Why I Probably Won’t See “The Hunger Games”

I picked up the book, “Hunger Games”, last Saturday from a local bookstore. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. You see, the past 2 weeks, the movie’s been screening in maybe 16 of the 20 cinemas in the greater Mandaluyong City malls (my usual haunts). And I didn’t want to see the movie till I’d read the book first.

I finished the book in less than a day. And this much I can say about it: I understand why the book is so popular with the kids. Katniss, the heroine, is Lara Croft, McGyver, Dr. Quinn (Medicine Woman), and a Disney princess, all rolled into one. (To those of you too young to know Dr. Quinn or McGyver … sigh … there’s always Google.)  And mushy, heart-on-his-sleeve Peeta’s just one to swoon over, isn’t he? The main protagonists even manage to remain honorable despite their severe circumstances (Katniss kills only 2 of her fellow tributes; one, in defense of another, and the other, out of mercy. Peeta manages to kill only 1; unintentionally at that). To an adult and a parent, that one day in the future we may have to see our kids enslaved and drafted into participating in some reality death “game” is certainly frightening. But the obsessive-compulsive in me couldn’t suspend her disbelief long enough to appreciate the logic of the storyline. (Too manyArgh” moments. Yes, the book was probably much too young for me.)  If this had been interactive, I would have raised some serious issues. If I were a tribute whose counterpart got killed off right from the get-go, at the Cornucopia, for example, I would have vigorously remonstrated against the mid-stream rule change that allowed 2 tributes from the same District to win the Games together.  How unfair and prejudicial is that?  I would have also raised a howl about the Muttations. Hell, if I were a parent of one of those tributes that got “mutt-ated” …. Yes, all hell. Helllll.  Would break loose.

The movie could prove to be one of the few exceptions to my general experience that movies don’t live up to the books they’re based on. Thing is, I probably won’t see it.

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My Future Son-In-Law

Every time I bring up the subject of our daughter eventually getting married (which is not very often, promise! like only when hubby and I get invited to a wedding), my husband gets a panic attack. I, on the other hand, get all excited (Our daughter’s 8; but don’t the years just fly by!). I mean, really, what mother doesn’t dream of her little girl’s big day and the many ways she can meddle in the prep help make it perfect?

I’d have the ideal son-in-law. He’d look like this:

And looking like that, of course he’d be a big action star in Hollywood (the wedding would probably be sometime in the 2030s so my future son-in-law would be, like, Chris Hemsworth’s and Elsa Pataky’s son – who’s already on his way into the world as we speak!).

Oh, and my future-son-in-law would also be a MD, like a cardiothoracic surgeon. No, wait. Too complicated; he might not have time for family. Neurosurgeon? No, too sexy; he’d get into all sorts of girl-trouble, like McDreamy does. A trauma doctor, maybe. Yes, that’s it.

And that would be just perfect because if he injures himself on set doing his own stunts (yeah, he’d be that cool), he could, like, do minor surgery on himself right there, barking orders to his personal assistant (who would be heterosexual, male, and also a nurse) like “Fetch me the microfibrillar collagen hemostat. Stat!” in a really cool way (I mean, not in a panicky way at all). And the microfibrillar collagen hemostat would be in his doctor’s bag, which is always close by, like in his trailer on set.

And he would absolutely adore my daughter and profess that he doesn’t believe in divorce. And they’d have really cute babies, blue-eyed and dark-haired (because they’d be part-Asian, part-Spanish, part-Australian), who would call me “G-mom”. And I would remind them to wash their hands frequently and load them up with sugar-free treats everyday – for the rest of my happy life.

Manic Hostess with the Mostess

Hosted our first-ever al fresco dinner party in the new home! Hooray! And I must say, it was quite a success. Who knew having a bunch of friends over could be so straightforward?! (Though completely stress-free it never is and never should be.)

I didn’t cook, you see. I ordered in. More accurately, I ordered for pick-up.

