Friday, March 22, 2013

If it ain't broke...

..why change it? Or even fix it? 

That question had been asked also of the refurbished Batmobile when it was George Clooney still playing the guy in the suit who sat behind the wheels of a super-powered car. 

My partner and foremost critic asked me that, too, as he tried to "navigate" his way through this blog's new look (or turbulent waters?) just this Tuesday after I came from a blogging workshop. He grew increasingly exasperated as he kept pressing the wrong buttons and found the visuals flip-flapping this way and that. 

"Why not?" I asked back of oh captain, my captain, and laughed as I showed him where to press the button so he could return to the Classic look that he's more comfy with.

There was a chance to choose one of many Dynamic looks, click on my choice and apply it to this blogspot. Thank you,teachers Padma Perez and Jenny Cariño, for showing me how. I didn't lose a file nor the blogs in my "play list."  The latter is some sort of procrastination station where I like to linger to read the works of fellow bloggers united in the word.

One of our new bloggers from Baguio, who prefers to remain anonymous in the meantime, has one about life's charms and challenges. I must admit to feeling charmed and enticed by the look of the blogs of radical chick Katrina Stuart Santiago and now/here/now/where woman Padma and even that art blog of a more senior writer, Alfredo "Ding" Roces.  

I told P how the look reminded me of a desk with many drawers that I can pull out, depending on what I fancied. Could be the wrong analogy, huh? Okay, maybe I should compare their respective blog's layout to a cabinet of wonders (thanks, Anita Feleo, for the use of your Anvil travel book's title).

I talk too much or over-think things when all I what I want to say is this: 
El Capitan looking forlorn
"Dear Captain RBF, we are missing you in the same way we conceitedly know that you are missing us, the girls in your life, because, well, we're away part or most of the time. Don't be glum, don't be blue, don't answer a simple text of  'How are you?' with 'Still breathing.' We all know what can put a smile on your face again. Just continue to breathe and eat and work and play with Yao Ming the Dog and spin the opera CDs you bought at a bargain bin, and we'll be there in no time at all, down to our last centavo, broke but back in your loving arms. Ha! Got you there." --(signed) Wanna-be dynamic blogger
With The Button who can put a smile back on his face
Photos of Rolly and Butones Fernandez by Babeth Lolarga

Mila Aguilar's novel describes Mila Aguilar's novel thus: "A spoiled youngest daughter, M plunges headlong into the Philippine underground in the darkest years of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship. Then she discovers God.This book is a confessional. It is a novel of repentance, a novel of continuous and contiguous epiphanies, a novel celebrating life and death to self.A few months after finishing the novel, the author contracted cancer of the uterus. Would reading it reveal the complex reasons why?" 

To find out and to purchase the novel in its Kindle edition, visit  The cover was designed by Grace de Jesus Sievert. Grace also designed the cover of Mila's book of 101 poems, Chronicle of a Life Foretold (available in print edition at Popular Bookstore on Morato and Timog avenues, Quezon City, and Solidaridad Bookshop on P. Faura, Ermita, Manila).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To not live in vain

Yesterday's and today's inbox was filled with petitions that requested signatures for the save-the-Philamlife-Theater movement and for the revocation of the University of the Philippines' unjust "no late payment" and "forced leave of absence" policies. These issues all call for one's time and contribution as citizen (simply add your name to the petition).

Likewise, an appeal came in behalf of an Ibaloi child who is seriously ill.
Youngest dialysis patient in Baguio
Manong Ed Maranan, Palanca hall of famer who is originally from Baguio, wrote to his email  contacts for the second day in a row to seek help so a new lease on life could be given to Chelsea Benito, 10. 

He shared Baguio journalist Ramon Dacawi's  account of how the Benito family is struggling to keep Chelsea alive. The report came out in the community paper Baguio Midland Courier

"Chelsea Abance Benito and her family are no different from most, if not all, of the other kidney patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.

"Like most families with a member afflicted with total kidney failure that requires life-time dialysis, hers is suddenly on its toes scrounging for funds to support her next treatment session, supposedly scheduled two or three times a week.

