Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Becoming ruby

For awhile there, we (a minority of St. Paul College Quezon City High School Batch '73) thought that preparations for our ruby or 45th jubilee had gone kaput, and we would just end up standing to be acknowledged for a few seconds of applause on homecoming day.

Never say never. Nothing like leaving the picking up and organizing to the professionals. So when tireless classmate Miriam Gimenez pleaded that we had to show up for this meeting, who were we to decline and use the bad weather for excuse?
Corporate setting gives our discussions a serious tone with welcome giggling breaks. Clockwise: The blogger, Marissa Ileto, Hayni Estrada Prudente, Eugene Mesina, Lota Alix Medina, Miriam Gimenez,Teresita Rey Evangelista, Jill Racela Narciso, Elaine Barretto, Marie Zamora Lazo and Ana Marie Earnshaw Rigor. Standing are Vicki Narcisco, Adelle Nadres, Bibit Esteva Llamas and Audrey Agatep General.
Nothing like 14 heads, some gray with age (the let-it-grow-white school), others turned brunettes (becomingly so), invoking the old Paulinian spirit of can do!

So we quickly agreed on being red hot mamas when we show up attired in red tops on Jan. 12, 2013, at the Gilmore campus, on having a core group of dancers to lead our march up the stage, on having our own be-kind-to-ourselves days before the main event (a spiritual "getaway," my tentative term, since there are the apostates who gag at the word retreat or recollection; a Zumba dancercise session to get the energy level high; a group spa to remove calluses of aging; walking tour of Chinatown or some historic district in Manila for the classmates flying from overseas).

Elaine Barretto calls these activities "bonding time."

Nourishment for body, mind, spirit--how can we go wrong with that at this stage in our lives? We hope it entices other classmates out there to join the homecoming.
A time to be serious, a time to be comic
 Of course, from the funds we raised, an amount will be put aside for classmates with serious health and financial issues."Caritas Christi urget nos" is the school motto, after all.

Audrey Agatep General, who hosted this July meeting, said the ruby jubilee may be our "last hurrah"--intimations of mortality there. If we make it to diamond, we may be in wheelchairs or clasping walking canes or assisted by care givers.

Or still remain in fine form like Bibit who just joined the "Honesty Club" by giving up coloring her hair and letting it turn its distinguished color. Below she models the lead dancers' look.

Ruby and silver, yeah!

The stacker & her stalker

Here's Butones the stacker being stalked by her Booboo who's clearly missing her (she's in the highlands, I'm in the low) and assuaging the ache of missing her by doing my own kind of stacking exercise: compiling pictures.
Looking for approval? Yes, you're doing great, Butones.
Zooming in for the clincher: a close-up of Ms. Orange Popsicle
Photos by Booboo

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who's that other girl?

Yesterday I sat through four hours of the televised opening of the London Olympics, moved many times but especially when the Peter Pan tableau was presented. Only because it made me remember my father who took me to watch the Disney cartoon at the old, now demolished, Republic Theater in Manila.

That same evening, I gazed up from the grilled windows of the family house in Sampaloc, Manila, and wondered which star represented Neverland. For many nights after, I felt like Wendy looking up and trying to pick out the "second star to the right and straight on till morning." Even at age six or seven, I felt strongly the urge to escape.
Going through the shelves for something that may interest her while Dora sits by idly
When in Baguio for visits, this Booboo tries to be unobtrusive with the digicam so I can document the moves of growing Butones. She seems my opposite in my youthful desire to flee my earthly station.

