Sunday, May 24, 2015

The odd mango

The rains have come. I wonder how long will the season's sweetest mango harvest last. The long dry spell for the lowland farms with cracked earth meant more flowers for the mango trees, thus more of the juicy, fibrous fruit, higher blood sugar content and deeper pleasures of the palate.

But one day, among the basket of fruits that Rolly brought home (this may have gone unnoticed when he bought them), my family came upon this sight. We didnt' know whether to laugh at its strangeness or to consider it a freak of Nature. I imagined that someone must have left a yellow rubber ducky or something close to its shape high up a mango tree branch, and the fruit morphed into this.

The little odd mango had staying power. We left it where it was until it started to look slightly bruised to indicate a ripening. I took that cue to peel it gently until it was in its full yellow orange naked glory. I proceeded to relish--yes, yum dee dee yum yum. It had all the stickiness of summer in it. Then I got to the tip or the head of the fruit. It turned out to be a second seed attached to the bigger one. Yes, almost like a baby mango with the same texture and flavor, only smaller.

Odd-looking,yes, but it was good. Nothing like a Philippine mango. Wherever you travel, wherever you roam, be glad, be happy we have these mangoes at home.

Thank you, summer of 2015. You have been odd but as good as a mango ripened by an unusually long drought.

And look, there's a second one! Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Endurance lessons from water, air, leaves

"She described the reasons 'why I should go on living.'

"That my life was not for myself alone, but also for others around me, especially for those with whom I have a strong emotional spite of growing old and infirm, I still had the ability to give something to others. This sense of being able to give and not just take, makes living worthwhile. When the mind and brain still function, one can contribute even a tiny bit for the benefit of those with whom one has a relationship of love and trust."
- Sherwin Nuland quoting a letter from his friend Ruby Chatterjee

Before officially crossing over to the year of grace (so-called because one is undeserving of it but it is still being given, perhaps not just another 365 days, maybe more), I've been reading up on aging. The book beside my bed these past nights is Dr. Nuland's The Art of Aging: A Doctor's Prescription for Well-being (a Random House book published in '07).

The small discomforts of physical aging are not yet pronounced, although I'm starting to feel them. But I don't pay heed to them during walks with The Wee One. She isn't so wee anymore. A few days ago, she declared with surety one morning, while gazing up at me, that she wasn't that small anymore, that her head of soft curls could now reach my belly button area.

Our extended family of born free creatures now includes these fish that gotta swim and the wild birds (ravens?) that gotta fly, then rest on tree's branches before they zip to other parts of Baguio.

During those walks, she'd skip, hop, run, climb, ask to be pushed high when she's on the playground swing. I am just her onlooker-observer, someone to sometimes hold hands with. She always chooses the path to take for those walks and leads the way. A "must" stopover is the village pond. She speaks low to remind me that we have to tiptoe. Then she puts her pointer finger across her lips to mean we shouldn't use our normal conversation voices. Otherwise, the school of fish swimming close to the murky, bottle-green surface of the water will quickly dive below.

Her eyes and powers of observation are sharper than mine. At times she even directs me to the direction of the wind that's rippling the water's surface. She notices the reflection of trees and ferns, the unusual shapes made by the morning shadows cast by capiz lamps that hang from the branches of a pine tree.

The strange shapes formed on the water's surface by a summer breeze, trees "growing" on water, the shadows cast by the trees--these are the things The Wee One and I delight in during the summer of her fourth year in this world.

Her lesson isn't lost on this aging woman. To enjoy a sacred Sunday like today, one must stay close to the Present and not fret about tomorrow and the days after it.

I hope that with my companionship, I've also contributed something to her life.

A friend once described her thoughts when she became a grandparent: "It's a great feeling! We all didn't like the idea of growing old. But you can't be a grandma without getting old." Photos by Babeth

Monday, May 11, 2015

That I be made worthy of the life my mother, and other mothers, gave me

Mommy Photo by her second-born child Evelyn Marie L. Trinidad

Ninang Jane, who my sister calls the family's Audrey Hepburn, and daughter Tina

Mom and Ninang Andeng at the opening of the blogger's solo show of paintings "Bling Blings and Lucky Me" in 2010. As mom's OB-Gyn, Dr. Andrea Enrile Dimayuga saw my seven siblings and me grow from babyhood to adults. We're still text mates. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Graceful convalescent Nieves Benito Epistola or Mrs. E, outstanding literary educator and author of the posthumously published On Playing the Emperor's Game and Other Poems (University of the Philippines Press), in recovery after surgery at the Philippine General Hospital, is shown with a visitor. Despite the thorough health clearance she received from the doctors, she died in September 2002, leaving generations of students bereft.

