Sunday, August 26, 2012

Aquarelle redux

After a two-year respite, the Baguio Aquarelle Society returns, rested and revived, and our numbers have increased. At this coming show, the 14 participating artists are: Roland Bay-an, Norman Chow, Merci Javier Dulawan, Edna Guerrero,  Fara Manuel, Lira and Luchie Maranan, Baboo Mondoñedo, Pia Mondiguing, Lilian Oliva, Toottee Chanco Pacis, Danielle and Patric Palasi, and this blogger.

The viewing public is invited.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New foodie's haven in Baguio

Fog, chill, almost non-stop rain–it’s that time of the year in Baguio City when hotels and inns offer off-season prices. For some it’s a good time for an R & R without the lowland crowd of holiday seekers jostling you at the usual tourist spots. For the foodie undaunted by dour weather forecasts, any time is reason for a trip north.

A number of restaurants come highly recommended in local and foreign food guides (e.g., Hill Station in the Asian Miele Guide) or by word of mouth. Those wanting something beyond garlicky longganisa, raisin bread, ube jam or strawberries and cream traditionally linked with the city can take heart that Asean cuisine has finally arrived.
A clean bright place with high ceilings
It started more than a year ago with Happy Tummy, a Thai food place on Romulo Drive which had a few tables, some in the open, others inside native huts. There was a tacky wishing well at the center. Sometimes, depending on where the direction of the wind was, the unmistakable scent of horse manure wafted from across Wright Park.

Nonetheless, Thai spicy cuisine seemed compatible with Baguio’s clime so the place’s opening was met with a “It’s about time!”
Rumah Sate for Malaysian and Indonesian dishes
Bibingka and puto bumbong corner at Rancho Norte
This year the place expanded as other new restaurants moved in, turning it into what a blogger calls “a food hub” with the catchy collective name of Ketchup: The Food Community. Inside the wooden fence are Happy Tummy, now sporting a new look of high ceilings (the well is gone) and vases and pots of flora, including herbs, on tables and corners; Rumah Satei with a list of Malaysian and Indonesia dishes; Cafe Circolo; Canto for hefty barbecue servings and fries; and Rancho Norte, the last probably offering the only tri-colored puto bumbong in the entire city.

On sunny, even drizzly days, the community is where to take children after a trot and canter in Wright Park. They can wind down and have the adults ask for child-size meals. In fact, the so-called “pony boys”  (horsemen actually who escort young clients on horseback) sometimes take their meals there which is why Happy Tummy and the others added meat-heavy Pinoy staples like lechon kawali and bulalo to their menus.

Hopefully, all the restaurant owners have somehow gotten their act together, and there’s less confusion when the bill in one table is summed up. This is because customers are allowed to sit in one restaurant and order dishes from that kitchen and from the nearby ones, too. It’s possible for a group to eat together, one member having the deep-fried tilapia with tamarind sauce from Happy Tummy, another the smoky ribs from Canto paired with onion rings, then cap the meal with bibingka ordered from Rancho Norte. The caveat is to examine the bill closely.

Deep fried tilapia with tamarind sauce

On a weekday, locals tend to gravitate to Happy Tummy, and with reason. The discerning palate will note the consistently spicy warmth of its Tom Yung Goong soup. The appetizing fiery orange soup combines lemongrass and spices and sufficient number of stout shrimps. The crackling crispness of the fried tilapia is best eaten in situ, not taken out, for it turns soggy afterwards. Fried rice comes in variations. The dessert list changes, depending on what the chef patron has found in the market for the day.
Sticky rice with mango
 New on that list is the ripe mango with sticky rice. The owner is humble enough to apologize before you even take a first bite. She says the quality of the malagkit or glutinous rice might not be up to par. You assure her it’s near perfect, the blandness of the rice enriched with coconut milk and foiling the sweetness of the mango.
Tall pitcher of cold tamarind juice
In Baguio, a five-star meal for two like that can amount to just over P500. It must be why that the place has a name that denotes contentment.

Ketchup deserves repeated visits in a city that is being deluged with food franchises that have put golden arches or a gigantic bee mascot on nearly every major downtown corner. On a less crowded part of the city, Ketchup must keep its standards up, perhaps offer off-season prices for the locals who are the mainstays once tourists have gone down, and address the parking space problem.

