Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sweet are the friends from girlhood

I wasn't much of a joiner in high school. I skipped the junior-senior prom when I was a junior, then skipped it again the following year when i was a graduating senior. The outsider feeling (OP or out of place) is quite pronounced in the teenage years. I guess that explains why I still like J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and his creation, Holden Caulfield.

There's still a little bit of Holden in me even as I approach the next decade: my 60s.

But life is short so when Bibit Esteva Llamas asked if I'd be in Baguio Feb. 25-26, I answered that I was scheduled to visit family here. That was how I found myself with my lively Class '73 batchmates. I served as their tourist guide. We all had fun and capped Thursday with wine and beer at home where they met The Wee One and where the sleepy husband showed how he cared for me and my friends by being willing bartender.

Let's do it again, sweet girls of my youth.

Our ground zero was the Europa Condo Villas on Legarda Road where we had a full breakfast, the works! The gourmet cooks in the group, Vicki Narciso Valero (second right) and Bibit Esteva Llamas (third from right) took over the kitchen and cooked well-marinated beef tapa, cheese omelette, etc. Others in this chorus line are (from left): the blogger, Marie Zamora Lazo, the balikbayan from Vancouver, Canada, Rita Heimbrod Fathi, and Marianne Martin Soriano.

Imitating the pose of some bulul or figures of rice granary gods as suggested by the Bencab Museum guide

We "bumped" into my husband Rolly and his fraternity brod Chibu Lagman (left) at the museum's Cafe Sabel after we toured several upper floor galleries. If I'm looking more lola-ish than usual, blame the flights of stairs that my creaky knees had to manage. I recommend the lemon grass iced tea to recover fast.

Another group photo before we headed back to downtown Baguio to meet up with our former high school principal who now supervises the canteen and dietary requirements of patients at the Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital on Gen. Luna Road.

At 70-something, Sr. Auguste is quite strong and refuses to slow down. Her problem that Thursday noon when she sat down with us was how to find 40 kilos of fresh fish in the public market. It's Lenten season. The hospital serves no meat on Fridays. Sister Auguste still goes to the market almost daily with her kitchen staff.

Stopping at Billy King's Le Chef at The Manor, Camp John Hay, for coffee and pastries

The girls just had to stop at Mines View Park to buy and eat pusit before going to the nearby Good Shepherd Convent's Mountain Maid Training Center for pasalubong shopping. I didn't join them and stayed in the van to watch shoppers go by.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Belated pats on everyone's back

With less than a month to plan, plot, market, rehearse, look for sponsor/s, the Baguio Writers Group under Jennifer Patricia A. Cariño, my hijada, I always like to boast, produced in cooperation with Hill Station Restaurant "Fever: An Evening of Love Songs and Poetry" early this love month. Before the Panagbenga, the Philippine Military Academy alumni reunion, before other Arts Month activities took off.

Being writers, the group must have the good or bad habit (depending on how you look at it) of getting last-minute dopamine-cum-adrenaline shots that enable us to converge and put together our energies, whether we're composing commissioned handwritten love letters, baking heart-shaped rum cakes or singing and reading our hearts out to keep The Word alive.

To all who were there for us, family, friends, lovers and other strangers, a big thank you for making Feb. 6 a night that continues to sparkle in our memories. Onwards to the next project!

Guitarist Ian Paolo Acosta and singer Lissa Romero de Guia testing the Hill Station's sound system before the evening performance Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Merci Javier Dulawan and Padma Perez "womanning" our "Love (Letters) for Sale" table at the Hill Station Bar. On the piano is one of the pre-ordered rum cakes baked by Toottee Chanco Pacis. We had, if my count is correct while it was my turn to watch the table, five commissions that evening. More came in through our online campaign.

Jenny Cariño reads her lovely poems from the cell phone's screen.

Kervin Calabias recites from memory Joi Barrios's poem honoring the disappeared (desaparecidos).

BWG vice president and literature Prof. Junley Lorenzana Lazaga reads an Iluko poem by Leona Florentino, a cultural and literary heroine.

