next year, 1979, they purchased two properties, one at 3850 Princeton Pike, Princeton,a 13-acre estate for use by daughter Imee as she attended Princeton .

The other was a house at 19 Pendleton Drive in Cherry Hill for use of Bongbong and under the name of Tristan Beplat, erstwhile head of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.

April 1979: In two days in New York this month, Imelda spent $280,000 for a necklace wet with emeralds and diamonds; $18,500 for a yellow gold evening bag with one round cut diamond; $8,975.20 for 20-carat gold ear clips with 24 baguette diamonds; $8,438.10 for 18-carat gold ear clips with 52 tapered baguette diamonds; and $12,056.50 for 20-carat gold ear clips with diamonds.

June 1980: For $1,577,000.00 in New York Imelda buys Webster Hotel on West 45th Street. She rewards Gen. Romeo Gatan as a limited partner. Gatan arrested Ninoy at the beginning of martial law.

The insurgents' ranks grew by 20 percent a year. Meritorious officers in the armed forces experienced low moral due to Marcos' penchant for promoting friends over more deserving officers.

Feb. 16, 1986: In Fe's records of monies paid out during Marcos' last campaign, one unusually large item was authorized by "FL" (First Lady) and paid to Assemblyman Arturo Pacificador on this day. A few days later, two carloads
of men drove into San Jose, the provincial capital of Antique. Evelio Javier, head of Aquino's campaign, was watching the votes being counted when the men opened fire and killed Evelio after he was still able to run through town but finally got cornered in a public toilet where he was gunned down in front of shocked townspeople. Pacificador was later convicted of the murder.

Feb. 25, 1986: Marcos fled the Philippines, leaving behind a foreign debt of $27 billion and a bureaucracy gone mad. "Cash advances" for the elections from the national treasury amounted to Php3.12 billion ($150 million). The Central
Bank printed millions of peso bills, many with the same serial number. Sixty million pesos in newly printed bills were found in a vehicle owned by Imelda's brother Bejo in the Port Area of Manila, and another Php 100 million aboard the mv Legaspi also owned by Bejo Romualdez.

How massive and humongous a loot Marcos took can be deduced from the known losses he left behind. The known losses he left at the Central Bank included $1.2 billion in missing reserves and $6 billion in the Special Accounts.

Imelda charged off most of her spending sprees to the Philippine National Bank (PNB) which creatively wrote off her debts as "unresponded transfers".

Ver also used PNB funds to finance his "intelligence" operations.

The known losses at the PNB amounted to Php72.1 billion.

At the DBP, the losses Marcos left behind totaled Php85 billion; at the Philguarantee, it was Php 6.2 billion ; and at the NIDC or National Investment and Development Corporation (NDC). The losses amounted to Php 2.8 billion.

These losses were primarily due to cronyism or giving loans to cronies who had little or no collateral, whose corporations were under-capitalized, whose loan proceeds were not used for the avowed purpose, and where the practice of corporate layering was common, i.e. using two or more companies with the same incorporators and officers, whereby one company which gives the loan owns the company which obtains the loan, or similar arrangements.

The cronies enjoyed their closeness to Marcos. With him they formed a Grand Coalition. They participated in the exercise of dictatorship. But Marcos owned them. The wealth of the cronies belonged to him. Because of the free rides taken by Imelda, Marcos and their cronies, the Philippine Airlines was in debt by $13.8 billion.

The conservative Grand Total for losses Marcos left behind (and therefore the kind of loot he grabbed and hid) amounted to $17.1 billion. The Central Bank, the PNB and other financial institutions badly need an audit. The special review (not regular audit because there seems not to have been any-there are no records anyway) did not uncover Imelda's spending-her name never appeared-and Ver's intelligence fund. The review gave no hint of theft or missing money, only "downward adjustments" and "proposed adjustments" to "deficiencies" and "shortages of money".

Feb. 26, 1986: A few hours after the Marcos party landed in Honolulu, their luggage arrived:300 crates on board a C-141 cargo jet. It took 25 customs officers five hours to tag the bags and identify the contents. The
process was videotaped because of all the money and jewelry found inside. There were 278 crates of jewelry and art worth an estimated US$5 million. Twenty-two crates contained more than Php27.7 million in newly minted currency, mostly P100- denominations worth approximately US $1,270,000.(It was illegal at that time for anyone to depart the Philippines carrying more than US$500 in cash.)

There were other certificates of deposit from Philippine banks worth about US$1 million, five handguns, 154 videotapes, seventeen cassette tapes, and 2,068 pages of documents, all of which were impounded by Customs.

The Marcos party was allowed to keep only US$300,000.00 in gold and $150,000.00 in bearer bonds that they brought in with their personal luggage because they declared them and broke no US customs laws.

