Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The kind of old woman I want to be

Two loveable fatties who double as candlesticks found in Gilda's boudoir, a gift from her daughter-in-law Lanelle Abueva Fernando

In a matter of six months, I shall be turning sixty and zero, the age that'll entitle me to wave a senior citizen card at the pharmacist, bus conductor, waiter, supermarket checkout counter girl and best of all, at museum admission counters.

More than those privileges, I am more concerned with the kind of "hip crone" I want to be. I count myself lucky because I have living models who, as one of them puts it lightly, "love art and walkers."

I've shared meals with them, helped them out of cars, pushed their walkers that, when turned around, convert to seats when they tire. Gilda calls hers a kariton. Sylvia knows the long technical term (sorry, I can't recall, evidence that my memory is becoming unreliable).

Gilda and Sylvia viewing "Mexico: Fantastic Identity, 20th Century Masterpieces, FEMSA Collection"

What I've grown to like is being invited to their gallery hops. One took us to that heavily guarded rare exhibition of Mexican art (Rivera, Orozco, Tamayo, Kahlo) at the Ayala Museum. Picture-taking was strictly prohibited, but I managed to sneak a shot of the women on their walkers intently looking at and discussing an artwork.

We made a special trip to Crucible Gallery a few hours before Manuel Ocampo's solo show opened, mainly out of curiosity over what million-peso paintings look like and why collectors are falling over one another to acquire them. Gilda turned to Sylvia to say, straight-faced, "O, Ibyang, eto gusto ko. Bili mo para sakin."

Serious about their art appreciation. Or maybe their thought bubbles read, "But I can paint better!"

Art, humor, walker, but with my heft, my mobile seat may look something like this. And I'll need a retired but still well-buffed male dance instructor to push me around.

So I say to Father Time as I move towards my bonus years, "Bring it on!"

Armchairs with rollers at Gilda's living room Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, December 29, 2014

Not quite Tiffany blue but close enough

It's my favorite shade of blue (the kind of blue that melts into green). It's also akin to turquoise.

My daughter unexpectedly gifted me with a "pedi" treat at David's Salon at Porta Vaga, a commercial arcade along Session Road, Baguio City. I liked the place instantly because there was a private manicure-pedicure cubicle with glossy magazines covered with soft plastic to make 'em last longer until the nth customer.

I think the label means nail varnish. It doesn't specify the exact color. If I were in charge of naming the color, I'd call it Cool Grandmama Blue.

Pretty paint job

I was going to settle for the usual cleaning, clipping of toenails, etc., until I saw a glass cabinet of nail polish in metallic colors and one brand only called Cuccio, made in the US. No sign of tiny bottles of Caronia, Revlon, Jennifer Lynn or Bobbie, the brands I've been accustomed to.

I went for this easy-on-the-eyes shade. My pedicurist was quiet Rochelle. The cubicle was like a sanctuary. Salons in Metro Manila are usually gossip hubs competing with the sound of hair dryers or a TV set tuned in to a teleserye. Rochelle worked with care, would ask now and then if a side of a toe is painful (no hang nails though).

When the work was done, my grandchild came in, her eyes agog. "Booboo, what a beautiful color!" It made my Sunday! Thanks, little pal.

Cool Grandmama's blue nails set against curious Kai. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Lara, Elnora and the ladies who lunched

Chilling at the new Cafe by the Ruins Dua with the beautiful Halili women (Lara on my right, Elnora on the left), all of us survivors of lo terrible Baguio holiday traffic

How did Lara Halili come into my life and I into hers? Total strangers, we shared a room for one afternoon that ended in a musical evening in Nueva Ecija. We don't mind confessing to being ardent fans of pianist Cecile Licad who we joined in a van with writer Pablo Tariman for an outreach concert in an auditorium that had seen better days at Central Luzon State University.

I had earlier pitched the outreach story to my Philippine Daily Inquirer editor Chato Garcellano and she gave me the go ahead. Problem was I had no camera to record the event. But Lara did, a state of the art contraption that she had mastered after a workshop in Batanes with Mandy Navasero.

Like a pro, she accepted the on-spot assignment, took lots of photos (two were used, one on Inquirer's front page) although she was in tears at one point, moved by Cecile's and the Manila Symphony Orchestra's music. Since then, Lara and I have stayed in touch even when she moved to the US. There she has lived her music aficionado fantasy, following Cecile at her different Stateside engagements, becoming friends with soprano Debbie Voight, attending season upon opera season of the Metropolitan Opera, even campaigning that it not be closed, etc.

