Friday, September 25, 2015

A 'shoefie'

Vanity, all is vanity, the Good Book states. This blogger, in moments of weakness, feels how there's too much chasing of the wind in the living of life. The weight of responsibility literally bears down on the big knee joints (Meet my new boyfriend Art--short for Arthritis!), the callused feet, the spread-wide toes that no pedicure or nail polish can finesse anymore. Then I'm rewarded with a "Day Off" from everything, from every care. Curly Tops Kai proclaims 'tis time for a walk, 'tis her turn to take pics with the camera. Instead of a selfie, can we do a shoefie? Tada! Our latest self-portrait as grandma and grandchild. Photo by Kai Fernandez

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fab at 88

My old office stood at 88 East Capitol Drive. The bungalow on an elevated lot that used to house Raya Media Services Inc. is gone, and in its place is Shine Special Education Center, Inc. Sharing a space in the Shine building is Rub, a ribs and manly fare place that Mom likes to call in for orders of their baby back ribs with sidings and extra barbecue sauce when she's in no mood to prepare a meal for her hungry hippos (that's us her children).

When I think of mom and many things I associate with her, she really stands for the appeasement of hunger. I don't think we ever had to go to bed hungry in our lives in the years we've spent with her. As for intellectual and spiritual nourishment, we each follow what gives us bliss.

The feeder in the family just had to cut short her "staycation" at the Linden Suites courtesy of her youngest born Gigi because she had to attend again to the food preparations (to welcome the stuff she had pre-ordered, not to cook) for the Sunday celebration of her 88th jubilee.

Photo by Gigi Lolarga

When my sister Embeng asked what words should be iced on Mom's Hizon's mocha cake, I didn't have to think twice: "Fab at 88 Mommy dearest."

Mom had a contingent of willing candle blowers to assist her: youngest grandchild Bianca and great grandchildren Kai, Max and Jared.

Photo by Embeng Trinidad

It's still your birth month, Mom. Enjoy enjoy And Joy!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Feeding the inner life through delaying tactics

"Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours." - Jane Kenyon in her piece entitled "Everything I Know About Writing Poetry"

The thing with working from home is you tend to work unconventional hours. Either you go overboard with overtime or you take frequent breaks, including midday snooze and snacks every two hours, which are nothing more than exercises in procrastination.

Not sold on a haircut. Photo by Kimi Fernandez

That was how I one day found myself accompanying the visiting grandchild to the mall for a haircut. Afraid to lose her natural curls that has earned her all sorts of endearing names from the family, she whined all throughout the haircut and was only appeased by a lollipop. When you're in a mall, you get caught up with other activities, not just duties like bringing a child with unruly hair to a tot salon. There's a devil of a phone bill to settle and unable to cough up enough cash, I buy a new SIM and transfer all contacts to a new number and get on a prepaid phone mode. Hay naku!

Next exercise in procrastination was rationalized this way--I need books for professional and personal growth. Besides, I'm not buying them (I don't even have enough to sustain a cell phone without "donations" from family members). The husband is treating me without saying so. One of the things I'm most grateful for is a husband who loves books with a passion and who doesn't mind crossing several provinces and cities for book buys. He's returning to Baguio several kilos heavier from the weight of his purchases.

I'm happy about my exercise in self-control. My tote bag carried only seven new books. I have a magic seven, all wisely selected, to go through. The seventh one is actually a repeat reading after I first read it back in high school (To Kill a Mockingbird before breaking open the pages of Harper Lee's now controversial, recently discovered and published novel Go Set a Watchman). Rolly did a very Camelot-ish thing: he took me to the (Manila International Book) Fair. Thank you.

And now for quiet time again while the grandchild is out enjoying a swim with her mother, grandaunts and cousins, and husband is en route to another city, choosing Fast Food Fiction Delivery (edited by Noelle Q. de Jesus and Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta) as his bus reading fare.

I am by myself, Ms. Kenyon, and will return to working on another person's manuscript in a bit. A just as blessed weekend to all!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How do you do, Little Girl?

I am fool enough to take any psychological test I happen upon online to learn a bit more about myself. I took one tonight and the results told me that I have a creative personality, but there's a big BUT.

