Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the autumn of our years

In the autumn of these Paulinians' years, they, we still behave like the school children we were within the walls of a convent school.

Without an authority figure to oversee us, the giggles are unrestrained, the guffaws almost unlady-like, the humor enough to make the most macho of our husbands blush a rose pink.

Thank you, Elizabeth "Bibit" Esteva Llamas for being the tireless organizer of reunions not only during the Christmas season but throughout the year whenever there's former classmate flies from overseas into town. I may have missed most of those get-togethers, but the Christmas thing, I can't forego, for as long as my arthritic knees can haul me from place to place.

Once again, I took pictures to sweeten the remembering.

The first arrivals Vicki Narciso Valero and Corazon "Punay" Gonzales Gayola have time to put up their feet and chat.

In the invite we were asked to come in either green or red. Red dominated the afternoon. Here are Bibit (seated) and Pam Bañez Gonzalez in wine red.

I can't think of a more festive house to hold our party in than Marissa Ileto's (M is at the head of the table in a green sleeveless blouse). Clockwise: Marianne Martin Soriano, Vicki, Bibit, Marissa, Lyn Sanchez Garcia, Ana Marie Earnshaw Rigor, Punay and Aurora Umali who answers to two nicknames: Princess and Jing. I'm partial to Princess because she behaves like one.

Lovelier even when facing the other way: Bibit, Pam, Vicki and Grace Palma Tiongco

And then it was time for a simple game of chance called LCR (for Left, Center, Right). Out with the 20-peso bills as we took turns rolling the dice. More teasings, more laughter aimed at Marianne who was last year's winner in case Lady Luck was on her side again.

A flushed Victoria is the victor. Someone ribbed her, "O, ayan, may pamasahe ka na pauwi sa Bulacan." That's where she is spending the New Year holidays with her sons.

Parlor games that challenged our ability to bend, balance, run a short distance

Class picture of St. Paul College Quezon City High School Batch '73 as we look today. Tallest girl on the second row (fourth from left) is Socorro Tecson Mangahas who also answers to the nickname Babeth. All photos, except the last, by Babeth Lolarga

Merry me, marry me

"We come from the earth, we return to the earth and in between we garden." - Anonymous

Or in between we gather, we sup, we make merry, we even marry when the occasion demands it. I have been silent on this space for many many days. That means I'm either backsliding and losing it or the season's requirements pushed blogging aside. A combination of both, I must say, with that in between sloth overcoming me during the lull between Christmas and New Year.

But not today. I assembled some pictures that I was resourceful enough to capture to help my memory along. From late November to December I've been to a total of six reunions, all indicative of a successful conquering of that anti-social streak in my personality. The temptation to remain a recluse and do my "socializing" through the comfort of the home and from the Internet remains ever-present, but let me not be the Grinch that spoils anyone's Christmas.

Here's to all of you, you who smiled for my camera, sang and put a lilt in my heart, you who reunited and married, you the dearly departed whose absence this season is a palpable stinging pinch on the flesh, you who I may have crossed or hurt. A cousin (thank you, Eileen Lolarga) reminded me to be less Babeth and more Christlike so love love love to all!

After I thanked Dr. Boots Camagay (center) and Jenny Juan (right) for coming to the intimate reunion lunch for my balikbayan cousin and their college buddy Rosemarie Romero, Boots replied, "It is a privilege that comes with genuine friendship." Jenny recalled the several "tender moments" we had laughing about relationships, laughing in the face of death and mourning (Boots is a new widow), in the face of setbacks financial and psychic.

Rose's reason for coming home after 12 long years of residence in Windsor, Canada, is the wedding of her only son Yonni Habulan (about to march down the middle of the aisle) to Lady Ngo.

The bride dramatically silhouetted against the open doors of the San Antonio de Padua Church in Silang, Cavite

Why the tears, beautiful bride? I wanted to ask Lady as she marched down the aisle. Her and Yonni's love and back story covers nearly two decades before it was blessed at the altar--from college sweethearts to new graduates to young architect and designer building up their own business to winning awards for their works before deciding to be man and wife.

The wedding was occasion for an impromptu Lolarga-Romero-Delos Reyes reunion as my sisters, cousins and niece tried to catch up on one another's lives. Seated at the Ville Sommet events place are Rose Romero, Suzy Lolarga and Eileen. Standing are my sister Pinky Lolarga Susi, a for-once-decently-dressed blogger and niece Regina de los Reyes.

