Sunday, August 21, 2005

Barb has posted a photo of the Kaleo Cafe gig. It is always energizing to be in the company of good folks who are also good poets and storytellers.What was also heartwarming for me about this event is meeting K and V -- two would-be writers who didn't know each other and met for the first time yesterday. They both read my first book and I have corresponded separately with each of them. Well, they discovered that they were both Buddhists (and what are they keeping from the Roshi, I wonder?) and they are both health care professionals.

There was another guy who attended the event in the hopes of being introduced to "nice Filipina ladies" but since I was too busy to do so, I hope he didn't feel let down. He seemed really nice and genuine, though, and I trust my cousin (who sent him to me from southern CA)and his taste for good friends."

In the meantime, this was sent to me by Filipino gourmet cooks in London and elsewhere. Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Find of the day

Thursday, August 18, 2005

WordBinder writes about A Book of Her Own and Coming Full Circle here: THanks, Bec!

At last night's vigil with Cindy Sheehan, a boy(maybe 11) and his older brother (maybe 15) stood in front of me. A woman recognized them and asked if she could take their picture for their "CO" file. I learned that this means "conscientous objector" file -- that these kids who might, in the future, be called during a military draft -- can then prove that they have a history of being against War.

I learned something new last night. I wonder how I can start my own "CO" file...the file that starts with evidence of being on the frontlines. I shared with Bec what Melba Maggay told me on this last visit to Manila: "the problem with intellectuals is that they get their information second-hand, mostly from other books; so they are quite impoverished in terms of their primary experiences, life as lived on the ground." This is what I am trying to balance.

Monday, August 15, 2005

My young friend, Jaykie Lazarte, who is a freshman at the University of the Philippines, wrote about the book launch here.. And check out his poetry blog here.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Paring Bert does Poetry at Makati Shangri-La

PAring Bert Alejo, rector of Ateneo de Davao, author of Tao Po! Tuloy (definitive study of Loob) and Renewing Cultural Energies, director of EHEM! - a nation-wide anti-corruption program, and author of so many more projects...honored us with his presence on our second to the last night in Manila. He had just flown in from an anti-corruption conference in Bali and was preparing to conduct an anti-corruption workshop for Malacanang. After the exchange of news and dinner over at California Pizza Kitchen, we went back to the hotel room. We just had to ask him to perform a few of his poems in Filipino...

Sanayan Lang ang Pagpatay -- a poem about violence (all forms) that begins with our childhood pranks (from crushing a beetle to pulling a cat's whiskers), to adult crimes committed against Nature, against other creatures, against one another. Unconscious, we do not see how the little crimes are connected to the big crimes.

He also recited a poem addressed to God: Why did You call me too soon? Before I could at least know what it means to experience the pleasures of the flesh. Now here I am, with my clenched fist, stomping my feet, asking you this question amidst my boring attempts to become holy.

I couldn't recall the third poem...it was a love poem and he asked my sister to be the "prop" for this one. I must have been distracted by the thought of a priest reciting a love poem while kissing my sister's hand...

The rest of the evening we discussed the Ehem! project's impact on participants who begin to see corruption (their own and others') from a wholistic perspective, i.e. in terms of its long term consequences on the nation, on the family, on the environment, etc. It is amazing how most people do not often make those connections as they rationalize their participation in briberies, in using "fixers;" they simple see it from the point of view of helplessness within a corrupt system ("I have no choice!"; "I'm doing this for my family").

Paring Bert says that there are many people in the Philippines who are NOT corrupt and there are many who were once corrupt and would like to live an alternate ethic. The need then is to create a visible public discourse about these efforts and the individuals and groups who are making a difference in order to counteract the impression that corruption is pervasive and endemic in the country.

He is right, of course. People like him give me hope.

It was almost midnight when we said goodbye. It was a sacred blessed night...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More from Metro Manila: Book Launch and Babaylan Symposium

Book Launch -- July 15, Balay Kalinaw, Univ of the Philippines; sponsored by Cultureworks/ISACC (Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture) and the Dept of Filipino and Phil Literature; 1:30-4:30pm

This was an intimate affair with family and friends. The program prepared by Cultureworks was beautiful! KaTribu - members of an indigenous arts consortium provided the dance and music. The program included a Pang-alay dance by Nerissa of Katribu, poetry reading from the book by Prof Joi Barrios (Asst Dean of the College of Arts and Letters), and welcome remarks by Prof Joey Baquiran (Asst Dept Chair, Fil and Phil Lit Department), introduction of the author by my sister Lily, synthesis and remarks by Dr. Melba Maggay, song rendition of "Ugoy ng Duyan" by my two sisters (Rox and Mil), a response from Prof Bolet Bautista (Psych Dept and "in-house" babaylan of the event), cake-cutting and merienda (Cake - gift from good friend Vicky Lazarte), emceeing by Prof Grace Jamon (UP prof, Malacanang consultant and Dev Academy of the Phil, Dean of Education). The program ended with a celebratory dance and chanting led by Nerissa and Katribu! It was a sacred afternoon filled with the babaylan energy and spirit! Not a dry eye in the house.

