Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Staying small

My eldest daughter Kimi complained that Manila has gotten so steamy hot that our family home there is no longer conducive for productive work. She has brought her laptop to the nearest "SBuck" (I had to pause some milli-seconds to figure out that abbreviation for a coffee chain) so that she could get work done.

Over here in Baguio, I have no reason to complain about the weather. We needn't even water the plants and garden anymore because the brief afternoon thunderstorms take care of maintenance work.
A digital portrait of Kai and her Boots, a birthday present from her Tita Lor

What I'm focused on is seeing to it that Kai, the Wee One who rules over us, is preoccupied with activities so she doesn't get underfoot. I've blogged about her learning to cut paper, her walks in the park, etc.

For those walks she has her Ate Macky to accompany her with her mongrel Boots (a mix of asPin or asong Pinoy and dachshund) on a lease. It's part of my care-giving method to tire her out or sufficiently get her energy reduced so that she wants to eat and drink more. It works most of the time. Otherwise, mealtimes are cajoling times.

When she's told that she has to eat more to grow stronger and bigger, her ready reply is "I want to stay small!"

Her world is small, indeed: the house, the garden, the village park, then summer school in phonics.
When going to the grocery becomes simple joys time Photos by Babeth Lolarga

So a chance to ride the car to PureGold supermart with Grumpa Tats is a treat. I'm so thankful she's content to stay in the cart and doesn't point at items not in the grocery list for inclusion in the supplies. Stay small in needs, Wee One.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

War Torn Mouth by Babeth Lolarga - PHILIEN Ms. JoCas

"War Torn Mouth" is a poem I wrote from the '70s. I'm still wondering how the makers of this video and song tracked it down. Perhaps from a back issue of The Literary Apprentice?Nevertheless, what a pleasant surprise to accidentally discover that this old poem is restored through song and video and that it is speaking to another generation.

Full disclosure: The makers of the song and video are all unknown to me. I want to thank them just the same.

'Staycation' is the way to go

Her list of summer activities outshines mine (I can timidly claim reading a couple of books, getting hooked on the TV series Sherlock Holmes and Game of Thrones, occasional handwritten letters, increasingly rare walks, flower appreciation, snacking at odd hours).

Kai has learned to cut and prefers to do it alone, plays catch ball with her elders, swims with abandon in a small sea of balls, gives her water toys a full bath and squeeze until sneezing point from exposure to the cold, snaps "dragons" in the garden, indulges in pretend play with her stuffed toys, joins the doggy walk morning and afternoon, sings "Letting Go" from Frozen full throttle, watches four Hoopla Kids videos on YouTube (strictly rationed, same for TV hours unlike her Booboo). Daily summer phonics class is now part of her routine.

I can add to my list the photo documentation of her summer. I still dream of going to the beach, of feeling sand under my feet or even swimming in a warm pool before monsoon season arrives. My travel is limited to Pinterest sites of dream getaways and the TLC channel.

Meanwhile, our "staycation" is going splendidly, and we feel blessed each time the sun is out. I've grown to accept that this is as good as it gets.

Enjoying each moment Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bianca, class of 2014

Got a text before early bedtime last night from my sister Pinky announcing that her youngest child Bianca graduated yesterday from grade school at Assumption Antipolo and that my birthday and congratulatory letter sent by old-fashioned mail arrived just in time. Pinky directed me to her Facebook page where she wrote a loving and proud mother's tribute to a beloved daughter.

Bianx, it isn't only your Nanay who feels swells of pride. I doff my imaginary cap and lend the space to your Nanay's words:

Bianca Susi on Burnham Lake, Baguio City, summer of 2013 Photo by her Tita Babeth

Thoughts on BIANCA YSABEL on her graduation

Congratulations on your grade school graduation, another milestone in your school life. Thank you for being a diligent and persistent student. I don't have to post your report card, something I'm not comfortable and compelled to do. Your excellent grades to me is nothing new ever since you started going to school. The good person you are becoming is our work in progress. So you only have to look back to thank the people who have formed you through the years.

