Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Mass that is anything but petite

It is anything but petite. But that is how Petite Messe Solennelle by Gioachino Rossini, pillar of the bel canto opera era and composer of the opera The Barber of Seville, is officially described.

The mass, the Christmas offering on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum on Makati Ave., Makati City, has a stellar line-up: tenor Arthur Espiritu, sopranos Camille Lopez Molina and Margarita Giannelli, baritone Noel Azcona and 16 Viva Voce singers, including Myramae Meneses.

Espiritu and Ismail

Margarita Giannelli

Najib Ismail, who will be the accompanist with Farley Asuncion on a second piano, said, "This late work by Rossini was called petite not because of its length but because of its scale. It was conceived for four soloists, a double vocal quartet, two pianos and a harmonium compared to his Stabat Mater which is for vocal soloists, a big choir and orchestra."

He continued, "It's petite because ideally it can be performed in a small venue, making it more intimate in a way without sacrificing the grandeur of the work. In terms of an orchestral feel, this is provided by two pianos with the harmonium providing the wind section of an actual orchestra. This work was later transcribed by the composer for soloists, choir and orchestra, which I personally feel loses the petite, intimate feel of the work."
Asked why he and the soloists chose this work, he answered, "It's beautiful. Many months ago, Arthur, Camille, Margarita and I were looking for a beautiful work that we can do that will involve our young singers as well. Also, it is a great opportunity for us to work together as musicians."

Baritone Noel Azcona

Azcona said their plans for the Rossini mass "came out as an impromptu thing. We messaged each other. Najib came up with the idea of the Petite Messe Solennelle. We were all excited. It is perfect because of its transitional melodies and deeper romantic theme."

Camille Lopez Molina

Lopez Molina added, "We talked about what piece we wanted to sing with each other because we had so much fun in MusicArtes's production of 'Best of Opera' in June. Early December sounded good because I'm due to give birth on the 14th, Margarita's coming home with her family for the holidays, Noel's leaving for his studies in the US and Arthur's leaving for his engagements later in the month. Arthur proposed it to MCO Foundation's Joseph Uy."

Azcona explained the appeal of the Mass: "It calls for a small, intimate group. Of course, singing with the country's finest singers will be exciting experience. I'm sure the audience will find the work spiritually appropriate in these times. What an excellent way to convey our sentiments in these hard times."

Lopez Molina hopes for "an emotional response.”
“Given the gravity of the Yolanda devastation and the solemnity of Rossini's music, there should be a chord struck deep down inside us somewhere," she said.

As one of two artistic directors of the production (the other is Gideon Bendicion), she said, "This piece is more
difficult than anything Viva Voce has tackled before. The music is so rich, the harmonies and progressions complex and unusual. It's taking all we've got to learn and perform it. Our conductor, Gideon, and I have our hands full drilling the group. It has been more or less two weeks of intensive rehearsals."

Azcona performed the work 10 years ago at the International Las Piñas Bamboo Organ Festival, recalling, "It was my first professional singing gig. I was quite nervous because of the compositional complexities. Studying it was tedious but rewarding. It's not your usual Rossini music. It's fantastic!"

Espiritu with Meneses and his wife Christine

Espiritu, who started out as "a huge pop guy," following Gary Valenciano's moves and singing style, said learning to love the classics is easy. "All you need is one passionate person. All it takes is a moment of exposure. I feel passionately about outreach programs."

He said classical musicians work hard on their materials. "We find out about character, we read the classics in literature. When I did Nixon in China (he played Mao Zedong ), I read up. Let's give people this chance to hear this music we love."

The other Viva Voce members, the most promising opera singers today, are: Kristine Balingcos, Lovelle Inoferio, Millicent Lao, Aissa Guilatco, Iona Ventocilla, Roxy Aldiosa, Tanya Corcuera, Antonio Ferrer, Carlo Falcis, Ivan Niccolo Nery, Paolo Gallon, Jairus Gonzalez, Raymond Yadao, Yen Dilig and Zip de Guzman. --Elizabeth Lolarga

For tickets, call the Cultural Arts Events Organizer, tel. no. 782-7164 or cell phone 0918-3473027, MCO Foundation at 750-0768 or 0920-954-0053, or TicketWorld at 891-9999.

