Sunday, August 31, 2014
"...[T]here are two big problems associated with taking pictures. Firstly, we’re likely to be so busy taking the pictures, we forget to look at the world whose beauty and interest prompted us to take a photograph in the first place. And secondly, because we feel the pictures are safely stored on our phones, we never get around to looking at them, so sure are we that we’ll get around to it one day." - "Why you should stop taking pictures on your phone - and learn to draw," from the blog www.theschooloflife.com, posted by The Philosophers' Mail on 12 May 2014.
It's one of those miraculous mornings after two consecutive gray days in Baguio. Our little bossing wasn't gonna let it pass without a walk around the village. She was still in her jammies with monkey prints with one monkey saying "I'm not tired." I was in my house dress with snowflake prints (thank you, Lara Halili!) so I a pulled a long pullover over it for decency's sake. I put on my dark glasses, and Butones returned to her room to fetch hers. I put on a made-in-Batanes hat, she put on her yellow polka-dot cap but decided at the last minute to toss it back in the living room as we prepared to leave.
The pictures that follow are the ones that Butones said I should take. She always prefaced her command with "Look!" And look I did: at flowers, spider webs, clumps of fallen pine needles, banks of clouds, etc. What is a mere pretender to the title of "photojournalist" to do but to follow the keener and more curious eyes of Da Bossing?
I'm posting and sharing our pics from a few hours ago. Taking pictures is faster than drawing. And like I wrote before, pictures help me remember, especially one child's precious observations.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Her dream is to play the title role in Puccini's Madame Butterfly. Her reason is simple yet true: she wants to sing what is one of the most beautiful and passionate arias, "Un bel di vedremo." And why shouldn't this girl-woman with the voice of an angel sing of a love that waits but waits in futility?
This observer is willing to wait, too, in order to watch Stephanie "Teepee" Aguilar achieve a depth to her singing, a sign that she may have had a firsthand experience of love, of abandonment or something close to it and a willingness to do the ultimate sacrifice for someone. Or she can give the lie that she has undergone that experience. If it's the latter case, then thumbs-up for her acting chops, something an operatic singer also needs to be equipped with.
So far in her debut as solo professional singer she acquitted herself in a Puccini aria from Turandot where she sings the part of Liu, the slave in love with a prince. Liu is tortured to extract information, another of those over-dramatic elements that happen in a tragic opera. As Teepee gestured towards the end how she was about to be pierced by Turandot's henchmen, we feel that next shock of pain.
Our personal favorite is her interpretation of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise." This one has no words/lyrics, except for "a single vowel of the singer's choosing, " according to the program notes. (By the way, the Manila Chamber Foundation must also congratulated for the pains it takes to produce instructive souvenir programs and translations of songs from their original German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, even Bisaya in Antonio Molina's "Oras nga labing mangitngit" or "Dark Hours).
Teepee was one of the voice students who was in Sumi Jo's master class at St. Scholastica's College in February this year. The evening before the class, the Korean soprano enthralled the Samsung Hall audience with her own take on "Vocalise" that, of course, gave one a vision of the rapture that follows a yearning for the Divine. The student truly learned from a master.
In an earlier interview with the blogger, Teepee described her "surreal feeling" when she shared the stage with the soprano superstar. "I only had YouTube videos as references of what she sings like. Then there she was, shaking my hands, hugging me, giving me compliments, telling me how I can better my singing."
Wilson Go, an avid voice music fan and who, with his pal Edward Yap, led the standing ovation for Teepee, exclaimed as he gestured from head to diaphragm, "Perfect instrument! Imagine how she'll sound like when she reaches 35!"
We can only agree and expect to be more astonished by her ripening.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul." - Unknown
"...(M)usicians are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience's soul. Musicians are beings who have tasted life's nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another's heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes."-David Ackert, Los Angeles Times
The unknown author of that quote and Mr. Ackert I must thank profusely and publicly for giving me a good shove so I can recall in a semi-tranquil mood the times the musical "guns of August" fired and caused a pleasurable trembling in my soul. I've used an Ackert quote in a past blog about pianist Cecile Licad, but I keep coming back to it.