Her stories of post-concert meetings with the greats backstage need a separate blog.

Over late lunch yesterday at the new cafe, we played catch-up. I met her gracious mother, her sister Eloisa and her daughters (Eloisa did the ordering--she knows her food well, being a restaurateur in Sta. Rita, Bulacan). The other sister, Elnora the pianist, is another huggable friend. I've been thinking of putting together another book of poems or essays perhaps just so I can launch it and have Elnora play at the book party (she has done this for another media pal, Jullie Yap Daza).

Before we parted, we brought out our respective cameras and asked a waiter to do the honors. This time I came prepare. I never leave home without my ever reliable Canon PowerShot.

Grand exit

From left: a bag lady with fake Burberry shawl, Lara, Elnora, Eloisa and Mama Halili

Friday, December 26, 2014

A lifestyle

"Giving is a lifestyle." - Inspirational Quotes found in Twitter

I saw this old watercolor work, entitled "Tres Marias", that was first exhibited at the Baguio City Museum at a Baguio Aquarelle Society show, at the fireplace of Auring and Des Bautista's home on Christmas Eve. It felt like running into an old chum. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Very little of my body of artworks (ahem!) are left with me or my family. They're mostly in the homes or friends, other family members, including in-laws and cousins who've hosted us abroad, and a few indulging collectors, mainly friends, too.

Whenever I have an exhibition, whatever is left unsold is given away without regret as gift for birthdays, weddings, thank you for favors or just for the abiding friendship. These paintings are also handy to be around when there's a call for fund-raising for ailing colleagues or for relief/rehabilitation during disasters.

Nothing can replace something made by one's hands. A reminder for me to resume painting in 2015.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Joy of the child and of the poet

The Wee One and her Booboo by the village gate's Christmas display Photo by Kimi Fernandez

"And the true realism is that of the poets: to find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Today's entry will be brief so I can return to merry-making, including one-on-one communicating with those I forgot in my Christmas e-list. Every time the adults bring The Wee One (Kai, formerly Butones) to a Christmas get-together, her excitement is contagious. Last night, en route to a Christmas Eve dinner, she pointed out the lights sparkling many homes and establishments along the highway and narrow roads. She gushed, "How pretty! How twinkly!"

Yes, Christmas is for children. After all it is Baby Jesus's birthday. Kai even remembered to mention that this morning. May the remaining days of 2014 continue to be merry and bright. If you must drink, do it responsibly. This is Kai's grandmother speaking.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pause from the world's capers

Table centerpiece arranged by Baguio's Martha Stewart, Toottee Chanco Pacis Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Because of the ring-a-ling-ling in the air, I haven't had time to read the newspapers in earnest. So I'm clueless Alice in Wonderland, wondering what all the stink is about a Purisima or the Binay family. I promise to catch up on current events so I can be an informed citizen and consumer in 2015.

In the meantime, I've been calibrating my socializing by going to select Christmas parties or reunions one after the other or one event at a time so I don't weary or suffer from indigestion.

First was the "Greenhouse" Christian Fellowship's Saturday celebration of the Yule season hosted by Oscar and Toottee Pacis at their Happy Homes greenhouse. My grandchild attended without showing signs of boredom or a "May I flee?" look. She actually listened to Manong Oscar extol the life of Abram/Abraham and his compliance to God's will. She peered at the small letters of The Bible and would sometimes ask what verse we were reading ("Are you here already?" or "Where are you on this page?").

Sunday evening was dedicated to the annual book exchange and eat-drink till you're stuffed party, of the Baguio Writers Group under Jenny Cariño at the about-to-be-closed Mandarin Restaurant on the corner of Assumption and Session Roads. Depending on the members' state of inebriation, the night ends with an impromptu poetry reading.

And last night a dinner punctuated with so much reminiscing and gallons of laughter with Chit Roces Santos and doodler husband Vergel at Billy King's Le Chef at The Manor, Camp John Hay. I I couldn't resist the richness of cheesy French onion soup, juicy medium-rare steaf, lobster and creme brulee with an aperitif of strawberry juice (the berries are in season, folks).

It's beginning to look like a good Christmas and the year 2014's last days are unfolding gently and happily.

