Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let There Be Lights on Christmas/Manila Bulletin

I am astounded by lights! Today, I am even more astounded to be on the front page of the Manila Bulletin. My essay "Let There Be Lights on Christmas" is the headline with a beautiful picture of the Manila Bulletin  holiday festive decor taken by Rudy Liwanag (coincidence?).

Read it here

Let There Be Lights on Christmas
By Army Alcayaga-Granada
What is it about  Christmas lights that make us wonder, that make us dream, that make even the most cynical of us be childlike at the sight of brilliant lights?
I take pictures of lights. It is a little redundant. The Wikipedia, the I Ching of netizens, said “a photograph is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface”.
So I am “drawing light with light”. Many people take pictures of other people, animals, beaches, mountains. Filipinos love wacky poses. I take pictures of lights.
Light, aside from being mysterious, is beautiful. When I stand there, in awe of some Christmas tree swathed with lights, I cannot help but be nostalgic. I have this mosaic of Christmas pasts that dance like a ribbon of music in front of me. Pictures of my memories of Christmas.
The lights are the most awaited element of Christmas. Before we lighted the Christmas tree, my father would utter the magic words, “Let there be light!” And there was light.
I have been rounding the stores for some presents for our never dying ( walang kamatayang) exchange gifts, thinking what can you buy for someone whose identity you don’t really know for two hundred bucks. So off I go into the stores to engage in the highly evolutionized sport we call shopping.  I had to buy something warm for our Baguio soujourn slash reunion anyway.
In Shangrila Plaza, I saw a huge white Christmas tree that was veiled with thousands of lights, tiny, throbbing little things that rendered me stupefied. It says, Christmas is just around the corner. This cliche, nomatter how unoriginal and worn out is never truer than today.
Not only did I get the things that I want, a black Giordano turtleneck sweater for my youngest daughter, and a scarf that matches my aubergine colored pantsuit which is a rage nowadays, I also got pictures of my lights and other Christmassy stuff.
Last year I got to take pictures of Policarpio Street and the city hall of Mandaluyong. It was astounding to see swarms of people gathering to enjoy the lights while eating puto bumbong and bibingka.
Like moth to flame, Pinoys flock to the Christmas lights that literally light up the skies of the Yuletide season.  Our eyes widen when we see the symbols that have given meaning to us, meanings that may be too farfetched but nevertheless, a Pinoy’s comfort trip to the so called nostalgic child that lies hidden in each of our hearts.
If I remember right, come Christmas time in the late 70’s my father would haul us to Cubao to watch the C.O.D. spectacles which included puppets on the rooftop of the C.O.D.building. I guess people remember those days like a dull ache on cold mornings. Nowadays we see that pageantry in Greenhills. Sometimes there’s Cinderella twirling with Prince Charming or Barbie dancing with Ken. Although they are not considered as Christmas symbols, they remind us of the childhood we have lost in the sands of commercialism.
When I was a child, I never questioned the reality of Santa Claus. Many of us waited for Santa when we were young. Hapless and romantic, we believed we could catch him sneaking around with bags of toys on his back. Like light, Santa Claus is a symbol of Christmas that one cannot deny.
When I asked my children what they most like on Christmas, they each had an image that makes them smile. The reunions with all cousins and the exchange gifts, the door to door Christmas carolling, the smell of hot chocolate, orange and apple mingling with the cold mornings.
Like what the late great Harper Lee once said,The real Christmas was for the children, an idea I found totally compatible, for I had long ago ceased to speculate on the meaning of Christmas as anything other than a day for children”.
What can we give our children? A well lighted, warm home, a sensible upbringing, and many beautiful Christmasses to remember.

Light is hope, light is life and light is God. A happy Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Movie List

My family watches favorite movies on Christmas season. We relish those movies we love most and introduce some new ones. Here are the top feel good movies we keep on watching through the years...

1. Shawshank Redemption
2.Love Actually
3.Edward Scissorhands
4.Forrest Gump
6.Green Mile
8.Star Wars (with Luke and Lea doing the Tarzan thingy)
9.You've Got Mail
10. Aliens

Of course I didn't include the new ones...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Virginia Moreno's Batik Maker: My View

Filipino students are mystified, often stupefied by poems.
The easiest possible way to a poem is to know who is speaking. No, it’s not always the author who is speaking.

There is a persona or a character that the poet uses, just like a character in a short story.

Who is the speaker (persona)?
The “ I” in the poem is the speaker. As in " I cannot touch him".

