Monday, September 29, 2014

Impressed by a literary presence

An account of a field trip to Solidaridad Bookshop in Ermita, Manila, to meet National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose
Impressed by a literary presence

Sunday, September 28, 2014


"Ohana' means 'family.' 'Family' means 'no one gets left behind.' But if you want to leave, you can. I'll remember you though. [looking at her picture of her dead parents] I remember everyone that leaves." - Lilo

And I remember them all, even if the privacy of mourning prevents me from naming them. They were members of the family of humankind: a teacher of history and geography who brought the world closer to a bunch of sheltered high school colegialas; a cousin-in-law who articulated his thoughts well and sometimes mirrored them through the vigor of his piano playing; the mother of a trusted domestic help who fell from the height of a tree while picking fruits and is now in a space where pain cannot touch her anymore. They left this world while I and fellow survivors continue to do what must be done to take us from weekdays to weekends. Sundays allow me to pause before moving forward in hopes of a re-purposed life given how little time there is left. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

While there is time

From the plane's porthole, the clouds give the illusion of a huge wave of water perfect for sky surfing!

"We feel melancholy when we consider:

"The things we love are transient.

"Yesterday will never come back. Every day you take a step nearer to death. The people who cared for us when we were young are getting older. We’ll be following their path to decline soon enough.

"No one truly understands anyone else, loneliness is basic, universal. Every life has its full measure of shame and sorrow. We spend our lives striving for things we mostly don’t get – and if we do, we are soon disappointed.

"They’ll grow up; they’ll encounter money worries, the difficulty of making a career, addictions, political conflict, illnesses and relationship frustrations...

"We are melancholy when we grasp that there are deep troubles essentially bound up with being human. And to take that fully to heart is to become more compassionate.

"Religions have been advocates of melancholy. The Christian Book of Common Prayer gives a statement to be recited at funerals:

"Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower. In the midst of life we are in death.

"It’s intended to strike home a universal, melancholy thought. At the funeral of a loved one we are not just witnessing the passing of one life. We are invited to see each other – and ourselves – as dying animals. This should not make us desperate, but rather more forgiving, kinder and better able to focus on what really matters, while there is still time."

-Excerpted from the essay "In Praise of Melancholy," found in

Two boats off the shore of Panglao Island, Bohol

I have no inkling about the identity of the writer of these words that I found today. Were they written by Monsieur Alain de Botton himself (poet Marj Evasco introduced me to his works)? Or was it by one of many other contributors to The Philosophers Mail, the School of Life that teaches EQ? There is no byline or tagline to help me in the attribution to a source.

But the essay, the first online matter I happened upon this morning, captures down to the last punctuation mark what has been causing the roiling that has been going inside my shell. These rough waters are safely unseen by the world.

Morning sun and banana leaf

As I re-sized the photos I shot from a recent trip to Bohol, I realized anew that I could relearn and not tire of certain lessons, certain sightings that teach me about life's fleetingness. These lessons make the contradictions of every day bearable like the need to be social and at the same time a strong compulsion to isolate oneself (get thee to a cloister where nuns can leave you be until you are ready to be with the world), the need to be still and quiet and the necessity of speaking up, asserting, etc.

During those five days I rose before sunrise to open the sliding doors that led to a balcony in one of the rooms of the Bohol Bee Farm. I beheld another morning in a place both familiar and un- (I seem to be drawn by an unseen magnet to Dagohoy country; I've visited it a few times, but recently it felt like I was seeing it with a child's pair of eyes).

Several times I stood by the rails to watch the synchronized flight of black birds headed purposefully towards the east where the sun rose over the Mindanao Sea. The sight never failed to strike me dumb. Yes, I stood there at a loss for words. In failing to find those words, I was humbled.

I see them in the north, and now that I see them in the south. These flowers seem like longtime friends with whom one picks up a thread of conversation that dropped temporarily as I got too busy like a bee to meet each day's most quiet need and want.

Another purpose-filled species: black ants

There is a line from Victor Peñaranda's Lucid Lightning: Poems & Prose that closes a deeply moving tribute to the late Clovis Nazareno, his friend and fellow poet of passion : "...we can become the sky, the land and sea we so dearly love. Nothing can happen to us. We can go on and on. When we die, the light in the wilderness will redeem us." Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The 'Norte' experience

Detail from Julie Lluch's "Picasso y Yo," sculpture in the collection of Gilda Cordero Fernando.