But before you say, “How crass!”, or “How rude!”, or whatever words you use to express outrage at such, well, indelicacy and lack of refinement (My grandmother, if she were alive, would have come up with quite a few colorful ones, I bet), you should know that the dishes (which were prepared by an old friend of hubby’s who’s a master in the kitchen) were fabulous (and needless to say, were not your garden variety “take-out-“ food). My newly-minted outdoor buffet table was laid out with the yummy creations of Dulcelin (see dulcelin.com) – American Wagyu Tri-Tip with Japanese steak sauce, Fresh Mushroom Pasta with Truffle Oil, and Baked Norwegian Salmon in Wasabi Aioli. And, of course, Dulcelin’s famous Mango Torte for dessert – “crispy-chewy nougatine, golden mangoes and cream”, it says on their website. (And, yes, the guests were told that the food had been ordered.)

Photo via dulcelin.com. Dulcen's Very Famous Mango Torte

Still, you’re thinking, I’m undoubtedly no “hostess-with-the-mostess” if I can’t mobilize my own household for a small party. In my defense, I took care of all the logistics, including of course, ordering the meals, renting the tables and chairs, supervising the preparatory cleaning of the house and the washing of the dishes and the silverware, and such. As I rarely venture into the kitchen and dining areas of my home except to eat and occasionally look over hubby’s shoulder while he’s doing the cooking, it must be impressed upon you that all that tut-tutting about the house and fussing over the table and placement settings and how the napkins should be folded and arranging the flowers and lighting the candles and making the sure the wine was chilled and, well, generally, busying myself with a myriad other niceties to ensure that the place would look festive and that dinner service would be efficient and orderly (yes, it was a buffet service; but before you pooh-pooh my efforts, the guests’ wine glasses must be refilled from time to time, yes? and the dessert taken out of the fridge and served at the proper time and such?; there’s plenty you can worry about if you’re inclined), was altogether quite a feat for me. Whew. Yes, I did all that remarkably and was very pleased with myself. (Pat, pat, pat on the back here.)

I could do this again. Order in, I mean. I would, really, and without shame, when I have friends over again for a party; our guests loved the food and couldn’t stop saying so. And I do enjoy getting all a-tizzy over the minutiae and (though I may grumble convincingly) I generally love being a fusspot. Do me a favor, though; if you’re ever at my dinner table and you’re enjoying the meal, do ask me to give your compliments to the chef (and I will make sure the chef gets them), but please don’t ask me for the recipe to anything.

Hello? Anyone there?

You deserve an explanation. Why I’ve not been posting.

Sat all morning in front of the Mac trying to come up with good excuses for my neglect. I came up blank. As I have been doing the past month with the posting. I thought maybe you would appreciate some story like that I was off on a Caribbean cruise for a month and the cruise ship didn’t have wifi or the wifi was too slow and all that buffet-eating always made me sleepy at midday, yadda yadda yadda. But you know I’m broke so this might be more convincing: was busy with “life” (which is really no excuse); tutoring my daughter for her final exams, getting her activities lined up for the long, hot summer, setting up playdates with friends, doing yoga, managing the household, cooking … No, not cooking (Seriously?!). Never cooking. No talent for it. I once attempted a beef stroganoff for my roomies back in college and I ended up serving pasta topped with sukiyaki beef in pink sauce (Yes, I did say “pink”; don’t ask me how I did it because I wouldn’t be able to tell you. And no, I didn’t know then that there is a difference between sukiyaki and stroganoff beef cuts). Another time I tried cooking Asian orange chicken but I didn’t have fresh oranges so I improvised with Eight O’Clock instant (powdered) orange juice (What was I thinking?! I don’t remember. Probably something like those plastic orange traffic cones. But maybe not. Traffic cones would have signaled that I not-go-there.). Needless to say both were horrendous. But I digress.