There were 24 one-kilo gold bars fitted into 2 0$17,000 hand-tooled Gucci briefcase with a solid gold buckle and a plaque on it that read, "To Ferdinand Marcos, from Imelda, on the Occasion of our 24th Wedding Anniversary. "

February 1986: When Marcos departed the Philippines, the losses in the three Central Bank accounts surpassed Php 122 billion (more than $6 billion). The big bulk of losses was attributed to the RIR account mainly due to two items: forward cover and swap contracts. Forward cover referred to foreign exchange provided by the CB at a fixed exchange rate to importers of essential commodities. Swap contracts referred to CB's receiving foreign exchange from banks in exchange for pesos at the prevailing rate with a promise to deliver the foreign exchange back to them at an agreed future date. There was no mention of losses due to CB transactions in gold or foreign exchange.

Feb. 28, 1986: On this day, Jim Burke, security expert from the US Embassy, was tapping on the wooden paneling in Imelda's abandoned Malacanang bedroom when he heard a hollow sound. It was the walk-in vault. Inside were 35 suitcases secured with locks and tape. They contained a treasure trove of documents about Swiss bank accounts, New York real estate, foundations in Vaduz, and some notepaper on which Marcos had practiced his William Saunders signature. They also contained jewelry valued at some US$10.5 million.

March 16, 1986: Did Marcos steal any gold from the CB? The CB always refused to comment. Why?

Today the LA Times reported that 6.325 metric tons of gold was unaccounted for in the Central Bank. Between 1978, the year Marcos ordered all gold producers to sell only to the CB, and end 1984, the Bureau of Mines reported that 124,234 pounds of gold were refined. But the CB reported receiving only 110,319 pounds during this same period.

That left a difference of 13,915 pounds (6.325 metric tons).

March 1986: Jokingly referring to themselves as the Office of National Revenge, a vigilante team led by Charlie Avila and Linggoy Alcuaz received a tip in the morning that Marcos' daughter Imee had kept a private office in the suburb of Mandaluyong at 82 Edsa. They obtained a search warrant, then rushed to Camp Crame to pick up some soldiers. After devising a plan, they boarded four cars and drove to the premises, arriving around midnight. The soldiers scaled a fence and sealed off the area. Avila, Alcuaz, and their men moved in and found documents in cardboard boxes, desks and filing cabinets. Gunfire could be heard outside,but it didn't deter the search.

The documents revealed the names of offshore companies and overseas investments of Marcos and his cronies, a late link in the paper trail that had been started abroad by the teams of Avila, Steve Psinakis, Sonny Alvarez, Raul Daza, Boni Gillego, and Raul Manglapus.

March 09, 1986: A Greek-American, Demetrios Roumeliotes, was stopped at the Manila International Airport before he could leave with eight large envelopes stuffed with jewelry that he admitted belonged to Imelda and valued at US$4.7

March 15, 1986: Ernie Maceda, Minister of Natural Resources, revealed today that some 7 to 14 tons of Philippine gold are sold to the Binondo Central Bank annually and then smuggled to Sabah , Malaysia, this gold being part of some 20
tons produced by 200,000 panners all over the country. Maceda's query was whether part of the gold they produced was siphoned to the "invisible gold hoard of Ms. Imelda R. Marcos."

"We deliver to the Central Bank," the miners said. "If it happened (the siphoning), it happened in the Central Bank."

Is it true that Marcos propagated the Yamashita myth to hide the fact that he looted the Central Bank, that its gold bars were melted down and recast in odd-size bars to make them look old (how does gold look old, anyway?). Marcos claimed that he "received the surrender of Gen. Yamashita" after a battle with his guerrilla outfit. History has recorded that Yamashita surrendered to Lt. Co. Aubrey Smith Kenworthy and that there was no battle.

Yamashita's peaceful surrender had been arranged at least two weeks before the event.

In one entry in Marcos' diary he noted, "I often wonder what I will be remembered for in history. Scholar? Military hero…?" In a supreme irony, he did achieve what he so vainly sought--lasting fame--but not in the way he envisioned:

* The largest human rights case in history - 10,000 victims.
* Guinness Book of Records - the world's greatest thief.
* The largest monetary award in history - $22 billion.

Sept. 30, 1986: Questioned by Philippine and US lawyers about his hidden wealth, Marcos took the Fifth Amendment, 197 times. Imelda followed suit, 200 times.

December 1989: An American jury found the Marcos estate liable for $15 million in the killing of anti-Marcos activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo. Manglapus, Psinakis, Gillego and other erstwhile exile oppositionists testified at the

Nov. 4, 1991: Today, a Sunday, the circus came to town. The Swiss Federal Tribunal had ruled the year before that the Philippine government must comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, especially due process. There had to be a lawsuit filed within one year. Thus, the solicitor general's office filed all sorts of cases against Imelda and the government had to allow her to return to answer the charges.

"I come home penniless," she tearfully said on arrival. She then repaired to her suite at the Philippine Plaza Hotel which cost $2,000 a day and rented 60 rooms for her entourage: American lawyers, American security guards and American PR firms.

December 1991: The Central Bank had accumulated losses of Php324 billion in the Special Accounts.

Nov. 30, 1992: The Central Bank losses were Php561 billion and climbing. CB Gov. Cuisia asked that the CB be restructured. Sen. Romulo asked to see the 1983 audit of the international reserves. He couldn't get a copy. It was "restricted" .

