Wednesday, December 28, 2011


He made an impression in '76 on this fledgling reporter not quite out of college but with stardust dreams of writing. My first boss, Tere Orendain, and Jorge Arago were chums and they'd go out for the occasional long lunch with another journalist Marita Manuel, then detailed at Mrs. Marcos's office.

It was his slippers that did it for me--this diminutive man who went to work and socials in them slippers and the most casual of clothes at a time when I was getting used to proper office shoes and would get the occasional reprimand from Tere to please stop wearing hand me downs.

In '79, when I was enrolled in a cinema class under Prof. Virgie Moreno, she disappeared mid-semester (probably one of her rejuvenating trips to Paris), and Jorge and Peque Gallaga took over the class that moved from UP Diliman to a room at the Metropolitan Museum. There we sat through screenings of Filipino (Ishmael Bernal's, no less), European and American films. Either Jorge or Peque led the discussion. We never raised questions, shushed into timidity by their knowledge and articulation, but nevertheless, we learned how to put on critical eyes when next we watched a film. Yes, Jorge still wore those slippers and spoke with no notes.

By then I think he held office at the Met's basement along with the hip crowd that put out, if memory serves, Metro magazine.

I'd hear his name now and then uttered by my husband who wondered where he was and thought aloud how the opinion pages could use a mind as erudite as Jorge's. When I learned how to use the lost and found machine in Facebook, there he was. By Jorge! He had aged, time had not been kind to him for mine was an image of a cherubic fellow reminiscent of Billy Crystal (not fair, Jorge, but something about Crystal's humor always brought you to mind).

So I PM'd him and yes, he still remembered Rolly and their work together at the news desk of Daily Express. I warned him that Rolly did not correspond and Jorge wrote back: "I remember that Marita had almost despaired of finding a reporter whose initiative and skill she could trust, then along came Rolly, who has apparently retained his detachment.A sea of water has passed under the bridge, Best wishes to you both."

And so Jorge went, right before the day of the holy innocents. Long live Jorge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Where the view is fair

Getting to Mother's Garden on Upper Fairview Road in Quezon Hill is a bit of a challenge for my partner, a longtime resident of Baguio who is still not used to maneuvering the city's slanting roads and steep inclines. Just mention a trip to Mother's Garden, and his terse instruction is: "Mag taxi na lang kayo."
And taxi we did one late morning last week for a scheduled interview with Therese Jison who runs the garden with a light touch. We lingered over what she called fusion tea concocted from the herbs in the garden. This was followed by a very continental lunch of grilled veal bratwurst with a flavorful gravy of caramelized onions and mushroom with French bread and a sunny side up fried egg on the side.
Our little Butones loved the bread. Her mom, our designated photographer Kimi, loved the salad that had an edible flower on top, all freshly harvested from the garden. We enjoyed all this at the panoramic open-air Panorama Cafe that looks out to the neighbor's tree of African tulips and farther on to Aurora Hill and Busol watershed.
While waiting for the ride home, I enjoyed feeding an insatiable pig that lives in harmony in a pen with a family of rabbits.
Therese said while carrying Butones around, "These are my two loves: babies and animals." And gardens, of course.

My horde of Audrey Hepburn quotes

New Year's resolutions are another one of those things that were called in the '70s "exercises in futility." By the eighth of January, I'd have forgotten what I drew up on my list--it always has to do with diet, exercise, keeping my weight down.

Well, Ms. Hepburn never had to worry about her weight or spend too much time thinking of the word "diet", but she still managed to make a contribution to the world because she applied certain beliefs about humanity in her life, primarily giving people a chance.

A simple feel-good act I do to banish the blues and the reds is just to scroll through an album of Audrey Hepburn pictures, turn on "Two for the Road" or "Moon River," and I'm okay, at least temporarily. No need to stand outside Tiffany's.

Lately, I've collected some choice quotes from the late Unicef ambassador who taught the screen world that slim and smart add up to sexy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The comfort of women

These pre-Typhoon Sendong Christmas party photos just arrived in my inbox this evening. Suddenly, that eighth of December, end-of-the-year get-together of women friends who write and call themselves members of First Draft, has an innocent quality.

Here we look not yet harassed and put upon by holiday obligations and yearend work and family commitments that have to be accommodated in a month where one's calendar fills up so quickly.

Here we are before 'Sendong' got us into a cautiously celebratory mode of thinking and doing.

Love the reflection of glassware on Fe's chin. That's Rita, host of our annual Christmas dinner, with beaming Edna beside her.

We can't all fit in so the designated photographer takes shots of the group two or three women at a time around a table with a glorious setting of a dozen white orchids.

