Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Today I bumped my head on the kitchen cabinet and remembered that, hey, I still have to close this blog!

I'm sorry not to have kept my promise to blog regularly, but to catch up I'll tell you that one of April's highlights was a trip to Brussels, where I learned that there are four things for a tourist to do: look at the pissing boy, ogle the pissing girl, chance upon the pissing dog, and get pissed on Belgian beer.
Being absolute tourists on a Brussels street.

May promises to be exciting, as I'm doing my very first crafts show! Free Market Montpellier, according to my friend E, is "hyper branché." Meaning very hip, modern, and as close to indie as you can get in these parts, so I'm quite excited. Any one of you who'll be in the area, please drop by. I'm thinking of doing a fairytale setting for my stand. Let's see how that goes.

Provenciana, the book version of this blog, if all goes as planned is coming out in August.

I'm putting together a mailing list for readers of this blog who want to be informed of the book launch details. To be included in the mailing list and receive news of the launching and where the book can be bought, please send an e-mail to apollejano@gmail.com. I swear not to share your details with anyone. You can also send me e-mail there just to say hi :)

And so, what now? I'm still blogging, but not about personal stuff anymore. Strange, but one of the reasons why I feel cannot continue Provenciana is that, while I can go on and on about myself and my husband here, I am very hesitant to write about my friends in a public space. It somehow feels like betraying confidences.

La Pomme is where I write about my crafts, and also where I will be posting updates about my writing. If you ever miss me, visit me there! No more angsting, I'm sorry, but I will try to make up for it by posting nice pictures.

Again, thank you for all the support. It has been an active and very memorable two and a half years!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Asian Stereotypes

When I speak to them in their language, people here tend to ask me if I am really an Asian from Asia. In the beginning the question perplexed me, until I finally got it. Apparently us Asians from Asia are not supposed be very quick up there where it counts, and are supposed to spend years and years speaking only broken French.

When they see that I am married to a white man, some people tend to think that I am Thai, because if you're Asian married to a white man, then you must be a pute. Why? Because all the travelling these ignorant few have ever done is a cheap hop over to Thailand, staying in the red-light districts, where most of the Thai girls they met were engaged in the world's oldest trade and working the afams (Filipino for "foreigner").

When I'm in an outdoor market or an antiques fair, I often lose my head and spend too much money. Looking at my Asian face and then the euros in my hands, people here tend to ask, "You are Japanese?"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not Funny, But Good Just The Same

It's been almost three years since I decided to move here permanently, and it must be said that one of the hardest things for me to deal with was the absence of girl friends of my own. I hung out with some females from my husband's group, but of course it was not the same. I found his people a little bit too serious, a little bit too straight, not able to laugh very easily.

I kept telling my husband that I missed the lightness of spirit of the Filipina. If you want a visual handle, think a gaggle of beautiful brown girls on a night out, in a café or a restaurant, telling stories in loud voices, laughing often, and even occasionally screeching in delight. That you won't find very easily in France. Actually there were times that when I attempted to screech, I was shushed.

"Les Françaises sont lourdes!" I would whine, complaining about Frenchwomen being hard to deal with.

Fast-forward to now, when how it goes in our couple is that my husband goes out mainly when I have organized something within my own circle. I have found my footing, and as is my nature I am again a very social animal with a very short list of real friends but a significantly longer list of great acquaintainces.

Even though this group is rarely rowdy and you would never really use the word "gaggle" to describe them, they do have a lot of other things going for them. You would not think of them as "girls," they're women. That means that they are stoic and stubborn, often opinionated and admirably strong, sometimes too practical for my taste, but at least always able to look at life without blinking and do what is necessary.

That may all sound very boring, but no. I like it. It appeals to the get-over-it-and-get-a-grip side of me.

And, oh, I do still screech in their company whenever the urge takes over me, and while my friends may not be making the same enthusiastic noises, they also do know how to laugh. Just not very very loudly.

Language Theory

I have a theory that goes that as thefrayles raped our great-grandmothers, they so traumatized the young lasses that the girls' tongues were in some strange way permanently blocked and malformed, a trauma so deep it was encrypted into their genes, and thus was the malformation passed on to the succeeding generations; which is how I explain the many many times people have asked me, hearing the accent in my French, "Hey, are you Spanish?"

