Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Pope, the Rabbi and one sleepy worker

I know you get forwarded emails, too: inspirational images and messages, threatening prayer chain letters (if you don't forward to 10 people in 10 minutes, etc.), special offers for all and sundry, including marked-down penis extenders. These usually go to the spam file for examination on a pleasant day when deadlines have been met and time is long.

Meanwhile, I enjoy answering correspondence, whether instantaneous like email or handwritten postal mail. My replies or inquiries are written in a fashion with all words spelled out as much as possible, even if I don't press the "shift" key to capitalize what has to be set in caps. My second sister shares my sentiments on this matter. She also insists at all times that abbreviations be limited to SMS/texting only. Otherwise, spell out a word like "thanks" in your hurriedly written email note.

This afternoon, while taking a break from a manuscript that's giving me nosebleed, I opened my inbox and found this. Nothing really like a loud guffaw to diminish sleepiness at this time of day. Whoever wrote this apocryphal tale deserves half my boiled banana (sorry, no apples in the fruit basket).

The Pope and the Rabbi

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise Rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the Rabbi spoke no Italian and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a "silent" debate. On the chosen day, the Pope and Rabbi sat opposite each other.

The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The Rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The Rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The Rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the Rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

Later, the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.

The Pope said, "First, I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs.

"Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.

"I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue."

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the Rabbi how he'd won.

"I haven't a clue," the Rabbi said. "First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger.

"Then he told me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews, and I told him that we were staying right here."

"And then what?" asked a woman.

"Who knows?" said the Rabbi. "He took out his lunch so I took out mine."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Addition to stash of Audrey Hepburn quotes

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”

-Audrey Hepburn

Although this second quotation is not attributed to Ms. Hepburn, it's within the subject of contagious happiness. It's simple but hard to do.

Courtesy of Blissful Quotes

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lechonitis & other pleasurable sins

At noon of Chinese Lunar Year, on my way home from a Tibetan Buddhist temple (a first visit), after partaking of the community's vegetarian lunch, I received an SMS from a writer friend, a gourmand down to his funny bone. He was exasperated that he had put too much vinegar into the lechon leavings that he was trying to turn into a paksiw with a brown sauce.

Still full from a lunch of noodles, gluten served a variety of ways, braised veggies and a dessert of Mandarin orange, I gulped and asked, "Anong lasa?"

He answered that it was a mix of adobo and paksiw. I thought I felt the stirrings of acid reflux from the imagined taste of both adobo and paksiw put together.

I warned him how suicidal his diet has become.

His reply: "Yah, I know, but often I feel I am on the home stretch na. Kaya feeling no-foods-barred na :-D"

Well, I told him not to be in too much hurry to leave his mortal coils. An enterprising cook may yet invent fat-free lechon that will take the guilt out of being an unrepentant carnivore in the age of health food consciousness.

Not letting the subject go, he replied again: "I can look for a pig that's fed only vegetables. Will that do?"

I said the Prado Farm in Pampanga raises pigs that are fed arugula leaves. "Organic lechon," they call it, with a whole duck inserted in the pig's belly, then roasted altogether.

I could almost hear him laughing out loud when he texted: "That's a whole new meaning for 'double dead'!" He couldn't stop himself from following up: "Hmmm. Has anyone thought of stuffing a whole roast calf with a lechon stuffed with a duck? Ick! Parang Russian matryoshka dolls. Eeeww, pardon the analogy!"

I got into the spirit, suggesting that this new dish should end with a camaru as only a Kapampangan cook could invent something like that.

Old friend texted back: "Or longganisa of all kinds--Vigan, Baguio, Lucban, Capiz, Tuguegarao. Or even quite logically, balut!"

That's when I decided to put a stop to the whole crazy exchange. I could feel the healthy food I digested regurgitating.

Friend understood my queasiness, and ended the virtual conversation with: "Ok,kaivegan na lang tayo :-D"

Kai-vegan, got it?

Friday, January 20, 2012

SM, curb your greed

400 @ 400

Tuesday next week, Jan. 24 (my dad Enrique Lolarga Jr.'s 83rd birthday, if he were still around; he was a UST College of Medicine alumnus, batch '53), is "400 @ 400" day or 400 books, published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, to be presented to the University on its 400th year.

Quite a feat Dr. Cristina "Jing" Pantoja Hidalgo, publishing director, Prof. Jack Wigley, her deputy, and their hard-working staff have accomplished since Prof. Hidalgo took over the university press.What I like about this coming event is the venue, a library, specifically the Miguel Benavides Library at the UST campus.