There's almost a "near-suicidal" quality to a true musician's playing. It's in the way they give their all to an elusive moment that will quickly become a memory for the listener unless everything, every nuance of a note or a gesture, is caught in an audio-video recording. Otherwise, there is nothing more exciting, more electrifying than being present in a live performance. Especially if it is someone like Oliver who I first watched at his farewell recital at the then PCIBank's Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati before he first left for his undergrad music studies in the States.
I've seen him at a tertulia at Odette Alcantara's Heritage House in Blue Ridge, Quezon City, where he attempted to do the folk ditty "Pamulinawen" as his encore piece. After repeated mistakes, he apologized and instead played a longer and more difficult Chopin piece. This has led to my impression that Oliver doesn't take the easier path. Gusto niya talagang pahirapan ang kanyang sarili.
And it's good for him. We, the audience, also benefit. I've also watched him play at the Baguio Country Club ballroom, at the former Kiss the Cook Gourmet at UP Village to kick off the Pablo Tariman-initiated Intimate Concert Series, at Abelardo Hall last year and then last night at a museum. Oliver is a life force, indeed, like the backdrop of paintings by Jana Benitez. Unsolicited advice from a concerned tita: Lose some of the weight. It may keep your stamina up.
The pictures tell of my latest experience of him better.
Thanks for putting this recital together, Ray Sison of ROS Music Center, Pablo Tariman of Music News and the Ayala Museum for opening up the lobby space on a Monday and a holiday (yesterday was the advanced celebration of National Heroes Day). Don't ever be discouraged by slight weather disturbances or the challenge of producing and marketing a recital.
When I think of contemporary heroes, politicians never cross my consciousness or my radar. It's always the authentic artists and tireless cultural workers who do. They are the ones who take the greater risks and make a nation truly proud and great. And people like me, a mere music fan, are grateful. Once again, Oliver, bravo!
Monday, August 25, 2014
Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
On an ordinary day in the week just ended, I got up after hours of reading, sitting and trying to put words together to stretch a bit, see what's going in the world outside the nook where I do my work.
From a corner of my mother's kitchen, I saw this play of light and shadow. If I only knew how to turn on the video component of an old digicam, I would've recorded the dancing shadows of the atis tree from outside, how the sun during the sunset hour caused this shadow play to happen.
Yes, Mr. Martin, I feel like that ordinary child who happened upon something extraordinary.
Thank you, oh Divine Master, who leads us not into temptation but to visions of the ecstatic in the every day.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
"Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it."
Some things keep me awake longer than usual at night. Among them is the origin of expressions. One is "Do not feed your pearls to swine."
And on the matter of pearls, why do we use the phrase "pearls of wisdom?"
It may sound silly, I know, these nocturnal activities of mine. In the morning, the brooding has fled after six to eight hours of quality sleep.
Meanwhile, I've stored this image of a piglet in red boots in my hard drive for several months now, waiting for that moment when I can trot it out like taking a pet for a walk.
A woman from Corfu, Greece, Anna Papadopoulou, who I follow in Twitter, shared this. She likes to post her gathered treasures of photos and videos around the time I'm about to take dinner or should be turning in for the night. When I thank her with a photo I've taken, she responds in the same manner. While I'm already calling it a day, she is just getting warm after breakfast. We've had this relationship for months now.
It's a nice feeling--to know that I'm not alone in learning to dive deeper and deeper into myself, to rise up, then share my own little pearls here and there (for want of a better word, I use "pearls"). And Ms. P, I suppose, is also doing the same.
Here's to you, Ms. Papadopoulou, wherever you are. Mabuhay and good morning from where I am.
Friday, August 22, 2014
|Photo by Babeth Lolarga|
I'm like Emma Paloma, ICM; we're both paper persons. If you are one, then you're easy to please. Apart from books that we read and later share or give away, you and I like stationery and other paper products. And we use them. Constantly! Especially now in the age of convenient email and texting. We don't hoard or collect. That way we spread the good lovin'.