In a city where it is almost automatic to head for Star Café for egg pie and coffee, Baguio Teahouse for Chona’s Delight (part cake, part ice cream), Good Shepherd Convent for jams, preserves and cookies, Umali’s or Garcia’s at the public market for a variety of coffee blends, O’ Mai Khan (a summon to mean “come and eat”) for Mongolian barbecue and tart pastries, Iggy’s Inn for drunken shrimps and grilled milkfish, Ketchup is a welcome addition to what is turning into a highland food paradise.--Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga
Unique plant pot at Happy Tummy

First published by Vera Files / Yahoo Philippines,  Aug. 1, 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Junyee ponders the universe

When one reaches the seventh decade, there is much to look back on, but visual artist Junyee would rather look forward and beyond.
Junyee at home in Los Baños
Born Luis E. Yee Jr. and raised in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, he found himself at Grade One with several “Junior” namesakes so to make him stand out from the others, a classmate contracted his nickname to Junyee, and it stuck.

Before he entered school, he was drawing figures on paper. His father owned a general merchandise store where reams of paper were available for making brown bags. The boy was allowed first pick. His father indulged him by buying him Marvel and other color comics.

He honed his craft by copying different comic styles and models. In Grade Three, he won first prize in a school-wide drawing contest. In Grade Four, he was doing portraits, a skill that sustained him as a fine arts student at the University of the Philippines Diliman where his portrait “racket” in pencil, ink or pastel earned him P50-100. This supplemented his Napoleon Abueva scholarship.
"Worm Hole," soot and paint on board
His latest show “Dark Matter” at Galleria Duemila (210 Loring street, Pasay City) is dedicated to Abueva whom he considers a second father. He said, “I owe him a lot. I learned so much from him, his mind that couldn’t keep still. From him I explored and acquired a passion for sculpture. With him I was able to focus on sculpture.”

As his student, they ate together, went to school together. Junyee felt that he was treated not only as a privileged apprentice but like a son. “I dedicated my show to him. I kissed his hand (at the opening), he cried, I cried. The audience became silent. It was an emotional moment.”

The show is a rarity in Junyee’s career, his first after a lull of four years. He said, “I don’t like exhibitions, the pressures and deadlines they cause. I’ve realized that some artists have regular shows for the purpose of exposure so they can market their works. That’s not in my system to this day.”

He’d rather do installations which galleries used to shun. Today, galleries have opened space for installations or non-commercial shows. He earns from doing functional art (furniture), designing houses and chapels in collaboration with an architect and doing the landscape afterwards.

It’s like what he has done to his home at the UP Los Baños campus–transforming a rundown faculty house into something else, mainly from found materials. The trunk of a molave tree saved from a typhoon saw new life as a house post. Broken tiles were arranged into a wall piece.
Orange bench shaped like a worm
The University tapped him to turn 3,000 square meters of land on campus into a sculpture garden. He has put up three orange benches inspired and shaped like an earthworm. His target is 15 sculptures spread over the land. Afterwards, UP will maintain the garden.

Simultaneous with this is the first Artists Village in Baler, Aurora, which had a soft opening in June. A project of the Juan Angara Foundation, it is on 250 hectare of forest land and has a main house where there will be space for theaters, workshops, artist residencies from different disciplines, festivals, exchange of artists between the Philippines and Spain.

He insisted on the use of indigenous materials which are plentiful in the province and which can be picked up from the forest without cutting down trees. The village will be unique for being made of found objects and retrieved wood materials.

He is also part of two ongoing group shows, one in Lipa, Batangas, to expose people there to contemporary art, and the other, “Recollection 1081,” an exhibition of protest art at the Cultural Center Main Gallery done during martial law. His contribution to the latter, “Mate in Four,” are anti-martial law cartoons done while he was Philippine Collegian art editor.
On a rocking chair he designed and assembled from old wood
 He is thankful for those Diliman years for opening his eyes and mind to the artist he wanted to be. It was good timing because during those years, the debate was on the question “What is Filipino art?”

This encouraged him to research on traditional images, practices and materials. He said, “If there was a time machine that would let me see what life was like in the pre-Hispanic period, I’d  take a ride in it. It makes me think what kind of art we would have developed without our colonizers.”

