Tag Archives: ManilaSpeak

Revisiting the Baguio of Our Memories

The first time I visited Baguio, I was already in college. I qualified for the university paper, and as part of our training, we were sent to the City of Pines to undergo a writing workshop.

It wasn’t hard to fall for Baguio’s charms. In between re-learning about the inverted triangle of news reporting, how to decipher proofreader’s marks, how to proofread, what are the different newspaper style guides, and so on, my fellow student journalists and I checked out the tourist traps and the rustic restaurants. Session Road was then not yet jam-packed with traffic, and taxis roamed sans air conditioning. Over all these, the scent of pine served as an olfactory reminder of the memories we were busily creating of those moments.

But sadly, in the two decades that I’ve been away from the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio has slowly been eaten up by development under the guise of creeping urbanization. The Baguio of yore is disappearing under the onslaught of tourist kitsch and crass commercialism, save for the memories of those who live there and those who have made it their getaway home.

Before this backdrop of Baguio’s seeming fall from tourism grace comes “The Baguio We Know”, a collection of essays of Baguio’s residents, habitués, and lovers, all who write about a strong attachment to the once lofty city, a place where one takes in a different kind of rejuvenation of the soul. These essays show a Baguio “that is much more than the handmaiden to tourism that some may falsely believe is the answer to this city’s ultimate salvation,” noted by the book’s editor, Grace Celeste Subido.

Readers will be struck by the different recollections recounted by the contributing writers. From roadside restaurants frequented by writers, to tiny cafés whose walls hold the thousands of stories exchanged by strangers and friends alike, down to casual chess competitions in Burnham Park to taking slow afternoon walks up and down Session Road, there seems to be a place and a story of every activity and a chance of everyone to do what they want.

And food! Cecile Afable, the late media doyenne and editor of the Baguio Midland Courier, shared recipes for tapuey and pinoneg (among others); these served as the palate’s memory-keeper for those who are lucky enough to have partaken of this drink and dish that is flavored with a distinctly northern taste.

And there are those places whose mention conjures the sights, sounds and flavors of Baguio: Star Café. The Mile-Hi in John Hay. Café by the Ruins. Rose Bowl. Café Amapola. One can take a gustatory trip around the world just by walking around and checking out the restaurants.

Those who make the pilgrimage every summer, or move to plant new roots in this upland capital will find the magic that lends Baguio its ethereal, eternal charm. Coming home to Baguio can be as simple as watching storeowners unload the day’s vegetables onto a cart and into their market stall. Home is a fire roaring in the fireplace, the smoke mingling with the redolence of pine wafting through your room’s windows. Home is the courteous Baguio cabbies who return the change. Home is the fog that rolls in, regular as clockwork, in the afternoon, changing your breath into puffs of visible air in the chill weather.

Stay long enough, and you will soon realize that, yes, Baguio is home.

*** This article originally appeared in now
defunct ManilaSpeak.com ***

Catching a Glimpse of the Muslim Soul

During my brief stint as a college teacher, one of the subjects I handled was Philippine Literature. In an effort to show that our regions are rich in stories, one of the places I looked to was Mindanao. Having visited the islands before, I wanted my students to go beyond the vistas, the durian and the kris, and see who the Muslim Filipino is. The story I assigned for discussion was “Blue Blood of the Big Astana” by Ibrahim Jubaira, whose story is the most frequently included in anthologies.

As I recall, the discussion went well in one class; however, I was struck by a student’s comment that he wished there were more stories of Muslim Filipinos, as he apparently had distant relations in Mindanao. I can still remember how he wistful he looked, his eyes eloquent with the unexpressed questions in his search for family and identity.

One of the books that could have helped him was released by Anvil Publishing, Inc.. Titled “The Many Ways of Being Muslim: Fiction by Muslim Filipinos” and edited by Coeli Barry, this landmark collection brings together a range of short fiction written by Muslim Filipinos over nearly seven decades, beginning in the 1940s. As these stories reflect, Muslims in the predominantly Catholic Philippines have helped define the contemporary Filipino identity and intellectual life in rich and varied ways.