My youngest child (although she's an adult of 27 years) recently sent me through her older sis this pair of cards from Hanoi where she had another adventure of her young life.
These cards didn't last a week with me. They're on their way to parts outside the Philippines, one to Florida, the other to Virginia. In one card, I couldn't bear writing on it so I wrote on a separate sheet of paper. That way my friend can use the blank card, just find the right envelope to slip it in and send it off to another receiver who, I hope, will be delighted.
The illustrations are actually collages. The crafts person, in all likelihood a woman, cut small strips of cloth (probably the retazo from a real ao dai) and turned them into these six beauties on bikes, complete with sun hats.
Here's to penmanship and paper.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
|Detail from Leonard Aguinaldo's "Blog Entry No. 7," mixed media collage, 2013. Recently exhibited at the Indigo Gallery of Bencab Museum on Asin Road, Benguet. Photo by Babeth Lolarga|
"Pay attention to poetry. Pay attention to music. Pay attention to paintings and sculptures and photo exhibits and ballets and plays. Why? Because art is God's way of saying hello. Your world is shouting out to you, revealing something intrinsically glorious about itself. Listen carefully. Love art, the way art loves life. Don't let all this go unnoticed." - quote attributed to Neale Donald Walsch
My college classmates and I learned in the editing class of Prof. Raul R. Ingles how the serif font Times Roman is the preferred one for newspapers. Today any serif font is also the norm for “long reads,” as essays and other forms of prose are now called. The human eye is used to reading serif fonts.
Sans serif fonts like the classic Helvetica, Optima, Courier, Arial or Trebuchet MS, the one that I’ve lately been using for my blog entries, are best used for short compositions. Optima is especially preferred for the text of compositions that have a ruminating or philosophical quality. I remember Optima well because art director Lynett Villariba chose it for Jerry Araos's book, The Garden of Two Dragons Fucking (Miratala Books, 1992).
Yes, I promised myself this would be short—just to keep the words flowing before I shift to another writing activity. I often have this thought in mind. It’s beginning to sound more like a declaration so God will heed and help me: that once I’m done with the reading of some books and the writing of my reviews of them, I will finish an unfinished painting I set aside last year. By completing it, I shall dabble with brushes and paints again. Ever heard of painter’s block? Well, I’ve been dealing with it in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.
It’ll come back. I say it with some confidence because now and then I also feel bereavement when, as the song goes, “words don’t come easy.” That's when it's time to do other stuff.
Hello Wednesday—I didn’t forget to acknowledge your presence.
P.S. The title for today's blog entry is from that Mary Travers solo song of almost the same name: "It Will Come to You Again."
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
|Teepee with her assisting artist, pianist Farley Asuncion, and her dad, architect Efren Aguilar Photos by Babeth Lolarga|
Of the adjectives that have been used to describe the voice of lyric soprano Stephanie Anne “Teepee” Aguilar, the ones that have captivated me best as listener-admirer are “creamy” and “radiant.”
More will be added to the list when we watch and listen to her again at the professional debut recital of this 2012 Jovita Fuentes Vocal Competition prize winner on Aug. 20, Wednesday, at 7 p.m. at Ayala Museum.
The Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation (MCO) Foundation has made of the museum lobby its presenting stage for most of its concerts this year (in July, it was the renamed Lanuza Hall at the Philippine Stock Exchange bldg. in Pasig City for the memorable Mostly Mozart Festival).
And it’s also almost SOP for the MCO Foundation workhorses (executive director Angel Reyes Nacino and consultant Joseph Uy—they with the biblical names) to bring the talents for live patikim presentations at Bert Robledo’s noontime program, “Bravo Filipino,” over DZFE The Master’s Touch (that’s 98.7 on your FM dial).