She looks over and under, sideways and up for something to occupy her time. I imagine her to be like her new companion, an explorer. I hope she never loses her sense of wonder and the compulsion to discover.
Frisbee? Maybe in two, three more years, Butones, you can toss it and Grumpa will catch.
"Mi amiga, donde has estado? Vamos a jugar!"
Photos by Booboo

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My little laundrette

So far this grandma hasn't gotten any feedback from blog visitors that they're suffering from  a Butones overload. In fact, I get email from abroad within the day of uploading photos. Cousins and in-laws are unanimous that the wee girl who likes to hang out in a sunny balcony when it's time to pin the laundry or take them down is a certified cutie. Of course, those people are partial. That's why they're called relatives!
Hey, are you sure that isn't one of your Booboo's gigantic panties?
She thinks, hmmm, this one's mine.
Definitely Booboo's. Eeek!
Do I get a prize for assisting?
Magic words: "Dede time!" No better prize than Mamay's milk.
Photos by Booboo

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anonymous Ms.

in memory of Darnay Demetillo
& for his grieving Flor Hernandez

maybe it's for the best
that i do not know the proper names
of these anonymous blooms
that remove the wretchedness
of hours & days misspent

i like that they don't require
or demand anything from me

what they need the free air
the bursting of clouds provide

would we were like them

so let me introduce ms violet
ms lavender ms red
ms yellow orange
these misses who just happen by
the byways i pass by 

do make their acquaintance too
because they know this open secret:
that after loss
crumpling fading  
their colors  break free anew
on an unexpected morning

--Babeth Lolarga
8:14 a.m.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our little toughie

In Filipino, a pose like this is described as siga. In a way, 15-month-old Butones is siga because she gets her  way whenever it's possible. She knows limits are defined when her mother utters a firm "No!" Language-wise, her edge over us is she can understand us, but we can't understand her fluent foreign language that is accompanied with expressive eyes. Otherwise, she has the run of the upper floor of the house, the rooms all turned into her territories. Here she is outfitted in her modern cloth nappy with paw prints and a pair of "skidders," shoes with socks attached. Locale is the balcony-cum-laundry drying area where she soaks up the sun in the morning. Photo by Kimi Fernandez

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Flash choir at Times Square

I request the blog reader to visit the website below to experience what it's like to be in Times Square while the world premiere of a choral work by the great Philip Glass is sung. This left me with goose bumps all over, especially when I read that the lyrics sung by the soprano were from Sufi poet Rumi.  Thank you, National Public Radio, for innovative ways of bringing art directly to the street.


To honor Philip Glass' 75th birthday this year, we here at NPR Music commissioned Glass to create a short work that would be great fun for amateur and professional singers alike. A big part of what we do is to try to make all kinds of music engaging and accessible — and wouldn't it be great to invite anyone who wanted to come and sing in a world premiere by one of the most celebrated composers of our time?
So Glass took a work he had first written for soprano and instruments as part of his 1997 3-D "digital opera" Monsters of Grace, and arranged it for soloist and eight-part chorus. And were very lucky indeed to team up with the Make Music NY Festival, member station WQXR and the Times Square Alliance to realize this project at one of the world's most iconic spots, the Crossroads of the World, Times Square.
About 200 singers gathered to sing with the ebullient Kent Tritle, one of America's most accomplished and beloved choral conductors, and soprano soloist Rachel Rosales. (And a handful of singers were folks who had simply been walking by and were swept up in the moment.)
On this sweltering day, the singers' mindful intention to gather in Times Square and its visceral result — all breath and sweat and palpable effort in the middle of glossy Times Square, with stifling heat, noise and a zillion blinking distractions — was just amazing and honestly quite moving.
For his text, Glass selected words from the medieval Sufi Muslim poet Jalaluddin Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks. In his poetry, Rumi urges the reader to break free of the constraints of daily life — to upend expectations and jettison traditional thinking in an unending quest to unite with the divine. "Here's the new rule," Rumi wrote. "Break the wineglass, and fall towards the glassblower's breath." And somehow — beautifully, magically and only briefly — this fleeting chorus became the heartbeat of Times Square.

Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Som Sabadell flashmob

Maita Gomez, party organizer in many ways

In late June, I emailed, or more precisely, forwarded photos of the last WOMB (Women for the Ouster of Marcos and Boycott) reunion party held at Baboo Mondoñedo's condo unit in Greenhills, San Juan City, to some members who were in my contact list.  (I was freeing up space in my email account.)

