Thursday, June 28, 2007

Getting to Know Me

Showing off my balls, my paintballs.

"The thing about this game," intoned burly Bernard, the boss of the place, "is that it will reveal the kind of person you really are."

Whatever, I thought as I put on my helmet and unlocked the safety on my rifle. We're just here to have a bit of fun, and whoever thought of searching for deeper meaning in paintball anyway?

But as the game progressed I started thinking that what Bernard said was true. There I was, jumping flat on my stomach into a ditch because I'm game for anything, thinking first before making a move because I'm only a moderate risk-taker, and covering my teammates' backs because I'm very loyal. Paintball psychology, who would have thought it true?

Later on in the afternoon, and game no. 4 was about to end. Only three of us were left, all girls. Caroline and I were attacking for the Orange team, and Elodie was defending the Blue team base. Though she was outnumbered, Elodie had a great position, and Caroline and I couldn't advance. I had an idea. Finding a gap in the bushes where I hid, I fired shot after shot, quickly painting the Blue team's plywood tower with splashes of green.

"Go, Caroline, go!" I told my teammate, hiding behind a tree five meters away.

"Go where?" came her girlish voice.

"I've got you covered, run to the base," I said.

Silence on Caroline's part.

I waited 30 seconds and realized that she hadn't understood the strategy. After a slightly longer pause I heard a loud, harsh voice, and it wasn't until I had closed my mouth again that I realized that the voice had been mine.

I was screaming: "Go to Elodie, Caroline! Kill her! KILL HER!!!"

From his observation post to my right, I heard Bernard laugh.


I love action films. Watching something with Vin Diesel or some other hunk in it is one of my favorite ways to relax. Stunned by the gun fights, the car crashes, and the exploding buildings, my brain goes on blissful pause. I don't have to think.

Lately though, quite out of character I've found myself developing a taste for French films, specially love stories, like Michel Leclerc's J'Invente Rien, Eric Lartigau's Prête-Moi Ta Main, and Pierre Salvadori's Hors de Prix. You've got to hand it to French filmmakers, even when they're tackling love they don't go all sappy on you. Instead, their films are sophisticated and smart, full of quiet humor and the occasional dash of whimsy.

Then yesterday I clicked on to Editrixia's latest entry and I made another 180-degree turn. French films may have the smarts and the sophistication. They may have the careless elegance of Charlotte Gainsbourg and the charming vulnerability of Audrey Tautou, but they will never have Azenith Briones. Watch the video clip. She's better than car crashes and exploding buildings; probably equal in power to ten train wrecks. I love Azenith.

Friday, June 22, 2007


When a girl friend of mine procrastinates, she organizes. When I do, I blog. And badly at that. Instead of telling you all about the burning car I saw on what was supposed to be a friendly night out drinking wine and listening to music while Montpellier celebrated the annual Fête de la Musique, I tooled around with flickr and did this:
My daylilies are blooming, even if I planted them just a month ago!
Amazing plants. Clockwise, that would be the second and fourth photos.
The first is an abutilon, the third sauge bleue.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

No Water, No Problem

(Clockwise) The micocoulier on the terrace. A wildflower keeping
the Helichrysum italicum company. Helichrysum microphyllum
'Lefka Ori.'
One of my potted gazanias.

They say the apple never falls far from the tree, and while I'm sure there are exceptions, this particular Apol has landed right at the entwined roots of the trees Gerry and Priscilla. Just like my parents, I've turned out addicted to gardening. Not a very easy thing to be, given the very special environmental conditions found in the Camargue--very hot summers, strong winds beginning autumn, the air salty, the earth poor and sandy. After a lot of experimentation, I've had some success with succulents, ornamental grasses, and hardy herbs, my favorite being santolina.

Then just when everybody was saying the garden looks jolie, this spring I began some serious digging, for four days turning the earth on the rectangular piece of land facing the marsh. Inspired by the work and research of Olivier Filippi, I am going to try to make un jardin sans arrosage, a garden that doesn't require watering. The experts say that water is going to be a big problem in the very near future, but I'm not the hardheaded creature that I am if I'm going to let that stop me from enjoying my plants.

If you live in Europe, Pépinière Filippi can deliver their drought-tolerant plants to you by mail. If you read French, and you'd like to try making a dry garden yourself, I suggest you buy the book (you can get it through the website). Good luck digging!

Now, time for a Before shot of my project. As one of the things you have to learn about gardening is that it requires patience, the After photos will come in a year.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Anniversary P.S.

I love my husband, really, I do, even if sometimes I feel like kicking him for yet another jaw-dropping show of tactlessness, a trait which he seems to have a knack for displaying in front of my girl friends. Two lines I recently heard him saying:

To E: "You look like the fiancée of Popeye! What's her name again? Olive Oyl! Yes, you look like Olive Oyl!"

To K: "You have a Ph.D. from Harvard? But you don't look like it!"

Girls, you've been warned. A thing you also have to know is that he is impervious to smart come-backs; he'll just laugh. So if you ever see him, I suppose the best thing you can do is duck.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Yesterday's Feast

Pigging out on charcuterie before the wedding, with my dad.

Despite what my mom Priscilla will tell you ("Ang kinakain lang nila sa France, tinapay na matigas!"), where we live the eating is always good. We're starting to harvest some lettuce and radishes, and just the other day I opened my door and found outside a crate of potatoes left by a generous and gifted-gardener neighbor. Whatever else we lack, there's the twice-a-week market. The vegetables from les petits producteurs are fresh and largely chemical-free. We know the butcher and once gave him an earful when we weren't satisfied with the beef steaks.