BFFs Mariel and Gilda

Remember that pop song from the '60s: "Si Aida, si Lorna at si Fe?" Well, our version is for this foursome (from left): "Si Rita, si Edna, si Lorna at si Melinda."

Capping the evening is this final group shot after an afternoon spent catching up, exchanging gifts, reading works aloud (including a funny essay by a New Yorker writer we all admire, E.B. White) and trying two kinds of dessert, with and without sugar following a meatless, save for chicken, supper.

God bless us, everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Past 80th mark this year

Your friendly blogger is crossing a personal milestone with this entry. It marks my 81st--quite a feat since I started blogging in '08 and closed that year with 47 blogs.
For me, the number of blogs per month is a good indicator of any of the following: things are going well in my life that I have much to write about; I'm kind of manic; or the urge to write is so strong (very well-motivated).
On months when entries are scarce, it's a sign of any of these things: too lazy or depressed to write (the laziness or the languor is usually brought about by the depression when the only "intelligent" activity I can manage to do is to read a work of fiction and follow the plot to its end) or too busy with official work duties.
But ever since I joined some Facebook communities that stress the positive, I've also built up a collection, nay, an arsenal of inspirational images and quotable quotes. I open that folder on the laptop whenever I need reminding that I have to learn self-acceptance, mainly of my limitations, self-forgiveness, even self-love.
So herewith are some of my choice inspirationals that got me through the year by way of saying a big "thank you" to my followers (mainly family and some friends).
So I'm setting a goal of 100 blogs for 2012. That's reasonable because if I can cross from 80 to the next numeral, anything's possible.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Baby Changes Everything

Around this time last year, I first heard the song "A Baby Changes Everything" sung by a choir of children at the annual Christmas bonfire of the Community of Learners. My tears flowed freely because all I could think of was my first-born child, then 25 and five months pregnant, steadfast in her decision to have her baby outside the institution of marriage.

It was a trying time for some members of the family. But if my daughter, suddenly an adult, could be clear-eyed about giving the best for her unborn babe and not minding what others said, surely she deserved all the support this grandmother-to-be could muster.

Today, Baby Kai (Butones) is past her eighth month-sary. Her mother's update, texted a few days ago from Baguio, said she saw Butones flat on her tummy on the rubber play mat. She got on all fours, raised herself to a sitting position with no assistance. Then she held on to the edge of the bed by the mat and raised herself further to a standing position. "Effortless," the mother noted.

My rejoicing this Christmas takes the form of this song popularized by Faith Hill:

Teenage girl, much too young
Unprepared for what's to come
A baby changes everything

Not a ring on her hand
All her dreams and all her plans
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything

The man she loves she's never touched
How will she keep his trust?
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything

And she cries!
Ooh, she cries
Ooh, oh

She has to leave, go far away
Heaven knows she can't stay
A baby changes everything

She can feel it's coming soon
There's no place, there's no room
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything

And she cries!
And she cries!
Oh, she cries

Shepherds all gather 'round
Up above the star shines down
A baby changes everything

Choir of angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
A baby changes everything
A baby changes everything
Everything, everything, everything


My whole life has turned around
I was lost but now I'm found
A baby changes everything, yeah
A baby changes everything

The song is no more than "the tale of a pregnant teenage girl faced with the uncertainty of her future and coming to terms with the fact that her life is about to change. In the bridge of the song, it is revealed that the teenaged girl and baby in question are in fact the virgin Mary and Jesus Christ." (

It's only the 17th of December, but already I want to exclaim, with all the joy and gratitude I can again muster, "Hallelujah! Merry Christmas, everyone!"

Friday, December 16, 2011

When we were very young

While I was in between jobs this year, I had time to look over old albums and retake photos of the contents in hopes that I could preserve them through my Facebook albums and this blog. I managed to upload a number in FB, and they got a wide range of comments from page visitors, comments like how happy the children looked or how come we didn't buy the kids nice clothes (from disgruntled fashion-conscious daughter and niece).

Hermie Beltran put it so well when he commented: "As always, old photos, like old songs, touch our deepest chords."

Here I am getting all sentimental and "emo" with the holidays and a new year approaching. So before the photos, the old-fashioned kind, not the ones from the digicam, are feasted on by silverfish and termites, I'm posting them during this lull between deadlines.

I wonder how we will all look like 10 years down the road?

At my cousins' house on McKinley road, Forbes Park.

With my grand-aunt Lucy Yatco Nelle who worked for the longest time at Coca-Cola Corp. (I was already in college and she was still working for Coke. This somehow made me partial to that soda.)

Dad holds me up at the old Server pool in Forbes Park, still in the halcyon '50s. Daddy was a sportsman in his own way: he could swim, ride a horse, bowl, fish, jog, play golf.