Espiritu sings again at Ayala Museum in a benefit concert for super typhoon Yolanda survivors Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. For tickets for "Arthur Espiritu and Friends," call Paula Fernandez, 759-8288 local 31.

Originally published by Vera Files, Nov. 28, 2013.

Loving Max from a distance

Machiko Skye is the name of this birthday girl born on Andres Bonifacio Day three years ago. Her unusual name was researched by my niece and inaanak sa binyag at kumpil, Marga Susi, a favorite and super-duper efficient collaborator when I'm gathering my essays and poems into book manuscripts.

Her selection of her daughter's name is right on spot. Machiko, I gather, stands for "knowledgeable person" while "Skye" is for, well, "sky" in English and Scottish.

Marga it was who also gave Machiko Skye an androgynous nickname Max. To me "Max" implies maximum speed, maximum strength--traits our little Max has because she's a fast learner and has a strong personality. I guess something of brave Bonifacio is in her, too. Spirit of the times calls for boldness and fierceness.

To you, Max, I give you these virtual gifts I found when I went treasure hunting in the World Wide Web that connects our spread-out family. Love you with all of our hearts! -- Booboo, Grumpa Rolly, Tita Kimi, Tita Ida and Kai/Butones

Flowers by Japanese painter Miroco Machiko

Hope when Max is old enough and I still have some strength left and I win the lotto, we can travel to the Isle of Skye someday. Even if I don't win, it's okay. We can always find a book to read together about this magical isle in Scotland.

Dulaang UP's offering on Bonifacio's 150th year

Teatro Porvenir
Ang Katangi-tanging Kasaysayan ni Andres Bonifacio, Macario Sakay at Aurelio Tolentino sa Entablado

Written by Tim Dacanay and directed by Alexander C. Cortez

Now showing until until Dec. 8
Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater
Second Floor, Palma Hall, University of the Philippines Diliman

For inquiries, call the Dulaang UP (DUP) office, 926-1349, 981-8500 lo. 2449 or 433-7840.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Even in our sleep...

"And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop
by drop upon the heart,
and in our own despair against our will, comes wisdom to
us by the awful grace of God."


To the bereaved families and friends of Audrey Agatep General of Parañaque City and Diego T. Bautista of Baguio City, our deepest sympathy

And Audrey was her name

Audrey Agatep General died Wednesday morning at the Asian Hospital in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. She had just turned 58 on Nov. 12.

Before she left too soon, she was managing director of Agatep Associates since 2002 until the family firm was rebranded into Havas PR Agatep.

To the Paulinians, she was just Audrey or Aud who used to sing to the Bread's '70s hit, "And Aubrey Was Her Name." I never got confirmation from her if her parents named her after Audrey Hepburn who was just startling the world in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday, with her rare beauty, charm, grace, generosity of spirit, leadership. Our Audrey developed all those traits, too, into her second nature. Aud was born two years later when Ms. Hepburn was the hottest actress in the film world because of her unconventional beauty: slim like a ballerina, with that marvelously cool voice that sounded like she was chewing balls of mint.

Yup, Aud was that way--never ever shrill. When frustrated with someone or something, she'd just end her SMS, and I could hear the sigh in the message that meant the problem wasn't worth wrapping her pretty head around: "Oh, Babeth, I have no more good words to say!" It was a way of ending a conversation, her re-assuming the role of Miss Manners who practiced business etiquette. She'd rather not speak ill of anyone but remember the good times shared.

It must have been on our senior year when Aud sang that song in a hushed soprano. She had been a Glee Clubber since Grade School, always standing on the front row. She was this petite girl with a spring to her walk, a smile that felt like a chum's rub on the back. Sister Gemma of the Cross, our music teacher, always put her on a special spot because she was adorable to look at as she sang her heart out. I wish I can find those mothballed yearbooks that show how cute (the kind of cute na nakakagigil) she was then.

In high school, she was part of this group called The Ragmals, a word formed out of the first letter of the names of seven Paulinians in the class who excelled in dancing, cheer leading, sports, academics, even getting the coveted invites to the best boy-girl parties.