My usual wry response: "Yeah, I sure do look like I am, don't I?"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Things Put In Perspective

I've moaned and groaned about the difficulties of being a thirtysomething career girl from Manila used to a fast-paced city life moving to a sleepy village in the south of France where opportunities for editors in English are almost nonexistent; and then I watched Va, Vis et Deviens and realized I've had it easy.

It's the story of a young Christian boy from Ethiopia who, to escape the misery of a Sudanese refugee camp, had to leave his mother behind, pretend to be some other woman's son, go to Israel, and once there pretend to be Jewish, a black Falasha, the adopted son of a white Leftist family. It's a complex and wonderfully unpredictable film. And one of my favorite things about it is that though the subject matter may be heavy, the treatment of it was not. The film made me smile as many times as it bothered me.

You don't have to have uprooted yourself to enjoy this film, I swear. If you're a little tired of you-so-know-how-it's-going-to-turn-out-just-thirty-minutes-in Hollywood movies, watch this. By director Radu Mihaileanu (how do you pronounce that?). English title, Live and Become.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random Thought

I'm so far away, but the Internet always makes me feel so close to home--sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's really bad. I read this blog that I shouldn't really be reading because it just makes me feel I want to take a shower. (Think violated girl in a Pinoy film scrubbing herself while sobbing, "Ang dumi ko... ang dumi-dumi...") I feel for the blog author, really I do; and I swear I hardly know the people involved, but let me just say that, Hey, come on now, who Mr. Yap chooses to fornicate with and where he chooses to do it is absolutely none of our business.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Life Happening


I'm here. I'm writing, sewing, gardening, launching a couple of new business ventures. The feelings I hinted at in this post showed to me very clearly that the adjustment pains are over. I am a foreigner in France -- I will always be, and it's a fact I actually relish -- but here I have managed to make for myself the creative and independent, low-impact but high-satisfaction life that I was unable to have in Manila, largely because the city was young and volatile, and so was I.

When I moved here for good in 2005, I was often overwhelmed by new sensations and very strong emotions. And because words have always helped me make sense of the world, language the filter I use to clean up messy sentiments, I began this blog. Provenciana was meant to be a tool to help me regain control, and it has served its purpose very well.

This blog helped me understand the shock of cultural adjustment that I was going through. In the process it helped me win that most coveted of writer's prizes in the Philippines. In the near future, it will also put me where all writers want to be -- on the bookshelves. Provenciana, the blog, will become Provenciana, the book. I will post details here at a later date.

Having the book published will be a wonderful farewell to this piece of cyberspace.

Yes, I am closing the blog down. I was already talking about it in this post from July of last year. Maya told me that I would know when to do it, and I know that it is now. Taking the idea from little birds handmade, it will be a month-long farewell. Beginning this coming week, I will be posting very regularly, talking about the details of my daily life, to find out where exactly all the adjustment angst has taken me. Then sometime in mid-April, I will stop posting.

It has been a wonderfully productive two years and a half. Thank you all for keeping me company!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Girls

Last January Tara organized a nice merienda, invited girls I'd known and connected with during the years working in magazines. Not all of whom I'd wished could have come were there, but those present were all dear to me, and all memorable for unique ways. Mia (on my left) because on the surface she seems a sweet, sweet girl, but look just a little bit deeper and find a woman who knows what she wants, and will get it without losing her sense of humor nor making anybody else lose theirs. Stephanie (on my right) because she lives her life her way; and also because on the day EDSA 3 was raging below she arrived at our girls' swim afternoon on the ninth floor of a high-rise facing the highway and its angry mob unruffled, dressed in pink spaghetti straps, pink shirt, and a straw hat with a pink band. Marie (top right) because for a while we worked together on a TV show, slathered with thick pancake makeup, baked under intense lights, and then while profusely sweating had to sound intelligent and credible. Tara (above me) because she's an eternal dreamer. And Irene (in a yellow shirt) because when I was just dating my husband she was the only one who went ahead and asked: "So yung boyfriend mo French, Apol." A pause and then, "So totoo ba na mabaho sila?" ("So your French boyfriend, Apol. So is it true that they stink?")

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Books! Books! Books!