I’m pretty sure—is there a word like “un-pretty?—that you’ve also had those high-pressure days when you feel like that subject molded and sculpted by Julie Lluch. Yup, it’s her self-portrait of a once mad or maddened hausfrau, stressed out, put upon, on the verge of a breakdown or biting off someone’s ear.

I’ve always identified with the work. I still see myself in it. Each time I am summoned by she who writer Pablo A. Tariman calls a living goddess of literature, I take a few minutes to admire the work all over again.

On Sept. 15, Gilda, who cringes when she’s called a goddesss, Julie, Anna Leah Sarabia and I went on a short (in terms of distance covered) field trip to Trinoma, an Ayala Mall in Quezon City, to watch a long (four hours and some) film: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan by Lav Diaz.

I came out of the cinema in dire need of a strong, stiff drink. Harsh truth in the hands of a master like Diaz, guided by a script he worked on with Rody Vera, does that to me. It shakes me to the core of my being. Hours after the experience (for it was that, a total experience, not a show that you could distance yourself from), Julie and I still felt all shook up. I tried to find the precise word to describe what we were reeling from.

Norte has no music score so all the more viewers like me feel the immediacy of what the characters are going through, the ambient sounds of real lives being lived. We hear the the squeals of a pig (already a foreshadowing of what is to come), rain falling, scissors snipping, wind whooshing on fields of green, the sea water breaking on the shore, cars zipping fast on the northern freeway, crackle of fire, a baby's heartbreaking cry after being the sole survivor of a bus crash and more.

Yes, the film's length seems to reflect its Dostoyevsky-inspired (the novelist who wrote those thick tomes we had to study in English 4 or 5) theme of a crime that goes unpunished, where the one who's punished severely is innocent Joaquin (played by Archie Alemania) and by extension, his family.

But the one who suffers and descends into his bestial form is the intellectual Fabian (Sid Lucero), the once decent guy, a brilliant law school dropout who turns into a beast descending into a private hell of his making. The film doesn’t sell the idea of redemption (perhaps, it’s the innocent man who is redeemed because he remains good and helpful in the prison of his days).

Winner: 2013 Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Award, International Cinephile Society Awards, among a long list of prizes won

But that's the thing with a Lav Diaz film--it has layers and layers of meaning. It deprives those who are seeking entertainment (it was free movie day for seniors living in Quezon City) some kind of satisfactory closure. No wonder some senior citizens in the audience vehemently and vocally objected to how the story ended with no justice in sight, no restitution, no remorse.

I can imagine the antagonist Fabian living to a ripe old age, combing graying hair in a town up north, managing to live with his un-appeased conscience. That is, until I remind myself that in his bestiality, he is actually godless and conscienceless.

"But then that's life!" Gilda exclaimed earlier.

Up to this hour, I am still asking myself many questions about Philippine society and revolution, the validity of bearing arms, what is social justice, that sense of hopelessness and what's the use of another electoral exercise?

Okay, that's it. I'm rising to have my dinner that I am suddenly grateful for. Oh, let there be a sliver of redeeming grace in this sorrow-filled country!

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Nota Bene: By popular demand, Norte Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan is extended until Sept. 23 at Trinoma (12:10 pm daily) and Glorietta 4 (12:30 pm daily).

Monday, September 15, 2014

The violin in the lives of 2 families

“Is that a love-bite? A weird rash?! Oh. No. You’re a violinist.”Daniel Ross, “10 worst things about playing the violin,”

Sapper Ernest Johnson etched notes into the back of his violin during the Great War, turning the instrument into an invaluable diary of his journey through the trenches of Europe…The detailed diary covers three quarters of the back of the instrument, telling the story of Johnson's travels from August 8th 1915 until 18th February 1918 where he finishes the diary with the words: ‘Finished with army’. Johnson used the instrument to perform for his fellow front line soldiers while in the trenches…Johnson's granddaughter has now restored the violin so she can learn the same songs performed by her grandfather in the trenches, including war-time favourites like Roses of Picardy and Keep the Home Fires Burning.”— from the picture story “Soldier uses violin as World War I diary,”

Teenage violinists Bradley Bascon and Jeline Oliva will not find themselves in situations wherein the slight bruise on their necks will be misconstrued as anything more than the result of intense practice. If it is in their mothers’ powers, neither will they find themselves scratching out the story of their days on their precious instruments in a foxhole in a war-torn country.