Lissa enchants, enthralls and engages us with her wonderful voice. To this day, her encore piece "Lullaby of Birdland" is stuck as my last song syndrome.

Lissa, queen of the night, with her bouquet and some members and officers of BWG. Thank you, whoever took this shot. I was in Cloud 9 then.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It happened Sunday last

Old-young media pal Fe Zamora posted this pic of me at work in Twitter; it was also retweeted by the Inquirer Group. The many stars it got, to mean that particular tweet was "favorited" (equivalent of the "Like" button in Facebook), again proved that social media can reach many people, all unknown to me. I should take a tutorial with Fe sometime. Thanks, pal! Photo by Fe Zamora

The event at Fully Booked's flagship store in Bonifacio Global City that Fe was referring to in her "Happening now" tweet Photos by Babeth Lolarga

This is how much I over-prepare for workshops. The plastic bin is packed with paper, envelopes, art materials, a silver bell that I ring when the time is up for an exercise. The pink bag is my book bag of references that I share with participants in case they finish their work early and have time to browse through the books. As for the ladybug, I like to put an element of surprise in my workshops.

Nice mix of young and aging adults, all professionals, some retired but refusing to describe themselves as such. To me that's a good thing--it just means they haven't given up on life and learning.

By your students you'll be taught. The combined wisdom of these women busy on their exercise for the afternoon will astonish future readers. One of them cancelled a trip to Sri Lanka because of a foot injury and signed up for the workshop instead.

Exercising another part of the brain by hands-on art-making makes every workshop more fun. A participant discovers how liberating to use a simple exercise like making a series of frottage to find the words to write.

Happy colors, happy person, the kind who can write lightheartedly and humorously about the series of falls that had happened in her life. May this recent one be the last. A seatmate and friend told her, "No more falls. I don't want to be visiting you in the hospital every time."

Like visiting the city of love (Paris), handwriting a letter to someone special is always a good idea.

Class picture with our principal Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (seated, leftmost) and the 15 participants. Photo by Aina Cruz

While the workshop kids were busy, the girls in the staff and two observers caught up with one another's life and gossiped delightedly. From left: Neni, Fe, Babeth and Glenda Garcia-Togonon, legal counsel of the Philippine General Hospital. Photo by Nikolai S. Agcaoili

Mariel Francisco has a workshop coming in March. Save the date for those who are keen to know about the seven stages of life and how awareness of these can ease you into writing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Salute to their comrade professor

Two nostalgia persons: Geraldine C. Maayo with her former professor Elmer A. Ordoñez Photo by Elizabeth Lolarga

Dr. Elmer A. Ordoñez’s influence on his students extends widely. That’s how an ideal and effective professor should be.

Although retired from teaching, he remains a literary scholar and a prolific writer. His latest book is also his first novel, Snows of Yesteryear (University of the Philippines Press).

He told the blogger: “I keep track of the output of every generation following mine. I’m not limited to creative writing. I am open to other forms of discourse and categories of writing produced in the various contexts of the times.”

In the ’60s he immersed himself in the works of committed writers and those produced in the writers’ workshops at the UP and Silliman University. He observed, “In the ’70s there emerged alternative forms–resistance literature, underground writing, literature of refusal–many expressed in forthright language in underground publications, some in veiled forms such as allegory like Pete Lacaba’s acrostic poem published in above-ground journals. Others were circulated by hand in mimeograph like Hulagpos or Mga Tula ng Rebolusyon.”

He read the works of writers groups like Galian sa Arte at Tula, Philippine Literary Arts Council with its journal Caracoa, Philippine Writers Union with its Siglaya and Mithi. This literary scholar delved into the regional cultural forms such as the isymaling (Samar), baliling (Mindanao), composo (Negros), salidom-ay (Ilocos) that underground writers appropriated. He called all these “emergent writing” or “anti-hegemonic literature.”

While wartime matured his generation, he said of the generations after him and the possibility of social justice being achieved, finally: “Each generation of writers will figure out what oppresses them. Our generation was traumatized by the war or we experienced direct oppression. We knew what we missed–peace and freedom. But the Cold War affected us in another way.”

