Wednesday, February 20, 2013

'Stepping Stones' off the press, to be launched in Baguio

Baboo MondoƱedo's new "baby", Stepping Stones, a collection of personal essays published by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, will be launched March 3 at the Cafe by the Ruins on Chuntug street, Baguio City. Below this is the foreword the blogger wrote for the book. 
      The author           Photo courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer
 Baboo sent a copy over at my mom's house yesterday, and even if I wasn't its author, I was bowled over as though I was. She signed it with this message: "A million thanks for the encouragement to see a dream come true. This project has brought joy in remembering." After I read that, I went inside the empty girls' room I share with my sister and did a brief dance with the book in my hands. Women are that way.

My own remembering of the title is it was the name of the workshop that Baguio's Merci Javier Dulawan and Grace Subido had thought of for a Baguio Writers Group project that took in people in midlife or those who've retired and were wanting to leave something for their children and grandchildren. It didn't necessarily had to be a book, it could just be an essay, to explain to a younger generation that the golden person before them, who they may find eccentric or old-fashioned, had a life, had a childhood, had a youth, knew love and its complications, went through losses and somehow emerged intact from the grinder of life. Ooops! Too much (I can see the eyebrows of the pedagogue in Grace going up). 

The initial Stepping Stones workshop had that purpose. Little did we know that inside Baboo, who was one of the participants, was a nascent author. Speaking for myself who sat in the secretariat of that workshop and went though the exercises in a "just for fun" spirit, I am so gladdened by the "product" from that small gathering. And I'm sure all of Baguio is, a Baguio that Baboo, the writer, painter and cafe part-owner, has adopted and called home and helped shape into one.

Walking with Baboo Through the Edge

What makes this long stroll with Baboo that stretched over two years and meandered through real and imaginary forests worth one's time and attention is the certainty in that this woman will lead her companions to a clearing filled with sunlight.

Those who've known her from her early years as a sheltered girl up to the point when she was an epitome of glamour as a Pitoy Moreno fashion model may think hers has been a privileged life befitting her class, with creature comforts handed over without a struggle. Her development after those years puts a lie to that first impression of ritzy gloss.

Although the pieces in Baboo's first book are deceptively short and may seem "easy reading", the readable prose comes with an early warning. The telling of her story and the decision to share it with others, given other writers' self-protective instinct to draw the line where private life ends and public persona begins, came with much wrestling within. There were times when she almost buckled when her inner critic sensed this piece would hurt, that piece may displease. Those were the times she was tempted to withdraw troubling pieces and just store them in her files.

She, however, is aware that for her voice to be heard, she has to put the God or the Devil in the details. She has excavated deeply like a seasoned archeologist buried memories of heartbreak, pain, hurt, recovery, starting life afresh. This awareness that comes with years of meditative practice has enabled her to see that disclosure will connect her with readers. And so her voice here is bolder compared to the one she uses in her popular column in a community paper in Baguio.

This is Baboo's book of her life lessons learned. She may, at certain self-mocking moments, think of that life as insignificant, a proverbial drop in a bigger ocean. It is not; it is in fact unique and familiar at the same time. To use a popular term, "it resonates" with the reader who has traipsed on stepping stones like hers that move from dark and doubt to shafts of enlightenment, from innocent girl effaced by experience to grandmother enjoying her years of grace. Would that all women and men enjoy a harvest time in life's cycle as full and fulfilled as hers.

--Elizabeth Lolarga

Baguio City

March 9, 2012
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