In a corner of his house is a powerful telescope that enables him to look at the stars. Junyee said, “I spend more time pondering the workings of the universe than making art. My wife likes to tease me that if I’d just work fulltime, I’d be rich.”

But at 70, he knows where the real riches lie.--Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga

First published by Vera Files and Yahoo Philippines, July 25, 2012.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Paraprosdokians to banish rainy weather gloom

Again my inbox yielded something to make me smile. With thanks to Francisco Pellicer Viri for his generous sharing of these tidbits of lightness written by Mr. or Ms. Anonymous and for teaching me a new tongue twister: "paraprosdokians."

PARAPROSDOKIANS:  Winston Churchill loved them. They are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising, unexpected and frequently humorous.

1. Where there's a will,  I want to be in it.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you.  But it's still on my list.

3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you,  we'd both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up,  we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. They begin the evening news with 'Good Evening,' then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

10. Buses stop in bus stations. Trains stop in train stations. My desk is a work station!

11. I thought I wanted a career.  Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

12. In filling out an application, where it says, 'In case of emergency,  notify : - I put- 'KAISER.'  (In reference to number 12. Kaiser is a chain of hospitals in the west coast region of the USA. They have abot 20 hosptials in California alone.  They have one of the best hospital foods. Nutritionally measured and given culinary considerations.  Of course, I never tried the hospital food at Cedar Sinai and Mt. Sinai which I have heard is also very good.)
13. I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a very fuzzy memory.

17. You don't need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

18. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

19. There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can't get away.

20. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm really not so sure.

21. You're never too old to learn something stupid.

22. To be sure of hitting the target,  shoot first  and call whatever you hit the target.

23. Nostalgia sure isn't what it used to be.

24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

25. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a mechanic.

26. Where there's a will, there are relatives.

Photo of smiley emoticons from the World Wide Web

Journalism 101

Journalism 101
Blogger plays extra/cameo in this column (blush! blush!).

Last legs

Last legs

Friday, August 17, 2012

3rd Monday from the Sun at the Cloud

From the Inbox comes this announcement from our favorite Baguio book shop:

"Third Monday from the Sun" is a free, monthly open mic event for poetry and spoken word at Mt Cloud Bookshop inside the Casa Vallejo building on Upper Session Road, Baguio City. On Aug. 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Mt Cloud Bookshop will hold its second open mic evening for poets of all ages and all walks of life. 

This is not a contest. It is a poetry reading for anyone and everyone who wishes to share original poems and performance pieces with a warm, receptive audience. 

In celebration of our second anniversary this August, we are giving away small tokens to the poets who come to read or perform. As is always in the bookshop, everyone is welcome.

