Saturday, January 31, 2015

A slice of Baguio life

Was it only yesterday when The Wee One and her Mamay decided suddenly to join me in my visit to the Hansel-and-Gretel-like cottage of friend Toottee Chanco Pacis? I had some baked items to pick up and pay for: her fabulous brownies, a pound cake (Kimi's order) and a medium-size round rum cake (Rolly's). Then I needed to take pictures of her heart-shaped rum cakes that would accompany the "Love (Letters) for Sale" (or commissioned handwritten love letters) project of the Baguio Writers Group.

I warned Toottee in advance that I was being escorted by my daughter and grandchild, and she shouldn't prepare anything for us because we had just eaten lunch. But Toottee being Toottee, she just had to make us sample slices of her rum cake before Kimi started shooting away after we did our own amateur food styling.

Chubby knows how to look at the camera. Half-seated beside him is his young admirer.

Meanwhile, The Wee One made friends with the hairy house Maltese, Chubby, recent father to several puppies. Kai was able to hold one or two puppies and pose for her mother's camera. but those puppies had to be extricated from her hands because she couldn't handle them gently. She must've thought they were as squeeze-able as the stuffed toys on Toottee's sofa (all going to the Baguio General Hospital children's ward--I told you Toottee is one of the kindest soul to walk this earth).

Happy just to be among so many huggables that'll make ill kids at the local hospital happy. Photos by Booboo Babeth

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writers' minds, hearts, hands at work

My painter friend, Corazon Patarata, who has retired from the foreign service, reminded me in an SMS yesterday, after she learned that I was recovering from surgery, to "go easy muna. There is a time for writing with passion again. Let it wait awhile, you will have new perspectives."

I surmise this is why we have friends apart from blood kin. We can ignore the kin's reminders to guard our health but not our friends'. I noticed many changes after the surgery to remove a tumor that turned out to be benign. Since the incision cut through the leftmost side of my face and neck (that brought about jokes before my hospital confinement that I was disappearing from the world temporarily for a face-lift or cosmetic surgery), there is still numbness and a dull, throbbing ache.

I can't chew without exerting much effort so I now prefer soups, soupy oatmeal, soupy champorado, soft breads with melted butter and cheese, viands that have broth like sinigang with veggies softened. Crunchy stuff like tortilla chips cause great discomfort and a loud ringing in my left ear, no matter how I crave for salty and meaty food. I can no longer, hope this is temporary, put the entire spoon in my mouth. Suddenly, I have to eat daintily!

My way of coping--which is what I do with my other ailments--is to keep my mind, heart and fingers busy. Just what Pope Francis recommended: use our minds, hearts and hands, think, feel and do. For God's glory.

Well, Cora, if I stop, I feel the spirit that moves me to write even a blog entry will be the one to take leave of me. I do appreciate friends' concerns.
Lissa Romero de Guia promises to bump and grind to the song "Let Me Entertain You" from the musical Gypsy. Her program includes Broadway and jazz favorites.

Ian Paolo Acosta, guitarist, singer and composer

But February is looking to be a busy month for this cultural worker. On Feb. 6, the Baguio Writers Group is mounting a pre-Valentine dinner concert, "Fever: A Night of Love Songs and Poetry," at Hill Station, Casa Vallejo, Baguio City. Featured are Lissa Romero de Guia and jazz-blues guitarist Ian Paolo Acosta, all Baguio-based talents, apart from our resident poets who'll outdo one another in passionately reading or performing their love poems.

As if pushing a concert ain't enough alongside selling tickets (only P850 each inclusive of a full-course dinner with a Moroccan theme plus a drink), the BWG "think tank" also thought of a sidelight (side show?) to our concert: a booth for "Love (Letters) for Sale."
To paraphrase new member Nash Tysmans, the BWG members blessed with good to fine penmanship will serve as Cyrano de Bergeracs to help the timid, receding or inarticulate to express their feelings for real Roxanes. But these letters can also be love letters to parents, children, pets. We can't guarantee a "Yes" to romantic proposals, and we won't accept break-up letters.

