Monday, October 31, 2011

A Baguio Halloween

This is when a picture says it all. Taken at the bar of The Manor at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, by the subject's mamay, Kimi Fernandez. Enjoy your first Halloween, little pumpkin/squash of our life. Don't let other people's costumes alarm you. It's in the spirit of fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Priceless lessons and moments from the Intimate Concert Series

A perplexed stranger and concert patron came up to me yesterday afternoon before the matinee of Music News' 11th intimate concert series that featured violinist Joseph Esmilla and pianist Rudolf Golez. The two have come to be called the guwapings of the classical music scene.

The white-haired fellow asked me, "How come this concert has little publicity?
When we heard about it, sold out na pala!" So he and his companion settled for matinee tickets.

I explained about the non-traditional media we use to drum up awareness of the series that has survived low-pressure area warnings, grand pianos stuck up in C-5 traffic snarls, drafty halls and, most of all, almost non-existent sponsorship.

Producer Pablo Tariman, a freelance writer who diligently meets deadlines for the culture page of one paper and the entertainment section of another apart from being a self-described guardian and caregiver to apo, Emmanuel Acosta, whose schooling in a Pasig public school, he takes care of apart from housekeeping, laundry and market errands, has had to rely on cultural volunteers in the persons of Mila Aguilar, Sinag de Leon, Efren Ricalde, Anna Leah Sarabia and this writer.

We use our cell phones and personal load (thank goodness for unlimited texts to all networks for the price of P25 or less), email, Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote the concerts. These still unquantifiable efforts seem to be paying off as the Oct. 21 matinee and evening performances of Esmilla and Golez proved.

Tickets for the evening concert sold out fast so Tariman dared to schedule a matinee on the same day to accommodate interested callers.

Then there are Tariman's unsung staff Ford Perez and Bong de Clarin who double as messengers or ticket sellers on concert night. One time, De Clarin's duty of bringing cash-on-delivery tickets to their destination almost compromised his life when he was held up.

There have been occasional patrons who would cover the artists' fees or part of the piano rental, angels like Auring Bautista of Baguio, Joy Buensalido of Buensalido and Associates, Dr. Andrea Dimayuga, Quezon City Councilor Roderick Paulate, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, even flutist Ray Sison of ROS Music Center who would lend his pianos at below commercial costs.

The Balay Kalinaw hall was a third full yesterday afternoon (it was filled in the evening), but what gladdened this volunteer's heart was the easy rapport between performers and the audience. After the encore piece, Kreisler's "Caprice Viennois," was played and the applause died down, Esmilla quaffed his thirst, then joined Golez in chatting with members of the audience who stayed on for another hour.

Sculptor Julie Lluch, a regular at the intimate concert series, was assigned to put the lei around Golez's neck while Sr. Manaoag, a former violinist who studied with Esmilla's father Sergio and now a nun in a cobalt blue and white habit, marched up to place the one around Joseph.

Like a besotted teenager, Lluch earlier whispered to me that she had instantly developed a crush on the young Esmilla (still lean and boyish despite his salt-and-pepper mane of hair) and wanted to be the one assigned to him. When she saw him all sweaty from his music-making, she pulled out a white tissue and stopped herself short of wiping his face.

The next morning, Lluch texted me, "Exquisite pleasure! I wanted to go back for the evening concert."

I suppose it is moments like this that enable Tariman and the volunteers to continue without counting the costs. At the end of last night's concert, he exhaled, "I'm breathing normally again." It means all expenses have been paid, especially the artists' fees.

In the past, he mounted similarly small concerts for lawyers of big firms like ACCRA, for BIR executives or for couples celebrating their observing golden wedding anniversaries. He said, "Each time an opportunity to make music comes, I can't help it. It involves new contacts, new audiences, new trials perhaps, but I am sure it will involve new souls loving classical music (photographer Ricalde is a recent convert and your classmate from St. Paul who was there again)."

I asked him if he learned from the late impresarios Alfredo Lozano and Redentor Romero who were bold and daring enough to bring in musical heavyweights in the '60s and '70s.

Tariman said, "I didn’t meet Mr. Lozano, but I met his son who was teaching at La salle Lipa when I brought Ingrid Santamaria and Reynaldo Reyes in that school. He said his father was with the Board of Censors then and was close to
the Palace occupants so it was easy for him to get patrons and sponsors from high places. The lesson I can probably get from his existence is perhaps cultivate connections from powerful people and institutions. Unfortunately, all the people I need help from in high places are also the ones I hate."