Joy T. Dayrit, whole and entire

"Gifted" is an understatement in describing the scope of Joy T. Dayrit's works. She was a writer of short stories and poetry, a painter, a children's art teacher and friend to many writers and artists. She was an admirable woman for whom a disability was no cause for diminishing her zest for life.
The Ateneo Library of Women's Writings (ALIWW) and the Ateneo de Manila University Press launched Light, her selected stories, in a slim, elegantly designed book in a color brighter than celadon green
Portrait of Joy Dayrit by Elaine Nuvas
 Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, book editor and ALIWW founder, remembered Josephine Teodoro Dayrit, who used the professional name "Joy T. Dayrit," as a meticulous writer who would submit to the latter's class several drafts of the same work in graduate school. Manlapaz would be stumped to look for what was outstandingly new about it. She'd read the latest draft line by line until she discovered that an adjective was deleted, and that discovery would make Dayrit smile.
The writer-painter's chair and cane served as subject for a series of paintings.
This meticulousness informed even her art. A fine example is the series "My Chair/30 Times" wherein she painted 30 versions of her chair and cane as subject. Somehow, it reminded one of Wallace Stevens's famous poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."
 As Manlapaz said, it was quintessentially Dayrit to do repetitions with variations (the hallmark of a distinct style), perhaps with an eye to perfection. It also proves that anything can feed the imagination of a disciplined writer and painter which Dayrit was.
Quite telling in her story "A Quiet Infidelity" is how a persevering priest and a successful accountant, once childhood sweethearts, tame their ardor with just a chaste kiss exchanged between them.
In "Roda," the title character chides friend Greg for working hard to make a name for himself in a business office, for always being hurried and not setting aside time to relax and to enjoy his friends' company. This story serves as postlude to an earlier one where Roda's life is cut short by a sudden illness and Greg appears as one of the mourners.
There are no highly dramatic, emotionally draining and tear-jerking scenes. Dayrit's prose is clean and spare that one is almost tempted to call it "Hemingwayesque". But that would make her turn in her grave for in one of her journals, she bristled at a comment made by National Artist Nick Joaquin who during a meeting with women writers, said aloud how they could write if they were pregnant or busy raising small children.
This is where ALIWW's mission comes in: restoring Dayrit to her place in the literary canon. After all, she won literary prizes from the Palanca Memorial Awards and Focus Philippines literary content apart from her stories passing the astute editorial eye of Joaquin himself and getting published in the pre-martial law Philippines Free Press.
Her reflection on a new typewriter ribbon
At the ALIWW exhibit that pays tribute to the writer-painter, the space is made out like Dayrit's private office and library. On the walls are paintings large and small, especially selected by her dear friend Roberto Chabet, the esteemed father of Philippine contemporary art. The look of her desk is recreated with a word bank (a wooden box) near her electric typewriter which, one assumes, she utilized to get what's known as "writing prompts" to get her started.
Good friends: Roberto Chabet clowns around while Dayrit smiles, unaware.
 Her eyeglasses are there, as though she had just taken them off to stand up, stretch, step out to take a snack or go to the toilet, leaving a sheet of newsprint paper fed in the typewriter with a playful reflection on what it's like to have a dual-colored typewriter ribbon. It reads: "My new typewriter ribbon is black and red. I had wanted only black, but that was out of stock. So black and red it is. If you go with the flow, it could be fun."
Mobiles for children's enjoyment
 This fun-loving side of her is reflected in the colorful mobiles hanging from the inside of an open antique closet. These heart-shaped mobiles painted back to back were meant for her grand-nephews and grand-nieces to play with.
Underneath the glass-topped tables are photos of Dayrit from childhood to adulthood. In almost all of them is her bright, brave smile, even as she was being fitted with leg braces. Manlapaz quoted the late Kerima Polotan who once told sculptor Julie Lluch, "When Joy enters a room, she lights it up."
Some of her box paintings and her favorite books, including The Little Prince
 In her journals, Dayrit wondered what her true calling was: writer or painter? One day, she quit agonizing when she realized that she was happy being both, that she did not need to fragment herself, that words and images were what defined her.
The ALIWW exhibit, which runs till Aug. 31, has been visited by droves of freshmen since the schoolyear started. It bodes well. Dayrit's writings and art are alive.--Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga
First published by Vera Files/Yahoo Philippines, July 13, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

But of course

Nothing like the sound of a grand-niece, Machiko Skye, singing on the phone the nursery song "Rain, rain go away" and ending it with "little Machi wants to play" to take my mind briefly away from the relentless videos and photos of the latest massive flooding in Luzon.

Her song heralded this frail thing called hope that tells me some good will come out of this. Even if this hibiscus has been drenched and pummeled, I know something almost like it will open tomorrow. Polyanna signing off...


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why cage poets?

July 31, 2012


Political prisoner Ericson Acosta is in need of medical attention. Please forward, blog, tweet and share this letter of appeal from the Acosta family. We also encourage everybody to write to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to request the resolution of the Ericson Acosta case review which has been pending for almost a year. You may also address appeals to concerned government officials to drop trumped-up charges against Ericson and effect his immediate release. Please see attached materials for information on Ericson.

A Father’s Plea

I am Isaias Acosta, father of detained artist and activist Ericson Acosta. I am writing this while I recuperate from a minor surgery pending further medical tests. Prior to my operation, I was all set for another visit to the sub-provincial jail in Calbayog City, Samar where my son has been detained for more than a year now.

I am now 79 years old, not in the best of health but would not pass up a chance to visit Ericson if I could help it. My wife, Liwayway, is turning 80 this year. She would have gone to Calbayog without me but she can hardly walk without support.
We are both physically suffering due to our respective conditions but nothing compares to the torment of knowing that our son continues to be unjustly imprisoned.