Fil-Am Bascon, only 14 but already a soloist who has played in top concert halls in the US, Europe and his parents’ country of origin, where he dazzled audiences in Makati, Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and Cebu cities, is back in California. Being a nerd, too, with the highest academic average of 4.0 at the Chaparral High School in Temecula, California, he is focused on a Sibelius piece for his next performance.

Bradley Bascon Photo by Daisy Jane Sande

His mother, Theresa Jallorina-Bascon, said her only child, who’s also with the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra in Claremont, CA, was elated from “teaching and inspiring young talents in Cebu. He enjoyed giving a masterclass to young violinists at the University of the Visayas.”

She recalled her boy’s Philippine debut at Ayala Museum in July: “The room was full. People were enthusiastic, curious, wanted to meet and listen to this ‘unknown’ Fil-Am violinist. I held my breath when he played. After the first song, I knew he was enjoying it. I could tell that he wasn’t scared or nervous so I breathed a sigh of relief. The heavens must have been watching. The rain stopped. It turned out to be a beautiful night.”

She added, “In all the venues, the audience gave him a standing ovation. I feel joyful, blessed and very proud. It warms my heart to know that he’s accepted here, not just in Europe.” He was the sole Philippine representative in the Beijing Violin Competition last month.

Meanwhile, Jeline, 17, received the turning point news of her life: admission as the only Filipino of 10 short-listed applicants out of 300 from all over the world at the prestigious Mannes College New School of Music in New York City.

Her mother Judith, who organized with some friends a fund-raising concert in her daughter’s behalf in late July so the NYC dream could be realized, said, “Studying in New York is expensive. Unless you’re extremely talented or very rich, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere as the song goes. It’s the center for strings, the melting spot for rising musicians. We’re thankful that Jeline passed the challenging live audition at Mannes.”

Violin teacher Gina Medina Perez, Oliva and her accompanying artist Mary Anne Espina Photo by Babeth Lolarga

This new high school graduate is being trained by no less than Gilopez Kabayao as his form of help while sponsors for her higher education are being sought. Gina Medina Perez, another of Jeline’s teachers and Manila Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, has high hopes for the girl who she once described as palaban.

In an interview with this writer last year, Jeline said of her instrument of choice, “The violin can bring out all the emotions a person has…Maybe it’s because when it is held, it is near the heart.”

Judith said of the challenges ahead: “Honestly, we’re already losing hope. We need to raise almost $50,000 a year, excluding housing. Jose Mari Chan wants to chip in, but we still need more sponsors to raise the amount. He is concerned because the opportunity has presented itself, but financial help is truly needed. He wants her to push through with her higher studies this year.”

Jeline and Judith Oliva Photo by Babeth Lolarga

She never pressured Jeline to prepare her for the Mannes audition. “She was focused and determined. I asked the help of her St. Anthony School teachers who gave her special activities so she could have time for her audition—from pre-screening to the live audition. She had a supportive environment. Prayers helped a lot.”

When her child goes onstage, Judith feels “happy, excited, nervous all at the same time because of the audience’s expectations. I pray to keep us relaxed. We put our trust in God.”

Tetchie echoed her: “After I see Bradley play solo with an orchestra, I tell myself, ‘Ok, you can breathe now.’ He has played at the Mozarteum in Austria, at Teatro Verdi in Italy. I realized that were it not for him, I wouldn’t be encouraged to see those concert halls. I’d probably just save my money for retirement.”

Both mothers not only credit the musical genes that run in their families but the prenatal period when they exposed the infants to music.

Judith said, “I was a classroom music teacher and rondalla trainor at the Department of Education in Naga City when I was pregnant. I always listened to classical music whenever I relaxed. The was the first music Jeline heard when I gave birth to her. It was her lullaby.”

Tetchie recalled, “When I was pregnant, I played CDs of Baby Mozart, Baby Einstein. The ear phones I placed on my tummy area. After Bradley was born and when he’d get fussy, I played Baby Mozart or anything classical. He calmed down.”

When he was eight or nine years old and he was slack on his practice period, she’d threaten him: “I can sell the violin and use the money for a new car. He’d go, ‘No, Mom, please.’”

He said of the 1897 made-in-the-US James McCauley violin, “Mommy guards it with her life. She puts it on the plane’s overhead bin when we travel.” An admirer of Isaac Stern and Jascha Heifetz, Bradley chose to concentrate on the violin. He told his Mom: “If I learn the piano, I can’t carry it with me anywhere.” He plays the piano to relax after three hours of daily practice on a school night and five to six hours (spread out during the day) of focused practice during summers.