My family's Christmas mascot in the company of the Christian community in Happy Homes, including her manangs

That's only half of BWG's membership. Jenny is seated farthest to the right.

Santa Claus sees that we've been nice this year and pauses by our table for a group pic.

Vergel sketched Rolly and me as we looked or glowed last night. Doesn't the missus look like a gypsy here while the mister is a dead ringer for Jose Rizal?

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Kai ligaya ng buhay'

For that witty pun on my grandchild's name I have Manong Ed Maranan to thank, he being the master of the art of punning.

I failed to make my November trip to the post office, the time of year when I mail handwritten Christmas cards. There was just a lot of reading, writing, correcting of papers, proofreading of book galleys to attend to.

So I succumbed to the 21st-century convenience of a Christmas family letter with a picture of "Kai ligaya" attached in my email to over 200 contacts. You can imagine how much I spend on stamps for individual cards in a year! Well, I'm often reminded by environmentalists to reduce my paper trail by going electronic in my mail. So there.

Since the adjectival response to the photo of "Kai ligaya" has ranged from "adorable" to "cutie" to "she looks like one of my apos," I thought I'd post one more pic in this space for a Christmas-y and merry feel.

Posing by the Christmas tree of Gardenville Hotel in Green Valley, Baguio City Photo by Booboo Babeth

Saturday, December 20, 2014

They in my life, me in theirs

"Trappings and charm wear off… Let people see you. They see your upper arms are beautiful, soft and clean and warm, and then they will see this about their own, some of the time. It’s called having friends, choosing each other, getting found, being fished out of the rubble. It blows you away, how this wonderful event ever happened — me in your life, you in mine." - Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

Crayons for toddler hands Photo by Babeth Lolarga

It just came to me while thinking through my gratitude list how friends, to include family members like cousins I grew up with, have sustained me in my nearly six decades on this blessed Earth. From whom did I learn how to make and keep friends?

One of the reassuring sounds I hear daily in my Pasig home is my mother chatting with one of her Legion of Mary sisters. It's a conversation punctuated with girlish giggles (she's 87) even if one of their favorite topics is the ache and discomfort of old age, how limited their movements and activities have become.

And then I remember my father, too, a doctor who made house calls and whose weakness or strength, depending on how you look at it, is not charging his patients whether they're well off or not. He'd say in Filipino, "Hindi ko kailangan ng pera, kaibigan ang kailangan ko (I don't need money much; I need friends.)" It came to pass that at his burial, legions came, including a truck full of workers.

The friends who've blessed my life are as varied as the colors in my grandchild's crayon basket. I wouldn't have them any other way.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My gorgeous Jorge

Theater artist Jorge V. Ledesma with Julian V. Araos's mother and child sculpture at the Araos home in Antipolo Photo by Babeth Lolarga

I vowed to myself, after seeing how well put together Jorge is everytime I see him (yearly since 2013 but before then more than a decade went by) that I would have my hair done like his after I let it grow another month. No, I won't color my crowing glory. Jorge actually finds the dusting of white hair on mine nice.

He is one of the rare friends I can just be comfortably quiet with. He is not only from a buena familia, he is more importantly bien educado y tan fino! Gentle Jorge, I shall miss you when you fly back to Colorado again. Be assured of my letters.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Girlfriends' night

I've traveled miles to attend First Draft meetings, and even arrived once from an overseas trip, woozy from jet lag but still able to listen to my wise elders with some mindfulness.

Karina Bolasco and I are the "babies" in this group of women who write and like to share their works by reading them aloud for critique. I write "babies" because after me, the next lady is in her mid-60s. The eldest is forever 84.

We used to meet six times a year, but that petered out when each got involved in this or that. But the raison d'être for a group like this has been met--we're all engaged in and committed to writing. And we write not for livelihood reasons alone. To use another friend's term, writing has become a "lovelihood".

Rita Ledesma had been our gracious Christmas host for many years. December is when she brings out her best china, the best cuisine and desserts that she has tasted and now wants to share this delight with us. We exchange gifts (an option) and have a non-negotiable bunutan or mini raffle. This year we missed the company of Mariel Francisco, Melinda de Jesus and Lorna Kalaw Tirol, all fulfilling family duties. I know there's a next time with them.

If my pictures are fuzzy, maybe it's because I look at these women through the eyes of love.

