Saturday, September 28, 2013

Memories of Casa Rap

This blog is dedicated to a Virginia-based cousin with a Philippine home in San Pablo City, Laguna, and who is always in search of good country food and knickknacks.

The photos were made possible when friend Mariel Francisco took me to Batangas sometime last year. On our way back to Manila, we stopped by to say hello to her pal Sister Emma who owns Casa Rap, a restaurant tucked in a small corner (you might miss it so watch out for the sign) along Kilometer 90 National Highway, Barangay Banay-Banay, San Jose, Batangas City. When my cousin comes home again for another of her rejuvenating balikayani visit, I'll persuade her to visit kay-sarap-ng-buhay-sa Casa Rap. 

Pathway leading to the restaurant
A few words to guests
Town's patron, St. Joseph with the Christ child
Marian image with actual cloth covering head of mother and child
Image of boy glued on a slab of old wood
Angel figurines (above and below) hanging on capiz wall dividers 

Capiz lanterns light up the dining area
Delicate ceramic plant holder
It's a lamp shade with fresh flowers and an angel figurine.
The famous halo-halo with just a few fresh ingredients given a nice kick by a shot of lambanog (a very Batangueño touch)
The halo-halo must be eaten with a side dish of suman laden with latik and crunchy pinipig.
Warm Sister Emma
Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gardeners of the soul

While scouring through the pins in Pinterest, I happened upon this quotation and lively poster and remembered those people who have unfailingly brought a smile on my face or made my cry-laugh, snort-laugh, hyena laugh, and took away my many, oftentimes imaginary, burdens and cares. Many are dead, still a lot more are living, in my life, I'm grateful to you all.

Gilda Cordero Fernando is Queen of Sassy and Sexy Seniors. Friends Anna Leah Sarabia and Neni Sta. Romana Cruz agree.
These are the girls I often bump into, often deliberately, too, at concerts and similar events. Seated from left: Julie Lluch, Mercy Fabros, Princess Nemenzo and art-coholic Norma Liongoren. Standing are Anna Leah and Sinag de Leon.
I like hanging around musicians, especially singers like the young soprano Myramae Meneses (a name to watch), her maestra Camille Lopez Molina and DZFE's Bert Robledo. If the late Odette Alcantara was the Queen of Puns, Bert is no doubt the king. Just listen to his program "Bravo Filipino" every noontime, Mondays-Fridays. Young Myramae will have a solo recital with Mary Anne Espina accompanying her on the piano on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Ayala Museum.

Yvonne Chua (in purple shirt) is our (Pablo Tariman's and my) Vera Files bossing. At the media organization's Christmas party last year, Pablo and I felt we were the most ancient at Mom and Tina's function room. We loved the turkey. Pablo, I have a pun: a pablo by any name is still not a turkey. Turkey was the main course at that lunch buffet. 

Yes, sir, they're my bibis, no, sir, I don't mean maybe, yes, they're my babes--Rolly and Kai--forever and a week.

Myriam Benito and her husband Steve are already based in New Zealand. Now and then they come home. Another wit and punster, Del Tolentino, and I make sure we're a call away when the Benitos are in Baguio.

These are the ladies who lunch rarely but well: Ester Dipasupil, Corito Llamas, Angge Goloy and Chato Garcellano. I guess this blog is an unconscious atonement because I can't be at the quarterly lunch on Monday. I'm with the Baguio garden tenders of my soul. Sounds lame, but it's the truth.
At Baboo Mondoñedo's launch of her essay collection Stepping Stones early this year, writers who drink, recite, sing, dance and whatever else makes life worth the living got together at Cafe by the Ruins. That's Baboo in stunning yellow, Luchie Maranan, Laarni Ilagan and Merci Javier Dulawan.
Linc Drilon (left) can be counted on to sing at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers. Des and Auring Bautista (between Rolly and me) lay out among the most generous tables in Baguio where talk can go on from 12 noon to 12 midnight.
Three generations say, "Heart you all!"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

When her hair was this short

Last year's publicity stills for the sold-out "The Legends and the Classics" are still in my files. I am trotting them out because there's scarcely a half month left before the same concert goes up again with a different program Oct. 12-13 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater.
The ballerina, the pianist and the singer
I remember that press conference for TLTC (shortcut for the concert's name) at The Mandarin Hotel in Makati. I like to be early so when I went into the revolving door and exited to the lobby, what I thought was a girling, in jeans, shirt, with a small backpack and hair cropped to just below her ears, called my name. It was Cecile Licad--she was on her way out to briefly have a smoke. She saw my mild shock--it was her hairdo that got me.