Jan. 5, 1993: Imelda didn't show up for the scheduled signing of a new PCGG agreement. She kept vacillating on the terms and conditions, demanding she be allowed to travel abroad for 33 days to confer with bank officials in Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong and Morocco to work out the transfer of the frozen funds.

Actually, she was hoping a guy she had authorized, J.T.Calderon, would be able to move the funds just as the order was lifted, before the government had a chance to transfer them to Manila. When the government discovered the authority, all negotiations with Imelda were halted and her requests for travel suspended.

Aug. 10, 1993: Georges Philippe, a Swiss lawyer of Imelda, wrote today a confidential letter to the Marcoses' old Swiss lawyer, Bruno de Preux, who handled almost all of the Marcos family's hidden accounts in Switzerland . Philippe requested de Preux for the status of:

A $750 million account with United Mizrahi Bank in Zurich; various currency and gold deposits at the Union Bank of Switzerland, at Kloten airport and at Credit Suisse; a $356 million account (now in escrow and worth almost $600 million) which was being claimed by the PCGG.

1994: The human rights jury awarded the victims $1.2 billion in exemplary damages, then $766.4 million in compensatory damages a year after that, for a total of $1.964 billion. Two days after, another $7.3 million was awarded to 21 Filipinos in a separate lawsuit.

1995: The US Supreme Court upheld the $1.2 billion judgment.

March 29, 1995: The Swiss Parliament passed a law (an amendment to a previous act) that removed the need for a final judgment of criminal conviction of the accused (such as the Marcoses) in the case of criminally acquired assets which
could now therefore be returned to claimants (such as the Philippine government) by Swiss court order.

July 1996: In part because of the torture of Roger Roxas, $22 billion was awarded to his Golden Budha Corporation.

Dec. 10, 1997: The Swiss Supreme Court promulgated a landmark decision that took into account the March 1995 Swiss Parliament act and the fact that new criminal cases had been filed against Imelda Marcos.

The court held that there was no need for any criminal proceeding; that a civil or administrative proceeding would suffice, and the Marcos Swiss deposits which had been "criminally acquired" can be returned to the Philippines in deference to the final judgment of the Philippine court as to the ownership of these deposits.

The Swiss court also announced that the interest and reputation of Switzerland was at stake if it would become a haven for money launderers laundering money obtained by crime. Therefore, in the case of the Marcos deposits, because "the illegal source of the assets in this case cannot be doubted" the Swiss court ordered that the money be returned to the Philippines to be held in escrow account in the PNB to await the judgment of the Sandiganbayan in the forfeiture case.

By the way, on Jan. 17, 1975 a secret decree not made public until after the Edsa insurrection was signed by Marcos stating that in the event he became incapacitated or died, power would be turned over to Imelda.

On June 7, 1975, in his own handwriting, Marcos amended the January 17th decree and clarified Imelda's role as chairperson of committee with presidential powers.

In February 1979, Imelda was named chairman of the cabinet committee, composed of all ministries, to launch the BLISS (Bagong Lipunan Sites and Services) program, an ambitious attempt to centralize control of all economic and social development. She assumed responsibility for the "11 needs of Man" codified in her ministry's mufti-year Human Settlements Plan, 1978-2000.

By 1986, the number of Filipinos living below the poverty line doubled from 18 million in 1965 to 35 million. And the ecological balance of the country had degraded from 75 to 27 percent forest cover remaining with 39 million acres of forest falling victim to rampant logging. This was BLISS.

She was also the head of the Metro Manila Commission, which by year-end 1985 had managed to accumulate debts of Php 1.99 billion (which included $100 million in foreign loans) in its 10 years of existence. Imelda had accomplished nothing and left the people embittered and even more disillusioned.

In September 1992, Marcos was found guilty of violating the human rights of 10,000 victims. The ruling occurred just after a judge found Imee Marcos-Manotoc guilty of the torture and murder of Archimedes Trajano, a 21 year old engineering student at Mapua who had the temerity to ask Imee after a speech she gave whether the Kabataang Barangay (a national youth group) "must be headed by the President's daughter?"
Imee and brother Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marco, Jr. have been active in the political scene.. Bongbong, who finished three terms as Ilocos Norte governor, is now running for Senator under Presidential bet, Manny Villar's senatorial slate. He has been quoted as saying that if given a chance, he'd like to run for President one day...(gads).

Bongbong is now a Senator, Imelda is governor of Ilocos Norte and Imee is in Congress. The MARCOSES are back in full force thanks to our "despicable amnesia" as aptly described by the eminent writer, F. Sionil Jose.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Japanese Lessons

These timeless reminders came in the mail today. The sender requested that they be shared.Here they are:
What can the world learn from the Japanese who are patiently and ably bearing the brunt of nature's fury due to their location in the ring of fire (volcano, fault lines, tectonic plate ddge)?