Laida Lim emailed back to acknowledge and ask, wasn't it time to organize another reunion? I left her note unanswered. I had gotten too busy preparing for the three classes I teach twice a week to entertain thoughts of a party. Besides, Gigi Dueñas de Beaupre, the honoree of that particular party, was in the Caribbean, and another active member and good party organizer, Joji Ravina-Lourence, was in Australia.

I think Laida has a clairvoyant's gift. If I had a not-too-heavy ass, I would've gotten things or helped get things moving, and we'd all have enjoyed Maita Gomez's company.

In that last reunion, Maita was so organized and efficient that she sent out very practical instructions like to declare what foodstuff we would bring to the luncheon party to prevent duplication, to allow the women entrepreneurs, artists and crafts women in the group to sell their works for additional income (my small acrylics and watercolors sold out at giveaway prices), to have all the leftover food bagged and brought home by the party-goers who were the last to leave, etc. And everyone complied.

Baboo texted two days ago to ask if there would be a WOMB tribute for Maita. I could only pass on her query to Olive Tripon who has the organization's directory.

I re-print photos taken by Anna Leah Sarabia from that August 2009 party that originally came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It now seems uncanny that the title I gave that report was "From womb to tomb, these women will always be with us." Happy trails, Maita!

Carving the roast turkey cooked in Baboo's oven
Gigi, Gilda Cordero Fernando and Maita
Anna Leah describes the women in this photo as "survivors of a marathon buffet." Maita is in yellow, seated fourth from right.

Mom Matec and the boys in her life

Villanueva and her three sons Franco, Ibarra and Lorenzo
When her first child Ibarra was born 20 years ago, Matec Villanueva, then 32, felt like she was a Ms. Universe contestant onstage answering a crucial question asked, the question being "What is the essence of a woman?" Her quick answer at that point in her life would have been "Motherhood!"
"It was real and spot on, not some lofty, nice-to-hear answer. At that moment, I knew what the essence of a woman meant, and I was feeling it, for real," she said.

Like many talented women, she had issues with her mother. She said, "I wanted to be a better mother than her."

But when the child was nearly two, she began to worry. She noticed that Ibarra or Bubba just wanted to play alone. He seemed to act deaf at times when she and her then husband Kiko Gargantiel knew that he wasn't.

Villanueva recalls, "The most telling sign was he appeared not to have eye contact with the people around him, including us. Kiko and I talked about it, and we started to seek professional help. In my gut, I knew he was autistic. I was just hoping I was wrong. I had to know for sure."

Around this time, she bore another son, Lorenzo, now 17.

Villanueva didn't think she was hit with a double whammy when the second child turned out to have special needs, too.

"He also belongs to the autism spectrum," she said. "How did I cope? I accepted the reality that my sons had learning disabilities. I decided not to waste time moping or feeling bad.  My ex-husband and I decided to do as much as we could to help our sons."

Along with sending their boys to the right, i.e., accepting and supportive, schools and classes (Community of Learners and restaurateur Waya Araos-Wijangco's cooking classes tailor-made for kids with special needs), the couple was aware of the future and their mortality as parents.

Villanueva said, "We knew that we were going to die some day. We had to make sure that they could be independent and not be a burden to their youngest brother (Franco, now 15, has no disability like his elder brothers).  We sought all the professional help they needed. We read up and tried to learn as much as we could. We sought the best professional help we could find.  More importantly, we loved them for what they are."

Because of the intervention steps the former couple took (they remain friends), Villanueva reports like a proud mom: "Ibarra and Lorenzo are well-behaved and have developed adequate life skills. At first, it was hard to be firm with our resolve, but I just had to accept that it was for their own good."
Her firmness sometimes surprised people who weren't aware of where she was coming from.