Karina Bolasco and Gilda Cordero Fernando

Chit Roces Santos, Edna Manlapaz and Fe Arriola

Fe and Rita Ledesma

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Not a wallflower at a party

Or so I think. I just couldn't forgive myself if I missed a milestone like F. Sionil Jose's 90th birthday party. Occasions like that are about the only time I see, press palms with or buss my writing mentors, idols and confreres. A friend said that in her excitement, she hyperventilated that night and forgot to have her picture taken with friends she hadn't seen in a long time.

While I was recuperating in Baguio from an ailment I would rather not discuss at length and my husband was forced to stay home and stay still because of a knee fracture, we went on a reading marathon of Manong Frankie's short stories and novels. It reached a point where we'd try to discuss what we had read and ended up mixing the characters and plots. Rolly counted how many times Frankie used the word "sybarite" in a novel. That sounds like my husband all right. You can keep the editor at home but not the editor from NOT working.

Thank you to the people who pressed the button of my camera so I can have a few mementos of the evening of Dec. 3 at the Cultural Center's main lobby.

Alfredo Roces, who I've been reading since high school, the birthday boy and fictionist Rony Diaz

It was Manong Frankie who told my class of high school kids: "You must not forgive a writer his sins just because he's a good writer." He's shown with a reader who's glad to have a few seconds with him before he was deluged with more well-wishers.

With Tessie Jose, who continues to make Frankie's life of letters possible, and sculptor Julie Lluch. Manang Tessie has kept her figure. This was the same outfit she wore when Frankie turned 80.

The heavyweights' table, only because two other National Artists for Literature are sharing space: Bienvenido Lumbera and Cirilo Bautista. The writers' wives are by their side, too: Shayne Lumbera and Rose Bautista.

Ka Satur Ocampo and Ka Universe Gilda Cordero Fernando

Three muses of literature Susan Lara, Marj Evasco and Gilda

Two publishing greats: Eugenia "Eggie" Apostol and Gilda yet again

Celeste Legaspi sings "Gaano Kita Kamahal" for the birthday celebrator (he with the black beret)

Blurry though it may seem this precious photo of laughing writing couple Roger and Fe Mangahas is full of meaning to me: love conquers all, especially dictatorships, aging and personal tragedies.

The untouched birthday cake that features likenesses of the covers of Frankie's novels. The cake people flocked to was the one baked by Estrel's, specializing in caramel cakes. It was given by the University of Santo Tomas's The Varsitarian which Frankie edited in his youth.

One wedding and a mini reunion

Likha Daza Umali with his bride Maria Isabel at their Green Meadows Clubhouse reception following their wedding at Santuario de San Jose. Likha has adopted the name Josemaria and now goes by the nickname Joms. But to his mother Meran and his godmother (me), he'll always be Iki Boy, a fully breastfed child. His birth signaled the start of Meran's and my becoming breastfeeding advocates/warriors. Together with other breastfeeding moms like Mercy Fabros and Connie Calimon, we put up Gabay at Kalinga ng mga Ina in the '80s inspired by La Leche League, a breastfeeding support group. Congratulations, Iki; best wishes, Isabel.

Likha and Isabel's wedding also served to reunite some Paulinians who were a batch ahead of me. From St. Paul College Quezon City High School Batch '72 are these unforgettable ladies, all campus leaders in the '70s: Marian Reyes, Mary Cuyegkeng, Maan Ereñeta and Meran. They were never lovelier than in this phase of their (our) lives. We have finally grown into our real faces. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, December 14, 2014

When cousins are friends

Cousin Henry with his retired man's pouch lends an ear to a niece.

To keep my sanity during this season's frenzy, I try to be selective about with whom to spend my time, with whom socializing isn't a strain (that is, I can be myself, especially where LOLs are concerned--hearty and uninhibited and damn Emily Post).

Every year, that's my December resolution, and so far I've managed to apply this with, I'm proud to say, some stick-to-it-tiveness. I've junked the Aunty Social stance--life's too short and too grand to be a grouchy hermit. The friends who I've managed to keep in the autumn of my life are way too precious for me to just email a Christmas letter to. If they're around and they'd appreciate my company, of course, I will run at the first summons. The same with family members who make up my first friends in life.

When balikbayan cousin Henry Romero (his nickname is also spelled Enri) called for a luncheon clan reunion, the turnout was good, although Baguio duties kept me away. Wala bang Take 2? Well, there was one open Saturday for a hurriedly organized reunion of absentees from that earlier reunion. Unless someone offers to host everything, the reunions of the Lolarga, Romero and Valdellon families are potluck affairs with no consultation, no declaration of what pot contents we will bring.