The piano was Jeline’s first instrument. Her piano teacher alerted Judith that her daughter is “a fast learner gifted with perfect pitch.” During the girl’s elementary years she could perform virtuoso piano pieces (“Dizzy Fingers,” Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude and Polonaise in A. flat Major, op.53, a whole movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, among others).

Jeline (with Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra principal conductor Olivier Ochanine beside her mugging for the camera) has played with the PPO as soloist. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

She said, “At her young age, we couldn’t believe that her tiny fingers could produce brilliant musical sounds. When she was nine, she tried the violin for the first time. I couldn’t believe when she started to play it without the tape on the finger board as guide for the notes to be played. She learned fast.”

Jeline was 13 when studied under Gina. That was the time she focused on the violin instead of the piano. After a year, she won the first place during the NAMCYA. She was also one of the top five out of 24 contestants at a Piano Teachers Guild of the Philippines competition in the same year that she was preparing for the NAMCYA violin competition.

Young Bascon, left, with DZFE’s Bert Robledo, pianist Rudolf Golez, Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation’s Angel Reyes Nacino, mom Theresa, dad Conrad and an aunt on the Jallorina side Photo by Daisy Jane Sande

Bert Robledo, host of DZFE’s “Bravo Filipino,” emphasizes in his program how ranking public officials must be seen in concert halls to set the example in terms of music education and appreciation. At the same time their own exposure would make them realize the excellence of Filipino talents. - Elizabeth Lolarga

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Love in the time of the Beatles

If you blog with some frequency, sometimes even a wife's birthday tribute to a husband as they age apart but together finds its way in other outlets like print media. I may have missed another calling: deconstructing pop songs. Just click the link below and see what I mean. Woot!

Love in the time of the Beatles

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gabby, the piano guy

Pianist Gabriel Allan Paguirigan (left) looks like he's considering whether or not to belt out "The Sound of Music" somewhere in Austria where he performed at the Liesing chamber music festival earlier this year. He is the featured soloist in the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation Young Artists Series concert on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum. Photos of Liesing, Austria, courtesy of Gabby

With chamber musicians at the Liesing music fest. The program included Dvorak's Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, First Movement and Bartok's Contrasts for Piano, Violin and Clarinet. Dr. Victor Asuncion, in whose master class Gabby had studied, recommended him for that all-expenses paid trip to Europe. Gabby says of his first overseas experience as performer: "I was exposed to higher standards, and I saw how classical music is deeply a part of their lives and culture there. The audience saw that someone from the Philippines could be part of a festival like that. I hope I've helped pave the way for our other musicians to be invited."

"To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable." - Beethoven

One can truly learn from Gabby's relaxed attitude towards committing mistakes during either a rehearsal or a performance. He says, "My approach is to just move on. Don't get stuck in it. Yung pagkakamali, palatandaan na tao ka pa rin."

He is on his fifth year as a piano major at the University of the Philippines College of Music with just a few general education units to finish so he can graduate next year.

He may be called an accidental pianist. At age four or five, he liked to tinker with a battery-operated toy piano while his grandmother watched over him. His mother was out working as a nurse and his father was employed in a private firm. Lola Ester noticed that he could seek out with his fingers the melodies of a pop song like "Love Is All that Matters" or "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.

One time he told his folks that he wanted to take piano lessons. They discouraged him, saying, "Baka paluin ng teacher ang kamay mo pag nagkamali ka." Like any concerned parent, his mother's dream for him was to become a nurse or to join an allied medical profession to assure him of a stable future.

His elders acceded to his wish when the family moved from Makati to Pasig where they found him a piano teacher, Hannah Valdez-Sariego. She would submit his name for piano competitions. Gabby recalls, "I wasn't serious yet with my playing--bara-bara lang kung tumugtog."

On Bach: "I can listen to him continuously for a week, he and no other composer. Masarap, nakaka-high!" When he was studying Bach's Chaconne with legendary piano teacher Nita Abrogar-Quinto, he told her, "Ma'am, ang ganda kahit anong piyesa ni Bach." She told him, "Basta si Bach, maganda. Akala mo yon na yon, tapos meron pang mangyayari alongside it." Photos by Babeth Lolarga

By the time he was at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling, Laguna, he was playing "because I liked it, but I still couldn't see if I could live on it, if it would be my life. Eventually, I became serious about it because of the competitive spirit among the music majors there. When I joined and started winning competitions, I realized okey, kaya ko pala. Parte na ito ng buhay ko."