My recent medical setback ironically and agonizingly emphasizes the reason behind our intended urgent visit. Lately, Ericson had been complaining of a nagging pain in his abdomen and lower back. The pain, he says, intensifies whenever he urinates. Now he has also noticed spots of blood in his urine. My cousin, Ericson’s uncle, displayed similar symptoms before he succumbed to prostate cancer.

Ericson rarely complains when he is sick. Even when he was arrested last year, his first words to me were, “Daddy, huwag kayo’ng mag-alala.” He always tells his mother not to fuss over him. Ganyan si Ericson. Hindi niya iniinda hangga’t kaya niya. Once when he was still in grade school, he waited until a “stomach ache” had become too unbearable before he finally told us to take him to the hospital. It turned out he immediately needed to undergo an appendectomy. The doctor said we got there in the nick of time.

Ericson’s last check-up two years ago revealed a renal function abnormality and a possible prostate affliction. So as soon as we received word that he is in pain, we arranged for a visit and asked our lawyers to immediately file a motion before the court seeking urgent medical attention for my son.

We had to skip the visit because of my condition. But after we filed the motion, we were told that the judge in charge of his case had just retired. How long would it take until a new judge is installed? It is as if our frustration with the slow resolution of Ericson’s case is not enough. We are once again left bereft of immediate legal options.

I write this letter of appeal to the jail warden, to the Department of Justice, to Secretary Leila de Lima, and to all other concerned branches of government. I am an old man with no shortage of illnesses as expected of anyone my age, but I would gladly forfeit any trip to the doctor if it could only be traded for much-needed medical treatment for my son. His mother and I fear that his latest hunger strike has further worsened his condition. Ericson must get the medical attention he needs.

I am writing this letter a few days after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was released on a million-peso bail. I cannot but be distressed by the continuing prejudice of our justice system against my son and other political prisoners like him.

Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest in consideration of her illness. Si Arroyo, sa kabila ng kanyang mga kasalanan sa taumbayan, ay pinayagang manatili sa de-aircon na ospital, regular na inaasikaso ng mga doktor at nars gamit ang buwis ng mamamayan. Ngayon siya’y pinalaya pa. Si Ericson at iba pang tulad niya na ang tanging kasalanan ay magsakripisyo para sa maliliit na tao, nasa kawawang kalagayan at hindi kinikilala ang mga karapatan. No, we do not seek preferential treatment like Arroyo. What we demand is that Ericson and all other political prisoners – who are ailing precisely because of dismal prison conditions – also be accorded the right to medical attention as necessary.

We appeal to all freedom-loving citizens and human rights advocates to once again help us in our latest plea for Ericson. During these disconcerting times, we shall continue to fight for Ericson’s release from detention. We add our voices to all others whose sons and daughters are unjustly imprisoned – free all political prisoners.



Details for letter-writers:

Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street,
Malate, Manila,
Telephone: (02) 532-8481, (02) 523-6826

Secretary, DOJ
Telefax: 523-9548
Direct Line: 521-1908
Trunkline: 523-8481 loc. 211, 214

H.E. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila 1005
Voice: (+632) 735-6201 / 564-1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968

Directory of Philippine consulates and embassies:

Please sign the ONLINE PETITION for Ericson Acosta's immediate release


Please visit these links:
JAILHOUSE BLOG: Ericson Acosta's Prison Diary
Ericson Acosta with his son Emman
And So Your Poetry Must
by Ericson L. Acosta
Be wary you say
of its claims
lest you waive art
to us millions unworthy
of taste and manner
lest you be christened
peddler of images
alien in form
pagan in content
lest your license
be forfeited
your ear for resonance
your feel for the sublime.
And so while you summon
the litany of worlds
your own words fashion
you annul my existence
and those of millions
whose narratives you say
betray poetic tone
make burlesque of beauty
and thus like scarecrows
set even the most heretic
muses scurrying back
to their sanctum of rules.
And so in recollecting
your epiphanies
you elude the void
which is my hunger
the famine of millions
the empty bowl of history.
And so with your eulogies
to passion
to rage against time
to pledge with life’s gift
you lull the birth
of noise
of revenge
of bloodshow
that shall feed millions
complete history
and perhaps spare poetry.