This may be a good (enough) one: I started working part-time. Started like, before the Holy Week. Ok, hell, that doesn’t cover the month.  Anyway, maybe you shouldn’t (and don’t actually) care. Point is, I’m back. And I’ll do better, okay?

Photo via chaosinthekitchen.com. Looks yummy, doesn't it? Needless to say that is not my pink beef stroganoff.

 

NAALAALA MO PA BA NOONG…

wala pang piso ang pasahe, kinse lang mula Cubao to Quiapo;

girls lang ang may hikaw

maton lang ang may tattoo

Escolta at Cubao pa ang shopping centers;  talahiban pa ang Makati

Luneta and pasyalan

Nasa Roxas Blvd. (dating Dewey Blvd) ang coastline; wala pang reclaimed area at Coastal Road

Highway 54 pa ang EDSA

Isang kwarto pa ang laki ng computer at tapes pa ang data storage

Wala pang computer sa bahay; typewritten pa ang sulat at kailangan ng carbon paper for copies

B&W pa ang TV at tatlo lang ang channel na galing pa sa Clark Air Base ng Kano

33 at 45 rpm pa ang mga plaka na pinatutugtog sa hi-fi

Si Elorde pa ang world champion sa boxing, wala pa si Pacquiao

Wala pang personal cell phone

Wala pang mall, shoe store lang ang Shoemart sa Santa Cruz

Hindi pa University ang Ateneo at La Salle kaya sikat pa sila sa NCAA

Wala pang tricycle at FX

Quezon City to Pasay lang ang suburbs, wala pang Metro Manila

Wala pang North and South Expressway

 

KUNG NA-AALALA MO PA, MATANDA KA NA GAYA KO!

Music and me

Being myself tone deaf and hopelessly out of tune, I have not developed a great love for music nor become an avid fan of popular songs. I have a few favorite songs, carry-overs from my youth. My MP4 is loaded with the songs of Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra an Brenda Lee, which are now, it seems, classified as “classics”. (In my day, the classics were Beethoven and Chopin!)

Then, Whitney Houston died and the world mourned. I became curious. I wanted to know what I had lost with her dying. So, for the first time in my long life I bought a VCD, that of her greatest hits, and honored the expense by playing and giving it my full attention.

I was amazed. It was both an aural and visual delight, a complex and complete performance which takes prodigious talent! No wonder, Mariah Carey (I have also bought her VCD) speaks of how she has “come to myself as an artist “.

I  have upgraded and updated my appreciation of music. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I mind  too much unnecessary “oh, yeah, yeah , yeah…”

 

 

Poems

AN INVITATION TO A FRIEND

 Come

Let us watch the moon

And hum a solitary tune,

Let us be lonely together

POEMS 

The following poem was part of a Fieldcrest Ad  in a magazine many  years ago.  It came with a beautiful photograph of a woman with a baby in a bed covered with a patchwork quilt. My husband clipped it and gave it to me the evening he proposed marriage.

Catherine,
before the next snowfall, I promise you that cottage across the wheat field by the river road.

                I’ll get the well working and the chimney fixed and chase the hornets out.

                Of course, mending the doorpost where old blind Bossie blundered in might take a while, but     then, we’ve got the time.

                Besides, it’ll be a long summer, I promise you, I have a nose for seasons .

                Just gathering flowers might keep you pretty busy til November.

                I’ll have the wood piled in by then, to keep you warm in the bedroom in the firelight with your    samplers, singing the old lullabies to your firstborn child.

(The following two poems, “Nothing” and “Sunday” are part of “Love Poems for the Very Married” by Lois Wyse that came out in the Ladies Home Journal, April 1967 issue.)

NOTHING

By Lois Wyse

I suppose it was something you said

That caused me to tighten

And pull away.

And when you asked,

“What is it?”

I, of course, said “Nothing.”

Whenever I say “Nothing”,

You may be certain there is something.

The something is a cold, hard lump of

Nothing.