He continued, "From Romero's sad and lonely death, I learned to accept the fact that impresarios (the real ones) can’t earn good money. He passed away unable to cope with hospital bills. I suppose that’s the way I will go if I don’t watch it. The word 'daring' you learn when you get to accept the fact that the impresario's work doesn’t yield golden eggs in the financial sense; only golden opportunities to make people happy."

He cited one instance when the work almost put him on the verge of collapse. "Remember that Licad turned down the Bosendorfer she found at the Metropolitan Theater in 1988 on the day of the concert. On that same day, I asked Cecile, her then husband Antonio Meneses and Dr. Jesus Licad to accompany me to the Cultural Center to borrow their piano. I knew that they wouldn’t allow me. but with Licad, her husband and father in tow, the late Mrs. Bing Roxas (then CCP president) couldn’t say no to me. But when she said yes, I remember her last words: 'That’s the last time a full grand piano will leave this theater.'"

The intimate concert series will continue; it thrives on feedback from the audience like Princess Nemenzo, Mercy Lactao-Fabros and Tita de Quiros who are thankful that there are such concerts in Quezon City, not too far from their residences and workplaces.
Writer Paulynn Sicam brought in a friend from Alabang at the August concert of Esmilla, Golez and cellist Victor Coo. That friend said, "Can't you bring this series to south of Manila? There's nothing going on there." Then she proceeded to list the pieces played in the program that she would like to hear on her deathbed.

Another Quezon City resident, writer Gemma Corotan, who attended baritone Andrew Fernando's recital at Kiss the Cook Gourmet, where the series began, and then brought her husband and recently her son to succeeding concerts, wrote, "Glad to see that your efforts to popularize classical music and our local musicians are bearing fruit. You have my admiration for the work that you do. Kudos to all of you! The venues are becoming bigger, but I hope the intimacy will never be lost."

What I found touching at Friday's concert was the presence of two ladies, lawyer Sarah Sison and her mother Mimi, herself a singer at family and friends' parties. Mimi just lost her husband. And when I saw Sarah park her car, alight from it, and move decisively towards Balay Kalinaw in a long black dress, the spring in her step missing, I recalled the death of my own father and how I couldn't bear being at his wake. What I did was to join a friend in watching a concert at the old PCIBank Santiago Hall in Makati. If I remember right, it was a piano recital, again mounted by Tariman.

The series resumes on Nov. 26 with Mishael Romano, 11-year old piano prodigy from Dipolog City in Mindanao. For a child his age, he has lined up a forbidding program that includes Clementi's Sonatina in C Major, Opus 36 No. 3, Beethoven's Sonatina in F Major, Chopin's Waltz No. 10 in B Minor, Opus 69 No. 2, among others.
What I'm hoping is for the two young girls with 90-percent attendance at the concerts, Alon Fabros and Bianca Susi, to bring their classmates to this event. Then maybe we can rotate the lei or bouquet offering duties at the end of each program.

Speaking of bold moves, the series has gone on a successful outreach with the Oct. 15 concert of Esmilla and Golez at UP Los Banos. My small contribution here is putting Tariman and the partners of Dalcielo Restaurant, Marissa de Jesus and Pinky Halos, together to think up of a new may to mark the business enterprise's first anniversary.

Another Dalcielo partner, Rey Araos, was so pleased with the attendance and reaction that he relayed the feedback how more Laguna residents would like watch and hear the classics played. He couldn't help adding that visiting performers are usually pop singers and dancers.
Tariman will bring baritone Andrew Fernando, tenor Lemuel de la Cruz, flutist Christopher Oracion and pianist Mary Anne Espina on Dec. 9 to the same UP Los Banos venue (Umali Hall). If plans don't miscarry, the same group will kick off pre-Christmas festivities at Baguio City's happening place, Hill Station.
As for Tariman, he unwinds from the stress of concert organizing by catching up on Tagalog movies that he can review, watch a CCP or Philamlife concert, and "believe it or not," he said, "follow the early-evening teleseryes on TV mainly because my friends and drinking buddies are in there like Ronnie Lazaro, Joel Torre and Pen Medina. I turn to Mozart and Beethoven to explore a life that remains strange to me after 62 years of existence."


Monday, October 17, 2011

Her first party

Someone had a good time over the weekend. It was her first children's party, and the invitation came Sunday morning as the adults wondered aloud where they would venture out that sunny day.