The letters don't end there. They come with a heart-shaped rum cake with semi-fondant icing baked and packaged by everyone's favorite mamita and BWG senior member, Toottee Chanco-Pacis. We know her for her to-die-for brownies, lemon squares and now, rum cake!

A Google document form has already been set up where those keen on tapping the services of eloquent love letter writers can write their specifications. Just copy and paste to another tab or window the link that follows:

Truly, the world I live in will not slow down to wait for the full restoration of my senses. I'm off antibiotics and pain-killers, the doctor pronounced me fit to work (does that include "to socialize", too?). Since my outer ear is numb and only parts of it will recover feeling in due time, I was told by him, half-kiddingly, that I can have it pierced in several spots and wear all the studs and earrings I want. Which may be the right accessories for a Moroccan pre-Valentine party!

Some of the BWG members at their planning meeting (from left): Merci Javier Dulawan, Nonnette Bennett, Toottee Chanco Pacis, the blogger with her grandchild, Junley Lazaga, Frank Cimatu, Ben Tapang, Padma Perez, Lissa and Jenny Cariño.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Be of good cheer

Excerpt from the pathologist's report

My attending surgeon, Anthony Venadero, greeted me with a huge smile and one word when I stepped into his clinic yesterday: "Benign!"

As an adjective, it can mean I'm kindly, friendly, warm, approachable, tenderhearted. Which I think I am in real life. But then that's a personal opinion.

In medical terms, "benign" is also good news: "(of a disease) not harmful in effect: in particular, (of a tumor) not malignant.
synonyms: harmless, nonmalignant, noncancerous; benignant
"a benign tumor"

Well, that's that. I'm moving on, thankful, grateful, appreciative, relieved and with a song in my heart to praise the Big Guy who decided to give me another chance: "Thank you, Lord!"

Yesterday at 4 p.m., alone in the house, I toyed with the camera to see what selfies I could bring out given that hour's soft lighting.

Here they are depicting the subject before, during and after the report (of course, this is what's known as a reenactment).

Pre-operative state: worried but trying to be brave about everything

Recovery period: still a trace of anxiety but confident in her faith

Happy to emerge from the darkness of body and soul Selfies by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, January 23, 2015

Empty before full

Rolly and I are empty nesters for the weekend. The children (Kimi and Ida) and The Wee One are with our great horde of relatives in the big city. So it has been extraordinarily quiet in our part of Baguio to the point that I can even hear my breathing, the hum of the computer, every bird call, etc. Because I'm recuperating from surgery, I have been homebound for exactly a week, just venturing out to the garden for morning sunshine after which I return to computer work.

Meanwhile, Rolly can't help but be himself--even constantly "editing" his garden. He just read somewhere that a gardener is also an editor so this morning I saw him holding dead or dying leaves that he had snipped off here and there. If our house is always in order and the vases are replenished with fresh flowers (the upside of living in Baguio), don't compliment me. It is all his doing.

But I do miss the younger mother and child who make their home here. Every time I see their bikes, I feel a slight squeeze in my heart. But I know they are enjoying their reunion with my younger daughter Ida, back for a short visit from her overseas job, and soon they will return. In a matter of days, the house will ring with happy noises again.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Flores para Placido Domingo

Yes, it is the Maestro's signature on a Metropolitan Opera playbill of The Enchanted Island, a Baroque pastiche where Señor Domingo plays Neptune. This was part of my Christmas loot of paper treasures from fellow music aficionado Lara Halili. I'm paying my personal homage to the esteemed tenor from Spain who turned 74 on Jan. 21. I hope retirement is far from his mind.

And there he is, holding Neptune's trident. How glorious he appears.

