Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Camelot in the sky

Kai/Butones/The Wee One and I were both dressed warmly to catch another sunset in our lives. We knew how the temperature could take a sudden dip so we arrived at our special spot quite prepared with caps and jackets on.

Although the sun was so radiant at 4:22 p.m., when we reached our high spot, it was suddenly awash with gray--low clouds, fog rolling in, etc., the things that make the City of (vanishing) Pines so appealing to migrants like my family. These are the same elements that lured the American colonialists in the past to seek for their sweaty pale skin the coolness of a hill station. The Cordilleras' rich earth was (still is in some parts) a magnet for miners and mining companies with dreams of striking it richer than rich.

To me Baguio remains that special time-space continuum that allows countless others to come up and begin their lives afresh.

To those who love the Baguio that was, that still is and that, with all our hopes, still can be, here's my sonata of photos in the sequence that I took them, a vision of a sunset that looked like a moon rise.

This was a Holy Tuesday afternoon that was not entirely wasted.

Thanks, Kai, for keeping me company again in this city of my misspent youth, a city that hopefully will be haven for a graceful ageing.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, March 29, 2015

She always walks ahead

Because she is 56 years younger than me, she moves faster, is more impatient than I am for things to happen and is always turning her head of natural curls to check if I'm following her. That's Kai/Butones/The Wee One at three years old going on four in a few more days.

She maps out our walking route for the day and doesn't fail to remind me, "Bring your camera, Booboo." She also knows when she is tired, and it's time to head home for a glass of water and a snack. Once indoors, our activities change depending on her interest from moment to moment. Which makes it hard for me to concentrate on something like composing a blog about how our morning went after a light breakfast.

It's quiet. I think another family elder, her mother in all likelihood, told her to take a nap. Now for some composition-for-the-day time.

Waiting for Booboo to catch up

"Come, follow me."

Checking if her big shadow is within sight


...to say "You don't have to take my pictures all the time. Hmph!"

She climbs the bench from where we like to gaze at a fishpond.

She doesn't sit down, jumps down, then...

...takes a long look at the pond to check on the koi if they're swimming near the surface.

Those are the fish we address with a song we make up by yourselves. To the tune of anything we softly sing words like: "Hello, fish in the pond, we are here with you today. It's a Sunday. We hope you like our song. Don't be scared. We just want to say hello. Did you sleep well? Do you dream of the ocean or are you happy in your pond?"

The Wee One sings softly so as not to frighten the koi away.

Then it's pasikat (show-off) time. Runs and jumps from one low rock to another.

If she runs ahead of me, it's okay so long as it's not on any road.

Our kyootie patootie is human, too. She tires and has to Take Five.

She wants to take pictures now and then. She's actually skilled already as far as framing, like this one of her Booboo, is concerned. Spoken (or written) like a proud lola should.

She can evaluate her work and declare, "Hmmm, this one has too much light!" Naks!

She chooses the particular stair where she wants her picture taken before saying that the walk is finished.

Photos by Kai Fernandez and Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Days like these...

...you wish you have your own fishbowl. Of course one that can fit you and me. The heat is on!

These are photos from my first, and in all probability my last, trip to Batanes in March 1998, the Centennial Year of the Philippine Republic. I was with a group of scholars (Del Tolentino, Ben Tapang, Weng Boquiren, Nela Florendo, and Rolly Fernandez when he was still actively teaching and not gardening).

I did get around to having these panoramic photos printed to illustrate an article in Chato Garcellano's Travel page in the Inquirer. It's among the selected essays included in my collection Catholic and Emancipated (UST Publishing House). Call that previous sentence an outright plug. (Copies are still available at better bookstores.)

The next time the pictures were printed was when old friend Jerry Araos, who founded the artists' guild Salakai, organized "Alay sa Kawani," simultaneous exhibitions of the members, including this wanna-be photog, at the GSIS Museum on Roxas Blvd.

I called my photo show that included poetry "Lost in Batanes." Jerry wanted to do an on-the-spot translation of my poem with the same title in Filipino while he was choosing the photos that would be enlarged by a friend of his who lived in Forbes Park, Makati. But we were in the thick of preparations. I even had to frame my photos with help from Jerry and Melen's daughter Roja who did the matting. How's that for hands-on training?

Call these the pinagpilian or the outtakes. Some I have also been given away as mementos to friends who were interested in them.