Yonni serenades the lady of his heart and soul. I'm a sucker for gestures like this one. I teared up one too many times that evening. Good thing there was lechon and roast beef to distract me. Most photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Brought to you by Kai

Yes, a four-year-old child took this shot with a point and shoot adjusted to do closeups. Yes, you can!

A little blurry, as she would say, she being the best judge of her own work. But proud lola says they make for nice abstract patterns.

Side view of a poinsettia, an angle I wouldn't have thought of, but she did because she was just slightly taller than the flower bush. The flower stood right by her side.

With the setting set to infinity, the photographer is able to capture the morning sun falling on her Baguio landscape, including the twin radars on Mt. Santo Tomas in the distance. These shots are the products of a short morning walk in Green Valley, Baguio. All photos by Kai Fernandez

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A promotion

These two works done in '08 now hang in the master bedroom of my cousins Enri and Pem Romero in their new home outside downtown Los Angeles, California. He and his wife emailed recently to announce the good news of their daughter Rica's wedding to Shannon Toribio (it happened at this spot of paradise called Houdini Mansion, yes, named after the great magician and escape artist). The cousins from other parts of Northern America flew there to be present for the newlyweds. I would've wanted to be there. They need not ask what I will give Rica and Shannon to feather their nest further. I have rolled up a painting for the couple.

Enri used to hang my works in his Los Feliz Blvd. apartment's kitchen. He kidded that he would promote them to the living room once I am declared a National Artist. And it came to pass that the works were upgraded to his and Pem's bedroom. Who wants to be in the living room when I've taken space in the most comfy room in the house? Thanks 'Ri! You're a true cousin and friend.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Baboo is home now

While revisiting Baboo Mondoñedo book Stepping Stones, I was struck by her own sense of urgency as she lived out her days wearing the different hats she was comfortable with: "mother and grandmother, a writer, a bridge, a creator, a midwife, a comic, a child, an artist, and an activist. At any turn, I may be asked to do what is called for at the moment."

She earlier asked, "Why is it that I feel a sense of urgency? Why do I feel like time is coming and going too quickly?" What later follows is a closing sentence that can make one's skin crawl at her foresight of what is to come: "I will know what it is I need to do when the time comes."

Two days after her death that has sent people reeling from shock, Baboo has become bigger than life, still a bridge and midwife, now an intercessor, too, for requests and petitions to the Almighty Source. Her friend Perla Macapinlac, ICM, said at yesterday's rites before the body's cremation that now that Baboo has crossed over, those who she left behind can still be assured, if they have faith, that she will always be at their side.

At the wake for Baguio Writers Group founding member Napoleon Javier this summer, Merci Javier Dulawan, Baboo and I shared a long bench with the new widow Linda in front of us. I'm glad I told Baboo what my favorite piece in her book was (sometimes among our regrets when someone dies is if we don't tell him/her something we should have, especially if it is something good): her recollection of her marriage, the breakup, decades of living apart and how she returned to take care of her husband Eduardo Echauz when he suffered a stroke. They became friends anew, went out for dimsum or pasta, visited places that were friendly to the disabled. When he died, she realized that "there is truth to the marriage vow of 'Till death do us part.'"

Only death separates us from you, Baboo. And, as Rudi Tabora quoted you as saying recently and portentously, "You only die once. So live well." Indeed we will until we meet again some sunny day and in full color.

Photo self-timed by EV Espiritu

Friday, November 20, 2015

Returning to ourselves

"Almost Christmas," acrylic on canvas by the blogger. It measures 11" x 14".

"I love painting. It's where I return to myself." The quote is from the group Artwell Art Therapy. It captures what I feel when I'm in the midst of playing with colors and images.

The other day, friend Toottee Chanco Pacis and I shared a table in her Happy Homes home. There was just a pot of poinsettias given to her by another friend, Becky Luyk, between us. She worked on her handmade, one-of-a-kind Christmas cards in watercolor on Optima white paper while I did the painting called "Almost Christmas," a poinsettia set against a lemon yellow background (too plain, my husband's verdict on the background's color, but that is his opinion, and he's entitled to it).

We both knew that if we didn't get together, we wouldn't get anything done. The way Toottee put it in her SMS: "I need someone to paint with or I get waylaid by so many little things, I end up not even bringing out my brushes."

