Friday, December 17, 2010

JUST SAY NO





With the acquittal of Hubert Webb, et al. by the Supreme Court all over the news media, I was reminded of this letter sent to me by my sister. 


(names of places and people have been omitted/changed to protect the privacy of those concerned) 


"April 9, 1994
Dearest Martin,

This would be my nth attempt to write you & tell you about what's been happening since time stood still between the two of us beginning January...


... A really strange thing happened to me in the past month. I was at a flower shop in the mall and a guy entered, bundles of roses under his arm, smiled at me and called out saying he was delivering roses. So the guy at the shop attended to him while I sized him up. Can't be a delivery boy. There was something about him that told me he was rich. Must have been the flowers all around me. And the scent of roses. I felt I was in an ad. So I asked him if he owned The Flower Shop and so our friendship began. We exchanged numbers and he introduced me to his sister who was managing their flower business. So we had a phone relationship going on. I started ordering my wedding requirements for roses from them. Every now and then invite them to church, Music Hall or Strumm's. Once, Marge, his sister asked me to call him. And when I asked why, she just said: "Basta. Just make kwento with him or something." After that I called him up but he was in a rush. And I never called again. About two weeks passed and I called to order roses. You know me, I don't read the papers, nor watch TV. Imagine my shock, Martin, when their maid told me that they couldn't deliver roses just yet because there was an "accident". She told me to read the papers that day. Louie, in a drugged state, had shot his mother dead. I cried myself that night, Mart, because I knew he needed a friend but I didn't push it. I didn't want him to think I was out to snare him. I visited their home the next day, met their father, who was still in the stage where the facts had not dawned on him. They're a very neat, old rich family. Looking good on the outside, crumbling inside. Louie is in Makati Med for psychiatric treatment. They're pleading insanity to spare him incarceration. For a few days after that, his face would flash in my mind, constantly. It's changed me in a way, Mart. From now on, I'm going to be a friend to people. I don't care how I may look to them -- people need people. I still keep in touch with Marge, order roses from her. I'm praying I be allowed to visit Louie soon.


April 28, 1994
I'm ending this letter now. I have been allowed to visit Louie -- I just need to schedule it. Been ultra busy lately, fixing up weddings. Hope you've gained back the pounds that I heard you so quickly lost. I'm praying that by some stroke of good fortune, I can come visit. (Or go visit). We miss you very much & we love you & we're longing for coffee talks with you!


Joy"





Friday, December 3, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010 - The Ribbon/Cucumber Timelapse


I sent two photos for this project. One of me wearing a white shirt, the other wearing a red shirt as required by the project coordinators. You can see my photo (me in red shirt) towards the end before shot zooms out to reveal entire mosaic.

I shit you not.

YIPPEE! I'm on youtube!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THE OLD BAGUIO

(Photo courtesy of Kevin Engle. On left is Felicidad Reyes to her right is her sister, Manuela Vargas)



(I am posting excerpts from my Uncle Gras Reyes' essay "Embers In My Father's Fireplace" which saw print in the Ani publication The Literary Journal of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Jan-April 1991 Edition. Kevin Engle a friend I recently 'met' on Facebook recently posted an album featuring old photos of Baguio City. In the album, I was surprised to find two photos of my grandmother, Felicidad Reyes, included. Those photos reminded me of these excerpts...)

"My father (Atty. Francisco 'Ikong' Reyes) married a market vendor, a "career" she started when she was a grade schooler. She would not be allowed to go to school unless she sold rice cake early in the morning. Before sun-up my grandmother would already have cooked rice cakes (puto) ready to be sold while hot and steaming.


"Her father died before she finished intermediate school. In his deathbed my grandfather advised my mother never to be without merchandise. Thus, my mother became a vendor all her life, selling fruits and vegetables in the city market. My father once told her to stop being a vendor because his law practice could provide more than enough for the family but my mother refused. My mother countered: 'Don't ever introduce me to your rich clients or your friends in high society because many of them happen to be my customers. When they learn that I am your wife, they stop buying from me.' but how could my father avoid introducing my mother to people?


"Elected as president of the Rotary Club of Baguio, president of the Lawyers League of Baguio, once a city councilor, organizer of the departments of law of the Baguio Colleges and of St. Louis College, and either chairman or member of several boards and communities of civic organizations and reputedly the number-one practicing lawyer in the city of Baguio during his heyday, my father had to attend important social functions where he had to bring my mother. My mother hated dressing up like society matrons, but she had to. And when she did, she was completely transformed into a pretty, affluent looking woman.


"My father once asked one of his clients in a party if his client knew my mother. 'Of course, I know her,' said the client. 'I met her a couple of times in other social functions. Besides everybody knows anybody's wife in this small city.'


"' No, you don't know my wife,' my father said, whereupon he pulled him close and told him to take a closer look at my mother.


"'Yes, of course, I know her. What's the matter with you?' said the client. My mother tugged at my father's sleeve and motioned him not to tell the client, but it was too late. My father said, 'She is the person you buy your vegetables from in the market.'


"The client turned pale. Aghast, he said, 'Oh, no.' The reason my father told him who my mother really was could possibly be the client's way with my mother when he bought vegetables and fruits from her. Not knowing that my mother, the vendor, was one and the same person as the wife of a successful and popular lawyer, he was discourteous and bossy and ordered my mother as though she were his servant. 'Put those vegetables and fruits in the bag. See to it that nothing gets crushed. And   bring the whole bag to my car. I don't have time to go around the meat and fish sections. Buy me some meat and fish. I will wait here in my car.' My mother would quietly obey. That was how she maintained him as a customer. But due to my father's revelation, she lost him as a customer. The client became a mayor of Baguio in spite of himself. People say, however, that it was during his term that Baguio plunged into its most decadent period. Gambling and prostitution became rampant.


" As a toddler I was brought by my mother to the market and allowed to play on the cement flooring while she tended to her store. The market, she said, was clean, 'Peep under the stalls and you can see the market from end to end -- no trash. It was common to see mothers pushing prams while doing marketing.' My mother also said that she could leave her store untended and nothing was stolen; she would come back the following day and her fruits and vegetables would still be there as they were when she left them. Sometimes she would leave petty cash in her cash box and no one bothered to open it nor steal a single centavo. By today's standards, that was too good to be true. But my mother said it was that way in Baguio before the outbreak of World War II.


"Incidentally it was my mother who first made and sold straw flower garlands, better known as cuentas nga everlasting. She also introduced strawberry jam, as taught by an American missionary. The Good Shepherd Sisters used to buy strawberry jam from her and later they made their own.



"The public market was never crowded except during the Holy Week when many visitors from Manila came up to Baguio. During the Holy Week Baguio was transformed from a sleepy village into a bustling city. After that burst of activity the city once again slowed down. And when the rainy season set in, the place became cold and gloomy. For me the dreariness was compounded by the beginning of school days. Relatives and friends who stayed with us during the the months of March, April and May all went home to Manila after the 'summer' session of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Baguio. The gaiety of three months -- the picnics, excursions, movies, games, parties and rain-free days -- changed overnight into gloomy, somber and tedious school days."