He noted the “escapist trend in writing. Instead of writing about the war, there was a tendency to look inward. These writers were influenced by the models used by their writing mentors–Joyce’s ‘Araby’ and ‘The Dead,’ Hemingway’s ‘The Killers’ and the stories taught in writers’ workshops. These were tales on self-discovery, disenchantment and disillusion.”

He recalled the question of Wallace Stegner who taught creative writing at Stanford University. In a visit to the Philippines, Stegner asked “Where are the stories about the Huk rebellion, the peasant unrest?”

Ordoñez said, “Our generation was too preoccupied with the craft of fiction and couldn’t be bothered with new hostilities. I shouldn’t generalize, but this was how my generation coped with the Cold War—by turning inward. There are exceptions to be sure.”

Asked who and what he is reading now, he listed Jim Richardson’s Komunista: The Genesis of the PKP 1902-1935, Amelia Lapeña Bonifacio’s Binondo: Once Upon a War, Emmanuel Calairo’s Cavite Sa Digmaan, Luis Teodoro’s Vantage Point and Rizal’s annotated edition of Morga’s Sucesos de Filipinas. He is also rereading Edmund Wilson’s Memoirs of Hecate County.

Four English majors who were his students, then colleagues, at the UP of the ’60s pay him tribute with their memories.

Geraldine C. Maayo, retired professor from the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations and a fictionist, said Ordoñez “had a gentle disposition, a gentle voice. Everything about him was gentle: the way he walked, the way he lectured. He had just come from Oxford. He was an authority on Joseph Conrad. But we never saw anything in him that suggested that he thought he was and should be recognized as an authority. He always lectured in that gentle voice of his, occasionally smiling. He always had a prepared lecture. He struck me as a respectful man, respectful of everybody and definitely of his students. Also a bit shy.”

She said of him as a writer, “I like the way he writes, what he writes about. We converge in this aspect. We write of things that are very personal to us. We are both nostalgia persons, sentimental persons.”

Poet-novelist Mila D. Aguilar recalled that Ordoñez was her last Research in Comparative Lit professor before she graduated in’69. She had taken too many Humanities subjects and had forgotten about this requirement.

She said, “He gave me a 1.0 (Excellent) and got me to teach at the department the very semester after without my having to get my transcript of records. Elmer was a thorough liberal, kind to a fault. When he got me to teach, together with Charito Ramirez and Gelacio Guillermo, he shoved aside many other applicants who were waiting in the wings. He would not have known that the three instructors he recruited subsequently became radical, if not apparently yet. The ones he shunted were absolute conservatives. As a result, he was labelled a progressive, in fact blamed when the three of us disappeared into the netherworld of the underground.”

Now that she relates to him as a friend, she said, “Elmer is still the same, thoroughly liberal and kind to a fault. He has a wide-ranging view of things, insisting that Emilio Aguinaldo was not a traitor for the simple reason that he listened to the prominent people of Cavite where he lived.”

Yet, she continued, “he can be very truthful. In 2000, I asked for his recommendation for a renewed teaching post in the English department. He correctly stated that though I was creative and all, my weakness was in research. That got me to rethink my life. From then on I became an avid researcher if not in physical libraries, which I still find difficult to access, at least on Google and the Internet.”

Essayist-fictionist Jenny Llaguno described Ordoñez as “the quintessential mentor—was, is and will be ever patient, ever brilliant, ever shy, ever soft-spoken. He has a lodestone of wisdom to share. This has not changed in the thirty years of my relationship with him as a student, editor and friend.”

She noticed that lately “he is not as quick to answer because of hearing impairment. His voice falters before an audience. His hair has turned grey, but these are changes brought on by time and loss. A certain melancholy vis-a-vis a certain smile shades his face, a certain longing, too, for his wife. He taught me how to focus when I got derailed in answering an examination question, how to copyedit/proofread, how to be discursive. He has not really changed.”

Essayist-book artist Delfin Tolentino Jr. of UP Baguio recalled being in Ordoñez’s Modern British Literature class. “I was on my way to getting a flat 1.0 until I flunked a long exam where I attributed a couple of excerpts to the wrong poets. The bluffer was finally caught!”

