Friday, May 30, 2014

Bright Hope Jolly Phonics Summer Class

Congratulations to Kai and her mother Kimi, the videographer. The Wee One went through a clingy phase nearly into her second week in summer class. But once she learned to trust her teachers and classmates, her guardians just had to wait outside the classroom at the Luke Foundation building in Baguio for one and a half hours, five times a week, for the rest of this month.

As early as summer of 2013, Kai could already recognize all alphabets, capital and small letters. But how to transition to blending consonant-vowel combinations and recognize words was a bit of a challenge. Until Kimi heard of this unique phonics class where the kid population was small. Small enough for Kai to feel right at home that she could declare with a smile one time when I picked her up, "I'm enjoying myself!" Sometimes she'd emerge from class holding hands with one of the boys until it was time for boy and mom to board their taxi.

Today, when you point to two- or three-letter words in Kai's list, she exaggerates each letter sound. She has a matching action for each letter like shaking her head left to right for the "t" sound, tapping her arms for "a", among others. Looks and sounds cute, but her Booboo is confident she's gonna pull a surprise on us by reading the headlines of her Grumpa Tats' favorite newspaper.

Thanks, Teacher Julia and all the kind staff of Bright Hope. We hope your new "graduate" doesn't need remedials when she enters preschool in June.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Let us continue to praise the halo-halo

The mood darkened a little this morning upon my learning that the great phenomenal woman and poet that was Maya Angelou had departed yesterday--"flung up to heaven," as President Obama wrote in a statement on her passing.

Later, I perked up at the prospect of a reunion lunch (actually an excuse to enjoy halo-halo) with Chit Roces Santos, her Vergel, her tall-for-her-age grand-daughter Mona, who's missing a couple of front teeth, and the master of guffaws (he should patent them), Pablo Tariman.

Summer spells Milky Way halo-halo. My glass before it was emptied in, oh, 10 minutes.

Pablo and I like to listen to VOS expound on what's happening in the political arena, the lapses of media in reporting on what's truly going on (Pablo observes that there hasn't been a Woodward-Bernstein type of investigative reporting as far as the Napoles and other issues are concerned).

After we tucked in a healthy fish and veggie lunch, we proceeded to attack our glasses of summer's ice-cold jewels, the halo-halo. Chit though tried to fool herself into believing that going rice-less and ordering mais con hielo meant lower calories. Mona had a strawberry shake and wore a white moustache briefly that I wasn't able to capture on my camera.

Chit and I agree with our idol, Gilda Cordero Fernando, who wrote recently in her Sunday Inquirer column: "The queen of the coolers is, of course, the halo-halo. Whoever said it originated from the Japanese mongo con hielo must be deluded. Only a Filipino could have dreamed up a jeepney or a halo-halo."

Our smiles (especially Mona's and mine) read: "Orange you glad you traveled more than a mile for your halo-halo?" Not in orange are Vergel, Chit and Pablo.

Look for the sign.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paseo de nom nom

I believe that woman writer who described ladies' lunches as pampahaba ng buhay.

Another semi-retired media colleague (the other being me) Angelina "Angge" Goloy can be counted to efficiently manage an event, even if it's just for five ladies who occasionally lunch. Our respective birthdays are spread out in the year so periodic reunions can be expected in the months of April, May, June, August, September, give or take a few delays when schedules can't be matched. In December, there is another goodwill and gift exchange lunch.

I've lost count of the number of years we've been doing this. What I clearly recall is how they all fall on a Monday, days off of the girls who're still deeply engaged in newspaper work.

For Corito Llamas' sexy-something natal day, we went on a day trip to Tagaytay's Bag of Beans, she wearing a blouse (Indian textile) that she herself sewed. Our journey, as they say, was more interesting than the destination. In fact, it was a barrel of laughs that our pit stops along the highway were meant to decompress, stretch our curled legs and giggle some more. To say we were packed like sardines in a can is an understatement.