The texted invite said it was going to be a costume party for the celebrator, a year-old girl Lira, at the Powerhouse, a new function room at the Baguio Country Club. The adults said only the baby in the family would turn up in costume. But what will she come as--ballerina or cowgirl?

When the aunt in Manila learned that she went as a plain cowgirl and was outshone by the girls in Snow White or fairy costumes, same aunt asked with a note of sarcasm, "So what prize did Kai bring home? The worst in costume?"

Well, even if Kai just had a ream of toilet paper wrapped around her, she would still have charmed everyone with her good behavior (never cried or whined once) and inborn charm.

But then first-time grandmothers are truly biased.
Kai meets and greets year-old birthday celebrator Lira who is all dolled up in a flouncy pink gown complete with petticoat. Lira wheeled around in her matching walker which was camouflaged by her long dress.
The wee ones pose by the towering birthday cake with a set of grandmas, Auring Bautista and Booboo Babeth. Lira is in another costume--she wore a total of four gowns in one afternoon.
Her grandparents get into the spirit of the afternoon, but Kai in her cow suit isn't comfy with the masks.
She's amenable to rubbing noses with this "stranger" though.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Mad about books and the babe, too

We're a family that loves and lives for books. I confess I can be writing more (my vocation and avocation) if not for being tempted away by a good read.

As a young mother in the '80s and '90s, I tried mightily to see to it that my two daughters absorb and assimilate this passion. Last month, when my youngest Ida accompanied my partner and me to the Manila Book Fair at SM Mall of Asia SMX, her wry question before we boarded the cab was, if her tatay would break his all-time high of P10,000-plus worth of purchases last year. Well, about a third of that were my selections so I was restrained this time around--I exercised the strictest self-control. I said I'd just keep to my duty of signing books that UST Publishing House's Jack Wrigley asked me to do.Ida was also restrained, even selecting kiddie titles on emotions (happiness, sadness, anger) not for her but for her niece Kai.

A week ago, after "Pedring" and "Quiel" exited the country, Kimi and I pronounced it a good day to go on a book foray in downtown Baguio. There is just one authentic book shop that respects its visitors, young and old, and turns their customers into frequent shoppers: Mt. Cloud Bookshop.

On this latest visit, I found my book reservations intact. Unlike in other stores that just give you a few days to cough up the money for your reservation, this one is aware how writers and artists struggle for their fees so it allows you some leeway to earn.

The shelves are full to the brim, and the "Death by cuteness" items (notebooks, post-its and other stationery) had to be moved to a table while colorful origami birds hung from the windows and other corners.

Proud to say, Kai is at home here--she was my youngest guest at my book launch in July. She has attended a story-telling session there. This time her mother and I wanted to pose her by the new black and white mural showing a Cordillera girl reading and imagining. Kimi had long waited for this chance.

I came away with these purchases: a collection of garden poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Series), Cathy Birch's The Creative Writer's Workbook (with exercises on building up a story character suitable for my high school students who want to go into fiction writing) and an Icon picture book on The Swan herself, Grace Kelly. For Kai, a cardboard Abakada book published by Adarna.

Our book appetites satisfied, Kai suckled on her mother's breasts and quickly nodded off. I met my girlfriends for two hours worth of catching up at nearby Hill Station which now offers apple pie on its dessert list. Merci Dulawan and I had a wedge each. The slice is thick and generous, but I had no problem polishing that off with the coffee.

When it was time to leave, we made a brief stopover at Kai's grumpa's office, then got cracking on our purchases once settled at home base.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cake! Cake! Cake!

Babies these days get to mark their "monthsaries" and always with a chunk of cake. The recently departed Steve Jobs said in a memorable commencement address,"Don't settle."

My grandchild's mother, Kimi, was ready to settle for a cupcake to commemorate the sixth month of life of our tweetheart, her daughter Kai Mykonos (notoriously renamed Butones by her grandmother--that should be me). I was also willing to compromise--when I texted the Grumpa of Butones to remind him about priority to-buy list (our maintenance medication), I added "Optional: cake for Kai's monthsary."

Well, what do you know? Grumpa obliged, necessitating an extra walk up Session Road to purchase a medium-size Black Forest from Vizco's.I was hoping for four kalamansi tarts from O Mai Kan though, but that's reaching for the moon.

What more when Butones learns to speak? Will she say "With thick caramel middle"? Hope she learns how to say "please".
The presentation

Putting to work her grabbing skill

Can't keep away from the icing

Cake snatched by adults; Kai's mouth forms a mournful, inverted U.