Friday, March 30, 2007

Beefcake of the Month

Because, after many visits to the mechanic's, the secondhand motorcycle that he bought for himself last Christmas is finally in good working condition.

Because never mind that the mechanic called the Honda a "grandmother," this motorcycle is exactly of the same type he used when he was in his teens and twenties driving all around Europe being young and absolutely crazy.

Because extra insurance money let him buy a spanking new leather jacket.

Because even if he was a hardcore biker, he never did buy a motorcycle jacket ever before, the last one he was using was a hand-me-down from friend Babs, and even that was already 10 years old when he was given it.

And really just because I think he's hot.

Tsismosa, Ako

May ilan akong kakilala na ang buong akala ay sumkinda wild child ako. Sumkinda true naman. Aaminin ko, may pagka-lukaret ako. Pero dito, sa bagong bansang ito, naipamukha sa akin na meron din akong aspetong konserbatibo. Hindi ko alam kung bakit (nasa alignment kaya ng planets?) pero sa kasalukuyan ay napapaligiran ako ng mga babaeng may asawa o nobyo, pero mayroon ding pangalawang pag-ibig. Pramis, hindi makitid ang utak ko. Naniniwala ako na kailangan nating hayaan ang bawat isa na buhayin ang buhay na magpapaligaya sa kanya. Pero pag kuwentong kalaguyo na, napapanganga ako. Kapag nagsasalaysay ang mga girl friends ko tungkol sa kani-kanilang pamamangka sa dalawang ilog, sa loob-loob ay napapa-ohmygod ako. Tapos, natatawa ako sa sarili ko. Kasi kahit saanman ako dalhin, hindi ko yata talaga makakalimutan ang mga turo ng loka-loka-pero-relihiyosang nanay ko.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

They're Back!

I blogged about them last March, and here they are again: a family of five flamingos (one is camera-shy) has, for the last two weeks, been coming every few days to feed in our marsh. Last Friday there I was, eating the best oysters in the world that Tonton Dedou gathers from where they grow wild in the Salins du Midi, squeezing on them drops from the lemons freshly picked from Tante Jackie's garden, in between slurping down mollusks looking out the window to admire my occasional neighbors, thinking that life rarely gets better than this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Maybe because it's the first day of spring, but I really can't get any work done. Instead I'm sipping a glass of California zinfandel (Ssshhhhhh.... Don't tell my vine-growing neighbors!), looking at all the new pictures sent by a best friend in the cusp of a romance, wishing Pierre and I were back on that island in the middle of nowhere, not thinking of grownup responsibilities, instead playing footsie on the beach and watching sunsets, falling in love all over again. What can I say, today I'm 34 going on 16.

Everybody Has An Accent

My friend Garch is impossibly adorable, so every time he would nag me about how I pronounced certain English words, I would humor him. I say "chocolate" as regular Filipinos would, "cho-ko-leyt," but I think he found this insufferably pedestrian. He insisted that I say it brisk. So "choc-lit." Same with "Jesus." I say it "jee-soos," with the lips rounded off at the end; but Garch always corrected me. "It's 'jee-saz.'" He would make me say it with the lips stretched out. As I said, he's adorable otherwise, so I'd say the words like he wanted to hear them whenever he was around.

If you grew up in the Philippines, you'd be conscious of a certain snobbery--let's admit it now--a feeling of superiority amongst people who said those English words perfectly correct. There is a wrong way and a right way to pronunciation: Very wrong would be how the Visayan nanny stereotypically spoke, pronouncing pink as "penk" and tricycle as "tray-si-kol." So right would be, for example, the articulation of former ABS-CBN TV show host Cher Calvin, who grew up in the States. We try oh-so-hard to do it how it's supposed to be done, that is to say, with an American twang.

I land here and in the very beginning speak French like I'd hear in their movies, with the curt, Parisian accent. My husband and his family would have none of it; they always corrected me. It didn't take long for me to be using the deliciously robust word endings of the South. Last December, I go to language school in the nearby city of Montpellier. One of the teachers think I'm almost a real bilingual (she only knew I spoke English aside from French, as there was never any occasion to communicate with her in Filipino), another tells me to tone the accent down, try to sound like they do in Paris.