While others have KUMON tutors for Math and academic subjects, you have no less that your tatay's forthright teaching. For your literary needs no less that your Tita BABETH LOLARGA and cousin blogger, Ate CARLA ARRIOLA. You have your Ate MARGA SUSI creating beautiful and interesting ideas for arts and crafts and your Ate JAJA SUSI who never fails to glamor you up. Of course MAMA MERMAID and Lola INES fervently prays for you. Also those who indulge to spoil you, Kuya PAOLO SUSI, Nanay MELY ARRIOLA, Tita EMBEING TRINIDAD, Tita SUZY LOLARGA, Tita GIGI LOLARGA and Tita RUTH TERANIA. Tito DENNIS LOLARGA takes care of your health. So many to mention but we lovngly remember.

But mostly I am grateful that you have come to love your music. Even your ordinary practice of piano exercises warm my heart. So that when you read and play your classics, I am like listening to a concerto at home. It doesn't matter that you're not CECILE LICAD. Years of bringing you to weekly piano lessons, recitals and attending music concerts have paid off. Continue the passion, anak.

Welcome your high school life. The best years are yet to come. Much as I'd like to be your out of the box mother, IDK, but I'll try. So if you see me SMH on your OOTD, just think I'm still your nanay, lol. You will meet your BFF's here so treasure them for life.

Be careful of your choices, even if it means taking the road less travelled. Make sure it is always the good and the right one. There will be days when the pains and heartaches come, I'll be here…ready to listen. Remember our small white pillow? A pillow talk to share our joys and tears.

Lastly, as you also grow in your faith, make sure to lead others especially little MAX and JARED. Let the motto be your guide, ONE in faith, we love and serve and be part of your school's vision…Women of faith, women in action.

Like the favorite childrens's book that says… "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my 'baby bunso' you'll be."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shakespeare on love

Everyone who loves The Word and how it breathes life to life will like the film Anonymous. The cast includes mother and daughter Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson as the old and young Elizabeth I. How's this for spoilers? What if the Queen and the Bard had once been lovers?

My small tribute to Shakespeare, whose 450th birthday was observed worldwide yesterday, is tied up with the big love I feel for the wee one Kai who grows bigger and fiercer every day as she explores the world.

Armed with her imagination away she rides! Photo by her Booboo

Shakespeare quotes from the World Wide Web

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ahhh, World Book Day

"Books to the ceiling, books to the floor, my pile of books is a mile high."

A hollowed out space in a gift book that I realized is a good place to store scattered bookmarks

My reading backlog is such that I've tried to discipline myself by not lingering too long when I'm inside Mt Cloud Bookshop. I can get waylaid there and find myself parting with what little I have in my wallet.

Meanwhile, Kai and I have spent precious moments reading over and over this Barbara M. Josse title Grandma Calls Me Beautiful, a birthday present from her adopted lola, Lorna Tirol. It's set in Hawaii, and at some point Kai does her "Hula hula, shake shake shake" moves. Never fails to amuse her lolo.

I've tried to balance my TV viewing hours and reading time. Again lack of discipline gets the upper hand not so much because TV temptations are stronger. It's my bad habit of flitting from one book to another so it takes longer to finish reading one.
This summer I enjoyed Menchu Sarmiento's latest collection of short fiction and essays, Ukay-Ukay (Anvil Publishing). Many times I paused to think who a character reminds me of. She is our mistress of social satire; the so-called upper class, the new rich are frequent targets of her sarcasm. Exclusive Catholic girls' schools are particularly fair game for ridicule. Recommended read for those who don't believe in light, happy endings.

To "get away" from Baguio where I'm spending summer, I "fly" to Brandon Stanton's multi-racial, multi-cultural, rich-in-fashion-quirks New York. His HONY (Humans of New York) project that earned hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers and "likers" is now in book form and in full color. A city is as good as its people- no wonder my daughter Ida has not given up on her dream of returning to NYC someday.