Not a single visual of chest beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.
Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.
The incredible architecture. Buildings swayed but didn't fall.
People bought only what they needed for the present so everybody could get something.
No looting in shops, no honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.
Fifty workers stayed behind to pump sea water in the nuclear reactors. How will they ever be repaid?
Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.
The old and the children knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.
They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.
When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.

Can we share these virtues with our children, family and friends? This courtesy of sharing valuable information might go a long way in reminding people about the path of propriety.

The whole Universe is my family.
Everything in the Universe has a purpose.
Indeed, the invisible intelligence
that flows through everything
in a purposeful fashion
is also flowing through you.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan reacts after he feels the earthquake during a committee meeting in parliament in Tokyo.
Source of photo:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chamber Music at its Best (and for a Cause Again)

Violinist Gina Medina and Pianist Mary Anne Espina will perform at the UP Balay Kalinaw International House Conference Hall on May 28.

The presentor, Music News and Features, is donating 30 tickets at P500 each for the Ericson Acosta Legal Defense Fund.

To reserve your tickets, contact the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign through Sarah Katrina Maramag (0921-7417-469) or leave a message at the Free Ericson Acosta Facebook page.

Music News & Features Intimate Concert Series 6: Chamber Music At Its Best!

“The recital of the year was the evening of French music called Le French Soire featuring violinist Gina Medina and pianist Mary Anne Espina. The Faure was a brilliant opener, Ravel unleashed a lot of sensuality and Saint-Saens was a superb conclusion. The rapport was excellent. But on their own, Medina and Espina gave their audiences a rare glimpse of their artistry honed to sensitive maturity through the years.”--Philippine Daily Inquirer

Saturday, May 28 at 6 p.m.
UP Balay Kalinaw International House Conference Hall,
Guerrero and Dagohoy Sts.
University of the Philippines campus
Diliman, Quezon City

Tickets at P1,000 (with buffet dinner), P500 (concert only)
Capacity: 90 seats


Romantic Pieces Antonin Dvorak

"Praeludium and Allegro"
Fritz Kreisler

"Rondino on a Theme of Beethoven"
"Schon Rosmarin"
"Spanish Dance in E minor"
Enrique Granados

"Danse Espagnole" from La Vida Breve
Manuel de Falla

"Sarung Bangui"
Folk Song-Kabayao

Nicanor Abelardo

"Hating Gabi"
Antonio Molina

"Bayan Ko"
De Guzman-Romero

The performing artists: Gina Medina, violin, and Mary Anne Espina, piano

Gina Medina was an attraction of the Filipino Artist Series of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2001 and has performed as soloist Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, the Manila Symphony Orchestra, PREDIS Chamber Orchestra, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Orchestra, among others. A two-time first prize winner of the National Music Competition for Young Artists, Medina was awarded a French government scholarship which gave her the opportunity to join several music festivals in France and to study with Olivier Charlier, Dong Suk-Kang, Philippe Bride and the Amadeus Quartet. After her stint in France,she got a full scholarship to study at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where she trained under Prof. Pavel Prantl, and Barry Wilde, concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1994, Ms.Medina was chosen concertmaster of the Asian Youth Orchestra (AYO) under the baton of Maestro Sergiu Commissiona which toured Taiwan, Japan and the United States in 1995. As member of the AYO Chamber Orchestra, she had the opportunity to perform at the White House, the United Nations during its 50th Anniversary celebration and at the APEC Conference in Osaka, Japan, as concertmaster.

Mary Anne Espina is one of the most sought after collaborating artists in the country today. She continues to team up with outstanding local and international artists in major concert and recital venues in the country. Some of her notable collaborations are those with Filipino pianist Nena del Rosario-Villanueva at the People’s Republic of China: French violinist Frederic Pellassy; Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham; Russian violinist Anstacia Chebotareva, winner of the Tchaikovsky and Paganini Competitions; soprano Joan Gibbons; renowned Filipino tenor Otoniel Gonzaga; American cellist Stephen Framil; German violinist Angelo Bard, Romanian violinist Alexandru Tomescu and recently with French baritone, Jerome Correas. She has figured in the Intimate Concert Series with soprano Camille Lopez Molina, baritones Andrew Fernando and Noel Azcona, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz and flutist Christopher Oracion.

Call 748-4152 or text +63906-510-4270 for ticket reservations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Extended at Nineveh for Holy Week

"My Romance," one of six simultaneous visual art shows at Nineveh Art Space/Jonah's House of Prayer in Laguna, is still up until Easter Sunday.

This blogger has four works on exhibit there: "Flipper and Son Meet Semi-retired Surfer Girl," "Mother, I Have Something to Tell You," "Pleasantly Detached" and "Bunny Hop." Only the second painting is not for sale. All four acrylic on canvas paintings measure 48 x 24 inches.

Nineveh is at 2452 First Avenue, Villa Silangan, Santa Cruz, Laguna.Santa Cruz is the town before Pagsanjan.

Getting there: From McDonald's in Santa Cruz, go through Valenzuela street, then turn right, turn left immediately to Villa Silangan.

For those taking the bus to Santa Cruz, there is the HM Transit terminal on Monte de Piedad and EDSA terminal, on the right side of the avenue, right after Dagupan Transit.