Later, before the organizers brought her to "the holding room" with the other soloists (Lisa Macuja Elizalde and Lea Salonga), I managed to ask what's with the hair? Is it a statement? In her husky voice Cecile answered that she'd gotten a little tired of the length and decided to cut it short. Nothing to it, that's what her shrug meant.

At the press con proper, she talked the least. Even in exclusive interviews with the other two greats of the performing arts, she also said the least. There was a full-length Q and A with the trio in a major broadsheet, and all I read of Cecile was her "Hahaha!" and a line or two. I think she's that way because she reserves the rest of her energy for her performances, whether she's playing as a chamber musician or as a soloist. 

After the ovations of the March 2012 TLTC, the audience spilled onto the CCP lobby, many lining up to have programs autographed by Lea who was seated on a chair by the grand stairway with a table before her. My daughter and niece were in the queue. I was standing beside them when I spotted Cecile, again in jeans and tee, makeup rubbed off her face, slipping quietly away. I called her and asked her to sign our program and a CD of hers. When people heard her name, the queue broke up and in seconds, a small enough mass of admirers was also calling out her name and asking for her signature--one had it on her right arm, like a tattoo. She said she wasn't washing that arm for the coming days.

My daughter, amazed at Cecile's casual get-up, said, "Nanay, she looked as though she was going to leave CCP in a jeep to go home!" Her aunt later told her, "She's a New Yorker so she's a commuter, she's used to getting around in a train." Of course in the Philippines, somebody lends her a car. 

But I recall that in the '80s, after I had interviewed her for Who magazine, the photographer (one of the Tapan brothers, I forget which one) brought Cecile to his studio at Harrison Plaza for the studio shots--she made the magazine's cover. After they wrapped up, he just gave her instructions on how to get back to her hotel (the Philippine Plaza). Apparently, from his account, she just crossed the street and walked all the way to the Plaza unescorted.
Cecile Licad
The People's Pianist is coming home again--that's the best news I've heard in a day full of news about floods and pocket wars. For now music is all I have.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rising tenor

Camille Lopez Molina's voice took over Cherie Gil's in what to me is the most beautiful scene I've seen in a Filipino movie: the part where Gil's Regina Canedo stages a command performance of Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" in Sonata for the son of a hacienda employee. I let my tears freely flow. One doesn't need an English translation of the Czech lyrics to behold what beauty is at its purest form.

Many times I also teared up at the first solo recital of tenor Ivan Niccolo Nery last week at the Ayala Museum. Although the venue was moved to a function room upstairs because of an event at the lobby, where the Manila Chamber Orchestra (MCO) Foundation concerts are usually held, the change worked in Ivan's favor. The intimacy was called for by the art/love songs he interpreted.

I listened and watched closely when he enunciated his French (he used to hate it as a school subject) in Reynaldo Hahn's "A Chloris" and "L'heure exquise," the latter with words by poet Paul Verlaine, and in Gabriel Faure's "Apres au Reve." Again, Verlaine's lyrics brought back briefly that exquisitely photographed scene of Cherie Gil singing to the moon:

The white moon
shines in the woods.
From each branch
springs a voice
beneath the arbor.

Oh my beloved...

Like a deep mirror
the pond reflects
the silhouette
of the black willow
where the wind weeps.

Let us dream! It is the hour...

A vast and tender calm
seems to descend from a sky
made iridescent by the moon

It is the exquisite hour!

Belated bravissimos to the darling, shining tenor of the hour who took the tiredness away from his evening audience. And thank you for obliging us who wouldn't let you go with the encore of Donaudy's  "O Del Mio Amato Ben."