What is the speaker talking about?
The batik maker is in the speaker’s dream. The batik maker is weaving or making a design on a cloth.
(This gets a little complicated). The image that the batik maker weaves is like a surreal painting. Dreamlike. I see a man, a huntsman who is pale, (why?).  He is ensnared and he cannot move (he cannot move because he’s ...dead?)

The speaker said,  I cannot touch him.  Why? 1. Because it is a dream.  2.The speaker is in denial.  3. maybe because she or he is afraid.

Lengths of the dumb and widths of the deaf are his here we can surmise that the dead cannot speak or hear anymore...dumb, deaf (get it?).

Wild orchids thumb ...  we can imagine that wild orchids are crawling on the hair of the dead huntsman, whose mouth is open and looks like screaming. But of course the speaker hears only some birds screaming sadly (elegiac) as though mourning for the dead.

And I cannot wake him...this part is heartwrenching. Imagine a woman who mourns for a lost loved one, trying to waken somebody who cannot come back anymore.

What panthom panther sleeps in the cage of his skin and immobile hands...  a panther is a strong animal, and the huntsman, being what he was, must have been strong and fearless when he was alive. But now, the feline sleeps forever.

And I cannot bury him...
This line is self explanatory...

Well, understanding the poem is just part of the process. A poem has images, and like a painting, the poet must convey his feelings through images. If the poet just said,  “The speaker is sad beyond words,”
That wouldn’t really be a poem, would it?
Someone would say, but a batik maker doesn’t weave? Which can spark a debate, which can lengthen the discussion etc.

Poems have meanings. Some poems are really puzzles. Mortals like us can only guess at the  hidden agenda of the poet. Take heart. Usually, the simplest explanation is the best.

View the complete poem here.

Let There Be Lights!

I have always been attracted to light. Like moth to flame I get stunned by the beauty of  blinding lights. Every Christmas I can’t fail to take photos of Christmas trees and lights. They soothe me, and bring back the memories of Christmas past.

Rustan’s has my favourite trees every year. Made of white lights, they’re like snow in a tropical setting. The ice like drops fall so gracefully and I can’t help but click away at the magic.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quest for Anawangin Cove

Quest For Anawangin Cove Slideshow: Army’s trip to Subic was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!

Wish I could go back soon....

Silver Morning

And when i think of you...

That's all I wanna do

 For the knowing that you're there 

Is all I need...

I am walking through the silver morning

and after the music inside me
what can say
when i need you more and more each day...

       If you imagine yourself walking on these foothpaths, it's as if you have walked with me on a cool silver morning... Living in the city where green things are so rare, I am lucky to have these footpaths that recharge me before I enter the web of a busy day... 

Silver Morning
Music and lyrics by Kenny Rankin

Jogging paths going to
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig Metro Manila

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Katy, The Jazz Queen

            Curtains open. A vamp of a woman sashays into the center stage donned in a tight bustier gown and around her neck a black satin ribbon cameo choker necklace with matching black gloves. The piano rolls a few opening notes and the woman mumbles a few husky drawls. Then comes the ear splitting Balllllut! The infamous native delicacy becomes the star of the limelight as Katy dela Cruz sings “Balut”.

           Katy dela Cruz or Mommy Katy to her fans and friends was an iconic performer who dominated her genre, the bodabil in the 1940’s and was active for 80 long years before her demise in 2004 at the age of 97.
           One can argue that nobody really took her place in matters of popularity and pizzazz . The bodabil, the offspring of vaudeville, is a string of short, flashy performances such as song and dance numbers, magic acts, jugglers, comedy skits, and the like. 
          The bodabil used to be performed in the Zorilla Theatre and the Manila Grand Opear House. Katy reigned queen as a total performer whose jazzy numbers and husky, voice can be likened to scat queen Ella Fitzgerald, and French iconic singer Edith Piaf. I say likened because Katy actually became a star at the age of 18 being the highest paid performer at the time, when Piaf was only 10 and Fitzgerald, 8.

             The young Katy, born in Intramuros, used to frequent the ferias in the vicinity and" sing and swivel her hips so that people would throw coins at her." More of these very entertaining anecdotes from Manila Carnivals

             Again, Director/writer par excellence Nestor Torre directs Maestro Ryan Cayabyab’s music to the lyrics and script of Jose Javier Reyes.
            The musical extravaganza is topbilled by Isay Alvarez as Katy,Tirso Cruz III, Gian Magdangal,Epi Quizon as Golay(a.k.a.Dolphy), Lou Veloso, Tricia Jimenes and Dulce . They have a sneak preview today, Sunday, October 14, 2012 at the Atrium of The Podium, Mandaluyong.