But it was in dance that Audrey always had an edge over the rest. She kept at it all the way to her last months--jazz, Spanish flamenco, Argentine tango and salsa. Among the other dancers in the class, she always played the lead. The code was: "Just follow Audrey, and you won't miss a step." It was that way from high school to our silver and ruby jubilees.

Here's looking at you, Audrey/Aubrey:

And Aubrey was her name,
I never knew her, but I loved her just the same,
I loved her name.
Wish that I had found the way
And the reasons that would make her stay.
I have learned to lead a life apart from all the rest.
If I can't have the one I want, I'll do without the best.

But how I miss the girl
And I'd go a million times around the world just to say
She had been mine for a day.

But Aud, you must forgive me if I change my tune midway. I wanna end it with "Save the Last Dance for Me."

Like Lulu here, we wanna be reunited with you on the dance floor in heaven!

The open letter below is from Lulu Camello Pasamba, M.D., once our High School Student Council President.

dearest audrey,

i find it hard to believe that you are not here with us anymore. just when i had decided to volunteer to dance for our golden jubilee, with or without a cane as long as you're our lead dancer, you're gone! but what i find harder to believe is why a 57 year old physically fit and healthy person should die of an elective procedure!

i know of senior citizens operated on with more complicated problems like colon cancer and yet are up and about enjoying their retirement. sa inis ko i had to text my classmate, a distinguished colorectal surgeon...modesty ask why! he said there must have been a leak in the anastomosis. the anastomosis is the connection between the two ends of the colon that were joined after the defective colon segment was resected. a leak! poor surgical technique! tanong..sino ang gumawa? i ask myself is he/she as good as my classmate? sana nagtanong ka sa akin bago ka nagpaopera!..hay! some good doctors commit blunders, too, without meaning to...

life is short. this time last year we were panicking preparing for our ruby. ang gulo di ba? pero natapos din ang commemorative book and your group made us proud with your dance number. little did we know then that it would be your farewell performance.

thank you for your dedication to our class, for the times you put your private life on hold to organize a number for the spcq homecoming.

we love you and you will be dearly missed....

--lulu camello pasamba

Audrey (from row, left) reliving Paulinian days with us in that checkered sailor uniform we wore five times a week for, what, 13 years?

Didn't I tell you Aud always took center stage? There she is leading the dancers grooving to the Fifth Dimension's "Age of Aquarius."

The one in the middle, front row, is Aud, the sophisticate who never lost the girl in her.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nagpupumilit bumongga pa rin

Some comments from the peanut gallery:

Shouldn't they have been lined up against the wall and shot to serve as a lesson to those who love to dip their hands in money that isn't theirs and silence the opposition?

Okay, so many say, particularly the religious, forgive 'em, reconcile with 'em. But what's our assurance that it won't happen again?

As for the woman's multi-purpose centers impelled by an overweening edifice complex, the sands of time and another round of cleansing waters from wherever, whenever will take care of 'em.

Did they offer to release the codes to the Swish (no typo there) and Cayman Islands' bank accounts yet post Yolanda? At this stage of relief and rehab efforts, we're too weary to follow up on this, but someone should.

Who said someone's emeralds were larger than Dewi Sukarno's? These women who raped Asia--that's how these two are still referred to, but do they both care? Kebs nila!

As for someone's large to super-large pearls, oh, have you heard the Paris grapevine chatter lately about how one madama entered a shop specializing in pearls? The discombobulated owners said, "But Madame of the Butterfly Sleeves, nothing can compare to what you have around your neck."

"No," she insisted, "I still want to see what you have."

So forthwith trays of pearls harvested from the world's seas and oceans were presented to her, and she could only sniff and say, "Oh, there's nothing new." And out she walked with her entourage, just to let the Parisians know that Tacky Rose still has the biggest pearls in ze whole web world.

Should the peanut gallery shut up or be marked for life? Kebs! It'll continue its "we bulong" campaign the way it did not so long ago.

Hey kids! Did you know that we who grew up in the Marcosian era worked around a rumor-mongering law?

Rituals for everyday enchantment and earth healing

The exchange of letters between friends, who may be siblings from lifetimes ago or maybe just fellow travelers in this life, has been most intense, interesting and educational (for this newbie in all things my child's mind cannot fully grasp).

