Friday, July 31, 2015

Transfigured by music

I'm writing this on the last day of July, the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola for whom this prayer was composed:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do Your will.

St. Ignatius of Loyola,
pray for us.

Front, back and front of the Maestro with some MSO members Photos by Kimi L. Fernandez

You can say today's blog is an offering to the ones who keep the music alive. They help us rest from our labors so we can be energized again to do the Lord's will.

If you grew up on what to others is the "fairy tale" of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph the Worker and Jesus Christ, the poem "Verklärte Nacht" or "Transfigured Night" by German writer Richard Dehmel makes you think of the Holy Family in a big and bigger way. I don't claim knowledge of the context in which the poet wrote it.

Thano Adamopoulos, the visiting Belgian-Greek conductor who led the Manila Symphony Orchestra, particularly its string section in Arnold Schoenberg's "Verklarte Nacht," first turned around to explain to the audience the sounds we were expected to hear to express the emotions going through the protagonists in the poem.

This is a case where a poem inspired the music. My eldest child Kimi, who's into contemporary and pop music, accompanied me to this concert. She was overwhelmed (okay, impressed) by Schoenberg's music despite its initially alien sound. She said of Maestro Adamopoulos's handling of the MSO--"hindi siya pa-sundot-sundot lang". What she meant was that after we heard a mini lecture followed by the performance, by George, we got it! The music wasn't that strange anymore. It was profoundly moving and yes, as the maestro said, cinematic or almost like a film score.

And it was to me the story of Joseph, Mary and the Son of Man in her womb. The two persons in "Transfigured Night" weren't plain sweethearts. I could imagine the expression on Joseph's face as Mary revealed she was with child, and it wasn't his. He is stunned before he accepts and tells her he will raise and embrace the baby as his own. Makes the few remaining hair on my arms go up.

Transfigured Night

Two people walk through a bare, cold grove;
The moon races along with them, they look into it.
The moon races over tall oaks,
No cloud obscures the light from the sky,
Into which the black points of the boughs reach.
A woman’s voice speaks:

I’m carrying a child, and not yours,
I walk in sin beside you.
I have committed a great offense against myself.
I no longer believed I could be happy
And yet I had a strong yearning
For something to fill my life, for the joys of
And for duty; so I committed an effrontery,
So, shuddering, I allowed my sex
To be embraced by a strange man,
And, on top of that, I blessed myself for it.
Now life has taken its revenge:
Now I have met you, oh, you.

She walks with a clumsy gait,
She looks up; the moon is racing along.
Her dark gaze is drowned in light.
A man’s voice speaks:

May the child you conceived
Be no burden to your soul;
Just see how brightly the universe is gleaming!
There’s a glow around everything;
You are floating with me on a cold ocean,
But a special warmth flickers
From you into me, from me into you.
It will transfigure the strange man’s child.
You will bear the child for me, as if it were mine;
You have brought the glow into me,
You have made me like a child myself.

He grasps her around her ample hips.
Their breath kisses in the breeze.
Two people walk through the lofty, bright night.

Saraza both at work and at play

The second part of the concert "Heart, Strings" featured violinist Diomedes Saraza Jr. as soloist in Bizet's "Carmen," Louie Ocampo's "Kahit Isang Saglit" and Willy Cruz's "Sana'y Wala Nang Wakas." MSO Executive Director Jeffrey Solares revealed that the former prodigy was just "Babes" to the MSO when he was a kid. Radio man Bert Robledo calls him "Junjun."

By whatever name he's called the whiz kid from Juilliard School of Music treated the audience to kilig to the bones music meant for drama-ramas or teleserye. Ayos ang gabi! What a good night the 15th of July was.

Souvenir with Maestro and my friend Joseph Uy who's my private music tutor

Monday, July 27, 2015

The oddly named soprano

Girly and girlish despite her manly first and second names of Micah and David, plus a masculine nickname of Mico, with a sharp guttural end-stop on the last vowel "o", soprano Micah David Galang is this year's first featured artist in the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation's Young Artists Series. She sings a program of Mozart, Delibes, Donizetti, Francisco Feliciano, Lucio San Pedro and Agot Espina. Expect to be knocked off your seats when you hear the voice that DZFE's Bert Robledo described as reaching "the stratosphere's high notes." Photos by Babeth Lolarga

With her assisting artist Farley Asuncion (and on performance night, guitarist Angelica Vinculada), Mico will do the Philippine premiere of Feliciano's “Boulevard dela Rosa Rojas” for voice, piano and guitar. It was originally written for Mico's teacher Naomi Sison. Another Filipino treasure of a song to watch out for because it's rarely heard, if at all, is Espina's "Kundiman ng Lahi." This is already making tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Ayala Museum lobby a night to remember.