His parents came around to seeing that their Gabby could really make it as a professional musician when he performed as a soloist during the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra's season finale last year. He saw his dream taking off and unfolding when he became part of a concert season, his name prominent on the posters and tarps of the Cultural Center. They told him, "Kung saan ka masaya." More than that, Gabby says, they've realized that he has something important to contribute to the Philippine music scene.

From the most recent masterclass he attended under Cecile Licad, he and the other young pianists were encouraged to experiment more in their playing. She told them that it wasn't just a matter of mastery of notes; interpretation was just or more important.

He remembers Ms. Abrogar-Quinto stressing the same thing. The late teacher once advised him that when he's joining competitions wherein he has to play the same piece as the others, he must come across as "super convincing as if I owned the piece."- Elizabeth Lolarga

For his Sept. 17 performance, Gabby's program includes: Bach-Petri's "Sheep May Safely Graze from Hut"; Haydn's Sonata in D major, Hob 16:24; Brahms' Vier Klavierstucke Op 119; Chopin's Berceuse in D-flat Major; Custodio's Pauli-uli ; and Liszt's Piano Sonata in b minor.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Two hours of the day I love

The 4 p.m. sun comes through the translucent bathroom window and casts this kind of light on the beds in my mother's house. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Foodie-food critic Ruth Reichl has been blogging lately about the things she loves, from New Zealand's extra virgin olive oil to Jacobsen salt. With the theme of light and shadow that I've chosen to get the composition of a daily blog out of the way so I can return to earning a living faster, searching for the images to go with said theme has become an exercise in serendipity. The images all call out to me; I hardly exert an effort to search for them.

Four in the afternoon, if I got it right from my informal photography classes under artist Tita Velasco Lim and from the photojournalists I've worked with off and on since 1976, is the golden hour for those who dare press the button and shoot with available light outdoors or indoors.

Eight in the morning in Baguio is also a treasured hour, especially when the sky is cloudless and wears the bluest of blue. This happens especially in December.

The leaves in our small garden create odd patterns--you can see them on the surface of the woman (she shouldn't have worn a printed sweater, but damn, it was cold even with the sun up).

When the next opportunity comes along, I shall put a white blanket over the chair or I shall wear something white to make the shadows more interesting. Here my husband caught me pretending that I'm sporting a full-body tattoo.

Soaking Vitamin D from Mr. Sunshine at 8 a.m. Photo by Rolly Fernandez

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In praise of Bogart and his tiny shadow

Kuya Bogart

The boy on the left, a mini pinscher, is curious Bogart peeking out of our main gate on a sunny morning. He is the older brother to a pug named Bruno. Their surname is like mine: Lolarga.

I do believe that the pets we adopt or invite into our homes should also be considered family and be given humane (to mean human-like) treatment. Like us, they need to bathe, to eat, to drink, to take walks to clear their heads, to feel the warmth of the sun, to have their own "blankies" on cold, rainy nights.

My youngest sibling Gigi has shown by example that if you can't commit or love a pet fully to miss him/her enough when away on long trips, you are better off raising virtual pets in your cell phone or in your other social media platform.

I have a whole album of ponies, cats, kittens, baby elephants and their mommies, calves, chicks and hens, cubs and lionesses in my Pinterest account. By attending to them in this fashion, I am also saying I have my own form of fulfillment as the online master/mistress of these blessed beasts.

By whatever name you call it, it's a kind of loving. Good night, little boys!

The younger dawg who really lives up to his name and his looks: Bruno! Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ms. B regrets she is unable to post much today

Morning shadows cast by leaves and a strange woman Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Due to deadlines unmet and more official work coming in for the coming days and weeks, I'll not be posting much on this space, except for occasional sightings of shadows.

One sometimes forgets that shadows also beautify or amplify the world. And there is no reason to even fear the encroachment of shadows late in one's life (but that's in a figurative sense already).

In my observation of the lives of musicians, actors, visual artists and those pithy creatures called writers, it's the shadow or dark side that has a way of, how shall I put it, "informing" their works and making them more interesting. By a strange twist and turn here and there, they emerge as angels in the end.

How come I'm thinking of Star Wars, angels and demons so early on this morning of a Monday? Ahhh, Monday, that dreaded day of days!