YOU'RE SO VAIN





Lately I have noticed how members of the younger set seem to be so vain. I'm talking about those gays in their late teens to early 30s who preen and check themselves out in any reflective surface available, every chance they can get, which is about every minute. 


It is impossible to keep a conversation with these types because they never really pay attention to you as they are busy touching up their overly-smothered-with-products hairstyle. They fold their sleeves and tuck in their shirts in the most contrived manner. They accessorize more than Madonna (during her Material Girl days) and they retouch their make-up so often they end up looking like espasol from Laguna.


The Vain Gay (VG) is easy to spot. He obviously works out as his toned body in fitted clothes would attest. He wears the latest styles, preferably the designer brands. He doesn't smoke and doesn't drink too much. He is too poised to make a fool of himself when inebriated so he prefers to keep his alcoholic drinks to a minimum. 


When you refer to his being gay (you assume he is gay because, uhm, he is sooooooo gay) he puts on a defensive stance and claims he's 'experimenting' or 'versatile'. But then you see him checking out all the more straight-acting guys in the bar. Or the cafe. Or the mall.


Here are 10 Tips To Annoy The Vain Gay (VG):


1. When VG cuts in while you are having a conversation with a potential mate, feign concern and ask VG: 'Is that a zit on your chin'?


2. When VG enters bar, cafe or mall and obviously shows off his newly purchased outfit, go up to VG and praise his sense of style then scream: "OMG! My sister bought the same pair of pants from the ukay-ukay for only 100 pesos!"


3. When you spot VG in the mall carrying his shopping bags of designer goods, mention to your companion/s loud enough for VG to overhear: "Hey, I just read in the latest issue of Vogue that (pick a brand among VG's shopping bags) is no longer hot!"


4. When you and your friends are enjoying yourselves in a bar, laughing and exchanging witty conversations and being the center of attention; and VG tries to join your group, quickly change the topic and discuss the difference between Pure and Applied Mathematics.


5. Tell VG that his brand of cosmetics/facial care was recently found to have cancer causing ingredients.


6. Find out what VG is allergic to. Spike his drinks/food with it.


7. Feign sincerity and ask VG: "When did your parents find out that  you were boring but beautiful?"


8. When VG steals your boyfriend, spread rumors that VG has a small dick from all those muscle-enhancing hormones he's been using.


9. Spread rumors VG has athlete's foot.


10. Tell VG a new Reality Make-Over Show will air on TV soon and that you entered his name as one of those who want to have a make-over.



Saturday, November 6, 2010

FUN WITH FOOD


It's not what you're thinking. Stop snickering. Sorry no eggplants in this chapter. Everyone remembers playing with their food at one point in time. And who can forget the lashing we all got from such activities. My friend Dondi told me of how he and his siblings would gather by the dinner table, each with a spoon in his hand. As the hot rice was served they would all place the back of their spoons on the scorching rice and wait a few seconds. As the spoon would heat up they would then 'brand' each other on the face or other exposed body parts. What a racket they would make till their yaya or mom would break up the fracas and thus they would begin to eat. Day in and day out. Same routine until they got older and tired of the silly game. 

Aside from the bahay-bahayan and tinda-tindahan my cousins and I used to play, we loved play-acting as well. We would peel suha seeds or patani and with its natural adhesiveness attach these at the base of our inner eyes and pretend they were teardrops. On and on we would emote and ape the dialogues we would hear on the radio dramas. Improvising our very own soap operas. Red chiclets were our lipsticks. We would lick our lips and generously rub one chiclet on them until the chiclet was plain white. Our lips were now coated with the red coloring. Sometimes Nips would be used and we'd end up with yellow, green or even brown lips. But chiclets had a moist better quality, enough to rival Mama's precious, imported lipsticks. I would cry out "Mama, I didn't try your lipstick, I ate chiclet!!!" Every time we had chiclets my younger female cousins and I would play Charlie's Angels.  

Sometimes we would lock ourselves in a room, and with blankets and bed sheets as gowns, we'd play Ms. Universe with Lolo's rattan cane as our scepter, the piano's keyboard muffler as our sash and from old shoebox cardboards we fashioned a crown. Chiclets of course served as lipstick but were also now used as rouge and eye shadow. Santol or any hard, round fruit in season we would tuck in our shirts for breasts. That's why we had to lock the door. For jewelry we had Jack 'N Jill Chippy. The curved ones we would attach to our earlobes as earrings and insert some in our fingers to serve as rings. I believe my mother knew of these games and would prevent us from locking ourselves in the room lest we scatter crumbs on the bed. But of course I knew the real reason was that she didn't like the idea that her son had dreams of becoming a beauty queen.  

One favorite food my cousins shared was the Nissin Cheesesticks. These came in a plastic bag tied with a gold string. The cheesesticks were really salty and went well with cold soda. My cousin Carla discovered a great prank with these. Once she quietly hied off with some cheesesticks in her hand. When she returned she gave a big smile revealing cheesesticks arranged vertically inside her mouth. She looked horrible at the same time funny. She was like that evil nemesis of James Bond -- Jaws. Recalling it now, she resembles Hannibal Lecter with the steel helmet and the steel bars covering his mouth. I would later repeat the cheesesticks prank when I was in college and it was a sure-fire hit among friends in the canteen. (Folks hoping to try this should have a glass of water handy just in case they choke from all the laughter once they try it). 

In sophomore year at the UP Baguio High School, we were introduced to Greek Mythology by our English teacher Ms. Leonida de Leon. We marveled at the stories of Medusa, Arachne, Pan, and Narcissus among others. Batches before us told of the culminating event of Greek Mythology class, a Greek-inspired foodfest. This was one of the highlights of sophomore year. The class would be divided into several groups. Each group had to come up with dishes inspired from the stories we learned in Greek Mythology. We would then invite other teachers to  judge which group had the most appetizing, original and inventive dish. Batch after batch had 'Medusa's Hair' or spaghetti with meatballs, the presentation or execution making the difference. The redder the sauce, the more terrifying, but spaghetti nonetheless. 'Ambrosia' was fruit salad served on a carved-out watermelon. During my time, Ms. de Leon banned spaghetti and fruit salad altogether and admonished us to be more creative and original. I forget now what my group cooked but here's a proposed menu to top all other entries. Batch '84 should be proud of me. 

For starters I'd have 'Narcissus Soup'. A clear vegetable broth flavored with thyme and oregano. So clear you could see your reflection in it. Perfect for the ever self-conscious adolescent. Next course would be 'Aphrodite's Bread & Fava'; freshly baked bread with dollops of pureed, creamy, yellow split peas as homage to the fair Goddess of Love. Alongside I'll serve 'Arachne's Fritters' (or critters); deep-fried locusts (okay, okay locusts are not spiders, I know) accompanied by avgolemono; a lemon-and -egg sauce. After which I would lay-out 'Poseidon's Eels'. Eels fresh from the Greek Streams (-Of- Consciousness). Poseidon must have had, I surmise, domain on inland bodies of water as well; the eels spit-roasted with tomatoes, their drippings mixed with ground nuts, sesame seeds and crushed garlic as sauce. Next course, 'Perseus' Guts'; or Garthoumba -- chopped liver and innards wrapped with lamb intestine fresh from the oven. Main course: 'Zeus Moussaka'; a hearty meat and vegetable stew. For dessert I'd serve 'Atalanta's Golden Apples'; poached apples with a rich chocolate sauce enhanced with gold flakes from a famous liquor. YUMMY! 