To you, whose beautiful name translates into English as Placid Sunday (shouldn't our Sundays be placid, always?), this Pinay fan offers a vase of white lilies from Benguet's fields. Thank you for years of listening pleasure. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


"If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I have realized that my blog has also become a grandmother's scrapbook/journal/photo album of The Wee One's development from birth to departure from toddlerhood. I've saved in a box some of the cards that went with her presents, the table tags that accompanied her mother Kimi's baby shower, her doodles, etc. But I can't seem to find the time to do that collage scrapbook I used to enjoy doing when my own children were growing up--their times of your lives books of remembrances.

Blogging about this child in my life is quicker and response time just as fast with comments on how she has grown, how her verbosity is a sign of how loved she is because she is a confident speaker. She'll even put her hand over your mouth if you've spoken way too much, and she wants her turn to render an opinion or continue a story.

When I'm in Baguio, we go on walks in our not too populous neighborhood. We're lucky when the playground doesn't have the holiday crowd of kids making a beeline for the playground. That's when The Wee One has the swing to herself. All she needs is a strong push and what follows is a delighted "Wheeee!" A living example of one who enjoys the moment!

Photos by Booboo Babeth

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

From a distance: Surprised and touched by Francis

Rock star Pope Francis just checked into the Philippines when I checked into the St. Louis University Hospital of the Sacred Heart for a scheduled three-day confinement that stretched to another half day. I took this photo of a side of Baguio visible from one of the hospital's windows. I needed to refer to it when a bit of fear nibbled me as I prepared for a paratidectomy, a surgical incision to be done on a side of my face near the neck where a suspicious tumor had been growing. I stayed in a semi-private room while waiting for a private one to be vacated. Was I cheered when I saw that the private room had a small TV from where I could monitor good Francis' itinerary. Was able to catch his meeting with families.

On the day of his truncated visit to Tacloban, I was at the mercy of a team of doctors led by Anthony Vanadero. It was a two-hour long procedure; I was fully knocked out until I was brought back to my hospital bed where I requested that the TV be switched on. I asked my daughter and watcher Kimi to take souvenir shots of me at my worst-looking state so my other daughter abroad would know. But the pics frightened Ida and my apo Kai. The latter ran away from the image and covered her eyes when it was shown to her. But I was confident I would emerge from my Manny Pacquiao look in a better state.

On Sunday, the 17th, I felt I had my own resurrection. Most of the gauze and tape were removed, I could sit up and feed myself. Best of all, I was one with the youth at the University of the Santo Tomas, especially the child Glyzelle Palomar who wept openly as she asked in a heartbreaking voice why God allowed children to suffer. My heart swelled when he asked why there weren't more girls and women represented among the select who read their personal messages to him. I could've jumped for joy at that statement, but all I could manage was a thumb up. Thanks, Francis, for acknowledging women, for pointing out how cleansing, purifying tears are the mark of a true Christian!

As Francis and entourage flew out of Philippine air space, I also made ready to pack up. I received my instructions on how to care for my wound and when to return for a follow-up. The team of residents and my surgeon Dr. Vanadero (third from right) gamely pose for a patient with this strange request. Thank you, grazie mille!

Nothing like the constancy of a husband's love to see me through so thank you, too, Rolly. God is truly good. A bit of a stretch to make it seem I had a journey that was parallel to His Holiness. But I don't think it was a coincidence. With my faith and hope strengthened by the prayers of friends and family, I can say it was wonderful and joyful synchronicity!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Toddler joys

"A joyful heart is good medicine." - Proverbs 17:22

And that's what The Wee One is gifted with, a joyful heart that has somehow kept her immune system up and strong despite Baguio's below 20-degree temperature.

She recently told her Manila-bound mother that she really didn't care for toys as pasalubong on the latter's return. It's a roundabout way of telling Kimi to hurry back!

My being a stay-home granny during the recent Christmas holidays allowed me to take stolen shots of Kai. It's becoming harder to coax her to pose, and it all depends on her mood at the moment. Most times, she'd cover her face or pretend she's asleep or turn her back so she can focus on playing by her lonesome which she doesn't seem to mind. She puts her heart into group play, too, and isn't shy anymore when faced with other kids as wee as her.