At Bag of Beans' new extension area, the balcony, three of us had the bangsilog with atchara (daing na bangus, garlic rice, eggs), having left the city with hardly or no breakfast. The two others ordered steak, mashed potatoes, pasta and pizza like there was no tomorrow. That's Ester Dipasupil, me, Chato Garcellano, birthday girl Corito and Angge.

The security guard who took our pic wanted to include everything, especially his employer's sign board. Expectedly, the strict gourmet in Corito (she founded the magazine Food, now part of ABS-CBN Publishing) brooked no nonsense from the service staff. She frankly told them we were having our coffee and pastries elsewhere because their service was poor. So there!

In our search for a coffee shop with comfortable air conditioning (Tootsie's was closed - the staff had gone on an excursion), we found ourselves at Sonja's Garden, but it had a set menu. So we used the time to smell the flowers and wander in and out of the souvenir shops and garden pathways. That's Ester trying on an Ophelia wreath. And then we got rained in, but the quick rains cooled the air.

Angge and Corito underneath the gauzy whatchamacallit and twisted vines. Atmospheric and ambience-rich, it's the perfect spot for honeymooners, balikbayan visitors and tourists in their own country.

We found heaven in a petit cup and a platito of nom nom ensaymada, the best we've had outside Metro Manila (without prejudice to Hizon's and Cunanan's home-baked ensaymada). Antonio's Garden wasn't just clean, bright, spacious, with a splendid view of the volcano and the lake; the staff was attentive, too.

Smilingly satisfied, we pose for our last class picture before these Jills hit the road.

Living for more sights and Mondays like these. Happy birthday, Corito! Wishing you more!

Some photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First of 2 nom nom days

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

~ Bertolt Brecht

To me laughing with and among friends is a form of singing in these horridly hot times. The Sunday and Monday past, I felt privileged to be among friends again after the relative isolation imposed by Manila's heat on me this summer. I spent close to two months just within the walls and arms of family in Baguio so the summons from Gilda Cordero Fernando, who is her own best events organizer, to join her in Antipolo on May 25 couldn't be ignored. Neither could Angge Goloy's to be with the ladies who lunch in Tagaytay on May 26.

Come down, come down from wherever you are. I did, chancing it as a Victory Liner passenger at past one in the morning on a Sunday. I told my husband that I wasn't sure anymore how much time I have left or for that matter, how long in the world my own friends will be around. So many loved ones had left abruptly in recent months and years. I wasn't going to wait for another occasion.

So here we are again, captured in pictures. Gilda's event was an advanced 84th birthday lunch at daughter-in-law Lanelle Abueva Fernando's Crescent Moon Restaurant in Antipolo City. The heavens were kind. The sky was overcast so temperature was below stifling

By happenstance, in a separate dining area, old pal from kindergarten years Marissa Ileto was also present with her family. They were feting a balikbayan cousin. That was totally unplanned. So I made sure the moment was captured with her kids Issa and Lawin flanking us.

When Marissa saw the photos, she went: "Naku magka height na tayo! At the rate I am going, chomping away and sitting all day, my width is soon to follow! Nom nom nom..." Nom nom nom means "yummy." At least for me that is what it means. Apparently for others, it's drinking alcohol.

Nom nom nom was the buffet spread that Lanelle's crew laid out: plain lugaw with over a dozen toppings or condiments to choose from (I returned for the slices of century eggs more than twice), crisp fried noodles again with sahog of your choice (new experience was having curried vegetables and tofu for the toppings), among others.
It was actually former UP President Jose Abueva's birthday. He and Gilda are mag balae (he was pa-in-law to Gilda's eldest son, the late Bey), she the mod mom-in-law of Lanelle. Gilda's BFF Mariel Francisco teased that La Gilda chose that day to celebrate to earn a "free ride." She was riding onto the Abueva event.

