Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our poster girl for reading

Soon April comes and she will. She'll be called Literature Month as stipulated by law. I recently happened upon my Mom, our family's convalescent, reading from her bed with such concentration that I was able to snap a stolen shot without her noticing. Her concentration reminds me of that quote attributed to actor Charlie Chaplin: "Nothing is permanent in this world, not even your troubles." So relax and curl up with a book. It's summertime after all when the reading is easy. Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Junic's pics

The eldest of my parents' boys is still in town. He has been a few weeks away from cold Calgary, Canada, and coping with Manila summer. He gets a good workout with his camera when he finds the time in between working from our home, keeping fit by taking walks or biking and doing his turn in looking after and cheering up our Mom.

This Easter he took some pictures of us, and I admire the results. Can't help but post them on this space. He captured not only the physical looks of his subject but their inner essence (do I dare write the word "beauty"?).

Thanks, Junic. Keep those snapshots clear and sharp.

Panfilo Cabiz is our big clan's all-round gardener, repairman, carpenter. When we were small, he and wife Teenie looked after us while our parents worked. Mang Cabiz, as we called him, is the type of man who'll get seriously sick if he's not doing hard, manual labor. Although his legs have formed open and close quote marks from years of carrying the weight of tree branches, twigs, etc., he, like Old Man River, just keeps rolling along. Keep him away from firewater, and he's fine and super efficient.

Bianca entered her teens last year. With it comes the adolescent phase's awkwardness. But we love her dearly because she laughs at our jokes. That makes me feel good. I feel I'm the soul of wit when she guffaws hard at an "eeewww" joke and exclaims, "Tita Babeth naman!" She can also be counted upon to play the piano for weddings and other occasions of celebration. Please book her through me.

They are the M & M's of our lives: Marga the mom and Machiko Skye, a.k.a. Max, the un-shy. Marga and I like to do collaborative work on my books, while Max and I are pen pals.

When the human children Jared Franco Susi, Max Susi and Kai Fernandez aren't visiting in Pasig, guess who's our baby? Not my youngest sister Gigi but her own baby, the mini but overweight pug Bruno Lolarga. He's got the papers to show he's a Lolarga, too.

I never look good in pictures which is one reason I prefer to be behind the camera shooting away. But this time, I asked Junic if I could pose by the mural of Corazon restaurant at Shangri-la Plaza Mall's East Wing. This is what I call my summer look--a dress that's cool on my body and sandals, courtesy of my daughter Kimi, on my feet. I'm even proud of my cane, symbol that I'm growing into crone-hood.

Photos by Junic Lolarga

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tulips on Easter

By this time, this beauty must have faded and died a temporary death. Temporary because God's faithful gardener, my husband Rolly Fernandez, makes sure the seed/bulb is stored in a cool place. Tulips in Baguio? Yes, thanks to the efforts of Marie Therese Jison of Mother's Garden up in Fairview, Quezon Hill, who shares the bulbs with friends who garden. She painstakingly instructs them on the care and growing of these beauties associated with The Netherlands. A glorious Easter indeed! Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Paella Negra and Gilda

It was the perfect and most complete meal I had in many a Holy Week since I was this tall. This Paella Negra in a well-worn paellera was served at a merienda get-together hosted by Ka Universe, Gilda Cordero Fernando, for her friends from different persuasions: psychologist Carmen Enrile, playwright Rody Vera, development worker Juju Tan and wife, the architect Ning Encarnacion Tan, sculptor Julie Lluch and yours truly. Gilda once said if there's any skill or any thing she's good at, it's playing host and getting the right mix of people in a room. So after we dug into the paella, arugula salad with figs and flowers, fish and halo-halo and finished our meal, the conversation ranged wide and deep, with pit stops for bits of gossip. Thank you, Gilda, for remaining in our lives and still choosing to be of this world.

Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fish on Good Friday

Going home exhausted one day and about to join the tricycle queue to get to our gate, I saw a vendor selling these goldfishes. I was annoyed that these beauties could be held captive this way and treated as merchandise. Memories of Finding Nemo swiftly bubbled in my head.

Another time my grandchild, the not so Wee One Kai, brought home a goldfish in a similar plastic bag. Apparently, it was a party favor from a birthday celebrator in her school. Her mother Kimi and grandpa Rolly looked for a container, a fishbowl, for it, but it didn't live long. Mother and child decided to buy another fish to fill the bowl's emptiness and Mr. Fish has been swimming happily along. Kimi, Kai or our help Macky take turns feeding the new family pet. When the water gets milky white, it's time for a change.

The point being fish belong in ponds, the sea, the ocean. If we are to make them a part of the family, this requires commitment--yes, the way we commit ourselves to our husbands and children. This makes me rail against dogs in small cages, birds in cages, etc. I guess I'm a big believer in being free to be you, to be me. (With thanks to Marlo Thomas for the last line)

Photos by Babeth Lolarga

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Holy Tuesday prayer: To rest in you

Unveiled view from a restaurant cabana in Baguio

I subscribe to an e-newsletter called The Unveiled Wife. From the author Jennifer Smith I learn some new prayers that she has composed. She reaches out to all wives out there trying to cope with everyday and extraordinary problems.