For just this past Thursday’s radio program, Teepee prepared Mozart’s “Or sai chi l’onore,” Anna’s aria from Don Giovanni; Schubert’s “Gretchen Am Spinnrade”; the American spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” arranged by Margaret Bonds; and Nicanor Abelardo’s “Mutya ng Pasig.”
|With DZFE's Bert Robledo|
When he learned that she earned her first bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, major in hospitality management, from the College of St. Benilde, he said in deadpan fashion (off the air), “Puwede ka ring singing kaldero.”
She said her mother Gigi, who’s good on the piano and works as an interior designer, wanted her only child to take a college course that would reassure her of a future.
But Teepee has been singing since she was three, a soloist no less in nursery school. Her father Efren recalled how Teepee was always chosen as choir leader during her elementary and high school years at the Tabernacle of Faith Christian Academy in San Juan, Metro Manila. For a time she was choir director of The Word Community Church which holds its Sunday worship at Unilab’s Bayanihall Hall in Mandaluyong.
Until a friend invited her to the University Santos Tomas, and in 2009 she entered its Conservatory of Music. She said of that decision, “I prayed to God, telling Him singing is what I do best. Let’s see how far God will take me.” She began as part of the big chorus in Cavalleri Rusticana. Manong Bert quipped that the experience put her literally in the pits (orchestra pit).
|Singing live at the DZFE studio with Farley Asuncion on the piano|
Asked what makes a good opera singer, she mentioned talent and finding good teachers who would notice the talent and hone it (in her case, soprano Rachelle Gerodias in the beginning and now tenor Lemuel de la Cruz), dedication, heart (“You’ve got to love what you’re doing, memorize different languages and blockings and making all these look flawless”), and hard work.
Again Manong Bert couldn’t help quipping that the likes of Anne Curtis have a lot of hard work to do.
Teepee’s schedule these days include studying for roles on her own (she’s appearing in the operas Noli Me Tangere and La Boheme) before turning up for rehearsals, practicing with a pianist or whoever is teaching or directing her and the others. She said she enjoys preparing for an opera because it’s “grand, colorful and always big."
She ended her hour-long interview interspersed with singing at DZFE with “He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Manong Bert couldn't help saying how compelling the spiritual was in the light of Robin Williams’ suicide, saying, “There’s no need to feel hopeless, no matter what you’re experiencing or going through.” - Elizabeth Lolarga
For tickets to Stephanie Aguilar's concert, call TicketWorld
at 891-9999, the MCO Foundation at 750-0768 or 0920-954-0053 or CAEO at
762-7164 or 0918-3473027.
|Relaxing after the interview|
Friday, August 15, 2014
|Cab Cafe usually serves its coffee in a paper cup, even if you're dining in. Ask for a mug--the coffee tastes just the same and you save on paper and plastic stirrer. Photos by Babeth Lolarga|
“Because we all need somebody to talk to, somebody that will listen, somebody that understands.” - a tweet from Inspirational Quotes
Often I find myself talking to whoever just happens to be reading this blog or past blog entries after he/she accidentally "hits" it in search of something else. Other times I share the day's content out there to friends and family who give a word or two of encouragement.
Otherwise, I talk to myself most of, if not, all the time. I do the talking not too loudly though. Otherwise, my “frenemies’” suspicions about my eccentricity, a.k.a. weirdness, will be confirmed. And there are some people out there who delight in others’ pratfalls. It is not a kind world, unfortunately for the sensitive.
Where was I before the taho vendor’s cries interrupted my concentration? I’m supposed to make a strong pitch for the occasional meal enjoyed with oneself, not with some Other (be it partner, child, grandchild, parent, sibling or friend). I call it a form of decompressing so I don’t suffer from what divers call “bends” when resuming my routine and becoming a social being again.
Yesterday from late morning to apres-lunch, I was with kindred spirits or fellow cultural workers. One of them referred to ourselves as alipin ng sining (slaves to art and culture). I always bristle like a porcupine when I hear the word alipin. I like to correct the phrase, to think of ourselves as “art warriors in aid of peace.”
