Category Archives: Love

A musing and museum afternoon

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Via Crucis (2016) by Antipas Delotavo

The last time I went to the Vargas Museum was in college. I can’t even remember the name of the artist who opened his exhibition that day, so I’m pretty sure my attendance was partly because of the free food and beer.

So when I needed a place to work on my paper weeks ago, I visited the Vargas Museum, where there is also a museum cafe. It is true that a place rarely remains the same as the last time you saw it.

My favorite wall at its second floor is the one where Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings of ruins of Manila are on display. When destruction is painted by an artist well-known for works on the beauty of the countryside, we see a fresh wound while looking only at scars.

At the first floor, the current exhibits are those of Antipas Delotavo (Agos) and Roberto Feleo (Mito ng Aklasang Basi). Both exhibits run until April 8.

Museums have been more lenient about the prohibition against photographing the works on display. That might be a good way to reach out to the selfie-obsessed humans we have become. However, I can imagine the curators now face the challenge of creating a deeper experience than what the smartphones would allow.

For example, that day I visited the Vargas Museum, I saw two girls in the hall where Delotavo’s works are on exhibit. They were taking pictures of each other at the gap between the paintings Ganito Noon and Ganito Ngayon. Their hair and backs touched the canvas. They didn’t seem to spend time looking at the paintings, but the photos will most probably end up on their social media profiles.

There is no one way to appreciate a museum experience, sure. And among the many possible ways, there will be those that will prove to be annoying. I would like to ask curators and artists about this. Food and beer are on me.

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Allegory of Temptation (1933) by Graciano Nepomuceno

I vaguely remember how an ex-love demanded a trip to the National Museum. It was a weekend and I wasn’t feeling well, but my mind wouldn’t let me say “no.” Who would?

While looking at century-old masterpieces, I made believe my own emotions can transcend time and dust. I leaned and whispered that love lasts if you kiss in front of the Spoliarium. Before the walls of studies, I hoped the message was clear: the masters started somewhere, too. If forever exists, I’m sure it’s not ready-made.

After we broke up, I could come up with just one wish. That, damn it, when we proceed with the business of forgetting, may the memory of that rainy Sunday be spared. It should be framed, how we dragged ourselves out of the weekend slump and went to the museum. Art is always such a good excuse for loving.

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Dapithapon, Samu’t Sari and maybe more beer

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The song Dapithapon (2010) is a buddy who’d drink heartaches away with me at Sarah’s in Diliman. When I first heard the song – just Johnoy Danao’s voice and his acoustic guitar – I decided to get hold of the artist’s album of the same title. Six copies, to be exact. Back then, Johnoy himself would meet you to deliver the CDs. He delivered and signed my copies at a friend’s kitchen somewhere in Teachers’ Village.

I’d put the song on repeat, its lyrics seeping through my heart’s cracks, the way the grilled chicken intestines (OK, isaw manok) and beer filled my stomach. It was the song for a sadness both raw and slow: “Ang pag-ibig nga naman, kapag hindi na maramdaman, hindi kayang pagtakpan ng sumpaan.” It was a friend who would ride the Ikot jeep with you to Krus na Ligas, who would divert her photocopy allowance to beer fund, so you’d feel better.

The first album has twelve original tracks, half of which were written by Johnoy. My other favorites are Tara Na, Bayan, written by Sammy Asuncion and Isang Iglap, a song about dreams ruined by calamity. Remember that this was released in 2010, we were still reeling from Typhoon Ondoy. Johnoy’s voice, with the riffs, percussion and backing vocals, take you back. Remember, with lyrics like “Nadungaw ko si Tatay, nagtatanim ng palay / Umaasang ang butil ng pawis niya’y maging bigas / Ito namang si Nanay, nag-aayos ng bahay / Ilang taong pinag-ipunan nang kami’y masilungan.”

