Friday, September 28, 2012

Davuh, Duhwow, Davao

In Davao City, the letter "d" stands for durian.

If black ants are marching in a long, busy line in your cottage in Davao City, consider it a propitious sign. It means the fruits you bought, be they rambutan, mangosteen or that stinky bomb called durian, are sweet.

With its land area of more than 2,000 square kilometers, it may be easy to get lost in the city or literally be taken for a ride by aggressive private van drivers who ply the visitors freshly off the plane with roomy vehicles that can facilitate a city tour. These same drivers claim that taxis are disallowed from the arrival premises, and this practice doesn't give a good first impression of the city touted as the most honest.

It's best not to take their word for it and wait for a regular cab. The cabbie will frankly tell you that decades of draconian city leadership have made them fearful of taking advantage of tourists, let alone those from their own country.  The information desk comes replete with glossy guides and maps to aid the first-timers who haven't had time scroll through food and travel blogs on recommended places.

Even the cabbie knows his city well enough to recommend what spots not to miss.
Twilight view from Samal Island
September may be an odd month to take a break, but the timing couldn't be better. It is the height of the durian season where a kilo of the fruit is down to P25. The weather in this part of the country is also assuredly beach weather, with the occasional passing rains or overcast skies that may mar your view of the sunset over the city from nearby Samal Island.

An island getaway has become possible to a democratic mass with many resorts to choose from-- from the high end to the lowbrow. The 15-minute ferry to and from Samal costs only P30 a person. Locals advise getting there early morning, spending the entire day sunning and swimming, even ziplining, then back to the city on the last 5 p.m. boat.
Budbud with swirls of chocolate
Baked scallops
Resort meals are also affordable and generous. Go for the seafood, whether prepared as sinigang soured by mashed tamarind fruit (not an instant mix) or a family-size pizza with fat shrimps among the toppings. Expect the shrimps to come large and juicy anywhere in a city where a food crisis is unheard of.
Chattering lory
A weekend leaves time to check out the Philippine Eagle Center in the Baguio district. The fauna in captivity (eagles, owls, crocodiles, hogs, monkeys) in large cages and sheds live under a larger canopy of trees, a simulation of a tropical rainforest where the temperature goes down when one enters the forest.
Mixed media work of Charlie Frenal using durian skin and found at Museo Dabawenyo
A confirmation of how wide the wingspan of the country's national bird  comes at Museo Dabawenyo on Pichon street where a stuffed Philippine eagle is displayed with wings spread out. If the sight of that isn't enough to induce pride of place, what else would? The museum's contents (miniature tribal houses, mannequins in indigenous people's costumes, musical instruments, old typewriters, prize-winning photos of the Kadayawan Festival) give a glimpse of the city's historical and cultural heritage. Center educator Leonisa Llapitan can utter the old names of Davao like an incantation: Davuh, Duhwow, Dabaw, Dabu.
Philippine eagle at rest
More fauna sightings await visitors at Crocodile Park that is also home to the feathered species like the
red-plumed chattering lory and talking mynah. A bird show on weekends attracts groups of senior citizens and the more awed, less fearful children who have no compunction about volunteering to toss food in the air while a bird of prey swoops down to catch it or posing with a baby crocodile, its mouth taped shut by its keeper.
Crocodile named Pangil as still as a statue
An evening must be set aside for a panoramic view of the city, spread out like a queen's twinkling jewels from a vantage point at Jack's Ridge on Shrine Hill, followed by dinner of the south's famed chicken barbecue and grilled tuna belly washed down with cold beer.
Nighttime view of Davao City from Jack's Ridge
If there is room for dessert, head down to Lola Abon's durian candy shop which carries almost all variations one can do on the durian from pastillas to mousse. Their durian ice cream is perfect for initiates who find the actual fruit too overwhelming. The ice cream has the distinctive smell and has plenty of the fruit's fiber. This shop is admirable for choosing to maintain its standards of quality and turning down a giant mall's offer to go nationwide.

The city is a thriving, throbbing story of the big little town that could. Even gasoline is cheap so the commuter in a tricycle is charged only seven pesos. That ride would've cost P14 -15 in a small National Capital Region village.  One leaves with a sense of "I can live here for good."--Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga

First published by Vera Files / Yahoo Philippines, Sept. 18, 2012.