(Photo from Manila Carnivals)

            Of course it will not be possible without the stage management of John Aries Alcayaga, one of the most versatile personalities behind Philippine stage.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Virginia Moreno's Batik Maker

Batik Maker

Tissue of no seam and skin

Of no scale she weaves this;

Dream of a huntsman pale

That in his antlered 

Mangrove waits


And I cannot touch him.

Lengths of the dumb and widths

Of the deaf are his hair

Where wild orchids thumb

Or his parted throat surprise

To elegiac screaming

Only birds of


And I cannot wake him.

Shades of light and shapes

Of the rain on his palanquin

Stain what phantom panther

Sleeps in the cage of

His skin and immobile


And I cannot bury him.

Virginia Moreno
(Photo from Aliww)

         Virginia Moreno’s poem, Batik Maker instantly became my fave when the haunting lyrics installed itself into my being after we read it in college (PNU where I took up AB/BSE English). My college professor, Dr. Venancio Mendiola would do his stance, his silhouette ( I say silhouette because we see his profile) while looking at something distant and obscure, and say our names randomly, usually to recount a story we were assigned days earlier.

          That day, our topic was the immortal Batik Maker.

          Dr. Mendiola asked what imagery we see from the poem, I raised like my hand like an enthusiastic child about to show her new toy.
I could see an image in my mind and I drew a canvas of what I hoped were the poet's thoughts.

What I drew was something like this:

I interpreted the lines:

Shades of light and shapes
Of the rain on his palanquin

I was so proud of that image. My professor didn't utter a comment (perhaps he was thinking I should take up Digital Arts or Fine Arts instead).

Time went on. It was years later when I found the poem again and mulling over the " lengths and depths" of  the pain that echoed in those words, I can only surmise from where they come.

No wonder she's called the High Priestess of Philippine Poetry.

For my view on Batik Maker, please see here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Talented Mr. Ripley: A Novel by Patricia Highsmith

    Sometimes you watch a film and get that feeling that somehow it has crawled under your skin and you cannot quite shake it. The erotique psychological mystery thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley is one such movie.  It is a surprise for me to know that it's based on a novel in the 50's and that there was a movie starring Alain Delon as Tom Ripley in the 70's.

        The remake in 1999 became Matt Damon's first and only journey into the antihero character ( ah , I forgot the departed). For me, this is his best performance so far. He gave the hero antihero Ripley a reality that makes one cringe. Damon is one of those actors who have unassuming faces but can render the audience breathless in their performance.

         Patricia Highsmith who wrote the novel was already making a name for herself when her first novel Strangers on a Train was made into a movie by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock.

         Highsmith had an "ambiguous sexuality" and she experimented in her plots as well as her relationships. The "stark prose" and theme of self exile in which she was well known made her a good example of a writer of existentialism.

           In the film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley is a nondescript freeloader whose talent as piano player and ass kisser gave him a free ticket to Europe as a baby sitter for jet setter Dickie Greenleaf. But Ripley began having his own unbridled fantasy, to become Dickie Greenleaf.

          To what extent will he go to make this fantasy come true?
Patricia Highsmith circa 1941
Photo from  the Swiss Literary Archives

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

To Write, Perchance to Dream

I used to astonish people whenever I told them I was a writer. Many of them went catatonic for a millisecond not really grasping whether it was a gag or if I had been taking Valium (the local version of Prozac). The word writer does have a mystical ring to it.

Of course I was young then, a teenager. I had that self-important look on my face when I uttered those words. Some of those poor people stared at me, mouth agape, as if the earth were ready to devour me anytime.

I was proud of my poems, crude as they were. I had an early fan base you might say. My weepy love poems were a hit among friends and classmates who harassed me for copies, whether to give as a gift to their inamorata or to use as a target practice I really do not know.

My poetic career fizzled out once I learned I couldn't really make money out of it. I wrote on the side though, hoping and wishing, that maybe, the Muse would tap me on my shoulder once more and say, “Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination.” with a Lou Rawls totally cool boom voice.

I switched to writing Filipino romances for a while. After a few titles, (which I know in my heart had become hard to find books collected by my fans) , I decided that it was time to move on and become “serious”, so I wrote a World Lit textbook.
So there.