GCF (the lady second from left wearing what my sisters and I called "muscle shirt") with Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, Mariel and Ning Encarnacion Tan. The fans or abanico on the table are production designer Gino Gonzales's presents to Gilda and guests, the butterflies came from Mariel (saved from a granddaughter's birthday party).

The loooooong table with no permanent seat arrangements. Each one, after finishing his/her food, stood to move around which is what Gilda likes about her parties. No one stays put with just one conversation partner. Clockwise: Juju Tan, Chit Roces Santos, Karina Bolasco, GCF, Nonon Padilla, Ning, Manny Chaves, Mariel (standing) Gino, Lorna Kalaw Tirol and Edna.

The Gemini girl with a birthday coming soon demanded a group photo before we broke up and headed for home. The production designer in Gino couldn't stand the idea that we'd have a row ofcaldero for our background so the chairs were re-arranged to cover the buffet table and to prevent back lighting. We also followed his instruction to hold our fans. Front row (from left) Lorna, Rita Ledesma, Gilda, me and Gino. Second row: Mariel, Lanelle, Chit, Manny, Edna Juju, Nonon and Karina.

Everyone's summer muse or how we hope we'll look like if we're blessed to reach the age of 84

Most photos by Babeth Lolarga

Albert Tiu’s tribute to Nature’s elements | Vera Files

Albert Tiu’s tribute to Nature’s elements | Vera Files

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hands cup cheeks

I used to wonder why The Wee One liked to pose in this fashion for photographs. Took a lot of half scoldings, half sweet talking to make her pose more naturally. Until I saw the possible source of that hands cupping cheeks pose.

Kai with her Granny Sue this summer in Baguio Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Photo from The Glitter Fairy in Twitter

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ode to a cupcake

And not just any cupcake--it has to be red velvet. I'm a very late convert to it. My daughters have been into red velvets, oh, since five years ago, maybe more. I guess I was put off by the color and the cloying richness. It made me think of a vamp actress. Can't explain the association.

That was until Martin Masadao introduced me to his friend Odette Mills, fellow Baguio resident who also played a cameo role (but with spoken lines) in Martin's short film "Kitoman (Red Rice)." You see, the word "red" makes an appearance again. Odette brought a sample of her red velvet cheesecake in a neat box that seemed to have been folded by an origami master. I was hooked.

The taste was never replicated, and I refused to touch any other red velvet cookie, cake or cupcake. Not until I could save up for a dozen of Odette's babies. I raved about it to my husband and my granddaughter; the latter was the most excited. Rolly thought it was a frivolous expense because for a lesser price, we could get a box of assorted JCo Donuts (we both like the Alcapone).

The little vamps come in this dainty box with Odette's contact details. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Odette delivered the goods at Rolly's office two afternoons ago. It was an interminable wait for Kai and myself as we counted the hours until Rolly arrived in time for dinner. Well, the rest is, as they say, history and satisfied cravings.

P.S. If I use Cupcakes by Sonja as my standard, Odette's CakeBaby products are up to par.

We had one with the cream cheese butter frosting. Odette's red velvet cupcakes come also with lemon buttercream frosting. She deliberately makes the cake part not too sweet so the consumer doesn't get umay (hard to translate that Filipino term). Or the consumer doesn't easily tire of it.

One rugrat in the background about to demolish a cupcake.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Canteen surprise

I had reason to celebrate yesterday. The results of my blood test were positively cheering, and I needn't take any more additional supplements or maintenance meds. At my age that's good news. Now if the 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria are released unharmed, I shall be exuberant, close to falling down on my knees in gratitude.

When I got out of the doctor's clinic at the SLU Hospital of the Sacred Heart, it was too early to pick up my grandchild from phonics class so I wandered into the canteen. At nearly 12 o'clock, I was famished after a very light breakfast of soupy champorado. Chocolate must still have been in my unconscious because I found myself choosing a slice of Angel Food Cake and a can of Sarsi (that soda evokes memories of childhood).

I found serendipity and peace in a canteen before the afternoon took over my life again.