Baboo Mondoñedo transitions from glam gal to activist to joyous painter

Baboo Mondoñedo transitions from glam gal to activist to joyous painter

Those were the days

My sister Embeng found this little gem of a picture. The actual photo, taken by a Burnham Park photographer, is even smaller than the size of the reproduction above. The year was, in all likelihood, 1961 with our mother, Gliceria Lolarga, the adult in eyeglasses, bent over our brother Dennis and wearing one of her preggy dresses that never seemed to have left her closet for her entire reproductive "career." We, the first five kids out of eight, were all summer residents at our lola's Lower Brookside home in Baguio City. So if anybody asks why Baguio is special to this blogger, the joy on our young faces is all the reason in the world. From left: Embeng, Babeth, Dennis, Suzy and Junic. To the September borns in this pic (Mommy and Junic), happy birthday now and ever. XOXO

Monday, September 17, 2012

Morning Sight

they're my kookaburra
wombat koala
emy kangaroo
& platypus
into two:
momma & babe
caught  in monday
morn's early

light filtered
by dusty screen
& glass jalousies

light it is they bring
dark they shatter

they're my
anchors wings
bells trumpets

where else
where else
can i wake
to a sight
more empowering
& inspiring
than my two kookaburras
clasped in
sleep's embrace?

--Babeth Lolarga
Sept. 17, 2012

Photo of Kimi & Kai Fernandez by Booboo Babeth

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Captcha from Yesterday

"A CAPTCHA ... is a type of challenge-response test used in computing as an attempt to ensure that the response is generated by a person."--Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

yesterday i was about
to email a link to a friend,
the sharing of information
& possible insights
into life & the living of it
being part of my
morning prayers & rituals,
when the captcha that appeared
spelled "calctuc kai."

i copied it carefully
so my message can be
read by the computer
till it is assured
that i, the sender,
am no robot or spammer.

serendipity? coincidence?
the wit of the cosmos?

"calctuc kai"--
i again copied the
seemingly nonsensical
phrase, this time
on paper, with pencil.

i wanted to tell
the computer-generated captcha
that i know of a kai
& she's far from nonsense,
even if her mouth seems
to spout foreign
gibberish to a literate
adult's ears.

after all i've insisted
that she call me "booboo,"
a name equally without sense.

i figure it won't be long
when my fingers excitedly
fly over the keyboard
as i prepare another piece
of shared info in cyberspace

& the captcha for the moment
will be an alliterative
"babtuc booboo."

--Babeth Lolarga
Sept. 13, 2012
7:46 a.m.

Photo of a smiling Calctuc Kai, a.k.a. Butones, on her first airplane ride with Grumpa Rolly Fernandez by Booboo Babeth 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Shameless self-advertising

Currently up on exhibit at Forest Lodge (formerly John Hay Suites) at Camp John Hay in Baguio City are these two paintings by a struggling, but not starving, painter. These are part of the Baguio Aquarelle Society's group show, "Aquarelle."

Other works on exhibit are those by BAS moving spirit Baboo Mondoñedo, who helped revive the moribund group and brought in new members, Roland Bay-an, Norman Chow, Merci Javier Dulawan, Edna Guerrero,  Fara Manuel,  daughter and mother Lira and Luchie Maranan,  Pia Mondiguing, Lilian Oliva, Toottee Chanco Pacis, daughter and father Danielle and Patric Palasi. Baboo, an active watercolorist, also has a current solo show at Alliance Francaise on Reposo street in Makati City.

If the subjects of these works look familiar, the painter admits joyfully that yes, her grand-daughter is an unending source of inspiration for poetry and painting. No better muse than she. Her elders will have a lot to tell her about how a certain adult has turned her into an object of scrutiny. And yes, the titles are inspired by the book the grandmother reads aloud to her.And yes, yes, yes, grandma doesn't mind comparisons to Matisse. Okay, enough already!

Busy Baby Comes and Goes," watercolor and watercolor pencil on Canson paper, 12" x 16".
"Busy Baby Watches Wind Blow," watercolor and watercolor pencil on Canson paper, 12" x 16".

What I didn’t do last summer

What I didn’t do last summer

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Himagsik at Protesta

And just so young people/readers do not forget that martial law did happen and could happen again, poet Edel Garcellano adds his voice to the collective remembering. Visit his blog of September poems:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

On the Road with Humming Babe

she travelled well
this tot of a year
& five months
cuddling close
to her mother
whenever she felt
tiny waves of nausea
as the bus picked up
speed & the view
rushed by
including the mountain
she calls home

in the lowlands
she resumes
her exploration
of temporary
abode &
relations she had
in her isolation
after a passing
fear of strange
faces gladdened
by her coming

she sleeps through
a first night
of rainfall
wakes with
a hum in her head
questions in
her eyes that
another day
in another place
will answer
before milk-soaked
dreams fill her up

--Babeth Lolarga
Sept. 5, 2012
9:09 a.m.

