Sunday, January 30, 2022

The summer of '68

My sister Evelyn Marie, the one to my right, is a better archivist than I could ever hope to be. She shared this scanned photo of part of our family when Mom and Dad took us on a boat cruise to Corregidor. I was 10 going on 11, but I just had my period and I shot up that summer, uncomfortable in my new body with sprouting boobs and all. Mom and I are wearing those stretchable jeans with straps that hooked underneath the soles of our feet. Dad is holding a fishing rod. Small boy is my brother Dennis who grew up to be a doctor like Dad. I didn't like Corregidor--there were no sandy beaches. Mostly there were and still are rocks. I would return there in middle age with Mila D. Aguilar, and the guided tour our group enjoyed altered my view. There was the comfort, of course, of Mila's warm company. I documented that trip in a Vera Files article: My parents didn't earn much. Dad's practice centered on patients who were mostly industrial workers. Mom was an office employee. And yet, they managed to save enough for what others would deem a whimsical weekend such as this.

Monday, January 24, 2022

The Lorna I know and love

Babeth's note: A few months ago, former Population Center Foundation colleague and friend Elsie Kalaw, Lorna's kid sister, wrote to ask if I could contribute something about Lorna, who is celebrating her 75th birthday today, to a one-copy tribute book. I didn't hesitate. I wrote this piece immediately while the subject's demeanor was fresh in my mind. Welcome to your diamond years, Lorns. You're more precious than that gem. Lorna Kalaw Tirol will always be unforgettable in my book. Firstly, it’s because she shares the same birthday on January 24 as my father, Enrique Cariño Lolarga Jr. Like him, she is soft-spoken, gentle, thoughtful—but don’t cross their paths on matters of conviction for they can be brutally harsh. It’s the Ilokano streak in him, it’s the Batangueña in her. I guess we both were/are Daddy’s girls. Secondly, Lorna is the editors’ editor like her good friend (and mine) Rustie Otico. They’re eagle-eyed about the veracity of data, wary of grammatical and syntactical errors, but the writer’s style, or flair, is retained. I felt honored when she invited me to write for Sunday Inquirer Magazine which she edited in the 1990s. Apart from giving me assignments, she approved my story pitches. One time, she said over long distance, “I wish you’d come back to Manila (I was living in Baguio then as a fulltime housewife) so you can cover the art events.” That was confidence-boosting praise if I ever heard any. When I held a solo exhibit of paintings at Baguio’s Café by the Ruins, she sent this message which I continue to store in my blog “I am endlessly amazed by the diversity and breadth of your talents and your generosity in sharing them with others less gifted.” Thirdly, there is Lorna, the heart and soul of her home and family. No wonder my former boss, Vicente G. Tirol, worshipped her and loved her to bits. He liked her rellenong bangus so much she’d prepare it for him even if she was tired. My first sight of Lorna was at the launching of Nick Joaquin’s children’s books—she was cuddling one of her two sons of toddler age. This love of children has extended to her grandkids and even my own. Since my daughter Kimi was a baby, Lorna would send her books for Christmas. Then the practice continued when I had my first grandchild Kai. Lorna knew how to pick titles because these books eventually became my little ones’ favorites, their pages repeatedly turned, the images and colors constantly admired. Fourthly, there is Lorna, the little known and under-appreciated amateur singer. I heard her once say that her dream was to be able to do the lounge act Michelle Pfeiffer did atop a grand piano in the film The Fabulous Baker Boys. The song was “Makin’ Whoopee.” Very un-Lorna image if I think of her as a dyed-in-the-Theresian-blue colegiala! But why not? Her son Paulo recorded her on Spotify singing the beloved Bacharach-David anthem “Alfie.” Next to Cilla Black’s version, Lorna’s comes second and Dionne Warwick’s a distant third in my book of likes. Fifthly, Lorna has a generous streak. When my husband Rolly Fernandez, a bibliophile and Filipiniana buff, learned that she was packing Vic’s books in boxes for giving away, he asked if he could have a couple, sight unseen. She said yes immediately. The boxes found their way to Baguio, and Rolly delighted in Neil Simon’s memoir, among others. One time, I shared my poems with Lorna. She wondered aloud what it would be like to have a poem dedicated to her. That wish lit a spark in me, and right away I drafted this verse which saw print in my limited edition book Big Mama Sez: Poems Old & New. I quote it in its entirety: Open Like the Mind For Lorna Kalaw Tirol who wondered what it would like to have a poem dedicated to her “An open mind is like an open window. It lets the fresh air in.”—Mike Hernacki most times we just need the refreshment of unfettered views those times we don’t need anything not a thing to frame them with not grills, not jalousies which are the worst–they stifle what should freely float as for blinds that you pull up at first light & bring down at eventide those times they are barriers to break i don’t know about you but i would rather live with sheer curtains or those made of beads, rolled paper & small bells that talk & tinkle as you walk through them or are as still as you on airless afternoons yes, we can agree to just set up two chairs, maybe even four, but with a view of the possibilities of the infinite