Okay, since my blog has had over 230,000 views, I'm giving the rest of these pictures away to the readers who happen by. Just write to me in the comments section, leave your email, and I shall find a way to reach you and mail the pics. These are my thank-you gifts to you, dearest reader, for sticking with Brookside Baby. The first eight who comment receive a photo each.

These are the only prints left. The negatives are lost to Forever and a Day.


All photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adventures with Sister Suzy

Our Merry Maller at the Capitol Commons Estancia something or other

Ellen Suzanne Lolarga is my number two sister (before her is Evelyn Marie or Embeng and after her are Genevieve Therese, Pinky for short, and Eugenia Celerina, just Gigi to all). I was five years old when Suzy was born.

I still remember seeing my mother going into labor. My Dad, yaya and I accompanied Mom to the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center. When Mom was wheeled into the delivery room on a gurney, she waved to Dad with instructions for the yaya to walk me home. That was my first memory of Su, as she was about to enter our lives.

My second memory of her was at Luneta Park in the early '60s (not Doroy Valencia's Rizal Park yet). We were near the breakwaters: Mom, the yaya, Suzy and me. I had the urge to pee. There were no portalets then. So Mom brought me to peepee by a bush, but I got bitten by ants on my buttocks, and I squealed like the piglet I can be sometimes. So Mom and yaya had to brush off the ants. Meanwhile, Suzy, a toddler by then, wandered away. When the adults realized she was amiss, it was Press the Panic Button time.

That must have been a weekend; there were just too many people (already!) then. Meanwhile, I remember being held by my hand tightly so I couldn't go astray either as Mom and yaya searched high and low for Suzy by which time, Mom being Mom, was in near hysterics. From the park we walked all the way to The Manila Hotel. It was already dark. As we approached the hotel, a car's headlights were switched on--and there was Suzy in the light, still dressed up like a doll with her bonnet and little handbag.

Whenever this story is recalled in family conversations, Gigi never fails to say that it was a sign of things to come. That is, Suzy would turn into a Merry Maller. On certain after-school days or weekends, that's what she does for exercise. Now and then she picks up a knickknack or three, most especially children's books from Book Sale that she can use for her Montessori class or to give to her grandnieces Max and Kai and grandnephew Jared.

The rest of the abubots are stashed in her aparador. Whenever there's a birthday, a wedding or similar festive occasions, she always has something ready. When we have no time to shop, we go to her and request for a suitable item when a friend or family member is having a thing (birthday or anniversary). Of course, we pay up.

Kind, gentle to all the wee ones in our lives, Suzy is shown here wiping traces of ube ice cream from Jared Susi's mouth.

This makes Suzy the perfect steward of our household budget now that Mom is retired from that. She settles the electric, phone, Wifi and water bills, does the groceries (the others contribute, too).

Every family needs a Suzy who is quiet, dependable, loves little children and lets them go to her for comfort and loving loving. And she is that silent patron of art and music, a cultural soldier, daresay I. She's gonna pinch me tonight (she's my roommate when I'm at Mom's).

Happy birth month, sis!

Suzy with tenor Arthur Espiritu, the prince of cantabile, a title given him by music reviewer Pablo Tariman, at Ayala Museum in 2013. This was at a post-Yolanda fundraising concert called "Arthur Espiritu and Friends." The other singers were sopranos Myramae Meneses and Kay Balajadia-Liggayu and tenor Nomher Nival.

Tenor Nomher Nival in a relaxed moment after "Donizetti and Friends," the last of two Opera Gala series featuring the participants in the first intensive vocal workshop/master class in the Philippines of soprano great Nelly Miricioiu Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Last Saturday (March 21), her birthday, she spent the evening with me at the Ayala Museum. Tenor Nomher Nival dedicated the penultimate number in the Opera Gala recital called Donizetti and Friends "to Suzy."

Following is the English translation of the aria, Donizetti's "Una Furtiva Lagrima," from the Italian comic opera L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love):

A single secret tear
from her eye did spring:
as if she envied all the youths
that laughingly passed her by.
What more searching need I do?
What more searching need I do?
She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
For just an instant the beating
of her beautiful heart I could feel!
As if my sighs were hers,
and her sighs were mine!
The beating, the beating of her heart I could feel,
to merge my sighs with hers...
Heavens! Yes, I could die!
I could ask for nothing more, nothing more.
Oh, heavens! Yes, I could, I could die!
I could ask for nothing more, nothing more.
Yes, I could die! Yes, I could die of love.