Most of the songs in Ivan's repertoire were love poems, particularly love lost.
Singing his Donaudy encore
With an admirer who hopes to write a song, or at least the lyrics, that he can sing someday 

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Epic experience

Our coffee-maker is still running well, but it's the coffee pot that's broken. It's hard to find a replacement--it seems capitalism ensures you have to buy the whole set. So I've suffered minor caffeine withdrawal that has affected my alertness. Until I spotted Epic Cafe along East Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig. I've read Lori Baltazar's blog on the place but never got around to trying it out. I did on Wednesday afternoon, obviously a slow hour. I had a whole table to myself and no one to share my slice of not-too-sweet food for the gods. I call this shot a study of brown on brown: cafe Americano in a light brown mug,the pastry with abstract lining of chocolate syrup, the wooden table, the shaker holding unrefined brown sugar.
What gives this cafe a nice warm ambience is the brick wall plus a community bulletin board announcing music night and even a book club assignment. I will turn up when Murakami is on the reading list.
The waiter says the bestselling pints of ice cream are vanilla bean and salted caramel. Good for another visit.
The juices and bottles of water are all made in Italy. I hope the lemon cake will be improved--the slice I tried was dry, the icing too sweet for what I half-expected to be on the sourish or lemon-y side.
Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The dreamy and elusive Hidalgo | Vera Files

Fruits of the father

When our family moved to a newly built house in 1975 in what was then Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig, Rizal, my father Enrique C. Lolarga Jr. took to gardening with such passion. To this day, we feel his and God's providence in the fruits we harvest from those trees planted in the backyard. Above is a shot of the blooming rambutan tree. Below are bundles of unripe bananas for harvesting in a few more days.
Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dear Tom Courtenay

I am not in the habit of writing fan mail or gushing profusely over a movie actor on print. But I feel I must write this while you're very much around in this world. 

I have seen your movie Quartet twice already, from beginning to end, and have recommended it repeatedly to friends by SMS. I've talked about it whenever the subject of retirement homes comes up (which is more often as I move to my 60s and my own circle of friends and relatives are in that so-called sunset period or last half/last quarter of their lives).
Courtenay in his youth
With the beautiful Romy Schneider
As dedicated revolutionary Pasha Antipov with '60s icon Julie Christie playing Lara in Doctor Zhivago
I've always liked English actors for the reason that a number of you are an educated lot who went to and through drama school, often rising in your profession to be worthy of a knighthood. 

My recent discovery that you also write made my esteem for you move several notches higher. After I finish with this blog, I intend to write my brother in Calgary, Canada, to look for a copy of your book Dear Tom: Letters from Home. That you would dedicate a book, a critically praised one to boot, to your mom, and your dad, speaks well of you.

I have several intentions as far as your life's work is concerned one of which is to again watch Doctor Zhivago. If I have to sit through its more than two hours of screening time and rewind your parts in it, I will do that. I also will request my tech-savvy daughter to download through the Torrentz program Billy Liar, The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner (I saw this on black and white TV in my youth), One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. This summer I saw The Night of the Generals again, but I was more focused on Peter O'Toole. Again the fact that you had meaty roles in films like that speaks volumes about your caliber as an actor.
Courtenay (to Maggie Smith's left) in one of the last scenes in Quartet
As a fan, I must apologize I never quite paid attention to you in your earlier roles, not until  I saw Quartet where you played a heartbroken and retired opera singer. You did look terribly hurt by Maggie Smith's infidelity that she had to rehearse her lines asking for forgiveness over and over before you crossed paths again.

When my schedule allows for the leisure of viewing your countenance again, I will have the bowl of popcorn ready. Meanwhile, dear Sir Tom, you are a majestic actor!

Devotedly yours,
Babeth from the Philippines

P.S. I just discovered that on top of all you've done, you were also the original singer of that Herman's Hermits hit from the '60s, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." I used to sing that, too, in my pre-teen years, but I like you better wearing the gravitas of Reginald Paget in Quartet,

Photos from the World Wide Web

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Encore, Cecile, Lisa and Lea!