We worked quietly, we conversed, too, paused for coffee and some of her squash cake (Happy Thanksgiving to those who observe it). By the end of the afternoon when the light was dimming, Toottee had finished making four cards, I was done with two small paintings (meaning, no retouches or touch-ups needed, no matter someone's opinion).

I got home early evening but even with November's darkness outside and with the lights from the Christmas inside to light my two works, I felt good inside. I couldn't wait for the next occasion when my painting pal and I would get together again. She also shared with me a Mexican custom of saying goodbye to a hostess, something passed on to her by our late friend, Carol Brady.

"I shall come again for I like myself when I am with you."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MSO's masterstroke

The MSO under Prof. Arturo Molina about to take a bow at last week's "Opera Vs. Broadway" at Ayala Museum.

The Manila Symphony Orchestra's masterstroke this year in attracting an ever-increasing number of followers in Metro Manila is pitting popular music fare with the classical. In its nine rush-hour concerts this year alone, we've seen them do "Bach Vs. Beatles," a concert that the MSO later brought to Baguio City along with "Soundtracks and Symphonies" as part of its Music Everywhere outreach program.

Even with a serious program like July's "Transfigured Night" (music by Schoenberg), the program never failed to engage. Always there is an educational component--a conductor or MSO official faces the audience to give the context of the music. After all, to continue to exist in this generation of millennials, the MSO has to use the media the kids are used to for social marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Mailchimp) and for staging (attractive PowerPoint presentations projected in the background).

Each concert is entertainingly annotated by Jeffrey Solares, the orchestra's executive director, who knows his audience's kaliti by making references to popular figures or ideas in a manner and a language that are also pop. He banishes all notions that classical music is only for the elite and the erudite. He encourages more people to attend live performances instead of settling for YouTube or recordings because of the elements of excitement and unpredictability, saying, "Lots of things can happen--a voice can croak, strings can break..."

He defines opera as a musical art form that emulates Greek theater and formed by poets, philosophers and musicians who had studied Greek drama. To open last week's program of "Marriage of Figaro," the MSO played Mozart's "Overture to Marriage of Figaro," an opera that Solares describes as controversial during its time in the last 1700s because it dared to poke fun at the dukes, duchesses and other members of the royalty and it was from the point of view of the servants.

Michaela Fajardo, soprano with a creamy voice

What made the concert doubly special was the participation of some members of the country's premier vocal ensemble, Viva Voce. Soprano Michaela Fajardo surprised us immediately with the aria "Voi Che Sapete" or "Tell Me What Love Is." It's a textured voice--high and deep, if that were possible. Plus it had volume that could extend up to the back row of the capacity crowd. Impresario Joseph Uy, if he had been there, would've described the voice's quality as "creamy" to mean a pure lyric voice.

Carlo Mañalac may look skinny and fragile for a tenor but his voice has power.

Solares disclosed that Fajardo was his violin student for four years. When she wasn't turning up for lessons anymore, he was happily surprised to learn that she had shifted to voice as her major. Young, fresh-faced tenor Carlo Mañalac showed a nervous quiver in his voice in the initial notes and lyrics of Donizetti's romanza, "Una Furtiva Lagrima" from the opera L'elesir di amore. Solares noted how operas are all bound by one theme: love or doomed love.

Our favorite aria was sung: Musetta's aria "Quando Me En Vo" from Puccini's La Boheme with soprano Iona Ventocilla proving that she can alternate the roles of the suffering seamstress Mimi and the coquettish Musetta. (By the way, the chamber version of La Boheme will be restaged by Viva Voce on Nov. 26 at Ayala Museum after the acclaimed summer presentation of the well-loved opera at Baguio's Hill Station. Last Tuesday's museum audience had a glimpse of the dramatic dynamics and singing of Ventoncilla as Mimi and Mañalac as Rodolfo in their duet "O Soave Fanciula.")

The rush-hour concerts, meant to draw Makati's young professionals so they can skip the after-5 p.m. traffic, are short enough not to require an intermission, but the MSO instead played the sweetly melodious intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana" that had the audience heave a collective sigh at the end. For this alone our evening was made.

There was, of course, the accession to popular fare: overtures from My Fair Lady and Westside Story, songs from Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll and Hyde where tenor Carlo Falcis proved he could be a belter in reality TV shows cum singing competitions, Rent and Les Miserables. For an encore, the MSO obliged with the overture from Chicago.