And here I am, writing another romance that I'm not sure would see the light of day, but who knows. I promised myself to write one paragraph at a time. Who knows, maybe next millennium I will...


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cine Europa: The Pre View

We arrived at the cocktails where everything was heating up. It was a very well attended soiree with everybody having a grand time having drinks, chatting, exchanging ideas about the past and present movies.
Many aficionados were familiar and I saw some writers and fellow bloggers.

My friend Alvin Cruz who wrote an article in the Manila Bulletin about the Cine Europa invited me along for his coverage of the affair. 

After the cocktails which was held at the fountainside of the Shangrila Plaza, we watched the first offering of Norway, the newest member of Cine Europa.

It was the movie "Upperdog", a story of four different individuals who were lost souls looking for something in their lives,whether a link to the past or the bridge to the future... something that is very relevant to what is happening to our changing world.

It crosses borders, intertwines destinies, and examines our deep secrets and hidden fears.
A very entertaining movie indeed.

 Happy watching and catch the movies from September 6-16,2012 at the Shangrila Plaza Cineplex.

Everyone is invited!

Flags of different colors

Alvin and I having a blast!

The Manila Symphony Quartet

Finger foods, canapes, nachos, etc.


Picapica with drinks. Yummy!

Margonz Exhibition

The Delegates toasting

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Anilao: Beachbums and Divers Paradise

 Marine photos by Kawabata

I’m not really into beach bumming, I mean who wants to get charred up after a year of wasting half of my paycheck buying glutathiones/kojic/vitaminC/lotion just to lighten my skin.

But here I am, armed with super strength sunblock spf 50 that promised to keep my skin from harmful UV rays. I just wish it could also keep stingrays and jellyfish at bay.

As we reached the Anilao harbor in Batangas, the bus had to circle a 90 degrees turn towards the cove that was our destination. Clumps of trees lined up to partially hide the blueness of the South China Sea.

And there it was.

Frame by frame the radiant blue emerged from the tree trunks that served as a fence from the outsiders called tourists. The bus stopped at the farthest point of the bend, and from there I picked up my cramped bottom to get a better look at the panorama that lay before me.

The air was clear as crystal and my sleeveless blouse whiter than the light which did hurt my eyes a bit.

Summer was painted right in front of me. The light blue sky was splotched by balloons of perfect clouds while the blue of the sea was a shade darker giving an impression that it was alive and breathing, a world worthy of exploration with its promise of a vibrant aquatic life underneath.

I could scoop the image and put it in my pocket or I could capture it with my camera. I did the latter, of course.

Looking from the top I can see horizontal shaped white buildings, I guessed would be my lodging for tonight, the simplicity of which played a contrast with the amazing view of the cove.

There was a gradual slope deep enough that if you toss a stone it would roll all the way down to the lowest point that was the beach. The path was carefully made safe even for flip-flops. My companions, who were from different parts of the world hungrily wend their way down to the lodgings below.

I descended to an inn highly recommended by a backpacker friend. The cool interior was a welcome respite. There was a spacey balcony made of wood and bamboo. It opened up to the beach below. There were colorful bancas or boats parked at the shore. Dark skinned waifs played on the sand.

I unexpectedly noticed the lack of chairs. Low wooden tables furnished the balcony. The owner of the place, a Japanese expatriate and his Filipina wife welcomed us warmly. Pretty soon sushi on plate was served with cold beer .Ice clung on the side of my beer bottle. The ice was thawing and a puddle of water formed at the base making me even thirstier.

Lunch was soon served. We ate authentic Japanese dishes like crispy and delicate tempura served on a wooden dish, Osaka style okonomiyaki, which is the best they say, kamameshi or special rice steaming from its wooden pots. Sitting on the bamboo floor with chopsticks in hand, I relished the melting blue marlin in my mouth. It was one of the juiciest raw fish I have ever tasted. The luscious mangoes halfway ripe was lightly sour and sweet. I dipped them in bagoong sautéed in tomatoes and jalapeno.

The black, steaming capeng barako, a native Philippine coffee was just right for my taste. I guess the Filipina  owner masterminded the whole meal.

After an hour of lazing around, we trooped to the bancas docked on the beaches. We were going to an island they call sombrero island. “Sombrero” means hat and knowing that Filipinos have a penchant for naming things because of their shape, I guessed as much. In the map, it was a mere dot in the blue. The banca man told us that a typhoon visited two weeks ago and that we should not worry because it’s going to be a lovely day.