Fast forward to a few weeks later, when I introduce my southern-French husband to a couple of Swiss friends. "The Swiss really speaks French funny," Pierre said after they had left. Later on he meets my Belgian climbing buddy, who speaks French, Flemish, and English. "You're not French, right?" Pierre asked her. "You have an accent." The Belgian replied, "No, I'm not, but it's only now that I'm here in France that I find out I speak the language with an accent." Spunky girl that she is, she adds, "Hey, you're French, but you also have an accent."

The brouhaha is not limited to the Philippines, France, Switzerland, and Belgium, I tell you. In the climbing club there are three Spaniards and one Ecuadorian who always hang out together. "So it's the same kind of Spanish in both your countries?" I ask Marcos, the scientist from Ecuador. "Pretty much," he replies, "just certain words are not the same, and also the pronunciation." A pause and he adds, "The Spaniards, you know, they don't speak Spanish correctly. They don't have the right accent!"

So Garch, I know you speak Spanish and you do it like your insulares ancestors did, but I'm not going to go all Ecuadorian on you. After that long blog post all I really want to know is this: Can I just keep on saying "cho-ko-leyt"?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Love at 64

A table for two, photo by Nicky Sering.

They met at a New Year's Eve ball. She was feeling lonely, and he asked her to dance. At the end of the night, he also asked for her phone number, and while usually she doesn't do such things, this time she scribbled it down. Maybe it was his friendly blue eyes (definitely it was not the mustache that reminded her of a rat's whiskers). Soon they were dating regularly. Once they went for a wintertime walk on the beach. Often, they would have dinner at his place. He made her feel special, how he would insist that she do nothing, just sit down and listen to some music or watch TV. He, meanwhile, took care of everything else, cooked the meal and even insisted on washing the dishes. He paid attention to what she had to say, did things to please her (yes, even trimming his whiskers!). This was so different from what she had been used to, when she had first been in love many years ago.

But, no, she would tell family and friends, this was not love. She was not in love, she insisted. She just enjoyed his company, that was all. Yet given the chance she could talk about him for an hour. Also, she maintained, she had no intention of ever living with him. She was perfectly fine being a single girl, treasured the fact that she could do what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted. She had every intention of keeping her independence, she declared. Despite the speech, in the mornings when they look out their window, her neighbors have gotten used to seeing the car of the man who is not supposed to live there still in the spot where he had parked it the night before.

My girl friends, take heart! I have recently discovered that romance can be available to women all their lives. The lead character in this story--the one who smiles all the time now, who these days is always well-coiffed and well-dressed, and who talks about her dates as effusive as if she were a teenager--the woman is my mother-in-law Jeanette who, after nine years of widowhood and at the age of 64 has, without expecting it, found Alain. Believe me when I tell you: Sexagerians still bloom!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Performance Anxiety

I knew that this blog was going to be featured as some kind of must-read in Mabuhay magazine, but the writer is someone I know and love, so when she told me, I was thinking quite foolishly that it was going to be just a little piece passed between girl friends, no biggie at all. And then I read Katrina's comment in the last post, and I looked up the blog where she found out about the writeup, and because I am admittedly tsismosa, I went to the comments box of that blog and found people I do not know at all talking about "the provenciana." I was a magazine writer for a decade, so I was surprised to find myself going inside my head, "Oh my god!" But there it was. I was nervous and, I have to admit, a little bit afraid. These readers may well find my accounts of gendarme visits and fighting with ignorant barmen banal and self-absorbed. Nyarks! went I. Must I now start talking about Sarkozy's immigration policy and the traitorous nature of a dual citizenship? All that important stuff, you know.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Carnavaling in Nice

I swear I try my best. I go somewhere and start out acting all cool and proper and my age,
BEFORE: around 7 in the evening,
at a café in the old part of Nice, having
delicate glases of kir with friends.

but as my mom will tell you, I was born hyperactive. And I haven't been cured of the malady. Give me any reason to have fun and make a party, I'll be grabbing it.

AFTER: At the Promenade des Anglais, at the height of the
Carnaval , bombarded with silly string and confetti, some of which
I'm sure I swallowed, given how big my open mouth was.

I imagine I'll be one of those grandmothers wearing feathered purple hats and dancing the mambo into their eighties...

(Maya took the pictures. For deeper insights on the merits of silly string, go to her blog through my links.)