Folks who joined us for the afternoon included: Narita Gonzalez (NVM's widow - who was later picked up by Gilda Cordero Fernando - so met her briefly); Prof. Jimmy Veneracion (UP- History Dept), Krip Yuson (who wrote about the book in his July 25th column), Norma Liongoren (art curator and gallery owner), Juliet Cunanan (Dean of UP Clark), Julie Dalena (famous sculptor!), Isa and Ric Caminade of INAM (Integrated Medicine for Alternative Healthcare Systems), Irene Chia of ISIS, and other family members and friends, Beth de Castro (Sikolohiyany Pilipino, UP Psych Dept).

Tagalog was the medium of the event except for the portions of my reading from the book. There is something about using this language that softens the heart and touches the deepest parts. For someone like me who has been away from this community for more than 20 years, this welcome made me feel as if I've never really left. Some of the people in the room, like Melba Maggay, nurtured my early attempts at writing and helped me get published. I thanked NVM (via Narita) for his wise advice and challenge: For what you want to do, there is no container in language; learn to sing, dance or paint. Later, Narita asked why I was not included in the book, "Remembering NVM," and I didn't want to say that I wasn't asked.

What is moving for me about this occasion is that in the midst of a political crisis and people's busyness with their daily lives, they took time on a Friday afternoon to commune together, to welcome a book into their lives, to re-acquaint ourselves with the babaylan spirit and her history. Story-telling, poetry reading, analysis and synthesis, music, dance, and chant, the gift of flowers and food -- fed our hearts and souls, strengthened our ties (local and transnational), and rekindled our desire to continue journeying together towards the path of creating Beauty, speaking the Truth to power, working for social justice, and walking softly on the Earth.

My friend Vicky later told me that when her family gathers for the weekend, they now center their meditation time on readings from the book. My sisters took to admonishing each other with "Eat your Fear!" in reference to one of the poems in the book.

This report will not be complete without mentioning the indefatigable Fhabi Fajardo of Cultureworks/ISACC. Thank you, Fhabi, for your creative spirit, tenacity, patience,organizational skills, and doing the post-event tasks! This is a maiden event for Cultureworks (a soft launch, she called it)-- a consortium of visual and performance artists, writers, media folks, tech-savvy folks -- who can bring a particular Filipino indigenous flavor to any event. They can organize events, run media blitz, assist an organization in areas where these particular giftings are needed.

Babaylan Symposium - July 22, St. Scholastica College, Malate Manila

The keynote speech (Babaylan: She Dances in Wholeness) by Agnes Miclat Cacayan (thank you, Agnes!) -- was the highlight of the day for me. The importance of this lecture lies in its primary data about babaylans in Mindanao. Her talk was both academic and poetic; the visual component adding even more substance. I look forward to learning more from her work.

Other speakers included Sr. Rosario Batung (The Babaylan Healing Practice from the North).Sr. BAtung's presentation on was accompanied by the singing of the healers from Tuguegarao.

Fe Mangahas, Chair of Social Sciences Dept, St Scholastica College, gave a talk on The Babaylan's Historical and Cultural Context. Grace Nono and Myra Beltran both said "I am not a babaylan" although both acknowledge the inspiration drawn from the babaylan tradition. Myra is a classically trained ballet dancer; her talk (after her dance) focused on her paradoxical location as one who is drawn to indigenous traditions while at the same time using her western classical dance training to create a fusion of the two. Grace Nono's talk was also inspiring; she has been immersing herself in the company of babaylans who teach her about the power of chants. Sister Mary John Mananzan presented the same lecture she did at FAWN/NY. Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, Chair of the National Network for the Feminist Centennial made brief remarks on the state of political chaos in the country and she said that the babaylan's wisdom and spirit is needed now more than ever. Brief responses from Carolyn Brewer (author of Holy Confrontations) and Prof. Asuncion Azcuna - chair of Women's Studies at St Scho).