So immerse yourself in the pages of a book, gladly, madly, truly. Methinks one emerges from every reading experience more human.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, April 21, 2014

In the garden

"When I'm writing, I think about the garden, and when I'm in the garden I think about writing. I do a lot of writing by putting something in the ground." -Jamaica Kincaid

Ms. Kincaid is among the authors scholar Del Tolentino introduced me to along with Carolyn Heilbrun (a.k.a. Amanda Cross) and Anne Fadiman whose familiar essays in At Large and At Small I return to every so often for a quick pick me up.

The garden is in my mind every day. It's where I go for a bit of sun and to watch my husband Rolly putter around and make improvements. It's where he sips his second cup of coffee after we have eaten breakfast indoors. It's where Kai and I have our conversations about butterflies, the color of the sky and of the new flowers coming out of their tight buds. It's where I just breathe and try to empty my mind. It's where I think sometimes if I should return to writing for a living or extend my vacation from deadlines - the pull of the latter is stronger when you have the three earlier seasons of Game of Thrones locked somewhere in the TV.

We used to call this open space Kai's secret garden, but since Rolly spends and expends more time and effort on it, it has become his.

Top views of the garden Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, April 18, 2014

A despedida for Gabo

Yes, we were close in a thick way. Thanks very much to his books. It was my late journalism professor Raul Rafael Ingles who lent me his copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in the late '70s when I was newly graduated. It was from my editor Rosario A. Garcellano that I was able to borrow her copy of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I remember her miming that scene where the target of assassins walked stoically, trying to stanch the flow of blood from his deadly wound with his hands and to find a place where he could bleed to death with some dignity.

As for the periodic sentences in Autumn of the Patriarch, they intimidated me so, but I'll pick up where I left off one of these days.

But it was Living to Tell the Tale, a secondhand copy of which I bought either at Book Sale or Mt Cloud that made me fully appreciate Gabo (or Tito Gabo, as fictionist Geraldine C. Maayo and I secretly call him).

In it he tells of how his long stint in the burrows of journalism gave him all the materials he needed for his fiction. He was present at civilian uprisings, he covered crime and politics, was at the scene immediately after a massacre, interviewed the mighty and the lowly, reviewed books and film, put out supplements, wrote editorials, filled up space when advertisements were pulled out at the last minute, missed some deadlines, got berated by editors. He experienced all these everyday stuff in the life of a journeyman. In between he learned how to listen to music attentively and to read the masters from Dostoevsky to Faulkner.

I emerged from that book with a realization that all the training a writer needed could be found in old-fashioned journalism.

Here are some of Gabo's words, excerpts from "The Art of Fiction," an interview Peter H. Stone did for The Paris Review.

Garcia Marquez (1927-2014) Photo from Esquire


Do you think the novel can do certain things that journalism can’t?


Nothing. I don’t think there is any difference. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a great novel and Hiroshima is a great work of journalism.


Do the journalist and the novelist have different responsibilities in balancing truth versus the imagination?


In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.


In interviews a few years ago, you seemed to look back on being a journalist with awe at how much faster you were then.


I do find it harder to write now than before, both novels and journalism. When I worked for newspapers, I wasn’t very conscious of every word I wrote, whereas now I am. When I was working for El Espectador in Bogotá, I used to do at least three stories a week, two or three editorial notes every day, and I did movie reviews. Then at night, after everyone had gone home, I would stay behind writing my novels. I liked the noise of the Linotype machines, which sounded like rain. If they stopped, and I was left in silence, I wouldn’t be able to work. Now, the output is comparatively small. On a good working day, working from nine o’clock in the morning to two or three in the afternoon, the most I can write is a short paragraph of four or five lines, which I usually tear up the next day.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Unapologetically Cumberbatched

Even 11 and 13 year olds follow the guy. My daughter Kimi rued that at that age, she and her cousins were still into the cartoon characters The Rugrats.