The library is thus described at its website: "The UST Miguel de Benavides Library is housed in a 6-storey building facing Dapitan Street. Seventeen sections and four branch libraries comprise the UST Library. The collection of each section / branch varies according to courses offered by the University. The Library Staff is headed by the Prefect of Libraries and the Chief Librarian. There are 27 professionally trained librarians, 24 support staff and 80 student assistants."

There'll be space to move around, and if my cold and cough (an allergy, don't worry; nothing viral or catching) isn't licked by the 24th, I'll be there in an inconspicuous corner with a box of Kleenex and a jug of water, waiting for friends and family to come by and have a copy or two signed.

This whole enterprise of putting out a book of selected essays is a story of a challenge met. The challenge came from Jing who asked if I was interested in gathering my little Facebook notes and other essays into a book. Not only was I interested, I hired myself an able research assistant, UP Diliman geography graduate Marye Panganiban, who could accompany me to the Lopez Memorial Museum and Library and the Philippine Daily Inquirer library to look for "old words," as my editor Chato Garcellano would put it. Marye, with my daughter Kimi's help, encoded these essays and reports, a whole section of travel pieces from the time when Chato sent me all over the country on assignment.

The OC (obsessive-compulsive) streak of my niece Marga Susi was harnessed as she arranged the essays in sequence to facilitate the layout artist's job. Several times the flash drive I submitted to Jing was corrupted until one afternoon, Kimi and I sat down cleaning my files one at a time till I was able to send a clean USB to UST.

I heeded Gilda Cordero Fernando's advice not to get a more established writer to do the introduction. She had a funny experience when she had a first book of short fiction introduced by someone else. It seemed the intro was unrelated to the contents and it was generally ignored.

She suggested that I get writer friends familiar with my works to submit blurbs, and that's what Chato, Marj Evasco, Cris Yabes, Gou de Jesus and Anna Leah Sarabia did. They didn't need to be sent samples of my work to go over. They were familiar enough with the stuff I've managed to get published over the decades (that really dates me) and turned in their short blurbs by text or email after a day's notice. Aren't women friends wonderful?

One day in late June, Jing texted, "Your book is out!" Excitedly, I made arrangements to pick up my 10 complimentary copies at her home (henceforth, delivered to the blurb writers). I think this was as close as I could get to UST. Throughout the process, everything was done online. The series of USB I would send through a personal messenger or drop off at Jing's house on my way to or from school where I taught (when the Community of Learners was still at its New Manila location).

The proofs were sent to my mother's house in Pasig, and I went over them during a weekend in Baguio. My husband of 27 years cursorily read them, then declared in an offended tone that he would boycott my launch if his name was not moved from the acknowledgment to the dedicatory page (hmmm, this detail should go into an autobiography because I find it funny; my reaction was "Kailangan pa bang i-spelling 'yan?" but the correction was made for fear of losing a prized patron).

I arranged a book reception in my adopted city of Baguio at that bookshop-turned-literary salon Mt. Cloud. Padma and I worked on my modest working woman's budget so we could feed the visitors and book buyers with Hill Station's delicious turrones and flowing coffee. All 26 or 28 books I brought up were sold out that afternoon in July. The others were sold by Nina Araos at her Kitsch the Cook Boutique, at the Alabama art fair in Cubao and at Libreria at Cubao Expo.

My kumare Winnie Velasquez, fellow Paulinian, made a special trip from Marikina to Baguio to be with us, while my grandchild Butones made her public debut as my guest of honor. She wasn't featured on the dedication page; she wasn't born yet when the making of the book was in progress.

Last December, as the Christmas rush got started, Philippine PEN sponsored an authors' talk that had me sharing a panel with Manong Ed Maranan, Mookie Katigbak and Dean Francis Alfar. I arrived early at National Bestseller at Robinson's Galleria to chat with the salesladies.

The store manager said my book was doing well. My heart skipped two beats as I began to think of royalties and imagine Catholic and Emancipated on the NBS bestsellers list for non-fiction.

I asked, "How many copies has your branch sold?"

She answered, "Sampu po, ma'am. Marami na iyon."

That's why I like writing and getting published. It has a way of keeping you humble. I'm sure Dad would've agreed.