Her parents, whose romance blossomed at a choir, named Mico after male prophets in their desire for her to become a strong woman. Here she is with Farley, Joseph Uy and Angel Reyes Nacino of the MCO Foundation. Before a performance, she has her "quiet time" no different from her daily devotion either upon waking or before going to sleep." Asked why this devotion is important, she said, "I like to meditate on a biblical verse and write in my journal. I hold on to my faith and personal relation with Jesus. That is where everything should be centered."

Standing at five feet and one inch, Mico has an outdoorsy side that allows her time from her rehearsals to backpack with friends for surfing lessons at the Zambales Crystal Beach Resort where "the waves are nice. I wasn't the sporty type until I tried it. I loved it! I also like to sit on the beach, and just stare at the horizon or watch the sunset. And ponder. Faith is at the core to my being a singer."

The MCOF Young Artists Series is long-standing program of the MCO Foundation that provides performance opportunities for young, budding artists to give them the exposure, experience and endorsement and help them show their talents to the public, and carve a name in the classical music field. Many of the artists that the MCOF has featured have won music scholarships and competitions and are doing well in their careers.

For tickets, call the MCOF at 997-9483 or 0920-954-0053, CAEO at 782-7164 or 0918-347-3027 and at Ticketworld 891-9999.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Against all odds we made it to our 31st year

My husband Rolly and I made it to our pearl anniversary last year, and I did a Beatles gig on this space, rewriting Lennon and McCartney's "When I'm 64." Philstar's Millet Martinez Mananquil took note of it and appreciated that blog entry, and she ran it on a Sunday issue of her Life section. Sure! I said. Rolly, I felt, needed more affirmation how kainis guwapo he is.

On our 30th, we treated ourselves to a yoga and wellness retreat organized by poet Marj Evasco in her home province of Bohol. Rolly was open to the idea--that was triumph enough when I asked if he'd like to join us. I told Marj he would join the healthy meals, Bimboy Peñaranda's book launch and talk on disaster preparedness and a different spiritual view on how to get ready and not be in panic mode. But I couldn't guarantee if Rolly would be there for all yoga sessions with our teacher, Ajita Reyes.

Damn right the missus was, but he looked quite relaxed from that look weekend. I have these pictures to remind me of that rare couple holiday that we enjoyed.

Rolly admires the Chocolate Hills of Carmen, Bohol. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Ajita Reyes, yoga teacher (middle), is flanked by her students Babeth and Marj Evasco. Photo by Rolly Fernandez

Now that we made it to our 31st year, radical changes are being made here and there, one of which is reaffirming a commitment to one another (walang iwanan muna) in the spirit of our Roman Catholic vows of "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part."

We affirmed not to make promises of obedience to either one as coached by our Life Coach Gilda Cordero Fernando when she hosted a tsokolate't pinipig afternoon following the lunch Rolly treated us to at Alab by Chef Tatung on Scout Rallos, Quezon City. Love, honor, yes, but "obey"? Only dogs go to obedience school, no slur aimed at dogs. Our witnesses this time included Gou de Jesus and her Ernie (Ernesto Enriquez), Gilda Cordero, Bobbie Malay and Nash Tysmans.

Gilda made us switch roles for the "wedding picture" with Rolly seated and I standing with Bobbie's face reflected on the mirror. Bobbie's Dad Armando was our July 26, 1984, wedding sponsor. All wedding sponsors are dead. Of the two women who signed their names on our marriage certificate, Nieves B. Epistola is especially missed during the month of July. (She had a birthday the other day.)

Our wedding photog in 1984 was Jerry Araos. When we celebrated our 31st jubilee in advance on July 23 this year, Nash Tysmans, Wig and Carole's daughter (herself a skilled photographer, writer, educator--a woman wearing many berets) did the photo documentation duty. The luncheon was as intimate as our wedding dinner in '84 at Nielsen Tower was.

And on the seventh day, the God we recognize rested. We two are resting, too, he in Baguio, I in Pasig.

What's new, pussycat? Sing it to me, Rolly!

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Pinay in Claude Monet's garden

This Pinay, inspired by the kerchief-covered heads of Anita Magsaysay Ho's farming and fisher folk, I painted in 2012 as a present for my balikbayan bro Junic who came home with his family (wife Amy and kids Sara and Christian) after an absence of over 10 years.