Back in the mid-80's my mother and I once decided to catch a screening at the old Pines Theater along Session Road. It was still early evening we had just come from the market with some ripe bananas and a bag of bread, but decided to catch the comedy despite not having seen it from the start. Upon entering the dark aisles we could hear laughter from our right side, slowly and slowly, the entire balcony had begun laughing. I wondered what was particularly funny with the scene when there was no dialogue exchanged but was merely a montage of traveling shots. As my mother and I found our seats, the viewers in our aisle were snickering uncontrollably despite their efforts to suppress their laughter. It then dawned on me, the entire second floor was laughing at us for as we traversed the aisles, our silhouettes had clearly shown we were each carrying a bunch of bananas. The movie being shown was 'Bad Bananas Sa Puting Tabing'. Terribly embarrassing.  

Speaking of movies, don't you ever notice how Filipino cinema has incorporated the partaking of food as a major development in a movie's plot? Consider 'Lollipops and Roses at Burung Talangka'', one scene shows Nora Aunor stubbornly eating burung talangka, licking her fingers mockingly as Don Johnson complains in the background about her nasty habit and the stench from her preferred food. This was the precursor of events that would  lead Nora Aunor to end up with Cocoy Laurel. In 'Madrasta' the eating of lobster was used in two separate scenes to divaricate the steaming animosity between Sharon Cuneta's nuclear family against the one she had tried so hard to fit into. Although  lobster was cooked the same way in both instances; in the former, lobster was relished with a casual almost comical ambience as opposed to the latter wherein they ate the crustacean formally and in a  stiff manner. These dramatized Sharon's character's ever-growing alienation. 

The love affair between food and cinema is not totally Filipino. Western movies have exploited food in their themes as seen in '9 1/2 Weeks', 'Like Water For Chocolate', 'Chocolat' and even 'Fatal Attraction' wherein Glenn Close cooks Michael Douglas' daughter's pet rabbit to prove her point that she wasn't 'game'. Lately in the Philippines however, we have taken the relationship of food and storyline to extremes. With 'Patikim ng Pinya' and 'Kapag Ang Palay Naging Bigas, May Bumayo' , I rest my case. Have we so lost our cinematic tastes? And will we ever produce another great movie chef the calibre of Brocka?

(I wrote this essay ca. 1999 - 2000)

Monday, November 1, 2010

MY VERY FIRST BROWNIE



I learned to bake at an early age. Like most kids, my first venture into baking was the brownie. It was my cousin Pia who gave me the recipe and taught me to bake. Later on I graduated to making banana bread, scones, muffins, pastries, cheesecakes. Everyone has cooked brownies. Brownies with cashew nuts (or other nuts), marshmallows, raisins, etc.-- or a combination of the above. One summer my cousin Dimbo stayed all day playing in the sand at the beach. He grew so dark we called him 'brownie' the rest of the year.  

At the UP College Baguio in the 80's we sometimes made and ate 'adult' brownies. My dear friend Joji (bless her soul) gave me my first brownie. Although I am not/wasn't ever really gung-ho over marijuana, I do have fond recollections of the organic stuff. Joji was batches older than I was but had stopped school for some years and by the time she got back to the university we found each other sharing same classes, our major being the same. That particular morning in the campus, I saw Joji yet cramming for another exam and had joined her. She was nibbling on some brownies (at 730 in the morning) and offered me some, with a wink. I got a small piece, with a smile. We started out studying, sharing our notes and books but ended up talking, laughing, tripping on the grass (the grass growing out of the pavement in the front of the lobby), smoking our cigarettes continuously and still laughing some more. Our light-headed giddiness carried over to our classroom wherein our teacher in the middle of the exam asked us to leave the room with our bluebooks and all. We both did pass the course just the same. And became good friends. 

Joji was way out cool. She had a nice shag, comfy jeans, hi-cut reeboks, and an old beat-up chedeng she inherited from her father. One time she picked me up from the house and brought me to the top of Wright Park past the lake of Mansion House. Once there, she got a bottle of rhum from her bag and toasted to yet another boring schoolday. Yes, she introduced me to rhum too. Rhum that we drank by shots followed by coke. (The softdrink, mind you.) Or whistles when no chaser was available. 

Joji was the first friend I 'came out' to. It wasn't at all dramatic. Although my other friends in high-school and college had probably known I was gay, just like in my family, the matter was never discussed. With Joji however, out of the blue, she one day asked me, "Do you have a boyfriend?" She sensed my unease and apprehension (I was a tight-lipped closet case) and continued to rib me; "C'mon Marts, you can't be a virgin all your life!" That did it. She broke the ice. We laughed all morning. She talked about her present love life, I talked about my fantasies. We drank some more. I trusted her not to tell any of our other friends. She didn't say a word.  

We drifted apart after college but during Baguio's earthquake I sought out Joji. She was now renting a room in Jungle Town and had camped out with the neighbors in an open lot in the area. She introduced me to her new friends over bottles of Tanduay. She was still the same old, jolly Joji I thought. We vowed to keep in touch and we did occassionally. We got together at least twice a year. She eventually had two kids by her boyfriend. Two adorable kids who competed with me for Joji's attention whenever I would visit. It was during this period when I was drinking my heaviest and at the brink of a major depression. But Joji picked me up. Reassured me that all will turn out for the better. She had this sense of calm and a way with words that made me feel secure. She wasn't doing all that well either but she had optimism and confidence that we would both get out of the rut we were then presently in. Wherever she is now I am grateful to Joji for instilling in me a sense of hope and the resolve to fight pressing exigencies. 

A friend of mine has the following as one of her earliest memories of her childhood. She once owned a dachshund whom she really cared for. Once her (groovy) mother cooked 'adult' brownies and left them on the table to cool. A few minutes later, my friend saw her dog lying on its back, seemingly lifeless. He wouldn't budge or even move when his name was called. He neither did flinch when cradled. My friend saw traces of the brownies scattered on the table, chairs, floor and on the dog's mouth. My friend cried out to her mother; "What did you do to my dog?!" To which her mother screamed; "What did your dog do to my brownies?!!!" End of story. 



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CAFE AMAPOLA PART 2

(Photo Courtesy of Ernesto V. Enrique)


I must have been in Freshman High School when I first stepped into the Art Gallery on the second floor of Cafe Amapola. Michelle Soriano, a friend of mine who was a year ahead of me in high school, had asked me to accompany her to the opening of a group exhibit. She had to choose an artwork and submit a critique of it for her English Class assignment. And so we went and had just caught the tail-end of the opening ceremonies. It was late afternoon and there were people crowding all over the space. 


Michelle was drawn to one particular artwork. It stood out amongst the rest because it was drawn on an oversized intermediate pad -- the ones kindergartners usually use to practice writing the alphabet. It was lined in blue and red. The main artwork was like a kid's scribbling or doodling. I nonchalantly told Michelle: "But, I could do that?!" She answered: "But you didn't think of doing it first!" I left it at that. I Looked at the other works on exhibit and went back to the one Michelle had singled out. She leaned over my back and whispered "See, you can't get your eyes off it?!  It's the idea (or did she say 'concept') behind it."


