Monday, May 28, 2007

Survival Tip from the Diaspora

Maybe it's because I grew up with three sisters, but I find it essential to every now and then be surrounded by my girl friends. Even though no one can make me laugh as hard as my husband, I find that the thing about men is that when you start telling them of your troubles, they'll instantly start offering you solutions, failing to get that we're not really looking for any advise, because we're all grown up and know exactly what to do, all we're really looking for is an ear where to spill our worries.

And because I'm really a girl's kind of girl, the thing that I'm finding wonderful is that regardless of nationality and regardless of language, women everywhere are the same: gifted with the ability to find deep release in what to the unperceptive observer looks like nothing but banal chichat. Today's survival tip for the Filipina moving at least an ocean away from home: Instead of staying cooped up being homesick, go out and make friends.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plugging: Salinawit

After reading Hazel's blog, I have to make a confession: My tastes are really very base; I love reality TV shows! So the other day I was watching Nouvelle Star, a rip-off of American Idol, and I happened upon Julie, this young contestant with a slightly jologs vibe, singing Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" in a kinda cool, slightly raw, very modern way and--why is this happening all the time now?--I was so touched I got all teary eyed! (Claudine Barretto, isthatchu?)

Which led to me sending an e-mail to the poet Pete Lacaba, asking him to make a salinawit of the Brel classic. Now, you have to understand that this act of e-mailing Pete shows very clearly my desire for the translation. Years ago, when he was our copy editor at The Sunday Times Magazine and I had to remind him of stuff that needed doing, I was so petrified by the idea of him catching me at a grammatical error that I'd proofread even the notes I'd leave him on Post-Its. "Hi Pete! We need the story on the kung-fu champions today. Thanks!" I'd go over that, clap a palm over my forehead, then slip the neglected comma in between the "Hi" and the "Pete!" OC, that's me.

So anyway, I was lucky. Pete had already worked on "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and sent it along with the 58 other salinawit he'd done. I fully intend on memorizing the lyrics and singing it for Pierre one of these days, in the hopes of weaning him away from his all-time favorite Tagalog song that is a good song, there's no denying it, but I've been hearing "Anak" since I was little listening to the radio with Yaya Maura as she did laundry in the afternoons so I think I deserve a change.

Pete might just do a Julie and sing "Huwag Mo Akong Iwan" on 29 May, when the Singing Writers (Pete, Charlson Ong, Marne Kilates, and Michael Coroza) belt it out at a gig at the Conspiracy Garden Cafe in Quezon City. Bien Lumbera and Becky Anonuevo will have their salinawit sung by Susan Fernandez.

And now I come to the point of this post. I'd love it if one of you can go, make a video, and post it on YouTube. Sige na, plis?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Accident-Prone, but Great!"

Is how I just responded to Kala's "How are you?" on Yahoo.

It's that time of the year when the south transforms into a truly beautiful place. Pierre has also discovered the joys of rock-climbing, so we go together on most Sundays. To get to the site, we take the highway, the prickly-looking cystisus on the islands and borders for the moment made cheery by its early-summer yellow flowers. Whenever we turn on the minor roads, no matter how many times we've seen it, we still go "Wow!" over the spectacle of fields luminous with the red of poppies. (I like the French name better: coquelicot, the sound of a tease, or somebody tipsy, maybe even a little mad.)

Before we finally get to don those always too-tight climbing shoes, we must hike through mountain paths. I can never resist playing explorer/botanist. I identify some wildflowers, recently sweet peas and Alysse odorata. A length of sedum and an ear of cactus I pick up for replanting in my garden. Sniffing at some wispy pale green leaves, I establish that, no, this one's not a curry plant. A classic scene had the group in the parking lot, shouting my name and that of Karine's, wondering if we had gotten lost, only to see us make an appearance a few minutes later holding bouquets of wild rosemary and thyme. "Tonight I make bolognaise," I declare, waving my leaves of Thymus.

Noting my liking for plants, on more than one occasion another climber has warned, "Apol, don't touch the rue, okay." Then the concerned one would go on to say that the herb contains a chemical that can hurt me.

So it was last Sunday and we are up on some rocks again. The view at Narbonne--grape vines in the foreground, the sea beyond--is great. However, a moment comes when I can't appreciate it. I'm stuck on a wall, having difficulty finishing the last few meters of a climb. I know I'm going to fall, realize that I'm going to swing a bit. It's fine, I'm not scared, I tell myself and let go.

Deep scrapes are nasty. Epidermis gone, you're hit right at the nerve endings, making you bite your lips, stomp your feet, claw at the arms of the nearest available person, anything to keep from screaming in pain so loud they might just come, the firemen who are France's version of 911. I have various injuries running from the fingers to the elbow of my left arm to show that I know what I'm talking about. I thought I'd end up shaken, hanging in empty air but unharmed. Instead, my fall was interrupted by a rather violent grating against a protruberance.