So we welcomed Henry again with homemade spaghetti, store-bought suman and sapin-sapin, siopao and siomai, ensaymada and oranges. Henry wolfed down two siopaos and half-laughingly told of how he brought his son Dino, who's returning to LA, on a nostalgic trip to Ma Mon Luk only for the younger man to complain that the food tasted like rags. I guess it's a generation thing.

It was good to see Henry talking, listening, giving advice, hoping aloud for another reunion even if it's 10 years down the road and our generation by then will be hard of hearing and of walking. He was natural in the role of family elder.

Meanwhile, we're grateful just to be together for a few hours with a December moon hovering over the snug condo where our niece Regina May de los Reyes had just moved in.

Blogging relative, Dino and Henry Romero, Regina May de los Reyes and Yonni Habulan

Gathered 'round the kitchen-cum-dining table with cousin Eileen Lolarga (third from left) and Yonni's fiance Lady (to Regina's right)

Perchance to just read

Full moon over Wack Wack, Mandaluyong City, and Ortigas Center, Dec. 6, 2014. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

"... I don’t write every day. I can’t write every day. Sometimes I take a whole week off from writing to sleep and read and cook and clean and watch a dozen episodes of Justified, which is probably a necessary vaccine against burnout but makes me feel like I’m slacking.

"I don’t want to complain too much because, let’s be honest, this is a craziness I’ve chosen for myself, and a privilege. I’m not scrubbing toilets 12 hours a day, six days a week just to put food on the table, and I’ve got a partner who makes it possible for me to pursue my dream without completely losing my mind. But I still wonder how other writers manage it."
- Liz Entman Harper, "Like Pushing an Elephant Into a Volkswagen",

I like to fool myself into thinking that when I'm thinking, I'm also writing. Or when I'm taking pictures, I'm also composing in some way.

Aw schucks! I must admit that there are days when the high point is watching reruns of TV sitcoms like "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "Frasier." And then I got hooked on "House of Cards." I have a lot of catching up with "Game of Thrones." I lucked out when I caught three-fourths of the movie Julia with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave (and Meryl Streep in a bit role).

When I grew tired of watching, I noticed that my Home Improvements-oriented brother had brought some method to the madness that is my bookshelf (thanks, Dennis!). I found myself reading best-sellers like Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol and Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic (not my choices, they're the stash of the other book readers in the family so we have quite an eclectic selection).

Didn't put down Pablo Neruda's Memoirs until sleepiness took over. He likes to use what to my limited vocabulary are unfamiliar words: mephitic, meretricious, calcined, volutes, hieratic, arborescent. The reader previous to me had the thoughtfulness to highlight these words so I can return to them and finally discover their meanings. Good thing Señor Neruda never had reason to use them in his poetry that speaks to all humankind.

Who said, "I could be social, but I could read (I'd rather read)". And that, dear and few followers of this blog, is what I've been up to these past days. Thus my public book of days that is this blog hasn't been updated.

I'm about to make up big time with a series of entries. I'm keeping everything short after I've been told that the ideal blog text should be 350 words long or less.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

To be 90 and furiously writing

In one of his essays in his collection Why We Are Hungry, F. Sionil Jose, National Artist for Literature, wrote six years ago, "In a couple of days, I will be 84--a very old man. I have earned the privilege of saying what I please because now, I know so much--and yet, I also know so little. Indeed, the whole of living is a learning experience." On your 90th year today, Manong Frankie, I wish you a still hearty appetite for food, for life, for letters. Onto to next novel. Mabuhay! Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gracious goodbye, November

November, the month that goes by so fast, ends at midnight. What follows is holiday frenzy. The invitation to cinnamon tea and squash pie couldn't be ignored. It was our chance to pause and be grateful for everyday blessings like a spate of good weather and recovered health. Toottee Chanco Pacis set up this vignette of a turkey figurine flanked by two balls of squash harvested from her vegetable patch as if to say that the Americans don't have a monopoly on Thanksgiving. Thank you for that shared afternoon. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My gardening twin