Not that I've turned "preachy" all of a sudden. The week's solemnity dictates something of this sort.

"Thank You for today. Thank You for my heart and thank You for my family. Lately, the days have been running together and I am starting to run on empty. I need time to rest in You. I know I need to prioritize this time, but I need Your help. Please guide me each day as I seek to rest in You. I pray for peace to cover my mind and I pray for strength to fill my body and I pray for understanding and joy in Jesus’ name AMEN!"

Photo by Babeth Lolarga

Monday, March 21, 2016

Oh Mama!

"Love your parents and treat them with loving care. For you will only know their value when you see their empty chair." - from

Mommy, or everyone's Mommy Lolarga or Lola Nene, with her eldest son Junic who arrived Monday last week from Canada to everyone's surprise just to be by her side during her recovery period

I've only hinted about the illness in the house in past blogs, and I hope the worst of it is over. We know Mom won't be the same. At 88 going on 89 and even if her stubborn and hardy heart believes it still ticks like a teener's 17-year-old heart on prom night, she has to move towards acceptance, then serenity, that things won't be and ain't what they used to be. I interpret her illness as her body's rebellion against the beyond-human-limits activities she has engaged in the winter of her life, mainly, home management, keeping the family together and the many details of life that her obsessive compulsiveness can't ignore.

I've always interpreted illness or disease as the body's way of telling you to stop, pause, look, listen before continuing your journey at a pace more kindly to yourself. Many times I've been tempted to shout into Mom's ear that taking care of yourself or leaving something for yourself is not selfishness at all, but it can be a form of altruism, too.

When my siblings and I discuss our individual streaks of stubbornness, we are agreed on where its source is. But a strong will to survive and stubbornness enabled Mom to survive this latest crisis. Now I am an interested observer on how survival will segue to endurance and grace.

As our 85-year-old aunt Choleng ages (seen here with husband, Tito Rene), her Chinese features become more apparent.

Yesterday, celebrated as Palm Sunday in the Christian world, when Jesus entered Jerusalem to cries of "Hosanna in the highest," our clan had a mini-reunion to say "Bievenue" to once prodigal, now extremely good and gentle, son Junic and to be grateful that Mom and her younger sister, my confirmation ninang, Soledad "Choleng" Diaz, are over the hump, health-wise. We thank Lita and Shorty Server for hosting that hosanna lunch and merienda punctuated with so much laughter, the great reliever of stress.

Many people showed their support for our mother and our family in many ways, chief of which is prayer. To you our eternal gratitude! I close this Holy Monday entry with the serenity prayer taught to me by my high school Religion teacher, Auguste Sarte, SPC (I once owned an estampita of this):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Thanks, Steven King, for taking this picture. This is only about an eighth of the size of the clan on Mommy's side.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

You know it's summer...

...when you cannot resist the invitation to spend time by a huge body of water even if there are a gazillion filial duties to fulfill and a gazillion more writing deadlines to meet, thus a heavy beach bag it was I carried with the laptop inside. I exaggerate when I use the word gazillion, but the pressure does feel like a gazillion albatrosses hanging around my neck. Oh, to be at the beach with kin spirits! It was an answered prayer.

With the blogger in this photo taken by journalist Alan Robles are Dr. Margarita Holmes, Gemma Luz Corotan-Kolb of Casa Amara in San Juan, Batangas, and Dr. Melen Araos. All our hair are wet from a swim, except for Gemma, Casa Amara's moving body-spirit, who was earlier in the kitchen supervising the making of canapes and guinataang bilo-bilo to be served to us.

In the book I brought with me to the Casa, To Remember to Remember (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2015), author Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo observed how writers of autobiographical narratives are impelled by a need to recount a past experience, begin a personal exploration and "expand to become an engagement with the world." When women gather, you feel there is something inside them in need of healing and recovery. The break from the urban life that my kinswomen live and move in was more than welcome. I for one will have stories to tell no longer in the farthest future but in the nearest one...while there is time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carpe diem, women of the world

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” - Toni Morrison

Trust poet Marjorie "Marj" Evasco to be psychic and send an International Women's Day greeting accompanied with a quote from the Nobel laureate Morrison. The quotation strikes close to home because I've been reflecting on mortality with the current plague of illness in the house (I'll reserve details on those in the farthest future).

Let it suffice that we, especially if you're reading this, are alive, and if we're sensitive enough, we can stop, smell or admire flowers. Flowers fascinate me because they symbolize life so much, how flowers start from seeds followed by the budding, then blossoming into full beauty only to fade, droop, drop and die in the end.

Carpe diem on this of all days in the year!

Photos by Babeth Lolarga