Don't touch the rue, they keep telling me, it can hurt you. Now why did nobody warn me not to touch the rock?

P.S. Okay, we all know I'm vain, so it's no surprise that 20 minutes after the accident I was demanding that somebody take a picture of my arm. Take my word for it, close-up the limb looks like a chewed-up saucisson:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Baby Turns Two

I know blogs featuring cat pictures are awfully sappy, but what can I do. I love our Dolly. She's two years old this month. In cat years, that means she's a full-grown dalaga. She's sterilized though, so no going out with the many young garçons purring in the area. This photo makes it obvious; her birthday wish is that she needs a new basket. (And, yes, in case you're wondering, that white puffy thing peeking out next to her belly is her favorite stuffed toy.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why I Must Be In France, Barbecue Edition

What you get when your blogger is too busy eating she forgets to take a picture...

I must be in France because the word "barbecue" doesn't mean an old manang or a pouting bading standing in a street corner, indifferently waving anahaw fan over red-black coals smoldering inside a rusty box with a grill on top, cooking five-peso sticks of fatty pork and chicken innards marinated in Jufran ketchup, for the office worker going home and too tired to cook anything, so this is dinner, or for the kanto boys who for once have decided to not spend all their money on the gin and the beer, so this is pulutan.

Instead "barbecue" is a celebration, the beginning of warm days spent outdoors sunning on the terrace and taking quick dips in the pool when one gets too hot. Today the women are all together on the giant hammock talking about their men, who are there, gathered around the grill.

The loudest (yes, that would be Pierre) is declaring that here, in the Camargue, barbecue is a religion, prepared for as early as October, when the locals gather the twigs fallen off after the grapes have been harvested. Dried, these go in with the secret mix of other wood, to give what's cooking a special flavor. ("We never use charcoal," he declares to the visiting Parisian and the guy from Annecy. "That would be sacrilege.") There is also the seasoning with oil and herbes de Provence--rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, and summer savory. Think of it as an aromatic benediction.

Lunch begins with Cindy's green salad. The sauce is simple yet sublime. Olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots are mixed, the strong flavors then tempered with two fresh eggs. When the meat arrives, we agree that the making of it must indeed involve something out of this world. How else can spare ribs, chicken, lamb, and various sausages induce in their diners such ecstasy? We worship with a lot of lip-smacking, the sign of our conversion the grease running down our chins.

Afterwards, everybody wants to take a nap, and not just because we all ate too much: Before lunch we have our beers and pastis, during the eating there is wine, and after there is sweet wine, some whiskey, and even a bottle of champagne. If we paid 30 euros for the meat, then double that must have gone to the beverages. Despite all the ceremony, when you think about it, we really aren't that much different from kanto boys.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Kakatapos ko lang basahin ang blog/blag ni Patricia, at doon nakita ko ang salinawit ni Pete Lacaba. Yung kanta ni Edith Piaf na "La Vie En Rose" isinalin ni Pete sa wikang Filipino at naging "Kulay-Rosas." Eniwey. Dahil hindi naman ako poet (malaki lang ang aking puwet--uy! rhyme!), hindi nagbunga ng makabagbag-damdaming tula ang pagbasa ko sa trabahong ito. Insteyd, bigla kong naisip ang mga salitang Tagalog na miss na miss na ng dila kong sambitin. Pruweba ay habang nagta-type ako ay sabay kong ninanamnam ang pagbuo ng mga salita at pangugusap na ito:

1. Korek! (Hindi posibleng bigyang hustisya ang salitang "korek" kung hindi ito susundan ng "!")

2. tsubibo (Puwede rin namang feyris wheel.)

3. pampa-byuti (Tamang nostalgiya ito: Madalas ko itong marinig nung nasa UP pa ako, galing sa mga kaibigang madalas ding magtanong, "Meron ba tayong wala tayo diyan?")

4. chos (Madalas ko itong marinig sa pianist/showbiz writer na si Blaiseblaiseblaise Gacoscos.)

5. salamat (Kasi, kapag nagsasabi ako ng "Merci," pakiramdam ko humihingi ako ng tawad.)

6. manong/manang (... pabili nang kendi.)

7. liempo (Puwedeng palitan ng salitang "baboy" o, kung on a diet, ng "lechong manok.")

8. Ang baho. (Kung nakatira ka sa Manila, halos araw-araw mong sasabihin ito.)

9. Ganda mo! (Huwag kalimutan ang sarcasm dito.)

10. Wala akong paki. (Hindi lang pangungusap, attitude din, na sa mundong ito, kakailanganin mo kung ayaw mong maloka na lang at maglaslas ng pulso.)