But even warriors need a rest day. No, it’s only Friday today, and there are two more writing deadlines to be met. These deadlines are largely self-imposed, but I want to meet them in the quickest, most efficient way possible.
For me to do that, I must decompress first the way a diver must go up slowly from the depths of the ocean lest he/she suffer from the bends and get paralyzed. So after that meeting-cum-coverage-cum-interview-cum-shared meal, I headed home but stopped over at good ole reliable Cab Café on East Capitol Drive, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig. I was desperately in need of a caffeine fix to stay awake and finish a hanapbuhay article. The cake chiller was tempting, but I’m always careful about my sugar intake.
There was a slice of cherry “cheesecake.” It had no cream cheese in it. Deceptive, right? Instead, the sumptuous red cherries that sported a come-hither look were sitting on a lump of yogurt, the yogurt sat grandly like a princess on a round savory biscuit. Think crown, think princess, think throne.
Whoever in the kitchen-bakery thought of this must be congratulated. I’ve always had a taste for the sour (okay, here’s where you make jokes about my increasingly sour disposition).
Hurray for “decompression chambers”, those way stations between being a social being and being a completely solitary person once one returns home to face an empty Microsoft Word page, a throbbing cursor, a waiting angel (or devil) that one must wrestle down to keep the flow of words going and going without disappearing.
P.S. My bill didn't even exceed P200, and I got the drafting and writing done before midnight. Oy vey!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Don't you just think this prayer and art from Kelly Rae Roberts' portfolio of works is so damn beautiful? It is especially apt for this Sunday, a day after a wearying but uplifting Saturday. My life being what it is, one day I'm all covered up from head to toes because of Baguio's chill, fog, the zero visibility, the sometimes siyam-siyam (almost non-stop) rains that is conducive to a condition called SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
Next day I find myself in Metro Manila again, perspiring already after I step out of the shower and boosted by adrenalin and other chemicals necessary for life in the big city. But then and then... The weariness of travel dissipates because because...
Ms. Roberts says it all for me: "Dear World--Thank you for your smallest of moments that bring the greatest of beauty. Thank you for the stars, the light, and your soulful hearts that make living worth ALL the LOVE you hold."
Friday, August 8, 2014
|Filipino babushka with grandchild and her old pal Precious Leaño who's from Elbi (Los Baños) and was in Baguio briefly for a communication workshop she conducted for the Department of Trade and Industry-Cordillera Autonomous Region offices. We're flanking a gigantic rubber-cut done by Cordi artist Leonard Aguinaldo who has a solo show, "Transposition," at the Indigo Gallery of Bencab Museum on Asin Road, Tuba, Benguet. Show runs until Aug. 17|
Almost a month into her nursery class, she kinda snubbed me after I escorted her to her classroom this morning. My husband thinks it's because of the babushka style I insist on outfitting myself in: bandana on my head, eyeglasses, denim jumper dress over print turtle neck sweater, warm socks to cover my chilled feet, clogs, backpack and cane. Our apo may be embarrassed to be seen with me.
Nah, I think she was more excited to see her classmates and the toys surrounding the classroom proper because she had a few more minutes of free time before the school bell rang.
I hope she also learns about the school's patron saint, among my favorites in the Catholic pantheon--Elizabeth of Hungary, patron of bakers, countesses, hoboes, knights, people with in-law problems, lace-makers, widows, the homeless, people suffering from a toothache, people made fun of for their piety, etc. That's a lot for a saint to be concerned about. But then all Elizabeths are women of faith.
|Preschooler hoisting her backpack on her back and telling her elder, "I'll do it myself!"|
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
"Definition of good, emotionally-adept parenting: that the child grows up with no wish whatever to become a writer."
"Most of our childhood is stored not in photos, but in certain biscuits, lights of day, smells, textures of carpet."
Two quotes, all attributed to Alain de Botton, make me think of my two daughters who're beyond physical reach, except through their FB, Twitter or Instagram updates. The sisters are bonding in parts elsewhere while their mother reflects on times gone by and how swift the hands of time are moving to close that circle chuva la di la.