These 22 stories provide the reader with glimpses of various facets of the Muslim Filipino. From the ironic yet humorous twist in Jubaira’s tale of “Bird in a Cage”, the tragic reality that usually winds up as headline fodder of Elin Anisha Guro’s “The Homecoming”, to the clash of tradition with modern times in “Panggud” by Calbu Asain, this collection of tales show how political conflict, uneven economic development and socio-cultural and religious movements underscore the forces that shaped the development of fiction writing from this region.

As to how ‘Muslim’ this collection of writing is, Barry notes in her Introduction: “The ways in which Muslim identities are revealed in this volume is related to the complex ways members of this minority have assimilated themselves or been kept apart from dominant cultural and political life in the Philippines. Muslim Filipino identities are not uncontested, least of all by those who embrace them, nor are they fixed across time. The writers of this anthology demonstrate the diversity of meanings being Muslim Filipino can have.”

***This article originally appeared in now defunct ManilaSpeak.com***


Motherhood Statements: Remembering the First Lady in Our Life

Nanay, mom, mama, nay, inay, mommy, mudra. Many are the names used to call the woman who carried us for nine months, and nurtured us for the rest of our lives until her very last breath. And she is the subject of the book “Motherhood Statements” from Anvil Publishing.

Edited by Rica Bolipata-Santos and Cyan Abad-Jugo, this collection of essays from 30 writers paid homage to the first lady of their lives. Some recollections discussed the dynamics between the writers and their mothers, such as Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s making sense of her relationship with her mom (who is seen as playing the bad guy in her eyes). Others talked about being mothered by others, such as the poignant essay of Shakira Andrea Sison’s “The Santol Tree”; or the intellectual yet funny observations of Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta in relation to her son and his yaya in “Mothers and Other Bilingual Animals”. Even non- traditional families, like a two-mommy household, is discussed in April Timbol Yap’s “Not One But Two”.

Even sons got into the act, with their varied remembrances tinged with exasperated fondness, heroine-worship, and the understanding acceptance of moms as all- too-human women. It was a treat to read the likes of Gemino Abada, Charlson Ong, Ambeth Ocampo, and Ian Rosales Casocot talk about their mothers through the prism of love.

But it was Mari Jina Andaya’s “Living With Mom” and FH Batacan’s “To A Friend Who is Losing Her Mother” that struck a nerve too close to home for me. Andaya’s piece is reminiscent of wry remembrances of wishing our mothers would tone down their incessant observations/reminders/outright nagging from their breaking-the-sound-barrier level. After Andaya recalls a particular high-decibel lecture, she writes, “Where in the world can you find an alarm clock that sounds like that? AND IT COMES WITH A BUILT-IN MOTHER!” But alas, the alarm clock that is her mother soon disappeared with the advent of Alzheimer’s disease, which consumed not only her memory, but also her feistiness and her lust for life. Andaya’s essay was a moving remembrance to her mother’s memory.

Batacan, on the other hand, writes an epistle to a friend, answering a lot of questions that most children will eventually have to face when it comes to their aging parents. Amidst the advice about health care and dealing with the unexpected, there are also words on things to tell one’s mother as the days speed by, even words about the seemingly unimportant. The most important thing, writes Batacan, is just “to tell her.”

In the end, however, “Motherhood Statements” celebrates the full spectrum of mothers and mothering. As the book’s introduction put it, “At the heart of the universe is the truth that all things come through a mother. That truth colors all our ideas of mothering and being mothered, or, in some cases, smothered.”

***This article originally appeared in now defunct ManilaSpeak.com***

Post-Storm Musings: After the Storm, Stories on Ondoy

After the devastation wrought by Yolanda, I sometimes wonder if we ever learn our lessons in preparing for these yearly disasters. True, man can only hope of controlling Mother Nature the same way King Canute dreamed of holding back the waves. But given the regular visits of these catastrophes, it is truly a puzzlement why we’ve yet to become proactive instead of being reactive in these times of disasters. That is why even after four years, I find After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy by Anvil Publishing still relevant in today’s times.

Edited by Elbert Or, the essays in this compilation were mostly written in the midst of and immediately after the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. In his Introduction, Or writes, “All of these essays are collected here to serve as a written record to remind everyone that Ondoy happened. That if we are not careful to learn from our experiences, then another disaster may find us unprepared yet again.”