The cake looks appealing and is surprisingly filling. It had the just-right moist quality and went well with the sarsaparilla, how we called Sarsi in my youth. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

In the kitchen with Jean | Vera Files

In the kitchen with Jean | Vera Files

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Milky view through the windows

Up here we've heard once too often from friends and family in Metro Manila complaints of how humid and hot it is there and how lucky we are to be summering where we are. Some hours of the day, when the sun is up and there's no wind, it can suddenly be a little stifling. But all one has to do is slide open the windows and there's instant relief.

Here are some shots of a foggy Sunday afternoon in my kind of town, Baguio is.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Kelly Ramos breaks down walls | Vera Files

Kelly Ramos breaks down walls | Vera Files

Breakfast for two

“We had such tremendous fun and much agony together for some years.” - Charles Bukowski

We had taken turns being under the weather. He recovered more quickly, I'm still malingering and weakening from a cold that was supposed to have run its course with a trouncing from a first round of antibiotics only for it to return with a vengeance. The doctor ordered a blood chem test. That meant I had to fast.

With the test done, I asked to be rewarded with breakfast at our favorite table at Cafe by the Ruins. The night before I had already planned what I'd order: a cup of Rizal's hot chocolate and a warmed ensaymada to dunk into the chocolate-y thickness.
Fresh flowers always on the table

What was left of the cuppa chocolate after chunks of ensaymada were dunked in it

He had something new from the cafe's breakfast selection: Sagada Rice (it has everything in it, except meat). His order came with a bowl of fresh fruits (scoops of mango, pineapple and watermelon slices) with a drizzling of honey and a cup of coffee. Hold the tira-tira candy sweetener, please.

Red Sagada rice with assorted vegetables and scrambled eggs. "Good but a bit oily" was Rolly's verdict.

It was a fine way to begin this weekend with a sky like this to assure Ms. Sniffles (me) that all will be well again.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Doodling along

Our little Picasso (chuck it up to this doting grandma) is making bigger strokes on her white board and never fails to call my attention when she's done.

A few days ago, Kai (formerly Butones) said she was going to make a one-color rainbow, and she did. I'd rather call it a "redbow."

Happy with her take on the rainbow

Early today, she just asked for "Black marker, please" and proceeded to work quietly. Afterwards, there was her familiar cry of "Look!"

Not camera-shy, just doing her usual funny face for the camera while showing off her drawing for the day

Close-up of her "figurative abstract." This viewer sees two-in-one human-like faces, complete with hair, eyes, nose, lips. Photos by Booboo

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Big Mama comes out

I didn't want to sound self-serving, thus my hesitation in announcing in this space the publication of my third book of poems, Big Mama Sez: Poems Old & New. Fifty-five copies were delivered by my printer, Central Books, in March this year. Some friends asked if there was going to be a book launch or where copies would be available.

I've not grown tired of explaining that it is a gift book, an offering to friends and family who supported me in various ways as the manuscript made its own journey to book form. Yes, I'm in the midst of giving copies away that I now find myself here in Baguio without one. Some 25 remaining copies are stored in Pasig awaiting my return and scheduling of delivery to those concerned.

Big Mama Sez compiles poems written from 1997 (after my second book dangling doll: poems of laughter & desperation came out) to 2013. I noticed how few I wrote from '97 to 2012. In early 2012, I deleted my Facebook account and suddenly I found the time, space, the words to resume composing in verse. A news item, an online article, something said over dinner or casual encounters pushed some buttons that needed pushing. Before long I found myself with enough poems for a volume.

One afternoon, I asked my "prayerers" or "prayer warriors" to help me in my supplication for provisions so I could push through with Project Big Mama Sez. Lo and behold! Not even 20 minutes had passed when a friend committed to cover part of the printing costs. It was the sign I watched out for to indicate that independent publishing was the path to take. My partner Rolly and daughter Kimi added more to the kitty and realized how the book would be a good legacy to the family.