SUNDAY

By Lois Wyse

 

Sometimes

When we talk

I get the distinct feeling

You are not glad

You are you

I am me

And we are we.

I detect a detached chill.

It used to worry me

Until I realized

That only a man

Who can be very attached

can also be detached.

And though at times I still detect detachment

I can weather it

For I have come to learn that

You and I, my love

Do not live in a temperate zone.

 

 

SILENCES

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea

And the silence of the city when it pauses,

And the silence of a man and a maid

And the silence of which music alone finds the words,

And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,

And the silence of the sick when their eyes roam about the room…

And I ask for the depth of what use is language?

A beast in the field moans a few times when death takes its young.

WE ARE VOICELESS IN THE PRESENCE OF REALITIES – WE CANNOT SPEAK.

Sense and Sensibility

The following is an article to celebrate Manny, my husband of 45 years.

 

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

Sense and sensibility, it seems to me, is as good a formula as any to constitute a good marriage. One of the partners should have the good sense to provide for the family’s basic needs, and, the other, the fine sensibility to enhance family life.

When I married my husband, Manny, I believed he had the practical sense to earn our living. I, on the other hand, would provide the sensibility. I thought myself cultured and refined, to be well versed in history, literature, art appreciation, and psychology, having been schooled in an “exclusive” college for women.

My husband got a “no-frills” education in public school and as a working student, took the highly technical course of Industrial Engineering. When I first introduced him to my friends, I didn’t get unreserved approval. He was not, after all, part of our collegiala circle. He was, indeed, by my friends’ standard, a poor boy.

But they did concede that he was not bad looking. He had attractive, dark eyes and the perfectly classical nose. He dressed simply, very neatly, and one couldn’t fault his manners.

Although my family was much better off than his when we married, I saw no reason to feel superior, to even think that I was marrying “beneath my  station”, (aside, of course, from the truism that “all women do”). Though well educated, I came from peasant stock (and don’t my toes show it!). My father was a “risen peasant”. It was his exceptional intelligence that won him a full scholarship in college, a Civil Engineering degree and good well-paying jobs that raised his own family’s status into upper middle class. My mother had claims to a Hispanic heritage. Her grandfather was a “peninsulare” who came to the Philippines as a member of the Guardia Civil stationed in Pangasinan. But she was born and grew up a provincial and only came to urban Manila as a young bride.

Manny may have grown up in the school of hard knocks, but he comes from “fallen aristocrats”. His father grew up in Intramuros . He was a true gentleman of the old school who stood out at my wedding wearing  a decidedly elegant white suit. And the rest of his forebears are decidedly Manileno. His maternal grandfather, Godofredo Dancel, was Secretary to President Manuel Quezon. His grandmother was pure Castillian so he has more Spanish blood than some of my Spanish speaking friends, if Spanish blood is at all a measure of personal worth. And his great grandfather, Antonio Dancel was once Governador of Rizal.

As a child, he would tell me, he used to ride his three wheeled cycle in the passage around his maternal grandfather’s living room in a grand, old bahay-na-bato  in Tondo. The house, unfortunately, became one of the casualties of the American Liberation of Manila in 1945. I have no such memories. My own grandfather had a large 3-level house at the edge of his coconut plantation in Calauag,Quezon  but it stood by the railroad tracks, next to the train station and its proudest wall ornament was the graduation photograph of my not-so-good-looking father.

It was his mother, Ana,  who “fell” from grace by eloping at 16 with a handsome man who was and remained a small time bureaucrat and having ten children by him.