 I then thought : AHA! The work was by the then budding artist Rock Drilon


In college, the Angel's Trumpet Bookstore was replaced by The Pub. It was more like a piano bar where blind musicians would play. At one point, Dave Tabligan (bless his soul) would play the piano. And then he suddenly disappeared from the Baguio Scene only to come back in the early 2000's and play the piano at The Manor. Medical students from SLU would also hang-out there. I remember Dr. Dennis Flores, then a medical student, take over the piano and play while his buddies would take turns singing.


Beer was 8 pesos a bottle. The Molo Soup and Camote Bread were favorites for us students. I usually ordered Reuben Sandwich for take-out when I would travel to Manila. I'd wait at the Cafe for the midnight Dagupan Bus Trip and eat the sandwich at the stopover in Pangasinan. It was at the cafe where I first tried eating artichokes. No big deal. I think they must've served the canned variety. Churros con chocolate on sunny afternoons or rainy evenings was perfect.


Amapola was the drinking place for us UP Baguio students. We would walk from campus and converge either in the pub or outside by the sidewalk. We hobnobbed with local artists the likes of Tommy Hafalla, Willy Magtibay, Rene Aquitania, Santi Bose. The cafe was bohemian in character. The old structure was refurbished by its new owners but kept the old flooring and basic structure. There was an old jukebox by the entrance and loads of mounted posters of art films or exhibits lined the walls. By the entrance of The Pub was a table fashioned from driftwood and stools to match it. The winding, wrought-iron staircases complemented the vintage mosaic tiles of the comfort rooms. 


The Pub had a mezzanine where throw pillows were strewn for a more relaxed atmosphere.  The cafe's logo/font was art nouveau reminiscent of the Paris Metro. The cafe attracted rightists, leftists, artists, homosexuals (latent and otherwise), foodies, fashionistas, backpackers, etc.  all converged there. There would be the occasional 'artista-sighting' -- like Richard Gomez or Aga Muhlach -- whence we'd give them the Baguio-snub and act like we didn't know/recognize them.


Sometime in 1987 or 1988, while we were drinking outside, a group of 8 or 10 Americans stepped into the cafe. They seated themselves in the table directly across ours although the glass pane separated us. Suddenly, one of us pointed out that one of the men looked like Tom Cruise. This was no coincidence since we knew that Tom Cruise was filming "Born On The Fourth Of July" in Ilocos that month. We figured he must've taken a break and come up to Baguio for some R&R. We were all excited and were trying to convince each other to go inside and ask him if indeed he was The Tom Cruise! But we chickened out. We were shy. Despite the beers we had drunk, we didn't have the guts to go inside. The Americans of course were basking at the attention and fuss we were 'throwing' their way. My female friends were acting 'kikay' just to get their attention. I could swear that that was Tom Cruise! We never got to validate it though.


It was at Amapola where I affixed my name and signature in the petition seeking One Million Signatures to convince Cory Aquino to run in the 1986 Snap Elections. My mother was active in the Cory Campaign. Along with other relatives and friends, and the Coryistas from Manila -- Mama would go join the rallies, fund raisers, motorcades, leading to Election Day that February in 1986. I remember  the night before elections, Mama and my Auntie Tessie were busy preparing sandwiches to be distributed to the poll watchers. They delivered these sandwiches along with other donated food stuff at the basement of Cafe Amapola where it was transformed into a Yellow Base for the Cory Supporters. A few days after elections, somebody threw a rock (?) and broke the window on the Pub side. It was supposed to send a warning to all the Cory Supporters. The owners of the Cafe were not intimidated and punctually replaced the window pane and put up a steel accordion gate on both the Pub and Cafe sides. Business as usual.


We, UP Students had friends from SLU who were also habitues of the cafe (mostly my Brother's Barkada) -- there was Arel 'Lamang' and Steve Limpin and the rest of the Limpin Clan. I remember Steve and his motorbike. He would allow us at times to ride with him at night. Once, he hitched Nina Ledesma as they went zooming across town. Nina however had to pee really bad and so they stopped at the funeral parlor along Naguillian Road, Nina steps off the bike, enters the first chapel she sees, gives her condolences to the people inside, hurriedly goes into the Chapel's comfort room to relieve herself, then bids everyone goodbye! HAHAHAHAHA!


There were also the Fil-Am Boys from SLU who were friends of Ferdie Balanag and later on got to hang-out with the rest of us. Emma and Jimil became an item. The Fil-Am Boys would bring their US Passports during Election-Liquor Ban nights and would be served beer. They would then pass on some to us, Philippine Passport Holders.


The Cafe saw relationships come and go. I know of several couples who first met there. I know of at least one couple still going strong today. They were both reeling from their failed marriages when they first met at the Cafe. But, more than twenty years later, they're still in each others arms. Awwwwww!


The sidewalk tables were perfect for people-watching. Baguio then was not so populated nor polluted. During Christmas we would see Karla P. Delgado (Her mother Peachy Prieto owned Cafe Amapola) on break from Harvard University. All the boys had a crush on mysterious, angelic Karla. But they were either too torpe or too stoned to muster enough guts and introduce themselves. I can count on my ten fingers the number of boys who were broken-hearted because of Karla.


My best friend Carol and I would hang-out at the cafe almost every evening. The last night we were there, we had agreed to meet up again the next day at 5:30 pm.


We didn't make it. The next day was July 16, 1990.


(Photo Courtesy of ramny.toralba's photostream on flickr)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CAFE AMAPOLA








The pre-earthquake Baguio had Cafe Amapola at the top of Session Road. Beside the cafe (in the same building) was 'The Angel's Trumpet Bookshop'. It was a first in Baguio that carried esoteric and art books. I used to tag along with my mother to the establishment, she being the accountant of both the cafe and the bookshop. At the onset, my mother supervised the inventory of the bookshop. We had to list down each and every book, magazine, catalog, map, artwork or whatever was being sold there, a fairly easy job for a grade 5 student like myself. I liked going to the bookshop because I was in awe of all the characters there.  The 'Angel's Trumpet' had attracted a number of artists from both Manila and Baguio. Free spirits who dressed outrageously, had long hair, worked on the set of 'Apocalypse Now' and clutched in their hands a copy of Ermita magazine all dog-eared. During inventory breaks we would have snacks at the cafe. We partook of freshly baked camote bread or churros con chocolate 

There was a curiosity on top of the piano though, a glass jar filled with what looked to me as some sort of fish or meat in some even stranger sauce. I thought it was some offering to whomever those artists were venerating. And while I was intrigued by it, I dared not speak about it. Or even stare at it for a long time thinking it possessed some magical powers. On our last day of inventorying the bookshop I went next door to the cafe to ask for a glass of water. While waiting for the waiter to hand me my water, I marveled at the glass jar. Its contents gleamed with the sun's afternoon rays. The waiter must have caught me staring at it and asked me if I wanted to try it -- the salsa monja 

With eyes open wide I imagined an old, evil nun stirring a brew over an open fire. The waiter must've seen my scared expression and hurriedly offered me my glass of water and promptly sat me down probably thinking I was about to faint. He assured me it was delicious and said I should try it with a piece of bread. He entered the kitchen and later came out with a slice of bread on a plate and holding a spoon with the other hand. He got the jar from the piano, opened it and asked me to sniff the contents. He did it as if the jar was a puppy and he was asking me to pet it.  