No, she won't budge for a photo beside the Christmas tree at Mario's Restaurant on Christmas. Later, she concedes but a lot of combination bribes and threats had to done to get her to pose for a family portrait. Photos by Booboo Babeth

What I like is when she quietly does her own thing. Her mother thinks that Kai's preferred form of play--classifying colors and arranging her toys neatly according to colors--is already bordering on obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Look at what she did with these beads. Having mastered stringing them into necklaces, she arranges them in precise order with such concentration.

The OC in The Wee One at work

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Come together, High School Class of '73

At the end of these rare reunions, a class picture is SOP beginning with the usual restrained shot followed by a wacky one. I've noticed, too, that as the years go by, no one wants to sit on the front row because of soft round bellies that, vanity dictates, have to be hidden from the viewing world. But I don't mind showing mine--it's well-earned after a day of eating, eating, eating. *Sigh*

I tend not to forget anyone's name if I still use their maiden surnames (for the marrieds) and their nicknames from childhood. Mind you, these are women who're either 59 or 60 years young. Seated (from left): Hayni Estrada, Jill Racela, Eugene Mesina and Babeth. Standing are: Ana Marie Earnshaw, Maan Martin, Vickie Narciso, Concept Zamora, Pam Bañez, Marissa Ileto, Baby Tecson, Bibit Esteva and Lyn Sanchez.

Host Baby Tecson-Mangahas left this tarp of images from our generation to keep the sun out. Later, baby photos of some members of the class were put over the tarp for a guessing game. Baby says she hasn't taken down the tarp. It's a nostalgic trip for any group that comes over to her home. BTW, Baby also uses Babette as her nickname--she chose it when she entered college because she thought Baby was too, uhh, infantile for a tall woman like her.

A child of the '60s and '70s caught between Janis Joplin and Audrey Hepburn. Thanks, Marissa, for taking this pic. She took it when she saw me struggling to do a selfie that always came out baluktot!

While catching up on one another's life, they nibbled on watermelon seeds, something I couldn't anymore impose on my fragile teeth. No wonder I was the hungriest when lunch was served. I had a box of Rodic's famed tapsilog for appetizers before I went on to the bangus and pork sinigang. Baby's family is behind Rodic's. You can't be a true State U alumna if you haven't tried Rodic's at UP Shopping Center.

Pancho Llamas, Bibit's big half, served as game master. He went high-tech, using a flat screen with a laptop attached for the quizzes.

This game revolved around the number One and its variations and sound-alikes: first, Juan, uno, isa.

Baby approaches the stool to ring the bell, confident that she has the correct answer. Since the party was set in the garden, we came in flower power clothes.

Jumping for joy for each correct answer

While having our dessert of Calea cheesecake and Nathaniel's buko pandan ice cream, we played Pinoy Genyo that still had a Christmas theme. It was fun watching Concept guess what was written on her head. When the bell rang and she saw the word "magi," she quipped, "How will I be able to guess that? It's not something I associate with Christmas. Magi we use in the kitchen!"

Hearty congratulations to Bibit for being our class' tireless organizer of reunions. We promise to do our bit in assisting her at the next happy occasion where we all revert to the sweetness and lightness of girlhood.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mi madre, mis hermanas y yo

My youngest sis Gigi (left) has already mastered the art of the selfie. She took this so all the girls, including Mom, could fit in. The family photo was taken on the second floor of the new Estancia Mall at the Capitol Commons in Pasig City yesterday. Mom is flanked by the rest of us (Suzy, Embeng, Ruth and me).