The six shows may also be viewed at this site:

The other shows are:"Basta" by the Samson brothers (Julius, Jerson, Jaypee and Rey Jr.), "Alab ng Puso" by Raphael Patnubay Pagarigan, "Bigkis ng Obra" by Lito Ballaran and Dante Palmes, "Spiral Underground" by Jojit Solano and Patrick Fernandez and "Kalye Kwadrado" by Patrick Bacolor and Boni de Guzman.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Unang Yakap

Our first grand-daughter Kai Mykonos, alias Button to me, Butones to my brother Junic in Calgary, Canada, plain Kai to everybody else, is blessed with so many angels watching over her as soon as she was born a week ago tomorrow, April 11. She had a prolonged stay at the hospital nursery as her fragile body fought an infection despite an Apgar score of 10 at birth.

Well, Button is a fighter like all the girls and women in our family. She has tasted the "milk of human kindness," as Shakespeare put it, with donations of milk from friends who're nursing mothers themselves (Sari Dalena and Marga L. Susi). Another friend predicted that Button will grow into a kind, gentle woman because she has known what it is like to taste of the willingly given milk of other women. Indeed, that can only be the wish of Button's mother Kimi and her lola, grand-aunts, great grand-aunts, cousins and titas.

And on Friday night this week, the tense, nearly sleepless-from-worry lola, alias booboo/labeth and other funny shibboleths suggested by friends, first held her Button with a sigh of gratitude to a universe that constantly assures the sometimes weak-kneed and the wavering that all worries will pass, that all things will fall into place and that all will be well


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The One Last Secret: A Hasidic Story

This folk tale I learned from my spiritual directors (all women) when I attended a retreat. It reverberates resoundingly, especially at this time in this blogger's life.

A psychic friend told me recently one's destiny is not made known again until that point when sun and moon meet at a certain age in a woman's life. And usually it is that age when a woman moves from mother to grandmother. She goes through a difficult purification or cleansing rite that includes shedding things, even people, she no longer needs in her soul's journey. The choice leads the new grandmother to a forked road: to become a crone or a witch.

There is an old Hasidic tale that tells that from the moment each of us is conceived and for the next nine months, God whispers to us, all of the secrets of the universe.

While we grow in the womb of our mothers, we hear how stars are born and why they twinkle. We come to know rainbows and who it is who bends them and holds them tied to the earth. We learn where it is that birds go when they fly so high that you can no longer see them, and why waves always come into the shore and never out.

For nine long months God tells each of us what there is to know of his creation.

Then, after he has told us all, he shares with us one last secret—that we are loved totally and completely by him.

Having learned all there is to know, we are then ready to be born into this world. But in the process of being born, we forget all of the secrets we had learned, even the fact that God loves us, and is with us, and is in us.

We then spend the rest of our lives trying to remember, to learn again, the secrets we knew once before.

Grandmother looking at her first grandchild

Photo of perigree moon of March 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Earth Landing

"YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE. No less than the trees and stars, you have a right to be here and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."--from Desiderata

Kai Mykonos, a.k.a Button, born to Kimi Lolarga Fernandez, on April 4, 2011, weighing 6.9 lbs. and 50 cms. long

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gilda Cordero Fernando as Life Coach

Gilda Cordero Fernando. The Last Full Moon: Lessons on My Life. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press and GCF Books. 2005. 250pp.

Sylvia Mendez Ventura. A Literary Journey with Gilda Cordero Fernando. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press. 2005. 174pp.

Was he being cantankerous or issuing a left-handed compliment when the Grand Ole Man of Letters Nick Joaquin once said of Gilda Cordero Fernando: "We have no other writer capable of such sublime nonsense?"

We have reason to object for the woman is far from flighty, superficial and wispy. Talk of woman of substance, of Mother Earth and sexy septuagenarian all in one! Every writer, male or female, looks up to her for her accomplishments as fiction writer, essayist, editor, publisher, theater producer, fashionista, art patron, painter and what her best pal Mariel Francisco describes as "national cultural visionary…an outstanding voice in the expression of the evolving Filipino world view."
Heck! Fernando should've been named National Artist for Literature (or even Multi-media if the authorities ever put up such a category) years ago if not for the corrosive power struggles that mark the, ahem, sublime world of arts and culture.

Now in the autumn of her life, still garbed in avant-garde threads sewn by who's ever hot in the couture world, seen by literary scholar and friend Ventura as "keep(ing) old age at bay by moisturizing her unblemished skin, exorcising the demons of arthritis, hanging out with young adults, and, above all, keeping passion alive," Fernando, 75 this year, gifts us with a compendium of life lessons earned the hard, soul-cleaning way.

Critic Ventura zeroes in on the three central themes that inform Fernando's creative non-fiction (including Ladies' Lunch and Other Ways to Wholeness and A Spiritual Pillow Book, jointly authored, by the way, with Francisco): "her hostility toward her mother, her unequivocal love for her father, and the bewildering state of her marriage."