I admire Johnoy for the acoustic songs he performed alone. His covers made me watch Good Times With Mo (GTWM) on YouTube even though Mo Twister is such a pain to listen to sometimes. But it’s always interesting to hear Johnoy collaborate with other musicians.

GTWM may have helped him go mainstream. His second album, Samu’t Sari, was released under Universal Records in 2014. I bought one copy in a shopping mall.

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Samu’t Sari is a mixture of remakes of familiar numbers, two tracks from the first album, and new songs. I’m not comfortable listening to his cover of Imago’s Sundo, but I forgive Johnoy and the band for trying out Beer and lacing it up with saxophone. Try listening to it while stuck in EDSA traffic after work, when you’re too weary to sing along to the more upbeat original by Itchyworms.

The second album has the hopeful Buntong-Hininga as opening track. This is Johnoy inviting us to fall in love again, almost four years after Dapithapon.

“Sa aking palagay, tayo’y nagsasayang / Ng araw at gabing sa’tin dapat” – I, too, would need a band complete with ukelele and harmonica if I’m going to express this. The song Ikaw at Ako from the first CD is included as a bonus track. If sometime between 2010 and 2014, you already met someone who can help you relate to the lyrics, it’s a bonus, indeed.

The song Dapithapon comes back in the album, Johnoy plays it with the band this time. The Dapithapon of 2014 is the same drinking buddy who has been working in Makati City for years now and like me, uuwi nang walang nag-aabang. This friend might still find me heartbroken, for reasons different from those of 2010. We hold our glasses of whisky and pretend we don’t miss Sarah’s.

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It’s February, month of freebies. I’m giving away a signed copy of Dapithapon.

This is so easy. Just be the first single person to share this post publicly on your Facebook account, then tag me in the comment. You will be required to present proof of singlehood (i.e. lack of romantic/love relationship) before I send you the prize.

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Hello, 2016!

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Cebu sunset

When Tatay Cirilo (my Nanay’s father) was last confined in a hospital, he talked about a dream he had while lying in the operation room. In the dream, he was walking in a forest so deep he almost couldn’t see its end. That was one of the last few words I heard from him.

Months before that, he told me maybe I can already start thinking about building a family or a relationship, at least, because my career is already going well. That was the first time I heard him say that. Far from his usual authoritative voice, the suggestion was uttered softly. It sounded as if he was trying not to embarrass and pressure me in front of the other family members. But I stayed true to character and just changed the topic.

We lost him early last year. His life lasted for more than nine decades. Before 2015 ended, I found myself looking back and thinking of his words.

The past few months left me with the lesson that I should stop spending so much time stressing about the future and learn to value what I already have. That may sound like a cliche. But some time ago, I ignored that simple lesson and the hurt I caused was far from being predictable. It was not like anything that I imagined.

Tatay Cirilo handpicked the wooden foundation of the house he built for his family at Poblacion, Morong, Bataan. That ensured that the foundations were of high quality and would last a long time. I only figured out recently that at the hospital, he might have been dreaming of the time he was looking for wood.

Relationships – with family, friends and loved ones – require hard work. For someone who works in a profession that requires careful use of words, I can be careless when it comes to personal matters. This year taught me that in any area of life, I should always make sure that my words reflect my intent. More importantly, take time away from the noise of words and let my actions catch up with my promises. Take time to carefully and lovingly pick the foundations upon which I build relationships. What I want to remember in my last hours is the forest I walked because of love. For people who matter to me.

There are so many people to thank for what they shared with me in the past year. But as I said before, I will just make my life an expression of gratitude.

Thank you, 2015.

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River of my childhood in Morong, Bataan

Hello, 2016. Here’s my partial to-do list for this year.

  1. Help set up an art exhibit.
  2. Join the TNF trail run in Benguet.
  3. Train for the TBR Dream Marathon 2017.
  4. Skim and surf in Davao Oriental.
  5. Visit Palawan.
  6. Ride the Pasig River ferry.
  7. Donate blood.
  8. Get a new tattoo.
  9. Start a new business.
  10. Climb a mountain.
  11. Organize a free museum trip for kids from Bataan.
  12. Donate books to a public school.
  13. Finish a painting.
  14. Finish reading at least three of the books I bought pre-2016.
  15. Write for a travel magazine.
  16. Plant 33 native trees in my hometown.

