Tuesday, December 31, 2013


My coffee mate said yesterday only newspapers do year-enders; in other words, what right have I to issue an e-mail with the subject head "year-end report"?

This is my personal thank you in words and photos for those who made the year 2013 good to me. A la Rod McKuen, I'm singin that song while I post the pics:

I call this my Baguio coffee mate Rolly Fernandez's Albert Einstein look. Here he is enjoying his mug of Benguet beans brewed to his liking--no sugar, no cream, just a dash of cinnamon to decrease his blood sugar level.

Mamay Kimi and Nanay B on Christmas Day

The butones herself, Kai, with her Booboo

My girls, Kimi, Ida and Kai, before Ida left for her new job in Sg.

Headed by The Matriarch "Mommy" Lolarga, the Lolargas of Pasig, Antipolo, Quezon City and Calgary, CA, in their look-up pose

I call this photo "Third Movement, Humoresque Concerto for Eight Hands." The players are: Chit Roces, Pablo Tariman, Vergel Santos and the girl with the brown lenses.

A lot of girls, gays and similar hipsters go to Gilda Cordero Fernando for life, light, love lessons. She never fails to deliver. Take it from Anna Leah Sarabia, Lorna Kalaw Tirol and Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, she's the best guru who doesn't like to be called one.

Perla Macapinlac, ICM, is Gilda's St. Theresa's College contemporary. She continues to run the ICM House of Prayer in Baguio where she conducts retreats. Her instruction is simple: dive deep, emerge whole, and don't be afraid of the monsters you see.

This is the first batch of participants at "Journey to Self: A Creative Journal Workshop," a project of the Baguio Writers Group, that pushed through despite super-typhoon Yolanda's visit to the South the weekend before. For facilitators Baboo Mondoñedo, Merci Javier Dulawan and myself, junior facilitator Jenny Cariño and secretariat head Sacha Weygan, the workshop was a fulfilling experience. We all came away enriched through the many encounters and shared experiences. Mabuhay!

Lalu Melen Araos with grand-daughter Amarra Araos Encabo host breakfast for their first-time visitor to their home and garden in Antipolo.

The spirit of artist Jerry Araos continues to live in his children like his son Jemil, here seen with daughter Widsy and Tita B. Jemil has an ongoing solo exhibit of sculpture and furniture at the University of the Philippines Los Baños Alumni Center at the UPLB campus in Laguna.

Jazz singer Annie Brazil can still croon, carry a tune at 80. Now and then she'd pause to sip water (or is it brandy?) or spray something into her mouth (asthma?), but the audience doesn't mind because she is truly funny, her spiels unscripted. As for Boots Anson Roa, I must thank her as a subject of an interview for Planet Philippines--I worked there briefly in the early 2000s. I re-posted the interview onto my blog. That entry has received one of the highest hits in this blog's history. Her second-time-around love story touches old hearts and farts like me.

Another funny girl is Jacqui Magno. Inevitable that Anna Leah and me clown around beside her. I never tire of telling Jacqui, "Thank you for the music."

When Anna went up to Renee Olstead to congratulate her on her performance in a tribute to Annie Brazil, she said, "You're an orchestra in one person." Renee's voice can sometimes sound like an oboe, a clarinet. She doesn't need to shout or make birit, I'm tellin' ya.

Bert Robledo, host of DZFE's Bravo Filipino, was once a choir member, too, during the time when soprano Evelyn Mandac was in her prime. Myramae Meneses, who cultural organizer Joseph Uy describes as "small but terrible," is, yes, princess of high C's. And she's just getting warm.

Prof. Rayben Maigue is the cool cat of the UP Jazz Ensemble.

Someone's supra-happy to be addressed "Tita Babeth" by tenor Arthur Espiritu in his normal speaking voice.

Yah, as Kai would put it, I saved this photo for last. The great Cecile Licad leafs through Marne Kilates' award-winning book of poems while a fan girl carries her grandchild. Kai sometimes forgets her manners; she failed to thank Ms. Licad for the vanilla ice cream treat.