Not too long ago, writer Bobbie Malay said she still had to read a Filipino woman writer deal honestly with her relationship with her mother, raw emotions and all, not sweetness and light, the way the Frenchwoman Simone de Beauvoir did with her mother. Not too long after that, along came Fernando, and in this she breaks new ground for hasn't Francisco called her an "active door opener," a synonym for trailblazer?

In the third chapter of her memoirs , "The Soap Opera," Fernando uses a no-holds-barred language to describe a violent quarrel between her parents where she witnesses "my father standing on the stair landing, the top of his silk pajamas in shreds and my mother trying to claw off the trousers. Through a big tear on a pants leg, a bit of his penis was showing."

As an only child for 13 years before her sister Tess was born in the wartime, Fernando saw her Mama's upheavals, the hurling of things on the floor at the height of unreasonable anger. Once she threw a bottle of Mercurochrome and a splinter lodged in her daughter's wrist. To this day Fernando bears the scar.

During those pre-Bantay Bata years, the young Gilda, who was spanked with a slipper and almost strangled (with no intention to kill though), was pained to see how the outbursts, quick though they may have been to dissipate, hurt and annoyed those who heard the terrible words. No dirty word though, the author would grant her mother that. When the girl entered her teens, the mother guarded her more fiercely. "She made me guilty, like I were some lascivious child who would run off with the first guy I met."

The worst was the effect on the child's self-esteem. "My mother," Fernando writes, "made me feel that I was the worst person that ever got seeded on this earth…After a while, no matter how hard she beat her devil child, I didn't feel anything. That's why I understand it when the political prisoners say that beatings don't hurt anymore after a while. You get immune."

In her adulthood, Fernando confronted her aged mother about those beatings, and the woman denied everything. The author rues, "It was as if the God upstairs had given me a mother with so many gifts and talents and said, But you're not about to get them for free! You have to learn every lesson laid before you."

As her maturity deepened along with her well of compassion, Fernando realizes that her Mama, who lost her own mother at age five, also had a self-esteem problem to the point that she thought Gilda "wasn't a good-looking baby. It took a while to convince her that I looked fine…My mother's low self-esteem couldn't convince her that she deserved a pretty child." Fernando adds sympathetically, "But how could I blame her for faulty parenting when she barely had a mama herself?"

Fernando hauls out her honed skills in food description in recreating the dishes that came from her mother's kitchen, a strong point of this older woman with whom Gilda had a lifelong battle. "She liked serving fancy stuff—an incomparable lengua, a capon stuffed with sotanghon and chestnuts, a big fish bathed in mayonnaise and garnished with separate bands of minced carrots, hard-boiled eggs, and sugar beets…Sometimes there was wintermelon soup which was rich chicken broth in a big oiled kundol which stood on its end in a magnificent bowl."

Ventura notes that Fernando's "food essays transcend the usual articles on gourmet feasts served in gated subdivisions and patrician restaurants; they also portray the lifeways of the common folk, their beliefs, superstitions, customs, and culinary procedures which may be old-fashioned but pleasing enough to the palate." (See Philippine Food and Life as an example. Fernando considers it her "best book.")

The critic asks Fernando "if she ever drools while writing her essays on succulent food, and her answer is 'Never, pagod na pagod ako.' But her exhaustion never betrays itself, so smooth and effortless is her style."

Back to Consuelo Luna Cordero, Fernando's mother whose influence is far-reaching in her sense of style and grooming. There is a precious chapter on "Mother's beauty secrets that I learned (and unlearned)" wherein the young Gilda is dolled up in Shirley Temple minis that had her pulling down the hem of her dress to hide her panties.

All the way to her 70s when she was producing the theater extravaganza Luna: An Aswang Romance, Fernando still had an axe to grind against her mother. "Not coincidentally," she writes, "my mother's family name is Luna. To me the aswang in the play represents all the things I had not liked about my mother. We were forever quarreling. She had lots of energy which I felt she drew from anger and nervousness. It was like aswang energy. She did not draw from a higher source and her unbridled nervous energy consumed her as it almost consumed me…My black chick was obviously the residual resentment against my mother."

As the production drew close to its premiere, Fernando, in the privacy of her home, dances and flings her arms to the moon, saying, "Mother, forgive me." At 70 she realizes that she also had her share of blame in their "sorry relationship. I had always felt that she was the older one, the parent, and should know better…But now the tables were turned. I realized that even in her intransigence my mother, too, had suffered. And for the first time in my life I felt free of any baggage!" The reader identifies with the closure finally reached.

As for being the apple of her father's eye, Fernando has nothing but good memories of Dr. Narciso Cordero who helped her with her arithmetic and later her algebra, geomety, physics and trigonometry, who read the entire Les Miserables by Victor Hugo while she had a bout of flu, who taught her how to bike during the Japanese Occupation when there was no gas, who softly played a makeshift flute-recorder as she drifted to sleep.

