Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunflower's pretty cousin

Our friend from Mother's Garden gifted my spouse a pot of this tall flower on Father's Day. I asked him today for its name. He said it's a relative of the sunflower. I found the filial relationship appealing so I didn't bother to go down and to go out anymore to check on the scientific name taped on the pot. Thank you, Therese Jison, for the horticultural beauty, and thanks, Rolly, for taking good care of it so it can stay as pink and white as it has for the past two weeks. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The barefoot piano contessa

She is now called the family's Cecile Likod because of the low-cut dress she wore (just the back). With apologies to the great Cecile Licad, the pianist in our family, Bianca Ysabel Lolarga Susi, recently earned the moniker "C. Likod," a witty invention of her older sister Marga. Bianca, Binky to me when she was a baby (her mother was our Pinky), now Bianx for short, just finished her recital in her family's Antipolo home yesterday with an audience of cheering relatives and family friends.

For love of music and in their desire to continue Bianca's musical education, Marga and her Susi cousins embarked on a fund-raising project: a recital in the family abode with home-baked goodies served afterwards. I missed the tertulia because of some Baguio commitments.

Times being the way they are, sometimes piano lessons or any extra-curricular activity that has to do with the arts are considered a luxury. But they shouldn't be perceived that way. To me the arts are what makes a nation great so they should be a national priority. Children and youth who show a passion for music and the arts should be given the support they need.

Anyway, I think Bianx is assured of lessons for the next couple of months. Her immediate family thanks the donors and the others who made pledges.

Meanwhile, here are photos taken by my youngest sister Gigi of Bianx in rehearsal and in performance.

Child of the clouds and the earth | Vera Files

Child of the clouds and the earth | Vera Files

Friday, June 27, 2014

59 but not counting

These flowers wet with the previous night's rain greeted me when I stepped out of the house as an officially 59-year-old person.

"Maligayang bati sa iyong kaarawan, Babeth. Sana'y ulanin ka ng marami pang biyaya! Dalangin ko'y hindi ang iyong kalungkutan o kaligayahan kundi ang pagmamahal na maaaring umusbong sa dalawa. (Trying to be makata on your birthday, ha ha ha)." - Noel Soler Cuizon

By far Noel's message was the most touching message I received on June 24 along with that of G, my former student at a private school. Part of his email went:

"Good evening po, Teach. Happy Birthday again to you. Kamusta na kayo? How are you celebrating your 59th Birthday? I texted you this morning & also received your reply. I'm doing ok in college. I'm just a 1st timer pa lang. I have 7 subjects but no major yet. I've met new people already, but haven't made new friends yet. I'm only talking & hanging out with my friends like Luis, Milo, my Kuya, etc. There are some works I'm doing already. I have HWs too. Sometimes, I get to do them in my free time & sometimes I forget. Pasensya na. I'm only missing my years sa High School. I still do my best in college. All the things I've learned in (my former school) are naiipon pa rin with me. I learned a lot from you, T. Ruth, T. Maite & other teachers out there. I consider all of you as my 2nd family...Tnx. God bless."

Even if I cringe on reading the word "thanks" spelled as "Tnx," that's okay. I continue to emphasize in the new composition class I'm handling now that short cuts in spelling like "tnx" are acceptable in SMS but not in classroom work.

Except for Ida, our overseas daughter, everyone is accounted for in this picture. Thanks for picking up the tab, Kimi!

Another nice part of my day was being with my foodie family, sharing a meal at O'mai Khan restaurant in Baguio. Since I arrived ahead of the others, I used my prerogative, the way President Aquino did in proclaiming the new National Artists and dropping the name of actor Nora Aunor (something I strongly and vehemently disagree with), I ordered a la carte one rice meal with ulam that suited each family member's taste: Korean spare ribs for Rolly, tempura for Kimi, Mongolian fried chicken for Mackenzie for sharing with Kai and Korean beef strips for me with lots of honey-sweetened but still crunchy dilis and vegetable sidings for the birthday girl. And apple pie a la mode for all!
Oh, you beautiful pie, you great big beautiful piece of pie!

The Little One sidled up to me twice during lunch to say she wanted to blow my birthday candle. Of course, she did so to everyone's applause. Nota bene: she was too shy to blow her own birthday candles in April. I guess the number of guests then made her shy.