A girl I wish could have been at that merienda I'll tell you about in the succeeding post is Andrea Pasion Flores. She's kick-ass, a writer and a lawyer, who is using her talents in both fields to promote books and publishing in the Philippines, as head of the National Book Development Board. One of their projects at the NBDB is a monthly book club, where they discuss recently published local books. For their March session, they'll be tackling Mga Kuwentong Paspasan and Very Short Stories for Harried Readers, where one of my stories appear. If you want to do something interesting on March 15, here's the announcement from Andrea:
"The NBDB Book Club will be reading two volumes of the country’s best collection of sudden fiction stories. Written by the finest writers of this generation, Mga Kuwentong Paspasan and Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (both volumes published by Milflores Publishing) contain 30 stories in Filipino and 41 short stories in English. Both volumes are edited by Vicente Garcia Groyon.
The book club meeting will be held on March 15, Saturday, 10 a.m. at the Ortigas Foundation Library. Award-winning writer Tara FT Sering will moderate the discussion.
Mga Kuwentong Paspasan
and Very Short Stories for Harried Readers are available at National Bookstore branches for P290 each.

For more details about the NDBD Book Club, please call 926-8238 or 631-1231 local 222 and 228."

Friday, February 22, 2008


This is my karma for all those years working at Good Housekeeping magazine and, fuelled by at least five eight-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola daily, while copy-editing I would harangue my staff with lines like, "Breadcrumbs! We spell it breadcrumbs! One word, not hyphenated, okay???!!!"

Part of this day's work involves writing two paragraph's worth of information each on four artists. I've been slaving at it for an hour, and I've only finished the articles on two of them. Four paragraphs in one hour. I feel like an idiot. But, really, how are you supposed to say things like "gestural brushstrokes" and "the inherent materiality of medium" in French?

Lea Wynetta, Becky, Veronica I take it all back. You can spell it bread crumbs, bread-crumbs, breadcrumbs. Any way you want. I just cannot take any more of this karma.

Monday, February 11, 2008

One Saturday Last January

Meeting my publisher. (Thanks to Dean for the photo!)

One of the things I'm happy about was meeting Dean and Nikki Alfar, who edit and publish the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthologies, and the members of their writing group, the LitCritters. Read about Dean's brief account here. Then let me add that the lunch was a pleasant surprise.

Writing--especially writing English fiction in a French-speaking country--is a very lonely job; but I had gotten some comfort reading Dean's blog entries on the craft, so I was really looking forward to meeting him and his friends.

I was prepared to be at my best behavior, expecting to spend the afternoon being serious, exchanging words I can barely pronounce like "verisimilitude" with this bunch, but instead they proved very warm and very funny. A lot of inside jokes were exchanged amongst them, but hey I didn't mind. As long as Vin Simbulan was letting me share his bibingka.

Friday, February 08, 2008

My Quotable Quote

I suppose I could blame all those years of watching too many Pinoy films of the kind having Cherie accusing Sharon of being a copycat and then Melanie buying someone out.

One night last January, after having endured many other nights of haggling with Metro Manila taxi drivers who always wanted us to add something extra to their meter price, I finally snapped. "P100," the cabbie told us he wanted me to pay extra for taking us from Makati to Alabang. "P100?" I half-screamed. "P100? Ang sabi niyo kanina P50 lang!" (Translation: "P100? You told me earlier just P50!")

"Eh bakit ka galit?" he asked, cockily. ("And why are you angry?")

I answered, "Mama, bakit ako galit? Eh kung kayo ho, pumunta kayo sa palengke at yung tindera hingan kayo ng dagdag na P100 para dun sa isang kilong isda na binibili ninyo sa kanya , hindi ho ba kayo magagalit?" A pause for dramatic effect. "Hindi ho ba kayo magagalit?!!! ("Mister, why am I angry? If you went to the wet market and the vendor demanded you pay an extra P100 for the kilo of fish you wanted to buy from her, wouldn' t you be angry?" A pause. "Wouldn't you be angry?!!!")

Call the FAMAS. I think I deserve an award.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pierre and Apol's Amazing Race: Zambales Leg

"Tiring," is really the first thing we say to friends and neighbors who ask us about our trip, one of the reasons being that, in my excitement to see friends, I ended up dragging Pierre almost everywhere.