The symposium brought together scholars and practitioners who are interested in re-centering the importance of the Filipino babaylan. From historical perspectives to the work of contemporary women who are inspired by the babaylan spirit -- this event, hopefully, has jumpstarted a move to create similar venues for making visible this discourse and practice. Already we are buzzing with the idea of an international babaylan conference in two years.

Other events on this trip:

Interviews with Prof. Zeus Salazar, Prospero Covar, Oscar Campomanes, PAring Bert Alejo, Beth and Tony DeCastro, Fe Mangahas, Prof Jun de Leon, Melba Maggay, Nelda Balauitan of CELL (and Columban priest).
Video Presentations and Dialogues at Institute for Studies in Asian Arts and Culture (ISACC) on topics of global advertising, consumerism and their implications; and western colonial/global adventurism among indigenous peoples (case studies).
Visit to Conspiracy Bar -- to listen to Joey Ayala and our friend Mon David

There is more to say as I process these experiences...but for now just these "facts" about the official trip. Will tell you more later about the culinary research and spa visits:-)).Right now the body aches for a Ton-ton massage!

Next: Fr. Bert Alejo's poetry performance at Makati Shangri-la!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Back from Metro Manila

or Metro Malignant or Metro Malevolent - according to two of my favorite people in Manila who are formerly US-based and now are deeply entrenched in the academic and art circles of the city. Neither would trade this place for anywhere else. "The city grows on you over time," one of them says, "and then you fall in love."

A few highlights from this trip --

Family reunion and healing retreat with my 3 sisters: Checked in at the Holiday Inn in Angeles for sister-bonding. Capped with the best dinner I had on this trip -- at "C" - on Fields Avenue (red light district of the former US military outpost, Clark Air Base). The Italian Chef, Chris Lockier, does the best panizza -- very thin crust of pizza cut in strips which you wrap around arugula -- delicious! Chris' restaurant is a deceptive "hole-in-the wall" front that opens up to a tropical garden in the back. Tables made of italian marble tiles, wrought iron chairs, and there is even an statue of David tucked in amongst the foliage of local shrubs and trees. Very nice ambience!

Piper's Bar in Makati -- watched the final Fulbright act of Theo Gonzalvez with front acts Allan Manalo and Tim Tayag. Theo, the academic/artist par excellance, had a multi-media set up so as he played his orig jazz compositions, he interspersed narrative about his stint as a Fulbright researcher at Ateneo via photographs he has taken around the country. (See Krip Yuson's column on Theo, July 17 and 25. Oh and he raffled off prizes through the evening. I won a dvd of Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress!

On the same night, my niece, Kathleen, played with her electronic punk band at Sa Guijo in Makati. Kath - with her spiked orange hair, tie-dyed shirt and cut off denims and skeds looked so cool with her guitar! Her parents have never seen her perform before and we were the only old folks in a bar full of young yuppies who dig the alternative music scene off the main drag in Greenbelt.

Visit to Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning, Silang, Cavite -- I could write a long essay on this but will save it for the academic write up that needs to be done for this trip. This is a 1.2 hectare piece of paradise run by Columban missionaries and a Filipino family who leased the land to the Center to be a model for zero-waste, biodiversity, permaculture, and sustainable farming. It is an educational center where they conduct lectures on "The New Creation Story" and "Creation Walks" through the five-zones of the center.

Visit to Wellness Farm of NURSIA run by Benedictine Sisters and Sister Mary John Mananzan of St. Scho. This is a conference and retreat center in Mendes. Cavite. It has a zendo for meditation (Sister Mary John also embraces Buddhism) and facilities for group events.

Dinner at Sonya's Garden -- everyone has heard of this lush and posh garden restaurant which now also includes a spa and bed and breakfast. It doesn't advertise but it's a well known 'get-away' place from the malevolent city.

Brunch at Gourmet Cafe in Cavite -- where they have musangs (wild cats) in captivity (saved from extinction from the north supposedly). The musang apparently eats coffee beans and as the beans pass through its digestive system and are given back to nature, the beans are collected and roasted and make the best coffee in the world. I would have loved to try this but it was $18 for a quarter pound!! They also do organic farming here.

BOOK LAUNCH OF A BOOK OF HER OWN at University of the Philippines, Balay Kalinaw, sponsored by ISACC/Cultureworks and the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature. More on this later.

At UP, I had a chance to visit with the Fil Am students in Prof. Joey Baquiran's Tagalog class. Sold many copies Coming Full Circle and A Book of Her Own. Joi Barrios, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, was gracious enough to read from my book during the launch.

Finally met Prof. Prospero Covar and Zeus Salazar of the famous triumvirate (Enriquez/Covar/Salazar) of Philippine Studies.

to be continued...

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