Help me cross out each of these goals before 2016 ends. One by one, I will tell the stories of how these are connected with the lessons from the past year. This will also be a period of learning, collaboration and adventure. Happy new year!

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Salomon X Trail Run in Bataan, some reminders

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Salomon Philippines will hold its 2015 Trail Run in Morong, Bataan on April 25. Weeks ago, I registered and got myself a pair of Speedcross 3 to break in before the race. As far as I know, this will be the first trail race in my hometown, so I got excited to join.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to run this Saturday due to an injury. I wallowed in this sad realization. For about an hour. Then I thought of coming up with this little list of reminders for my fellow trail runners who will join the race.

Leave nothing but shoeprints.

Most trail runners I know care for the environment. Why would you go through the hassle of training, traveling to trail destinations, and enduring a difficult route (with horse shit, slippery rocks, insects you don’t recognize, etc.), if you don’t love the ground you‘re allowed to tread?

If you say you don’t care much about the lovely view and you’re doing this for your ego, then leave it at the starting line. It is sad that in the past races I joined, mostly way up north of the country, there were a few runners who littered the route with energy bar wrappers. I’m not sure if they were afraid that the weight of the trash could affect their PRs.

The Salomon X Trail Run Rules state that littering or defacing of the premises shall be a ground for dismissal. As a preventive measure, we have to demand that the organizers implement this rule strictly and that this be emphasized especially before the race starts. The e-mail address is salomonphils@gmail.com. Let’s drop them a line about this.

I remember that during the Khao Yai Trail Marathon in Thailand last year, the briefer in the race kit emphasized that aside from the high fine, which was in thousands of baht, spitting at the route can kill about ten thousand elephants. The statement was effective as I kept hearing about it from fellow runners along the half-mary route. It was a commercially sponsored event and the first trail run in the area. See? Just because we all get it that they’re doing it mainly for marketing purposes, that doesn’t mean race organizers have to be so careless.

Trust me, for I have seen Morong’s beauty by car, by boat, by bicycle, by carabao-drawn cart, by old farm-bound kuliglig and by foot. (If anyone offers to lend a chopper, I’d probably resist and say we’re cutting down on fuel.) The best way to fall in love with my hometown is a pie. Since this weekend’s trail runners have been given that privilege, I hope this affair won’t leave the town with scars.

Explore.

Here are some spots you might want to visit:

1. Vietnamese food joints at Barangay Binaritan. The town used to be a temporary home to refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. During their stay here, the refugees were able to pass on their culinary knowledge to the people of Morong. That is why most of us have concepts of hutieu and banh mi, adjusted to local taste and available ingredients.

If you ask me where I usually go, well, I’m partial to the taste of hutieu from Aling Solly’s. Back in high school, I’d put aside a portion of my allowance so that at the end of the day, I can join my friends for a bowl of our favorite soup, best enjoyed with chili and rauram. There was free broth refill to the delight of our teenage hearts. I can attest that the taste has been consistent through the years. You have to give it a try.  

Loleng’s Hutieu-an is also in the area. The place serves Vietnamese and Filipino food. Last month, I tried their bun thit nuong, spabok (which is a known Bataan dish) and halo-halo, all in one sitting. This will be a good place to go for your recovery meal.

2. Montey’s Buko Pie. According to friends who received this default pasalubong from me, the buko pie is good as it isn’t too sweet and the coconut used tastes fresh. I like it mainly because, with clear notes on what time I’m picking up the pie, I’m sure to get it packed right out of the oven. The numbers are 0919-702-4833 and 0928-254-4936. The store is located at Barangay Sabang, a few minutes from the Anvaya Cove where the starting/finish line of the race is set.