She said, "I've encountered people who didn't know better and found me a bit too harsh because I refuse to give in to their tantrums. I took the time to explain that my sons had special needs and I was merely doing what I should. I resisted the temptation to pacify them by giving in to the tantrums.  It all paid off because Ibarra and Lorenzo are well-behaved. They have adjusted to normal living."
The same resolve and toughness made Villanueva, who is 53, the chief executive officer of Publicis Manila, a multinational advertising agency.

She has managed to find time to monitor the boys' eating and lifestyle. She said, "People with their
 disability tend to either be picky or obsessive eaters. I trained them not to eat more than they should, take sandwich and salad for dinner and to exercise every day. Ibarra swims at Celebrity (Plaza in Quezon City) for an hour, three times a week and walks for an hour for the rest of the week. Lorenzo walks for an hour after dinner for his exercise.  I am very thrilled to say that they are fit and not overweight. And yes, I imposed my lifestyle on them: eating well and exercising."

Asked if she feels she has crossed a difficult bridge and can relax a bit, confident that the boys can fend for themselves, she answered cautiously, "They have gone a long way but far from what I had in mind. I am still working at it to make sure that I give them a chance of having a life."

To parents who may be going through a struggle of accepting that they have a child with special needs and may be at a loss of where to turn, Villanueva offers this advice tinged with the voice of experience: "God gave them to you because He knows you will do a good job. Don't fail God. And most especially, don't fail your child."

First published by Vera Files/Yahoo Philippines on July 7, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dance of Laguna's flowers (part 2)

"From light to dark"--it's a phrase my art tutor uses on me when I'm doing the background for a painting. He warns me against doing smooth backgrounds that remind him of house painting. Anyway, for those with observant eyes, I began my latest Laguna flower pictures with flowers of light colors and shades. I always make it a point to shoot early in the morning or at four in the afternoon.

Like an answered prayer, my cousin Beng Valdellon, writing all the way from Burke, Virginia, in response to my first batch of shots from yesterday, announced that "I got a book of flowers when I went to Hawaii. I will give it to you when we see each other." Future folios of flora won't go nameless or without captions anymore.

There's something about the shapes and colors of these beauties that remind me of ballerinas and their tutus. Do I hear a waltz?

I'm proud of my shot of moving "froglets" (they're no longer tadpoles, according to my host Precious). So fauna ends this series.
Photos by Babeth Lolarga

My eye candy

Before I post new flower power photos, let me share my favorite eye candy: a toddler named Butones. She seems to know her best angle and knows how to give her Mamay a truly funny face. I miss you, kiddo. One more sleep, and I'll be near you again!
Trying the bureau chief's (Grumpa Rolly's) chair for size--this means she's big enough to be brought to the office.
Very fashionably outfitted while taking her morning walk (her Tita Ida will be pleased that Butones is not dugyot-looking)
Back view out in her sunny balcony
Someone must be giving her raspberry kisses and caused this attack of giggles.
Photos by Kimi Fernandez

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In love with La Laguna (part 1)

In Rikee Baluyut's bookshelf is a book on Nature that I happened to read two Sundays ago while lulling myself to sleep. I copied a quote that I am using in this entry to introduced another folio of flowers. Said quotation is attributed to Henry Ward Beecher: "Flowers are the sweetest things that God ever made and forgot to put a soul into."

Well, this soul likes to confess her insatiable greed for their beauty that I must always capture, then bring home with me to gaze over and over. I've been looking for a portable full-color book on Philippine flowers so if anyone out there can point me to a place where I can buy such a book that I can carry along with me in my off-on forays to the nearby countryside, pray, do share.

Meanwhile, let me have fun with the way I will arrange this latest bundle of blooms I brought home from the nooks and crannies encompassing my hostess Precious Leaño's cottage. I'm inclined to think that the Almighty Maker's form of poetry writing is making flowers open and close or coloring them in the subtlest and loudest ways.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga