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."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Leaves on grass

Highland living, if you steer clear of the smoggy Central Business District, permits walks. I take them with company or alone. Alone I can pace myself, pause, take note of what I tend to overlook. The morning's discovery are these curling, drying leaves on green grass. Looking at them and the shadows cast by trees unseen in the picture makes my mind churn. The thought is this--if left alone (not swept into a pile and thrown in the biodegradable bin), these fallen leaves will be absorbed by the earth, will enrich it and allow for new growth. Nothing spectacularly original about that thought. This "dying" with a purpose reminds me of Wendell Berry's exhortation: "Practice resurrection." To fellow blogger Padma Perez I owe another discovery: poet Berry and his simple yet powerful words.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November skyscape

Hmmm...This question just occurred to me: What will my future self thank this present self for? Maybe the me of tomorrow will thank today's Ms. B for the way she has spent (or, to some others, "wasted") hours just looking, stilling her thoughts so she can teach her eyes to look again and remember that blue, that white, the not-too-distant mountains, the minutes when the sky was shaped this way, the way the pine trees and cones shared the stillness before the sun repainted the sky into a somber canvas of overripe oranges, deep yellows, deeper reds. November, you're moving too fast despite pictures that try to slow down your pace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

From the ruins something grows

Its official name is Cafe by the Ruins Dua ("dua" to mean "two" in Iluko). And it opens Nov. 29 on upper Session Road.

The Baguio institution on Chuntug street is, at long last, branching out. It is 26 years old, after all, outlasting flash-in-the-pan cafes, luncheonettes and similar eating spots. It has made a name for fully using what's in season, what's available in the nearby public market and what can be sourced from neighboring provinces, including children's clay palayok with which to serve the new lamb kebabs with yogurt and peanut sauce. (The lambs are raised in a farm in Tarlac.)

It is not out of whimsy that the menu changes three times a year--it adapts to what the market has in abundance. The slow movers are removed from the line-up, some favorites that had been deleted make a comeback, and if you don't find something that you liked from a past visit in the current menu, the cook can accommodate your craving.

Tall glass of Jamaica soda on the left, its mouth crusty with sparkly salt. It'll be in the new menu of the main cafe and Dua. The bloody red juice is extracted from the hibiscus. The flowers' original seeds were brought to Baguio by Filipino ICM nuns once stationed in Jamaica. Beside the refreshing soda is a bowl of cucumber soup with a chicken patty inserted in the hollowed-out part.

To hear two of the cafe partners, Adelaida Lim and Baboo Mondoñedo, and the second-generation managers, Tann Arvisu and Feliz "Fifi" Perez, tell it, Dua doesn't mean more of the same. Laida says the expansion is overdue what with the saucepans, pots and kitchen staff bumping into one another at peak hours.

Even the idea of a peak season (summer, specifically Holy Week, and December) no longer holds, if climate change should even be thanked for it at all. During its early years the cafe would be closed for renovations and repairs in August. This year, however, August was not too full of gusts of wind and rain. Baguio experienced a deluge of long weekenders who came up for just two good reasons: to eat and to sleep.

Fifi remembers a customer making a reservation for 20 people. No problem there. But when the next request came, it became complicated: "Can we all be sitting together?" Those familiar with the main cafe know that one of its distinctive qualities is its heterogeneous floor layout; last year a mezzanine was even added. Customers are never turned away; some willingly wait for as long as two hours to be seated. Thanks to SMS, too, they can go elsewhere, then return when a text reminds them that their table is available.

Dua will remedy the situation further. It will have space for big groups or for functions (meetings, seminars and workshops), a larger kitchen area to meet the demand for the cafe's baked products and for a deli-pasalubong corner that also includes take-out food ideal for condo residents or working couples who just need to reheat it. A proper gallery, too, now that the main cafe, through constant renovations, has lost many walls that used to have changeable exhibitions.

What to watch out for in that deli: the bottled beetroot atchara that packs a wallop. During a tastings session, Baboo suggested that the smoked lamb sausages be paired with something pickled instead of a sawsawan of vinegar. Laida called forth the beetroot atchara from the kitchen. Fifi and Tann opined that the sausages were a bit dry and have to be juicier for kids to relish them. Laida's solution: add beef fat.

Trial, error, perfection: a recipe for something that lasts. A heartfelt welcome indeed to what promises to be Dua's feast for the senses.

Camote chips served hot, then sprinkled with coco sugar on top. They do look healthier than when served as caramelized fries. Nevertheless, you can still hear the "M's" resound in "yum" ten chips later. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Snapshots by toddler K

The Wee One just needs a little assistance and encouragement, as I had earlier written, in skills that she needs to live and endure in this world. And perhaps with her elders' inputs, she'll be equipped to handle the whatevers later on.

Meanwhile, she has taken an interest in pushing the button of the digicam after a little coaching on framing. Sometimes one or two little fingers cover the lens, and she has to be reminded where to place them. Or to be steady from wherever she sits or stands before she takes a picture so the image doesn't blur too much.

Here are her portraits of some of her family members: her Grumpa and her Mamay. The thing with toddlers is, after the initial "mastery" of something, whether it's a puzzle or doing split jumps, their attention wanders or their sense of wonderment shifts. This granny is OK with that. I remember to follow the trail so there are keepsakes like these.

While he was reading

While she was threading the Christmas tree balls

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

'By herself' with some assist

In-house resident of this blog, The Wee One, runs her finger on the bark of a pine tree

I haven't done passable research on this Noviembre activity in some parts of the blogging world. Its acronym is NaBloPoMo, short for National Blog Posting Month wherein bloggers commit themselves to post daily entries for the entire month. End result: 30 posts for those 30 days. I was remiss on Nov. 2 but tried to make up by posting two entries yesterday (it's my cheat sheet because these were virtually photo captions or extended captions).

Since I don't seem to run out of topics to blog about as far as the subject in residence on this space is concerned, I'd like to observe how she's teaching herself to connect that letters put together have meaning. Lately, she has been spelling out her short name "Kai" (and that of her Booboo and her mother Kimi) orally and in written form, whether on her mini-blackboard or any sheet of paper. When she sees spines of books, she singles out the letters "K", "A" and "I" wherever these can be found, including cookbooks.

She knows how a bee looks and sounds like. One day she encountered the word on a car plate in the neighborhood. She's getting there. "By herself" as she likes to claim these increments of achievement.

When car plate becomes a learning tool Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, November 3, 2014


Unwittingly (accidentally, not deliberately, even serendipitously) framed--that's what happened to the sun in this picture one Baguio morning. It's as if that great orb of light is wearing a wig of pine! Maybe that's what The Wee One will say once she's able to figure out a wig from a toupée. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

In no rush

"...We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful." - Eduardo Galeano, author and journalist from Uruguay

If I told this strangely solitary ant what I thought of it, would it care? Or did I get the insect's name right? It may be something else though. I didn't linger long enough to see if it was making its way back to its colony. Or if it's a real loner.

The first to recognize the ant's presence was my grandchild during an afternoon walk when the sun was kind and the fog didn't blur everything else. The Wee One does pay attention sharply to the natural world, and I have become her tag-along documentation assistant, always emerging from that walk enriched by the keenness of her observations.

She's napping as I compose this, and I wonder what new things her practiced eyes will show me later or even tomorrow. This novice that is me is in no rush.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Missing the marapait

Hi there, November! What took you so long? The vacant lots or spots not taken over yet by houses and vulcanizing shops show no hint of marapait, our local sunflowers in Baguio. Maybe it isn't cold enough for them, but it's cool enough for the green poinsettia leaves to almost redden overnight.

Thank you, constant gardener, for noting the changes in temperature and how these affect the colors of our hillsides. Photo by Babeth Lolarga