While I struggled with some issues, some dealing with personal health, some with a fleeting sense of helplessness over how one can be of use and of help in the relief and rehab efforts after ST Yolanda's massive destruction, I received by serendity this ancient prayer-ritual researched by the poet Auggusta de Almeidda, always Chikki to me.

This prayer-ritual was formulated from decades of search/research into ancient, pre-Hispanic spirituality, paralleling Chikki's own spiritual path-seeking. I had asked her permission, and she had given it, if I could use this prayer ritual for the recent Baguio Writers Group's "Journey to Self: A Creative Journal Workshop" at the ICM House of Prayer. This workshop, co-facilitated by Merci Javier Dulawan, Baboo Mondoñedo and this typist, will be echoed elsewhere in the next year.

It closed a busy Saturday, post-Yolanda, when the survivors/orphans of Yolanda, and we all count ourselves among them, needed to pause, to ask forgiveness from Gaia the Mother who has been acting up in ways that continue to befuddle "head" persons (scientists, civil society, especially climate change activists, jaded media people alongside spin doctors, politicians, political analysts, believers in the materialist philosophy discourse).

But many spiritual seekers, even Chikki in her sick bed, remain calm and aren't surprised anymore by what is unfolding for and in this country that sits right smack on the Ring of Fire.

I will stop here before I get into a spirited argument on why the universe, the Source, the One allows for strong quakes, tsunamis, super typhoons that have the intensity of atomic and hydrogen bombs whose explosions in the past really pierced the heavens as though manmade (stress on "man") power taunted who or what is up there.

Here are the instructions for begging forgiveness and at the same time requesting for more strength "to walk the good" from the Triune God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and Inang Kalikasan:

Hold on to the Divine Mother. You can keep calling Archangel Raphael. Or keep invoking like a mantra the names of the Triune God: MABUHAY PATNUBAY PAGIBIG PAGPAPALA. OR MABUHAY APO REYNA YOLANDA.

Repetitions of the Holy Names will up your frequency and get you out of the low-frequency emotional depression.

Also cover yourself up well. Go to a big tree, narra, pine, sampaloc if you can find one, but NEVER acacia or rubber tree. Stay away from memorial parks or cemeteries. Face the tree and ask the Universe, the Mother, Mother Nature for a healing from what you suffer. Now close your eyes still facing but not touching the tree. Now breathe deeply the good positive vibes of the universe. Then proceed to the tree with open palms pointing upwards, and exhale slowly or drastically, up to you, the pent-up sadness, negative emotions in yourself. Bring them all out.

Now remove your hands from the tree. Breathe in again and exhale again. You can do this any number of times and any number of frequency but only well before dusk or 6 p.m.

Please remember that death is an illusion. Those who died are now better cared for in the spirit world where their physical sufferings are only of the past.

"What is said in the garden stays in the garden."

Among the calming foliage she sits and reflects.


Reading the instructions closely to understand the intentions to be uttered and the gesture to accompany them.

Shielded by shrubbery, she sends up her prayers.

Palms up, a grandmother pleads.

"When two or three are gathered in His/Her name..."

Miyen renders in watercolor her healing tree and God's gifts to her.

Detail of Miyen's tree

All photos of workshop participants by Sacha Weygan; those of Miyen's watercolors by the blogger

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sumi Jo coming to Manila to sing for #YolandaPH

Sumi Jo, Korean opera superstar

Details include: Feb. 1, 2014, at Samsung Hall of SM Aura, Bonifacio Global City of Taguig

Net proceeds will go to typhoon-stricken cities in the Visayas

Watch for further announcements, especially on where tickets will soon be available.

From the Inbox: Invitation to a dance

IndepenDance Forum 1: an instruction manual in low-res
(reflections on Doris Humphrey’s The Art of Making Dances)

Choreography by Myra Beltran and Al Bernard Garcia

Nov. 28-29, 2013, 7pm
Dance Forum Studio
36E West Ave., QC
Pay as you wish, for info: 09277849579

Doris Humphrey (1895-1958), influential choreographer of the 1930s belonged to the second generation of modern dance pioneers whose practice and technique are still taught today. Her reflections on dance-making were published posthumously in a book called “The Art of Making Dances,” a book that is staple reference for compositional theory in dance.