The test that's supposed to show how my interpretation of the world influences my character showed that "at the moment you feel a lot of aggression inside. It's possible that recently you've been experiencing a lot of negative emotions and have the desire to finally resolve something that's been bugging you for a long time. You need to calm down and relax. The time has come to do something new. You have the ability to draw a huge amount of strength from yourself, whilst at the same time remaining a tender and loving person."

No wonder my host's dogs have become a source of comfort. Instinctively, they know I came here to their place not just for the haven of solitude it offered but for other issues I can only address by putting some distance (for objectivity) while I work out a resolution and solution.

In return, all the dogs like Peanut, Loofah and Little Girl ask from me is a pat on the head, especially in the morning. The exercise lightens my mood quickly. At the same time I feel some empathy for these dogs that are dependent on humans for their survival through humane acknowledgment.

This chihuahua named Little Girl looks at me with puppy dog eyes.

As a puppy, his owner said, this Tisoy sheep dog was almost as tiny as a peanut (slight exaggeration there) so he was named after the nut. Then he grew and became the biggest Peanut I've ever met. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, September 11, 2015


There's a lot of it out there no matter how you remove all the fluff from your life to arrive at an elegant austerity. I saw this throw pillow at the Japanese restaurant Haru in Kapitolyo, Pasig City. My roving camera has captured stuff from all over that they're beginning to clutter the computer screen. My techy daughter always reminds me to delete old, unused files that are slowing down the gadget's speed and effectiveness.

And I think everything (the decor), if the price is right, is for sale so you never visit the same Haru (or Cafe Juanita or Breakfast @ Juanita's) twice. The owner knows how to hoard, display, then release stuff. I think it's the whole point of gathering stuff--to later give them away or share them even at a profit. The chandelier though looks like a permanent fixture. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Living with cats

I don't mean men. I mean Floppy (formerly Fluffy until his hair began to shed), Hop-hop (for Hope) and Pepper (for his black and white markings) who shared my writing space today. I was at the tailend of grading first-quarter writing exercises done by 12th graders when these cats, who belong to a friend, took turns pleasantly "distracting" me. They could've enjoyed the whole house to themselves, but they seemed to have conspired to fence me in after I had just declared I was happy to have time and space to myself.

Here I am caught at the pre-breakfast hour working on something. Floppy parks himself on the narrow side of my work space. He's looking out at the neighbor's. Photo by Yasmin Almonte

Next to occupy the same space is Pepper. He may have liked the music of the Cello Guys. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Definitely won over by the music. At some point he pads across my keyboard. I didn't dare shoo him away. I just clapped my hands and shouted. He took his time, of course. I should be so grateful he didn't pee on the computer. *Sigh*

Hop-hop helps himself to my drinking water while Pepper sprawls on top of the rest of my stuff, including the cell phone.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A spare room of one's own

I temporarily moved out of an old space (the family home in Pasig) into a fairly new one (a friend's pad in the remaining wild meadows of Diliman). This was brought on by a compelling desire for yes, some space of my own while finishing some paintings. That should explain the lack of fluency in the use of words. Visual stuff are begging to be expressed or transferred from sketchpad to canvas. I can't be content just photographing sheer curtains and a still life of basket with bananas.

My friend, a fulltime painter-art professor, lives starkly and simply with a caboodle of four dogs and five cats, all in peaceful coexistence. Beyond having three meals a day, a roof over her head, a stable job, the extra "frills" that are non-negotiable for her are continuing to do art and protecting her space. Space to me is a luxury. I've always lived in shared space with my siblings, especially my sisters, since birth and since I married. Not complaining--my roommates know me enough not to crowd me in further when I'm in a bad way (could be post-menopausal churva or just the testiness of ageing). So a room lent to me free that opens to a forest of bamboo, no screen, no grills, is utter bliss. Did I just die moments ago and was sent by the gods that be to a haven of solitude?

Who's complaining that I have to work from a garden set? Not I. I am having so much fun that I predict by the week's end, my curator will be tapping me on my back and saying, "Good job, Babeth!"