Maria Popova, another great curator of ideas like de Botton, shared through her blog, brainpickings.org, a letter that the poet Maya Angelou wrote to her younger self. Re-reading it for the fifth time today, I am struck at how her words have a force of truth that only mothers of daughters can relate to. I quote the letter in full by way of wishing my younger of two girls all the best on her special day today:
You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well.
But listen to what she says:
When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you — you’ve been raised.
You know right from wrong.
In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.
Remember, you can always come home.
You will go home again when the world knocks you down — or when you fall down in full view of the world. But only for two or three weeks at a time. Your mother will pamper you and feed you your favorite meal of red beans and rice. You’ll make a practice of going home so she can liberate you again — one of the greatest gifts, along with nurturing your courage, that she will give you.
Be courageous, but not foolhardy.
Walk proud as you are,
Sunday, August 3, 2014
The second time around "Complicated the Concert" was as lovely as the first, if not lovelier and more colorful in terms of costume and production details.
Camille Lopez Molina, Viva Voce founder who also served as assisting artist on the piano to the 10 classical singers (many, if not all, of them her students in voice), promised us earlier: "We've tweaked the program so it will be interesting even to those who saw the first concert."
We were at the May 31 concert, a prelude to June's historical milestones (Rizal's birthday and Philippine Independence Day). During that performance of art songs, from bel canto arias to kundimans, what struck the listener/viewer was the program's potent political content as images from the exhibit of Leslie de Chavez, Mike Adrao and Ea Torrado were flashed on one side of the wall, alternating with more slides of the museum's permanent collection of works by Filipino masters and photos of notorious figures in front-page news. (The exhibit, by the way, has been extended until tomorrow, Aug. 4.)
During the July 19 re-staging at the same venue, the singers' formal wear and an elevated platform that served as stage added a dramatic element. And this time the "tweaking" that Lopez Molina did with the program drew more dramatic responses. This audience member found herself copiously and silently weeping at Kristine Marie Balingcos' interpretation of Catalini's "Ebben, ne andro lontana" from the opera La Wally, a heroine's death aria before she throws herself in an avalanche. It's not an ordinary soprano who can acquit herself with that aria, especially if one has heard versions by Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi or the young Angela Gheorghiu.
Certain types of music invite that kind of visceral response. By the time tenor Ivan Niccolo Nery was singing Schumann's "Stille Tränen," to mean "Silent Tears," with a slide closeup of an unknown man, a survivor of supertyphoon Yolanda aboard a C 130 plane that was evacuating him and hundreds of other survivors from Tacloban, Leyte, my handkerchief was soaked.
Romance filled the afternoon air with soprano Myramae Meneses' "Ah! Love but a Day." Not included in the first staging, this is from a song cycle by American composer Amy Beach with lyrics by the English poet Robert Browning: "Ah, Love, but a day,/And the world has changed!/The sun's away,/And the bird estranged;/The wind has dropped,/And the sky's deranged;/Summer has stopped./Look in my eyes!/Wilt thou change too?/Should I fear surprise?/Shall I find aught new /In the old and dear,/In the good and true,/With the changing year?"
But it was upon hearing for the very first time baritone Raymond Yadao sing Juan Celis Bautista's kundiman "Parang Maghapon Lamang" that one felt as though one's Filipino chest was being cut open without anesthesia. Levi Celerio's haunting lyrics tell of youth wasted. Even if it feels like the length of a life, whether it ends at age 27 or at age 88, is long in earth-time, in the eyes of Eternity, it is only the equivalent of an afternoon.
Ang buhay ko’y maghapon lang pala
Tila isang saglit sa akin ang ngumingiting umaga!
May awit ang ibong tanda ng pag-asa!
Pagsapit ng hapon, ay!, kay lungkot sa puso kong nagdurusa!
Kung katotohanan ay ganyan,
Bakit sinayang ko yaong unang sigla ng aking buhay!
Di na magbabalik kahit na kaylan man
O! ang buhay pala ay parang maghapon lamang!