This was given in the spirit of "What can I give you, 'poor' as I am, if I were a carpenter, I'd give you animal shelter, if I were a wood cutter I'd gather fallen branches and not cut wood anymore, and if I were to pick just one European destination in my short bucket list, it would be Monet's garden in Giverny, France."

But since poems and short essays are not exactly tangibles that can be held as homecoming gifts, I painted this work. Bro got around to framing the work himself after it stayed rolled up somewhere in his house for some time. Today he grabbed a ready-made frame from IKEA. He'll send me more pics in the next days of my other works hanging in his Calgary digs. Photo by Junic Lolarga

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Letter to Luisa

Dear L,

Co-mothers Luisa A. Igloria and Brookside Babe (what my husband calls me now and then) Photo by Nash Tysmans

With her writing family in the Philippines (from left): Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta, J. Neil Garcia and Nerissa del Carmen Guevara Photo by Babeth Lolarga

You had been away 16 years. That long? It seems not too long ago when we sat and exchanged stories at the porch of your former home, now also gone, on City Camp Alley while chickens crossed the road or came in and out of the green gate that was almost always open.

Even though we were so close geographically when I found myself in the state of Virginia twice (in '08 and '09), all we could manage were marathon phone chats while I was being hosted by my cousins Erline Valdellon and Rudy Mendoza. We didn't see one another, didn't hug and kick off our shoes, didn't put up our feet and sip wine while giggling over the past.

And then someone nudged me to say you were in Baguio to visit daughter, her partner, mother, sister, etc., and dine with Del Tolentino and Ben Tapang in the Mirador Hill abode with Vickie present, Vickie Rico Costina who presence has been scarce and who makes me wonder if she has turned recluse after her retirement from the University. I can imagine the hagalpakan and laughter that shook the walls. How you managed that trip I could only credit your innate courage and chutzpah for undertaking that risk.

Gabriela "Brie" Igloria, Nash and Luisa on the front row of La Salle's European Documentation Center while waiting for the room to fill up. This was where Luisa gave her craft talk on "The 3-D Printer Builds the Bridge as It Goes: Poetry and the Task of Lyric Making," read her poems and answered questions during a short open forum.

Nash takes a selfie with her Tita Sylvia Mayuga. When she entered the room, Sylvia said only Luisa could make her leave her house on a Monday morning with the traffic and all. Only Luisa, she stressed. In turn, Luisa introduced Sylvia to her youngest child Brie as a legend, possibly a babaylan/diwata (priestess and goddess).

I was too ill and weak then to make a trip to Baguio for that dinner. In order to see you again after that 16-year gap, I had to gather and increase my strength at home. Post-hospitalization, I recovered in a dimly lit room with just the transistor radio's dial tuned in to DZFE.FM and did self-imposed homework of reviewing the 59 years of my life that had gone by. When the five days of that unusual solitude (unusual because it was spent with company, but the Pasig family let me be) were over, I felt that it was time to take down books from the shelves to read again, this time with the Masters' music as mere background.

With Alice Sun Cua, poet, essayist, OB-GYN

My hands went for the pile of unread books and I took down at random Holly Thompson's novel in verse Orchards followed by Alexander Fuller's memoir of her parents' life in Africa, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, then your poetry collections: your Juan Luna's Revolver (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009) and Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014). Re-reading you felt like summoning your physical form. Your poems have also been, to me, fine examples of poetry that inform, console, expand the soul. In them our Camelot that is Baguio makes not just a cameo but a major appearance.

Brie, a poet and violinist, just stepped into high school.

Kudos to Shirley Lua, director of the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (standing, wearing a deep pink top), for organizing the author meet-up/reunion

Luisa and Brie (backs to camera) with poets Mookie, Allan Pastrana, Nerissa and Neil

When Ronald Baytan, BNSCWC associate for literary studies, made ready to take our group pic, Luisa said, "Mga beauty queens!" Something Luisa would say to relax and make us look less stiff. In the picture are Luisa's Brie, Nash, Karla Delgado (in green tunic) with her daughter Kai, the visiting poet and a baggage handler. When Luisa saw the books I was showing off for the photo, she quipped, "Buy two books, get one turon free." Yes, that's a three-fourths eaten, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-inside turon that Brookside Babe is holding.

And then there you were in a summery dress with geometric prints and black flats, painted toenails peeking out. You were the first to open your arms wide while I struggled to put down purse, bag, gift books and Philippine-designed and -made stationery for you and your youngest child Brie who's equally precocious as her three ate: Jenny, Trixie and Ina.