The salsa monja had a rich, briny aroma. It smelled like olives, star anise, and even anchovies, its pungency both revolting and appealing. The waiter scooped out a heaping tablespoon and poured it beside the bread on the plate, dripping the last few drops on the bread itself. Not an ounce wasted.  Images of the evil nun flashed before me once more but now morphed into a wicked queen awaiting my consumption of her nasty potion. It must be really special and expensive I thought instead to shake me out of my stupid fantasy. The waiter then instructed me to dip the piece of bread on the salsa monja. I remember closing my eyes upon putting the food in my mouth, preparing myself for what I thought the waiter would reveal to me. Here I go again, I figured I'd rather not look at the frog's legs, newt's eyes or whatever it was that was in it.  


have no words to describe how the salsa monja tasted. Salty, aromatic, biting and sharp all do not give justice to the pleasure I had tasted. I would liken the experience to that first moment when you finally learn to ride the bike. Or learn to swim. That crucial moment when you know you are balancing on your own. No adult holding the bike at your back. Or when you first float sans the hands of your instructor on your belly or floaters on your arms. That fleeting magical moment of sheer joy when you know it is you and you alone making that bike go on or making you sway with the tide of the water. Extreme joy yet replete with uncertainty and danger. That very instance, suddenly alone, and no one or nothing seems important because you had crossed that line towards a new discovery.  

That was the effect salsa monja had on me. I was oblivious to my surroundings, savoring each mouthful slowly, absorbing the textures in my palate, my tongue swirling the varied flavors. I hoped that the portion given to me would last longer but I was not willing to stop eating just the same. I kept that a secret for the longest time. Thinking I was the chosen one amongst many to imbibe an edible mantra of sorts.  Selfishly guarding it from friends and family. I would never get to taste salsa monja again despite repeated dreams and fantasies of it.  

In college, we would hang out at Cafe Amapola. The former bookstore now converted into a piano bar. While the molo soup, the oysters rockefeller, reuben sandwich or even the paella at the cafe were delicious, I still yearned for the salsa monja which now was absent from the piano top. It never really was on the menu. Years after I learned that the salsa monja at the old Cafe Amapola was cooked by my neighbor, Laida Lim-Perez. Her daughter tells me that she hasn't made some for quite sometime now. There still is hope. I hope.  

In the early 80's my mother and I enrolled in French lessons at the second floor of Cafe Amapola. The second floor was also an art gallery. Our teacher was François Bocquet, a mime artist who was married to Stephanie a Filipina who was then writing her dissertation on Astrology. We were about twenty in the class, me being the youngest. Classes were held thrice a week, scheduled in the early evenings. We were given photocopied pages of a French language instructional that was more like komiks. After three weeks, we were informed that the classes were cancelled and that Monsieur Bocquet and wife had left for France. So that was the 'french leave' I had read about, I thought. The only thing I remember learning from that class was 'Voila! Un taxi!' which I would use each night at the sidewalk outside the cafe when my mother and I would hail a cab.  


note: this is an excerpt from the essay "A Few Of My Favorite Foods" which I wrote ca. 1999 - 2000


(Photo Courtesy of Quaximodo Wye aka Roberto 'Boy' Yniguez)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

LADIES WHO LUNCH


I was sifting through my stuff last night and chanced upon one of my grandmother's cookbooks that I've kept. It is old, stained, dog-eared, torn, stapled with other hand-written recipes or cut-outs of recipes from other magazines. I am talking about "Our favorite Recipes -- Monday Afternoon Club" published by the same group in Baguio City, 1963.

Yes, the cookbook is older than me. It's as old as my brother. But he doesn't cook. Anyway, I read all the way through the book (it's not that thick, after all) and truly imagined how it was when slow-food was the norm. The foreword of the cookbook reads:

Monday Afternoon Club of Baguio was founded in 1933 by Americans living in the Philippine Islands. Now it is a cosmopolitan women's club, still predominately American, devoted to charitable aid to Filipinos in a number of widely differing ways.


It was thought that the favorite recipes of such a group of women would be unique in their international derivation, and would be of wide interest, whilst the sale of the book would bring much needed money for the charitable projects.


Some of the recipes have been contributed by friends of members generously giving the club their well-tried favorites. A few of the recipes are similar but none is exactly the same as another. The result varies slightly to suit different tastes.


To make the book readily understood by all, the editors have included a table of metric, avoirdupois and other equivalents, a glossary of foreign words and hints on adjusting quantities for altitude.


We in the Philippines wish you all GOOD COOKING!


Nowhere in the cookbook are we to find out, however, who the editors were. In the page fronting the foreword, there is on the lower right side the printer's name (Baguio Printing) and below it is written "Weaving by: Easter School". There are no photographs that accompany the recipes, so I presume the cookbook must have come with a woven satchel. Or perhaps a woven bookmark? The book is divided into sections like Hors d'oeuvres, Soup, Salad & Dressings, Bread & Rolls, Fish, Poultry & Sauces, Meat, Cheese & Sauces, etc. Below each recipe is the contributing member's name.

One would notice, that even though most of the members were American, the recipes they shared belied their European roots, and so you would see Swedish Cabbage, Berlin Doughnuts, Sauerbraten, Irish Stew Casserole to name a few. American regional cuisine is also represented in the likes of Bostonian Spread, Virginia Chicken-Apple Salad, Baked Salmon (New Orleans), North Carolina Brunswick Stew (this last one shared by Betty Ploeser wherein she writes at the end; "Tar Heels like this dish served with hot corn bread and a green salad").

There are a few Filipino dishes shared by some members. It is not surprising that these dishes are deemed classics when it comes to Filipino fare. And so you have Pancit Luglug shared by Joving Santiago, Coco-Chicken Adobo by Mary Ann Rosales, Morcon  and Chicken Relleno by Jolly Serron,  Pancit Molo by Margarita Kolodzik, Fried Lumpia by Martha Plagens and Empanadas by Madge Melton. I am curious to try two recipes shared by Violeta H. Adorable -- Potage de Garbanzos and Chicken Hinalog. The Chicken Hinalog being a dish gently simmered with tender leaves of the Tamarind and seasoned with patis.

Nowhere in the book will you find the mentioning of pressure cookers, microwave ovens, or non-stick skillets. Meat and Chicken stews were simmered for hours until 'meat easily separates from the bones'. Canned produce is rarely used save for evaporated and/or condensed milk. Other packaged items used were the usual flour, butter, baking powder and soda, sugar and salt of course, and the ever popular jell-o and marshmallows. Ditto raisins, dates and nuts and olives. Otherwise, all ingredients were deemed to have been bought fresh at the market. Pyrex was popular for the casseroles. Casseroles having the most entries in the cookbook.