People's Pianist Cecile Licad, Ballerina ng Bayan Lisa Macuja-Elizalda and Tony awardee Lea Salonga in one concert
The winner of last year’s Aliw Award for Best Concert Collaboration, the concert "The Legends and the Classics Encore" returns to the stage on Oct. 12, Saturday, 8 p.m., and Oct. 13, Sunday, 5 p.m., at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater.
Presented by the Manila Broadcasting Company and Ballet Manila, the concert will highlight individual spot numbers, including medleys of Broadway hits and romantic standards from Lea Salonga, immortal piano pieces from Cecile Licad and lyrical ballet numbers from Lisa Macuja-Elizalde. What will make it even more unforgettable are the triumvirate’s collaborative performances combining song, music and dance.
"The Legends and the Classics Encore" will also feature Ballet Manila, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra under Gerard Salonga and cellist Ed Pasamba. Roxanne Lapus directs.
As concert producer, prima ballerina Macuja-Elizalde says the return engagement was already in the planning minutes after the curtain call of "The Legends and  The Classics" in March last year.
She relates, “The resounding success of the event, the collaboration onstage and the way the audience was making us bow and bow, not wanting the evening to end was really contagious. At the back of my mind, I was already mentally committing to a repeat performance while I was still an active performer. The question was when? We were finally able to synch our schedules for October 2013. So, it is finally happening again!”
Macuja-Elizalde, who is also artistic director of Ballet Manila, credits lawyer Katrina Legarda for planting the seeds for staging the show. “She was the first person to give me the idea of such a grand concert event. This kind of casting coup was not my original idea. I am just so happy that we made it happen!”
While the repeat concerts will essentially retain the flavor of the original show, Macuja-Elizalde says that Licad’s decision to perform a completely different repertoire will be an added treat.
Sharing a passion for the performing arts, Salonga, Licad and Macuja-Elizalde all started young and have achieved unparalleled heights in their respective careers.
Multi-awarded thespian and singer Salonga, who began her career in musical theater at the age of seven, took the West End and Broadway by storm with her starring role in Miss Saigon for which she won a Tony Award and a Sir Laurence Olivier Award.
A child prodigy, Licad made her debut with a full orchestra when she was seven and launched her international career as a piano virtuoso when she became the youngest gold medalist of the prestigious Leventritt Competition at 19.
Macuja-Elizalde learned her first ballet steps at eight and went on to hone her talent in Russia, becoming a soloist of the legendary Kirov Ballet when she was barely out of her teens, the first foreigner to be invited to join the group.
Tickets are available at all TicketWorld outlets. Check out or call 891-9999.

On a Saturday while waiting for the taho vendor

The blood chem results from the last test showed that my uric acid is high, and I am to avoid soy products, lentils, among many things a foodie loves. I've managed to stay away from sardines, too, but not from this weekly treat--a tall glass of taho. I tell the vendor to just ladle a small scoop of caramel liquid whose marbling effect I love to gaze at before I store the glass in the fridge to cool. I transfer it to the freezer and have the thing for lunch on those special days. A meal in itself for just 20 pesos.
My family is loyal to just one taho vendor, and he has been our suki since my girls were this tall. When he first saw my apo, he exclaimed, "Carbon copy ni Kimi!" Whereupon he added more sago to her glass of taho.    Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Standing on the broad shoulders of his father

An unseen but very much felt presence at last night's vernissage of Julian Araos "Usbong" was his late father Jerry. It was as though the older man was giving him a boost. Even the thunderstorm and traffic that prevented other guests from coming to The Crucible Gallery at SM Megamall couldn't dampen the expectation that here is a sculptor to watch very, very closely.

Julian's Inay, Dr. Melen Araos, remembers her youngest child as "full of energy, so adventurous and candid, so much like his father. In spite of being the youngest who was rather overly protected by me, he was street smart. Unlike the other siblings though, he was more playful, not so serious with school. He likes to tinker around more than sit down to read a book. After a stormy newborn period, he coped very well with no special treatment. It is a wonder how he has grown."