Photo of blogger's book courtesy of Rudi Tabora

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garlicky dip, catch-up chitchat & sparkling wine

Once a year, the Baguio Writers Group, of which I was once a member who was just glad to help in its revival, regroups at a member's house for good old-fashioned holiday wassail. 2011 had us trekking down to a forest house and immediately laying out our communal spread on a buffet table.

There was a bilao of salads from Luchie with a fiery garlic dip to match, bags of pan de sal fresh out of the oven of Danes Bakery on Mabini street bought by Desiree (Danes is where Baguio folk don't mind standing in line for a dozen of the bread of salt), pancit (I suppose from Teahouse which makes the best), chicken galantina from the hostess' kitchen (she asked first if we were all "hammed out" and we answered in a tone weary of rich meat dishes, yes, we are) and other kutkutins. We were all pleased to see that the dishes brought matched one another despite no menu planning.
Some of us rolled lettuce leaves around slices of galantina and lathered the improvised roll with the pungent garlic dip. "Rapsadoodle"!, as my foodie cousins would exclaim. Merci gamely sliced her pan de sal in two and made herself a pancit sandwich!

On another table was a modest dessert spread of sweet tamarinds from Thailand and chocolate truffles from Belgium. We enjoyed those, too.

Our tummies lined, it was soon time to open the bottles of Don Eduardo (named after the San Miguel Corp. CEO), a rich red, and Asti Spumanti.
Late as usual, Frank texted from downtown that he was on his way and asked if we had any requests. Baboo asked for whisky and I, San Mig's all-malt Premium beer.

Martin predicted that Frank being Frank, he'd bring just a bottle of whisky for Baboo's personal consumption and another bottle of Premium for me. He was right on both counts, except that Frank gave me two bottles. Unexpected was his stash of cans of San Mig Lite, his drink of choice shared with wassail partner Grace and the others.

Later, Martin grew antsy as he aired his apprehension and excitement over his script for a proposed film to be shot fully in Baguio as part of the first Sineng Pambansa Festival (the confirmation came a few days later and I suppose direk Martin is finalizing his cast and scheduling shoots). Everyone volunteered for cameo roles in a bar scene which reflects what drunken sots we can be...some of the time. "Anac ti Pating" will premiere on Independence Day this year. It's a much-needed boost for regional film-making and local talents. The latter Baguio has in spades.

Not all the members could make it--some had left for parts elsewhere, some suffered from food overload (this was on Dec. 28) and were resting from impacho.

I remember that evening so well because I unwisely mixed my drinks. On the way home, I grinned and bore the tummy ache. Once home, I had to excuse myself from my partner's room and let loose a volley of gas. With all that bubbly evaporated, I was relieved beyond words and slept peacefully.
I guess that Grace's state of inebriation at the end of that evening explains why some shots of the party look out of focus.

A tradition at these end-of-the-year parties is the exchange of "pre-loved" books. I brought three from my library to make up for the fact that I didn't have time to prepare anything edible for the feast.

To these fellow travelers in the strange journey of life, here's to another year of writing and reading.

Photos by Grace Subido

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Butones & White Paper

how are will o' the wisps made?

i thought i saw one a-forming this evening
as i watched my nine month old
granddaughter tear through
the layers of white tissue
enfolding a glass cake stand
for the family kitchen,
the last of the christmas presents

what was she thinking
or was it all thrill
& newness for her?

i thought of egg whites
being whipped to a light foam

soon the baby storm passed
& we all trooped down for dinner

no eggs, no cake,
just rice, chicken & potatoes
& the recent memory of sound
of paper crumpling & a child's glee

Not rusticating, our Rustie

he just needs a little help from his friends

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Partying on Panay Avenue

because the month begins
heavy with intent
the host who lives
on a street named
after panay
an island
where classes are crevices

calls forth
from her kitchen
a generous procession
of platters:
black paella
steamed fish
wrapped in edible leaves
& ribbons of bacon
ensaymada toasted
to biscuit crispness
short al dente pasta
freely cohabiting with
olive oil bell pepper green olives
& finally
flutes of red wine

with this feast
begins the new year's
first long evening

old & young souls gather
bound by filaments
of art's whimsies
struck silent
for some moments by
variations on violin
(with sitar & bass players)
by a gifted boy whose name
cannot be more musical
than joshua bell

Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012: Pay more attention and fall in love with the world. Our January '12 'river of stones' has begun! The Everso Quick Version:  1. Notice...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nueve de Enero

One of my weaknesses in midlife is how often I underestimate my physical strength. I had a full week last week, meaning, I was always out of the house and shuttling by cab, jeep, train and trike to different parts of the metropolis for appointments and work-related duties. I even committed to attending a lecture on Parkinson's disease and dementia yesterday, a Sunday, until I woke up with a heaviness in my eyes (the whites had turned reddish) and a scratchy throat (another cold that has to be nipped in the bud).