My grandmother checked the recipes she had tried (the fountain pen's ink now a light brown) -- Empanadas, Ice Box Cake (the recipe called for peaches, but my Lola would use ripe mangoes instead), Pancake (from scratch) courtesy of the Baguio Country Club, Polvoron, etc. Lola didn't tick off any recipes for cakes or cookies, understandably so because Lola never baked. It was us, the third generation of cousins who would use the oven.

The recipes are easy to follow. Instructions are simple. Most ingredients were and still are available year round. That I think is the reason they did not include photographs. There is a recipe for The Original Chicken A La King by Ruth Pearson and is truly reminiscent of those toast cups filled with chicken that was popular up to the seventies during kiddie parties or luncheons. Baguio Country Club's Gazpacho and Raisin Bread are also included. The Twenty Four Hour Bean Salad and Roquefort Whirl Salad Dressing by Lourdes Gesner are both  tempting.

Here are some curiosities: Coca-Cola Salad by Martha West is a dish made from Raspberry and Cherry Jello, cherries, nuts, cream cheese, crushed pineapple and 2 Coca-Colas (8 oz. I presume as there was no other variant then). There is also the recipe for Ginger Beer by Elizabeth Mackenzie wherein she warns: "Leave for 24 hours then strain and bottle. Keep in the refrigerator or the bottles may burst." Or how about the recipe for Bar-Talk! by Sally Nordstrom -- it is a concoction of Scotch or Bourbon, pineapple, grapefruit and calamansi juices and soda poured over ice then garnished with orange slices. Ms. Nordstrom adds; "For holiday sparkle, float aluminum cut-outs with lighted birthday candles." Could Bar-Talk! be a pun on the highand term for drunkard i.e. Bartek?! There are also recipes for Clay and Home Laundry Soap. (For the very bored housewife, I guess).

The Buffet Supper For 100 contributed by Ditas Valles is as follows:

Smoked Beef Tongue
Roast Loin of Pork with Prunes
Rolled Roast of Veal
Ravioli in Tomato Sauce
Potato and Bacon Salad with Mustard Dressing
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage
Lettuce and Sour Cream Salad
Cucumber Salad
Picked Beets
Pan de Sal                      Rye Bread
Dessert: Assorted Cheese Garnished with Fresh Grapes
Served with Crackers (salted & unsalted)
Fruit kabobs
Pineapple Chunks         Fresh Strawberries
Melon Balls        Lychees
Irish Coffee

(The recipes for the items above are seen in the succeeding pages of the cookbook)

There are numerous recipes for Apple Pie and its variants. Also loads of Chocolate Cakes. Towards the end is an Herb Chart naming various herbs and their more common and acceptable uses. There are also tips for High Altitude Baking (eg. Sugar; decrease for each cup -- for 3,000 feet -- no change; for 5,000 feet -- usually no change; for 7,000 feet -- 1 to 2 tbsps.)

In the section titled Treasure Pots: 40 tips for the homemaker is given. Here are the gems, I am suddenly reminded of Martha Stewart:

        No.  2: Toasting bread on your waffle iron is a nice change.
        No.  3: Place waxed paper over the butter knife to cut butter squares for serving.
        No. 17: Potato peeling and vinegar boiled in a kettle will remove lime deposits.
        No. 18: A handful of salt added to the rinsing water in winter will keep clothes from freezing to the
                     line. (Baguio had winter in the 60s?! See also number 37 below)
        No. 20: Egg white is useful in removing gum from clothing or hair.
        No. 22: To preserve bouquets: Put saltpeter in the water you use for flowers. Flowers will then keep                         
                     for 2 weeks.
        No. 23: Tea towels starched slightly will leave no lint on dishes.
        No. 35: Hot salt water poured into sink and drains helps to keep them clean and odorless.
        No. 37: Keep windows free from ice in winter by rubbing the panes with a sponge dipped in   
                     alcohol.

After this section is the page on Spot and Stain Removal Chart, which I am going to skip as modern day techniques/products abound. Or we're not just that attached to our articles of clothing as they were back then when clothes had to be made by the family seamstress or the tailor in downtown Session Road. Nowadays, it's off-the-rack, ready made, mall issued clothes for most of us.

I couldn't help but smile while reading the recipe for Beef Stew Margarita by Jerry Reed. It is written in a rush. She rattles off the ingredients and the procedure and mutters in the end; "Soothing for disgruntled males!!!" 

hahahahahaha   :-)


I leave you now with Lupita Coromina's recipe titled simply: DUCK

1 young duck, disjointed
Strong Beef Stock
Salt and Pepper
3 Doz. Olives
2 Onions

Chop the onions, duck liver, gizzard and heart with 12 stoned olives and mix well with sufficient hot stock to cover duck. Add seasoning and stir well until sauce is thick. Place pieces of duck in sauce and simmer for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours. Add remaining olives and serve.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MONDO MARCOS

Mondo Marcos now available in National Bookstore and Mt Cloud Bookshop! Grab a copy while supply lasts!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

FABRIC8TED (Artworks by Carlo Villafuerte)





All of the 17 artworks by Carlo Villafuerte have stolen the limelight at the group exhibit titled “Self-Distraction” that just ended last August 17 at the Victor Oteyza Community Arts Space or VOCAS at La Azotea Bldg., Session Road, Baguio City.  Villafuerte’s framed works of hand-sewn fabrics with found objects are a wonderful respite from the usual ‘Cordillera-cum-Ethnic’ images predominantly made by Baguio’s budding artists. A mélange of polka dots, floral, paisley, op art, madras, tweed, denim, batik, cotton, wool, double knit, et cetera fuse together with metal scraps, buttons, stones, wire, and what-else, in artworks that are well thought out.

The 32 year-old Villafuerte, whose father is a carpenter and mother is a seamstress at a garments factory, learned to sew from his Paternal Grandmother. He would watch her pick up needle and thread (or the crochet hook) and observe her as she would labor the entire day. In Grade 4, a teacher once remarked that Villafuerte’s H.E. project resembled the handiwork of an experienced seamstress. Later on in college he enrolled in an Engineering course but transferred after his first year and tried his hand at Computer Science. Again, the calling for the Arts was too strong so he tried to transfer to the UP Baguio’s Fine Arts Program but was denied entrance because of one failing mark in his transcript. There was no turning back.

Villafuerte’s first foray into hand-sewn, one-of-a-kind functional pieces was in 2004. He would make bags and shirts and peddle them on the sidewalks of Session Road during the evenings. It was during this period that Kawayan de Guia (a member of renowned filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik’s family that runs VOCAS) had ‘discovered’ Villafuerte and encouraged him to further explore his craft. Back then, most of his ‘patrons’ were foreign tourists who took a liking to his painstakingly detailed pieces borne out from fabric scraps.

It took two years to amass the 17 artworks on display. (The numerous needle pricks on his fingers attest to the time and energy he poured into this collection.) Once he run out of his old clothes, he scoured the ukay-ukay for fabrics. Some were his ex-wife’s clothes that he cut up and included in his pieces. The found objects were gathered whenever he would walk his two sons to and from school.