But even poverty could not erase nor diminish the innate fine sensibility and good taste derived from her “aristocratic” heritage. To supplement her husband’s meager income, she fashioned exquisite children’s dresses that were exclusively sold at Tesoro’s and bought by Manila’s wealthiest families. She was already in her sixties when my daughters were growing up, but she paid me the complement of making them each a particularly lovely party dress. I could and did sew my children’s dresses too, but I didn’t have her way with ribbons and laces. They lived in a small rented apartment but the few ornaments  were delicate porcelain figurines and the finest crystals. My daughters used to love to visit their Lola Ana and listen to the musical Lladro figurines. She also had a way with dish gardens. Instead of planting a small garden, she turned the 10- 12 sq meter space in front of her apartment into a beautifully arranged display of her dish gardens. Her sense of proportion was faultless and her attention to the most minute detail, remarkable.  On the other hand, having borne seven streetwise sons, she could cuss like the best of “kanto boys”, a habit I had to train my husband to unlearn.

I was to find that sensibility is an innate quality of the mind, a cultivation of proper feelings, a control of the senses that is not, necessarily, learned in school nor derived from ones upbringing. Schooling and upbringing could, of course, help in increasing and refining it. But  it is ultimately a product of one’s heritage. People coming  from  a long line of “buenas familias”, I must concede, have a better claim to refinement than most. My grandmother used to say that, “It takes three generations (of good genes, careful upbringing, and education) to make a lady”, keeping her fingers crossed, I imagine, that she had, perhaps engendered a gentlewoman in me.

I also find that sense and sensibility are not mutually exclusive.  Everybody has both in varying proportions. “Aristrocrats” may not necessarily have a larger share of sensibility than sense.  And the common tao is not always just commonsensical.

Manny inherited his mother’s fine aesthetics and used it with practical sense in setting up an advertising art studio that generously provided for me and my two daughters. The girls trust their father”s taste and share his love for things that are exquisitely designed and well made. They prefer to have him with them when shopping, especially for shoes. I do too. But I always find the best buys, fine things at more reasonable prices.

I am not very good with ornaments (I hate clutter!) so I keep a very simple and practical home with emphasis on the good use of space.  The few ornaments in the house are gifts or Manny’s acquisition. And t was Manny’s best friend Onib Olmedo who provided most the many wonderful paintings that have filled the walls of our house . Perhaps after all, Manny has the greater share of sensibility and I have the more practical sense. It really doesn’t matter.

Because after all is said and done and having been married for almost 45 years, I am truly grateful  that he had enough sensibility to love me, and even gladder,  that I had enough good sense to marry him.

Lola (tr. “Grandmother”)

Photo via rgbstock.com

When my daughter Martina was 2 years old, she would meet Lola Lina, who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, at the 3rd Floor poolside and playground commons of our condominium building every morning and every afternoon. Both are brought by their yayas or nannies for their routine “pasyal” (tr. walks) and to hang out with the (other) kids who gather together to play there. Martina talked about Lola to me often enough. But I didn’t really realize how fond they were of each other until one night, Lola Lina’s daughter called me to invite Martina to Lola Lina’s 80th Birthday Party at the Hotel Intercontinental. And she had this special request: Would Martina sing the “Happy Birthday” song at the party? And so we went. It was a formal dinner party with over a hundred guests.  Lola Lina’s children and grandchildren flew all the way from the States for the special occasion.

This article, written by my mom and Martina’s grandmother (ever proud of her one and only grandchild), was inspired by the events of that evening and the very special friendship that Lola Lina and Martina share. 

I am posting it here in memory of Lola Lina.

===============================

My life is in a haze, suspended between the here and there, between what was and what is. I am in a daze. I forget things. I forget what I am doing. Most of the time, I do not know where I am. It is all so confusing. And people are so strange. This woman comes and kisses me and calls me mama. She says she is my daughter. Do I have a daughter? “Do you remember?” people ask. Remember what? It’s all because I have grown so old. Although they tell me it’s because I have this illness with a strange name. I forget the name.

There are many things I can no longer do. I cannot walk. I move around in a wheelchair. And I have a yaya who feeds me, bathes me, dresses me and cleans after me. She pushes me around in my wheelchair like a baby, like I did for my own babies. Yes, I had babies once. My babies also had yayas. Like Martina.