He continued, “Elmer was the department chair at the time. They were the heady days of activism. We pilloried him for refusing to get involved. His radicalization came later. By that time, we were no longer in touch. When we met again after his exile, his first words to me were: ‘Delfin, I am no longer a wishy-washy liberal!’”—Elizabeth Lolarga

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Among my Palawan souvenirs

As Beng Valdellon, Eileen Lolarga and I prepared for our four-day trip to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, two weekends ago, my niece Bianca asked her mother, who's my sister Pinky, how come she (Pinky) didn't have cousins her age who were also barkada so they could go on similar trips?

Her mom's quick and sensible reply was: "It's because they're all the eldest. There's just a few of them. If it were us, the middle children, there'd be too many. That's why it's easier for the panganay and the bunso to organize themselves. They're only a few."

I didn't go shopping in Palawan. Instead I took lots of pictures. Some of them I'm going to have printed out on sturdy paper in multiples so I can have a set of Palawan postcards with my name printed at the back, cards to mail from there when I return.

Palawan, mon amour, hope we connect a second time around and with the same companions, mis primas Beng y Eileen.

Morning has broken: View from the Philippine Airlines window

A post inside Kainato restaurant painted with this flower

Decorative wooden sculptures inside the resto

The look of the sky as the car zipped down the highway

View from the balcony of the Sandybridge Ecofarm in San Rafael, a barangay an hour's drive away from downtown Puerto Princesa

Our room with a view

Detail on my embroidered pillowcase

Stained glass door opens to another balcony with a view.

The divan I intended to lie on to read a book but never once got to because of a packed schedule. What did they say about vacations? When one returns home, one is in need of a vacation again.

I'll stop with this image. Our hostess, Relly Bridge, always ensured there were fresh flowers on the dining table, all from her garden. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nelly Miricioiu: First-rate musician and human being | Vera Files

Nelly Miricioiu: First-rate musician and human being | Vera Files

In a sentimental mood

I was born in the Year of the Sheep so this new lunar year is supposed to be a good one for me. I'm not taking a chance on leaving it all to fate. So certain decisions I am firm about, more firm than usual. My January surgery and the prognosis that the tumor removed from me was benign prodded me to value my family and friends double their worth in my life. They are my true riches, indeed.

So when a friend invites me over and my calendar is empty, especially on a new holiday like yesterday's Chinese New Year, I go without hesitation. If the visit is over and there's time and no appointments for the next day that require my turning in early, I inquire from other friends living nearby if I may visit. "Oh do not ask 'What is it? Let us go and make our visit." Thanks for the line, T.S. Eliot. I seem to be living it!

GCF's insight on hugging: "The vaster your hugging experience and the older you get, the more people you get to embrace." Read more: Photo by Franco Regalado

And at lost last, someone took a picture of me and Gilda in a pose I've always wanted to do with her: my hugging her from behind. She has this extremely instructive essay on how to calibrate a hug so that it's sincere and not uncomfortable or showing emotional neediness. She's aware I've always been an awkward hugger so where best to learn the rules than from the master herself?

It was a good way to end an early evening together so I could move to the next visit at nearby Fisher Mall where I met up with Bobbie Malay and Satur Ocampo. I always run into them at book launches or similar events, but we never get to go beyond the surface greetings. This time it was just the three of us talking about our families, children and grandkids, what true fulfillment is like over a light meal at Kokoro Ramenya. You never get to talk about these subjects at length in a noisy party.

Earlier, we browsed through a pile of books on sale at P10 pesos each and up. I brought home four; the couple brought home their own stash of Filipino-authored titles.

Like old folks with little time left, we promised to do it again, and they said they would also visit their almost next-door neighbor Gilda who has an injury on her dominant right hand and temporarily can't write or paint.