That's cousin Shorty Server carrying me on my second birthday in our house in Santa Mesa, Manila.

Fast forward to the '80s. That's my partner of 27 years Rolly Fernandez enjoying his day off with his young wife (that should be me) at Puerto Azul, Cavite, in February 1985, a few months before our first child was born.

Here I am, pregnant with Kimi, at the first home Rolly and I made in Antipolo, Rizal, 1985. Rolly had a bar built to divide the kitchen-dining areas from the receiving area. (I must ask my techie daughter how to turn my photo right side up. Sorry about that.)

And here are my girls, the older one ill with asthma at the time this picture was taken, the younger one, Ida, showing the makings of a fattie. But Ida grew to be tall and slim. Kimi was strong enough to attend this birthday party at my friend Lulu Camello Pasamba's house sometime in the '80s.

The circle of life nearly completes itself.Soundtrack from the movie "Lion King" can be heard in the background. Kimi is now a mother herself. Her daughter Kai (infamously nicknamed Butones by this grandma) has brought so much happiness in our lives that I can't help but close my visual narrative with her as clincher.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Look what the mail brought in

So far no one's complaining that I've turned my blog into a record of my grandchild's experiences, especially her trips out of the confines of the house.

A few days ago, the mother of Butones Fernandez texted that her royal cuteness has learned to show appreciation for something by clapping her tiny hands (soundless, though) after her favorite video of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" ends. Don't worry, I'll take care of teaching her to holler "Bravo!" and "Encore!" when she starts to speak.

Usually, after such a report from mama Kimi, I'd ask her to email ASAP the latest pictures of Butones. She sent these photos documenting a recent trip to Suello Village where Grumpa Rolly Fernandez bought some pots of our fave Christmas flower, the poinsettia.

The pediatrician of Butones warned that the babe might be allergic to pollen when Kimi brought her to the clinic once to have a swollen eyelid checked. Mother and child had just come from a playground where angel's trumpets and other Baguio flora were in bloom. But this time around, the babe didn't have an adverse reaction to this exposure.

My friend Camille Llamanzares Sevilla inquired recently if there are any new spots that I can recommend to her when she visits Baguio during the holidays. I will have to find out where this greenhouse, this little spot of paradise is so she can add it to her list of must-sees.

And when Butones was carried back to the car and before she was safely buckled to her seat, she gave this smile of delight. Her lola is applauding from a distance.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reason for the season

The blog's title is from a concert that I missed; the UP Concert Chorus had its Christmas handog concert yesterday (Dec. 11) at Abelardo Hall. I decided to spend the afternoon and the rest of the evening resting at home, eating mini Ponkan oranges and drinking pitchers of warm to room-temperature water to keep my colds from getting more severe.

Knowing how the common cold I catch has a way of lingering and malingering and dampening my plans, I have to lick this one, not only because I am one of four authors (the others are Manong Ed Maranan, Mookie Katigbak and Dean Alfar)assigned to talk tomorrow at the Philippine PEN's "Meet the Authors" event at the NBS Bestsellers store, Robinson's Galleria, but also because I so look forward to another trip to Baguio before the weekend to be with Miss Adorable, my grandchild Butones. I don't want her to catch this cold virus that has been going around our Pasig household when I get to hold and cuddle her again.

In my desire to get well ASAP, I asked painter Mario de Rivera, who's a superb cook, baker and believer in herbal medicine, by the way, for his anti-cold and cough remedy that is better than any over-the-counter nasal decongestant. Artists are generally generous, and in the spirit of the season, here is Mario sharing his "Fusion":

"Boil two cups of shredded ginger, one cup of tamarind leaves or pounded fruit with three cups water for about 30 minutes. Strain, then boil again with two cups muscovado sugar till syrupy for another 30 minutes. Add a half cup of calamansi juice. Take a shot of this to relieve you as often as needed. If you have brandy, add a dash and enjoy before going to bed. Get well before Tuesday. :)"

This can also be taken as a tea. Just add hot water to a few teaspoons of the syrup, stir, sip and relax.

It's Monday, and I intend to subsist on this liquid diet to starve my cold while trying to meet another deadline.

Another of my Monday surprises is from Angie Valenzuela Velasco, kid sister of my late kumpadre Bobi Valenzuela whose death anniversary falls today.Bobi was a thoughtful guy, capable of surprising his friends and getting a laugh out of them. Angie apparently has that gift, too. In Facebook, she tagged me with these three photos of Butones with her grand folks. In short, she had just custom-made our family's Christmas card FREE! These e-cards remind me how another babe was the reason for a season as beautiful as Christmas.

Thank you, Mario and Angie, for riches beyond measure.

Reminder to self & others

Sometimes, you just have to keep looking for that funny bone or where you misplaced your sense of irony lately.