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.