3. Pawikan Conservation Center. This is located at Barangay Nagbalayong. I was surprised, in a rather unpleasant way, upon reading from the race website that the Center is the official camping ground of the Salomon X Trail Run. I hope effective rules will be set as to where the tents may be pitched and how the campers should behave in the area. If you’re dropping by, please make it a visit for the purposes of information and conservation. Don’t stress out the pawikans by poking them as I witnessed some tourists do in my previous visits.

4. Resorts. The organizers have partner resorts listed on the race website. In case you’re still cramming for your accommodation, there are a lot of resorts in the town. ERC Resort is at Sitio Panibatuhan. Leave me a message here if you’d like me to connect you with the owners. Bucco Bali, on the other hand, is located at Barangay Sabang. You may check their Facebook account.

Enjoy your stay. Be a responsible runner. And maybe next time, when my injured foot heals, see you at the trail!

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Museum Weekend

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 Rizal’s flute

There are articles urging us to date someone who travels. Who writes. Who reads. Whatever. I’ll date anyone a good person who takes me to a museum or an art gallery when I need to feel better.

Last weekend, I was sick and needed something to keep me out of my room, where I’d probably just wallow in the futility of my vitamin supplements. Good thing it was also International Museum Weekend. (International Museum Day, but thanks to international date line differences.)

Free entrance! Chicken soup for my flu-infected soul. This year’s destinations: Lopez Museum at Ortigas and Ayala Museum at Makati.

The exhibit Complicated, featuring works by Mike Adrao, Leslie de Chavez and Ea Torrado, runs until August 2, 2014 at the Lopez Museum.

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Ea Torrado during her art talk

Ea Torrado’s talk was conducted at the Lopez Museum last Saturday. She led us, a roomful of museum visitors who have no (declared) dancing talents, into an appreciation of dance as an art. Her pieces on exhibit include Sisa, a video of her dancing in the dark with flashes of light and where names of desaparecidos are read.

When I think of dances, the creative process in my mind involves making up movements to suit a certain music. Ea spoke of how it is not always that linear. In fact, a lot of times her movements are conceptualized before the music. For some of her performances, the music was composed to go with the movements.

After the talk, I went around the Museum, where guides gave free tour for groups of visitors. I also wanted to go to the Yuchengco Museum at Makati, where Ambeth Ocampo was already wrapping up his talk on Philippine museums. But I had an appointment that afternoon and it was not possible to be at two geographically separated places at the same time. Believe me, sometimes I try. Also, my new job gives me free access to the Yuchengco Museum, anyway.

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Sunday was for the concert at Ayala Museum. Grammy award-winning pianist Edsel Gomez was there to perform with Nelson Gonzales (drums), Johnny Gaerlan (bass), Tusa Montes, Harold Santos, and Jacques Dufourt (percussion section from UP College of Music’s Asian Music Program).

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I’ve been exploring the music of jazz clarinetist Don Byron lately, because I’ve also recently decided to focus on my clarinet studies. That’s how I first came across the works of Edsel Gomez. Byron and Gomez worked together in Cubist Music, an album that features improvisation based on Cubist Art. The latin jazz pianist has also collaborated with vibraphonist Gary Burton of the Berklee College of Music, whose online improvisation courses I’ve been following.

So I was excited to listen to him perform live and wondered if I can remember the titles from his latin jazz compositions. There are a few pieces I was expecting him to play to the audience, some of whom I bet have been following his music closely.

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That night I was reminded of what draws me to jazz: its unpredictability.

During the introduction, Gomez told us how he studied Filipino instruments and music, then enchanted us with the way he mixed it with his own style. I sensed the same fascination in the audience as we listened to numbers, such as Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) and some war chants, rendered in jazz and mixed with music from ethnic instruments, such as kulintang, kubing, etc., by the artists from UP’s Asian Music Program. Gaerlan and Gonzales (who owns Tago Jazz Cafe in Cubao) perfects the chemistry needed to seal the fresh sound we were hearing.