Here's the trigger or the writing prompt for today's blog. It's a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, that character who, as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a hit TV series, embodies that struggle of darkness and light.

"It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The girl with the pink French horn

Danielle Kuhlmann of Cultures in Harmony USA is one of four musicians who integrated with the Tagbanua community in Culion island, Northern Palawan. Culion is one of those affected by Super-typhoon Yolanda, but it remains largely out of the public eye in terms of relief and rehabilitation work because of the attention focused on Leyte. The musicians brought not the usual kind of relief goods. They had a learning exchange workshop to enable the Tagbanuans "to find strength in the richness of their own traditional music and culture" and for the Americans to see the similarities of indigenous and the classical and how they could co-exist.

That's Frank Shaw (left), who played the viola, and Danielle talking about their immersion experience and also about the music they're about to play to the audience at the Manila Symphony Orchestra's Rush Hour Concert No. 6, billed as "a different kind of traffic jam." There was no traffic on Aug. 21, a holiday, on the roads leading to Ayala Museum. One of the most touching Filipino pieces that the Americans played was the Bikolano folk song "Si Nanay, si Tatay Di Co Babayaan," arranged by Maestro Jeffrey Solares. Although it was only the music that Shaw and cellist Kim Patterson performed, it still carried that sense of gratitude for the mother on whose breast a child once suckled; as an adult he/she realizes that what the mother gave can never be repaid.

It's always a joy to watch the MSO Junior Orchestra players perform under Solares. After they're seated, they have an ate-kuya (older sis-older bro) system in place. Apart from sharing the music sheets, the bigger or more experienced kids sit alongside the younger ones to guide them and ensure that their instruments are in place.

Yes, they are truly kids and act like kids but only after performing like pros. How many times did we hear someone from the audience (and I'm 98 percent sure it ain't a relative of a young musician) exclaim, "Ang galing naman!" after the last note was played, including the penultimate "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by child wiz Mozart. Jenny Juan, grandmother of one of the teenage violinists, is optimistic about what's ahead of these kids: "Give them some more years, then we'll have our own orchestra that's on par with the New York or Berlin Philharmonic!" Let's continue to hope so, Jenny, and be around during their energetic performances whenever we can.

Look for the female French horn player with the instrument's mouth painted a pretty pink--she faithfully transcribed "Paalam," a Tagbanua folk song, for the Cultures in Harmony USA, the MSO Strings and the MSO Junior Orchestra to play after a video of the community members singing and playing the tune using makeshift jew's harp and percussive instruments from tin cans was shown. The audience rose as one, cheering and thanking the musicians who premiered the work that now can be played by any orchestra.

Danielle poses with my niece Bianca L. Susi, the family's own private pianist.

Jenny Juan with Danielle who's holding a copy of friend Geraldine C. Maayo's collection of short fiction that I told her she could read on the plane back to the US. Cultures in Harmony USA left the country Aug. 22, but what they had given and received is beyond measure. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Now that he's 64

My husband of 30 years is shown in his garden beside an anthropomorphic planter that represents his wife who is 59 to his 64. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Masarap i-good time si Rolly--that's what I can say after being his girlfriend of five years, his wife for another 30 with gaps in between since ours is a continuing long-distance liaison amoureuse. By "good time" I mean pulling a surprise or a prank. But last year I told him after another suprise birthday party when he turned 63 that I'd stop, mainly out of concern that his heart might not be able to withstand another one of my exercises in what he terms "mischief". Every time he sees that picture of mine as an eight-year-old kid, he always points at the black and white portrait subject's eyes and says, "Maliit pa lang, kita mo nang mischievous."

I will take mischievous any day, not malicious or worse, evil.

So on this day as his phone pings and toots to announce an SMS from another greeter, I sing another old song whose lyrics I've adjusted (mangled?) with hopefully witty asides to suit Rolly's/Tatay's/Tats'/Sir Rolly's/Kuya Fern's age as of 12 midnight Sept. 6, 2014. Thank you, Beatles, for providing a soundtrack for every milestone in many people's lives.

When you get older losing your hair, (the Good Shepherd Convent's gugo shampoo has guaranteed haba ng hair mo!)
Many years from now, (not yet bokalites, I hope, by age 70)
Will I still be sending you a valentine (of course naman po)
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? (isn't this the whole blog's point?)