I confess to being biased. When the classics face off with pop, the classics win by a knockout.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mood-altering dinner

"We're all dressed up with nowhere to go," Gilda Cordero Fernando said yesterday afternoon as I sipped hot chocolate and scooped warm fresh pinipig from the same cup in her bedroom slash work room. To me being with her, listening to her reminisce and opine made enough of a destination for the day. She'd have none of that--she was determined to leave the premises of her abode with her cane and wheelchair which she calls her kariton. The movie we had wanted to go out and watch, The Dressmaker, wasn't showing anymore.

She booked us for an early supper at Van Gogh Is Bipolar on Maginhawa Street, Sikatuna Village. She prodded me to think of persons we could go out with and have a relaxing dinner. "At short notice?" I asked, incredulous.

On top of me is a Tunisian hat, a fake crown on King Jetro, a copy of the Miss Universe crown on Carole, something from Mongolia on Nash and a muffin hairband with the word "Happy" on perennially happy Gilda.

But young writer Nash Tysmans and her mother Carole were available. So that was how we found ourselves at a subdued Mad Hatters' Party at Van Gogh with a pastor serving as our waiter and owner-chef Jetro Rafael by our tableside, keeping up a running commentary on the dishes served and the restaurant's new daytime thrust as a mood-altering tea sanctuary.

Jetro and Nash show different ways of pouring tea. Nash takes hers seriously. She went all the way to Darjeeling district in India to study tea and got thoroughly sunburned during her apprenticeship there.

My turmeric tea with honey came from the uppermost pot and was served encased in elegantly filigreed silver. You'd surmise that food and drinks served this well would up the cost of the bill, but no. Van Gogh Is Bipolar has Quezon City rates, meaning, highly affordable for writers, especially poets, scholars, artists and similar vagabond spirits.

The beauty of choice for post-prandial tea: You get to choose from Jetro's collection of teapots. Unlike other art and knickknack collectors who keep their collections for their private enjoyment only, Jetro enjoys sharing his. Nothing in his home restaurant is only for show. Everything is meant to be used.

While more commercial cafes and tea salons would practically shoo you off if you're just availing of the free Wifi and have consumed your minimum one cup of coffee or tea, Van Gogh seeks to attract souls in need of silence and healing in the daytime hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can avail of the Wifi but better if you take a break from the use of electronic gadgets by lying on a hammock reading from the book swap library, sipping tea that will address any negative mood at the moment (confusion, anger, panic, depression), doing art (art materials are provided free) or just wandering in the pocket garden.

There truly is something about the way Jetro prepares his meals that calms you down. He described the meat as "free range," the fish "wild." And I, like the fox in The Little Prince, felt tamed. All these things happened in a venue that has been named by a network or an international magazine as one of the coolest homes in Asia.

Enhancing the already rich ambience was the auditory pleasure of listening to chansons by Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel spinned from an old long-playing record player with an antique case picked up from Jetro's European travels. They threw me back to Thursdays in my youth in the '70s.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My deaconess friend and her pressed flowers

Toottee's art of pressing flowers

Although I maintain 34 Pinterest boards, I am not a do it yourself person. I'm actually clumsy. Ask my family.

So I've always admired people like Toottee Chanco Pacis who makes her own greeting cards, her breakfast bread, her taco shells, etc.

And she also writes sermons and articles here and there. Recently I invited her to stand as guest of honor along with Perla Macapinlac, ICM, two deeply spiritual persons I associate with my visits to Baguio.

Toottee read an invocation before Perla opened (by flinging a door open wide) my solo show ("Sampayan Blues" ends on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Sanctuary Gallery of the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary in Campo Sioco, Baguio). Like me when asked to say something in public, Toottee prefers to write down her thoughts so she doesn't meander from the subject.

These words of hers are my prayer for all for today. the 10th of November.

Oh Lord God,

We thank you for the gift of life.

We thank you for providing for all our needs, including the gifts you have given each of us.

We thank you for occasions like this afternoon's show where we can once again enjoy your creations on canvas and paper.

We thank you for the mag-lola, Babeth and Kai, for a unique collaboration and their family: Kimi, Lolo Rolly, and Auntie Ida for letting it happen.

We thank you for the people present--friends and relations who came to grace this exhibit with their encouragement and support.

Lord, teach us to appreciate and be grateful for the beauty of your creations may they be ordinary and simple.

As the Good Book says, "Establish, Lord, the work of your hands that we may indeed glorify your name."

Lord, I thank you for Babeth.