Like I earlier wrote to you after you landed back in VA, I will write longer. Not on this space anymore. You deserve a full aria, dearest. The Luisa who left 16 years ago is the same Luisa I reunited with just this Monday. No blue Monday that day was. Thank you, you who loves the soup of words we swim or paddle in.

Always with affection,

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dangerous beauties

Brother Junic, who's out there in Calgary, Canada, poking around the neighborhood with his camera 'round his neck, sent us, his siblings, this image earlier today.

It reminded me of the time I took a different path during a morning walk in Baguio with Curly Kai and I ended up rushing home with a necklace of rashes.

Junic wrote about these harmless-looking flora:

"They look beautiful but good thing I didn't proceed to hike in this area. There was so much hogweed. If I had gone near, I would have ended up with rashes."

Send more hogweed, bro, but only images of these dangerous beauties, not the real deal. Scratch that itch!

Hogweed--do not touch or don't let one of these babies touch you. Photo by Junic Lolarga

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rizal in July

School's in again, and teachers, not just media folk, get invited to activities related to their profession and vocation, particularly the teaching of the life and works of our national hero (my personal idol) Jose Rizal.

When Maite dela Rosa, my supervisor (the equivalent of a principal) at the Community of Learners, learned that I was up and about after an ailment and going out already, sometimes to attend lectures (one event a day, unlike before when I had a crowded tuhog-tuhog or one appointment after the other schedule), she asked that I go to this one: the Teachers' Conference on Rizal's Life and Works at PETA's home grounds on Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. Whenever I go there and the weather outside ain't rainy, I start to miss its former home, an open-air theater at Fort Santiago, Intramuros, those years when PETA truly embodied the "aesthetics of poverty." There's something about walls and ceilings.

My daughter and niece like to remind me I should keep my storytelling down to 350 words or less and let the rest of the story be told in photos.

So okay, okay, I know how to listen to these experts in social media communication--the young.

This is the lamp burner that Rizal gave to his sister Trinidad and where he put his poem "Mi Ultimo Adios." This lamp is in the permanent collection of the Ateneo Library and housed in its Art Gallery on the second floor. I took this photo during a class field trip to the university's Library of Women's Writings and gallery on another occasion. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

When you're at a PETA workshop, prepare to get physical before you buckle down to listen to a lecture, watch a play's excerpt or have a Q and A with the playwright or director.

A tour of the theater all ready for another weekend of Rak of Aegis

View from the outside of a dressing and make-up room

To the question on why he chose to specialize in teaching the Rizal course, Vic Torres, a De La Salle University professor and five-time Palanca Literary Award winner, said in the beginning (or just five years ago), he took it for granted. It meant an additional subject, additional pay apart from teaching journalism and history. Then he realized while studying and preparing his lectures that there was so much to learn from the national hero's life and even to discover new things about that life. His novel Noli Me Tangere, for example, is also "a literal recipe book--it was obvious that he was hungry when he was abroad." Before Dr. Torres knew it, Rizal became very much a part of his life.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Just a stray?

Stray cat being admired by a homeowner who may be allergic to it. Photo by Junic Lolarga

how can you be stray

when you've walked this old planet

ahead of this girl?

- Babeth Lolarga
July 19, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015


Deer that wandered onto my brother's garden in Calgary, Canada, on a June morning and had flowers for brekkie Photo by Junic Lolarga

return for seconds

the pansies won't mind at all

lining your belly

- Babeth Lolarga
July 17, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Haiku Thursday

Calgary landscape Photo by Junic Lolarga

and even as we

move, we keep the stillness in

us this windless day

- Babeth Lolarga
July 16, 2016

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Guess who's always in the moment?

The ailing teacher Thich Nhat Hanh (get well soon, please) wrote once, "Life can only be found in the present moment."

This morning my youngest sibling felt unwell. It turned out that her BP was at an all-time high of 170/100. I couldn't resist having my own blood pressure monitored since the automatic reader was out already. Mine read 130/80. Pang-dalaga! Throughout all this, curious curly-haired Kai observed with eyes growing wider.

To make her not worry while we fussed over our signs of mortality, sis and I alternated in asking her, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Booboo: "Do you wanna be a doctor?"

Kai: "No."

Mamita Gigi: "A nurse?"

Kai: "No."

Booboo: "A teacher like Granny Su?"

Kai: "No."

Mamita Gigi: "But you have to be doing something when you're grown up."

Booboo: "How about street sweeper? You go places."

Kai: "No."

Finally, Mamita Gigi and I said, almost as one, "So what do you wanna be?"

Kai: "A person!"

Booboo: "What are you gonna do as a person?"