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bounty from the post office

My incoming mail is received by my sister Ellen Suzy Lolarga in Pasig because postal service in Baguio is erratic. Outgoing from the centrally located post office on downtown Session Road is reliable. But door-to-door delivery is a la tsansa. So my correspondents and I have agreed to send mail to our family's Pasig address. Suzy waits awhile for the mail to make a slight pile before sending them by courier service to Baguio. I know--it sounds like another of my impractical projects. Ray Dean Salvosa, former president of the University of the Cordilleras, once said I was one of the few he knew who still used the post office for messages. He asked why I don't use email. Well, kind sir, I do use email, mostly for business correspondence. But ever since I was a child, I was enamored with slow mail. So imagine my delight when an envelop from Virginia's Poet Laureate, Luisa A. Igloria, spilled this much paper richness--two poems by her ("Man Shoveling Snow on a Unicycle Dressed as Darth Vader While Playing Flaming Bagpipes" and "Yes, Or No"), a bookmark showing a reproduction of a Japanese painting ("Evening Snow in Kamubara"), four blank postcards, including literary ones feaaturing lines from Charles Baudelaire and Voltaire. Also in Suzy's parcel are letters from poet Marj Evasco in her refined script, artist Arlene Esperida with a quick sketch of a tiger, tiger burning bright and Ogot Sumulong and his collage. A good Friday, indeed!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Burnham in the Sixties

I can't get over this photo saved by my sister, non-Facebook user Evelyn Marie. We are wearing pantsuits, long before they were called such. The camera belonged to one of those itinerant Burnham Park photographers. It could only have been our mother, Gliceria D. Lolarga, who wanted this moment preserved. Who instructed us to put our left foot forward? I think it was part of our upbringing in the Sixties, that if a full-body shot was to be taken, you put your left foot forward for better balance. Thanks, sis, for storing the original of this picture. Happy days! And wasn't the park lovely then? Even if the picture is black and white, the splendor of the flowers and the pergola is captured.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Manny Chaves again

While chewing my half of a whole burger that Rolly divided between the two of us, I remembered how a hamburger figured in my history with the late art director Manuel Garcia Chaves. One time lunch caught us unprepared after a meeting at the old Hiraya Gallery on UN Avenue, Ermita. Nobody brought baon so everyone, especially curator Bobi Valenzuela, was listing what they would order from the restaurants nearby. We had our respective orders picked up by messenger-janitor-handyman Roger Abesto. Roger was behind the precise installation of artworks on the gallery walls. Meanwhile, Manny or Manoling, two nicknames we called him, disappeared and came back a few minutes later. "Where have you been? What's your food order?" we asked. He grinned and said he was just at the McDonald's branch on the same street. "That's why there is such a thing as fast food." I've never forgotten that incident for although he may lean towards the arts and sometimes have an artistic temperament, Manny was the practical sort. I miss him, especially today, on what would have been another birthday if death had not cut his life in October last year. I used to tease him that he shared the same birthday as singer Joan Baez and writer Simone de Beauvoir. People of quality. I miss his impeccable taste for music--he gifted me with a vinyl record of Sarah Vaughan singing the compositions of Michel Legrand. Careless me I have forgotten where I placed that valuable piece of music. I miss chatting with him on anything and everything. Before my family relocated to Baguio in 1992, he and Bobi entrusted Rolly and me to their friend, retired UP Baguio professor Delfin Tolentino Jr. He said, "Remember that when you're with Del, it's like you're with us, too." And indeed Del is widely steeped in art, literature, music. Whence cometh another like Manny? Here in the first picture he is shown with me at my silver wedding jubilee celebrated at Cafe Juanita in Pasig. In the second photo, same occasion, he is seen with the Tirols (Vic and Lorna) and Gou de Jesus. If it's possible to art direct the look and sound of the astral world, I suspect Manny is doing that. Happy birthday!