Seeing how these were written during, before, or immediately in the aftermath of the storms, the quality of the essays wasn’t even. Oh, there were gems amidst the collection, starting off with poetic “The Last” by Ruel S. De Vera. Reading how a former favorite volume rose in the floodwaters to float off, in the company of the writer’s other books, triggered in me a similar memory so painful that it was almost a visceral blow. My entire library of 16 years drowned in the torrent of Talayan Creek water in less than 30 minutes. I never thought I’d see the day where hardbound books would be doing the butterfly stroke in the flood, or that a lesbian literary classic would freestyle its way to the bottom of the swollen creek.

But if this writer thought that opening salvo was painful, it was the recounting of MVX Ong of his family’s ordeal in”Nakapanlulumo” that made me want to weep in the face of his remembered fear, rage, helplessness and a maelstrom of other emotions during those perilous hours. Written in Filipino, his essay captured the gritty reality of trying to fight back against the fury of the relentless rain and the rising flood–and the determination to succeed.

Luis Buenaventura II tackles a diametrically opposite viewpoint in his “An Unpopular Opinion on Volunteerism”. In his short piece, he logically argues his point on how help could be better done by staying where one is, and donating his earnings for the day directly to the aid effort instead of spending his man-hours’ potential income bagging food and clothes. Or, in other words, maximizing one’s resources that are immediately on hand.

Other contributors of the book include Cathy Babao Guballa, Ramil Digal Gulle, Rene B. Javellana, SJ, Jim Paredes, Mar Roxas, MRR Arcega, Tania Arpa, Javier Bengzon, benignO, Arvin de Leon, Zarah Gagatiga, Norman Clarence T. Lasam, Gabriella Lee, Stefan Saurez, Fidelis Tan, Martin Villanueva, and Lawrence Ipil.

After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy is available at National Bookstore.

***This article originally appeared in now defunct ManilaSpeak.com***

Who Motivated You Today? 60 Minutes: Interviews With People Who Inspire

In the course of living the modern life, it is so easy to e caught up in the busyness of the rat race, of making a living, or simply making it to the next day, and the day after. It is all too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, and have our humanity diminished by the routine we fall into.

It is the idea of having someone to look up, to be inspired to achieve a better version of one’s self that helped provide the germ behind the book 60 Minutes: Interviews with people who inspire.

Released under Anvil Publishing, “60 Minutes” began life as a Sunday column in the Manila Bulletin’s Students and Campuses section.

According to Ivy Lisa Mendoza in the book’s introduction, ” the operative words (were): inspiration, achiever, role model.” Working with her were co-writers Ronald S. Lim, Rachel Castro Barawid, Angelo G. Garcia, Ina H. Malipot, and Jaser A. Marasigan.

“As ’60 Minutes’ endeavors to feature Filipinos who can inspire and rouse the younger generation to be the best that they can be, we took it upon ourselves to present the journeys of the people who have done well in their respective fields, be it in government, business, media, the academe, the arts and sciences, and showbiz!”

The book tells the stories from a wide selection of extraordinary Filipinos. There’s tycoon John Gokongwei, Jr., whose advice include “Feet on the ground and dream. You have to build it brick by brick. Don’t just jump. Those who jump don’t last long.” National Artists Virgilio Almario and Bienvenido Lumbera discussed language and the function of education while sharing their observations on literature, while actress/chef Judy Ann Santos mused about new beginnings as she talked about her love for continuous learning, on juggling acting while studying, and the value of work and saving for the future.

Other personalities included in this volume are Dr. Josette Biyo, Boy Abunda, Fr. James Reuter, SJ, Cecilio K. Pedro, Rico Hizon, Rosa Rosal, Dolphy, President Benigno Aquino III, Efren Peñaflorida, Br. Armin Luistro and Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, former Mayor Alfredo Lim, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Mendoza notes that “behind these personalities are great stories; from crazy mishaps to moments of great triumph and mini tell-alls!”

By reading these stories of fears, hopes, of dreams, defeats and triumphs, readers can hopefully pick up valuable life lessons within the pages of this book.

“60 Minutes” is available in National Bookstore, Bestsellers, and Powerbooks outlets nationwide.

***This article originally appeared in now defunct ManilaSpeak.com***