The writer observes how opposite as night and day her parents were: "A cautious man, my daddy descended the stairs on cat feet, one step at a time, holding on to the banister; mama nimbly negotiated the stairs in high-heeled shoes. My father saved money; my mother spent it. He was an indefatigable string-saver, pencil-stub hoarder and soap-paster; my mother blew the money saved on fondue casseroles and imported pink and blue cigarettes…My mother liked to cook; my father disliked to eat. If papa could take his food intravenously, he would be a much happier man."

This is Fernando at her best talking, not hiding behind the screen of fiction. As Ventura notes, "Gilda made a smart decision when she chose to give up fiction for creative non-fiction in the hope that she would attract a wider audience. Her readership expanded, indeed, and she harvested more prestigious awards than she did for her short stories….The fiction-writing instinct has, however, remained embedded in her psyche and has added sparkle to her essays."

Ventura describes Fernando's style as fusing "the methods of traditional exposition (facts, truths, theories) with the forms of creative non-fiction (narration, description, figurative language) in a style marked by vigor, color, and grace."

For choosing writing as her main line, Fernando is grateful to a wartime teacher, a Maryknoll nun stationed in Malabon where Gilda's family fled. She writes, "In every person's life there is someone, usually a teacher, who blazes a path to one's professional life. Sister Maria del Rey did that for me. She had been a Pittsburgh reporter before she became a nun and could certainly practice what she preached. She taught us how to observe things around us and how to describe them in great detail in writing."

While their class was required to write daily themes, by the end of the schoolyear, it was only the young Gilda who persisted on writing till the task "had become a loving, one-to-one tutorial between Sister del Rey and me."

The other person with a lifelong, still continuing influence on Fernando's life is her choice of a mate, Marcelo, whom she described in his youth as "unobstrusive…refined and sophisticated. I was impressed that he subscribed to the New Yorker magazine whose articles I adored. He was intelligent though not particularly sociable, a strong silent type with some mysterious underground current." But most of all she liked the fact that "he never made me feel insecure. I knew that he would take care of me forever and ever."

Although the chemistry that drew them was electric (pun intended; Marcelo Fernando rose to become a corporate executive at Meralco), the marriage went through decades of strife and adjustments. Fernando quips, "Some friends claimed that their marriages were made in heaven; ours seemed more like it was made in a barbecue pit."

One of the sore points that Fernando saw was her husband "both liked my being a writer and hated it because it was the star on top of the litany of interests that we did not share." Furthermore, "more than any man, woman, or child, my husband considered my writing his rival. And maybe so, because it was my passion. I could pour into a piece of paper all my anguish, my fantasies, and my secret desires. I could create a dwelling place, a holy of holies that no one could enter."

The modus vivendi they arrive at is: "I would attend all his Meralco parties and all the birthdays of his relatives but he would never go to any of mine. And he promised to keep supporting me in style all my life. I kinda felt shortchanged there but then how could you win, he's a lawyer."

Any writer, especially a perennially insolvent one, would agree wholeheartedly to such terms. They remain the secret of the couple's more than 50 years of togetherness. "If we shut a door between us, it was only a physical door, to create the space within that is the real sustenance."

In "Private Spaces," Fernando elucidates this idea further. After years of trying to create her own physical space away from the husband's snoring, nighttime reading lamp and TV watching, she finds that she can "create a room of your own within. Meditation could create that space. So could solitary biking, or running, or swimming, or slow dancing, or playing the piano, or painting, or being absorbed in work you love."

She hints on how she learns to forgive Marcelo's indiscretions and "I found I had landed at home. I finally accepted my partner's love the way it was, and had always been, warts and all, with no conditions, realizing at last that the only private space is being at peace with yourself and the one you love."

She once asked her husband what in their life he liked the most. His answer: "That we learned not to get in each other's way." In poetic terms it means: "Giving each other lots of room to grow." The formula works, whether with heterosexual couples wedded in the 1950s like the Fernandos or homosexual pairings in this era.

The essay "Welcome to the grace years" provides other pointers for couples who think their partnerships are falling apart. In one of her epiphanies, Fernando enters her husband's room to find why she had loved him all these years. "…(O)n the shelves were all shapes and sizes of tapes, batteries, scissors, glue, stacks of coin, strings, magnets, clips, pencils, ballpens, post-it, envelopes…I could rely on him—not just for pens and things—but for everything! Advice on an investment, a trip, a gift, the right word, the right wine, the name of a foreign dish…He grounded me and I felt safe with him. He was my Rock of Gibraltar. Never mind if rocks don't fly or kiss and aren't so sociable. Providing is caring, it is love, and how often that is taken for granted."

In "All about happiness," Fernando hazards a scenario where she and Marcelo are always together "maybe in the next lifetime…But for now let him be just him, and me, me. Twin hearts only when we choose to be." Truly a fairy tale for the millennium.

Ventura's conclusion is Fernando is able to "make senior citizenship look and sound funny. As funny as the weird women in her paintings, swathed in wild colors, frizzy hair askew, pouting, grimacing, pursing their lips, piercing you with witchy eyes, gazing tenderly at a crescent moon."