Aigues Mortes, being year-round a host for tourists, is home to several good restaurants. Our favorite is Bouzigues, and we almost always get the fixed-price menu, three courses for 22 euros. I start either with oysters or foie gras, move on to a nice cut of meat, and finish with dessert, often something chocolate, but can't resist stealing some of Pierre's cheese, usually Pelardon with honey. When we're in the mood for exotic, we go to Timgad. Karim's mother makes the most excellent meat-and-prunes tajine.

Even with an open-air picnic, you can still have a feast. At the main-street boucherie, get a few slices of chorizo or other charcuterie, a few grams of rillettes, a slice of terrine. Don't forget your bread and your wine. At the cave cooperative, a decent bottle goes for just two euros and fifty.

However, human beings are funny; we always want what we don't have.

Yesterday was our second-year wedding anniversary, and Pierre asked, "So you want to go to a restaurant, honey?" I shook my head no, and instead took out a blue flyer I had been handed the last time I went to the city. Pierre chuckled; it was publicity for Domino's. For some time now, we'd both been craving for a greasy, ingredients-straight-from-a-factory, nothing-in-it-must-be-good-
for-you, hard-to-find-over-here, fast-food pan pizza. It had been at least two years since I'd last had one, three years for him.

So we drove 40 minutes to find the place, drove another 40 minutes back, heated stuff in the oven, and installed ourselves in bed with a film to enjoy our anniversary feast: two pan pizzas, an order of buffalo wings, a big bottle of Diet Coke, and a tub of Ben&Jerry's. For lunch today I'm relishing the leftovers. There's time enough for the rest of the week to go back to good eating.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why I Think I'm Still in the Philippines #6 (a.ka., I'm so showbiz!)

Can you hear the carabao English?

13. We all know who said, "Long-legged legs" (and if you don't you should go back to whatever other galaxy you came from).

I have a friend who after all these years still has a fondness for copying Ate Vi, in moments of gratitude saying, "It's a blessing from the skies."

Then there's my own personal experience with a sexy starlet I found myself sharing a ride back to Makati with one evening in the late '90s. There was this huge billboard on EDSA from the anti-gun movement, featuring a pistol with the barrel blocked into a knot and the slogan, "Let Buy Guns be Bygones." An obvious play on words that was totally lost on the starlet. "Ah, ganyan pala yung saying," she pointed it out to me.

I moved and thought that I had left the world of linguistic mishaps amongst showbiz idols behind, when weeks ago I began watching Nouvelle Star, and came upon contestant Julien. I think he's the best of the lot and I'm hoping he'll win the prize, however I can't help but chuckle at his rendition (scroll down to find it) of "Strangers in the Night." He is French and you have to know that the French thinks their language is the best, but this boy takes it to the extreme, applying the rules governing le français even when speaking another tongue. He decided to omit the final "s" in "strangers."

There he was going, "Stranger in the night, exchanging glances, we are stranger in the night," transforming the popular standard into a schizoprenic's personal love song. In the middle of the performance, letting it all out, he decided to make things even creepier. "Stranger than the night," he mangled it on national TV. I don't think anyone else in this non-English speaking country noticed, but tell Ate Vi that I have found her spiritual son.

[CLICK HERE! Why I Think I'm Still in the Philippines #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Buzz

I think that it's a testament to how I relish extremes that I spent part of my old publishing career taking midnight taxis from Mandaluyong to Quezon Avenue to sit at a restaurant and take notes while an insider, "our mole," told me who in show business was sleeping with whom, who was fighting with whom, and who said what juicy bit of backbite and when for the gossipy Prattle pages of The Sunday Times Magazine, whose editor and my former boss Jo-ann Q. Maglipon has since gone on to establish the wildly popular Yes! magazine, a monthly serving of everything Philippine show business; and now I live with someone who can't even tell Jennifer Aniston from Angelina Jolie, an absolute uninitiate who, when I announced horrified that Britney Spears had shaved her head, asked, "Why did your friend do that?" (I think he thought I was talking about Lille or Tara, both of whom he thinks are very nice but slightly mad.)

Extremes are addicting though, and so like an ex-smoker who every now and then must have his nicotine fix, this morning I felt an urge to light up my Mozilla. I smoked up the links, getting high on the goings-on thousands of miles away. Some tsismis gathered from this morning's giving in to weakness: Marjorie Barretto and Dennis Padilla are on a cool-off, Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez are a couple, and Yoyoy Villame is dead.

The news that most affects me is that Ruffa Gutierrez and the Turkish Yilmaz Bektas are filing for divorce. Ruffa cites cultural differences as the root of their troubles, and I feel deep empathy for her. I remember my own difficulties with Pierre, like that one time I was trying to have a conversation with him about unforgettable '80s pop idols. I was attempting to illustrate the spectacle that was Leni Santos in The Punks delivering her classic line, "Hindi mo kami maiintindihan, Ma, punks kami"; and for some strange reason that got him reminiscing about how absolutely lovely Sophie Marceau was in her first film, La Boum. I fumbled through an explanation of how, despite the rhyming names, Leni and Sophie do not inhabit the same planet and how, if they ever met, it would generate such intense energy their meeting place would instantly transform into a blackhole. He failed to get it.

As I said, I feel deeply for Ruffa. Cultural differences are tough.