I thought I was way past crushes until I watched a Sherlock Holmes episode aired in channel AXN, and curiosity egged me to ask Kimi to download the entire three seasons so I could treat myself to a marathon.

Last week I watched all the episodes daily and nightly. I sufficiently spooked myself while watching the episode on "The Hound of Baskerville" so I moved my viewing hours when there was daylight.

In the series, you hear Mr. Holmes (played in perfect pitch by Benedict Cumberbatch) make some disparaging remarks about Dr. Watson's blog. Well, that peaked my curiosity further, and I discovered that the other fictitious character, played by Martin Freeman, who lives at 221 Baker Street, does maintain a blog during his off hours. It hasn't been updated since we're all at the edge of our seats awaiting season four. Let not the wait extend to two years, please.

So in a way, I am Watsoned, too.

The address of a detective and his sidekick, even more famous now than 10 Downing Street. Images from Pinterest.com

Monday, April 14, 2014

Conquest of the rope bridge

"We live in a world of disappointment. You begin with high hopes and the beautiful innocence of childhood but you discover that the world isn't good enough, nor are our lives and nor are we. But there are moments in life when we can have an experience of transcendence, feel part of something larger, or simply our hearts burst inside." Salman Rushdie

Kai crossing the rope bridge in the playground by herself Photo by her Booboo

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Masadao's 'Red Rice' and my screen debut

By opening oneself to newness, there are such things as a screen debut in one's dotage when a double chin is prominent, when stains on the cheeks are not freckles but just that--stains from exposing oneself unprotected to the sun.

Baguio's Martin Masadao's short film (seven minutes exactly) "Red Rice" made it to the semi-finals at the Tropfest Southeast Asia early this year. To me it is still a winner in both form and content. But as the Abbess in The Sound of Music said, when God closes a door, He opens another window.

Since February, Martin has updated me by SMS on the road show that "Red Rice" has become as it took part in the exhibition portion of Cinema Rehiyon in Cagayan de Oro. He described his high with the good reception at its first screening at an SM Cinema there and how a Tropfest finalist said, "Dapat nakapasok tayo sa Tropfest. Maganda daw yung entry natin, better pa nga raw than the other finalists."

What followed were invitations to screen "Red Rice" in Bacolod City and at a short film festival at De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde early this month with a request from students to meet the cast, particularly stage-screen pro Banaue Miclat, who played the mother, and her "son" Deuel Raynon Ladia (the same kid who won best actor honors in the 2012 Sineng Pambansa for his starring role in Masadao's Anac Ti Pating). In all of Martin's films (may his filmography grow longer), our city of affection plays a major role; it is more than a setting. May its writers and directors continue to mine these materials. It's the kind of material that goes to its very heart--the diverse people.

My role was a non-speaking part--I played Banaue's mom who must be pillar of strength and comfort as the mother deals with...no, I won't give the plot away. Let's wait until "Red Rice" makes it up to Baguio for a public screening.

Banaue, whose lines were in Iluko, wrote of her role in a note to Direk Martin: "Your story is so beautiful kasi, kaya madaling buhayin at buuin three-dimensionally."

Ladia as a hard-working son in his last scene with his screen lola and mother

When the short film was done (it was filmed in one whole day, plus a few night hours), Martin "premiered" it among friends, including British expats and their spouses, to get feedback from a "foreign" perspective. He wrote, "They were all one in saying that we have a good film. Ang galing-galing ng scene ninyo! Kudos were given to both of you, the lola and mom! Naiyak, in fairness, ang mga puti. Pati ako, nung napanood ko uli sa big screen after how many weeks of not viewing the film, naiyak din ako!"

As Banaue built up her emotions for the final scene, I felt her arm and upper body tremble and I had to contain my own swell of empathy by biting my lower lip. Mabuhay, "Red Rice" team!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The elegant interloper

That is how I think of this one-eyed fella who passed between our legs as we were having lunch at a garden in Fairview heights in Baguio. Then when s/he realized we won't give a share of our meal, s/he perched on a silent fountain and gazed at the world around with his/her one good eye. My daughter Kimi and I took turns in taking these shots of s/he who doesn't belong to anyone and who won't be caged.