Monday, November 1, 2021

The last time I saw Romy...

...Was towards Christmas of 2017 in the lovely home of Dr. Melendre Araos in Antipolo. I brought my annual and traditional food offering of Cunanan Bakery ensaymada. Midway, while I was having my traditional sips of Melen's molo soup, photojournalist Romeo Gacad arrived bearing a tray of red eggs. He was home for the holidays. I was surprised, nay, shocked at how he had drastically lost weight. His skin and bones clung to his already lanky frame.
Then he told us about his battle with cancer, how at one point he was losing so much blood and needed to be evacuated (from Myanmar? I forget that detail now) by helicopter to Thailand so a more advanced medical team could attend to him. I remembered the Romy who was at his prime, looking out for news at another annual event--the lantern parade ushering the Christmas holidays at UP Diliman. I was a returning freshman working on my second degree in fine arts. My younger classmates and I were building a gigantic papier mache replica of a kapre, that cigar-smoking creature of Philippine mythology. I hailed Romy and proudly showed the still unfinished handiwork of the freshman class. Himself a UP fine arts alumnus, he gingerly stepped around our work, then asked my classmates and me to gather around the kapre while he took some pictures. My more agile classmates climbed the kapre's bamboo frame just so we didn't have a firing squad type of picture. I was too shy to ask Romy for a soft copy of the picture. That would have been for the books because that year (2005), our class won for best lantern in the university-wide competition. So Celina S. Cristóbal, here is my contribution to your virtual scrapbook of Romy memories. Photo courtesy of Melen Araos. Romy is the guy second from right.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Karlo Marko's superb longga

Rolly and I are in a good mood today what with the hefty breakfast we had of sunny side up eggs, fried rice cooked in the fat rendered by the country style bacon made by That Mountain High, meat smokers led by our godson Karlo Marko Altomonte. The slices of bacon did not shrink as I cooked them without oil on the Teflon pan. In the past, we bought commercial bacon, and this would shrink so fast, you had to cook a whole pack to feed a demanding family that wanted their bacon crisp and dry. Last night, we tried Karlo's smoked longganisa. It said on its label: "pork sausage flavored with garlic, vinegar and spices, smoked with a blend of aromatic wood chips." The sausage links lived up to expectation after they were cooked in a half cup of water. As soon as the water evaporated, the links were allowed to cook in the small amount of fat they rendered. No shrinkage either. The sausages were still as long as my hand and not the size of my pinky. We made a mental note to order another batch of meats when Karlo gets his smoker roaring again. Baguio residents have all the luck. He only charges 25 pesos for delivery anywhere in the city. Look out for the bohemian on a motorbike. Patronize local business!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Fruitcake lovers

Rolly and I survived the wind and rain lashes of Typhoon Maring. I thought I’d reward him with something he loved—a whole fruitcake in a round, tin can and redolent with the strong scent of rum. He had worked hard sweeping the garage area free of fallen twigs and leaves. Serendipitously, I discovered a bakeshop in FB offering fruitcakes in different sizes. I ordered for delivery tomorrow, but the one taking my order said Divine Indulgence Cake Boutique could deliver immediately. Rolly paced the room until we heard the delivery guy motor up our gate. We shall indulge tonight!