Kimi at first objected that she wanted the kalamansi tart, but when she tasted the apple pie, her big eyes bulged bigger and she said, "Masarap nga!" Later in the evening when I was on the road back to Manila, she texted that she was having a strong craving for apple pie (that can only mean that she's returning to O'mai Khan on her own one of these days to appease that hunger).

All in all my body and spirit are full! Belated tnx, God and all ye saints (friends and family alike)!

What's a birthday without a cupcake? Odette Mills of Cake Baby baked my order of a dozen goji berry cupcakes for sharing with Rolly's colleagues, who're my friends, at the Inquirer's Baguio bureau. Most photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Goodbye to almost all of that

A birthday, once you're entering the age of wisdom, becomes occasion for mortal thoughts. One thinks about conserving one's strength, preserving one's health, lessening or avoiding outright the prohibited in one's diet (the sweet and the salty).

But not yet, not while mint chocolate gelato, the authentic kind, can now be had in Baguio at Amare La Cucina.

Here's the Little One enjoying it unabashedly. Thanks for the Sunday and early birthday treat, Rolly/Tats/Grumps!

Photos by Kimi Fernandez and Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The education of LO and her Booboo

In Baguio, I have a room with a view. It is where I work (think, write, research, communicate with story sources and colleagues). In the lowlands, I face a yellow-painted wall with a calendar tacked on it. In a few days, I'll be saying a reluctant goodbye to this room which we call The Office. The LO (little one) has turned it into her office, too; it's just that her idea of one is to haul her stuff from the nursery and play behind my chair or beside my desk. I know her development as a child is on track because she talks to her bears and dinosaurs, lately a pig named Peppa. Sings to them.

Dusk hour is when I turn on the lamp light. The desk is a mess, but as I like to say (and this is borne out by research), creatives are messy.

When the YouTube is on, she knows me well enough to request "Sumi Jo, Blue Danube." Of course, my husband is impressed, so is the LO's mother Kimi--that Kai can sing the chorus part of "Ha ha, ha ha" to Ms. Jo's singing, identify some of the orchestra instruments. After the singing of the waltz, she will shrewdly request for two videos of Hooplakidz, featuring Annie and her pet dog Ben and the monkey Mango.

It has become harder to make Kai stand still, pose decently with eyes open wide for the camera. I made her stand beside a pile of The Children's Hour, all 16 volumes of them, my own childhood companions. Topping them is The College Book of English Literature. All my books I can part with, even the ones I've written, but these ones are here to stay.

LO knows I have teaching duties in the lowlands which explains my leave-taking (I will still be in Baguio on certain weekends, if my sked permits). LO is half in awe when she asks, "You're a teacher, too, like Granny Su?" (Su is Suzy, my sister, who has been a preschool teacher for two decades, maybe more. I always add that LO's Tita Ida is a teacher also which explains why she's abroad.) To LO teachers are awesome beings--of course, that's the only way she perceives them, having gone through a Musikgarten course under RL Altomonte. LO is now enrolled in a Montessori nursery. With a nun in front of the class, teachers really are learned authority figures in her eyes.

Well, I have a lot of living up to expectations to be done--those of LO's and my new students'.

Goodbye, Paddington, the bear with whom I have established a relationship that needs no words. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, June 20, 2014

Locomotive in a bus

When I showed the LO (little one) our travel pictures from Thursday last, she asked if the series of pics of the rock shed along Palispis (formerly Marcos) Highway were of a "choo choo train."

As I look at them now, I tend to agree.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A is for apple pie, C for crumbly crust and coffee

It isn't Baguio's best kept secret yet. The best apple pie is on the dessert menu of O'Mai Khan, the Mongolian buffet place on Upper Session Road. I thank Mitos Benitez of Hill Station for sharing this long-ago discovery of hers. Even if her restaurant in Casa Vallejo offers the same dessert, with at least 12 sliced apples in each pie, she takes a hike to nearby O'Mai Khan when she has a certain craving. Pair this with brewed coffee and request a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make pie a la mode. Instant heaven! Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, June 16, 2014

A city of big hearts

There were no second thoughts about where we would spend Fathers' Day yesterday--in the company of other fathers, mothers, their children and, in our case, our grandchild. Kai was the most visibly excited to renew acquaintances with the penned rabbits at Mother's Garden Cafe and Restaurant on upper Fairview Road, Quezon Hill, Baguio. The place is no longer hard to find although the road going up is quite steep and full of hairpin turns, but Baguio cabbies know where it is and expertly get us there.