"Most, if not all, are financially strapped, drained dry by the costs: between P2,200 to P2,800 per session, excluding occasional blood transfusions, maintenance medicines, hospitalization for complications and a host of other needs.

"The difference is that, as per her doctors advice, Chelsea must be on dialysis every other day, or four sessions a week, until her blood pressure has stabilized.
"The difference is that she is almost blind. Her vision has blurred since her blood pressure shot up last September and she was confined for the second time at the BGHMC.
"The difference is that Chelsea is now the youngest of 169 dialysis patients being treated at the BGHMC.

"Chelsea, the third of four kids of Billy and Cecilia (nee Abance) Benito, an Ibaloy farmer-couple from Bengao, Bakakeng Central here, is 10 years old.

"Before Chelsea appeared at the BGHMC renal center for her first dialysis session last Jan. 16, the youngest patient was Ana Fontanilla, a 14-year old farmer's daughter from Rosario, La Union.

"The number of kidney patients seeking treatment at the BGHMC renal center is steadily increasing. That they're getting younger is alarming for nurse Carmen Bumatnog and the rest of the staff working the four treatment shifts of four hours each.

"Before Ana and Chelsea, the youngest was Ashley Dyrine Sabling, then a 14-year old girl from Tadian, Mt. Province. She died on a Sunday in early November 2010 just after she arrived in Baguio for her scheduled treatment the following morning.

"School children and teachers of Westmont School Montessori at Camp 7 here fought back tears when they learned of Ashley's passing. She had visited their school, to thank them for making kimchi they sold to parents to support her treatment.

"Recently, Ana's mother appealed for support to her daughter's will to survive. Several gentle souls out there who requested anonymity immediately pooled P38,500 for Ana, so her family' won't have to worry how to sustain her dialysis until this February.

"Now, it's Chelsea's turn.

"The kid's father said her woes began in July last year, while she was in the fourth grade. She was suddenly feverish, was feeling weak and started throwing up. During her hospital confinement, doctors advised her parents to bring Chelsea to the national Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City.

"'We were trying to raise the amount needed to bring her (to the NKTI) when her blood pressure shot up and had to be confined again,' her father, Billy, said last week. 'That's when her vision became impaired to the point that she could no longer recognize faces she knew.'"

Manong Ed has provided the bank details of Chelsea's mother so Good Samaritans (there are many out there) can help by way of prayers, intentions and donations.

Philippine National Bank
Abanao St., Baguio City branch
Account Name: Cecilia Benito
Savings Account Number: 592108-011-5451360

Letters like Manong Ed's are stark reminders of the importance of frequent practice of helping, something Emily Dickinson captured:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's the hardest thing?

"How do we leave the readers feeling appeased by what they read instead of cheated? That is why I think that short story endings are one of the hardest things in the world to write. I'd take a 75,000 word novel any day."--Stephanie Campbell, "Closure in Short Stories"

To write one true line, macho Hemingway said long ago when the words weren't flowing. It has been that way for me for many days, very hard to write a sensible sentence. Losing the taste for words and the stringing of them. However, the joy of reading is intact--they can't take that away from me. But getting into the groove of writing coherently and clearly can be such a pain when one is having one of those gray episodes in one's life, exacerbated by acts of delay (a.k.a. procrastination) that heightens the sense of dislike for this nameless aaaarrgh!  
Illustration found in the World Wide Web

So there I was this morning, trying to put on an imaginary apron so I could get a simple and decent breakfast done; Rolly took the trouble of brewing coffee and adding a dash of cinnamon to each cup (thank you, sir). All I had to do was prepare a pair of big pancakes by beating an egg and adding milk to the ready mix. My sighs were audible, amplified by a slight clanging of pans until I found one that could fit the batter for a pancake.  

I had an English teacher who once saw me writhing in angst over my inability to overcome a strong dislike for simple housework. To my declaration, "I'd rather bleed while composing a poem or a story than cook," she had this retort: "But any idiot who can read a recipe can!"