The rest of the requirements fell in place: Gilda Cordero Fernando gave permission for the use of her pregnant flying Darna as cover art; Dr. Elmer Ordoñez wrote an introduction that moved me to tears (because he read the poems objectively and looked at the narrator as persona and not as me); Margie Holmes, defying gravity, found time to write a blurb; Rosario "Chato" Garcellano had a ready afterword.

Crucial to the whole project was the full participation of my designer, Jenny Cariño. She was so easy to work with, gave me sound advice and even chose a highly readable font from a family that is used for the popular Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter books. Purrfect, I purred inside.

The next step: I'm going to turn the book into an e-book, a free book, yes, to make it more widely available, especially to kin and friends abroad. When Jenny is able to free up some time and before my summer vacation ends, we'll work together on the e-book formatting. It'll be my way of saying a big mama "Thank you" to the Universe for sending all that I needed and wanted.

Monday, May 12, 2014

BWG reloaded: Let's volt in

Congratulations and best wishes to the new officers of the Baguio Writers Group (BWG) that has opened itself to wider membership to infuse it with new and creative (read: out-of-the-box) ideas. All towards strengthening writing in this northern region and keeping its reputation as a voice in the Baguio and by extension the national community. Hip hip hooray to new BWG president Jenny Cariño who presided at the general assembly at another Baguio institution, Mandarin Restaurant on Session Road.
We started Saturday afternoon with a small table. From left are: Frank, Jenny, Grace Subido, Scott Saboy, Roland Rabang and Martin Masadao

Then more streamed in: Luchie Maranan, Baboo Mondoñedo and Junley Lazaga.

Among our recruits are Rose Urquico, Toottee Chanco Pacis and Auring Bautista

Audrey Beltran, Desiree Caluza, Pryce Quintos, Merci Javier Dulawan, Padma Perez and Frank again

Same gals from above listening to others introduce themselves this way: what I write, what I still want to write and what I expect from BWG and how I can help it

Retired economics professor Ben Tapang (seated fourth from left) says there must be more to life than the field he spent 50 years of his life on. This must mean that creative juices are still roiling within, waiting to be expressed. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thank you, Frank Cimatu, for graciously hosting a merienda of pancit bihon (with extra pechay toppings, as per his instruction to the waitress), lumpiang Shanghai and a round of drinks.

A spread like that is conducive to the concoction of plans. Among these are reviving the Kulitan workshop (these are bi-monthly manuscript clinics fueled by coffee for the critique-ing of works in progress by the literature profs and literary critics in the group), young adult writing workshops (open to 12 to 16 year old kids, one is coming up May 24-25 at the Frangeli House on Bakakeng road), a spoken word workshop that'll train young poets to perform and pit themselves in the Third Monday from the Sun readings/performances at Mt Cloud Bookshop (Jenny is worthy resource person for this activity), an online and refereed literary journal, among others.

We started the meeting with one large round table. As Saturday afternoon wore on, Luchie Maranan exhorted us to "let's volt in." It meant connecting two additional round tables but still it was standing room only!

What excites me about the enlarged composition of BWG is the variety of experiences, knowledge and skills that the new members are bringing in. Some of them come from civil society (human rights and indigenous people's orgs), others from the worlds of visual arts (steeped in art and comic-book writing) and local journalism. There is one who writes for an evangelical magazine as she is a theology teacher. We didn't limit ourselves to purely creative or literary writers.

Shall we sing "Happy Days Are Here Again" or "Ain't No Mountain High" to Jenny, Junley Lazaga (vice president), Scott Saboy (secretary), Merci Javier Dulawan (treasurer)?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sumptuous lunch for a time in our lives

I sometimes ask myself if I have a real life at all, if it's being lived, or if I've found myself mired in simply documenting that life and those lives around me. I really don't mind taking the souvenir shots for a Sunday family lunch at Mario's on Upper Session Road. It is our times-of-our-lives place. It has seen us celebrating graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases. And today's Mothers' Day.