Today is JJ's birthday. He's the 44-year-old son of Therese Jison, the chef patron of Mother's Garden. JJ and I first me for art lessons with Norman Chow at Toottee Chanco-Pacis's Happy Homes greenhouse, also in Baguio. Well, our city is that way; it has streets and subdivisions with lovely names: Fairview, Happy Homes, Green Valley.

Therese and her staff prepared a spread fit for a prince which is what JJ is to me. A noble one. After the guests had their slices of triple-layered, moist chocolate cake (with thick caramel in between layers) with cherries and chocolates on top and a dollop each of homemade vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, JJ continued cutting his birthday cake so he could serve the staff. He's that kind of man with fine manners, a big-hearted person. I hope my apo will become that way, too.

The view from the terrace of the garden restaurant

Huggable JJ with his Tita Auring Bautista

There was seafood pasta with squid rings, chunks of halibut, salmon and scallops...

...boneless chicken teriyaki...

...lechon, also roasted in the garden's all-brick oven...

...the pretty-pink roast beef...

For dessert, vanilla ice cream churned from the restaurant's own ice cream maker, the strawberries plucked from the garden...

...and JJ's chocolate cake where everything could be eaten and savored, except for the candles. There were pieces of dairy chocolates spread atop the cake, all made by Le Chef's Billy King and staff of Camp John Hay's The Manor.

Of course, a grownup party like this is one isn't one unless the guests and co-host, Heiner Maulbecker, talk more about their dreams for the city, mainly re-greening it further. In the picture are Herr, Leonie and Des Bautista.

And then the fog rolled in, and it was time to go... say farewell to these lovely ladies in deep pink that look like ballerinas en pointe.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It's always Tatay's Day on our street

The pair of hands at the bottom are Rolly's, the small ones atop him belong to the Wee One, the LO (little one) who's growing bigger, taller and more smart ass each day. Rolly is Tats to her, Tatay to the other women in the house: me, our daughters, sometimes to the help, but she'd rather address him Kuya. From the picture you can sense he's our protector, provider, the one who never fails us. the one whose love is unuttered but deeply felt. Long live Tatay! Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Road curves

On another trip to Baguio, I fiddled with the camera and waited for the bends and curves of the zigzag road leading to the city. The foliage changes from La Union to Benguet. Even the rain and the fog cooperated so I could get these shots.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's a jolly holiday with Gilda

"Time for lunch. Waiting na kami," the SMS from Gilda Cordero Fernando went. The summons came while I was in a cab with a driver-road warrior who knew how to navigate the mean streets of Metro Manila to get me to Panay Avenue on time.

In time to find the hostess and her other guest, art organizer Trickie C. Lopa, enjoying a meal of fresh fruit salad, soup steeped in slices of chicken galantina, clam spaghetti, fish croquettes. They were midway, and I caught up in good time while GCF and I mapped out our art hop itinerary. The OC in her likes to write things down to make sure she doesn't forget. I take photos for the same reason.

We traveled in an old van that could fit Gilda's "stroller" from Quezon City to Makati. All for art! No wonder artists old, middle aged, young and still studying alike, love you, Gilda.

The most unique gate along the stretch of Panay Avenue features these images, not aliens, insects actually, painted by Dexter Fernandez.

The back of the gate that faces the inside of the compound

The Leandro Locsin-designed Cordero-Fernando art house with a lush garden planted and tended by Gilda's late husband Marcelo

Trickie and Gilda look at an image of the latest Gabby Barredo sculpture in the former's phone.

First stop: Four simultaneous solo shows at West Gallery. Aiko, Gilda's sidekick, and Gilda prepare the latter's "stroller"-cum-wheelchair

"Nestled in Love," oil on buffalo horn and skull by Henry Royales

Viewing Alwin Reamillo's "Mise en (matched) scene"

Details from one of Reamillo's Chinese scroll paintings. Could those be Bonifacio and Aguinaldo?

Reading a wall essay about Louie Cordero's art at Finale Art File

Studying Cordero's "Pattern for life's never-ending search for utopia"

"Ba't maganda ito? Cordero ito!" She holds up one half of a bookend (designed in the shape of a lamb or cordero) while waiting for another art show, Leeroy New's, to open in Greenbelt 5.

New's installation "Garden of Earthly Delights" at posh Greenbelt 5, an Altro Mondo-organized affair

Dr. Joven Cuanang, another passionate lover of art, tells us to hold each other for this photo with Gilda and art's darling Leeroy New.

Photos, except for the last, by Babeth Lolarga