Villafuerte stresses that when he starts on an artwork, there is no real plan at first. After gathering the materials in his room, he commences cutting up and sewing the fabrics. It is during these hours that “ideas just come to me”. Sometimes during a work-in-progress, when he feels that the piece is not going as he had first envisioned – “kelangan baklasin yung ginawa, tapos mag-umpisa ulit”  (I have to dismantle the work and start all over again.)

There is an obsessive-compulsive feel to elements of his artworks. One will notice the equidistant spaces in his blanket stitches that evoke needlework samplers of the past. His pieces however elevate the homely craft of needlework into stunning art. On the whole, the artworks do not alienate the viewer rather, one is compelled to examine further the ‘stitching’ of images and textures into thoughts and feelings that these works evoke.

Villafuerte’s work titled “Clouds” is a profusion of circles of different textures and colors and sizes. It reminds one of a mandala. But then again, it is also Klimt-esque on second view. “Dreams” on the other hand was conceived when his 8 and 6 year-old sons told him of their, uhm, dreams. Ergo, unicorns and a cloaked agent of evil are part of the panoply of swirls and whorls and blues and greys.

Villafuerte’s “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore” is obviously the most personal of the artworks. It is a direct reference to his failed marriage. The work however does not reek of angst. At first glance it is cathartic. But really, there is a certain epiphany when viewed again. Carlo Villafuerte’s Parents and Grandmother ought to be proud.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BEING DELFIN TOLENTINO

BEING DELFIN TOLENTINO (with apologies to 'Being John Malkovich')
By Martin Masadao


My first vivid recollection of Delfin Tolentino's existence at UP Baguio was in the 80s. Ninoy Aquino had just been assassinated. There was uncertainty in the air. Rallies galore to attend. And fashion trends to keep up with.

I was in high school at the then UPCBHS. I prided myself to be the first student in the campus to own a pair of Sperry Top-siders. The quintessential preppy footwear for both sexes. I wore them with a striped button down oxford shirt, khaki pants and a woolen fair isle sweater slung on the shoulders, its sleeves knotted in a contrived manner to assume casual elegance and comfortable ease a la John Updike. Or Christopher Isherwood is more like it.

And so it was one afternoon as I was ascending the steps that connected the high school to the college buildings that I saw Delfin Tolentino at the top of the steps -- in the exact same outfit. I felt I was walking towards a full-length mirror. As I continued to go up the steps, it was clear that Del carried the style with more credibility. He was the preppy aesthete of Ivy League campuses. While I was the WASP-wanna-be. I quickly took the short cut to the left of the hill that led to the lower canteen lest I hear Del snort at my futile attempt to dress smartly.

Now dear reader, you all know there is really one thing and only one common thing between Del Tolentino and I... the predilection for, dare I say it, alcohol. I was fortunate to be a member of Del’s coterie of drinking buddies during college in the 80s. While some friends had chastised me for not enrolling in at least one subject under Del, thereby defeating the whole purpose of an education at UP Baguio -- a whole lot more people have told me how lucky I was not to have to suffer under his tutelage. And that I should count my blessings as such.

And so at the old Café Amapola Del and I would convene after school with other students and teachers and drink San Miguel Beer. This was the time Asia Brewery was going to come up with their own brew to rival the monopoly that San Miguel had on the market. And at a lower price to boot. I remember Del stating with utmost conviction, "If Gold Eagle tastes exactly like San Miguel Beer, I’m going to shift brands." It then struck me, hey, not only does Del not have an original fashion style, he has no sense of loyalty whatsoever. A true balimbing during those turbulent times.

So what was the 'thing' with Del Tolentino I wondered? While we continued our regular drinking sprees at the Café I still could not put my finger on Del's mystique. We discussed books, films, Linda Ronstadt collection of old standards, etc. I had a glimpse of Del's enigma and why he was a revered member of the UP academe during one theatre run at the auditorium. I was then a member of TABAK, the radical theatre group my friends and I had joined and we were mounting Chris Millado's "Buwan at Baril sa Eb Minor". During our critics' night, Del was the last to speak amongst other invited guests. I remember him uttering the phrase "it's poignant yet replete with tension" referring to the monologue that was the highlight of the play. Wow! How eloquent and precise, I thought. I wanted to be like Del in that respect. Now I get it, Del was the ultimate critic and the uber-authority when it came to the Literary Arts.

I tried to pry more information from other friends who were definitely closer to Del than I was. Del apparently had an enviable art collection in his tastefully decorated house along Leonila Hill. I had so fervently wished to be invited to that house for dinner and be with Baguio’s cognoscenti. Ay, conyo! I also found out that Del came from a landed old family of Baliwag, Bulacan. And the truth was that Del didn’t need the teaching job as he was already well-off but decided to relocate to Baguio for 'personal' reasons. My friend making quotation marks in the air -- "personal". Ha! So there was truth to those rumors after all. Talk was rife around campus that Del, brace yourselves, refused to join rallies against tuition fee hikes or salary increases for teachers because, in truth and in fact, Del Tolentino was a modern day cacique. Pa-art-art na lang sya. Nalito na naman ako. Disillusioned was more like it.

But oh how I yearned to be praised by Del. Because we all know how skimpy he is with praise. In the early 90s my friends mounted Rody Vera's Palanca Award-winning play "Kung Paano Ko Pinatay Si Diana Ross". This was to be my first major role onstage. I had to bear the brunt of calloused feet by rehearsing in high heels. Had to memorize kilometric lines and lip synch to a gazillon Diana Ross songs not to mention learn the choreography for each. Del had rewarded me during our critics' night by saying "Martin, your performance had many nuances. You were a surprise" -- this he said after everyone had spoken and after he commented on the other actors as well. I was flushed with pride. I felt that I had finally arrived. After the show we all went for beers in Rumours Bar along Session Road as our old haunt had perished with the earthquake.

In 2001 I had written the "Ukay-Ukay Handbook" and invited Del personally to the book launch. I had apologetically told him not to expect too much, that the handbook was nothing academic. "Mababaw lang", I said. To which Del remarked, "That’s ok, I'm sick and tired of academic stuff". He stressed it in such a way to make me feel that I will never be able to come up with any academic writing in the first place. Ang taray! Did I hear any praise for the work? Of course not. Such writing is way beneath THE Del Tolentino. It was like being slapped in the face. Obviously he didn’t get the campy irony of it all. No surprise there, I doubt Del goes to the ukay or engages in any activity that is enjoyed by the masa. A true snob he is, I must say.

A few years ago, my sister invited Del and Ben Tapang for dinner at her pad along Gibraltar Road. My sister had apparently been bumping into Del at a Japanese pottery shop on several occasions and she decided to show off her stash by hosting dinner. I was tasked to cook that evening.

I felt I had to engage in one-upmanship again. What exactly does one serve the Doyen of the Humanities College for dinner? I settled on fish lumpia (made from scratch) and pote that I learned from (that other doyenne of the arts and manners) my neighbor, Laida Lim. The pote is basically a beef stew with white beans, potatoes, chorizo, cabbage, etc. -- in other words a very 'sosyal nilaga'. To accompany this was red rice. And red wine that Del and Ben had so thoughtfully brought along with them.