Although he likes to say "I'm just beginning to sprout," Julian has already burned a path to put him ahead of any competitor. He has had past solo shows of nature photography and functional sculptures (computer chair and table, upuan bisaya, easels) and the advantage of being under the tutelage of Jerry to prepare him for a newly born fascination with figurative sculpture. It won't be long before the stooped figures that reflect a mood of grieving will raise themselves proudly in forthcoming shows. 

Meanwhile, congratulations, Julian. 
Sculptor Julian Araos
Julian addresses family and friends.
Another view of "Mag-ama"
"Bisig"  Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to stage a surprise party in less than 2 weeks

...which was all the time I needed to work my phone and find out if my friends in Manila and Baguio could help me spring another surprise (the last was in 2009 at our silver wedding anniversary) on 63-year-old Rolly Fernandez. Ninety-eight percent of those I texted were game, the rest had other commitments that they couldn't get out of. The odds were in the birthday boy's favor.

My fellow conspirators had a credible cover: a Sunday meeting of the Baguio Writers Group combined with a thanksgiving lunch after BWG was conferred the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat ng Pilipinas (we did meet yesterday after the party spirit settled down over coffee to talk about future activities; the meeting wasn't just a clever diversion ploy).

The guests were game for the "roasting" of the diamond jubilarian. His quirks/habits, particularly the way he takes his job/s over-seriously (as journalism professor before he retired last year and as a working journalist), were uncovered by "grillers" Anna Leah Sarabia, former student Avigail Olarte (she said she and her female classmates from Batch 2000 were all sick with the Electra complex when they dealt with their teacher), Upsilon senior brod Des Bautista and Linc Drilon. Heckling from the sidelines was Rolly's UP Baguio colleague Del Tolentino. Maryland-based Baguio boy Benjie Abellera sent his message by email. Thank you again, fellow grand schemers, dreamers and heart-breakers. 

Well, for those who didn't make it, here are the photos from Anna's and my cameras that say, "Wish you were there!"

The yogurt-fed, organically raised roast suckling pig  was supposed to have been Rolly's offering to the BWG folks. He later realized it was also his gift to himself.
Our daughter Kimi picks Mario's key lime pie instead of a birthday cake. Good choice because everyone loves its lemon-y taste (pampaalis suya).
Early arrivals Oscar Pacis, who leads a Saturday Bible fellowship at his home with wife Toottee (seated rightmost), Anna Leah, who came all the way from Tagaytay, BWG vice president Jenny Cariño and Auring Bautista who made a lovely fish ceviche.
Linc Drilon with our youngest daughter, who also pulls her own surprise by coming home from abroad while awaiting a new work permit, and Kai of the tantalizing eyes
Scholars Del Tolentino and Ben Tapang bring in some booze. Therese Jison and Heiner Maulbecker bring up the rear, the apple pies and ice cream following them.
The girls at Green Valley (from left): Ida, Kai, Kimi, Luchie Maranan, BWG treasurer Merci Javier Dulawan and Anna Leah
Linc croons "Moon River" while Guido
Canero plays the violin.
Guido's solo of The Beatles' "Yesterday"
Mira Abaño accompanies herself in her cover of "Keep Breathing," her advice to many senior citizens in the audience.

Jenny Cariño heats up the afternoon with her "Volcano."
Avie Olarte speaks in behalf of UPB Journalism Batch Class 2000 whose members often wondered where Rolly got his perkiness for a 7 a.m. class. It must've been the beer from the night before.
Des Bautista (left) regales guests with anecdotes about how he, his family and circle of friends initiated younger fraternity brod Rolly into Baguio life. 
Scholars Ben and Del listen by the foot of the stairs. Ben tells Rolly that his made-to-order bulol buffet table is too Caucasian-looking with its tall nose and pointed chin.
Baboo Mondoñedo arrives in time for the BWG meeting with a box of Cafe by the Ruins ensaymada to go with the coffee. By quiet consensus no liquor allowed during said meeting. 
After his roasting, Rolly responds with the story of how 1992, the year our family moved to Baguio, remains the best year of his life. Born to parents from Cavite, he now calls himself a Baguio boy through and though.
They all laugh at what Rolly is saying.