11. Sige na, plis. (Sabayan ng matamis na ngiti at flutter of the eyelashes.)

12. damdamin (Dahil OA ako.)

13. Bakit? (Kahit na kadalasan, wala talagang sagot; nangyayari na lang talaga.)

14. Putangina mo! (Malutong na malutong; salitang nung nasa Pilipinas ako ay hindi ko nasabi masyado, dahil sa tatay ko na hanggang bente anyos ako ay sinasabihan akong ibibitin niya raw akong nang patiwarik kung marinig niyang magmura ako.)

15. Hindi ba? (Sasabihin kapag naghahanap ng kakampi.)

16. chika (Expert ako dito.)

17. gimik (Kapag naririnig ko ang "soirée" nila dito, mga nakakainis na naglalandiang high school boys and girls ang naiisip ko.)

18. Aray! (Hindi kailanman kayang i-express ng "ouch" o ng "ça fait mal" ang sakit na nararamdaman!)

19. guinataan (Bilo-bilo kung puwede, pero mahilig din ako sa monggo.)

20. mahal (Ang dalawang kahulugan nito ay nagtagpo sa isang ex-boypren na walang trabaho.)

21. bukol (Dalawa din ang ibig sabihin nito...)

22. Ang galing ano? (Isa ito sa paborito ko, kasi hindi ako sophisticated eh, madali akong ma-impress.)

23. rosas (Ang dami kasi niyan dito ngayon.)

24. bumbero (Bakit slightly nababastusan ako sa salitang ito?)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Strange, But True

I adore my mother-in-law. Really, I do. And, although I think she occasionally finds me strange, I would like to think that she feels likewise. She does seem to relish my company. For example, a few weeks ago she called me into her house, and we had a one-hour chat about nothing much really. Just before I had to go, she dropped the bomb: "I'm getting a boob job."

A firm believer in everyone's right to self-improvement, I told her, "Go for it!" But as someone with a very low tolerance for pain, I had to warn her that I had read in Asia Carrerra's website that silicone implants hurt. She didn't know Asia (Me? I swear I was at the website for the makeup tips!), but told me, "Don't worry about it, I'm not getting implants. I'm just going to get them lifted, because they're sagging, you see." And then she lifted her shirt to show me the sad state of her mammaries.

Later that day, to my husband I announced, "Your mom showed me her boobies!"

"No, that can't be," he began. "She's always been a prude. Not me, not even my sister, maybe my dad. No one has ever seen her naked." It was obvious that he was only half-believing me.

We forgot all about it, until after the operation, when to my terrace mother-in-law came to show me her bandaged babies.

"Wow!" I exclaimed, genuinely impressed. "They're proud and perky."

"Touch them," she told me. "No!" Now I was feeling more than uneasy.

This time she commanded me: "Touch!" So what could I do. They were as firm as a sixteen-year-old's, I tell you.

Meanwhile, my husband still couldn't believe all this exhibitionism was happening. Then yesterday, as we were driving past his mom's, he quietly announced: "She did it to me too."

"What," I asked, looking out the window, a bit absent-mindedly.

"She showed her boobs to me."

I fumbled for my cellphone. "Should I call a psychiatrist? You're going to need therapy now, aren't you, honey." Then I began to laugh, but he only sighed and shook his head, trying to empty it of the traumatizing memory.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Suddenly, A Movie Review (well, sort of)

Yesterday, after finally finishing a project that I'd been procrastinating on, I decided that as reward I would park myself in front of the television and watch the first Filipino movie I would see in two years. Five shirts and a pair of pants have been waiting crumpled in the clean laundry pile forever, so I decided to attack those too. So there I was at six p.m., watching Milan, ironing clothes, crying during Claudine Barretto's breakdown scene, feeling absolutely OFW!

P.S. If he reads this, Raymond Lee might well give me a boink on the head while saying, "Ano ba, Apol, Milan is so old. I'm in my Maximo Olivares era na, ano!" But I do have a quibble with the script: Why is it that, a quarter of the time, the Pinoy characters speak Italian to each other?

Whenever I find myself in the company of Filipinos, I immediately switch to Tagalog, and as pure as I can manage it while still being conversational. The long periods of not being able to speak my mother tongue and the hunger to express myself in it whenever the opportunity arrives have even reduced my tendency to speak Taglish. I can't imagine myself conversing in French with Makis and Hazel, except maybe to joke around or when we're with French people, so when the Milan characters start going, "Amore" and "Pronto" to each other, it strikes me as very odd. This is terribly corny, but as a Filipino living somewhere far from home, I find incredible comfort, and sometimes even strength, in speaking the language of my heart.