If I'd been out till quarter to three (which I can no longer do, I'm asleep by 10 or 11 p.m.)
Would you lock the door, (oh no, you won't, because our daughter Kimi has the extra key, and I can always wake her up with a call)
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When (it's my turn to be) sixty-four?

Oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
I'll be older too,
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you. (pa hard to get muna, delaying tactics, including part-time teaching and projects here and there that require a presence in the lowlands)

You could be handy mending a fuse (with help from the village electrician)
When your lights have gone.
I can knit a sweater by the fireside (no, I'll just order from Martina Knittera a.k.a. Martin Masadao)
Sunday mornings go for a ride (except that you're so tamad to get out of the house when it's a Sunday and it's your day off)

Doing the garden, digging the weeds, (you're so good at that)
Who could ask for more? (no more, but may I request daisies instead of anthuriums?)
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When (it's my turn to be) sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage (no, the tightwad in you will protest)
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear (Panglao, Bohol, is just about right soon, mah deah))
We shall scrimp and save (you do this, I'm terrible with any form of budgeting)
Grandchildren (Kai/Butones) on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave (Kai, Kai and only Kai)

Send you a postcard, drop you a line, (I still patronize the postal office and SMS you daily)
Stating point of view. (I always lawyer for myself, nobody else will do this for me)
Indicate precisely what I mean to say (very concrete and specific, we both trained to be journalists)
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away. (not exactly wasting away, just getting rosier and a little less chubby)

Give me your answer, fill in a form (FORM?!!!xxxx I'm a content person!)
Mine for evermore (we don't need pieces of paper, do we?)
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When (it's my turn to be) sixty-four?

Whoo! (Dial 1-4-3-4-4!)

Images of young and old love (they're the same, by the way) from Babeth's Pinterest board

Thursday, September 4, 2014

TBT: Our ancestors

Formal portrait of Telesfora Cariño Lolarga and her five children. Seated are: Pacita L. Romero and Febe L. Valdellon. Standing (from left): Celso, Enrique Jr. and Ernesto.

My very (emphasis on the "very") organized sister Suzy, the one who has taken it upon herself to sort things out, in a manner of speaking, in the Pasig and Baguio houses unfailingly brings out from some ignored or rarely visited corner precious finds like this formal portrait of our grandmother, Telesfora Cariño Lolarga, and her five adult children in their graduation togas. Knowing how much education was valued in her time (she was, after all, an elementary school teacher in her youth), I'm guessing that the serene smile on her face is maternal pride because her kids are all professionals, and more!

This adoring granddaughter reposts this photo on what's known as Throwback Thursday (TBT) in other parts of social media today.

When my correspondence buddy Benjie Abellera once saw Lola's picture, he compared her beauty to that of a young Kim Novak.

TBT also makes me recall writer-anthropologist-bookshop owner Padma Perez and the rueful text she sent me when her Lola Darling passed away and she had to suddenly leave Baguio for the rites. She asked if we would ever be as gracious as that generation of lolas. I could only come up with this answer: "In our own way, in our own way."

The picture used to hang in Lola's house in Lower Brookside, Baguio. It's now with us, still in its laminated form. I know that lamination is not exactly kind to photographs. How to un-laminate is the next move when future budget allows.

Meanwhile, we keep the memory of our Lola and the three sons and one daughter, who are reunited with her, evergreen in our hearts. Auntie Fe is still in Virginia, and our loving thoughts of continued good health fly to her on this Thursday.

Monday, September 1, 2014

September morning of our lives

Another holiday, this time because it's Baguio Day. You can imagine how skippy happy The Wee One is with another full day ahead of her, all her own. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Here's a song that I hope she also grows into. I'm teaching her the spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", and she enjoys watching on YouTube the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's versions.

Maybe when she's a little bigger. My Dad used to sing this when it was being played on the radio as he drove his car. Neil Diamond's "September Morn" remains one of the songs that I associate with him.

Some excerpts:

Stay for just a while
Stay and let me look at you
It's been so long, I hardly knew you
Standing in the door

Stay with me a while
I only wanna talk to you
We've traveled halfway 'round the world
To find ourselves again

September morn
We danced until the night
Became a brand new day
Two lovers playing scenes
From some romantic play
September morning
Still can make me feel that way

Look at what you've done
Why, you've become a grown-up girl
I still can hear you crying
In a corner of your room
And look how far we've come
So far from where we used to be
But not so far that we've forgotten
How it was before...