Thank you, Joseph Uy and Nomher, for making Suzy happy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Painting again. Ahhhh! That feels good

With 98 percent of my writing deadlines already met and with a sudden fluctuation of electricity early today, the home-office's Wifi was down for most of the daylight hours. No connectivity whatsoever, which is torture if you make your living as a communicator. The Wifi turned okay a few minutes ago.

Not used to being idle, I brought out my brushes, canvas pads, paints, sketchbook and worked from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. outdoors, opening a golf umbrella to protect my acrylics from the sun's mercilessness.

I remembered to document how it more or less began because this was all about the undoing of my "painter's block" equivalent to a "writer's block" that had made my painting hands lie still since November 2013 (a traumatic time for all, the post-Yolanda period).

Since then I've been trying to find the right and ripe time for painting. Well, what do you know! It just needed a gentle push from a flickering Wifi signal to say, "Return to your brushes. Keep the pen, the keyboard still for a while."

The work remains unfinished. Will resume work in the morrow, this time concentrating on the image in the middle--a vase whose lid is closed.

Background first

It's gaining some form and content. I've re-discovered that I must allow for some random things to happen like smudges or accidental spills. That I shouldn't panic. This ain't a race against a deadline. That's when the colors I originally applied take on different hues as I packed in all the leftover paints before I called it a day.

Getting there, getting there. Surprise me tomorrow, Mister Sun! Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My physical parts

"The people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created." - Meghan O’Rourke

I can bonk my head with my fist on some days. I am so busy these days that I cannot even find my own buttocks sometimes. It's almost the end of the schoolyear so there are exams that must be administered, grades computed, evaluations composed apart from everyday writing deadlines. But I can't complain. I love doing all of the above that have to do with becoming a late bloomer of a teacher and an angst-filled writer.

To keep in touch my eldest kid Kimi sends me photos of her daughter, our Wee One. She has quickly grown out of toddler clothes and is turning into a full-grown child with her own smart-ass opinions and tyrannical ways. I wonder from what side of the family she gets it? Hmmmm...

While I was in recovery from assorted ailments and coping with deadlines in school and work, a little milestone occurred in The Wee One's life: Moving Up Day. Although I originally thought that her progressive little school didn't hand out academic honors, apparently it does. Kimi texted me Tuesday that her kid was handed out No. 3 honors in the Top Five of her nursery class.

Of course, the stage lolo can't help but sigh into my phone, "If she weren't so tardy or absent for many reasons, she would have been Number One."

Of course, the lola was furious! Her lines went: "For heaven's sake, Rolly! It's only nursery! Why are you pushing her so hard? Let her have some fun! Be happy that she's happy every time it's time to go to school!!!" And on and on she went until lolo had to say "Bye bye, see you when I see you." Why does the wife/mother/grandmother have to be right all the time? Told ya. That's where the kid got the bossy genes!

Proud Mamay and her daughter

Class of 2014-15, nursery level

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Still life in Imus

"When you understand that you are your soul, then you will experience Life as an expression of the soul." - Neale Donald Walsch

These are old pictures I captured in my secondhand, sputtering digital camera. Somehow I've managed to transfer these to the hard drive. The camera is going kaput any day now.

I took these images from the home of Elmer and Elenita Ordoñez during my first-time visit there on Aug. 21, 2014, with fictionist Geraldine "Ging" Maayo.

I have been (still am) ever grateful to Doc Ordoñez for the generous introduction he gave to my third collection of verses, Big Mama Sez: Poems Old & New, a limited edition book of 55 hard copies or 57 if I count the two proof copies where I did my corrections before final printing. (Its PDF version, however, is the equivalent of an e-book and is readily available to those interested and still believe in e-book's possibilities in terms of reaching an audience.)

While he and Ging chatted in his dining room, I took photos of the interiors of his home. The experience felt like his wife, the late Tita (or Tita Tita as writers younger than her address her), had just stepped out of the house and was expected to return in a bit with flowers for the other vases.

I know that these exquisite odds and ends in the Ordoñez house are Tita Tita's touches, her contribution to turning it into a home. And from her choices, I could also tell right away that they were such sweethearts.

Thank you, Elmer, for letting me into your world. Continue living a beautiful life.

Photos by Babeth Lolarga