There are many prayers, memorized ones, imprinted by those 13 years--from nursery to senior high--spent at St. Paul College of Quezon City. Paulinians are Pollyannas through and through. (Mom once said she sent most of her daughters to SPCQC primarily because it was also the alma mater of her eldest and favorite niece Jane Pearl Server who became my godmother when she was barely 12 or 13. She eventually married and became Jane Banzhaf, then left the world too soon in 2008)

Our school anthem "Hark, Daughters of the great St. Paul" I can still sing without missing a line and a beat, unlike UP Naming Mahal where I falter in many parts. Perhaps it was the almost weekly singing of it, in Mass, at convocations and other official functions at the old social hall. During the two homecomings I attended as a silver jubilarian and ruby-larian, my classmates and I sang it the glorious, gorgeous anthem with gusto along with the other alumni, faculty and St. Paul de Chartres nuns.

A "Hail Mary" is handy for hail-Mary situations when you live life on a slight wing and a whispered prayer. But what I loved about the Holy Rosary in my childhood-youth is the poetry in The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary where all of Mary's titles are recited, and there's a chorus of "Pray for us" for every title declared.

Last two memorable times I heard these recited were after the deaths of two women--at the tradition called pa-siyam, or ninth day (or was it the 40th day? memory has become treacherous) after death. It was Pete Daroy, another guy who left too soon, who pointed out after the prayers were done how beautiful were the exalted titles of Mary.

Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins
Mother of Christ
Mother of divine grace
Mother most pure
Mother most chaste
Mother inviolate
Mother undefiled
Mother most amiable
Mother most admirable
Mother of good counsel
Mother of our Creator
Mother of our Savior
Virgin most prudent
Virgin most venerable
Virgin most renowned
Virgin most powerful
Virgin most merciful
Virgin most faithful
Mirror of justice
Seat of wisdom
Cause of our joy
Spiritual vessel
Vessel of honor
Singular vessel of devotion
Mystical rose
Tower of David
Tower of ivory
House of gold
Ark of the Covenant
Gate of Heaven
Morning star
Health of the sick
Refuge of sinners
Comforter of the afflicted
Help of Christians
Queen of Angels
Queen of Patriarchs
Queen of Prophets
Queen of Apostles
Queen of Martyrs
Queen of Confessors
Queen of Virgins
Queen of all Saints
Queen conceived without original sin
Queen assumed into heaven
Queen of the most holy Rosary
Queen of Peace

Yesterday, Mother's Day, many parts of Baguio, except the central business district, lost power due to an accident somewhere along Bokawkan Road. So it was explained to us when we reported the brownout that turned into a blackout until power resumed at almost midnight. Part of my drafts for many things, this blog included, got lost before I could press Control "Save."

So early today, I spent a good time reconstructing some letters, including this letter to the world, a belated tribute to my biological mother, Gliceria "Nene" Lolarga, and my godmothers, among them, Jane Pearl Server-Banzhaf, Andrea Enrile-Dimayuga and Nieves B. Epistola. I've had many other mothers, but now that I'm closer to becoming a senior citizen, it's time I stopped the search for other maternal figures and dive fully into the matrix that Mary had set as standard. It's tough going, but the important thing is to try. Even if one fails gloriously at it, "what matters most," as another song goes, "is that we love at all."

Hail Mothers!

Following is a gallery of mothers in my life, all important in my becoming. I spent dawn of Mother's Day sweeping through my photo files for these pictures. I had no intention of ignoring the other moms who people my life on account of difficulty in image retrieval.