We reserved our table by phone yesterday but were told we had to be there on time; they could only hold the table for 15 minutes. So you can imagine the beeline to the shower room before departure from home.
My favorite sections of the restaurant's Sunday buffet are those set aside for the appetizers and for the desserts. Today I didn't depart from my routine of waltzing to the appetizer table: two generous helpings of the pritson (fried slivers of lechon and veggies encased in crepe-like wrapping), samosas with a dip of mint and tamarind sauce and the oysters Rockefeller. Then I was ready for the reliable staples of paella, callos Madrileña, the cochinillo with liver sauce.

Those deadly starters had to be offset. So my dessert plate had some greens. It
was repeatedly replenished with squares of orange chiffon cake whose icing reminded me of those heavenly caramel cakes from Estrel's in Quezon City. I sampled the mango cheesecake, warm bread pudding and chocolate fondue. But the orange chiffon was top of the class.

My dietary offsetting consisted of one helping of sayote tops sauteed with plenty of garlic. Call it guilt eating. My partner liked how the vegetable dish was simply prepared. He took note of the components and said we'd have it done at home one of these days.
It's Mothers' Day. People like me who like to observe and live life fully now and then through Sunday buffets are entitled to guiltless treats.

Food photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Being Mommy Lolarga

In her most recent blog entry in, writer Cecilia Brainard wrote both of herself and her mother Concepcion Cuenco Manguerra, "It's difficult for me to describe her accurately because I only saw one side of her. I remember her as high strung and dramatic."

I couldn't agree more. Of all the subjects I will ever come to write about, Gliceria "Nene" Lolarga or Mommy looms as the hardest one to tackle. She is still very much around and isn't everyone's idea of what a near 88 year old looks like.

Mother to eight adults who're mostly in their 50s

Having been orphaned early and raised by aunts and a much older sister, she had no real models on how to become a mother, the hardest job in the world, bar none. Nevertheless, she continues to be mother to eight grownups and countless adopted ex-youngsters, including formerly erring nieces and nephews in need of a step-mom kind of discipline. The security guards and street sweepers in our Pasig neighborhood address her as "Mommy Lolarga".

I sometimes think she over-mothers us, but then that is what mothers do: worrying to bits. She hasn't given up the practice of phoning the offices of her youngest children to check if they have arrived safely (a constant source of embarrassment for my sibs).

With six of her eight grandchildren in the 2010 Christmas photo. Not present were Calgary-based Sara and Christian Lolarga

In July 2013 with her great grandchildren Machiko Skye, Jared Franco and Kai Myknonos

She is also grandmother to eight and glamorous great-grandmother to three (she is Mama Mermaid). Being a grandmother has softened her as far as tugging the reins of discipline are concerned. After all, lolas are there to spoil and dote on the third and fourth generations.

She has never really retired in her mind. I've overheard her tell the help how she misses the routine of work outside the home. But she yielded to our request to stop for health and safety reasons. She reluctantly agreed to this; there is some regret there. Her activities with the local Legion of Mary have filled the void somewhat, but they still haven't kept her from muttering aloud how she misses earning her keep.

She has become active in Facebook and asking me to track down friends from childhood and adolescence, a near impossible task since she has outlived many of them.

Here's to you and your unique mothering ways, Mommy L.

Brainard is right: "Remember your mothers!" Always!

Friday, May 9, 2014

While chasing a sunset, we ended up with...

At a little past 5 p.m. yesterday, the Wee One and I tried to catch the sunset from a vantage point in our neighborhood. We've seen that big orange ball sinking slowly from the same viewpoint in the past. It had been a memorable sight, and she'd bring up the subject now and then. With no hint of thunderstorm, we thought we'd see the free Nature show, but a thick mass of gray clouds covered the sun. One image in the distance that I was able to bring home though was of the two radars atop Mt. Santo Tomas beamed at our Baguio. Another day, another chance of a sunset. Photo by Babeth Lolarga