This old fart with lotsa heart thanks everyone, even The One who sent a killer quake and typhoon, for enabling us to remember 2013 as one of the most memorable in anyone's life. For those who us who survived the year, the girls of Lincoln Park have this advice worth heeding anytime and everywhere.

Image from www.thegirlsoflincolnpark.com

Happy talk on last day of 2013

"It's time
to be happy

- From http://vuible.com/

How many times have I preached on this personal pulpit that happiness is a decision? Today, the last day of a terrible year, let's pack up all our cares and woes, and welcome 2014 with hope, with love, despite the holes in our pockets and our grieving souls. We can do it (this is written more to assure myself). Worse state is to be poor in spirit.

Is this the dollar plant? I'm not sure anymore, I'm not the family gardener. Just the picture taker who takes away with her the image that will perfectly be in tandem with today's short quote. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, December 30, 2013

Rizal Day reflection

Today one thinks of this woman, pianist Cecile Licad, when the lines of Jose Rizal are recalled: "Genius has no country. It blossoms everywhere. Genius is like the light, the air. It is the heritage of all." Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Music against a post-Yolanda setting

WHILE others were rebuilding their lives, running relief kitchens and centers or continuing to appeal for help in behalf of the Bohol quake and super typhoon Yolanda survivors, musicians united, put music and its universal appeal in the service of a great cause.
Prof. Rayben Maigue leads the UP Jazz Ensemble

The UP Jazz Ensemble under Prof. Rayben Maigue opened, with swing-time hits, Ayala Museum's Season's Symphonies Concert Series, a fund-raiser for the Ayala Foundation’s disaster response and preparedness program.

In a commendable format, Lara Maigue narrated the story of jazz, instrument by instrument from a lonely cornet to the thicker texture of trumpets, clarinets and trombones combined. She sang staples like "Alright, Okay, You Win" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." The older Maigue did the demo part, leading the ensemble through a varied repertoire that included Latin-Am rhumba, mambo and samba
Vocalist Lara Maigue

Despite a mic, Maigue's voice was thin for the upbeat "Orange Colored Sky," a tune Jacqui Magno could pull off with seeming lack of effort. She strove mightily but was overpowered by the over-enthusiastic percussionists, wind and brass sections. The band members capped the evening by punctuating "The Christmas Waltz" with a hearty chorus of "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Nevertheless, the vocalist and the band looked like they were enjoying what they were doing as they showed how jazz, adaptable through each era since it began in southern US, is here to stay.
Roxy Modesto on the sax baritone

A beloved University of the Philippines tradition is the singing of Handel's glorious Messiah. But this year's was especially moving. The entire program, featuring the UP choirs and the UP Orchestra from different campuses,was dedicated to the students, teachers and staff of UP Tacloban and their families. The few who made it that evening were given a prolonged applause in the standing-room-only University Theater.

The audience was encouraged to go to the table of the UP Foundation Inc. during the intermission. The staff accepted cash and check donations, issuing receipts in the spirit of transparency and in behalf of the Typhoon Yolanda Relief Fund.

Premiered at this benefit concert was the dirge "Kilos, Iskolar" (music by Verne de la Pena and lyrics by Reuel M. Aguila) written for a chorus and soloist. Mary Jeane Eglosa, a Madrigal soprano who hails from Tacloban, led the UP choirs in a chant-like repetition of lyrics that speak of tears that wouldn't dry up in a time of disaster. In true UP fashion (raised clenched fists), the piece ended with this challenge: "Panahon ng pagbangon/ Panahon ng pagtindig/ Kilos, iskolar/ Dumaraing ang bayan."

Fitri Cerado opens Yolanda fund-raising concert, "Jammin' for Help, Thanking the World," with her interpretation of "One Voice."
Martin Nievera in a duet with Lea Salonga

The talk of the musical grapevine remains "Jamming for Help, Thanking the World," a Fullhouse Asia production to benefit #helpPH at Rockwell Tent, Makati. This was an example of classical music triumphing gloriously over pop music exemplars like Lea Salonga and Martin Nievera.