I had a big house then. I remember a big house with many rooms. It’s gone now. Today, I live in a unit, number 505, it says on the door. Units are small. Even my room is small with just one window through which sunlight comes in. Pero no importa.

Martina also lives in a unit, just below mine. After my afternoon nap, my yaya brings me down to the 3rd floor, where there are plants in pots, a playground and a swimming pool. Martina goes there too, after her own nap.

The first time I saw her, she came and stood in front of me. “Hello,” she said. Then she came closer. Putting her hand to her chest, she said, “Martina”. I tried to tell her my name but the sound wouldn’t come out.

“Si Lola ‘yan, [That’s Lola]” her yaya said. “Lo-la”, she mouthed and smiled.

She is a tiny two year old. A pretty little mestiza, fragile-looking but very active. She runs around a lot with one or two other children following her lead. A happy, friendly child who laughs often.

One day she came to me to show me two stuffed toys. They were both red and looked alike, except that one was bigger. “This is Elmo, Lola,” she said of the bigger one. “And this is Baby Elmo.”

I remember because she was so cute that I couldn’t help reaching out and pinching her cheeks. “No, Lola,” she protested, “that hu’ts.” But she didn’t cry. I have never seen her cry. She does not have crying fits like the other children.

I am now 80 years old, you know. I had a birthday party in a large hall filled with many people. There was a program, with songs and dances and speeches just for me.

“Mama has a little friend who came to sing to her,” my daughter was saying. And there she was … Martina!  She walked confidently, straight to where I was, took the microphone and sang the birthday song. The words rang out very clearly, and for a 2 year old, in perfect tune. Everybody applauded when she bowed. I clapped too. She turned around, looked at me, and said, ”I love you, Lola!”

There was a light around her, a halo, and her pretty green dress glittered. She was smiling … sweetly. I knew at that moment that Martina is an angel, una pequeña querubin, with soft straight hair. I know she is an angel heaven sent to me, my own special angel!

When I get to heaven’s gate, I will tell them that I have an angel friend. Her name is Martina, I will say. Then, surely they will let me in. I must not forget her name. I must always remember. Martina.

DIY … ish … this week

I’ve been on cloud 9 all week after getting a few “likes” and comments, and a couple of new followers (quite likely my relatives / high school BFFs writing under assumed names), on account of the last post (Paging Mom! If you would please write more of that good stuff …). Then I tried writing a new post myself but got the jitters (You should know that my mom’s a professional writer with 5 books to her name; I am NOT, so pretty please be kind). So I left the Mac to simmer for a bit and got busy. With other things. More specifically, a DIY-ish project.

Hubby’s having some friends over for an al fresco dinner Saturday night so I decided that we badly needed an outdoor buffet table / bar for our lanai. But after talking to a few local designers and furniture makers, the cost for the look we were going for was way too prohibitive (I couldn’t believe how expensive it was to have something that’s supposed to look natural / rustic made). So in the end we decided to keep it simple (and cheap). So I managed to steal 2 10-foot yakal planks which my mom bought from a local junk shop some months ago (yakal is a Philippine hardwood that is used for house beams and trusses).

I loved the notches where the joists were supported by the beam.

The planks had been rotting in my mom’s backyard for months. So I hired a handyman to try to breathe new life into the worn wood. The design is, uhrrmm (drum roll please), mine (inspired, of course, by hundreds of online designs – thank you Houzz!).  We decided to keep the notches — and all the holes and other imperfections of the wood; I love furniture with a past!

Used motor oil was poured over the right leg for that weathered look (great for weatherproofing, too) and 2 coats of furniture wax were smoothed over the top and left leg after sanding.

The (close to) final product: an outdoor buffet / bar that is unique in all the world:

I am happy.

The bench is a bonus (from the leftover wood).

 Yes, I’m totally happy.