“IndepenDance Forum 1: an instruction manual in low-res” contains our reflections on Humphrey’s book as we try to find the relevance and meaning of our dance practice in contemporary society.

A project of Dance Forum MB with the support of the National Commission for
Culture and the Arts

Baguio artists for #YolandaPH

an art sale to benefit the survivors of #YolandaPH

An Art Sale dedicated to raising funds for the relief efforts for the survivors of Typhoon #YolandaPH.

This event is one of the many events striving to raise funds for the Yolanda Relief Effort. We join the rest of the Baguio community in moving and creating spaces for raising awareness and encouraging support.

We invite you all to join us in raising our own consciousness towards a deeper environmental awareness. As human agents, we have the greatest capacity and capability for change.

On November 30, we are holding an art sale to help raise funds for the relief efforts for the areas directly affected by Typhoon Yolanda. All sales from the artworks will directly be added to the Yolanda Relief Fund, together with other fund-raising efforts held throughout the month. Please share this event with your network/s and do drop by to purchase artwork at ARTIST PRICES!

Organizers: Jennifer Patricia A. Cariño and Luchie Maranan

Heirloom rice as life savers | Vera Files

Heirloom rice as life savers | Vera Files

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Old old works that look new

If there's anything that the deaths of friends and relatives and the spate of calamities that hit the country have taught me, it's a certain kind of detachment to things once considered precious--those objects with sentimental value that one doesn't want to release to the archives or give away to nearest kin and dearest friends as gifts.

I've kept these works for several decades already. When I checked the back of the drawings or the front and corners, I was more daring in signing my name. These works are all from the year 1969.

I was then a seventh grader at St. Paul College Quezon City (SPCQ). That was the year when Sister Glyceria became our art teacher--she had just attended the Philippine Art Educators Association summer workshop that year or the year before. Art education became a required, but minor, subject, just like music. (Needless to say, I had a stint in Glee Club-bing, too, as a soprano.)

Between visual arts and singing, these days I just sing along to my YouTube collection of songs from the '30s (when my parents were children) all the way to 2013, the year I discovered Adele.

I've kept going with the painting and occasional drawing. I still use dry media sometimes. Oil pastels were my fave medium in the '60s and'70s.

Let me confess something I know in my gut: I was bolder in '69 than today. I guess part of the boldness stemmed from youthfulness. I was fearless about committing mistakes, and I was proud of my works. Otherwise, why would I have stored them this long? When I think about it, art, unlike like-or-death medical surgery, allows for mistakes. That thought can certainly embolden a 13-year-old girl.

Tomorrow most of these works are going to a friend, who must have been a sister in a past life. She has always been appreciative of the things I do with my hands.

Meanwhile, some batchmates from that SPCQ Class of '73 met up with the school's alumni association prez, Verge Gepuela, for lunch to turn over two separate checks, one for the Bohol quake survivors, the second for Yolanda's orphans, all from the collections made from our silver and ruby jubilees. The amount ain't much considering the magnitude of these twin tragedies, but what's important is the donations came from the the hearts, not just the pockets, of surviving members of Class '73.

Happy and grateful, at last, to be a Paulinian.

At St. Paul University's cafe on the Aurora Blvd. and Gilmore Ave, QC, campus are (seated from left): Concept, now Marie, Zamora-Lazo, Verge Gepuela, Hayni Estrada-Prudente, Vicki Narciso-Valero and Bibit Esteva-Llamas. Standing are Babeth and Marissa Ileto, my inspiration for her style of creative living (she was the original fine arts major in the class).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On overcoming suffering, keeping the faith alive and all the stuff we can do right now

Whether it's a case of the blues and blahs or rebuilding what's left of a life after an ST (once known as a "sex trip", but now means "super typhoon"), this cock-eyed optimist agrees with a woman who overcame many physical challenges and went on to inspire the world. Thank you, Helen, wherever you are, for these reminders. She's another of those women who found her voice, her strength with help from an inspired and inspiring teacher, Anne Sullivan, the type who never gave up.