Photo of Butones aboard a bus to Metro Manila by Kimi Fernandez

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Protest songs still hit the spot

The Parliament of the Street came alive again through a night of song and poetry performed not atop a flatbed truck but on a traditional stage.
Siblings and performers Becky Abraham and Lester Demetillo
The Demetillos, a family of musicians made up of guitarist Lester, his sister Becky Abraham and her daughter Astarte, both vocalists, and some friends (Mario Andres, Lory Paredes and Karina Constantino-David) etched the contours of history and the current state of the nation at the University of the Philippines Abelardo Hall concert "Mga Awit Protesta."
Astarte Abraham
Folk songs from the ’60s and ’70s popularized by Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary roused three generations of activists in the audience.

Edru Abraham was more than an emcee. He hectored, prompted and conducted some portions, keeping everyone’s spirit up, the kind of spirit felt in People Power marches and rallies that peaked in the ’80s.

In private former UP President Francisco Nemenzo Jr. described the audience, endearingly, as “a reunion of aging activists.” Farmers’ rights advocate Edicio de la Torre said the concert was an example of “nostalgia niche marketing.” 
Demetillo accompanies himself on the guitar.
The night showcased siblings Ms. Abraham and Demetillo, the former for her vocal power that remains confidently strong in the lower register and sounds uncannily similar to her daughter’s, the latter for his versatility as guitarist, composer and singer. He showed stamina, not leaving the stage in the two-part, no-intermission program. He was in all solo, duet and trio numbers.
Mario Andres, Lory Paredes and Lester Demetillo
Abraham, Becky’s spouse, said the siblings were raised as Protestants with that church’s tradition of hymns. They learned folk singing from older brother Darnay, the late painter-fine arts teacher, to whom the first part was dedicated.

Part One concentrated on songs reflecting American protesters’ sentiments on the issues of racial discrimination, peace, anti-nuclear power, pro-environment and human rights that flared up during the Great Depression, the Vietnam War and the covert counter-insurgency operations of the US military.

In “Day is Done,”  Ms. Abraham was a mother lamenting what a troubled world she and her child live in:  “Do you ask why I’m sighing, my son?
/ You shall inherit what mankind has done.
/ In a world filled with sorrow and woe
/ If you ask me why this is so, I really don’t know.”

In “One Tin Soldier,”  the futility of war was illustrated in the chorus: “Go ahead and hate your neighbor /go ahead and cheat a friend / Do it in the name of heaven / You could justify it in the end / There won't be any trumpets blowing / Come the judgment day / On the bloody morning after / One tin soldier rides away.”

Abraham shared an interesting anecdote. Dylan wrote “When the Ship Comes In” in a fit of anger when he was disallowed from entering a hotel where he and Joan Baez were scheduled to sing because of his hippie getup. Demetillo imbued this song with the passion of the offended overturning the tables on the oppressor.

Andres, Paredes and Demetillo raised the nostalgia level higher with classic protest anthems “Blowin in the Wind,” “There But for the Fortune,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “If I Had My Way.” Paredes said when she first heard “Times They Are A-Changin,” she thought how sapul na sapul (spot on) it was for the ’60s. As they rehearsed it again, she realized how relevant the lyrics still are.

The second half, offered to activist singer Susan Fernandez’s memory, featured poems by Andres Bonifacio, Domingo Landicho, Edgardo Maranan, Constantino-David, Jane Po and Mon Ayco set to music (many by Demetillo) on the struggle against authoritarianism and the hopes of the masses.

The power of each song doubled in impact because it was in Filipino. No one missed the feminist, near incendiary slant in “Babae.” It invoked the names of Gabriela (Silang), Teresa (Magbanua), Lorena (Barros), Liliosa (Hilao) as women who didn’t pin their hopes on men for a life of comfort but instead joined the national liberation struggle.

“Titser” mourns the plight of Filipino teachers who must supplement their salary by selling underwear and sausages, apart from being forced to cheat in elections.

Karina Constantino-David and Demetillo accompany Ms. Abraham in "Macliing."
Constantino-David, one half of the former tandem Inang Laya (the other being Ms. Abraham) went up the stage to loud cheers after an absence of 15 years to accompany on the guitar the singer’s interpretation of the composition, “Macliing.” This is a dirge for the murdered Kalinga chieftain who fought against the Chico River Dam that would have inundated his people’s ancestral lands.
Demetillo, Domingo Landicho, Constantino-David, Maranan and Edru Abraham go onstage to acknowledge applause.
“Atsay ng Mundo,” “Japayuki,” “Batang Pulubi,” “Anakpawis” all sadly stated how much drastic change has to be done for the country to become truly just and free. Landicho warned in “Paano Tutula” that poetry and song would flee a country that has lost all hope.--Text by Elizabeth Lolarga
 Photos by Roger Evangelista

First published in Vera Files/Yahoo Philippines, Aug. 20, 2012.