I first met this woman in Pinterest, and she's pinned in one of my boards under the title "Pretty Illustrations." I still have to find out the artist's name. When I took a close look at the woman, I realized that she could be my doppelgänger. From the graying hair to the eyeglasses to the crazy quilt outfit to the stoop of her shoulders down to the Crocs-shod feet, she reminds me of my possibility as my husband's co-gardener. Sorry to say, I'd rather add more pins to my new board, "How Does Your Garden Grow." Pinterest has lately brought me to the garden of Castle Linderhof, Germany, the garden paths in Liverpool, England, jardins de Provence. Tomorrow I visit Versailles. Luv my online life!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Momentarily still

"Wake me up when the sun is here na, ha?" That request has been made almost nightly when The Wee One, I think, was able to figure out that with sunrise comes getting up and getting ready for nursery school. We've had to put aside our dark glasses and hats until the weekend when we resume our morning walks. I can think of no more poetic line than her utterance. It brought to mind this compilation of meditative essays, The Other Walk, by Sven Birkerts, wherein he opens his book with these words: "This morning, going against all conventions, I turned right instead of left...Still, going against the grain of my usual track, seeing every single thing from the other side, was suddenly welcome." We'll try that other track, hopefully without hidden dangers or surprises.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

O light, o music divine

Looking pleased even from her side view, lyric coloratura Sumi Jo, a superstar in the operatic and cross-over music world, enfolds soprano Myramae Meneses in her loving arms during a master class at St. Scholastica's College in February this year. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Ms Meneses (in white) and tenor Ivan Niccolo Nery (rightmost) at the Viva Voce's repeat of "Complicated The Concert" at the Lopez Museum in July Photo by Babeth Lolarga

The days are shortening, the nights are lengthening, and we just hurried past mid-November! I once wrote a former pen pal (Frank Cimatu, then on Friendly fellowship in Seattle) how my young children then wished that November could be skipped so that their eager hands and hearts could get on with the "business" of Christmas (unwrapping presents, receiving gold and red ampao envelopes and such).

Often and nearly forgotten during the lead-up to Yuletide are people for whom the merriment of the season feels like a stinging slap on the face, that is, they may resent it in their pain or lonesomeness. Is it any wonder that cases of depression are ironically high during this celebratory season?

And here comes the Culture Arts Events Organizer (CAEO) about to swing a balance between the celebration of the liberator Christ child's birth and putting The Beatitudes into action. Its concert, "Christmas Solstice," billed as an evening of timeless Christmas carols on Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ayala Museum on Makati Ave. will have for its beneficiaries children who need medical treatment for their cancer.

The three featured singers are among the most sought after following their respective professional debuts at the same venue in 2013 and this year: soprano Myramae Meneses and Stephanie Aguilar, and tenor Ivan Niccolo Nery. Pianist Greg Zuniega will assist them in their renditions of carols from the 17th century to the present. These songs include: Felipe de leon's "Pasko Na, Sinta Ko" and "Payapang Daigdig", the exquisite "Cantique de Noel" (also known as "O Holy Night"), Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece "Pie Jesu," Cesar Franck's "Panis Angelicus," Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim."

The Handel aria, which is from his opera Samson, has been interpreted, each in their lovely way, by sopranos Renee Fleming, Kiri Te Kanawa and Kathleen Battle (go to YouTube, my friend!). A bit of background on the lyrics is: "the aria summons the celestial hosts of seraphim and cherubim to hail the dead hero, with trumpet figures responding to the singer." (Source:

Let us go then, let us go with the angels as one imagines them descending as these are sung on Advent's first Sunday:

Let the bright seraphim
in burning row,
their loud, uplifted angel trumpets blow.

Let the cherubic host,
in tuneful choirs,
touch their immortal harps
with golden wires.

Tickets are available at Ticketworld, tel. no. 891-9999, or the CAEO, tel. nos. 782-7164, 517-3763, 0920-954-0053, 0918-347-3027 or 0920-465-5725.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sunflower watching

"Oh my, oh my!" is the exclamation that repeats itself in a children's book that The Wee One is besotted with, Kate Toms' There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. I feel like echoing it, saying it over and over like a chant--"Oh my oh my oh my oh my!!!" Only because the sunflowers have sprouted in the crevices, on the sides of hills, any spot that still remains uninhabited or, to be more accurate, not yet built on in my adopted city. Whether admired singly or in clumps, the sight of the wild, native flora can gladden any woebegone heart.

Baguio has been called the City of Fumes by those dismayed at its over-development. This is where I say, "Come watch the sunny flowers with me. Watch how they drive away the fog from your soul."