The ladies talked about cafes and artsy places in the city. Then it hit me, and I said aloud, "Why go to artsy cafes? I'll take Gilda's boudoir anytime. The hot chocolate with fresh pinipig is always good." Cora Alvina (right) heartily agreed. The others in the picture are (clockwise): a retired accountant who wants to study art, Gilda's neurologist Dr. Bernardo, Gilda and Marissa Alegre Macuja.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The doctor is in the house

Our version of Doc McStuffins arrived yesterday. I realized how tall she has grown when I learned she could reach up and press the doorbell. When she hugged me, I felt I was hugging a big child from her strong squeeze as she hugged me back. But she still loves to play pretend. Her Granny Su (my sister Suzy) brought out the stuffed toys and that kept The Wee One busy for awhile.

She didn't bring her toy medical kit in her luggage from Baguio. So the real doctor in the house, her Lolo Doc Dennis, lent his stethoscope, Granny Su her magnifying glass and mini flashlight, and off she flew with her imagination. She looked at Suzy's hand and diagnosed, "You have a splinter!" You can imagine how proud her Booboo was at her growing vocabulary. Photos by Booboo Babeth

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Finding Your Voice, Leaving a Legacy

Visit to reserve a slot.

My Twitter pal from Greece

If you look close enough, there's some kind of watermark on the upper left side that gives the name of the photographer. Anna Papadopoulou sent me this via Twitter last night after I thanked her for her tweets, mainly images like this one, that I find solace in after a day's work. Twitter, like many popular social media platforms, can be noisy and busy. Once in awhile, I happen upon something as soothing as a girl in pink.

And this served as my thank-you "note" to Anna P of Corfu, Greece. Someday we will meet, and I hope it'll be in a Grecian isle. These pink, orange and yellow flowers grow abundantly in what once was my Dad's garden, now tended by Mom and my bro Dennis. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, February 16, 2015

Turtle tale

Sarah Vaughan is singing in the background, enticing me to be flown to the moon. But today I am earth-bound because of work duties. Still, I want to pause and post something for this Monday.

Since yesterday's post was about our pet Bruno, the seven-year-old mini pug, today's inspiration is an anonymous turtle that caused a minor search-and-rescue mission in the clean, almost antiseptic setting of an Ayala mall area (near Greenbelt 5), that space that once was occupied by The Aviary. If you're from the '70s period, you know what spot of Ayala Land in Makati that I'm referring to.

The security guard assigned to ArtistSpace behind Ayala Museum came alive and was suddenly speaking into his walkie talkie. I overheard the panicked words, "Nakawala yung pagong!"

Curious me followed him as he stepped out of the gallery in a hurry. The pictures tell the story better.

The one that almost got away

Handsome fellow

Back in his element Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bruno, the youngest senior citizen

It's fit to be consumed by people like me, a butter-frosted chocolate cake with Bruno's portrait baked by Classic Confections on Brixton street, Barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City. Giveaways are some sugar cookies.

My student once asked me during an interviewing exercise in class: "Teach, are you a dog or a cat person?"

My answer was diplomatic: "I live with dogs, but I love cats."

Our neighbors in Baguio are cat people whose pets sometimes run wild and upset plants in my granddaughter's secret garden, to my husband's mortification. Still I admire the grace and independence of cats. Their scavenging instincts are still strong, the call of the wild still present. And they have such dignity.

Dogs are different. They need their human master's attention and companionship.

Our dogs in Pasig are the family's babies. The first one is a mini pin, the other a mini pug. The older one is Bogart, the younger Bruno. Bogart is fierce, the perfect guard dog, scandalous in his barking. Bruno is gentle and quiet when awake and a loud snorer when asleep. He is one of those creatures who lives to eat, not eats to live.

In dog years, he's slightly older than me. I will become a senior citizen this year. But in human years, Bruno is only seven.

The works! A tarp, balloons and human-friendly cookies

So his humans, my kid sis Gigi and our adopted sister Ruth, decided to throw a party for him today, complete with balloons, birthday cake, party favors, a pabitin for the tots, our grandnephew Jared and grandniece Machiko, who'll be dropping by.

I'm excited. I have rehearsed my number for the short program. I'll serenade Bruno with "My Funny Valentine."

Excuse me while switch to my blue and yellow costume. I'll be the biggest minion in the world!

Blue and yellow are the colors of the day.