Cecile Licad rocks Rachmaninoff's Concert No. 2.

Cecile Licad, who had wanted to do something immediately for the Visayas when she heard news of the devastation, made known her fierce passion for this country and her music in her solo parts in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, even in the liquid sounds she produced as her fingers glided through the encore piece "Embraceable You."

Intense connection between Licad and Salonga who led the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra under Gerard Salonga played in a way unheard of in the past. It has leveled up remarkably, becoming more than a pop orchestra that provides background music to showbiz stars.

In baseball parlance, the orchestra has, as one, stepped up to the plate and, with Licad, hit a triple homer. Music and sports may seem irreconcilable. But the vigor with which Salonga showed in leading an inspired orchestra that was in sync with Licad--this is the team-up one can never tire off every time the People's Pianist comes home.
Licad used a Steinway that was up for silent auction, proceeds also going to the Yolanda cause.

Wearing t-shirts and jeans, Licad and the others belied the mentality that one must be glamorously outfitted at a concert. They set the tone of sobriety and austerity in a post-calamity context. In their deportment they shamed some audience members who came dressed to kill and wearing their bling blings.

Arthur Espiritu also stepped up to the plate. He drove for hours a truck filled to the brim with relief goods. He and his wife, whose roots are in Samar, delivered these to the typhoon survivors in Llorente, a solidarity gesture that signified, "Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours!"
Christmas caroling quartet made up of tenors Nival and Espiritu, sopranos Meneses and Balajadia

In "Arthur Espiritu and Friends," again at Ayala Museum, he was the audience's darling. The friends included tenor Nomher Nival, sopranos Myramae Meneses and Kay Balajadia, and collaborating pianist Najib Ismail.

Whether singing a difficult, heart-breaker of a Neapolitan song like Cardillo's "Core 'ngrato" or popular fare like the Irish anthem "Danny Boy" or even Brodzsky's "Be My Love," he sounded, in a word, impeccable.

His soaring voice and generosity will be missed as he fulfills singing engagements abroad for six months.--Elizabeth Lolarga

Photos by Anna Leah Sarabia and Elizabeth Lolarga

Sunday, December 29, 2013


“People who walk through a doorway during the middle of a task are three times as likely to forget what they were doing.” – from @UberFacts, the most important things you’ll never need to know, in Twitter

I've heard this advice before. It was given to me because I'm on the threshold of hitting 60, the age that heralds the years of grace (these years are given to those who're undeserving but they're still freely given).

There's something about doors or arches that make you instantly forget what you went into the room for. I guess it means one must be supra-mindful. I used "supra" because I saw that on the front-page photo of the new Miss International, and the caption spoke of how the terrible year of 2013 was somehow saved by these homecoming queens, including a Miss Supra-National.

Now, where was I, and what was the point I was getting at? See, I'm starting to fade like this year!

Former door guardian elevated to another site Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, December 28, 2013


"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." - Susan Sontag, quoted by www.thedailyzen.org

Elephant stuck on a fake pine tree Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, December 27, 2013

Without reason

"Be happy; without reason." - Tsoknyi Rinpoche

In my quiet moments today just before waiting morning light filled the corner where I do my thing, I scrolled down and looked for the image that could be paired well with the quote from a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

The picture is one of several I took on a morning stroll with the wee one, Kai/Butones. I remembered a lesson from my photography teacher, Tita Velasco Lim, who said to try things from different perspectives, even from a worm's.

I wondered what a flower would see, if it had eyes.

Yellow saw blue and green. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flicker and flame

All the worlds are like a flickering flame; they are like a shadow, an echo, a dream, they are like a magical creation.”— Yuima-kyo

Sun peeking through ferns

Morning sunlight on white

Coasters left outdoors from the night before

Yuima-kyo quote from http://www.thedailyzen.org/

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In the moment on Christmas morning

"If you aren't in the moment, you are either looking forward to uncertainty, or back to pain and regret." ~Jim Carrey

Jim's right, you know. And oftentimes, the Christ in Christmas is just there, present in every dewdrop, stray bird, child, man, woman, vine, in anyone or anything that gives us "secret delight" (a phrase from King Arthur's song "I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight") and saves us from our wrecking-ball lives.