Approaching from the sea, the beach had strange rock formations. They were glaring white. I tried to quash my disappointment. I mean, it was beautiful but I hardly think that the beach would be friendly to neither my feet nor my bottom. Upon closer examination, the rocks were actually corals of different sizes and shapes. Nature had been rearranging her face again. The patterns of the corals oddly reminded me of snowflakes.

I made my way to the island, carefully lifting my slippers as I walk. My slippers sank into the soft sand. The cave that jutted from the wall that faced the beach looked so inviting. We took refuge in its coolness but stayed at its mouth. I imagined pirates of long ago hiding from inside this very cave.

Our guide hauled us and made us walk a good ten minutes more and it was then that my heart melted. Stretched before me was a beach so white the sun danced on the sand. It was also so smooth I could not help but lie on my back right there and then. The water lapped on my heels. I only heard the distant sound of  wind blowing and the waves rocking me to a gentle nap. I was at peace.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Twelve Reasons Why The Sun Shines on Philippine Tourism

    boracay beachers     (photo by armand alcayaga)
boracay    (photo by Joan Yalung-Agdeppa)

1.  Boracay is the no. 1 tourist destination for 2012 besting Santorini, Greece and Bali, Indonesia according to Travel and Leisure magazine in Europe. - Manila Bulletin

2. The Palawan Underground River is One of the Seven New Wonders of the World. - Manila Bulletin

3. Filipinos can communicate in English.

4. Filipino travelers/bloggers have become the unofficial tourist guides by sharing their experiences to the world.

5. Travel mart spurs a lot of promos for travelers to avail..

6. Cam Sur’s El Verde Movement aims to plant 12 million trees in 2012 spearheading a project that can motivate Filipinos to plant more. 

7. Filipinos are naturally friendly and entertaining. We love to smile, sing, laugh, and party!

8. Palawan is well on the way to having modern infrastructure to accommodate the influx of tourists. -Cruising magazine

9.  Manny Paquiao and Charice are ambassadors of goodwill showing world class talent and character.

10. We take personal hygiene seriously.

11. Our Overseas Filipino Workers are still the best tourist market and the ones responsible for keeping our economy on a steady rise.

12. According to Conde Nast Traveler (an international magazine) survey, Manila Hotel is Top Twenty among the hotels in South East Asia in 2012.- Manila Bulletin

Palawan Underground River     ( photo by Tina Uy)

anawangin cove

The list is growing.

How about you. Do you find any reason why tourism is now booming?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Google Me and The Art of Plagiarism

I noticed that when I googled my article "The Quest for Anawangin Cove" published in Manila Bulletin, it appeared in so many travel blogs. They reposted it without permission and without even the decency to name the author meaning  'mwah' myself and I.

Anyway, plagiarizing is not uncommon nowadays. Even high powered individuals ( who couldn't even hire a good ghostwriter) resort to it( claiming they don't know about it. )

But don't they know it's so easy to google and find out ? Many bloggers do this. They set up a blog, copy other peoples works and voilah!

It's so lame.

Color my World: Restoring Manila

History etched in these walls

  It was morning. Alvin and I went to Manila Bulletin where we both contribute lifestyle articles every now and then.
         We were elated because after a long time we can traverse that path again. This area is part of Intramuros where there is the Club Intramuros Golf Course and some schools like LPU (Lyceum of the Philippines University) Lunsod ng Pamantasan ng Maynila, Letran, Mapua to name a few.

         Alvin was a little nostalgic because he went to LPM for a while. I am also an alumnus of PNU(Philippine Normal).
        We were impressed by the edifices that mark the journey of our history. This is just a small fraction of what great history remains. It is a sad fact that many are deteriorating. The paints are peeling, the buildings has 'beards of moss' ( like what Joel Toledo said). 

        I saw how the old buildings of Macau were restored. They look pretty and so inviting. What I like about the buildings there are the plants that they accessorize them with.

       I enjoy taking pictures of old buildings that have character. Many buildings here in Manila need only a coat of paint to restore them.
       I noticed that in the Philippines, many buildings are bare. People don't paint houses. We lack the aesthetic sense that make a country interesting. We lack the vibrancy of colors.
       Only the jeepney is colorful. That's why it's interesting!
Here are some interesting buildings in Intramuros...

grass choked yard

Guardia Civil

The Great Wall of Intramuros

Wild Plants
Moss choked Building. Loved it

Alvin with the Guardia Civil

At the background is the iconic Manila City hall clock