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Edsel Gomez didn’t tell us how he would call the music they performed that night. I wish I’d asked. I also need to see them perform again, hopefully at the Philippine International Jazz Festival next year.

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Trail running and a love letter

 

Recovery food from a hole-in-the-wall at Slaughterhouse, Baguio City

The first time I tried to use the word “heart” in an article, my co-editors said it was uncharacteristic of me. To add credibility to this entry, I guess I need to quote someone else.

In the biographical film Without Limits (Warner Bros. Pictures; 1998), Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) speaks of how Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup) taught him that “the real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test to the limits of the human heart.” 

Take that from a runner who once held the American record in seven different distance track events from the 2,000 to the 10,000 meters.

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 Photo from http://www.thrillofthetrail.ph

I fell in love with trail running in 2012. Somewhere along the 11-km. route at The North Face Benguet Challenge, I decided that if I will take running seriously, the trail will be my focus.

Last week, my friend Marcky (who took the recovery photo above) and I joined the 22-km. race at the TNF Challenge. I set out to run faster than I did in the same category in 2013. There are a few excuses I can list down but it’s better to just accept that I didn’t reach my goal.

When you’ve wanted something badly, made time for it in your less-than-relaxed schedule, prepared, waited, ignored other options, focused, and then failed to have what you gave up a lot for: it feels like a year-long cramp.

So I’d rather talk about the happier part, the preparation, or what can be more accurately called The Cramming.

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I got less than one month to train for the course. The bulk of my running sessions were spent at the road and trails from our house in Morong, Bataan to the Subic Gate, and back. That’s about twenty kilometers. I would wake up at five in the morning to prepare and then run before the sun rises.

During my running sessions, I found out that the roads of our town are so much busier now compared to how they were during my younger years. Back then, you can have the road all to yourself for a long time. Now you need to be more careful because you’re sharing it with more vehicles. Once in a while motorcyclists would slow down, not to snatch anything from me, but to greet me or offer a ride.

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Along what used to be a quiet route, I also saw a few Mustangs and a Ducati speed away. “Someday,” I tell myself. Someday. But out there, with my trail shoes and already sweaty running clothes, I knew I was appreciating the view in the best way possible: a long, slow, lovely distance run.

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The town doesn’t lack potassium stations. You can pack your belt light and just load up at the banana stalls along Sabang and Mabayo, the two adjacent barangays where the course runs through.

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Hydration station? Try the stream or the river. Bring that expensive bottle with filter if you must, then go back to the urban jungle and tell everyone how you “roughed it out” in the province. When I was a kid we’d fill up containers of water from the spot shown above. It felt nostalgic to stop there all those mornings that I trained.

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I also got to spend some time cooking for my parents. They’re pescetarian, well, most of the time. They have to cook pork and beef meals once in a while because the babies (i.e. eight medium and large breed dogs) need something to feast on. I took the opportunity to overhaul my diet and make room for more vegetables and fish. I was so glad to find out the my favorite edible fern sells for about fifteen pesos in our town.

When you’re serving fresh produce, a little boiling or grilling is all you need. Whenever bored, I experimented with the wine left from holiday festivities and used them on the dishes.

For some time during training month, my routine was: run in the morning, work on some cases and on my business plans in the middle of the day, drive around town in the afternoon, then swim at the beach before sunset.

The preparation for the race made me want to have a healthier lifestyle. Now the challenge is how to stick to it since I’m back in the city. Friends advise that I try squeezing the Insanity Workout into my routine. But the past years the only workout I’ve been able to stick to is Necessity, brought by broken elevators and high gas prices. I remember a time when I lost more than ten pounds of weight in a month because of that.

Anyway — heart. I still don’t have a lot to say about this. But there are rare moments in your life when you want something so bad, it helps you learn to love yourself more. And one way to learn that is by testing your heart’s limits.

See you at the trail!

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