Wala na bang ibang masabi kundi Maligayang Pasko? Hanggang dito na muna, sa muling pagkikita-kits.

The birds

Bamboo leaves and sky

Morning dew

Little twerp dressed in same manner as her Booboo who's always on the brink of being arrested by the fashion police

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas through a child's eyes again

"A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength."- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

It's getting harder to get the wee one to stop and pose for a shot in her "secret garden." The Booboo has to be more creative, like asking her to look for the crocodile on Grumpa's shirt.

It's nice to catch her bathed in that morning light that gives Baguio miles and miles of cloudless blue skies on December mornings.

I think the trick is to keep the camera handy while at the same time not intruding into her space too much and remembering to also look around for other subjects.

One subject is this present from several Christmases ago. Our family calls it "Aurora's Angel" after Aurora Tamayo Bautista, the cheerful giver. It is to her that we send our thoughts this blessed season.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, December 23, 2013

A year ago today, JVA checked out of 'this giant, raucous hotel'

"…[O]ne hits at some point in middle age the Great Reversal, where we see clearly that the way ahead is shorter than the way behind, and that it is only luck or chance that we are still eating, talking, taking out the trash and doing the laundry as if nothing particular were happening. This realization creates a revolution in the brain. One sees that life really is an incessant conversation between the living and the dead – and what one writer called 'the tyranny of the living,' 'the small, arrogant oligarchy of those who happen to be walking around' is a shortsighted view. Nothing we touch, think, feel, or love is other than a gift from those who came before us, passing on literature, painting, domesticated cats, architecture, silver spoons, flush toilets, witty sayings, lullabies, chocolate éclairs, systems of government, habits of kindness before they, too, close the door of their room and, one by one, check out of this giant, raucous hotel." -Cynthia Haven

When the garden was young: Jerry Araos, wife Melen and their youngest children Mira and Julian. They are flanked by SV and Nieves Epistola, their backs turned and looking like angelic sentinels.

We'll be looking at the moon, and we'll be seeing you. Thank you for the gift of your life that remains evergreen in our hearts and minds. Till we meet again, oh, Little Prince! Labyu!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

On the road with counting babe

A brief entry before the holiday fever depletes what's left of our strength this long, almost harrowing year:

My grandchild has long learned her numerals and has counted with one to one correspondence. She has gone past 20 and to amuse herself while we were aboard a bus to Baguio, normally a six-hour trip that turned into eight hours because of heavy traffic in some parts of EDSA, Nothern Luzon Expressway (NLEX),MacArthur Highway and Gen. Palispis (formerly Marcos) Highway, she started counting aloud from "one" all the way to "ten", then proceeded to "eleven" while I alternated with the next numbers. When we reached "twenty," she said she'd count by herself. So from "twenty one" she counted all the way to "twenty nine." She paused for few seconds, then confidently declared in a voice loud enough for the next rows of passengers to hear: "Twenty ten!"

Precious moments!

While Kai/Butones was also in one of her pauses, a.k.a. siesta time, in Pasig a few days ago, the elders (my mom, Nene Lolarga but Mama Mermaid to family members below 11 years old, me and Mamay Kimi) took the chance to finally have another four-generation but non-traditional photo op.

During the restive trip to the North, the bus would pause, too, sometimes for 30 minutes, engine running, as we waited for the traffic to ease a bit so we could resume moving. I sometimes gazed out the window to sights like these:

Somewhere in Pangasinan where the plumes of talahib are gone and the river's water level is low

Somewhere in Pangasinan again, sparrows have the time of their lives sliding down the rusting roof of a sari-sari store, only to get up, flutter their wings a bit, then go for another slide. A reminder from Matthew 10:29-31 to the anxious, the anguished, the fretful, the worry warts, even the exhausted, that we are worth more than sparrows: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Photos by Babeth Lolarga