Kai, formerly Butones, when she was still a really wee one with her Mamay Kimi

My newest niece Jaja Jorge Susi (standing, second from left) with husband Paolo and infant son Jared. Next to her is my niece and goddaughter Marga with her daughter Max (in purple), Kimi with Kai before her, and my youngest girl Ida. Holding hands with Max is her Tita Bianca. Photo by Junic Lolarga

Living National Treasure (by popular opinion rather than official dicta) Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa, a nanay to many dancers. She's the one behind the revival of the dance form pangalay. She did extensive research and documentation of our Sulu archipelago's culture. Photo courtesy of Nanette Matilac

Some Baguio mamas and mamitas I know seen a year ago in June at a Baguio Writers Group kulitan or manuscript workshop: Leonisa "Leonie" Bautista, co-author (with Adelaida Lim) of A Matter of Taste: The Culinary Memoirs of Jean McGarvin de Vera, Merci Javier Dulawan, BWG treasurer and co-author of the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary book Indigenous Earth Wisdom: A Documentation of the Cosmologies of the Indigenous Peoples of the Cordillera (along with Judy Cariño Fangloy, Vicky Macay, Maria Elena Pegpala and Lucia Ruiz), and Toottee Chanco Pacis, businesswoman and author of Look Ma! I Can Cook, one of the first Anvil cookbooks, now out of print. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Two more Baguio-based mamas, Marie Therese Jison (left) and Laarni Ilagan have raised sons with special needs. Therese's JJ, now going on 45, was my classmate under art tutor Norman Chow. Laarni's boys, Sam-ang and Talek, were once my students at a children's creative writing workshop at the UP Baguio's Summer Arts Festival. (I remember that summer distinctly because Session Road was closed on Earth Day so that the public could draw and write odes to Mama Nature. That summer I also had students uniquely named River and Sky.) Photo by Babeth Lolarga

For conversations about life and its meaning, literature, the ways of women and men, music and musicians, I enjoy the company of Pablo Tariman (who is both grandfather and Tatay-Nanay to grandson Emman), Anna Leah, whose grandkids call her "Inana", and occasionally Cecile who has this deep, full-throated laughter. It's the pianist's 53rd birthday today. Here they're seen at Cecile's favorite Pinoy restaurant hangout when she's in Manila: Aristocrat on Roxas Blvd. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Ahhh, the Araos women, Liwa, Waya and their mother Melen, in the glow of the old Cafe Juanita's lights. Incomparable women they are with a zest for life and love and the delicious food that bridges life and love! Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

Then breastfeeding mom Silahis Ocampo-Peckley glows while she holds second son Araw. Her church wedding in Bontoc was the biggest nuptial I've ever attended. Her husband Danny's family fed the entire community in and out of a gymnasium during the luncheon reception. Unforgettable for me because I stood as ninang and never was I more conscious of what I wore and how I walked. Looking back, I didn't even march down the aisle during my own wedding, even if the priest's assistant laid out the red carpet for me. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

I cannot write or say the word "breastfeeding" without recalling Mercy Lactao Fabros, my Lamaze teacher who continues to be a reproductive health/women's right activist. Here she's with her granddaughter Alon at the old Kiss the Cook Gourmet. Mercy also became my daughter Kimi's Lamaze teacher so she also calls our Kai her apo. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

That's Liwa again with Evelyn R. San Buenaventura, former Commission on Audit commissioner, civic leader and mother not just to her children but to a community of indigenous peoples, the Aetas of Barangay Bayanbayanan in Bataan. Waya Araos Wijangco introduced me to her, and we've stayed in touch. The lesson I learned from Evelyn is the more you give of your time, especially Time, and resources, the richer you are, the more fulfilled your life becomes as it continues to unfold.

That's small-but-terrible (in a good way) soprano Myramae Meneses with her teacher Camille Lopez Molina, big mama to the Viva Voce singers. Camille, mother to two girls and a son as darling as mocha java, has seen to the personal and career growth of at least 10 singers in her fold. As a group, they're coming up to Baguio in less than two weeks to do a matinee concert on "Evolution of OPM" at 2 p.m. May 23 at the University of Baguio Centennial Hall, then sing at the anticipated Mass at 5 p.m. at the St. Joseph the Worker Church at Pacdal Circle. On May 24 Viva Voce prepares to sing Puccini's operatic love tale La Boheme (with a Baguio setting instead of Paris' Latin Quarter) in a concert at 8:15 p.m. Hill Station inside Casa Vallejo. Myramae reprises the role of Musetta. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

I like this picture of the 2013 Maningning Miclat night of poetry and music. That's direk Jerry Respeto asking the people involved in the program, including that year's poetry competition winners and two National Artists, to compress for a group picture. Others in the photo include mamas Fe B. Mangahas, Julie Lluch, Banaue Miclat Janssen carrying son Raja, Mary Anne Espina, the Mama Mary of the piano, and Alma Cruz Miclat. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