Somewhere in my youth and childhood, I encountered this pair, played by actors Patty Duke (as Helen) and Anne Bancroft (as her namesake Anne), in the film The Miracle Worker. I caught it in our black and white TV one late evening when I should have been in bed.

I draw some strength from the remembering of it because I had a mostly silent father (not that he had difficulty communicating, he was quite eloquent in his silence and the rare times he spoke) and, nearing the end of his life, lost an eye to complications from his diabetes, but it never slowed him down.

When I think of those appeals to medical practitioners of ritzy Makati Medical Center and similar hospitals to set up makeshift tents in Central Philippines to attend to the wounded and suffering, I think of Dad and what he would've done in his quietly plodding way in these situations. I mean, you know, he wouldn't even need to be told, he wouldn't be hobbled by his family obligations to us to do what must be done, and nobody, nobody could tie him down with platitudes like "Charity begins at home."

Here's to you, Dad, Helen and Anne.

Quotes found in and the rest of the World Wide Web

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

For the teeny-weeny self, for the family, for the city, the country and the world

From one who early in life was taught that angels work with the Triune God and from the same one who realized later in life that angels walk among us, it's good to know there is an angel with a name, glowing in green, who we can call upon for certain critical moments in history and in our personal lives. Here is the prayer another angel, C, taught me.

The Archangel Raphael Healing Prayer

"Sweet Raphael, I call on you,
I know that you are there,
and ask you for your healing strength
in answer to my prayer.
Please take away the sadness,
take away the pain,
hold me in your healing wings
and make me whole again"

~ © Mary Jac
August 5th 2010


Monday, November 11, 2013

Loss, grief, trauma and all the things that put us to the test

Because super typhoon Yolanda has made our words inadequate, and words may inadvertently, not intentionally, trivialize a tragedy of huge proportions, we turn to other signs of the times.

Images and quotes found in

Friday, November 8, 2013

Painting again with Kai in mind and as partner

Call it a discipline I learned from my mother and my grandmother--something about doing something even if you're resting because if you rest, you rot. So even if I try to lessen the strain from the use of my eyes, I thought I'd indulge in something pleasant, and painting is on top of the list.

Good thing I found a painting partner in my grandchild, Kai/Butones. It can get lonesome working on a piece by one's lonesome.

Kai has assisted in the background work for the smaller watercolor and mixed media pieces while she inspired me again with the larger acrylic painting.

Thank you, Kai Mykonos Fernandez, you're always a joy to work with. And thank you, Mom and Lola, for blazing the trail.

--From a hapless but not too helpless painter

"Unfinished Garden," watercolor on paper by Booboo and Kai

"Kai Watches Booboo Have Cuppa Joe," mixed media on paper by Booboo and Kai (collection of Desiree Caluza)

"Kai Wuvs Booboo, Booboo Wuvs Kai More," acrylic on canvas paper by Babeth Lolarga

The same semi-final version of the work above. A painter or writer can revise as often as she can until she breathes her last, a final lesson from Dolores Stephens Feria.

Photos by Booboo

Thursday, November 7, 2013

His eyes, her eyes

I'm overdue for an eye check-up with an opthalmologist provided by my health card. In fact, if it weren't for errands in town, I'm going this morning--can't postpone it any longer.

The lightning-like flashes I'm experiencing within my right eye, clear signs of aging, according to a friend, set me on another course of thinking. How long will my right eye last?

Dad went blind in one eye and could only fathom light but continued his medical practice with the healthy one. It was a complication of diabetes, the family franchise. He had to give up driving though.

What will I have to give up in the future? Should I start studying Braille sometime in the next few weeks?

Meanwhile, here are shots of eyes, some blurred ones caused by movement on my part, that I took this past summer. They're objects in the house I sometimes call home. These eyes include: a pair painted in acrylic by Paolo Francisco, my fine arts classmate and sometime chum from UP Diliman before I continued my studies in Baguio; the laughing eyes of a Bacolod mask; the eyes of Rolly Fernandez from a portrait by Lyra Garcellano; and Buddha eyes to keep me calm and steady.

All photos by Babeth Lolarga