This is where I write a senseless end to these even more useless ramblings. Here's to more important things in life than a blogger in her limbo (even that is a non-place already). 

Dead things and people in Tin Garcia’s hands | Vera Files

Monday, March 18, 2013

Curtain call for Philam Life Theater? | Vera Files

Crossing 100k means feeling grateful and humbled

Image from Google+
This blog (horrible way to start an entry, it's almost like beginning a book report/ review with the phrase "This book") quietly crossed 100k hits, oh, maybe a couple of hours ago while I was making the most of a day that was half-ruined by a village-wide brownout. 

The power didn't return until seven hours later by which time I had written a howdy letter to a niece, fixed my box of stationery inherited from a daughter who moved away, eaten half a sandwich and half a mango, drank a cup of coffee, put some order in my backpack before I go on a Dora Explorada trip again, read through a novel about books, Sheridan Hay's The Secret of Lost Things while making a mental note to give it to a bibliomaniac friend who lives in Mirador Hill, Baguio, removed stuff in the home-office drawer that I thought were too small and dangerous to be within a toddler's reach, turned these  over to my partner for safekeeping, listened to "April Child," composed by Moacir Santos, arranged by Vittor Santos and that is part of my collection...

Who cares about these activities? Just me and my 21 followers, I guess, but whoever came a-visiting while I was concerned with executing these everyday things makes me want to shout out loud, "Thank you!" Soon, maybe not too soon, blogs will be overtaken by a new means of self-expression that doesn't feel like over-disclosure or over-sharing (yup, I'm often guilty of that). Until then, I'll keep this blog going, maybe freshen up its look. 

Thank you again for dropping by.

Stepping Stones « MtCloud Bookshop

Stepping Stones « MtCloud Bookshop

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My girls (or the sisterhood of the travelling sandals)

Being a believer in "inclusivity", I consider them all are my girls: daughters Kimi and Ida, their friends and the toddler who's been described by her mother as a swift temple runner. 

The older ones know how to work the Instagram. Fuddy duddy that I am, I think I have more than enough Net accounts to bother signing up for another so I just grab the photos as soon as I find time to sneak into their Instagrams for a quick peek. My latest viewing confirms my suspicion. They're way too busy relaxing to send a virtual "wish you were here" postcard. But I love how they're loving this summer and wearing its colors on their bodies and faces. 

By this time they should be considering taking the slow, slow boat home instead of the plane. While I'm in Baguio on a "staycation", let me remind them: Carpe diem!

 See you in a few, girls!

Butones wears her deceptively shy smile as she pauses from her temple run.
Half swathed in a towel, my Bit of Mango enjoys a mango macaroon.
The candy corn gang of Coco del Rosario, Marye Panganiban, Kimi, Butones and Ida
Mamay Kimi takes a cooling plunge.
Ida framed, the rice fields and coconut trees in the color of neon green
Ninang Coco (left) with Kimi, god-daughter Butones and Ida the Fair
Little Button in a white hat tries to figure out how boys turn play into real fishing.

Art and ballet for the summer

At the Art Room of Ayala Museum for people 15 years old and above:
With Manix Abrera
April 3-5 | 3-6PM
With Eileen Escueta
April 10-12 | 3-6PM
With Abraham Orobia
April 17-19 | 2-5 PM
With Wilfredo Offemaria Jr.
April 24-26 | 3-6PM
The Ballet Manila School will hold its annual intensive summer workshop, dubbed Just Dance XVI, from April 10 to May 26. Enrollment is ongoing. Classes offered: Ballet Technique Class (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3), Baby Ballet, Pointe Class (Intermediate and Advanced), Boys' Class, Pas de Deux/ Partnering Class,  Variation/ Repertoire Classes, Modern Dance/ Jazz, Yoga and Adult Ballet. They will be held Tuesdays to Saturdays at Ballet Manila's studios, at 1915 Donada Street, Pasay City. Each session will last from one hour to one hour and fifteen minutes. Prima ballerina and BM artistic director Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and artistic associate Osias Barroso lead the faculty roster. The workshop culminates in student performances of The Swan, The Fairy and The Princess on May 25 and 26, 3 p.m., at the Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City. For inquiries, call Ballet Manila at 400-0292 and 525-5967, visit or e-mail

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Kristel Tejada and the Getaway Cafe

Photo from "Our Colorful World" in Google +
MANILA, Philippines - She just wanted to finish her studies and help her four siblings.
Kristel Tejada, however, still owed P10,000 in tuition for this semester at the University of the Philippines in Manila, where the 16-year-old was a behavioral science freshman.  