I guess this is my roundabout way of announcing that I am amid preparations for a solo exhibition-cum-installation that celebrates a woman's reclamation of inner and physical spaces. The mixed-media works and recreation of a woman artist's makeshift studio despite daily struggles to balance family life and work are part of "Sampayan Blues" to open Oct. 24 and run for a month at The Sanctuary Gallery of the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary on Campo Sioco Road, Baguio City. Proceeds from the show will all go to the sanctuary's chapel-building project. Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The bigger issues and the smaller self

When I'm not writing, it feels like I'm a big useless, lifeless yellow big thingy that should be put away because I'm getting in everybody else's way. Tractor seen from a car window while travelling along the South Expressway last month. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

"When I’m not writing, my life seems both foreign and shallow, an insubstantial and flimsy thing I observe as if from a distance: someone else’s life, not my own. When I’m writing regularly, I feel more present to my life as it unfolds: I’m present and paying attention, inhabiting my own existence rather than watching it flash before me without conscious consideration. Forget about trying to walk in someone else’s shoes: first you have to learn how to walk in your own."
- Lorianne DiSabato in "The unexamined life,"

Perhaps I exist in Ms. DiSabato's parallel universe because all the things she has written about missing journal-writing or even maintaining a space or blog like this are feelings that I'm familiar with. I tend to over-blame myself--that I'm past my prime when story pitches fail and editors don't quickly get back to you. I take the lukewarm or non-response as nothing deeply personal. Just professional rejection due to lack of space.

Where to put the darling baby (draft of an article or an essay)? In this space, where else? But what if you've practically lost heart over repeating the process and would just rather sing like the Julie Jordan character in Carousel, "What's the Use of Wonderin?"

And then the darkly vicious cycle repeats itself and you wait until the dark has rinsed itself out and the wash emerges clean. If a writing professor like Ms. DiSabato thinks my washing machine metaphor for days like this one is ineffective, I don't blame her.

Meanwhile, I am fully aware how there are more serious issues out there than my being a bit stumped for words (temporary condition).

I only have to think of the Syrian child Aylan Kurdi, his body not yet bloated by sea water, the strife his family sought refuge from. Then there's murdered Manobo teacher-elder Emerito Samarca and family and his terrorized students to wake one up to the realization that the occasional dips in mood a writer suffers isn't worth a hill of beans in this crazy old world. Time, be my friend. Let this dip dissipate soon.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What 65 looks like if you're content

Six years ago, writer-painter Gilda Cordero Fernando painted "Gilda's Morphing Tower of Hearts" dedicated to one Rolly Fernandez. She used to tell the all-women members of First Draft, of which I was then a junior member (age-wise, the other was Karina Bolasco) that she has no choice but to love our husbands more than she does us because "I know you all well enough to know what they have to put up with."

Recognize the object of affection?

Rolly, husband, provider, friend, adviser has put up well and can put up with more. I am confident about that because my indicator is his shock of white hair. His thick hair hasn't fallen off (I'm the one with the thinning, falling hair problem) in all the years we've been together and not together.

Hanging out on a Friday night at Del Tolentino's famous kitchen on the occasion of a farewell dinner for Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau's Robert Abaño. From left are Desiree Caluza, the host Del, Rey Rimando, Robert and the man who is not Santa Claus

At our lunch date yesterday at Chaya, best little Japanese restaurant in Baguio City. Behind him are quilted items for sale.

Today, Kai Curly Tops and I took turns documenting Tats Rolly's preparation for his birthday lunch. Friday night while at a dinner at Del Tolentino's, he suddenly seemed to have an epiphany and realized that he couldn't let a milestone go by without celebrating, even if he had to market/do the groceries/cook the food himself.

Meanwhile, he had a few moments of quiet with Kai and his partner in crimes and misdemeanors for 31 years. Truly yours and his

Kai took pics of her grandfolks after we had just cleared the table of breakfast fare and were preparing it for today's lunch. I had written before that this four year old is more assured when handling gadgets. She isn't afraid to turn the camera around, even if some photos look vertiginous. Middle photo should've been deleted if she had her way, but I found it cute. She went through so much trouble setting up her Hello Kitty toothbrush on the foreground. After all the picture-taking was done, she ended the series with a selfie. Photos by Kai Fernandez

He's got these duties down pat: going out for supplies, loading the trunk of the car, etc. With a little assist from his favorite gal in the world Photos by Babeth Lolarga