Columnist Alfred A. Yuson's gripe over Fernando's book is that it sounds like "a sort of swan song, ironically enough from the Grace Kelly of Philippine literature." On hearing of this, Fernando, holding a glass of red wine, shook her head and laughed , "But Grace Kelly is the Ice Queen. I'm the hotsie patootsie of my generation!"

This review by Elizabeth Lolarga was first published in Ti Similla, academic newsletter of the University of the Philippines Baguio and in Frank Cimatu's blog, back in 2004 or 2005 (blogger with short-term memory loss forgets exact date so what else is new?). Photo of Gilda from her Facebook fan page

Friday, April 1, 2011

'If I Should Have a Daughter' by Sarah Kay

This blogger is dedicating this repost to all those who've borne and raised children, no matter how clumsily, all those who are about to bear children, all those who have known pain inflicted by partners and other people, "the other people" that Jean-Paul Sartre referred to when he said there is no hell because hell is, well, other people.


If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B. Because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me.

And I’m going to paint the solar systems on the backs of her hands, so she has to learn the entire Universe before she can say, “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

And she’s going to learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach, but getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder Woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself.

'Cause no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal, believe me, I’ve tried.

"And baby", I'll tell her, "don't keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, I've done it a million times. You're just smelling for smoke, so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him, or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him".

But I know she will anyway, so instead I'll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can't fix. Okay. There’s a few heartbreaks that chocolate can't fix, but that's what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything, if you let it.

I want her to look at the world through the underside of a glass-bottom boat, to look through a microscope at the Galaxies that exist on the pinpoint of a human mind, because that's the way my Mom taught me that there'll be days like this...

"There'll be days like this" my Mama said, when you open your hands to catch, and wind up with only blisters and bruises, when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly, and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape, when your boots will fill with rain and you'll be up to your knees in disappointment, and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say "Thank you".

'Cause there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.

You will put the win in win some, lose some, you will put the star in starting over, and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called Life.

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting, I am pretty damn naive, but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar, it can crumble so easily, but don't be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

"Baby" I'll tell her "remember your Mama is a Warrior, and your Papa is a Warrior, and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes, who never stops asking for more.

Remember that good things come in threes, and so do bad things, and always apologize when you've done something wrong, but don't you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

Your voice is small, but don't ever stop singing, and when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door, and offer you handouts on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your Mother.


Reposting John Silva's Letter to Manny Pangilinan

The author of this open letter, John Silva, permitted this blogger to repost his missive to the chair of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone company.The blogger read this first in Facebook.
Letter to Manny Pangilinan
by John Silva on Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 13:45

Mr. Manny Pangilinan

Dear Mr. Pangilinan,

What’s befuddling about this Jan-Jan incident is you.

You run a fairly sizeable empire, created wealth and jobs, feted and awarded as a management genius and could ride out the next decade as statesman, philanthropist and businessman extraordinaire.

Yet, you also have a television station with a reviled noontime show host who through the years demeaned the poor by dangling money and promoting begging and at one point causing a stampede killing 74 women and children. Other Willie Revillame daily fare has been to insult women and do anti-gay buffoonery. And now this host coaxes a young crying boy named Jan-Jan to dance like a male stripper and get 10K that either came from your company or from sponsors.

There seems to be a disconnect here. You have all these income streams, the envy of many companies here and abroad and yet, there’s one, probably not even profitable at this point, that secures corporate sponsorship and charges air time to get an audience hooting and howling over sick and lewd contests.

You’re urbane and probably like me have gone to a strip show at some point. If you haven’t, I’ll tell you that it’s not really much fun being in seedy places and the guys or gals on stage are going through the motions of looking sexy but if anyone had a scintilla of compassion can catch glimpses of humiliation through the hubris.

So what made your producers and Willie think this was going to be fun for a six-year old boy? At that age, he could only cry.

The only other country that does this sordid thing is Afghanistan where fundamentalist Taliban men coax their boy lovers to dance or get beaten up and killed if they don’t do it well. At least we are not at that stage yet but could if this filth continues.

So, I’m back to wondering, if you seemingly have the wherewithal to make your companies profitable here and in the region, doing it the old Capitalist way, why do you have to stoop down to make money by mimicking the sleaze of strip show and massage parlor owners? Why do you make your well-paid host come out looking like a pimp? And why must an under-aged traumatized boy be used? Don’t your TV producers have the slightest clue that such use constitutes child abuse? Are you hiring intelligent people? And can they explain to you how their sick and disgusting show material contribute to the well-being of our nation? Or at the least, just your well-being and stature?

You can wind down your career and go offstage being adulated and remembered for making progress for our country. But in the cultural upliftment realm, your Revillame show sullies everything you want to be fondly remembered. In fact, at this point, I find your decision to revive a pathetic TV show that insults people and a nation, for the purpose of making money, obnoxious and abominable. I will encourage people not to patronize any of your products and services as well as those companies that patronize that show for so long as it continues to air.

Given the firestorm out there, Revillame is now your costly nightmare. Drop him, revive your good standing and bring decency, self-respect, and pride among our people, especially our children.


John L. Silva