The display of white was a bit blinding so I had to put on my sun glasses. We also had no intention to shop although the big post-Christman price slashdown made us yield to the temptation to upgrade our "rags." Embeng wanted us to walk around the Commons as weekend exercise, then have brekkie at the new Pancake House. When my brother heard of our plan, he asked if walking followed by eating was a way to wellness. I said, "It's called the Lollikins' workout!" ("Lollikins" is how our cousins call us, the root word being Loly, one of our Dad's nicknames, short for Lolarga. Get it?)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I have an appointment with life

A Zen master I was reading today just reminded me that each of us has an appointment with life "in the present moment," not tomorrow but now. In meeting that appointment, may it be a journey of inner and outer peace.

The events since Wednesday have kept me engrossed with what's unfolding in France, the country that gave us the "natural, unalienable and sacred" Rights of Man and inspired members of our ilustrado class like Jose Rizal to question the legitimacy of the Spanish colonial government.

France's example in overthrowing the abusive aristocracy inspired similar revolutions elsewhere. Thoughts have been running through my head which tries to avoid complex political nuances. But the coldblooded murder of the Charlie Hebdo staff and a Muslim policeman doing his job made me sit up and cast aside my indifferent bystander stance.

One of the poignant images I saw and saved into my hard drive in recent days is this--pens and pencils shaped by mourners in France into the peace sign. I work with pen and pencil, too--seemingly harmless tools until they write, draw, shape ideas that can set other minds on fire. I've known what it was to work under an atmosphere of fear during the martial-law years. I marched with those who wanted the Marcos dictatorship unseated so democracy, especially free speech, could be restored.

So today, I say, even in my corner of the Eastern world, I am Charlie.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Je suis Charlie, I am Charlie

"Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire." - Jacob Canfield, "In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism,"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The season's happy mail

Is it always Christmas on Christmas Island?

Apart from the stamps glued on the envelope, pen pal Arlene puts other artistic touches on her envelope. I often wonder if the post office people who handle mail appreciate these.

The size of my crane Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Because I commute between two cities, snail or postal (but I now prefer to describe it "happy") mail is doubly delayed. I get to open them many days, stretching to weeks, after I arrive in Pasig or Baguio. But it is with a child's delight that I open them--it's almost like holding the sender by her hand or having her seated across you as you chat inside a cafe, warming your hands around your respective coffee cups while the rain pours outside.

I reached Pasig last night with four envelopes awaiting me. Except for one postmarked Quezon City, each came from a great distance: Tokyo, New South Wales in Australia and Chicago.

My friend Arlene, a Pinay artist who has made Japan her home, even enclosed what she called a "sushi crane" delicately folded from a piece of glossy magazine page with the color picture of a platter of, yes, sushi. Like Australia-based pen pal Giselle, the card she chose has proceeds going to a worthwhile cause: Medecins de Monde, an international NGO.

Keep the mail alive. Keep their senders and recipients happy.

Purchase of this card helps the Salvation Army in "fighting poverty, social and spiritual distress in Australia and New Zealand for almost 130 years." The army provides needy Australians 100,000 meals in a week, refuge to 500 abuse victims, among others. Peace, joy, hope for all, indeed!

The beneficiary for this card is The Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka, Illinois.

The season's wishes are also rendered in Braille. Thanks, Cousin Tess and family!

Dr. Beth Quirino-Lahoz's card that changes yearly features a photo from her collection of doors and windows. Photo shows the door of a cathedral in Avila, Spain. Beth heads the Technological Institute of the Philippines in Quezon City and Manila. TIP is committed to teaching knowledge and truth and learning values.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My look up gal

The reason The Wee One is looking up in some stolen shots I've taken of her is I must have pointed out either the shape/size of clouds or the startling blueness of a Baguio sky. This is after we've taken a breather from our morning walks.

She walks alongside or ahead of me, never behind me. She used to put on her own pair of play sunglasses and funny hat to imitate my walking outfit. Nowadays she just announces to all after breakfast that we're off to get sunshine and our dose of Vitamin D. And she sounds very authoritative when she says that.

Until our next January walk, Kai. I remain truly yours, Boobook Skywalker.