Well, that took care of busyness. I just decided to finish reading some chapters of a literary biography, watch television ("The Tourist" on HBO) and overhear a comment from a family member that when Johnny Depp ages, he will look like Gary Oldman, which isn't a bad thing, and ask how my pet Butones in Baguio is doing. According to my daughter Kimi, Butones finally got her bangs clipped. There was outrage in the Pasig household; the elders believe that a baby's hair isn't shorn till she turns one year old.
But here's why Kimi had to trim the bangs. They were getting in the way--we wouldn't want the babe ending up with eyes as reddish as her lola's.
So here's the "after" look. Kimi says her child now looks like a little Shaolin master. Any which way, she remains a cutie.

Meanwhile, I am reminded to upload these pictures and compose a blog because of this auspicious date and the numbers of this month are about to turn into double digits tomorrow (bad writing discipline if I can't compose at least two blog entries within a fortnight).

The ninth of January is not just the feast of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, it is also the birthday of old pal Manny Chaves who, in the past, would remind me that he shares a birthday with Joan Baez and Simone de Beauvoir. He has reason to boast because he reads widely, has impeccable taste in music and knows what looks good, making him a topnotch art director.

And because he has such high standards, this makes him masungit, a cranky old man. But it hasn't stopped his friends from gathering to celebrate the day which is what we'll do later this afternoon. By which time I hope my eyes are well-rested and my throat soothed.Even old gals also wanna have more fun in the Philippines.
This photo was taken nearly 10 years ago at the old location of Green Papaya on Maginhawa st., Quezon City. Manny is somewhere in the picture with his heretic Looney Tune friends who dressed up a mannequin and turned it into the Black Nazarene.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Remembrances of Christmas just past

No doubt about it, the e-card and handy SMS have replaced the traditional Christmas card that is mailed in November to ensure its arrival at its destination during the Christmas holidays.

This year, I received a grand total of two cards mailed from wintry Ontario, Canada, by Rosemarie de los Reyes and from just-as-cold Chicago, Illinois, by Tessie Romero, all first cousins I grew up with before the Great Migration to North America of the Lolarga, Romero and Valdellon families, descendants of Enrique Acosta Lolarga and Telesfora Cariño. Our patriarch and matriarch were migrants, too, meeting as public school teachers detailed in Camiling, Tarlac, before settling in Sampaloc, Manila, and founding their own school, National Radio School and Institute of Technology (now closed down).

The cyber-highway has made possible clan reunions through e-mail and Facebook, making the website www.lolarga.com put up by my brother Junic and cousin Telly Valdellon almost passe as updates are more regular in our FB accounts.

So here's to the passing of traditional printed cards. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to "collect" a good number of cards celebrating Christ's birth, the endurance of family and all good things about Christmas.

Following is my "loot":
Junic and Amy Lolarga of Calgary, Alberta, with children Sara and Christian

Cousin Louie Lolarga and husband Mike Johnston in Joplin, Missouri, with their children and grandchildren, some of whom survived the killer tornado there and rebuilt their lives and homes

Little Lucie Server Mendoza, one of the many additions to the family on my mother's side this year and also a Canadian citizen/resident

Almost like family to me is writer Luisa Aguilar Igloria of Norfolk, Virginia, with her daughters Ina, Trixie and Gabriela. Not in photo is her eldest child Jenny Cariño, my hijada, who still lives and works in Baguio City.

Part of our First Draft sisterhood of writers is Melinda Quintos de Jesus (seated, third from left). She is shown here with her husband DJ and family on a rare reunion in Bohol.

Meran Daza Umali and I go back to St. Paul College Quezon City where she was a batch ahead of me, but that didn't keep us from becoming lifelong friends. She is shown with husband Cesar and their sons Likha (my godson), Likas and Lakan. Their only daughter Sinta (at right) is herself a mother of baby Monique.