She asked for a tuition loan or installment payment and offered a promissory note.

When these were all turned down, Tejada’s mother, according to some reports, even knelt before UP Manila Chancellor Manuel Agudo and begged that her daughter be allowed to continue attending her classes.
When that still didn’t work, Tejada was forced to file a forced leave of absence (LOA) earlier this week.
At around 3 a.m. yesterday, the despondent girl drank silver cleaner at their home in Tondo. She was rushed to the Metropolitan Medical Center but emergency teams failed to revive her.--

how many hours
went by
this morning
i've used them all up
to stop at sites
like a getaway cafe

at first sight
i recalled a house 
i once knew
& where i felt loved
it stood by a brook
that swelled 
or petered
or dried up
depending on the season

i stopped by this cafe

in this delaying 
exercise of
facing the required 
one thousand words
i have to daily write
so i could earn
so i could pay
so i could repeat
the entire process
of paying monthly
bills over & over
under & under

i had to stop to mourn
silently for stranger 
kristel who could've been
a daughter 
a niece 
a younger self

she poisoned herself
by drinking cleaning silver

she couldn't afford
to spike it 
with wine or scotch 
or bourbon or mix it
with fruit juice

she had no means 
to use the web 
as pit stop
to rest
a desperate soul

no boyfriend
to take her to a real 
getaway cafe
where she could
sob into 
one paper napkin
after another
or let her tears
commingle with 
a shot of espresso
or a cup of americano

no girlfriends
into whose arms
she could fall
when all else failed

no phone to help
her dial a suicide line
while a counselor
heard her out 
& bought her more time

today i decided
to get away
from temporary ties 
to a real 
graspable world
of deadlines
to saunter into
a make-believe cafe

my reality
can be joyless 
or joyful
depending on seasons
inside me

kristel never
lived long enough
to face it
or know it

but i know she
is in another 
getaway cafe
perhaps even in 
a house by a brook
where kind
residents now
feed her hunger
"to finish her studies 
& help her four siblings"

the news report
cannot support
my surmises
cannot tell me more
cannot tell me how
to appease others'
own thirst for
silver or gold cleaning

--Babeth Lolarga
March 15, 2013
12:42 p.m.

Women artists define women and power

Women Artists’ Definitions of Women and Power
Opens March 22, Friday, 6 pm
UP Executive House, Maramag Street, UP Diliman
Exhibit runs until April 6.

Guests of honor at the opening are : UP Professor Emeritus Thelma B. Lorna Kintanar, National Historical Commission Commissioner Fe Mangahas and Inang Laya composer Karina Constantino David 

Participating artists:
Brenda V. Fajardo
Vivian Nocum Limpin
Lia Torralba
June Dalisay
Doris G. Rodriguez
Elaine Lopez-Clemente
Yasmin Almonte
Eden Ocampo
Christine Sioco
Virgie Garcia
Tinsley Garanchon
Glenda Abad
Fel Plata
Sonia Alluso
Lot Arboleda
Baidy Mendoza
Pusongbughaw Romana
Dahlia Lara B. Abadicio
Lea Lim
Benay Reyes
Edda Amonoy
Raquel A. Jakob
Annie Carmela Rosario
Heidi Sarno
Amihan Jumalon
Rona Chua
Cynthia Alexander (see poster)
Aba Lluch Dalena
June Padilla
Rajelyn Busmente
  with Cynthia Alexander and four others

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aze Ong's light, healing touch and crochet art

The last time I saw crochet artist Aze Ong, she was leading guests, mainly students and teachers, in a dance at the opening of the group exhibition called "Lima-lima" at the San Beda Museum in Alabang Hill in December last year.