Now I thought Del was not only a great Literary Critic, I assumed he was also an epicure. Epicure ngang talaga, bad manners naman pala! As soon as the pote was set on the table Del got the serving ladle, I presumed to pour broth onto our individual bowls. But no, he went straight for the biggest bone marrow, the chunk of meat and cartilage attached to it was fork-tender, the prized portion of the stew, and set it on his plate. My sister and I were in shock! I felt I was in Amy Tan's "Joy Luck Club" -- that part where the fiancé of one of the main characters goes to his soon-to-be wife's house and shocks her mother at the dinner table by getting the best part of the meal for himself. I mean, I admit, I didn’t read the novel, but at least I saw the movie! I realized Del was like that uncouth fiancé. And he showed no guilt at all throughout dinner. Maybe he thinks he's entitled to it. Or that he can get away with it. And now you all know why he was never invited to dinner again.

Last September, we mounted "Baguio Stories" at UP Baguio and Del comes up to me after one matinee performance. Apparently he's become too old to stay up late now hence the afternoon performance. Anyway, at curtain call I go up to Del and thank him for catching the show. Del then tells me, "Your performance was very nuanced." I smiled and gave him my thanks.

Wait a minute, I suddenly thought to myself while backstage for the gala performance that evening. "Teka, teka, teka, 'your performance was very nuanced?!' Eh yun din yung sinabi nya sa akin nung nag-Diana Ross ako ah?!" So, my theory is that Del has several phrases stashed in his head which he uses or gives when the occasion calls for it. I wonder how many times he has said "poignant yet replete with tension" or "very nuanced performance" and to how many people? YOU'RE A MYTH, DELFIN TOLENTINO! A FAKE! HOLDEN CAULFIELD WOULD SMOTHER YOU WITH HIS SUITCASE!

But seriously, these times we do need myths. Today when we can google our hearts to instant gratification, where politicians are brazen with their ambitions, where pop stars bare all even if there's really nothing to bare -- we most definitely need myths like Del.

Now here is my attempt at art criticism. Indulge me please. If Del were a piece of art, I'd say he would be a David Hockney painting. Definitely old but not dated. Accessible yes, but  also profound. Precise but never calculated. Overt but not embarrassingly shameless.

Del's eloquence, restraint, and constancy are all worth emulating. Even if we only wish to mythologize our own selves.

There is one other thing common between Delfin Tolentino and this writer. Dare I say it?! (A very long pause for effect)

Cigarettes.

NOTE TO READER: This essay is part of the anthology "No Boxers, No Briefs: An(O)ther Compendium of CAC & Ball* (College of Arts & Communication and Bachelor of Arts in Language & Literature for you who were elsewhere beginning 2001)"

The Anthology was a surprise 60th Bday gift for Delfin Tolentino. Ben Tapang and Grace Subido were the project's initiators and we were willing co-conspirators. The irreverence of the essay was intended.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MANNY PACQUIAO FOR UP PRESIDENT



The University of the Philippines Board of Regents has officially opened nominations for the next UP President in preparation for when Dr. Emerlinda R. Roman ends her term on February 9, 2011. I hereby nominate MANNY 'PACMAN' PACQUIAO as UP's next president based on the following reasons:


  1.  Pacquiao fits the criteria of being "a national and  international renowned Filipino", ergo...
  2.  He will not have a hard time seeking funding for the UP System from outside sources.
  3. He will prioritize the UP's Sports Agenda so that we may win the championship at the UAAP.
  4. He couldn't care less about "politics" in the academe.
  5. Together with UP Law Dean Marvic Leonen, they could solve the MILF crisis and finally bring peace to Mindanao.
  6.  Jinky Pacquiao could take courses at UP upon the UP President's discretion. She doesn't need to fear the UPCAT.
  7. He has better abs than the oblation.
  8. If number two above fails, Pacman can donate some of his earnings to UP programs that need funding.
  9. Let him inspire the youth by serving in the country's foremost State University. He should forget congress and the crocodiles inhabiting its chambers.
  10. If he can get away with his outfit pictured above... he'll look dashing donning the 'sablay' during commencement exercises.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FOETRY PROM THE FAST

(two poems i dug up from the past dedicated to Sarah Palin and her clueless sense of humor)

UNTITLED (ca. 1992)

Trying to conquer the kitchen I suddenly thought of you.   Of us.
Skimming off the fat made me cringe at the thought of beads
dribbling onto the already sopping bed sheet. Cutting up the meat
reminded me of our coarse gentleness.

I tied up your ginger toes along with slivers of your leek-green eyes
for the bouquet garni. You nibbled on my earlobes like they were
button mushrooms as I stirred and stirred to thicken the fury.

We simmered an hour too long. We had become rancid.
The room fetid. At breakfast you were honey to my friend's bed of pancakes.

I was told.




UNTITLED (circa 2002)


I
i d
a i d
r a i d
d i a r y
m y r i a d
p y r a m i d


Thursday, June 24, 2010

EPILEPTIC LOBSTER



I spent close to a year in an island in Northern Palawan in 1992 to 1993. I was burned out from TV and Film work so I dived at the opportunity to work in a small resort in Malapacao Island. It wasn't really a resort but a Marina for yachts. The island had only four cottages, all made from materials sourced around the province. One of the Filipino partners in the Filipino-French Company was an architect who was then pursuing her Masters on Vernacular Architecture. The terrestrial development must have been her thesis put to practice.

At the Marina, we boasted of having the best restaurant in the area. Guests from the neighboring resorts would sail our way to partake of specials-of-the-day and the impressive french wines the restaurant carried. Louie, our chef who was based in Manila, would fly to Palawan whenever we had guests. He prepared dishes from what the local fishermen would bring to the resort. Of course, he would fly in fresh croissants from a 5-star hotel in Manila for the guests' breakfast. He also had a pasta maker for homemade noodles and an ice cream maker for fresh calamansi sorbets. 

One of Louie's most remembered dishes (at least for me) was the Lobster Sashimi. The Architect called it pitik-pitik sashimi. Louie would shell the live lobster by severing its head first. Then he would take out the entire body and slice it to pieces much as how tuna sashimi looks. He would reassemble these slices onto a plate to form the original body and for flourish would 'attach' the lobster's head. The body now trembling, no, seizuring if there is such a word, because although severed from its head, the nerves I'd presume were still 'alive' -- hence the pitik-pitk moniker. It looked like how you would imagine your eye lids twitching when you had one of those tics as a kid before. But when you'd ask friends if your eye was moving, they'd say 'no'. Anyway...

The architect asked me, "Are you scared, Martin?! Try it! It's masarap!" I thought, Moi? Scared? Moi who had tried bat, snake, monitor lizard, frogs before? I get my bamboo chopsticks (handcrafted and woven with rattan at the top ends by the villagers living in the island) and bring a piece to my mouth. I chew quickly and swallow promptly, not even savoring the taste at first. The second piece was better. Also I was calmer now. It didn't taste nor smell of the sea. It was sweet. Not like candy-bar-sweet. Or sweet like a banana or other fruit. But believe me when I say, it was sweet.

That afternoon while snorkeling, I was humming in my head B-52's "We were at a party / My earlobe fell in the deep / Someone reached in and grabbed it / It was a rock / No, it was a rock lobster / nananananananaa.........."