Connie Estrada Calimon and I also go back to SPCQ when we used to be officers of the Student Catholic Action along with Meran. The SCA spirit stayed with her as she and husband Gil, a mountaineer like her, have been part of climbs for a cause (last year they brought school supplies to a far-flung school in the Cordilleras). Their eldest of two daughters, Rose, is now Sister Manaoag, while the youngest, Resa, is a freelance photographer-designer.

I made a new friend in Fralynn Manalo of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. She never fails to email me invites to coming shows and reminders when an important show is about to end. Fralynn and her colleague Bill Ray are the people to look for on a visit to the Met because they'll answer all your queries, provide the wheelchair for the disabled and lead a guided tour.

Tireless human rights worker Tinay Palabay sent this.

From another First Draft colleague Rita Ledesma came this image of the giving tree (that's how I prefer to call it because gifts under this tree are given during the season). Rita's Internet-savvy grandchild Regina selected this for her to serve as her e-card.

And Melba Padilla Maggay of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC) emailed this Advent message, a fitting end to this second day of 2012 reminiscence:

"Unlike other Christmas seasons, this one feels like the aftermath of fleeing from a house on fire, or being swallowed up and tossed to and fro by raging waters, and then getting swept and spewed ashore by the roaring tide.

"Great disasters, as well as the pressures that daily besiege us, have reduced many of us to numbness and shock. Something inside wears away, as massive poverty and the thinness of soul that accompanies adversity erodes our capacity to even pay attention to the meaning of Christmas – the great wonder that God has come to earth, These days, I confess, I feel a great need simply for the veil to lift and see through the hiddenness of the Christ that our faith tells us has come.

"Where is he, who has been born king of the Jews?"

"The unrest and crises all around us tell us that great upheavals are taking place. Long-term despots in the Arab world are falling one by one, and others more are fighting for their survival. Wall Street is under siege, and protesters all around the world are putting to question the viability of a system that honors greed and consigns to the shadows those who are failing in life. And as I write this, thousands of our hapless people in Mindanao are shivering from sickness, hunger and homelessness, their obscure lives and meager property swept away by floods, nature ruthlessly striking back at human vandalism and the despoliation of creation.

"The question of the Magi rings in my ears: “Where is he, who has been born king of the Jews?”

"The question, we are told, troubled Herod, and all Jerusalem with him. He hastily assembled the chief priests and scribes – guardians of the Temple and the Torah -- and ascertained from them where the Christ was to be born. The Jewish establishment was not without knowledge. They knew exactly where the prophesied Messiah was to be born. Yet apart from the fear of Herod, -- whose crown lay uneasy on his head because he was an Idumean,-- the news that an heir had been born to the decayed dynasty of King David did not stir them.
The Magi from the East, -- wise men who read the movements of the stars – knew that a great king had appeared, and they had trotted on their camels through the sharp winds of the desert to search for him and worship. They had sensed that this was no ordinary king, but someone who, though born of the Jews, was nevertheless king beyond the Jews, -- and worthy of the finest gifts that they can offer.

"It is worth noting that the first to recognize Jesus for what he was were Gentiles from afar and roughhewn shepherds -- those in the margins of the original chosen people, -- Israel. Undertandably, who would have thought that deliverance for the world would come through a child born in a stable? It had to be revealed – to the wise through their schooled sensing of planetary movements, and to the simple through a straightforward announcement by an angel. It takes either the wisest insight or the simplest of faith to bow the knee to the Christ-Child.

"When we experience devastating hardship, it is a struggle just to pause and remind ourselves that at the center of our existence is a good God who has sent his Son to meet us in our need. His footprint may be hidden from us, but we can be sure that Jesus walks with us, just as he did in the dusty streets of Palestine 2,000 years ago.

"In the same way that his birth was shadowed by the savage slaughter of children his age, his continuing presence among us is obscured by the dark deeds of those who, like Herod, are threatened by his coming. The coming of the true King and of his kingdom is always an imminent threat to those who, by means fair or foul, bulldoze and usurp their way into power.

"But like the Christ-Child, we are not unaided. In the same way that the Magi were warned and Jesus’ parents were directed to flee to Egypt, we are kept safe through the help of the unseen host that surrounds us. Like the Christ-Child, beset and hunted by the fierce ragings of evil, helpless and vulnerable before the powerful, -- we shall be kept hidden, safe in the hand of God, till the murderous shadow of the Herods of this world had passed.

"A blessed Christmas season to all of you who love his appearing, and are looking forward to his coming again."