They must've been sisters in a past life. Gilda Cordero Fernando is not just Mommy to four children but a wise elder and kalog friend to over three generations of visual artists, writers, stage and film directors, historians, costume and production designers, etc. By working with the most creative and innovative collaborators, she conceived and saw the fruition of book and stage productions that were always ahead of their time. Thus did she make it easier for others to follow. Wise woman Mariel Francisco's advocacy for health and total wellness (a better integration of mind, body and spirit) is also a door opener for many. Photo by Anna Leah Sarabia

These are the ladies who lunch on birthdays and other special occasions and who occasionally go out of town (here we're caught having coffee or hot choco at Antonio's in Tagaytay). They are all mothers, even the bachelorettes in the group (clockwise): bandana girl, Corito Llamas, founding editor of Food Magazine, Angge Goloy, mom to my pen pal Giselle, Chato Garcellano, best editor and heart adviser I had the privilege of working with and mom to teacher Rhissa and artist Lyra, and Ester Dipasupil, stand-in mom for the late Sonia Barros Dipasupil's children Kiko, Miranda and Leon.

Back to Mommy Lolarga, greatly blessed to see her three great grandchildren Max, Jared and Kai Photo by Gigi Lolarga

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Heaven must be missing an angel

Distracted by the caw of birds on a tree somewhere at Camp John Hay's playground

It's that old song from the disco decade of the'70s that spins in my head when it's playground time with the not so Wee One. She has been going through a tremendous growth spurt this summer after she turned four. Her toddler-length pajamas now look like capris when she goes out to play.

This granny goose wants to tell her, "Please don't rush into childhood full throttle. Live some baby-like things for me to enjoy." But Father Time can't be stopped.

Last year, the slide was something she'd just climb and once on top, she'd gaze down, doubt and fear commingling on her face. These days, she doesn't use the ladder to get up anymore but hauls herself counter-flow style. Her grip on the slide's rails are firm, and she doesn't ask for assistance. Now and then, she goes through a bump on the slide and when she hits bottom, she stands up, wipes her behind and says, "That was ouchy!" Then repeats the cycle.
Shakespeare was right: "And though she be but little, she is fierce."

I have this bookmark given by a Brahma Kumaris follower. On one side is a quotation that reads: "An angel's face is still because there are no lies inside. Truth makes it a straight, simple face whose beauty lies not in its form but in the feeling it gives you."

I sound too serious quoting that line. Better return to disco mode:

Heaven must be missin' an angel
Missin' one angel child
'Cause you're here with me right now
(your love is heavenly, baby)
(heavenly to me, baby)...

There's a rainbow over my shoulder (ooh, ooh)
When you came, my cup runneth over (ooh, ooh)
You gave me your heavenly love
And if one night you hear crying from above
It's 'cause heaven must be missin' an angel
Missin, one angel child
'Cause you're here with me right now

Rough landing, you can tell from the grimace on her face Photos by Booboo Babeth

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Poetry in stillness

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry."Emily Dickinson

Photos of Bric-a-Brac the book by Babeth Lolarga

While going through the heaps of digitized and re-sized photos saved on the hard drive of this computer that I'm using, I saw or "read" the book art made by Baguio artist and scholar Del Tolentino for his "Bric-a-Brac" exhibition over a year ago at Mt Cloud Bookshop. I had written about that show for (See

These are the "out-takes" from that article, the photos not sent and that stayed behind.

While again "flipping" through the pages of the the book Bric-a-Brac (scrolling through the photos, I mean), I realized how the biography of a person can be told through a series of still life. There is the thoughtfulness behind the selection of what bric, what brac should go into a home. Clearly the man is an aesthete, too --from the books to the bookends to the lamps to each exquisite piece of china, textile, wooden figurine, basketry, earthenware.

There is also the intellectual history of the person in the book titles that remain on display for he is also known as someone who generously gives away the books he has read. But what remains behind--there's the telling tale.

We always thank writers, whether from the classic canon or those from the margins, who shaped what we were and are today. My sister wrote recently to say how she overstayed by choice with Nancy Drew creator Carolyn Keene for the sheer pleasure of it.

I thank a living book artist for "writing", through his images and some words, that there is poetry in the unnoticed spots and swirls on a leaf, in the profile of a wayang kulit puppet, in the light bouncing off the cheek of a waxed mask...and more!