She let the audience hold her "instruments" or wear her creations. I haven't quite forgotten that because pictures of that evening help me remember. I've also stored some of her words in my files.
That's Aze at left beating a rhythm with her hands as teachers let go
Aze once went through what she calls her "lost" period. It's nothing unusual for artists and writers. She went to Bukidnon during that period to do volunteer work so she could try living away from her comfort zone and her family. That period taught her resourcefulness and the ability to listen to the silence within and without. She lived atop a hill with a view of mountains, trees, vegetation. Sometimes she saw eagles. Wild sunflowers grew and thrived in the cool climate.

Living with the Talaandig tribe also made her see that "art and life flow together, that art is life seen in the rituals for harvesting, their marriage rites and birthdays. Dancing and singing--it's a way of life."

After processing that whole experience, one day she finally saw the light. She realized that she didn't  have to belong to a tribe to make art or to perform. She said, "I just follow my instincts and do it. This [immersion]  is an experience I always go back to and share with others. That sharing of yourself to others is the best gift you can give to them.This made me realize the beauty in imperfection. There is no perfect world, no perfect people. Imperfection makes it perfect!"

Her works bring to mind the colors of butterfly wings or what one imagines to be colors of angel wings. It's no coincidence that Aze believes that wings are the symbols of freedom. She says, "When we are enlightened, we are free."
Woman shakes an Aze-made percussion instrument.
Aze, the woman in purple, with fellow travelers and seekers. On the left wall are framed paper cuts of Sinag de Leon who's holding a papier mache horse (called taka in Laguna) with a decopage of her paper cuts.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nuggets: Life's Little Lessons: THİNGS İ LEARNED AS A TEACHER

Nuggets: Life's Little Lessons: THİNGS İ LEARNED AS A TEACHER: Not even in my wildest dreams did İ envision myself becoming a teacher.  Yet here İ am, doing it, loving it, believing that whatever tiny ...

The Logic of Ill Logic

"The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: 
directing your attention to people—in 
their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—
just wish for them all to be happy and well. Without 
knowing anything about them, they can become very real, by regarding each of them 
personally and rejoicing in the comforts and pleasures that come their way. 
Each of us has this soft spot: a capacity for love and tenderness. 
But if we don’t encourage it, we can get pretty stubborn about remaining sour." 
--Pema Chodron, Buddhist monk and author, "No Time to Lose"
i look at this family elder
the same one
who rules over us
the same dowager
who has been 
a source of amusement
the source of craziness
that she denies 
passing on to us

she is missus know it all
considers herself
100% right about all things

she is also all-knowing
like the god  & the god's mother
who are on her side

by sheer telepathy
& telephoney
she can will people
she wants to converse with
to call her

i look down at 
& feel grateful for
this sunday's
breakfast fare
of fried dried fish & rice
that i try
with effort
to chew mindfully
& swallow slowly

i look up again
at the family elder
who is still at it
lecturing on how
each of us will all be best
assigned to a condo
unit so she can
have a house
this house
our house
to herself

(in a split second
i briefly imagine
my siblings & i
columbarium niches 
not unlike
condo units
only tinier
the final
resting places
her church
offers for those
who'd rather 
be burned
not buried) 

she refuses to room
with her daughters
declares before them
with the finality
of an empress
the kind who can
send slaves
to their slaughter
that she lives
in her living room
sleeps on the sofa
because room sharing
suffocates her

i gulp my water down
& decide
she can't
be that all-knowing
all flawless being
after all 
if a simple human
pleasure & comfort
like a real bed
she denies 

i cannot follow
her ill logic
so i give up
wish her wellness
wish her happiness
at the start &
end of another week
full of family

--Babeth Lolarga
March 9, 2013
9:13 a.m.

Photo of two old biddies crossing the street from the World Wide Web

Friends with benefits (Reportage on sex)

Friends with benefits (Reportage on sex)

‘Honest aging’

‘Honest aging’
Great to be alive, even with the aches and bumps and extremities that feel the cold too easily