Kai: "I'll play with blocks."

She smiled at us and walked away.

Mamita and Booboo looked at each other wordlessly. But our look must have read, "She got us there. And once again she's right."

Selfie shoe-fie by Kai Fernandez

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Coloring is for all

This “Peter Pan market” has roots in publishing, beyond coloring books (the growth in sales of children’s and young-adult books to much older readers has been well documented), but it is far from confined to that arena.

Summer camps for adults, for example, have also gone from curiosity to viable enterprise. Following a near-death experience, Fidget Wigglesworth (birth name: Levi Felix), then the vice-president of a successful dot-com, turned off his phone and went backpacking for two and a half years with his partner, Brooke Dean; when they returned, in 2012, they founded Camp Grounded, a “Digital Detox” experience for which campers relinquish their electronic devices and engage instead in stargazing and sing-alongs...
“Coloring is so accessible,” she told me. “It unleashes the creativity we all have in a way that’s quite safe.”
- Adrienne Raphel, "Why Adults Are Buying Coloring Books (for Themselves)" found in today's

Kimi's "book" and her tentative strokes

By coincidence, my eldest child Kimi (no longer a child, really, she's 30) Kimi came home a few hours ago from National Bookstore with something that would "chillax" her from her online work: a coloring book. Her fear is she might get addicted to coloring books and not get any official work finished. Nah, Kimi has a Kai to support so she has to balance work and play.

Curly Kai wasn't going to be outdone. I pulled out a "spoiled" rubbercut print that I had done when I went to art school at the University of the Philippines Baguio and a tin box full of broken or used oil pastels and pencils, still not all dried up (keep 'em sealed always). One of our electives in the Fine Arts program was printmaking (then taught by Manolo Sicat).

Like I wrote in an earlier blog, I like partnering with Kai--this time I gave the given (not a blank canvas paper as I did over a month ago) and it's her turn to fill up the places and spaces with colors.

When I left her less than 30 minutes ago, she was still at it.

God bless James Barrie's eternal boy Peter Pan and whoever invented the adult coloring book. Also grandmas who don't immediately throw old works away. My rubbercut that has lemons and strawberries for its subject now has a life of its own, and it isn't wholly mine but Kai's, too.

Our curly-haired colorist giving life to an old black and white print Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, July 13, 2015

Without gutters

Ordinarily, homeowners take advantage of summer to have the months' accumulated debris and dry leaves removed, rain gutters repaired and holes sealed, all set for the monsoon. But when your unconventional homeowner/builder insists on no gutters to catch the tear-shaped drops, you know he had this in mind when tikbalang weather occurs (according to Philippine mythology, when rain falls and startlingly bright sun shines at the same time, tikbalangs are being wed)--all family members, friends, friends of friends, the passersby get to experience this. Keep the front door open, Alejandro, so we can watch till the last of the peter-patter-down-no-gutters stops. Then hear in your mind "Soon It's Gonna Rain," replayed from The Fantasticks.

On closer inspection the raindrops on sleeves of green look almost as solid as pearls when frozen in a picture. Think Dickinson: "I died for Beauty, but was scarce." Photos of a Sunday in Antipolo by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, July 11, 2015

2 kyootats slumming

"But, I’ve been writing (and blogging) long enough to know that even the worst case of blog blahs eventually passes: you just have to wait it out. And the best way of waiting, of course, is to keep writing, even if what you’re writing seems inane, insipid, and uninspired....When you’re in the midst of the blog blahs, you begin to wonder if you’re ever going to write another decent blog post, another decent journal entry, or another decent anything, but the only way out of that slump is to write your way out. -- Lorianne DiSabato writing in her blog

Meanwhile, here's a pic of two sisters growing up in the '60s smilin' at ya. I cropped this from a bigger collage made by my sissy Evelyn Marie (Embeng, a nickname she herself coined, how cool is that?). She followed me 14 months after I made my own Earth landing in 1955. Six more bibis followed her. Them were "the more the many-er years" when phrases like "child spacing," "reproductive health" weren't in anyone's lexicon. Like Dad, she's inventive with words so "cute" for the new little ones in our lives was never pronounced "kyoot" but "kyootat"; "eat out" is "eatat."

I truly believe her assurance when she texted on my birthday: "It's going to be okay in time. Love you with your ups and downs." I don't know where she picked up the next quote (something our late Lola Purang must've passed on to us--this propensity for seeking inspiration or a lifeline in words well thought out but simply strung together): "Beautiful things aren't always recognizable at first glance."

Okay, stamping on this temporary slump. Brookside Baby ain't drownin yet.