Friday, November 6, 2015

A daughter who colors

"It takes a good while to color one of these things in completely—a few hours, I’d say—and there’s something very satisfying about watching the color slowly spread across the page, about seeing your thought and effort create a tangible, pretty thing at a reasonable, predictable pace. This rarely happens in life." - Julie Beck in "The Zen of Adult Coloring Books,"

The daughter who turns child again when faced with adult coloring books is out of the house, out of town and won't be back until the weekend. That is when she resumes her coloring pace, her months-old hobby that took off at about the same time when these books became the hottest things in bookstores and online auctions.

I guiltily riffled through her collection of coloring materials (pencils, crayons, markers) and books to take some shots because I admire how she chooses her colors and puts them together to create jewels for the eyes. Hmmm...written like a proud mama. My favorite of the lot is how she "solved" the coloring scheme for the outline of Sherlock Holmes.

Keep on coloring, Kimi, as a way out of stress and humdrum routine and into something relaxing and enriching to your inner life.

I would've killed to own art materials like these in my youth.

It's also nice to leave an area uncolored (see baby owl at bottom) for contrast.

Mr. Holmes at his address on Baker Street Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Artists and would-be artists don't just live on the occasional sales alone. We also like to receive feedback from the audience. I was able to get some--naturally they're from friends who dropped by the ongoing exhibition "Sampayan Blues" at the Sanctuary Gallery of Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary in Campo Sioco, Baguio. The show is still up until Nov. 14.

Some other friends couldn't make it up (that's too much of an imposition on them), but I shared my photos of the works. Feedback they were generous with. It was enough to keep my going until I decide to return to my paints and brushes and paint for a future show and cause.

Thank you, Universe, especially for the gift of friendship that includes the virtue of encouragement.

"Kai's Magical Day," acrylic on canvas paper, collection of Robert Abaño.

Hello Babeth,

Saw your exhibit yesterday at Maryknoll. Your works are very original and different, never boring and very witty!

Congratulations! My favorite is the one with a vase and a sun on the upper right corner. Parang playful na van Gogh. :-)

Keep on painting and have a beautiful day ahead!

Lingling Maranan-Claver

"Poured My Heart Out and This Is What I Get," mixed media on canvas paper

Hi Babeth we really enjoyed your exhibit even if Dan and I were the last-comers. Ang ganda talaga! Remember nung nasa fine arts pa tayo, you used to tell me, pano ba gagawin ko sa drawing ko, walang depth. Sabi ko sa yo nun, ano ka, maganda nga e, parang folk art. Ngayon, hindi ka lang folk art, a la Picasso ka na! Gusto ni Dan yung geisha, at ako gusto ko nung Poured my heart...

Mina Rimando

Top: "Finding My Sea Legs"; bottom: "Fish for Dinner," acrylic on paper, collaborations with Kai Fernandez

Thank for sharing the fotos of the paintings in your exhibit, and the sentiments that went with the preparations for the exhibit, with your usual exquisite writing.

Your paintings are wonderful, with a wonderland look and feel about them, and yet with social messages that can't be missed.

Cora Patarata

"Light as a Kite My Angel Feels," acrylic on canvas paper


Congratulations on your current solo exhibit!! Too bad I couldn't make it to Baguio to see those works first-hand. I was left pondering and anticipating with trepidation, Lando's would-be handiwork as it wound its way across my own part of the north. I was also wondering how it would affect your scheduled opening. But thank God our place was spared the worst, and your exhibit too, went on as announced!

You make it so easy and uncomplicated, talking about the process of creation in your statement. I am sure a great deal of thought and planning went into it. And the seeming uncomplicatedness is what endears those works to us, your readers. I personally like the honesty and the child-like touch that infuse those pieces.

Here's to more works in the offing!

Al Vicente

Congratulations, Babeth! How your imagination flies (taking us with it)!

Princess Nemenzo

Monday, November 2, 2015


The Peninsula Manila touch is in the little details. Almost 40 years old, it has built a reputation based on those little touches. Last time I was there during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, a cause the hotel has taken up through its yearly pink party art auctions, The Lobby had this stunning and very feminine, I must add, floral centerpiece. I couldn't take my eyes away from the different shades of pink clustered together. Bravo to the Pen's florist.

Whether in tall or short vases, pink is seductive.

Wanna bury your face in those soft mums?

The striped lilies are just as gorgeous.

The roses suppose you like 'em, too. Photos by Babeth Lolarga