Photos by Kimi Fernandez and Babeth Lolarga

Friday, April 11, 2014

Laughing flowers

When April showers fall in Baguio every other afternoon, the earth starts laughing with flowers (with thanks to Ralph Waldo Emerson for that quote). A recent visit to Mother's Garden in Upper Fairview, Baguio, gave us a chance to admire both flora and fauna.

Welcome arch

Little Kai got into the rabbit and chicken cage fearlessly and fed the furry animals with slices of chayote. She still talks about it every moment that she remembers the experience. Her remembering of the past is getting better.

As for her Booboo, I moved my other eye (the camera) closer to the laughing flowers.

Red and yellow and purple and orange Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Here's to the kitchen and the color purple

I met another purple lady at the recent Love Food Love Words cooking and writing workshop of the Baguio Writers Group (BWG) at Iggy's Inn.

Dr. Kristin Bagasin of Cavite earlier confessed that all she could do in the kitchen was toss a salad, but our resource persons in cooking, sisters-in-law Auring and Leonie Bautista, showed that anybody can if filled with the desire to learn how to feed oneself well. Lessons on so much on so little.

It was around the second day of the workshop when we noticed how Kristin always came outfitted in different shades of purple (scarf, blouse, pants, wristband) and wrote her compositions using a fountain pen with purple ink. She had heard about the workshop from the Foundation Pen Network. (Thank you, Joseph Uy, for plugging the BWG activity to your fellow fountain pen enthusiasts.)

Before we knew it, during breaks between cooking and writing, Kristin was holding an impromptu calligraphy sub-workshop and emailing us free PDFs of beginners' guide to calligraphy.

It did feel good to write with one's hand, to feel the words gushing out or sputtering when holding on to an elusive memory, all these amid a well-lit setting with orchids around us to pleasantly distract the eyes.

Here's to you, Kristin and the color purple.

Kristin recalls how peeling a chico while alone in a kitchen left her marked for life.

Air-dependent beauty hanging by a window

This first workshop on food and words proved how the kitchen is the home's heart and soul once early memories are stirred. Hope it gives rise to a series of similar workshops that will be possible with future sponsorships. First row, from left: Baboo Mondoñedo, Auring Bautista, Babeth. Standing: Regina Newport, Ben Tapang, Mark Manalang, Doc Kristin, Chris Flores, Jenny Cariño, Merci Javier Dulawan and Leilani Chavez.

"For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."- Luke 12:23, 25, 26, 29, 31 NIV

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sun and shadows

I know I'm in Baguio when I'm reluctant to leave home, except in the mornings when I sun myself and go for walks with Kai, my grand-daughter. Somehow my spirit is restored inside the home than elsewhere. On those walks sometimes I bring along my camera, too, to record the fascinating shapes sun and shadows make on objects and plants. Does it have to do with the quality of summer light?

Papier-mache horse from Laguna

Self-portrait with rumpled hair

Back of a bench

Rolly's knick-knacks

Clinging vine Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Teacher of wonder

Our three-year-old resident is doing an inventory of her missing toy parts with help from vacationing Granny Sue as I write this April entry.

A couple of nights ago, she spotted the crescent moon from the office window and ran to the different bedrooms to call everyone to view it with her. It did look like a smiling mouth from a Smiley face. Her eyes were a-glow with wonder. She even asked how the moon managed to be suspended up there: "hanging in the sky." That was her own description.

Half of Kai's face inside her Booboo's summer hat

In the mornings, when it gets cloudy, she yells from the balcony: "Mister Sun, come out!" She's aware we need him to help speed up the drying of the laundry.

That's Kai, our teacher in wonder and amazement. Stay for as long as you can in that state, little 'un. Happy three!

Whirling with her birthday balloons Photos by Booboo