With my two nieces in tow, we took the Victory Liner bus running from Cubao to San Antonio, Zambales. Before the driver took off, we bought dozens of boiled quail eggs from a fortyish woman with an infectious grin and who wanted to know: Did Pierre have any brothers, because she was looking to go out on dates, preferably with a handsome foreigner. The man selling cold drinks from a red pail squawked, not cruelly, "Nakupo, kahit ako, tatanggihan kita ano!" ("Ohmygosh, even I would say no to you!") Everybody laughed, loudest of all being the woman on the hunt.

After the excitement had died down and the quail eggs had been demolished, we all sat back to enjoy the passing scenery.
Destination: The home of artists Plet Bolipata and Elmer Borlongan, who like me had also quit Mandaluyong (we were neighbors, sort of) and moved to the country. They had made themselves a blue-colored home, built in classic Plet style, which is to say eclectic and vibrant and just on the edge of crazy.
Pierre tripped out at Plet being the oldest yet the most petite:
(Plet, 40+, Drea, 11, Erika, 17, and me, 30+)

The most wonderful hosts in the world took us to the beaches.

At San Miguel, they told us we couldn't swim, because the spirits guarding the place--one of them a mermaid who made regular appearances in human form in and around the village--drowned strangers who dared swim its waters. Walking on the beach, Pierre attracted a horde of kids, who rarely saw Westerners. We headed home at sunset before the mermaid could come check out what all the fuss was about.

At another beach, one whose spirit guardians were presumably more tolerant of visitors, the girls learned to surf.
(That's Erika on the left and Drea on the right.
They both managed to stand up on their boards on just the second try!)

I was so scared of the mermaid riding a jeepney over to play on us her evil tricks that I played lifeguard and watched my nieces the entire afternoon.

Pierre had been missing Filipino-style barbecue for years, so every sundown he'd walk over to one of the village's two street vendors and buy sticks of pork barbecue, pork ears, and isaw (pig's intestines). We mostly left the isaw for Emong and Pierre. At one point I sniffed the wrinkly innards, detected a faint odor of feces, and warned Emong. He told me, "That is what it's supposed to smell like!"

On the way home, suddenly Pierre began being typically French and complaining. He didn't like riding buses, he whined, his butt was beginning to ache. I silenced him with a curt "Not as much as hers." Then I pointed out the window:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Went Home. I Am Home.

It was totally unexpected that after two weeks of being back and surrounded by the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of everything I had grown up with and known until my early thirties, I was suddenly attacked by pangs of what I can only call homesickness. I wanted to go back to my garden, my sewing room, my writing area; to wake up to the call of wild birds and go to sleep to the sound of nothing at all that you can only find in the deep country; to cook in my tiny kitchen dishes that mix rabbit with soy sauce and call it fusion; to chase my cat all over the property to get her to come home for her before-sundown curfew. I usually hate long-haul flights, but I was content settling into my Cathay Pacific airplane seat last 31 January. Final destination: Paris. Then a TGV ride to where I now type this.

Not that I don't love the Philippines. I do, and deeply; convinced that one day not very far off into the future I will go back and make myself a garden of plants with big, fat leaves and vibrantly colored tropical flowers. It's just that home is where you make your life, and right now that is--though it would have semed improbable just two years ago--here, in this country, where if I don't pay attention I still make embarrassing mistakes like say "fuck" (baiser) when I really mean to say "lower" (baisser).

More stories and photos of the homecoming trip coming this week.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


... and I just noticed that I have written nothing about my Christmas nor my New Year's Eve. I have run out of epiphanies, so let me bore you by reciting a grocery list. We bought oysters, shrimps, foie gras, various shellfishes and charcuterie; received boxes of nice chocolates; opened some bottles of wine; had a cake baked. And then we ate and ate and ate.

I did, especially. During the season, I finished two big boxes of chocolates all by myself. Burp.

Anu Ba?!

I am going back to the Philippines for three weeks on Monday. It's Saturday late afternoon. I haven't even taken out my suitcase yet. Instead of dreaming of miles of sandy beaches and of eating lechon, I sit listening to Tori Amos whining while I bead and I crochet. Sigh. Such is the life of the writing sastre.